Monday, June 24, 2013

Looking Back at Honduras 2013

A week ago we were in Honduras and it was our fourth visit to this country. We have going every two years since 2007 and we have been blessed each and every time. From the first time when we met Linda and changed our hearts to last week when we saw new and old friends it has been a remarkable journey. I have gone from sponsor to advocate to area coordinator to volunteer coordinator for a ministry that is now my calling. If you have been following my trip on this blog I thank you and just wanted to wrap up my adventure with a few last reflections (in random order):

1) The descent into Honduras is the only flight that I have ever been on that no matter what everyone claps upon landing. Dropping down over the mountain onto a short runway is a miracle in itself. Google it!
2) Breakfast in Honduras with beans and plantains is to die for. Well worth the return trip.
3) The Marriott Hotel in Tegucigalpa is beyond compare. The staff and service are second to none. 
4) Project 259 (Jeyelly/Sofia's project) is filled with truly special people. Warm, welcoming and full of love for the children. What they did for Jeyelly's Quinceanera was amazing and will always be a special memory. 
5) Project 204 (Linda's project) runs a close second. The pastor has prayed for us twice and they always are welcoming. Our next sponsored child is going to have to come from this project  when Linda graduates out. 
6) Jorge may be our first Leadership Development student. I am not discounting Linda or Kellyn getting in but Jorge has so much leadership potential. 
7) Meeting Kellyn was a blessing. She is our correspondant child and we don't really know her since we have only been writing for less than a year. She welcomed us with open arms and we had a blast with her. 
8) Jeyelly's Quinceanera was beyond my expectations. Very traditional and she looked beautiful. She is quiet and reserved but beamed with joy on her day. Sofia made sure we were looked out for we look forward to hosting her Quinceanera in 3 years. This family needs our prayers as the father is more or less out of the picture and the mom is struggling. She does seem more positive than two years ago but needs encouraging to stay true to God and to go to church.
9) Amazingly I think our sponsorship of Linda has impacted her mom (Reina) even more so. When we met her in 2007 she was withdrawn and seemed older/frailer. Now she seems more outgoing, younger and is in fact very active in the church. 
10) Last but not least~our sponsorship of Linda is drawing to a close. Two years ago I was worried about her focus and heart. This trip resolved all of my concerns. Looking at her "My Plan for Tomorrow" she has strong dreams and goals. She wants to enter the Leadership Development Program and be a pediatrician. She has matured and grown through our sponsorship. Having met her four times our relationship has grown and grown through the years yet she always amazes me. She welcomed us with t-shirts that she had made for us. She sang and played the guitar for us. Finally that last look as she said goodbye was filled with as much love as the first time we met her and she broke into tears. We have been more than blessed by our sponsorship of her. 

So we hope to return in 2016 ( 3 years from now) to host Sofia's party. This is the longest we will have been away but we will see what God has in store. Changes are coming. Linda will no longer be in Compassion's child sponsorship program. This may have been the last time we actually get to see her though I know we both plan on staying in touch. I pray that when we return we will connect someway. Hopefully she will be in the Leadership Program. Kellyn will have graduated out also. We will continue to be write to her until then and keep her in our prayers. Jeyelly will just be graduating out in 2016 but if we are hosting Sofia's party we should get to see her too. It is amazing to think how much the face of our sponsorships will be changing. It will be a whole new adventure (maybe we will have some new children to meet). Someone commented about the cost of these trips and our sponsorships. Yes-we have invested a lot of time and money into this endeavor. However I know the blessings we have received have far outweighed the cost for us. Each letter and trip has proven this. Then I look at the other side of the equation at the difference I have seen in each of our children. To seem them grow with hope and to see the smiles on their faces then I know the cost can never truly matter. We have blessed each other far beyond any material costs. It has been way more than worth it!!!!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Honduras 2013-Day 5 (The Quinceanera)

   Today marked our last full day in Honduras. It was also our day to host Jeyelly's Quinceanera. A celebration that marks her transition from being a child to that of a young woman. Her birthday was actually on June 2nd but today would be her special day! This would be our second Quinceanera as hosting Linda's in 2011 was the purpose of that trip. Linda's was a very small simple affair held at a local restaurant. We had the ceremony and a nice dinner with just her family, friends and workers from the project. Here is the story from that special day.

    The party would be in the afternoon so we had the morning free. We went over to the mall to find a special gift for Jeyelly's party. We were thinking a cross or heart necklace. We went from store to store and then found a perfect necklace (we hoped)- it was a special "15" specifically for a celebration like this. We still had time to go to the pool and relax a little prior to the celebration.

