Category Archives: Missions

Divine Appointments: Gratitude, Pride and Deliverance in Honduras

There is so much one cannot learn about a nation in a brief span of six days. And yet, so much that is known because of a shared Creator.

Two thoughts linger from my week serving with a mission team in Honduras:

  • Gratitude and pride can co-exist
  • Things are not always as they seem

Of gratitude and pride

As we offered food, supplies and prayers to families in and around Monte Redondo, I felt strongly that the receivers of our gifts should not be made to feel inferior because of their need. They may live in one dirt-floored room next to a dump, their clothes may be soiled and their hands rough from picking trash, but they are created in the image of God. They have families who love and need them. And, much of the time, their impoverished living conditions are not of their choosing, but the product of circumstance, and of a corrupt government system that provides only minimal support for poor citizens.

I feared their shame when they saw us approaching. I received their gratitude and joy.

Again and again, we were greeted with a warm smile and a stream of Spanish words that welcomed us into their homes. If a seat was available, it was offered to one of us. Our translators conveyed our message. Questions were asked.

Si, four children. Three families live here. I am out of work. My wife is sick. Please pray for our country…..

And, then…

Gracias. You came all the way from America? I hoped you would come. How can I pray for you? God is good…..

A family with so little showing gratitude? And moments of pride? Humble pride in their beautiful children, the well-kept kitchen, in flowers cultivated by the side of their homes.

We saw a range of living situations, from the dump-side shanties to the bright turquoise stucco homes clustered in a mountainside village. Some were cleaner than others, most were incredibly small.

But they were “home” to the families living there. When I asked our translator, after an extended conversation, why the father in a particular family has not considered another way to live, she said “It’s what he knows, what he likes. For him, there is no other way.”

Of misconceptions

The same gentleman told us he reads his Bible and understands and believes what it says, but he still hasn’t accepted Jesus into his heart. He does not know why, but he can’t take that step. Fear? Doubt?

I asked the translator whether she sees a mix of Catholicism and black magic among Hondurans who are not Christian, as I had encountered in Nicaragua. She said, yes, such confusion does exist.

Then this sweet young woman proceeded to tell me her own story.

She began practicing “witchcraft” at age four and was part of a cult as a teenage. In fact, had she not made the choice to turn her back on the occult at age 18, she feels she would be dead today. It grieves her to see people resist salvation when it is so close at hand. She is just 22, but wise beyond her years, and filled with the joy of her new life in Jesus.

Such encounters and conversations will continue to unravel in my brain and make their way into my heart in the coming weeks as I pray for my brothers and sisters in Honduras.

Aza Rivera was one of the boys rescued from the streets of Honduras nearly 15 years ago. He now works in the ministry and is a worship leader in his church. He is a blessing, both to the children of Forgotten Children Ministries and to the missionaries who serve.

Irene Zavala, Seydy Martinez and Marissa Ponce watched over us, made sense of our crazy Spanglish and, in general, made our week in Honduras fun and memorable. Irene shared her story of deliverance from witchcraft while we walked a steep pathway on our home visits. It’s a story I will never forget.

*****

Today is the last of my posts about our mission trip to Honduras. I’ll be taking a break from this blog for the remainder of the summer as I respond to nudges from the Lord to follow Him in a new direction. I hope you’ll rejoin me sometime around the end of the summer to see what God has up His proverbial sleeve and just how He wants to use me in the future.

Always be listening to His still, small voice. His words are the best.

 

 

Divine Appointments: A Story of Redemption in Honduras

There are many borders between northeast Indiana and Monte Redondo, Honduras. State borders, continental borders, national borders. We crossed them all in our journey to and from Honduras last week.

But manmade barriers prove ineffective when hearts come together to share stories of adversity and faith, and to celebrate divine appointments.

Meet Rossel Urbina.

Rossel Urbina

Rossel is familiar to those of us who have ministered through Forgotten Children Ministries many times, or who have heard stories about the children rescued from the streets of Tegucigalpa in the years following Hurricane Mitch. (An estimated 7,000 people lost their lives in the storm that hit Honduras in October, 1998.)

