Thanks to everyone that helps here, you are doing great things in the name of the Lord!
At the moment, I want to remember my father, whom still means so much to me. He was born on this day, 72 years ago. He passed away six years ago this year. Praise be to God that life extends well beyond the time that our mortal bodies carry us.
Here are some things that the Lord has done here this year:
Walter entered the air force academy early this year after graduating high school last year. He was selected into a class of 80 cadets out of a pool of 800 qualified applicants. His class of 80 is now down to 14 and Walter made it past the critical first year. He's wanted to be a jet mechanic as long as he can remember. That career will give him legal opportunities in Honduras, the USA, Taiwan and just about any country where jets fly. He has three more years in the academy before being available elsewhere. It's possible he could be working alongside Paula's brother Michael, whom repairs aircraft electronics in San Antonio, TX.
Rolman left the house this year to spread his wings. Although we were saddened to see him not finish high school, yesterday he secured a job at a company in San Pedro Sula with his roommate Ronnie. They will be installing security systems in home and cars, which is a serious need in Honduras with all the thefts and robberies here. The plan for the company is to expand into Siguatepeque where a lot of their clients come from. They want to train Rolman and Ronnie for three months before letting them work in the new office here.
David is still in high school, but he has sites set on being an architect. His grades were fair this year, but we expect them to improve next year when Lourdes (Jose's wife) will be overseeing the academics of the children here. David also wants to help his younger sister, whom really needs a new home. She lives in an orphanage near Comayagua, where the children are being abused and worse. American churches have supported that orphanage in the past, but are pulling their support away in light of the abuses...and rightfully so. We hope to meet with his sister this month to see if she would be a good fit here. Mainly, does she want better for herself in terms of education and career, or not?
Gerardo, one of the greatest success stories of the year, has been given a second chance on life. Two months ago he received a new kidney from his biological mother. The doctors were extremely pleased at the success of the surgery and he has not needed dialysis a single time since the surgery, which was unheard of here in Honduras for children. They perform about 20 kidney transplants every year on children in the hospital here, but many of them die afterwards due to some virus that their bodies cannot fight. The Lord really smiled on Gerardo, whom right now is outside working and playing with the other boys just like he always has until his kidneys starting failing 14 months ago.
Fernando is finishing up sixth grade in our house. He will enter junior high in February. We are praying he will get a heart to excel academically. This is a kid I have a lot of compassion for because he spent most of his early life fending for himself and his younger brothers by begging for money or digging through trash.
Arnol and Reynaldo made good grades this year in their bi-lingual school, Destino del Reino. They have a bright future if they keep on in that school.
Eli and Carlitos should attend special education school early next year if all goes well.
Jose, Lourdes and their two girls Abbi and Susi will be moving here as soon as we can finish building the house for us to move into. They will become the house parents for the younger boys. The older boys still live in the two small homes with Antonio, Jose's brother. Jose has been working with us for three years. I knew there was something special about he and his family right off. He is a rare find in the world we live in; someone that loves his family, loves the Lord and willing to make huge sacrifices for both. With our two families raising and mentoring the boys, they have every opportunity to succeed and be responsible, loving husbands and fathers. Even having a father present in a Honduran home is rare. In this case, they will have two. :-)
Recently there was a problem with one of our dogs killing the neighbors sheep. We tied the dog up but it chewed itself loose and repeated the episode with more sheep. As difficult as it was, I took the dog to the neighbors home, asked them to confirm that the dog was the perpetrator and shot it on their property. It was very difficult and probably cruel to many Americans, to whom a dog is part of the family. However, this is an orphanage and farm and we cannot afford to replace herds of sheep due to an uncontrollable animal. By the same token, I was hoping to satisfy the neighbors with some sense of justice; there have been many occasions when I wanted to take a dog's life after it killed our livestock. It was hard, very hard, but I did it.
Then the neighbors came to ask for payment for the sheep. I told them that we really do not have the money to replace the sheep, but that they could take some of our pigs. At this point, I had washed my hands of the whole affair because in the same breath where they said they just wanted to be friends, they also demanded payment for the one lost sheep and two lambs. I went inside to finish making breakfast for the home.
I told Paula about it while the neighbors went to look over our livestock. Paula was irate. Their dogs had previously killed over 10 of our goats, which is why we no longer care for goats on the farm. Paula went to ask them for payment for the goats as well as payment for the corn that their sheep eat when they escape the neighbors' fences.
The neighbors told Paula how horrific she was, used some colorful metaphors to describe her and told her she stole their land. Paula asked them when they bought this land, but they replied that it was Honduras and they were Hondurans. The land did not belong to Americans. They also told her that they were new owners and never had any dogs here; so their dogs could not have killed our goats.
Here is the bright spot on this whole episode, please follow along closely. David was with Paula during the argument with the neighbors. He was helping to translate, although he did not translate everything as it was in large part offensive. The amazing thing was that, in many cases, David told the neighbors that they were lying. He knew that they had been the owners the entire time we lived here. He knew that they had dogs on the property. He would not let them get away with lies.