      We arrived at the project and then went over with the director to the community center where the Quinceanera was to be held. Children were playing soccer next door but the building itself was decorated inside and out. Pink and white streamers, confetti and balloons adorned the place.
The tables were decorated with special centerpieces. There was even a DJ. All of this was done by the project and their staff. See why I love Compassion! Everything was beyond perfect and more than I could imagine when I gave them our budget. Sofia ( Jeyelly's sister and one of our other sponsored children) came over and gave us a big hug. Jeyelly was actually behind some of the workers (so we would not see her) and then stepped out.
Here was the girl I had spent the morning with in 2007 tossing around an American football. She looked simply beautiful and stunning. She does not smile a lot or talk a lot but today she was beaming. After awhile we sat in our seats while the ceremony began. There was a procession into the building with her Quinceanera court and then she made her entrance and took a seat center stage. The pastor prayed and gave a meditation the our part of the ceremony came. Our part was removing her "kids shoes" and placing high heels on her feet. This marked the transition to being a young woman. They asked us to say a few words (to be honest I am not sure what I said) but I made Jeyelly cry with my sentiments. After this we had a nice meal prepared by the center and enjoyed the birthday cake. We took some remaining pictures and had to say our goodbyes. It was a special day for a special girl. I know she was happy, her mother was beyond happy and we were truly blessed. We kept being told how special we were but in reality I don't think we are. Sure we do things like this, we visit our sponsored children and we write but isn't that what we are called to do for the "least of these". The Bible tells us to care for the widows and the orphans. If we are special for doing what God tells us to do then so be it. However I am just content to have found my calling and my ministry. God Bless.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Honduras 2013~Day 4 (How do you really say goodbye?)

     How do you say goodbye for perhaps for the last time to someone that has impacted your life so much? I sit here with tears in my eyes as I write this knowing that our last hug may have to last forever. Everyone who knows my testimony knows that this girl, Linda, changed our lives forever. Meeting her in 2007 impacted my ministry with Compassion. I would not be as active in my volunteer role, I would not have made three more visits  back to Honduras and Karen and I would certainly be focused on something else. Instead I daily embrace my role as a sponsor and as an advocate on behalf of "the least of these".
      Today was our visit with Linda. We met her at her project with big hugs and smiles. Her mom (Reina) once again welcomed us as family. The amazing part of this was that six years ago when we met Reina she seemed older and frailer. I swear she is looking stronger and younger as we have partnered with her over these years. Anyway at the project Linda's pastor prayed for us. The staff welcomed us back with open arms. We looked at Linda's file and saw her plans and dreams for the future. She will graduate from the project next year and as part of her final year she has to outline her goals and dreams. One thing we were thrilled about is she is hoping to enter Compassion's Leadership Development Program. She will have to apply and be accepted but that will be our prayer focus for her over the next year. It has been two years since our last visit and she has grown up so much. It was amazing listening to a young woman tell us of her dreams, how much we have meant to her and just hearing about her life. I changed in 2007 when I looked in her eyes and saw the difference we were making. Today I heard it in her words and actions!
       We went to her home where she presented us with two t-shirts that she had made for each of us. They each said how much she loved us and had a picture of her playing the guitar. This was the guitar we bought for her Quinceanera present in 2011. We were not sure at that time if it was the right thing and perhaps we had gone overboard. Needless to say this proved how much it meant to her.

If there was any further doubt she then played a song on the guitar and sang for us. It was an amazing moment. (Glad I recorded it). She also had made a poster for us but never got it finished. 
We went to lunch at Popeye's for some chicken and then we were to go bowling. However the bowling alley had closed down so we ended up at City Mall and going to the amusement arcade. I do not think it mattered what we did as long as we were together. In late afternoon our day had to come to an end. Reina spent the ride back telling us how much we have meant to her and her daughter. How she prayed daily for us and only hoped the best for us. She thanked us so much for being a part of her daughters life for the past nine years. <tears start here> Finally we had to say our goodbyes. I have no doubt that we will be back again to Honduras but Linda will no longer be in the program. We will have to make special plans to see her at that point. I did make a promise that if she makes it into the Leadership program we would be back to celebrate. We do plan to sign a release when she graduates out of the project so we can stay in touch outside of Compassion. So we stood there taking a final picture and giving her a last hug and kiss. As we drove away I can only pray the best for her in this last year. She is special, remarkable and I know she will be making a difference in her church and community. She is a blessing!!!!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Honduras 2013~ Day 3 (Building a relationship)

