January marks the beginning of a new year. In the waning days of the old year many of us reflected on the year that passed and began thinking ahead to the soon arriving New Year. While there is nothing more magical about January 1st than December 31st it certainly has symbolic meaning. It is a time to begin doing things differently. It is a time to execute plans. It is time to get serious. Well not for me, at least not as far as this article is concerned.
My primary spiritual gift is encouragement so the Coffee Talk articles lean towards the serious side because I really like to help, and well, encourage others. While I don’t make official New Year’s resolutions there are serious matters that need to be planned for and there are things I have identified that must be done differently this year. But before all of that I just felt like writing about some things that have happened to us recently. Some serious, some not so serious, but either way hopefully this article will be encouraging to you.
Last year was our first full calendar year of living in Honduras. We moved there in May of 2015 but came back to the U.S. in mid October and stayed through Thanksgiving. So we actually only lived in Honduras for about 5 months of 2015. We experienced our first Christmas and New Year’s away from our natural families but with our new La Campa families. Then shortly after Christmas things got busy with mission teams and continuing to learn about life in Honduras.
One thing that is occasionally a source of humor but more often a source of fear in Honduras is driving. In the cities there is pavement, traffic lights and signs, and sometimes even lines on the road that you can see. I remember one day last year driving into downtown San Pedro Sula and, for the first time, actually being able to see all of the traffic lights because the lenses and bulbs finally got replaced. I don’t know what the useful life is for those things but they had been used many, many years beyond the manufacturer’s recommendation.
Vehicle lights are usually treated the same way. It is rare to encounter a vehicle with a full complement of properly functioning lights. This is one of the reasons we rarely drive anywhere at night, and never drive at night on the main roads. But often even when the lights do work, specifically the headlights, there appears to be some kind of conservation effort at hand.
We were driving up the mountain to our house early one evening. It wasn’t completely dark yet but it was dark enough that you would have had your headlights on even if they hadn’t already turned on automatically (not a common feature in Honduras). There was a motorcycle behind us and there was a large truck coming towards us that was actually on its own side of the road. Of the three vehicles ours was the only one with headlights on.
The motorcycle driver decided that we were not traveling fast enough for him so he swung out to pass. In the near dark. With no headlight. He may not have had one or the batteries in the flashlight that he rigged up to replace the headlight may have burned out, I can’t say for sure. But when he swung out to pass the truck driver was somehow (probably because our headlights were on) able to see him so he flashed his lights to warn the motorcycle driver that he was there. At least the truck had working headlights. The pass was narrowly made as they usually are and we all continued on our way. Why didn’t the truck driver just leave his headlights on you might be asking? We’ve asked the same question and it seems that most Honduran drivers consider headlights important for seeing and less important for being seen.
2016 was a year full of firsts, with plenty of highs, but plenty of challenges and some lows too. It was our first full year with full responsibility for all of the short term mission teams who came to serve with us. By January 1 last year we had a nearly full schedule of teams for the year, with most of them concentrated in June and July. Why we thought scheduling 7 straight weeks of short term mission teams in June and July was a good idea I’ll never know.
I guess the Lord knew this wasn’t a good idea so a couple of those teams cancelled their summer trips. Then at the end of April my mother in law had the first of a series of strokes that brought her into the presence of the Lord on June 27th. Jean was blessed to spend much of that time helping her mom while I stayed in Honduras to keep things moving forward there.
One of the highs was that we had planned a long weekend at the beach at the end of July after the last mission team for the year went home. Even though we underestimated how tough seven straight mission teams would have been, we at least were smart enough to know we would need some time to recover afterwards.
In February, while with one of our mission teams, we discovered a great little beach hotel that is very nice and very affordable compared to the resorts on the popular island Roatán where all of the cruise ships stop. The team leaders, who are dear friends of ours, asked us if they could come down and join us for that long beach weekend. What a blessing it was to spend that time with them. We played games, we read, we talked about important things that had happened, and we talked about silly things too.
Our fall trip to the states is an important part of our ministry because this is the time when some of our churches host missions conferences and everybody is starting to make plans for ministry in the upcoming year. Because of the passing of Jean’s mom there were extra things for us to do last year so we planned a longer stay last year that included all of October, November, and part of December. While this was an enjoyable trip for us it was not a vacation. There are many, many, meetings, presentations, conferences, etc. and we log thousands of vehicle miles during this annual visit.