Rossel was one of 10 boys gathered off the streets of Tegucigalpa by FCM founder Stan Nowell over 15 years ago. A group of missionaries from my hometown were with him as he took them out to the farm that week. There, the boys received food, shelter and the message that God loves them.

Sadly, the boys had to be taken back to the city and to the streets at the end of the week. But in 2002, Stan returned to establish a permanent orphanage for street children. Rossel was one of the boys who came to live at Finca Grace farm.

Last week, through a translator, Rossel shared the story of his divine appointment.

He was 10 years old when his mother died. His father was an alcoholic, so he was left to wander the streets.

“But, God gave me what every child needs — a family and brothers.”

Rossel stayed at FCM through high school. He married and had a son, and though he had been rescued from the streets a decade earlier, Rossel found the world outside FCM still had a pull on his life.

The burdens of providing for his wife and child became too great.

“I strayed from the Lord,” said Rossel. “I hit rock bottom. My heart and mind were destroyed. I didn’t care anymore. I began doing things that damaged my marriage, that damaged my body.”

Rossel spent time in jail. After he was released, he sought help in a men’s ministry at Teen Challenge.  Through the program, he worked to regain his self-worth and restore his marriage. He also encountered “a man sent by God.”

An art teacher at Teen Challenge told Rossel he wanted to give him something — the gift of art instruction. For three months, Rossel apprenticed under the man and gained a years’ worth of art instruction.

As a result, Rossel is working full-time creating art. He is able to care for his young son at home while his wife works as a nurse. Each week, Rossel visits FCM to share his story and to sell his original pieces to mission teams. They are tangible evidence of the redemptive grace of God, meted out through the hands of FCM and Teen Challenge.

Samples of Rossel’s art (including the wall hanging featured at the start of this post).

Listening to this young man share his life story last week, I was struck by the truth that no man is immune from trial, whatever his language, nationality or family history. There are no barriers that promise life will be without struggle. All are faced with the same choices; some will make mistakes that alter their lives forever. Others will turn back to what they know is the better path, even when it’s hard.

Rossel’s message is this: “Everything that happens in life has a purpose.” He would not have chosen to lose his mother and father, to live on the streets, to turn from God or test his marriage. But Rossel’s testimony gives purpose to those realities and proof of God’s grace and mercy, and His divine appointments.

*****

Tomorrow — Irene’s story and Aza’s gift to FCM.

Feet on the Ground, Ministry in our Hearts

Today, the real mission work begins.

At least, that’s what one might assume. When we load our bus with bags of supplies for families living in the surrounding communities here in eastern Honduras, we’ll know our week of missionary work has begun.

Actually, the ministry that’s called our group of 12 women and one brave 18-year-old boy to Tegucigalpa began Saturday night when we shared dinner with the boys at Finca Grace.

And it continued Sunday at a church service and a day spent with the girls in the city. A pair of flipflops, an awkward conversation in two very different languages, games played on oil-cloth covered tables with rain pounding on the roof, hugs and giggles.

Such is the stuff of foreign missions.

We’ve traveled 1,800 miles from Indiana to Tegucigalpa, Honduras. For the next four days, we’ll share food, Jesus, hugs and handshakes with people in mountain communities, city streets and orphanages. Children who formerly lived on the street or in too-small homes with no running water will know that a group of Americans carry them in their hearts.

Later this week, as I gather with women from Monte Redondo for a Bible study on prayer, I’ll also encourage them to claim their inheritance in Christ, to know that they are co-heirs and remind them of how much they are loved.

“Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you; but I will teach you the good and the right way.” I Samuel 12:23

How ‘Forgotten Children’ Changed My Life

At a writing conference in Michigan last spring, I met a tall young woman with a captivating smile and a beautiful accent. We ran into each other over and over again during the conference (including in various restrooms) and decided we could be “cyber friends”. Though we live half a continent apart, I’ve enjoyed getting acquainted with Bronwyn Lea over the past several months via her blog and other writings. At her request, I’m honored to share these words that have had an impact on my life.

