Wednesday, March 24, 2010

There's Now a Hole in Honduras!

Our team of five has recently returned from Honduras. We definitely left our mark - there is now an 8-feet-deep hole in the village of Jalaca that wasn't there before!
My church supports an orphanage in Honduras, and every few years a work team will go down to help them with whatever they need. Now they are in the process of building a new girls' dorm, so our job was to dig the septic tank. We had three men, two teen girls, two picks, four shovels, and four full work days. Needless to say, there were a few who had their doubts about us getting the job done. It did seem unlikely. Digging a hole is hard work!
Every morning we would hit the dust with our tools. Finally we got into a rhythm; the men took turns with the picks to loosen the soil, then us girls shoveled the loose dirt out of the hole. We did this over and over. . . .
Lunch was probably my favorite part of the day! Every afternoon and evening a cook would come in from the village and make us an authentic Honduran meal. I can't say I was a fan of all the food, but I did try a few new things that I found pretty tasty! (By the way, Tex-Mex is NOT the real thing!)
A good lunch and a quick siesta makes the world seem like a better place. After our noon-meal we'd hit the dust again. We averaged about 2 feet per day. The men had to squeeze in a few more hours of work, even on our "off" days, but the hole was completed! Praise the Lord.
I loved seeing all the kids again! A lot of them remembered me, which made me really happy. They want to be loved on so bad, and they're pretty good at loving on you, too. It was so fun to play with them.Nearly every evening we were able to visit local churches, where our Pastor preached. (He did a great job! We also had an amazing translator. They made quite a team!) The local churches in Jalaca (the village where the orphanage is) held street services every night. We went to two street services, but even when we didn't attend, we could hear them all the way back at the orphanage! They had a sound system turned up full blast - so there was no escaping the worship service. But the power of the sound system would literally go out every few minutes. Did they stop? No! Hardly even missed a beat. So even when we were at the orphanage, and the music died out, we could still hear them singing and clapping!
No one at those street services was ashamed of praising the Lord. From the smallest child to the oldest man or women (teenagers included), everyone danced and sang and worshipped freely. It was wonderful to see how excited they were about praising God. Most of them were really poor. Many walked over an hour - up hills - in the dark - just to come to these services. They don't have a whole lot to be happy about, so their faith genuinely means a great deal to them. I imagine that for most of those people, Jesus is everything they have. But the awesome thing is, He's more than enough for everyone, including you and me. However, by the end of the week, I was so ready for a hot shower and a soft bed. When we finally made it back to the U.S., it was wonderful to see a clean city, wide roads, and cars that actually followed traffic laws! We were able to stay at a really luxurious hotel in Miami. It was so different from the orphanage.
At first, all I could think about was how thankful I was to be back home. But suddenly I realized that I was putting far too much value on material things. It is important for us to be thankful for what we have. I believe America has more blessings than any other country! But because of that, we often become dependent upon those things that really don't matter. And that takes away our dependency upon Jesus.In reality, the U.S.A. is such a small part of the world. But it's the only world most of us know. It's hard to imagine that the majority of the people in other countries, like Honduras, are living in poverty, without half of the things we deem necessary. While we may have a lot of the stuff that we call blessings, people like those Christians in Jalaca have something much more precious - total dependency upon Jesus.
Every time I go on a mission trip, I come home even more appreciative of the blessings I have. But I hope that every time I come home, I'll come home less dependent upon those things.
Early in our trip we were discussing Matthew 5:3; "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs in the Kingdom of Heaven." I thought about that verse a lot during my week in Honduras. No matter how much "stuff" we have, we really have absolutely nothing spiritually on our own. We have to depend completely on Jesus for joy, peace, and life itself. Then, we're richer than the richest billionaire on the earth.
My Spring Break mission trip was fantastic. Honduras has a special place in my heart, and I hope to continue going back to the orphanage in the years to come.
Thank you so much to everyone who supported me with prayers and with finances! I couldn't have these experiences without you.
As one final request, I'd like to ask you to ponder Matthew 5:3. Think about the Hondurans, what they live without, and what it truly means to depend completely on Christ for everything. Thinking about that may just change your perspective on life.
Dios lo Bendiga!
(God Bless You!)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Mission Honduras: Day 3

So here I am, back at La Hacienda to blog.
Yesterday we enjoyed a very relaxed Sunday. In the afternoon, we were even able to climb a nearby mountain! We climbed all the way up to the top. The scenery was so beautiful!
Today we started to dig. Good news! We found out that the septic tank only has to be 8 feet deep! We got about 2 1/2 feet below the surface today. Tonight we are going to church for the first time. Last time I loved the Honduran church services. You wouldn't think I'd be surprised to meet Christians in other countries. But going to church in a different culture really does help you realize how BIG the Kingdom of God actually is! These people are my brothers and sisters in Christ. And one day, we'll all be reunited in Heaven. What a cool thought!
Thank you for your prayers!
Adios for now.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

We Have Arrived!

