Home Again!

Heading home! The team was great about completing most of the packing last night, to minimize any travel chaos this morning — so we won’t have any stories this year about missing passports, overweight luggage, or team members leaving behind backpacks.

It was good to have one final Morning Prayer service at Casa Lamb, lifting up prayers as a team for our Honduran brothers and sisters, for safe travels, and continuing to be open to the nudging of the Spirit in our lives. We also shared hopes, if it’s God’s will, for us to be in this place again. The time here has been very special and we’re leaving behind a piece of our hearts.

Amanda Scott, our Lamb Volunteer Coordinator smoothly navigated us through airport check-in. The running joke is that it’s always a race on these Saturday mornings to BTB (Beat the Baptists). The flight to Atlanta is typically FILLED with missionary teams and traditionally, Baptist teams are BIG. So if we can BTB, we make it through Delta check-in faster, can find enough seats at the food court for the team, and also can find seats at the gate! And yes, today we did indeed BTB!

We had some great moments at the airport. Tatyana Blair found the perfect T-shirt (again), Luke Blair had an interesting encounter with a “spoon straw” (you’ll have to ask him), and several of us found a unique solution for getting that final recharge on our phones.

But the best was Andrea Cardona connecting with her family before we went through security. Andrea had been in Honduras visiting relatives for 3 weeks before joining our team, and it was wonderful for her family to have a few final minutes together before we headed back to Atlanta.

 

The flight was uneventful, just as you’d always like it to be, and we even arrived a bit ahead of schedule and needed to wait for a gate. One of our team members, Jack DeArmey, left us to continue on his journey to Kansas City. The rest of us faced our own customs process cola (another wait in line!), which was relatively painless. We’re experts right now, about waiting in lines. Collecting our baggage was straightforward. But best of all was reconnecting with our families.

We’re thankful for this experience — for this time with our Honduran brothers and sisters; for the prayers and support of our family, friends, and especially our ECOHS family and Home Team prayer partners, who have supported our efforts with prayers and generous giving for so many months, in order to make this trip possible. You are all a blessing to us.

There was a posting today by Brother David Vryhof of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist (SSJE). SSJE has a daily posting called Brother, Give Us A Word that I would highly recommend and you can subscribe at SSJE.org. Here’s today’s posting:

Never mind your weakness; it is the very thing that qualifies you. Never mind your feelings of inadequacy; it is God’s work, not yours. Simply make yourself available, and let go of any need to impress others, or prove yourself worthy, or achieve “success.” What matters is that God has chosen you and that God claims you as God’s own.

This was a wonderful reminder for me about following our call to serve Christ in the world. There’s no need to wait for a perfect time, or to be perfectly qualified, or to be perfectly prepared. We don’t need to worry about our weaknesses. Our team wasn’t perfect and certainly, none of us are! But what mattered is that we were chosen, and we said “Yes!” to God’s call to go, God’s call to serve.

Thanks be to God for the opportunity to serve Christ in the world. We are so blessed.

Mother Bonnie+

And Then There Was One​

It’s our last day at the children’s home and the reality hits us as soon as we begin our day. Everyone’s a bit quieter, more reserved. It’s a day of saying goodbye.

Our lunch hour was spectacular. Angel’s music is so heartfelt and Spirit-filled, we can’t help but be moved. But the highlight was one of our songs, Seek Ye First, led by Laura Schlecht, with Angel joining in to accompany on guitar. For the last verse, all the Honduran workers spontaneously joined us in song. Suddenly, we were all singing the same music, each in our own language. The sound echoed within the church portico, as we shared this moment of perfect unity as brothers and sisters in Christ. The presence of the Spirit was palpable.

It’s hard to leave our building projects when we’ve finally gotten the knack of how to do it! But we’ve done our part and leave it for others to continue, trusting that the work will be accomplished . . . a living metaphor for carrying Christ’s Light into the world.