Last fall was really a neat time for us to be in the U.S. We got to be here to see the election of a new president and to see the Cubs win their first World Series championship in 108 years. For me especially, that was just another proof that God cares about us and delights in the details of our lives. The Cubs winning the World Series has no eternal value that I can identify, but it provided a bit of happiness for Cubs fans like me who have endured a lifetime of disappointment. I would be remiss to not tip my hat to Cleveland fans because they have likewise suffered for a long time. God doesn’t care less for the Cleveland fans so I believe their year will come soon.
We looked forward to our long visit to the U.S. last year and then, just like that, it was over, almost. We had a complication with our flight and ended up having to stay for a long weekend before we could get on another flight, but God had a purpose for that unexpected delay. We had run really hard during that trip last year. We knew we would have to do that but we were hoping to also have a little quiet time to recharge our batteries.
However, we were not intentional about making plans to set aside time specifically for that. And the result, unsurprisingly, was that there was very little time to recharge. After we got over the surprise change in our plans and the economic impact of that change, we decided that perhaps this was God’s way of making us stop so we decided to do just that. We stopped for those four days and recharged. This turned out to be one of our personal highs in a year that was full of ministry highs.
We are excited about the ministry plans that have been made for 2017. But one other thing that is exciting, and that we are being intentional about this year, is planning for times of rest so that we can recharge our batteries periodically. We learned that it doesn’t have to be a lot of time, just the long unplanned weekend of rest we had at the end of last year did wonders for us. So if as you enter 2017 you feel like you are burning out and that your light isn’t shining very brightly please make time to rest and recharge. The time will be made for you eventually, one way or the other.
We have lots of praises this month to share with you!
We have lots of praises this month to share with you!
We have lots of praises this month to share with you!
I don’t know about you, but I really don’t like being wrong. What I like worse than realizing I am wrong is admitting that I am wrong. While my sense of pride is hurt when I realize and admit to myself I am wrong, it gets hurt a little more when I have to admit openly to others that I was wrong about something.
There is nothing to like about being wrong, especially at first. But when I move quickly through the recognition and admission phase, successfully push down the ugly part of my natural self that wants to rationalize, make excuses, cover up, and pretend that I wasn’t really wrong, learning and growth take place.
In April 2015 I wrote an article titled “Winding Roads” and in that article I told you the story about how we found a village called Caiquin and that Caiquin was at the end of the road. I was wrong about that. The road goes further.
During a meeting with Pastor Jorge last August I asked him if he knew of any other communities where we could begin new outreach that would hopefully lead to the raising up a of new pastor, congregation, and church building. He thought about that for a few moments and then told me that there were actually three more communities that fit this description.
This always excites me because one of the things I love to do most serving in missions is to jump in the truck and head deeper into the mountains to visit new communities. I asked him where these communities were located and he told me they were in the mountains above Caiquin on the road leading out of town. This was my realization that the day was coming for me to admit in another article that I was wrong-the winding road to Caiquin actually goes through Caiquin.
From my perspective at the time the road did not really appear to go much further than Pastor Jorge’s house. That combined with not asking the right question and jumping to a conclusion led me to draw the wrong conclusion. Maybe one day I will stop jumping to conclusions and learn to ask the right questions first instead. Now that we have all of that out of the way lets continue on with the story.
In late August last year Pastor Jorge, Jean, our friend and interpreter Lourdes, and I went up to visit the first community he mentioned called Coalaca. We met a young man named Pastor Arnoldo and the leaders of the house church and outreach activities taking place in Coalaca under the guidance of Pastor Jorge.
While sitting on some rocks under a tree Pastor Arnoldo told us the story of how he heard the Lord during prayer one day tell him to donate the property we were sitting on to the church. This property was a piece of his family’s land that had been given to him for his future home and family. He told us about how he was afraid to do this because he did not have a lot of money and couldn’t just go and buy another piece of land. But he chose to be obedient and donated the land.
After hearing his story and learning about the ministry that was already taking place in Coalaca we were sure that the Lord was leading us to help build a new church building there in 2016. So we continued on in this direction and a team from Kentucky came to Honduras and spent a week helping our brothers and sisters from Caiquin and Coalaca build the new church in March of this year.
After we finished our meeting in Coalaca we continued on to Arcamón which is another 20 minutes or so up a very steep and rocky road to the top of a mountain. The views are breathtaking from up there. We learned that this has been a very difficult community to reach. Pastor Jorge had visited here once or twice before but had become discouraged and stopped going. We talked about that and just spent some time there that afternoon planning and praying.