Praise the Lord, we are finally in Honduras!
After a delayed flight, an eleven hour lay-over, a long bus drive, no showers in two days...we were tired and ready to be at our destination. But the long journey was well worth it. It's so good to be here again!
Now we're sitting comfortably around the dinner table at "La Hacienda." It was wonderful to be reunited with all the children at the orphanage! We've only been here for a few hours, but already we're having a great time.
Tomorrow night we'll go to a local church. On Monday we'll start the work!
I can't wait to see what God does this week. Please continue to pray for this mission trip.
Adios for now!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Honduras

In just a few short days I will be on my way to Honduras!
A year and a half ago, I went on my first mission trip ever to Jalaca, a small town in the mountains north of Tegucigalpa, the Honduran Capital city.
First-hand exposure to a third world life-style will change you like nothing else. It changed me! I bonded with children who had been abandoned and abused as babies. I met brothers and sisters in Christ who walk miles in the mountains just for church. I lived without TV, phones, computers, my favorite foods, make-up, and even hot showers for a whole week. But it was one of the happiest weeks of my life!
Last summer God called me to go on a mission trip to Guatemala (next-door-neighbor to Honduras) with SusieMag, a Christian magazine for teen girls. The experience was different than Honduras, but life-changing nonetheless.
I will always look back on these mission trips as experiences that really changed me. But I would say the majority of the changing took place after the fact.

While in Guatemala, a speaker warned us of the struggles we'd face once back in the comforts of home. "When the feeling fades, faith begins," he said.
That phrase has got to be my favorite quote now! It's so true.
I was emotionally impacted many times throughout both mission trips. We often get caught up in the moment of those spiritual highs. But we can't rely on that to get us through life. The fire that we feel momentarily isn't enough to be "the change." The actual "change" has to go deeper than that - or it won't last.
The real test to see if you've changed comes in when you make the decision to live out your faith, even when you don't feel like it. When the high has worn off, and it's back to the old grind, will you continue to do what you know to be right, or will you take back all your bad habits that you sloughed off during the spiritual high?
Ever since I've gone to Honduras and Guatemala, I think of those trips almost daily. I'll remember something that happened, a lesson I learned, or a specific way God touched me. While His touch may have really gotten me emotionally when it actually happened, when I think of those times now, I'm able to apply them to my every day life. So even though I've been off the mission field for months, I'm continuing to grow because of a few weeks in a foreign country! This is just one reason I love mission trips, and hope to go on many more.
When the chance to return to Honduras arose, I jumped on it. This time we'll be staying at the same orphanage as before. We will be using picks and shovels to dig a ten-feet-deep septic tank. We'll also go to some local churches to encourage the brothers and sisters and share our testimonies.
I'm absolutely ecstatic about seeing all the kids at the orphanage again! I'm so ready, I can't express it.
Prayers would be greatly appreciated. I know we're going to need them.
Gloria a Dios!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

On the Second of March, 1836...

Yesterday was Texas Independence Day. March is full of Texas history. To commemorate this, a friend of mine compiled some excerpts from letters and diaries all dated March 2, 1836. The Texas Declaration of Independence is also included. Take a first hand look at what happened on March 2, 1836 to make Texas the state it is today.
Convention Delegates to the People of Texas:
INDEPENDENCE DECLARED
"We, therefore, the delegates, with plenary powers, of the people of
Texas, in solemn convention assembled, appealing to a candid world
for the necessities of our condition, do hereby resolve and declare,
that our political connection with the Mexican nation has forever
ended, and that the people of Texas do now constitute a FREE,
SOVEREIGN, and INDEPENDENT REPUBLIC and are fully invested with all
the rights and attributes which properly belong to independent
nation; and, conscious of the rectitude of our intentions, we
fearlessly and confidently commit the issue to the supreme Arbiter of
the destinies of nations."