     Today was the day that we visited Compassion Project 205. It was our visit day with Jorge and Kellyn. This would be our third time to see Jorge but our first time ever meeting Kellyn. We are not her financial sponsors but her correspondant sponsors. For some reason her sponsor does not want to write but we have stepped into the gap. We started writing her just about a year ago. The relationship is really quite new and  we have only exchanged a few letters back and forth.  I was not really sure how we would be received. We arrived at the project and were greeted quite warmly by her. She is a beautiful young woman and has high hopes to be an engineer. She has been sponsored since she was five years old and is very active at the project. She recently moved into a new home which we got to visit. Her mom and siblings were also welcoming though I think they were a little nervous around us. By the end of the day they had warmed up and there were tears when we had to say our goodbyes. It will be easier now to write her since we have met her. I know she hopes to enter Compassion's Leadership Development Program so we will be praying and encouraging her toward that.
     Jorge was a little late getting to the project as he had a test at school that he could not miss. We were a little concerned if we were going to be able to see his mother Elsy. She has been waiting for surgery to remove a small mass in her breast. She has had this issue before and has been in our prayers. She was able to be there and it was great to be able to pray with her for healing. Jorge obviously has grown over the past two years but is still active and a ball of fire. He was full of questions about where we lived (thank you Google maps) and how did we get here.
       Our day was lunch at Pizza Hut and a trip to the zoo. It is a small zoo but the families had a great time. Jorge had me taking picture after picture of the animals. Kellyn too seemed to be having a blast taking pictures of all of the sights.
Goodbyes are never easy. Jorge wanted to know when we would be back again. He was a little bummed that we did not bring our daughters. Our plan is probably in three years this time around instead of the two that we have been doing. If that is the case, then, this would be the only time we would get to see Kellyn. (She will have graduated out of the program) Realizing that we were a little sad but then again there are many sponsors that never get to meet their sponsored child so this was a blessing. God is in control and she knows we will be writing! Tonight is a big soccer match between Hondura and the United States. The city has gone crazy and we will be watching it  at the hotel 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Honduras 2013~Day 1 and Day 2

So here we go! Our 4th visit back to Honduras to visit our sponsored children. Trip 1 in 2007 was a sponsor tour to Tegucigalpa and was our introduction to Compassion. It was the trip that changed my life and my focus. Trip 2, in 2009, was again a sponsor tour with Compassion to San Pedro Sula. I had become an advocate and an Area Coordinator with Compassion and this tour just reinforced my advocacy.  Trip number 3 was in 2011 and was a personal visit (with our daughters) back to Tegucigalpa to keep our promise to be at Linda's Quinceanera. Now it is 2013 and we are back in Tegucigalpa to host Jeyelly's Quinceanera and see the kids one more time. God has been with us so far. We thought we would only be allowed three days here with Compassion but were granted all four. We worried about our luggage getting here. In 2011 several of our suitcases were left behind including the gifts for the kids. We did get them a day later but it was stressful. This year we had the idea to carry on everything but one suitcase with clothes. Seemed like a great idea until Atlanta when we ended up having to take two of our carry ons and check them due to lack of space in the overheads. We got into Tegucigalpa and could find two of the suitcases but one was missing. THE ONE WITH THE GIFTS! I mean it actually was funny at that point. Luckily it had just fallen off the belt and we found it. Lastly on our original trip we stayed at the Marriott hotel. We love it, staff was great and the rooms excellent. In 2011 I could not book it for the family as part of our package. This time I got it and we are thrilled to be back here. Staff is still excellent, room is great and we have our favorite breakfast buffet to enjoy! We made it here fine and are ready for the next five days. God is Good!
Our first full day was our visitation with Jeyelly and Sofia. We were picked up by Scarlett (our host) right at 9am. She was our host in 2011 and her daughters were our translators in 2009. Needless to say lots of welcoming hugs. We went to the kid's project and had a tour. We are very familiar with this center as we visited there in 2007 when I first sponsored Jeyelly. At that time we spent a day with Compassion painting the classrooms. We visited it again in 2011 on our personal visit. It was good to go back and see what had stayed the same and what had changed. Speaking of changes Jeyelly's family has moved. Their home before was not that great. It had two rooms but was tacked onto another home and actually was not in great shape. They have moved into a one room home but it is nicer and safer. The picture above is of the family in their home. Their mom, Marleny, seems happier this time around. She and her husband have been estranged since I have known them but she seems more at peace with that right now. We are praying for her though as her church attendance is sporadic and this of course affects Jeyelly and Sofia. We are here for Jeyelly's Quinceanera which will be later in the week. Today we went to the new City Mall for lunch (KFC) and to play in the amusement/arcade area. It was a good time and nice fellowship. I have mixed feelings regarding today's visit. Similar to Linda in 2011; Jeyelly is now fifteen and her outlook has changed. She still attends the project and her grades are good but she is a typical girl that has reached that milestone. She notices boys and does not feel studying is that important. My earnest prayer at this point is that she will stay focused and grounded. There is not a lot I can do other than pray and I shall! Sofia too is growing up so fast. She turns twelve on Wednesday and is growing into quite a beautiful girl. It was a good time but I must admit my heart is a little heavy with some of the changes. Hugs all around as we left but we will be back for her party on Thursday afternoon.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

This Time for Jeyelly!