Afterwards we went part of the way back towards Coalaca and Pastor Jorge pointed out a steep, muddy, heavily rutted trail that went up another mountainside. I asked what was up there and he said that a small community named Mataras was up there. He had not spent much time at all in this community but asked if we wanted to go visit. Of course I said yes even though the trail was very intimidating. We had a brand new set of mud tires on the back so we put the truck in four wheel drive and headed up to Mataras for the first time.
Like Arcamón the views are absolutely stunning. We only spent a little time there because it was getting late in the afternoon and we needed to start making our way back to Caiquin and La Campa. Since these visits we have been working very diligently in Arcamón and we are starting to see some fruit from our labor. We have not yet started any outreach in Mataras but we plan to do so once things are further along in Arcamón.
Since we have our hands full with the work in Coalaca and Arcamón, and we have plans to begin work in Mataras soon I have not yet inquired much about the roads and communities beyond these places. The road narrows significantly and goes at least a little ways out of Arcamón in one direction; there is one very small community close by that we will visit one day. But for now I am not making any definitive statements about where roads end. While there is plenty more I will be wrong about in the future I do at least try really hard to not repeat the same mistakes over and over.
In the case of Caiquin the road went further even though that did not appear to be the case at first. That may be the case in these other locations too. But sometimes the road does not go further, at least as a road. Earlier this year we drove out to Nuevo Cedros while on another one of these adventures. We reached a point where the road came to an end, however, a trail continued on in the same direction. Perhaps one day we’ll set off on foot to see who and what we find along this trail.
All of this recently got me to thinking about the end of the road in a sense other than geography. Often throughout our lives we reach points where it looks like we are at the end of the road. It looks as if there is no way to go forward. The road has turned into a path and the path has narrowed and become dimly lit and very difficult to traverse. Perhaps we press ahead a little further until we can’t see anything at all and are completely out of options. We know we can’t turn back, and yet we can’t go forward either. What do we do then?
These are the moments where, if we will trust Him, God will show us that the road does indeed go further. Oftentimes it takes us getting to this point of desperation that will allow God to step in and show us the way. God loves us so much that He will not ever force himself into our lives. Think of that. God loves and respects us so much that He will patiently wait and let us reach the end of the road, the end of ourselves, before He will step in and shine His marvelous light revealing that we were not at the end of the road at all. As a matter of fact, it turns out that we had only reached the beginning of His road that He had already planned for us.
While the end of our road brings us to the beginning of His road, His road may not necessarily go further in a direction that we would choose to go on our own. But when God is leading us we have nothing to fear. When we are in a right relationship with God the Father through Jesus we have promise after promise in the Bible that God is with us, that He is leading us, and that He is guarding us from behind so that nothing can overtake us. Even though there will be experiences not of our choosing on God’s road, He allows them for our benefit. If we trust and follow Him He will, either in this life or in the life to come, allow us to see and understand better what He was doing.
“…Just as I have been with Moses I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you.”Joshua 1:5b, NASB
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9, NASB
Greetings from barrio San Matias, located just outside of the city of La Campa in the Department of Lempira, Honduras. Many of our friends have found it hard to believe that the information provided in the previous sentence is as close as we get to an official address in this part of Honduras. When they inquire further about how to send us a care package they are more surprised to learn that there is no mail delivery service here either. It makes sense when you stop to think about it though. If there is no mail delivery service why should anyone have formal mailing addresses? Or if there are no formal mailing addresses how could you have mail delivery service? Sounds a little bit like the chicken or the egg question, but regardless, we send you our warmest greetings this month from our new home in Honduras.
Earlier this year I introduced you to Pastor Jose Maria and his family. They’ve had to endure more challenges in the first half of this year, so if you believe in the power of prayer, please include them in your prayers today. This month I would like to introduce you to another very special family, the Perez family.
Sometimes you can look back and remember the exact moment you met someone who later became a very special friend, but sometimes you meet people who you never imagine at the time will become very special to you, but that is exactly what ends up happening. That is the case with us and the Perez family. I can’t tell you exactly when we met them (other than sometime in 2010), but they are such special people that it seems like we’ve always known them.
Eusebio and Olympia have four children, Martias is their oldest daughter, Antonio (not pictured) is the next oldest, Sandra is their third, and Belky is their youngest. Like many Lenca families, they are very hard workers. They own a small family business making traditional Lenca clay pottery. The pottery is made completely from materials found in this region of Honduras. The pottery is very simple, but also very pretty, and functional.
