Another trip comes to a close

It’s now Monday, and for family and friends, you all know that we made it back safely on Saturday. But it seems right and good to close out this year’s trip with a few words about our return trip home.

Everyone really did a great job of getting ready to go. I’m proud to say there was minimal scrambling as we did our final checks on weighing bags to be checked (thanks, Jay!) and got all luggage staged for transport back to the airport. Not a lost passport to worry about  ANYWHERE!

Plus, the added bonus of an uneventful and on-time trip to the airport, which helped us to beat the big crowds to the check-in lines, in order to get plenty of table space in the food court!

No surprises going through security as we’d already been warned that there would be MANY checks and rechecks of our bags and our persons as we slowly made our way through screening before getting to the gates and then again before getting on the plane.

The plane landed on time, although for a while we had hoped we would get in early.  Unfortunately, delays in Atlanta (imagine it was weather related) had us circling for a bit, but we made up for that time with the fastest trip through customs I’d ever had for a group! Word of advice: ALWAYS use the Mobile Passport app when returning to Atlanta on an international flight. What a time saver!

For our families, be aware that returning home can be harder than we may expect. We left with a sense of adventure, anticipating newness, change, and challenges. Some may have experienced a sense of community and closeness that we don’t have at home or a feeling of purposefulness that we don’t always feel. So don’t be surprised if there’s a kind of reverse culture shock as we return.

Encourage your missioner (because I sure have!) to keep a journal and write a reflection, including things like:

  • Where did I see Christ this past week?
  • What activity or situation really touched me or troubled me? or both?
  • How have I changed?  And why?
  • (Or whatever else seems to be on my heart)

Because taking the time to pause and process what we’ve seen and felt and heard DOES matter. Making time for listening, to perceive those nudgings of the Holy Spirit that moves in and around and through us, helps to guide us in ways that change how we interact and connect with others, leading us towards loving as Christ loves us. It’s a journey and it begins with small steps, like listening for God’s voice.

So be patient with our missioners and encourage us all to share, for these next steps can help to ensure that this trip is more than just another week in our lives. Rather, it’s a way to develop and deepen our relationship with Christ.

Mother Bonnie+

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Fantastic Friday

The last day of a mission trip to Honduras can be hard, particularly if anyone hates saying goodbye (like me). But that is what today’s about . . . closing the door on this trip, while opening us up to the possibilities of what may lie ahead.

We had our usual start: praying Morning Prayer together, sharing a marvelous breakfast, and taking off in the vans for a great workday. We completed our part of the project and memorialized the event by emblazoning our team name in an actual concrete foundation, soon to be covered by another team’s work on a wall — an important reminder that we all do our part — but only our part — in Christ, for no one does God’s work alone, but within the unified community of Christ’s body, the Church.

We also had a surprise blessing of new work for a few of our youth. This Saturday night there will be a Quinceañera, a “coming of age” party for the young Latin women of the children’s home who turn 15 this year. Although we’ll miss the actual party (we’ll already be traveling home), it was absolutely wonderful to participate in preparing the chapel for this special event.

Lunch, once again, was a time to come together with music and song and hear our friend, Angel, give his testimony to us all. He was especially encouraging of our youth. Of my many trips to Honduras, this week as been a truly spectacular time, with exceptional camaraderie and connection between our worksite leaders and our youth. A phenomenal gift!

Our afternoon flew by, and soon we were seeing the children for the final time. We attended a despedida, a farewell celebration with music and games and laughing and hugging. It was a marvelous time to gather and say goodbye. And although it’s always hard to leave, some youth were given some extraordinary parting gifts, like a child telling a team member just how much he’ll be missed. (Right, Luke?!) 

And as if our hearts weren’t full enough, we also met the Safe House girls tonight, young girls saved from human trafficking. They entertained us with music and dance, and then taught our youth a new dance. What an amazing opportunity to witness what redemption can look like in the faces of these young girls who have suffered so much. Truly remarkable. 

