Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Everything and nothing

I’m sitting here on the plane, staring out the window at the indescribable landscape of Honduras, and trying to make sense of my leaving.  I began this journey in tears and I am ending it in tears.  The only thing that comes to mind is, “God is so good!”  I am leaving Honduras a very different person – my view on life and what truly matters is so much greater now. 

When I first moved to Honduras, I lived with a self-centered attitude.  I would have never admitted that, and maybe it’s because I didn’t realize it, but I made so much of this life about me.  I spent the first month being so concerned about what I was feeling and didn’t take the time to focus on accepting the journey and seeing what God wanted me to see.  I wanted everything to be “comfortable” – hot showers, a “nice” car, “normal” food…overall easiness.  I remember feeling insecure about my personality.  I handled situations and thought about things differently than everyone else did.  At times I felt like I didn’t belong, but I came to realize that the only reason I felt that way was because I was making myself feel that way.  I didn’t always get along with people, and we had our share of “situations,” but I needed it.  I have spent my whole life being praised for who I am and I felt like the same should be happening to me in Honduras. 

And then it happened…

Somewhere along this journey, I realized that this life has absolutely nothing to do about me.  I am not the one who allowed this opportunity, I am not the one who worked to teach, I am not the one who fed the hungry, I am not the one who changed lives – it was Christ.  I am merely the body that God chose to use.  All that has been done has been done in His name and His name alone.  I am thankful that God has blessed me with abilities and opportunities, but our daily lives are not about our own fulfillment, but the fulfillment that comes from Christ. 

I have spent my whole life believing in God, but believing in God and knowing God are two very different things.  I encountered God in Honduras – I truly met Him for the first time.  Before, I was so focused on looking like the “perfect” Christian – good attitude, go to church, go on mission trips, pray, read my Bible, etc.  Want to know something?  That has so little to do with being the people God truly wants us to be.  I’m not saying not to do those things, we are called to do those things to strengthen our walk, but until we fully submit our lives to Christ and accept our nothingness, we will never really know Him.  Until we realize that we are nothing without Christ, we will live empty lives, constantly seeking and never knowing why it is we feel that way.

During my time in Honduras, God was able to use us to accomplish the following:

·  Provide schools supplies for Honors Academy Honduras
·  Provide shoes, clothing, food and other necessities for gang families
·  Provide shoes, clothing, food and other necessities for teen girls
·  Financially support families in need
·  Help send children to school
·  Allow one young girl the opportunity to play in her school band

I have never seen God more alive in one place.  He always, always found a way to provide.  God would stretch me and I would find myself in moments of worry or panic about finances, but the support always came at the exact moment it was needed.  I really found what it means to fully rely on the Lord and His provision.  No one can provide in the way our Lord does.

I come away from this experience feeling more burdened, but more humbled and thankful than ever.  My vision has been reset…forever.  God didn’t send me to Honduras to do a work, He sent me to Honduras so that He could do a work inside of me.  I entered Honduras feeling like I deserved all the good life had to bring, and I leave Honduras feeling so unworthy, which is the best feeling.  Until we realize that we are nothing, God cannot be our everything.  It is only when Christ becomes our entire world that He will be able to use us up, and I strongly believe that we will never be truly satisfied with our lives until we get to a place where we are no longer living for ourselves and our desires, but for our God and His desires.  My prayer is that we would all find this and live it out.  My prayer is that God would continue to move in Honduras and that the people will be provided for.  My prayer is that we all become ruined…that we realize and accept our unworthiness and that we choose to be Christ in a dark world.  To everyone who has kept up with my journey, thank you!  Thank you for loving, supporting, praying and believing in this mission.  May we all accept the call and go!

“God does everything through people who understand they’re nothing.  And God does nothing through those who think they’re everything.”
John Wood

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


I’ve wanted to write for days, but I’m having a hard time placing my feelings.  4 days and I will be home…in my house…with my family…able to drive my car…have freedom.  It’s funny how I relate all of those things to “freedom” because as time has gone on, I have come to experience true freedom in a much larger aspect, and it has nothing to do with driving a car.

