Monday, June 27, 2011

Linda~Reflections on a Princess

How can I really begin to reflect on the one person that has impacted me more than anyone else in this world? The girl on the left is Linda the day we first met her in 2007. Just that look of love that she had when talking to Karen and I broke my heart. I understood the love that she had for us was unconditional. It is the same love that Christ has for us. It was that love that showed me how important the ministry of Compassion was. The one thing I remember from that trip was her telling me that her father had died, she considered me like a father and she wanted me to be there for her 15th birthday. I also remember how nice she dressed just out of respect for us. Totally blew my mind. Fast forward two years to 2009. There she is again on the right with a big smile and looking even more beautiful. We shared a day of memories. Two things especially stood out. She had brought all our letters with her to show us how important we were in her life. The other was talking to her mother and understanding the role we were playing in her life. We were making a difference and her mother considered us  as Linda's other set of parents. What an honor!
 Finally this year- as promised we were there for her 15th birthday celebration. When she came out of her home my breath was taken away. Only two years has passed but she has grown into a most beautiful young woman. The smile is still there but now she has an air of confidence about her. I have no doubt she will succeed and will be going to the University. She has good grades in school, helps to teach Sunday School and is active on the Worship Team at her church. Thankfully her home was better than I could have hoped. Located in the city it is stone and well secured. It is not what we are used to but it is better than some of the others. There are so many little things she did to make us feel special: 1) Things we had given her prior were on display in her home, 2) Karen had crocheted her a blanket two years ago-Linda in turn crocheted her a purse this year. Knowing my love for things Disney our gifts were in a Mickey Mouse gift bag and she gave me a special winter hat because it reminded her of Goofy. Not sure if this was good or not. 
3) Finally I happened to notice that on the invitations to her party she used the Disney Font. Seriously this was her party and it was about her and she took the time to think of something that thoughtful. This is the type of girl Linda is. There is just so much appreciation for us that it really causes me to think. There is the adage that "your first is always the most special". Taking this to sponsorship I guess this is true. Linda will always be my princess and will have impacted me in ways that I may never understand. There are many children that have been sponsored at events and concerts because I have told my story of Linda. She does not realize it yet but she has already made a difference in the Kingdom. Call it a ripple effect. It is my dream that she applies for the Leadership Development Program in Honduras in a couple of years and is accepted. She wants to be a doctor and we will be there to continue our sponsorship if God is willing. That is my prayer- will you please join me in it? Blessings <><  

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Reflections Part 1-Back in Tegucigalpa

It has been several days since we have returned from Honduras. Amazingly enough I have not suffered the let down I was afraid was coming. Rather I seem to have a better sense of urgency regarding my ministry. In order to better assimilate this experience I am going to spend several days reflecting on the visit and offering some of my insights. This trip has been in the planning since 2007 when Linda asked me to be there for her celebration. When we visited in 2009 I reaffirmed my promise. For the past two years we knew we were coming back. It was our dream to be able to visit each of our children's homes and projects. Having been on two other sponsor trips we did not have this opportunity. My ministry has credibility as I am able to tell potential sponsors about what I have seen and witnessed when visiting other homes and projects and how effective Compassion is in the field. However there was an emptiness as I really did not know how my own sponsored children lived or what their surroundings were like. This trip would provide that information and closure.
First and foremost it was great to be able to go back to Tegucigalpa. This is the capital of Honduras and where we first visited in 2007. It is where all four of our sponsored children live! Tegus ( affectionately nicknamed) and Honduras are very much in our hearts. We get Yahoo updates regarding current news, we follow the weather and we pray very much for the city. Having followed the earthquake after the last trip, the overthrow of the President ~ his recent return from exile and even watching the Honduran soccer team  we feel a connection to this city. It felt good to return. It never seems to amaze me how many American fast food places there are on every corner. Pizza Hut, McDonalds, Burger King, and even Denny's are all there. Driving is an experience unto itself. We drove around with our Host but it is still an amazing experience. There are no rules. People turn left from the right, they weave among other cars and the intersections are a big game of "Chicken". Whoever has the most nerve goes first. You really have to see it to believe it.
Arriving in Tegucigalpa via airplane you have to make this incredible left turn through a mountain pass and then touchdown quickly before the runway ends. Pilots are specially trained to make this landing. I remember our first trip and how everyone applauded when we landed. Apparently that is the custom as again applause broke out and we knew we were back. Next up: Reflections on Linda. 