From the diary of William Fairfax Gray, attendant of the Convention
of 1836 at Washington on the Brazos:

"... An express was this evening received from Col. Travis, stating
that on the 25th a demonstration was made on the Alamo by a party of
Mexicans of about 300 who, under cover of some old houses approached
to within eighty yards of the fort.... They were beaten off with some
loss, and amidst the engagement some of Texan soldiers set fire to
and destroyed the old houses. Col. Fannin was on the march from
Goliad with 350 men for the aid of Travis. This, with the other
forces known to be on the way, will by this time make the nunumber in
the fort some six or seven hundred. It is believed the Alamo is safe."

From the letter of Capt. John Sowers Brooks, stationed at Goliad, to
his mother:

"We marched at the time appointed, with 420 men, nearly the whole
force at Goliad, leaving only one Company of Regulars to guard the
Fort. Our baggage wagons and artillery were all drawn by oxen ... and
there were but few yokes of them. In attempting to cross the San
Antonio river, three of our wagons broke down and it was with utmost
labor and personal hazard, that our four pieces of cannon were
conveyed across....
"During the night, some of our oxen strayed off and could not be
found the next morning. Our sitution became delicate and embarassing
in the extreme. If we proceed we must incure the risk of starvation,
and leave our luggage and artillery behind.... Every one felt an
anxiety to relieve our friends who we had been informed had retired
to the Alamo, a fortress in Bexar, resolved to hold out, until our
arrival. Yet everyone saw the improperty, if not the impossibility of
our proceeding under the existing circumstances ....
"Intelligence also reached us that the advance of Santa Ana's lower
division had surprised San Patricio about 50 miles from our position
and put the whole garrison under the comand of Col. Jonson to the
sword. Five of them have reached this place. Col. Johnson is one of
them, and they are probably all that have escaped. Capt. Pearson of
the volunteers was killed with several others, after they had
surrendered. The war is to be one of extermination. Each party seems
to understand that no quarters are to be given or asked.
"We held a council of war in the bushes on the bank of the river, and
after a calm review of all the circumstances, it was concluded to
return to Goliad, and place the fort in a defensible condition. We
are hard at work night and day, picketing, ditching, and mounting
cannon ... The Mexican force approaching us is variously estimated
at from 1500 to 3000 men. We will endeavor to make as good a stand as
possible, and if we can not expect quarters and therefore do not
intend to give or ask any, result as it may.
"If the division of the Mexican army advancing against this place has
met any obstructions ... 200 men will be detached for the relief of
Bexar. I will go with them. Our object will be to cut or way through
the Mexican army into the Alamo, and carry with us such provisions as
it will be possible to take on a forced march. Our united force will
probably be sufficient to hold out until we are relieved by a large
force from the colonies.
"We have just received additional intelligence from Bexar. The
Mexicans have made two successive attacks on the Alamo in both of
which the gallant little garrison repulsed them with some loss.
Probably Davy Crockett 'grinned' them off.
"We will probably march tomorrow or the next day... The people in the
settlements are all arming themselves. The sound of clashing steel is
heard on their borders and it is time they should awake now if they
wish to preserve their freedom and the fruits of so many years of
toil and privation. Now is the time for volunteers from the United
States. Let them come with six months' clothing and one hundred
rounds of ammunition, and they may be of essential service to the
cause of Liberty, and no doubt will be amply awarded by the people of
Texas. Now or never ...
"P.S. We are all nearly naked - and there are but a few of us who
have a pair of shoes. We have nothing but fresh beef without salt --
no bread for several days. A spy was taken last night, who will
probably be shot tomorrow. One of our men is under arrest for
sleeping on post. He will be tried by a Court Martial -- the penalty
is death."

Some of the greatest stories of courage and sacrifice can be found in history. A good number of those stories can be found in Texas history! I hope to continue to post stories of Texas heroism throughout the month of March.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Champions