Olympia makes most of the pottery but all of her daughters are learning the trade. Eusebio helps with the wood fired oven drying and polishing. The entire process is done by hand, without a potter’s wheel, at their home using whatever tools they have available, including old toothbrushes, various shapes and sizes of rocks, and even old plastic pens. It is amazing to see what beautiful pieces of pottery they can make with rudimentary tools, lots of skill, and patience.
In addition to helping with the family pottery business, Eusebio is a man of many talents. He is very knowledgeable about basic construction using adobe blocks and other materials and methods common to rural Honduras, and he is an excellent farmer and gardener. He grows many different flowers, fruits and vegetables. And of course, he knows how to grow coffee. His son Antonio is following in his father’s footsteps and they get to work together quite often.
It was about two years ago that we started building our home in La Campa. From the perspective of the American planner, it is incomprehensible that it would take two years. While the house is large by Honduran standards, it is just an average size American home. And it is a very simple home that does not even have central heat and air. So why did it take so long? Jean and I are both the typical American planner types so we have struggled with this too at times. As with any construction project I’ve ever been involved with there are always mistakes, decisions that get made and changed, then changed again, which causes delays. Add to that the dynamics of managing the project from about 1,500 miles away, cross culturally, and it becomes a little more understandable why it took so long. But there is more to it than that.
There are many things that were learned during this project, but I think one of the most important spiritual lessons God taught us is that He is at least as interested in the process as He is in the end result. God has two primary goals for each and every person created; first, that they understand and accept His love and gift of forgiveness for them that was revealed by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The second goal He has for us is that the longer we walk with Jesus, the more we resemble Him in our daily lives. So clearly the end results are very important to God. But the process of achieving these goals is important to Him too. We don’t just all of the sudden become Christ-like. It takes time, it takes us making mistakes to learn, it takes longer than we want or expect. But if we go through the process with a humble, teachable spirit, God will help us to reach His goals.
The other related lesson we learned is that God always has much more going on in every aspect of our lives than we are able to realize at the time. Our focus was on completing this construction project so we could move down here and start engaging in the ministry that God has for us. There was nothing wrong with that focus. As a matter of fact, our desires were perfectly in line with God’s plans for us. But the God we serve is the all knowing, holy, Creator of the entire universe. With that in mind it seems obvious that He would have more than one thing going on at a time. Our construction project turned out to be a perfect example of this. While we were so preoccupied with the details of the project, God was using the project to build relationships with people like Eusebio, Olympia, and their family, which is the exact thing we want to do here.
While Eusebio is skilled in basic construction there was a lot about this project that was more than he could handle so we could not hire him as our general contractor. However, as we got to know him better, we learned that he is a hard worker who does everything with absolute integrity. If you ask him to do something he will do it, he will do it well, and he will do it in the right amount of time without having to be checked on constantly. We also learned that he lives out what the Apostle Paul stated we should always do, and that is to put the interests of others ahead of our own. As soon as you give him responsibility for something he will take care of it as if it is his own. He and Olympia have taught these lessons to all of their children and they all appear to be great students.
One afternoon Jean and I were working hard trying to get the house cleaned up and set up enough so that we could start living there. It was the first day that everything in the house, meaning the electricity, water, and appliances were all working. Eusebio was working on some projects outside the house that day. My Spanish is still not very good so I didn’t fully understand when Eusebio told me that the rest of his family was going to come by for a visit that day. It did not matter that it was that day or any other day because they are always welcome in our home.
A little while later Olympia and the girls came walking down the driveway so we took a break to sit down and talk in the house. Or try to talk since, as I’ve already mentioned, our Spanish is not very good yet. Not only did they come by to talk, but they also came by to give us a gift for our house. It was a flower pot that Olympia made, with a plant that Eusebio had cultivated for us. In our best Spanish possible we thanked them for the gift and told them that we would put it on the front porch so that every time we entered and left the house we would see that plant and be reminded of them. We also promised them that if they gave us a few more days we would be able to offer them coffee, tea, soft drinks and some snacks because, at that time, all we had was a couple of bottles of water in the refrigerator.
Before they left we gathered together in a circle, held hands, and prayed for one another in the dining room. Not only are they honest, hard working people, they are also spiritual giants, and we are honored to be friends with them. I hope you’ve enjoyed getting to meet these very special people. Please keep them and us in your prayers as we grow closer together in friendship and ministry.
We have lots of praises this month to share with you!