It’s hard to leave the children. They have a special program for us, with the youngest ones singing songs. We connect with them one final time, capturing their precious smiles in our hearts, and we give them our final hugs goodbye.

As we head to Casa Lamb, we wait in our final cola, our last construction traffic delay. We’re standing outside our vans to chat as an ice cream vendor walks by selling his wares. Then, as we’re eating our refreshing snacks, four clowns walk by. Somehow, we seem to have entered into a surprise celebration of our week together, while waiting in a cola. The unexpected certainly does occur, as we seek to serve Christ and be the church!

We share our final dinner together, then gather for reflection time and compline. It’s another kind of goodbye, as this is our last evening together. Then off to pack and prepare for the morning.

We look forward to getting home, but we’ll miss being here with our Honduran family and one another. We’re nearing the end of this journey: one final night, one final morning.

Blessings, Mother Bonnie+

 

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We pass on the work . . . future teams will finish what we’ve begun. 

 

Once Upon A Time

Once upon a time, a team of happy people left their guest house, thinking that it would be a normal day. They were picked up for their ride to the Children’s Home, where they’d work on some projects, spend time with kids, and then return home for dinner, some devotional time, and then off to bed, to live happily ever after.

It was a good story, simple and uncomplicated. But then there was our story.

Our happy team left Casa Lamb, as usual, piling into our two vans with all our food and supplies and set out for the Children’s Home. But instead of a normal drive, the traffic lines started rather quickly, and our 45-minute commute expanded into 2 1/2 hours.

But that was okay. Some took advantage of the extra van time to catch up on some rest, while others played — taking pictures, doing word games. You name it, we did it, and we had more than a few laughs. The trip went by smoothly, if slowly, and in spite of the delay, when we arrived at the children’s residential home we were able to roll right into our assigned projects and get to work. Everyone understands the cola, the traffic construction lines and, at times, the accompanying extended wait times, so you’re just patient with it.

It was a short work morning, but we met as usual for lunch, enjoyed a good meal, shared music, and fellowship time before returning to our afternoon tasks. It was a good day, which included time with the children before we set out once again to return to Casa Lamb.

And that’s where we really veered away from our fairy tale because our drive time was 5 1/2 hours on the return! Really. We left at 3:55 and arrived home at 9:35, due to both the “normal” cola, but also an accident in an area where there simply were no alternative routes.

So what did we do while stuck for all that time? We gathered in fellowship, we sang, (some of us with coverage texted), we played cards and word games. We took crazy pictures and laughed and sometimes we just chilled. And then the lines began to move and we came home to dinner and a new travel adventure story to share with friends when we return. And believe it or not, we were laughing when we arrived back at the guest house.

It’s VERY hard to imagine this kind of time delay would EVER happen at home! But if it did, I wonder if our attitudes would have been the same? I have my doubts. But I do believe that one BIG reason that everyone handled this delay so well was that we have been prayerfully preparing ourselves (for months!) to be flexible and willing to not take our schedules or plans too seriously. If things change, don’t be upset — just let go and, with God’s help, move on to the new situation. God is with us. We can let go.

How could our lives change, if we could take this one thing home . . . a willingness to let go of over-scheduling and our need to control, and instead, simply let go? What amazing new experience could we have each day, if we would simply place our full trust in the Lord?

Blessings,

Mother Bonnie+

P.S. In case you were worried about us being hungry while we were stuck in traffic, don’t be. We always carry “van snacks” — and lots of them. Some are even quasi-healthy, like granola bars!

Half-way Home

 

By Wednesday of a mission trip week, we typically begin to make that mental shift towards home. We have fewer nights left in Honduras than we’ve spent here already. The remaining time here is precious, for it’s quickly coming to a close.

Today, our day started at El Cordero, the Littlest Lamb school in Tegucigalpa. We joined the children’s weekly devotional, a joy-filled time of praise, Scripture reading, singing, and prayer, before hearing more about the LAMB Ministries, and then touring the facilities.