Many conversations over the years have given me pause, turned me on my heels, changed my view of things, but few have had the impact of two words spoken from the altar by a woman in the church we began attending six years ago:

“Forgotten children.”

To read more of my post about these words that impacted my life, visit Bronwyn’s blog here…..

Gringos playing soccer with boys at the Honduran orphanage run by Forgotten Children Ministries.

Gringos playing soccer with boys at the Honduran orphanage run by Forgotten Children Ministries.

 

To read about more about our 2013 mission trip to Honduras, click on “missions” on my blog.

 

 

Prayers for the Forgotten Children of Honduras

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Houses clustered on the hillside outside of Tegucigalpa.

A cloud sits on the mountain directly before me, hiding it from view. I’ve watched those clouds and mist hover and lift each morning this week as I’ve taken time to be with the Lord and to share with you reflections on this journey.

Soon, the clouds will lift and at the very top of the mountain I’ll spy one lone tree, standing separate from the others. I count on that tree to be there, proof that with determination and the right growing conditions, even one lone tree can flourish.

It’s like that with these boys and girls sheltered by Forgotten Children Ministries. As we learn snippets of their stories, it tears at the heart to know what they’ve experienced, where they’ve been, what they’ve seen. Most were alone, on the streets, doing whatever it took to survive. Some were in families too large to care for them, so they had to find a way to make it on their own.

But here, at FCM, they are learning to stand. Not just to survive, but to grow.

Last night, our final time of singing with the boys, they presented a skit about the Good Samaritan. Without words, but with exaggerated gestures and smiles on their faces, they acted out the parable from Luke 10. They are learning these stories, and others like them, but more. They are taught how to live like Jesus in the midst of poverty and chaos. They are learning to stand strong and reach for heaven.

As their bedtime drew close, the boys joined Stan in singing “Say My Name”. It is a song Stan composed after hearing a little boy beseech a team member over and over, asking that man to just say his name. The boy eventually chose to leave the shelter and is back on the street today, running with a gang. Stan shares that recently the young man found himself seated on a bus next to one of the older mission boys. He had a pistol in his pocket and gang orders to rob everyone on the bus. The wayward young one apparently remembered the love and shelter he had received at the mission, and chose not to rob his “friend”.

Developing hands on, loving relationships with these forgotten children, and with the families struggling to survive — that is the mission of Forgotten Children Ministries. The work will not end, and there will be fruit. There will continue to be boys and girls who grow into men and women who stand strong and reach for heaven.

The mist is lifting. The tree is still there, reaching, surviving.

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The girls at Grace Home, offering up a dance of praise.

Finding the Forgotten Children in Honduras: Part Five

“For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11

God has His hands all over this mission to Honduras, and no truer evidence of His sovereignty could be seen than in the corrections He made in our plans on Wednesday evening.

After a long day of ministering to families on the hillsides, disabled children in the city and the boys at the farm, our team was looking forward to worshiping in the church at Monte Redondo last evening. Stan Nowell, founder of this ministry, returned from the U.S. to Tegucigalpa earlier in the afternoon and he was to deliver the message. Pastor Rudolpho would lead us in lively worship. We were excited.

Just a mile or so out of the city, our bus began making funny noises. Don’t ask me what happened; I just know it didn’t sound good. Our very capable bus driver, Marco Tulio, was dressed in his best white shirt for the church service, but he was out of the bus and under the chassis before anyone could suggest a change of clothes. Marco owns this bus and he is very responsible about keeping it in good running order, but too many runs on too many winding hillsides are taking their toll.

Strangers passing by offered help and suggestions, with one woman going off to find a friend who is a mechanic. In the meantime, the family of two of our interpreters provided a bus from their fleet and within half an hour, we were back on the road, too late for church and returning to the mission in the city.