Friday, June 17, 2011

Honduras 2011 / Day 5-Quinceanera for Linda

Four years ago I was asked to be at Linda's Quinceanera and tonight I fulfilled that promise. She had wanted me there because she considered me like a father. Four years ago we did not know what that would entail. I did promise though to be there no matter what. Two years ago I again told her I would be there. Just let me know where and when. Interestingly enough a few months ago we began making our plans to return to Honduras and visit each of our children's homes/projects. In trying to figure out what to do about the Quinceanera we found out that we could host it. Being an advocate all of this time it really did not dawn on me that this was the logical thing to do. We are talking about a child in poverty. Resources are minimal. Even at the project they do not have a budget to allow parties like this on a continual basis. We readily decided on a budget for the party and the rest was left up to the Compassion project.
Tonight we all gathered at a restaurant in the city. An area was sectioned off and we had the party for Linda. She arrived at the restaurant in a lovely purple and black outfit capped off with a pair of black Converse with purple laces. Linda has always dressed nice when I have met her but she is a "tennis shoe" type of girl. This only seemed fitting. Introductions were given and then the ceremony began. The host offered a few opening words and a prayer. Then Karen and I were told to remove her sneakers as a symbol of her transitioning from child to young woman. We then replaced the shoes with high heels to mark her becoming that young woman. Her mother then spoke and placed a ring on Linda's finger. Each of us had a turn to speak to Linda and I got to go first. The easiest thing to say was how she changed my life and now directed my ministry. No matter how many children we sponsor now or in the future Linda will always be "my princess". Around the room everyone said what they wanted to say. Dinner was next followed by the birthday cake. Sadly we all were so stuffed that we really did not eat the cake. It will be shared tomorrow at the project. Goodbyes were long and tearful with lots of hugs.
Amazingly enough right now I am still riding a "high"- I kept my promise and I know Linda was happy to have the party that she wanted. I am sure that in the days ahead there will be that let down feeling for me. After anticipating something for so long it is hard to really realize it is over. It has been an amazing week back here in Honduras and I am sure I will be blogging about that shortly- Until then thanks for being a part of my journey! Blessings.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Honduras 2011 / Day 4-Visiting Jorge

Today was our day to visit Project 205 and to see Jorge. The center is located just a little way from where Linda's project is in  Comayaguela. However it is in a much poorer area and is very heartbreaking. The project is basically a two story unit. Though not appearing much on the outside it is a totally different story inside. The project is filled with an excellent staff and full of outgoing and loving children. We had no sooner set foot in the project and we were overwhelmed by hugs. I mean seriously it was like piranhas attacking! We were being hugged to death. We got to again see Jorge's records and were pleased to learn that he is an excellent student in school. In fact his family got a government scholarship to help pay for some of his books and such. He wanted us to go to his public school and meet his teacher. We were going to be his "show and tell" for the day. His teacher loved having us there and told us what a great student Jorge was. This was even after the fact that we started a small riot with children when we took pictures. If you have ever been on a mission trip or to another country like this you know how kids love to have their pictures taken. 
Next stop was Jorge's home. This was a heart breaker. We really can't decide who is worse off- Jeyelly or Jorge. This home was basically one room tacked onto another home. There was a small room to cook in but the other room was basically just two beds (for seven people) and a sofa. The yard was dirt and had a coop for chickens. Very sad!   
The fun part of the day we went to Pizza Hut for lunch and then to the Chiminike Child Museum. This was a great place with interactive exhibits for kids. Needless to say Jorge and our kids had a blast. The day ran longer than planned which was fine by us. Several prayer requests on this visit: 1) Jorge's older brother is in the hospital with a blood disease. He is not a Compassion child so expenses are hard on the family. 2) His younger brother is just getting over chicken pox. 3) Elsy, Jorge's mom has another lump in her breast and needs a biopsy. Previously she had one that was benign. Please just keep this family in prayer.
Tomorrow is a fun shopping day for us in the morning/afternoon. Tomorrow night is the reason we are here- we celebrate Linda's Quinceanera. <>< 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Honduras 2011 / Day 3-Visiting Jelley and Sofia