The devotional lesson was from Ephesians 4:2, Be humble. Be gentle. Be patient. Tolerate one another in an atmosphere thick with love” (VOICE).

Being humble. Being open to hearing Christ’s voice, and his teachings of compassion, mercy, and forgiveness — and growing to understand that loving God is loving our neighbor. This verse helps capture a piece of why we’re here.

Visiting the school helps us to see the power of God’s love. We see the openness and joy of God’s beloved children who, in spite of living in circumstances far more challenging than our own, are raising their voices in praise, hope, and song. We witness the love and compassion teachers and staff have for these precious children, and catch a glimpse of how deeply caring and engaged they are in their lives. We hear the passionate stories of women served by the micro-credit program, and how these small financial loans, with ongoing support and prayer, have made a monumental difference in their families’ lives. We learn how the Alonzo Movement is changing the lives of hundreds of boys and girls through after-school programs which help youth resist the pull of gangs. So many hands and feet, both seen and unseen, supporting the ministries that help these precious children of God in Christ’s name. We’re part of this work, too, and it’s a gift to serve.

From LAMB, we left to enjoy some free time, which included eating lunch at a local restaurant; shopping at Giancarlo’s, a favorite pewter shop in Tegucigalpa; and a trip to Valley of the Angels, a small town just outside of Tegucigalpa with many arts and crafts shops. Yes, we had a bit of rain, but it didn’t slow down our sightseeing!

We arrived back at Casa Lamb for dinner and our own devotional time, with Holy Eucharist and a Healing Service. Our hearts are full, as we’ve seen and heard and felt so much during our time here, and worship helps us to find that quiet space to simply be with God and feel the presence of the Spirit.

Many of the team members are praying for discernment, seeking to know how best to live their lives and serve our Living God. I’d ask that all our home team continue to keep our Mission Team in their prayers, as we strive to answer Christ’s call in these final days in Honduras.

 

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God’s Littlest Lambs, united in Christ.

 

Blessings,

Mother Bonnie+

Tuesday’s can be hard, unless they’re not . . .

Tuesday’s can be hard. I know it sounds kind of silly — how difficult can it be to work two days in a row?

But there’s actually a lot happening by this time of the week. It’s been several days since we left home . . . long enough for tempers to get a bit frayed, as we may not be quite as energetic, nor as patient, as when this journey first began. Then add to the mix the realities of our traffic challenges and it’s not exactly a formula for success. I know I haven’t mentioned the traffic snarls regularly, but it’s always impacting our days — 5 hours of round trip travel on Sunday, 4 hours on Monday —because it’s way beyond the norms. Travel time is cutting into our time for work and our time with the children and it’s something that’s completely out of our control.

But instead of a tension-filled day, today has been a real blessing! We started out the day with our shortest drive times EVER! And we mixed up the work schedule, adding some time with the youngest children for small groups of our team, while still attending to the work at hand. The extra time with the children was life-giving, while we could also feel fulfilled by our work, as we’re beginning to see how our contributions are helping to move the meditation park and the perimeter wall projects forward.

But we’re also growing our relationship with the Honduran workers. We’re able to engage more, both because our ability to communicate is slowly improving, but also because we are sharing the gift of music. Today, we again had time to listen to Angel, a Honduras craftsman and talented musician, play his guitar and lead us in song. But we were also able to share our own music, with our musicians Luke Blair, Jack DeArmey, and Laura Schlecht. Angel and our team alternated leading us all in song. I’ve often heard said that when we sing, we pray twice. It certainly felt that way, while we sat on the patio outside the church, gazing out over the valley, feeling the constant breeze, and singing God’s praises.

And we received on more gift as we closed the work day — the blessingof a quick trip back to the guest house! Somehow our drivers were able to seamlessly weave into a steadily moving flow of traffic, avoiding any lengthy delays and allowing us to have some extra free time this evening, to renew and recharge.