I play basketball for our home school group's team, the Red River Lady Rattlers. We just completed our sixth season. It was one of the bumpiest, rockiest, most emotional seasons of basketball I've ever experienced. But it was one of my best.
The Lady Rattlers didn't start out as the hottest team on the court. For the first few years, we played with any team that would play us. It was hard to schedule games, because no one wanted to play a brand-new home school team that wasn't very good.
But three years ago, our team underwent some big changes. We got a new coach. We joined a conference specifically for home school teams and small private school teams. And we improved tremendously! The Rattlers went from being the easy team that no one wanted to play, to the team that everyone wanted to beat - the team with the most wins in our conference.
For the next two years we discovered what it was like to WIN the majority of the season's games! What a great feeling. We realized we had potential - and we were good! Before long we forgot what it was like to be a "bad" team. We got used to being "the best team." And we expected winning to come naturally.
But guess what? This season, it didn't. While we were still high on our previous two victorious seasons, other teams had been improving! Winning didn't come as naturally as we thought it would, and we became frazzled. We had to work really hard for victories that "should have" been easy for us. We even lost to teams we never expected to lose to! And when we did win, our effort seemed half-hearted. We still weren't satisfied. Something was missing.
As the season progressed, the problem grew. No matter how hard we "tried," we couldn't seem to do better. There was a lack of energy and morale on the team.
After a shameful loss, we realized we could no longer dismiss the problem as "beginning of the season syndrome" or "middle of the season syndrome," or anything else...Now the season was nearing its end, and we knew we had to tackle this beast once and for all.
A team meeting was called expressly for the purpose of figuring the problem out together. And together we realized that we had all lost sight of the real reason we were even able to play - Christ. Because of that, we'd lost sight of what was necessary to win - the TEAM. Personally, I had become too focused on my own game. When I stopped to think about it, I admitted that I had become more concerned with improving my own skills than helping the team improve. While individual effort is crucial, it comes to nothing if that's all it ever is - individual effort.
Our coach shared this verse with us:
You know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize. So run to win! All those who compete in the games use self-control so they can win a crown. That crown is an earthly thing that lasts only a short time, but our crown will never be destroyed. 1 Corinthians 9:24-25
Coach has always said that he doesn't care about the 'W' or the 'L' at the end of the game. All he asks is that we give it our all - run to get the prize. The prize isn't winning. It's not our individual stats. It's Jesus.
With Regionals and State only weeks away, our season truly started. We played like a team again. We won some games, and we lost some games! But we didn't feel bad about those losses, because we knew we had played our best.
This year, we approached the State tournament differently. Instead of expecting to win, we understood that we would have to fight hard for every victory, and we faced the fact that losing was possible. We also determined to have fun during every single game, since any of the games could be the season's last.
After a hard fight and lots of fun, we won our first game.
The next day, we faced the team that beat us in the championship game of 2009. We were ready to give it our all, but mentally prepared ourselves for defeat. Wrong decision. At half-time, we were down by fourteen. A few months before, we would have seen our fate as sealed. The talk at half-time would have been grim, and we would have probably played even worse in the second half.
But THIS time, we decided NOT to give up! Our coach encouraged us to stay motivated, stay pumped, and have fun! It took courage, but we did it. We walked on the court with smiles and determination. Maybe we weren't going to win, but we weren't going to give up that easily.
But the positive attitude paid off! We won by eleven points! We didn't do anything magical or extra-ordinary. We just remembered Who we were playing for. We gave it all we had. And the score reflected.
The next day we found ourselves in a familiar place - the Championship game! We knew this would definitely be our last game of the season. It would be our Seniors' last high school game ever. We wanted to make it a good game. So when we walked on the court, we weren't boastful. We weren't pessimistic. We were ready to play.
The first quarter started out horribly. Before we knew it, we were down by ten. Coach continued to encourage us. I think something clicked inside all of us right then. We didn't want to end the season wondering what would have happened if we had given everything. We wanted to find out what would happen if we gave everything.
Twice the opponents surpassed our score. Twice we caught up. Even with one minute left in the game, we didn't take our lead for granted. We played hard until the last second, and we came out State Champions!
The celebration was a tearful one. We had overcome some major trials through the year. We'd re-discovered our motivation for playing, and we had been blessed. We also cried for the seniors who had just played their last game. One of them had been with the team since the very beginning. (Love you Victoria!!!)
As Coach held our trophy, he reminded us that it wouldn't last forever. But the way we played that day would. We played as a team. We played for Christ.
A few months ago I expected to look back on the season of 2009-10 as a bad season. But now I think I'll remember this season as one of our best. Not for our season record - it wasn't that great. Not even for the State Championship - in ten years, who will care who won? This has been one of my best seasons of basketball because I re-learned what it means to be part of a team, to give my all, and to play for Jesus.
"But in all these things we are completely victorious through God who showed his love for us." Romans 8:37
Yes, this year we are the Champions of T-CAL. But for eternity, we are Champions in Christ. And that's what truly matters.