I know that doesn't sound like much, but two very significant things surfaced in that exchange. One is, that David is becoming a man and he defended his 'Tia' (Aunt) Paula to fellow Hondurans. The other is that he would confront someone on a lie in a country where confrontation is taboo and lying is a way of life. We were told when we first arrived to never confront a Honduran about lying and to protect their dignity (by letting them lie).
Folks, I know that it looks like we are being bad neighbors, but I could not have been more proud of David. The fact is, the people that wanted payment do not live next to us. It is their "finca", a plantation of sorts. The people live in the city, make good incomes and have a showcase farm to tell their friends back home about, although Paula will tell that the place is an eyesore. It's pretty common here for wealthy and semi-wealthy people to have a house out in the country. In this case there are caretakers but they have to be replaced every year or so because the caretakers do not get paid. One of our workers used to be a caretaker there but left after months without pay. We offered to give pigs for the ewe and two lambs killed, but they wanted a cow; which is far from an even trade. We gave them the benefit of the doubt that the dog killed their sheep although we never saw any signs of blood on the dog.
The farm generated a lot of pigs this year and in the last two weeks we've traded 40 small pigs for a good sized bull, two young cows and a couple of calves. We also sold 12 additional, larger pigs to other farmers in the same two weeks. I hope to sell another 20 pigs, bringing the herd size down 31 by the end of the year. We've found a couple of good wholesale type outlets for the pigs and one told us that they would purchase as many baby pigs we could produce.
When Jose and family are able to move, we will have a bonafide, trained pastor on premises. Over the years various people have asked if we wanted to church here. My response has always been along the lines of "Not on your life!!!". However, we've searched high and low for a church with sound teaching by men whom live by the same words they speak. I'm not going to say they don't exist in Honduras, but if they do, we live too far from them or have not found them. Suffice it to say that I would not dismiss the idea of a church with Jose as senior pastor, although probably not on the farm; a self contianed campus complete with church is a little too cultish to me. :-P
One final matter I must address in order to be frank about the state of things here. We've been holding this place together and trying to improve the farm and livestock for four years. The boys living here have learned English and had every chance to learn at school, church and home to be loving, responsible children of God. But we cannot continue much longer unless something changes.
I have been working on the computer for a couple years in order to generate income to keep the home running. Before that, I expended the better part of our family's life savings. Unfortunately, the computer work has dried up in the last couple months and I'm not sure where to go next. We are going to lay off two of the four workers here next month, both of which are the sole breadwinners for their families. I honestly need to do it today, but this is December and I am going to borrow some money to pay them through Christmas. Workers are paid double in the months of June and December in Honduras and it just wouldn't be right to cut them loose right before the month begins, although it is common practice in most of the businesses in Honduras.
We operate on $3700 per month, of which, about $2000 is usually generated by whatever odd computer jobs I can get from people across the globe. I've had work from Canadians, Americans, Europeans and even some work from Thailand, but none of late. I normally work for $20/hr, but when you factor in the time I spend marketing and selling, it's closer to $14/hr. I've been looking to work in the USA for a short period in order to save up some money for the home but it is going to be difficult to setup interviews in the USA while I am in Honduras. I don't want to be separated from the my family and the home, but I would do it for short periods if it would help the people here. I also owe $15,800 on the construction of the new house and we still need about $4000 more to get it in a livable state. We hope to move in before 2010. I paid the loan down from $22,000 with some computer work I had in August through November.
I've always told the boys that we are not good missionaries because I absolutely loathe the thought of asking people for money. To this day I've gotten away with getting work here and there and making do. I still want to work and be an example of a responsible father to the children here, but I've just not found work lately. I'm not sure what to do but we are praying about it.
I again want to thank all the people and the churches that contribute here. I cannot express my gratitude enough to you. Nor do I want you to think that you are not giving enough, because I know each one of you and I think you give sacrificially. To give any more than you do would be, for lack of a better word, wrong. I know that our home church is losing money, yet they still help us every month, faithfully. I know of a long time family and friend, whom give more here than I would ever expect from a single family. I know one of the founders of this home gives generously here and in other places. I know of a little church in Colorado, whom we wish we could visit again, that was so hospitable to us on our only visit that gives to us monthly but the people have only seen us once or twice. There is a good friend, great father and pilot at American Airlines whom gives to us among many other works that he supports. There is a single mother and long time friend of Paula and I whom not only supports us monthly but paid for a good portion of the new home we are building. There are other friends from our home church that support us whenever they can, even on fixed incomes.
We hope to visit all of the people mentioned above, but it will have to wait until I can find some kind of short term work in the USA.
By the way, if anyone knows a Christian publisher, please tell me. I've been writing a fiction piece based on the events we've lived through or witnessed here on the mission field as well as life in the USA. I'm no Perretti, but I hope the odysey of strangely true events will make for an interesting, entertaining story. I think that I need about a month to finish it (a month of writing, that is, not a calendar month).
Best wishes and Merry Christmas,
Mark in Honduras