I have spent the last two weeks starting and now finishing the goodbye process.  Last week, I treated my girl’s group to dinner in the city (a first for many of them) and said my goodbyes to them.  I said goodbye to the last time of being with all my students in our classroom.  On Sunday, I said goodbye to the many faces I have become to love at church.  Yesterday, which has been the hardest day so far, I said goodbye to my gang village family.  As I was sitting around with the village ladies, eating the delicious chop suey they prepared for my going-away, I felt completely overwhelmed with awe and gratitude.  With each passing day, I discover a little more about the beauty and graciousness of Christ.  Honduras has changed me…forever.  I am so thankful that I am no longer the person I was before.  I will not give all the details yet…I’m saving those for my final post.

Looking back on my first posts, I came across this statement, “Words are few, but emotions are many.”  Still trying to make sense of my feelings in so many ways.  One thing I know for sure, God is good!  I ask that you pray for me as I finish this chapter of my life.  Never has God been more alive than He is right now.  See you soon, America!   

"...and in Christ you have been brought to fullness"  
Colossians 2:10

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Through their eyes...

Through Jen's eyes...

I will never forget the day that Lauren told me she was moving to Honduras.  Lauren and I have been close friends for about 6 or 7 years and I have always felt that she would follow the Lord’s calling in her life, no matter what the cost.  So when this opportunity presented itself, I knew that she would go, even if it meant giving up her paycheck, her comfortable apartment with close friends and family nearby, and her ability to live life with all of its conveniences (shopping, buying groceries, driving in her car, etc).  I knew immediately that the Lord had something amazing planned for her, yet I remember feeling overwhelmed with joy and undeniably saddened that she was moving far away for nearly a year.

Just a couple months ago, the Lord blessed me with the opportunity to travel to Honduras to visit Lauren in her “new home”.  I have never been so nervous and so excited at the same time.  Even though Lauren had given me all the important “travel tips” prior to my trip, from how to pack my bags and get my tickets, to avoiding the Honduran men who would want to help me with my luggage in the airport when I arrived, I still didn’t really know what to expect. 

When I found my seat on the plane, I was seated right in the middle of a young missionary group traveling from Tennessee to Tegucigalpa to build houses.  They go on this trip every year and are very “experienced” with the ways of Honduras.  I felt so comforted to have someone to talk to for the next few hours. 

As we landed in Honduras, I looked out the window and all I could see was dirt, rows of run-down homes, mountains, trees, and a few random fires along the side of the mountains.  I remember immediately feeling this overwhelming sense of homesickness … I was far from my comfort zone already and I wasn’t even off the plane yet.  As we touched the ground, the runway was the only part of the ground that wasn’t dirt.  I could see roads and buildings, gas stations, and cars … all familiar things, yet very different than they are in the States.  It was scary, yet so wonderful all at the same time because I felt connected to Lauren on a deeper level than ever before.

We exited the plane, checked in with customs, and the search for our luggage began.  I had brought 3 suitcases full of items to give to the families in the village, so I was going to have a lot to carry.  As I’m finding my luggage, these two guys from the missionary group I sat with on the plane came over and offered to help me carry my bags! What a blessing!!

We walked out with my luggage and began looking for Lauren … there she was waiting for me with a huge bundle of my favorite flowers!! We both began to cry as we hugged one another!  I have never been more excited to see one person in all of my life! I was in HONDURAS!!  This was going to be a great week …

The next week was AMAZING! I wish I could have videoed the whole thing so I could remember every detail forever.  The first thing we did was go to the mall and eat Wendy’s.  Definitely not how I expected to spend my first 15 minutes in Honduras, but it was great! Then we went to the school to see the kids.  I have never been hugged so many times in 2 minutes.  Wow, those children were beautiful.  I cannot even begin to describe how wonderful they were.  Some of them told me they loved me before they  even hugged me.  I have never felt so loved by a bunch of total strangers.  They had all made cards for me that said the most amazing things.  I felt so welcomed and so wanted.  It was wonderful. 

The rest of the weekend was fun; going into the village to shop and eat local foods, hanging out around the house, going to church, etc.  We even got to dress up and go to a fundraiser for the presidential candidate in Honduras!  We were able to meet him and his wife, eat delicious food, and listen to Honduran music.  So cool!