Today we returned to a project we first visited in 2007. When we were there back then it was actually a registration day and we met and sponsored Jeyelly on the spot. Two years later we were able to sponsor her sister Sofia. We had never met her but today we got that chance. We arrived at project 259 in the midst of chaos. There was a medical mission team based there and the entire neighborhood was in the streets for exams and tests. We were able to tour the project again and review the records. A fellow Compassion friend of mine (Jane) has a child there. We were able to track her down and also get some pictures taken to send to Jane. One surprise we had was seeing another friend, Abraham, who used to work with Compassion. He was there working as a translator with the medical team. In all of Honduras we got to run into him again at the first project we had ever visited with him. God is funny at times.
After that we went to visit their home. It is located high up on a hillside. It was very hard to imagine. A winding path up to what could barely be considered a home. In fact it was basically two rooms that were attached to the outside of another home. It is hard to describe but you could see through the floor to the ground below. One bedroom shared by four people and very little space. Yet it was a home. They fixed us cheese and tortillas. We gave them some gifts we had brought. Jeyelly and Sofia showed us the letters and pictures we had sent them. We prayed for them.
We then headed off to the mall for an afternoon of fun. We had lunch at a hamburger kiosk and then went to an amusement park type place in the mall.  The girls had a blast on bumper cars, a roller coaster, a Ferris wheel and playing games. Sofia bonded with Courtney and Jeyelly had a blast with Stephanie. There is a third daughter (Julianna) who is six years old and is also in the project. She is sponsored by someone else but we took her with us and she hung out with me and had a day of fun also.
Our evening was capped off by seeing Gaby O Elvir again. We took her out for a birthday dinner and just had a great time reminiscing. Tomorrow we get to see our 4th sponsored child here-Jorge. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Honduras 2011 / Day 2-Visiting Linda

How do you describe a day that you have anticipated for the past four years in just a blog? Really I don't think you can. We met up with our hosts Scarlet and her daughter Goldie right at 9am. Goldie was actually one of our translators in 2009 so it was awesome to see her again! Off to Linda's project. It is located in Comayaguela (sister city to Tegucigalpa) and is truly the poorest of the two cities. We were in a very destitute urban area. However her project and church is a light in the darkness. We saw the classrooms, the church and got to review Linda's records. She hopes to be a pediatrician one day and by the look of her grades she is on her way.
One sad note is that one of the teenagers in the project (and a friend of Linda's) passed away over the weekend after a long illness. Though it was great seeing the project their was an air of sadness hanging over the visit.
      Next stop was Linda's home. She was nervously waiting for us and it was great just seeing where she lives after all these years. Now when we vision her home and pray for her we have a clear picture of her environment. One good thing is that it was "comfortable". It was certainly not what we are used to but it could have been much worse. God is good in all things. We did find out that she is active in church especially as part of the worship team. Also we found out that she recently got a boyfriend ( I think she was a little embarrassed  that we found out about that). She is learning guitar and likes to play. For the final part of the day we went to the mall for lunch (Pizza!) and shopping. Karen and I decided to do something special for her birthday so we took her to a music store and got her a good guitar to practice and play on. She was surprised and for us it was a blessing to give her the encouragement. I pray that she continues to use her talent for God's glory. Linda enjoyed finally meeting Courtney and Stephanie and we can't wait to host her Quinceanera on Thursday night. We prayed together before leaving and there were not a lot of tears as we know we see each other in three days time. (Oh! and our luggage showed up) Blessings <><

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Honduras 2011 / Day 1

Quick weekend as we left early Saturday afternoon, checked in the Microtel Inn (where we are leaving our car), had dinner and then chilled in the room. Stephanie was tired from Senior Week, Courtney was dealing with her sprained wrist and Karen and I were just a ball of nervous energy. We did manage to hit the bed and grab a few hours sleep before getting up at 3am to head to the airport. Good thing we got there when we did as American Airlines was not open yet and the line quickly grew at the counters. Flight was delayed by about 40 minutes for some reason. We got to Miami fine and made our connection after grabbing some quick food. It was only 10am but we had already been going 7 hours. We dozed on both flights but not that much. Made it into Tegucigalpa about 1pm our time / 11 am Honduran time. We made it quickly through customs only to find 3 of our bags decided not to make the trip down with us. Gladly Courtney and Steph had their bag. Karen and I did not and the gifts we bought for our kids are missing. American Airlines says that everything will arrive tomorrow. Three times we have come to Honduras with American Airlines. Twice they have ripped or broken our luggage and this time they just left it behind. It is too funny to get angry about. We were met at the airport by a dear friend Gaby. She was one of our translators in 2009. She came on her own to make sure we got to the hotel safely. Her birthday is Monday and we are going to take her to dinner on Tuesday. It was great just to see a friendly face. After getting settled we headed out for some sightseeing and dinner. We went to the park to show our girls the statue of Jesus that overlooks the city and of course I had to have our first official dinner at Pollo Campero-best chicken ever! We also grabbed some essentials (like clean clothes) at Walmart. We are really feeling and looking out of place here. We are not part of a tour group or mission team and we get quite the looks as we are obviously tourists. Tonight we are relaxing in the room and getting ready for our first visitation day. Praying for a very special day with Linda.  <><