Tegucigalpa is not a safe city, especially at night. By God’s providence, our bus broke down within yards of a city police station and we stopped in front of a slaughterhouse. While it was a bit disconcerting to be stuck along a busy highway, not to mention missing our evening of worship, we were grateful for the outcome. And it was interesting to notice how the famous Honduran “machismo” played out in an emergency. The young Honduran men from the mission who were riding to the church with us immediately stepped from the bus to see what they could do. And when we left the bus to board the next one, there was a line of strong young men keeping us safe in the transition.

Back at the mission, God’s plan for our evening played out in a sweet time of worshiping with and getting to know Stan. He is legendary at FCM and his story is compelling. The man has truly submitted his life to God and to this work in Honduras. Stan led the first mission to the street children of Tegucigalpa with a team from our church. The 13 boys Stan and our team picked up from the streets and bused to the farm were the beginning of Forgotten Children Ministries.

We may never know what was avoided or what impact was made by the detour God ordained for us last night, but I’ve learned to be excited and expectant when He steps in. Knowing He is in control makes it possible to rest in the knowledge that His plan is the GOOD one.

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The bulk of our work is behind us, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we have more opportunities to be His hands and feet today as we travel to Valley of the Angels for shopping and dinner. Later in the day, we’ll have one last visit with the girls at Grace Shelter, and I’ll be able to hug little Nayeli and recite the names of body parts that she is teaching me in Spanish. Before we leave for the day, I want to share a photo of a young man who surprised all of us with a moving testimony last Sunday in Monte Redondo. John is on his second mission to Honduras and his story of growth from the “typical American teenager” to the committed, God-fearing young man he is today had an impact on all of us.

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Team member John McKinney sharing his testimony with the help of our interpreter, Rigo.

Finding the Forgotten Children in Honduras: Part Four

It is Wednesday afternoon and I should be at Finca Grace, playing games with the boys. But Chase has caught a bug and I feel my place is here, with the son who traveled all these miles to play with Honduran boys and girls. While he rests, I retreat to the rooftop for fresh air, to think and to pray.

I am greeted as I mount the last marble step by two pairs of brown eyes. One, with mop in hand, says “Hello!” and gives me a hug. The boys crowd near me as I pull out my computer and show them photos I have taken of all of them.

Little Anderson steps away, whistles, and calls the tall one (his name is Carlos, but he tells me it’s “Charlie”) back to work. It’s then I am struck by the fact the little boys are cleaning up after us! We ate lunch here two hours ago, and the little boys have wiped down our tables and are mopping the floor. Of course, I am a distraction so I urge them to get back to work.

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Carlos (“Charlie”) shows me his moves while Anderson urges him to get back to mopping.

In addition to providing shelter, food and a Christian education for these Forgotten Children, a major goal of this ministry is to teach them to work, to help them become responsible and productive. For the older boys, this may mean apprenticeships off the farm to learn a trade or enrollment in a university to work toward a degree. For the younger ones, it is doing the dishes, sweeping the courtyard, cleaning up after the missionaries.

These are opportunities they did not have when living on the streets of Tegucigalpa.

As we have noticed in our visits with families living outside the city, there is a sad acceptance of their plight. For some of the mothers, simply keeping their children clean, fed and clothed is all that they can handle. And on some days, there is not even energy for that. And for too many mothers, the father either has no job or has left the home.

This morning, we visited the hillside dwelling of a familiar friend, to bring rice and beans and a bag of supplies to his family. He recognized us and shared with us that he fears for the safety of his children. He says that someone came into a home just down the street a few nights ago and killed everyone. He does not feel safe. And he does not have work.

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An outdoor kitchen in a hillside home.

Tears filled this grandfather’s eyes as he accepted our prayers and our gifts. He and his wife have done what they can to create a clean, tidy home. But this good man needs something to keep his hands busy and to feel that he is providing for his family. We leave a Spanish Bible along with promises to continue to pray for him.