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When we finally were alone as a team, we spent time preparing for our return spiritually with prayer and reflection and physically by packing. We’ll have a full day, with an early start tomorrow. We’re so grateful to have this dedicated time to strive to follow Christ, giving us an opportunity to experience what it can actually means to allow our hearts to be cracked wide-open by the power of the Spirit. I pray that having experienced a full and purpose-filled week that many of us may begin the journey of seeking to serve Christ in new ways, as we have discovered the wonder and beauty of seeing God’s hand in the world.

Mother Bonnie+

P.S. Not sure how she does it, but Colleen always manages to strike up connections with so many of God’s creatures!

It’s Already Thursday!

We were back at the Children’s Home today and ready to go after a day of rest! We knew the routine, how to work with one another, and were filled with the desire to do our part to serve . . . while having some fun, too!

Our team seemed to organically align ourselves into two teams: the wall building team and the mescla/support team. Wall builders were helping to build row upon row of the wall: filling spaces within and between blocks and decoratively scraping the crevices after the mescla began to set. The support team made sure there was a ready supply of all materials by mixing mescla, gathering rocks and water and tools, and later cleaning and preparing the tools for a return to storage once tasks were completed. We worked effectively together, even managing to wrap up our work just as the rain set in — our first big cloudburst of the week. The rain didn’t continue long, but did a great job of soaking most of us through and through. But it was no big deal. There was no way a little water would prevent us from connecting with the children before heading back to the guest house for the day!

Today we also had a chance to share those individual moments that have been particularly meaningful to us: the times when we may have felt the Spirit guiding us, or noticed that our eyes were opened to see something new or unexpected, or felt that our hearts were breaking open. Sharing our personal reflections can be challenging, yet we’ve grown to love and trust one another this week, making it just a bit easier to be vulnerable. Then we celebrated a joyfully intimate Holy Eucharist and Healing Service, where all were invited forward for anointing and prayers of healing and support for ourselves and those we love. It was a beautiful, Spirit-filled time and for many, a time of renewal, hope, and comfort.

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For our team, Thursday’s can be both wonderful and poignant. We know that our week is coming quickly to an end and that tomorrow will be filled with heartfelt good-byes. While we don’t want to miss a moment of today, we can’t help but notice that we’re beginning to move ahead, inching ever more quickly towards returning home. We’ll be happy to return, yet may feel changed by the Spirit who has drawn us here to open our hearts and minds to recognize that all people are God’s own beloved, and who teaches us that if we’re willing to take the time to truly see, we can witness God’s handiwork all around us.

Wonderful Wednesday

Today’s was a marvelous change of pace! Instead of heading to the worksite at the Children’s Home, we traveled into Tegucigalpa to God’s Littlest Lamb’s School and Daycare to attend the weekly devotional, a high energy assembly of the entire school, focused on Christ. It was a joy to hear the uplifting music and the weekly reflection on Scripture before meeting with the staff. This school, located in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Tegucigalpa, not only focuses on education, but the overall well-being of the children and their families, mind, body, and spirit. The passion of the staff — from the principal, to the head of the daycare, to the director of the Alonzo movement— is so clearly evident as they explain how they care for the children and are available far beyond the normal work day to build community and assist families through life’s difficulties in support of the well-being of God’s littlest lambs.

From there, we became tourists. We first stopped at Arte Giancarlo’s, a local shop featuring handcrafted pewter and Honduran crafts, then lunch at a local restaurant, before heading to Valle de Angeles, a small town centered around a lovely square, filled with small shops for souvenir shopping. No trip to Valle is complete without a final stop for ice cream, a traditional team event each year!

After dinner at the guest house, Suzy McCall, the founder of LAMB, joined us for the evening to tell us her own story of coming to the mission field. Suzy has been a missionary for almost 30 years and recently celebrated her 15th anniversary with LAMB. She explained her continuing journey to learn and seek Christ’s guidance in her life and encouraged us all to continue towards spiritual maturity, moving beyond that starting point of a “me-focused” relationship with Jesus that may concentrate on personal salvation, and towards a deeper relationship with Christ that focuses on community. She talked about what it means to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves through her reflection on Hebrews 13:12, “Therefore, Jesus also suffered outside the city gate in order to sanctify the people with his own blood.” We were challenged to consider those in our own times who are the “outsiders” — immigrants, refugees, the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized — and how Jesus calls us to care for all our brothers and sisters in love and with compassionate caring.