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Day Before The Day Before

We are officially two days away from arriving in Honduras. The time is quickly coming and we are not even totally packed. The gifts for the families are bought and packed but that is about it. Not that I am not focused, but rather I think I am a little scared and waiting for something to bring everything to a halt. This trip has been in our thoughts for four years now. I made the promise in 2007 to Linda to be there this year. I reaffirmed that promise when I saw her in 2009. Since earlier this year we have been making arrangements and waiting for all the pieces to fall into place. It is almost time and I am waiting for Satan's attack. Today Courtney had an accident at work and sprained her wrist. It could have been worse but I am not surprised. We are waiting on Steph to return from Senior week on time and in one piece tomorrow. God willing we will leave for Philly on Saturday afternoon in preparation for our early morning flight to Miami and then on to Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Please keep us in prayer for a safe and blessed trip. Pray that everything will go as planned and Linda will have an awesome Quinceanera celebration. In addition I am asking that you cover the Indonesia Advocate Tour (leaves today) in prayer as well as the Nicaragua Sponsor Tour which leaves next Thursday.  I will be posting as often as I can about our trip along with links to pictures on Facebook. Blessings.....

Monday, June 6, 2011


Graduation 2011
My step-daughter just graduated from high school and my daughter just finished her Freshman year of college. Seriously- where did the past two decades go to? I think these must be the same thoughts that every parent must have. It seems one day we are teaching them to ride a bike or helping them with homework then the next we are sitting teary eyed at a graduation ceremony. Frankly I am amazed at how fast the years have flown by. It really does just seem like yesterday. I look at both of them and think back on what I was doing when I was their age. Seriously- that is one scary thought. I pretty much had free rein and enjoyed every moment I could. The drinking age was lower then and we had the world at our fingertips. We took advantage of every opportunity. Thankfully I know both of my kids have good heads on their shoulders and have a strong Christian background. That is not to say I know they are perfect. I know they have done their own wild things and will make their own choices. That is part of growing up. There will be lessons to be learned and they may not all be good. I can only pray that they remain true to the way they have been brought up. 
Seriously-I have to say I am proud of both of them. Each of them having two sets of parents and values cannot be easy. Yet they stayed true to their course and have both become fine young ladies. Both have the world ahead of them and I know will do well in their studies as they prepare for the future. Both are travelling with us to Honduras and it is my prayer that they see a larger world view and grow from that experience. 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Keeping the Promise

Well four years ago I made a promise. I had just met Linda (our first sponsored child in Honduras) and had my eyes and heart opened. She told me how her father had died and she thought of me as her father ( no pressure there). She asked if I would come to her QuinceaƱera. This is a celebration of a girl's fifteenth birthday. It is special as it marks the transition from childhood to young womanhood. I promised I would be there- just let me know when it would be in 2011. 

Transition ahead four years and it is now the time. Actually Linda's birthday is tomorrow on 6/6! Over the past few months in conjunction with Compassion we have planned and organized the trip. Both of our daughters (Courtney and Stephanie) will be going along with Karen and I. Next Sunday we will be in Honduras as friends watch our house and pets. This is not a sponsor tour so we had to do a lot of planning on our own. God has been with us throughout the planning. 

We had to first submit the request and then get the OK from the country office in Honduras. We were not sure if we should go ahead and reserve flights and hotel or just go ahead in faith. We missed the possibility of flying out of Baltimore on one package but then in faith we went ahead and booked a package through American Airlines. We fly from Philly to Miami to Tegucigalpa. We got an excellent rate on the flights and the hotel. Next we had to wait on the itinerary from Honduras. Those that know me, understand how not knowing  until twelve days out was excruciating to my peace of mind. Numerous emails to friends that had gone through this were comforting though. On June 1st we got the final OK and the itinerary and everything was approved. God was great even in this aspect. 

To keep it simple we fly into Honduras in a week. We have Sunday to relax and prepare our hearts and minds. On Monday we get to go to Linda's project and see her home.  Then we will spend the day at a mall and have lunch and fun. Tuesday we go to Jeyelly and Sophia's home and project. Another day of fun and shopping there. On Wednesday we see Jorge at his home and project and then go to a museum with him. 
Thursday during the day we will sight see and then that night will be the big event. We are actually hosting the QuinceaƱera for Linda that night. The promise will have been kept! The first time I met her she and I were both in tears. I can only imagine what this is going to be like. 

I will be keeping the blog current and posting pictures on Facebook- feel free to follow the journey with me!
Keep us in prayer for safe travel and everything to go as planned. Blessings.