We spend an hour visiting families and handing out beans and rice from the windows of our bus, which is parked along a busy highway. The childrens’ faces brighten as we give them flip-flops, candy and toys. We hold babies and hug their mothers as we gather to hear a message from Brad, one of our team members. God has given him words to share with these hungry people about the One who can fill them up. A woman comes forward for prayer and I watch a tall Honduran man, one of the few lined up for food, lift his hands as he prays along with us.

Too soon, our beans and rice are gone and we must move on. There is still time for a visit to a destination that is new to all of us. One of our interpreters has told the missionaries of a home for disabled children, so we wind through the crowded streets of Tegucigalpa to find it.

Children of all ages and disabilities are cared for in this Catholic-run facility. We line up to take take the handles of wheelchairs or strollers, or to walk alongside those who can move on their own, and gather in an open hall for a time of singing and storytelling. A little fellow navigates through the crowd on a special tricycle, another hangs in a swing, arms and legs secured. His whimpers trouble me, because I know nothing can be done to free him from this pain.

One of the missionaries reminds the children that because their Father in Heaven sent His Son to die for them, they will someday be in Heaven where they can run, play, swim, and where their bodies will be whole.

We give hugs and kisses and leave behind food and stuffed animals — and a piece of our hearts.

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While I’ve shared these reflections, the boys have gathered at the tables with their teacher to do their homework. Later, I know we will share dinner with them, and then we will ride the 45 minutes back to Finca Grace and the church at Monte Redondo for an evening worship service.

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Noah’s Ark boys doing homework with their teacher.

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Early morning dish-duty before leaving for school.

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The boys line up at 6:30 a.m. to take the bus to school.

Brad shares a message with those waiting for rice and beans.

Brad shares a message with those waiting for rice and beans.

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Our friends in their home, asking prayers for safety.

A mother and her baby wait to receive rice and beans.

A mother and her baby wait to receive rice and beans.

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A little fellow holds a toy truck and some new flip-flops.

Finding the Forgotten Children in Honduras: Part Three

Today’s reflection comes from the heart of Madonna Snyder, a pastor at our church and a dear friend. This is her first mission trip to Honduras:

Again today we made our way to the school soccer field to set up and cook for hundreds of people.  I thought the crowd was much bigger than yesterday, but yesterday I was helping serve the drink so my head had been down most of the time.  I purposely chose a different job today in order to see the faces and make eye contact and be able to give a smile to those going through for the food we gladly give away.

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Pastor Madonna Snyder and her team praying with one of the families living near the dump.

Most of the faces were strangers to me but there were two women who seemed like old friends, Maria Elena and Candida.  I met these two neighbors only yesterday when the group I was in made our way to each of their homes to invite them to yesterday’s meal.  We were welcomed in with great hospitality and warmth and there was a genuine joy they showed us for having taken the time to stop by and see them.  We were able to visit and take our time to hear a little of their stories and then share prayer together.  This simple unplanned visit seemed to join our hearts and today when they joined us at the soccer field again we hugged tightly, happy to see one another.

Before the meal is served each day there is first a worship service so that we can not only feed their stomachs but also give them the gospel to feed their souls.  As I stood among the crowd with all those I didn’t know, listening to singing in a language I mostly don’t understand, I am surprised by how much my soul still is able to worship.  Then watching Maria Elena worship with her eyes closed and hands outstretched brings tears to my eyes as she pours her heart into her singing, unphased by the fact that others are watching her.  And my mind begins to wonder about the others in the crowd.

Pastor Rudolpho is leading worship and there are those close up who are fully engaged the way Maria Elena is, there are those just behind this front group, who are there but not fully participating but being respectful. Then there are those who are sitting back, not part of the crowd,who seem totally unengaged waiting for the meal we will serve; not much interested in worshiping except to stare in curiosity at the worshipers.

I cannot help but think of the Parable of the Sower, found in Matthew 13.  Long ago Jesus told us that there would be those who’d hear the Word and it would take root in their lives and some would hear the Word and it would not.  A farmer may know well what type of soil he has to work with but when it comes to the heart of our fellow human beings we are not privileged with that information.  God knows the condition of the heart but we are still required to sow the seed.  We are not called to pass judgment on who is ready to have the Word take root, we are called to spread the gospel far and wide and to do so with generosity and love.  And so again today that is what we did, fully trusting God to work in the lives of the beautiful Hondurans.