We’re all looking forward to tomorrow, with a visit to the school in Tegucigalpa and time to participate in the children’s weekly devotional and learn more about the LAMB ministries. And this is also the day that we will experience a local restaurant and see more of the beauty of the Honduran countryside, as we venture out for some shopping. It’s a day of new possibilities and we look forward to seeing what the Lord has in store for us to witness, while we’re out in the world.

Mother Bonnie+

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The Work Week Begins

Our first real work day! This year’s project is to help build two walls: one, a perimeter wall and the other, an extension of the prayer wall which will enclose what will become a small meditation park outside the chapel.

We divided up into two teams, each having the very real challenge of dealing with language barriers, but soon discovered how much can be accomplished if we pay attention and are truly present and willing to learn. Plus, there’s always that ability to be a bit “creative,” as we try to communicate, which makes for some remarkable memories — just ask Colleen Norris, who (in Spanish) renamed a shovel a ground spoon, when she couldn’t recall the word for shovel! And yes, that IS communication, as everyone understood exactly what she meant.

It’s marvelous for our youth to see how construction materials are used and reused on the job site. We’ll start with large rocks to begin a wall, creating smaller rocks as the bigger ones are broken apart to carefully fill a specific space. But then those smaller pieces are later used in other parts of the project. Few items are thrown away and none wasted. We just need to be able to recognize their alternative uses. It’s a real lesson in the stewardship of resources.

Our work sessions are broken up by lunchtime with the Honduran workers, where we have time to enjoy the marvelous music played by Angel, including some of his own compositions. Today also included a special celebration for Ariel’s birthday, before we headed back to work. Afternoons can be a bit harder to stay focused, with warmer temperatures, tired bodies, and a post-lunch drop in energy. But we always have enough energy to spend time with the children and look forward to that special time at the end of each day.

Tonight we had a special event, as we headed into Tegucigalpa to join some of the youth of the Alonzo Movement, a LAMB ministry providing youth a positive Christian experience while proactively steering them away from gangs.  We participated in both the devotional and their soccer night. Many of us participated and a shout-out to Tatyana Blair who scored for her team! Awesome! Everyone was so thrilled to have this fellowship time together and we look forward to hearing more about this ministry when we return to the school in Flor on Wednesday.

Labels, stereotypes, and preconceived notions slip away as we build relationships. Experiencing how things are done in other cultures helps us to see that different isn’t wrong, it’s just different. We’re seeing Christ in others, learning first hand to recognize that ALL are God’s beloved children.

Thank you, Lord, for opening our hearts and minds to see your hand in the world around us.

Mother Bonnie+

Highs and More Highs

We made it to the children’s home! The ride was a bit longer than usual due to road construction, but what a beautiful day — clear skies and perfect, mid-70’s temperatures. I’m always touched as we head around some of the final hills of our journey and I catch that first glimpse of the distinctive red roof tops on the mountainside . . . a clear sign that we’re almost at the children’s home. And even with traffic delays, we did make it in plenty of time for Sunday Eucharist.

Amanda, our extraordinary LAMB volunteer coordinator, likes to call Sunday Worship at the Children’s home “upside down” church. There are SO MANY CHILDREN — 90% kids, 10% adults.  The joy is palpable: joy-filled music, joyful energy, the joy of the presence of Spirit . . . a wonderful way to start our day and be filled by God’s Word and nourished at the Table.

After worship, we heard about LAMB’s ministry as we toured the property. There seems to be a story around each building — some grace-filled moment or miracle of new life in Christ — and as we completed our tour, some of us remained at the prayer wall for some quiet time in this holy place.

Our afternoon was filled with the children. Old relationships were rekindled and new ones were begun. What joy to see a child bound into an old friends’ arms while others reached out expectantly to someone new. The openness of these little ones — many who have experienced deeper sorrow that we will ever know — and their willingness to reach out in loving trust, is such a blessing to us all. The beauty of this LAMB family, welcoming and inviting us into relationship, is a glimpse of God’s kingdom.