In 2007 we made our first Sponsor Tour to Honduras. We were going to meet our first sponsored child Linda. On the third day of the trip we visited a project in order to do a Vacation Bible School program. In one of those "God moments" it also happened to be the day that new children were being registered for the project. We had the opportunity to see their pictures being taken for their sponsorship packets. We actually got to see a big part of the process with parents lined up to register and the children all nervous in anticipation. I spent most of that morning in the street tossing an (American) football back and forth with an adorable eight year old girl. We could not really speak to each other but we did have smiles and great time just playing catch. Around lunch time I found out that she was one of the new children being registered. I know Karen and I talked but it was pretty much a done deal. We were going to sponsor her right then and there. The paperwork that was being sent to Compassion would show us as her sponsors from that moment on. I am not sure if she really understood what was happening. Some children wait quite awhile to hear that they have a sponsor. Jeyelly showed up to register and some crazy American sponsored her right then and there. I know her mom was thrilled and Karen spent quite awhile with the mom talking and learning all about the family circumstances. This itself was unique because most of the time the information in child packets is very general and here we got to find out a lot of detail. So instead of going to Honduras to visit our first sponsored child we ended up spending time with two children. God is good!

      So here we are over six years later. We have grown into this ministry so much it is a major part of our lives. Jeyelly has just turned 15! We have gotten to see her grow over these years and have visited her in 2009 and 2011. I know we have been blessed by being her sponsors. I had promised Linda that we would be there in 2011 for her special Quinceanera and that promise was kept. I never made that promise to Jeyelly but I knew we had to be back this year to host hers. So here we are about four days from our 4th visit to Honduras. This time is is Jeyelly's turn. We again will visit all of our children there but the last day will be the Quinceanera for her. It is my prayer that this day will be special for her and that she has a great time. We are looking forward to sharing it with her. By the way if there is any doubt that Compassion's program works take a look at her picture on her registration day. Some hope and a small smile. Here she is now as she becomes a young woman:

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

My Wordle

Wordle: Compassion-Honduras
This is my Wordle that I designed, printed and framed for my kids in Honduras. Thanks to Ada Sanchez for the help with translations.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Honduras 2013 (Part 2)-Two Weeks Out

     It has been awhile since I have posted and it is time to get the focus back on. Before I go much further I want to remind you of Part One of this series. This is the month that we take the trip and we are now two weeks out. I plan to blog about the journey once again. This entire blog started back in 2009 when we went on our second sponsor tour/trip to Honduras. It has evolved and changed over time but it is still really about Compassion. Those that know me realize that this is a major part of Karen's and my life. We sponsor together, we pray together for the children, we work events together and our home reflects the love we have for this ministry.

     So we are headed out in two weeks. Last week we got our itinerary. In the last post I had asked for prayer as arrangements had been made in Country but we were waiting to hear from Compassion. Like last time we planned on arriving on a Sunday, spending a day with each family and then hoping to have the Quinceanera party on Thursday before flying out on Friday. That worked well and allowed us to have special time at each site. It even gave us a partial day before the party to do some tourist stuff. Prayers must have been coming. We were told that there was now a new policy that visits were limited to three days. This would mean doubling up one of the families with another and squeezing the party in also. Our flights and all are set/paid for so we would have an extra day. If that was to be the case we would find some special excursion to do on the final day. We did ask for an exception and I must say prayers were answered. Our itinerary came and it is perfect. We got all four days. We will start with Jeyelly and Sofia which is perfect because we want to end with the party for Jeyelly. That day we get to do shopping and play in an arcade with them. Day two we will see Jorge and Kellyn (our correspondant child) and visit the zoo. Day 3 will be our visit with Linda. This will be a perfect last visit because it many ways it will be out "last visit" with her. Next year she will graduate out of the program and she is our reason for this entire ministry. We began it with her and it was our first meeting with her that changed our lives. Not sure how this goodbye will go. It will not be easy. The final day we have some time to sightsee before hosting the Quinceanera. Everything turned out perfect!
      Our trip is almost here and we have been buying/making gifts to take along. We are creating our packing list and getting things together. The time is coming quickly and we are preparing. Journey along with us and keep us in your prayers for safe travel (let the luggage make it this time with us) and an awesome trip. Blessings <><