And we are also trusting God with our new friends. In the world I live in it’s so easy to stay in touch that it’s a little difficult for me to think I may never see Maria Elena or Candida again, but I know that God will be here with them in Honduras.  I know that, not simply because His Word says He will never leave us, but because I have seen Him here.  God has been working. God is working and He will continue to work, and I’m feeling blessed that He allows us to join Him in that work.

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Today is our last day to work in the neighborhoods surrounding Tegucigalpa. It will be a hard one for all of us. We talked in our “team time” last night about the fact there is so much need, and so little that we can offer. But we were reminded that every contact, every prayer, each bag of beans and rice leave an impact. And we have to trust God to do the work, to grow the seeds we are planting.

Before we left Honduras last year, one of the missionaries living here told us to consider that the Lord put us where we are, in our daily lives back in the States, for a reason. He said that while, for some of us, our tender hearts may cause us to reject the blessings He has given us, we need to understand that it is because of those blessings that we can do this work we are engaged in right now. And he called us to pray for others the Lord HAS placed in Honduras to do long-term work.

It was a blessing to hear from one of our interpreters, Seun, that Hondurans have great appreciation for the sacrifices we make in our lives so that we can come to her country and minister to the poor. She says that the Honduran government fails to provide for the very basic needs of its people, and that they believe God has sent us as His ambassadors.

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A Honduran woman shares her prayer needs.

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One of our interpreters, Seun, with Allison (right) and Rossel, a young man who has grown up in the ministry and works with the younger boys.

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Nayeli and Natalie, little girls from the orphanage, concentrate on their creating their prayer journals during our visit with them.

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Our leader, Cindy, is serenaded by Juan Azael and Carlos in celebration of her birthday on a porch at Finca Grace.

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An ice cream vendor walked through the crowd during meal time, ringing his bell and providing “dessert”.

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Two of our team administer first aid to a woman who works in the dump. Those in the background are joined in worship led by Pastor Rudolpho.

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Colorful flowers lend beauty to the humble dwellings.

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School girls take the path from a “pulperia” — a roadside snack stand — back to school.

A final word: There was plenty of excitement at the shelter last night as the Honduras and US soccer teams faced off in tournament play — and not a few sad Hondurans when the US won 1-0. Go Team USA! 

Finding the Forgotten Children in Honduras: Part Two

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Homes fill the hillside in this photograph taken from our bus.

We have only three days to reach out to the people living in the countryside outside Tegucigalpa, so today (Monday) we hit the ground running.

One of the first things you learn when ministering in a foreign country is flexibility.  Today, we will cook a hot meal for people working and living in and around a dump. Several on our team have helped with this ministry in the past, but details are still being worked out to make it run smoothly. We quickly find we need to have “servant” hands to make this project work.

FCM staff set up the cooking station under trees at the edge of a school parking lot and the team breaks up into three groups to fan out into the hillside. We stop at homes alongside the highway and down paths to invite people to join us for a short service and a free lunch. We tell them to spread the word, and by 10:30 a.m., there is a crowd gathered for worship. With the smell of chicken and rice drifting from the cook station, we hear a message from one of our team members (translated into Spanish) and clap along to Spanish worship songs sung at a microphone by Pastor Rudolpho.

During worship, we mingle among those who have gathered, but the missionary traveling with us today warns us to stay together, not to stray far from the bus alone. We hear rumors that gangs have taken over the dump and that two people were killed in the past year.

The crowd is made up mostly of women and young children, but a few men pick spots at the back of the gathering. Standing off to one side are workers from the nearby dump. Their skin and clothing are covered in dirt and they carry the odor of garbage and refuse. They spend their day sorting the garbage, collecting items which can be recycled for money (plastic bottles, metal). One of our interpreters explains later that they are not proud of this work they do, but it is a job and they need the money. The dump workers seem to be mostly young men and women — it’s difficult to tell beneath the layers of dirt and protective clothing.