We left a bit early to avoid the traffic but instead had another adventure. We were notified that there were not only traffic delays, but also an accident ahead that would have held us up for four hours, so we happily executed “Plan B” — an alternative traffic route, which took us through some spectacular countryside. But the road itself was rough — we were traveling through rutted roads, gravelly roads, and steep roads. And eventually, those steep roads resulted in some overheated brakes on one of the vans. So what do you do, when brakes need to cool down? Pull over, enjoy the scenery, have a few snacks, and watch a sunset over the mountains. All that, and we still saved some time, since it only took us 3 hours, instead of 4 to get back to Casa Lamb, where a delicious dinner awaited us!

During our devotional time this evening, we shared “roses, buds, and thorns”  . . . the highs of the day (roses), those things that we joyfully anticipate for the future (buds), and the day’s lows (thorns). For everyone, the day was overwhelmingly filled with roses. Truly a day of highs and more highs.

Thanks be to God.

Blessings,

Mother Bonnie+

 

 

First Day!

We’ve made it here safely!

The team met at Holy Spirit way before the sun came up! Our three full cars headed to the Atlanta airport filled with luggage and excitement and enveloped by prayer. Thanks to our supportive carpoolers for getting us there safe and sound: Gideon Ahadzi, Carol Franklin, and Sam Norris.

Not surprisingly, first stop after security was FOOD! Breakfast and coffee were a MUST before we gathered at the gate to begin to get to know each other by selecting team prayer partners as we began our new journey.

Far too much excitement for anyone to get any rest on the plane! (Be sure to check with Luke Blair on just HOW MANY PICTURES are possible on a flight from Atlanta to Tegucigalpa . . . ) And we had the surprise of a veteran Honduras Building Mission missioner, Karen DeArmey, who had arranged to be the lead flight attendant on our flight! Karen’s son Jack (who is also a veteran Honduras missioner!) had joined us on this trip.

After the smooth flight and easy flow through customs, we were met by several “friends of Amanda” — our own special baggage handlers — to help ease our way out of the airport and into the vans to head to Casa Lamb.

Road construction challenges prevented us from heading to the children’s home today, but we did have plenty of time to organize ourselves and settle into our new home for the week. We sorted through our 130 water bottles and 162 lunch bags, preparing them for distribution not only to the children’s home but to the ministry in Flor. That’s what happens when generosity overflows! And we were able to get ready for tomorrow’s activities with the children, after worship. Can’t wait to spend time with God’s littlest lambs!

A wonderful beginning: safe travel, great meals shared, reflection time to better prepare us for the week, and opportunities to come to know each other. God is good!

Blessings,

Mother Bonnie+

Almost there!

Tomorrow’s the big day! We’ll meet at Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirits at 5:30 a.m., not quite awake, but definitely ready for something new as we begin our travel adventure to Honduras, to serve at LAMB Institute.

We’re basically ready. The big arrangements are all finalized: coordination with our LAMB partners, transportation, lodging, and lists distributed of what each of us needs to bring. We’ve filled our luggage with all the ingathered items and spent time discussing those last-minute questions or concerns. We have a general idea of what the week’s schedule will look like, but not the specifics. Things are always rather undefined on these trips until we get there and that’s part of the challenge of the experience — letting go of our need to be in charge, on time, on schedule, and efficiently completing some prescribed task, Instead we try to slow our pace, opening our hearts, minds, and bodies to serve in whatever capacity may be needed. We intentionally step out of our comfort zones and normal routines and take the time to witness God’s work in the world in a new way, as we strive to go out as a team and be the church.

What’s everyone doing today? Last minute packing and shopping, searching for misplaced items we must find. We’re excited and anxious, praying and prepping.

The Lord is with us. Our faith community is praying for us. And we have said, “Yes, Lord! We will go!”

Blessings,

Mother Bonnie+  . . .  aka MoBo+