Our day ended with Compline and singing . . . and the realization that our week here is halfway over. Two more days of work at the Children’s Home and we’ll be heading home. Time is flying by so quickly.

What about Tuesday?

We’ve really pulled together as a team as we get (slightly) more proficient at the worksite. Today we had the chance to begin building part of the wall, requiring some of yesterday’s skills (mixing mescla, gathering rocks and more rocks, sifting sand) plus new, advanced skills, like forming conga lines to move cinder blocks and scoring the mortar to make a cinder block wall more attractive and working elbow to elbow. We have proven to be a marvelously trainable group! Yeah, us!

We had the phenomenal gift of being among the first to greet Emily Alexandra, the newest addition to the Children’s Home. She was an abandoned 3-month old child, but is now in the loving arms of LAMB Institute, warmly welcomed into this Christ-centered family. Everyone was excited to see her and it was marvelous to witness the children all greet their new sister in Christ with a hug or a kiss or a touch. Not every children’s home is capable of accepting children so young and it’s such a blessing to know that this ministry can help children of all ages. 

At lunch we had the special treat of celebrating the birthday of Ariel, one of our worksite leaders, for the 2nd year in a row. Colleen, who had remembered this special event, made sure we were prepared with some marvelous cupcakes after a trip to PriceMart last night, which she described as a “Spanish CostCo.” Ariel was so touched that we remembered his special day.

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Our time with the children each day has developed into a comfortable routine of friends spending time with one another. Today, our teen boys just hung out together, as boys will do. And there’s nothing quite like watching a co-ed volleyball game played with an interesting combination of soccer AND volleyball moves, while little ones on bikes and trikes scoot around the court. And to top off the day, we were surrounded by little ones singing and dancing “I Like to Move it, Move it” from Madagasgar. One of our youth, Leora, had begun the dance while playing hide and seek with a large group of children, when suddenly everyone had to match her steps, proving they knew the moves as well. Sports, music, laughter — a universal language.

After leaving the Children’s Home, we dashed back to the guest house to drop off our things before heading to the LAMB school to visit the Alonzo Movement, a ministry that provides hope-filled activities for young people. The energy and laughter was contagious, as our youth joined in with the relay races and soccer scrimmages with this club of 8-10 year olds. A truly joyful end to the day.

What are we learning? So many things. In very real ways, we’re experiencing what it means to recognize one another as beloved children of God. That different isn’t bad, it’s just different. And there’s so much more we can do when we’re united in following Christ’s path of loving God and loving our neighbor. Nothing is impossible with God. 

Mother Bonnie+

Not just another Monday

It’s the first day of our work week at the children’s home! Lovely weather, particularly with the cool morning temps. We met our fearless leaders, Angel and Ariel, as well as the “Super Boss,” Mario, who will guide us in all our work this week. We’ll be helping to add on to the wall that will eventually surround the property of the Children’s Home. We had the privilege of beginning this work last year, so it’s particularly exciting not only to see how much has already been accomplished but to know that we will again be a small part of a chain of faithful helpers who support the ministry in this work.

LOTS and LOTS and LOTS of tasks are involved: “creating” rebar, digging a trench for the foundation, carrying rocks and more rocks, mixing mescla (our version of concrete), sifting sand. Some of the work is in tight quarters, requiring some extra care. And I imagine there will be more than a few with sore muscles tomorrow, particularly as we begin to create the cinder block wall.

The “Making Rebar” team

So many tasks to build a wall . . .

It’s been a joy-filled day. One of our team members, Kate, plays guitar and sings like an angel and it’s been a joy to have her lead us in song. But it was spectacular to have Kate and Angel singing together today after lunch. Spanish and English lyrics combined in praise of our Risen Lord, the sounds resonating throughout the chapel patio as the wind swirled around us and we gazed across the magnificent valley.  The Spirit was truly present, encouraging us and refreshing us for the afternoon.