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Two local women and their children find a spot to eat next to our bus.

I refrain from taking a photo of the dump workers because I can’t bear to have them think I consider them a novelty. I want somehow to preserve their dignity, to give them some reason to think the work they do is acceptable. It’s a thought that stays with me all day.

In orderly fashion, we feed the over 200 who have gathered. Soon we are packed up and headed down the road in our school bus, back to the shelter for our lunch. In just an hour we’re back on the road, returning to Finca Grace where we’ll spend a couple of hours playing games with the boys living there.

There are around 40 teenage boys living on the farm and soon our leader, Cindy, has them engaged in a Bible trivia game. They’re highly competitive and want to please, so they huddle together in teams, searching for scriptures, then heading out to find the item (a rock, a feather) suggested by the verses.

Of course, there is time for soccer, flag football, playing catch. This one thing I’ve learned, if nothing else — boys the world around love to play anything that involves a ball!

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The site of the Finca Grace construction project.

Several of the team members walk past the soccer field to a large sign, placed at the edge of an open field. The sign lays out the building project FCM hopes to begin this year. Finca Grace began ten years ago as a step of faith and the ministry continues to function on the faith that others see the vision for bringing all the children to this safe, beautiful region where they can grow and learn together. The ministry is halfway to its goal of raising $500,000 for the building project which will include two new houses for the younger children, a soccer field and eventually two mores houses for the older boys. The ministry goal is to have 1,000 pledges of $500 each, but any size donation is welcomed. (To learn more, visit the Web site at fcmhonduras.org)

We leave the farm with plans to make a stop on our route back to the city to bring beans and rice to several families along the way. This aspect of the mission is perhaps the toughest for many of us. Small wood, metal, plastic and cardboard structures with dirt floors are “home” to many poor Hondurans. We visit Gloria who has received help from FCM in the past and learn her husband has been ill and unable to work. He is a bricklayer and we can see his handiwork in a structure across the road. Gloria asks for prayers for him and for two of her children who also have  been ill. The bags of beans and rice will help, but we leave wishing we could do more.

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Thanks to the generosity of our church family, we have been able to buy beans and rice to feed the poor families living in the hillsides outside Tegucigalpa.

We return to the shelter tired, sweaty, sunburned and hungry, but are revived by the prospect of spending time with the little boys. Games and conversations begin and laughter fills the courtyard. We share dinner and songs with these fellows who have stolen our hearts, then share our thoughts from the day during “team time”. There are tears as we talk about the hardships we saw among those we served today. Such a contrast of experiences — a lot to take in.

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One of the Noah’s Ark boys enjoys his dinner of meat, rice, beans and jello.

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A heavy mist lays over the city this morning as I make corrections and read over this post. I know that in a few hours, the clouds will lift and the heat will return. But right now, it is cool and the rooftop of an orphanage in Central America is a good place to be.

Finding the Forgotten Children in Honduras: Part One

My son, Chase, and I have returned to Tegucigalpa, Honduras, this summer for a week of ministering with a team from LaGrange First Church of God. In the next five days, Lord willing, I’ll share a snippet of what we see and do in the mountains of this Central American country.

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Saturday

If the mountainous, tree-covered landscape wasn’t enough to convince a Hoosier traveler that they have arrived in a foreign country, the bumper-to-door-to-bumper traffic, blaring horns and loud Latino music is proof.

Our team of 16 (plus 5 who joined us here) is in Honduras for the next six days, serving alongside Forgotten Children Ministries. In the days ahead we will live with, love on and minister to the 74 orphans living at the FCM’s three shelters. We’ll also travel in and around Tegucigalpa bringing food, personal supplies and the love of Christ to people in need.

Though we arrived weary from traveling the 1,700 miles between Indiana and Honduras, we were revived by a stop at a shopping mall for a late lunch (there’s a 2-hour difference, so it really is lunch time here) and supplies for the families we’ll visit.