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A Spirit-filled moment in songs of praise

Plus, there’s always time to spend with the children at the end of the workday. While most of the adults need a bit of time to rest, our youth (and some adults!) are jumping right in to engage with the young people at the Children’s Home. It’s such a blessing to see how quickly everyone connects and becomes comfortable with one another.

And as always, we can count on wonderful food, fellowship, and time to relax together at the end of the day at the LAMB guesthouse, Casa Lamb. Looking forward to seeing where the Spirit will lead us and what tomorrow may bring!

Blessings, Mother Bonnie!

 

A Day at the Park

I find that taking the time for Sabbath can REALLY be hard. There’s always something to do, someplace to go, some list that needs to be completed. Our busy-ness can seem never-ending. 

But today in Honduras was a blessed, renewing, beautiful Sabbath day. 

The weather was wonderfully cool, as we began our day by heading to the Children’s home for worship. Services at the chapel are always high energy.  How can they NOT be, when 90% of the attendees are children! The Spirit was there among us — brushing our faces with the soft touch of a gentle, continuous wind; ringing in our ears through the sounds of the joyous praise music; and warming our hearts through the smiles of a child. Glorious! God is so good.

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And for the rest of the day, we really did experience a sabbath day, a day at the park! A slow-moving, gentle day, as some rested, others played games, a few were “found” by a particular child . . . but all were able to be at peace with simply being present. Nothing else required.

Cookie face – a favorite team game!

How blessed we were to be able to share our love through the gift of time, joining these precious children in a joy-filled day.  And we were able to share God’s love in more tangible ways as well, delivering almost 100 beautiful, hand-made pillowcases to the children . . . a real gift from our parish In-Stitches ministry. Thank you, Sandra Culver, and all of the devoted In-Stitches members for your time, resources, and talent! Another gift of presence and love.

Thank you, Most Holy Spirit, for your guidance, your nudging, your encouragement to accept your love and remember that we truly are beloved children of God. Thank you, God Almighty, for reminding us through the life of your precious Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, to pass it on. Thank you, Jesus,, for showing us how to pass on your love, your joy, and compassionate caring. Thank you.

 

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A drawing from Johel, an extraordinary Honduran boy

 

 

Our trip begins . . .

We met at the church bright and early. Well, perhaps it wasn’t really so bright, but it sure was early! But we began our day at Holy Spirit — loading up the cars, bidding families farewell, and gathering for prayer — then headed to the airport in time for breakfast before boarding our flight. Four hours later, we’re on our way through customs in Tegucigalpa, then off to Casa Lamb, our home for the upcoming week!

 

After dropping our luggage we headed to the Children’s home. We had plenty of time to tour and see just how much has changed from last year: a new road, a vegetable garden, a new missionary guest house, new playground equipment, a completed prayer wall and meditation garden, a growing perimeter wall. Amazing! As we toured the grounds, I couldn’t help but reflect on how much can be accomplished when we, as God’s people, are unified in our commitment to serving God through our loving support of others. Truly uplifting!

 

It’s such a joy to have this opportunity to connect with friends old and new and come to know one other another as a team. May the Spirit guide us in all that we do this week, helping us to walk in love as Christ loved us.

 

Blessings, Mother Bonnie+

It’s that time again!

We’ve been madly preparing for our 2018 trip and we’re down to those last few days before heading to Honduras!  We’re gathering last minute items, packing our bags, and preparing ourselves to “Be The Church.” We never know where the Holy Spirit will lead us, which is part of the excitement as we once again look forward to walking with our brothers and sisters in Christ at LAMB Institute.

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Hope this blog helps you to keep up with us on our journey this year! We’ll be gathering at 5:15 a.m. (REALLY!) on Saturday, July 7 to head to the airport.

The journey begins. Please keep us in your prayers.

Blessings,

Mother Bonnie+

 

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+