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One of the views from the rooftop of Noah’s Ark Shelter.

But it was a stop at the girls’ orphanage, Grace Shelter, that brought all of us back to life. Thirteen young girls introduced themselves to us as we learned about that ministry from their director. It is a blessing to see their beautiful, healthy faces and know that here they are safe and can have hope for a life that is better than the one they left on the streets.

We arrive at Noah’s Ark Shelter in time for dinner. Here, we are greeted by the 18 boys who call this three-story building home. Little ones, ages 6 to 12, live together on the main floor while young men who are in university or have jobs in the city share rooms on the third floor. Our rooms are in a wing alongside the paved courtyard where the boys play — next to the school bus. It’s a small space, but the boys make the best of it and on our first night, our young men join the boys in a soccer-style game that they’ll play until bedtime.

The boys. Now I remember why we’re here. Hugs, familiar smiles, recalling names, greeting new ones. I know it will be hard to leave these boys in just a few days, but for this first night, we are overwhelmed with the reality of God’s grace here.

Orientation, dinner, an hour of singing songs with the little (and big) boys and an hour of bagging beans and rice. It is 10 p,m. and we’re off to find our bunks and sleep.

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Sunday:

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Worshiping with the villagers of Monte Redondo.

Today is full, but in a relaxing sort of way. After a wonderful breakfast of eggs, bacon, toast and fresh fruit, we travel by bus 45 minutes to the village of Monte Redondo where we will worship with Pastor Rudolpho and his congregation. Lively worship music greets us and for the next two hours, we feel Jesus present in this bright, beautiful space — despite the fact many of us can’t understand a word that is sung or said.

We leave the church to walk the road to Finca Grace and the clouds that have been hovering all morning burst forth with a shower. It is winter here, the rainy season, and there will be brief downpours like this each day. We arrive at the farm soaked, but happy to see the young men who live and study at this beautiful spot.

Lunch, games, fellowship — the next two hours go by quickly. As soon as the rain stops, most of the boys start up a game of soccer. There’s plenty of room to play here and it’s a lively game. Chase has brought his cleats (“tacos” in Honduran) and joins in.

Soon, the farm will become home to all of the 74 children in the ministry, with room created to almost double that number. Gordon, the missionary spending the day with us, leads some of us to the site that has been cleared for construction of a girls’ home and a boys’ home. He says FCM is halfway to its goal of $500,000 and hopes to begin the project in less than a year.

All too soon, we board the bus to head back to the city. We stop at a government-run orphanage to spend an hour sharing pizza and Jesus with the children who live there. Several of the children living at the FCM shelters are brought here from this orphanage. Later in the day, we talk about the contrast between the government facility and the shelters run by the mission. It’s rewarding to see the difference living among those who know and love Christ can make in the children.

I take many photos of the children at this orphanage, only to find that we can’t share them publicly. It is for their safety, and I respect that.

Once back at the shelter, we’re joined by the little girls from Grace Shelter and we all share dinner in our rooftop dining room. More songs, hugs and laughter, then it’s bedtime for the children. Another hour of bagging beans and rice, and it’s lights out for us, too.

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Part of the team bagging beans and rice to be distributed in the next three days.

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Monday:

It’s early (6:30 a.m.) here in Tegucigalpa as I put final touches on this message. I’m on the rooftop where we eat our meals, a cup of rich Honduran coffee cooling next to the bits of rice clinging to the table where little brown-haired boys and girls ate dinner with us last night. The early morning cleaning crew is arriving and already the little boys who live here at Noah’s Ark Shelter are doing their morning chores, preparing to begin school at 7:30. A rooster crows, breaking through the noise of traffic, and patches of blue sky tell me it will be hot again today.

The primary ministry on our agenda today is cooking and serving a  mid-day meal to those who work at a dump outside the city. We’ll invite families living nearby to enjoy a free meal of beans, rice, chicken and potatoes. Later, we’ll spend the afternoon at Finca Grace.

It will be a good day.

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Chase and his new friend, Roberto