Then the school week started.  I was able to go to school with Lauren every day.  She has such an incredible talent for working with children.  Her gentleness, yet funny whit makes her an amazing teacher.  The children are drawn to her and she is so gracious with them.  The Lord is using her in such a huge way, and it was such a blessing to be able to watch her work. 

On Monday night, we went into the gang village to visit the families and pray with the women and children.  I was the most nervous about this trip, but the Lord touched my heart more than ever before.  Though we don’t speak the same language, I was able to see the love and gratitude that the children and the women in gang village possess.  They were so happy when we arrived and hugged me and treated me as if I had always been there.  We spent a couple hours making jewelry and just spending time with them.  I have never seen such incredible humility in all of my life.  These families have nothing.  They live in concrete and plastic homes, with little furniture and none of our “luxuries” that we take for granted – TV, dishwashers, computers, washer and dryer, etc.  Yet they offered us food and drink the minute we arrived. 

As I mentioned earlier, I brought clothes of mine from home to give to the families and as we handed out the clothes, they were so excited and so grateful.  I almost felt guilty as I gave my things away because I had not appreciated them nearly as much as they already did.   It was very a humbling experience to see the joy on their faces as I gave them things that I hadn’t cared about at all.  That experience has definitely changed the way I live my life now that I have returned to the United States.  I think a lot more about spending money on material things.  Knowing that someone in another country, who I have met and know by name, does not have the same luxuries that I have and would give anything to have one tenth of what the Lord has blessed me with really makes me think twice about spending money on useless things. 

Right before we left the gang village, we stopped by a house to see a family that Lauren and the other missionaries have become close to.  While we were there, one of the boys brought a small puppy in the house and handed it to me to hold.  I immediately fell in love with her.  She was so tiny and so sweet.  We were informed that the dog had been abandoned and was very hungry and would not survive if she was not given a good home.   We were told to take her with us and being the animal lover that I am, I happily agreed.  My plan was to take her back to the States with me, but unfortunately that did not work out.  We were able to keep her for a few nights, but when it was time for me to leave, we had to find her another home.  One of the boys from the school was able to take her home with him and his family still has her and is taking great care of her.

On Tuesday night we had a girls group at the center and some girls who live across the street from the orphanage came over to do a craft, eat snacks, and talk about Jesus.  Unfortunately, one of the girls had gotten in trouble and had to go home early, so this particular group was short and sweet and I didn’t have an opportunity to spend much time with the girls before they had to go home. 

For the rest of the week I went to school with Lauren.  I was able to spend a lot of time with the kids, getting to know each one and falling in love with them individually over and over again.  I am a speech therapist and I work with kids every day for a living.  My kids are sweet and they definitely give good hugs, but I have never met kids who just LOVE like these kids do.  I was told several dozen (yes, dozen) times a day that I was beautiful and loved and appreciated.  And they just hug you all the time!!  Lauren was able to tell me some of their stories as the week went on.  These children have been through so much, from rape to drug-addicted parents who abandoned them; these kids have been through it all, yet you would never know it.  They are so strong and sweet.  I’m sure they have moments where they fall apart, as is expected, but what I saw while I was there just blew my mind.  Most of these kids live in the same house together, go to school together all day long, and share rooms with one another when they’re at home.  They never get time to themselves, yet they didn’t argue with one another (I’m sure there are times when they do, I just didn’t see it).   They each have unique and adorable personalities that leave you wanting more.   I loved hanging out with them, laughing together, and loving on them as much as possible. 

Lauren and I spent our evenings talking, napping, praying, laughing, crying, and taking care of sweet Luna (the puppy from the gang village).  It was so nice to just be able to talk to her face to face, instead of via text message or through the computer and to experience her “new home” with her on a daily basis.  My trip to Honduras has opened my eyes to so many amazing things and has strengthened my friendship with Lauren in ways I never thought possible.  The Lord truly touched my heart that week and I will hold it in my heart forever.  I will never forget how the Lord worked in both our lives and has changed us both for the better.  I am very grateful and feel incredibly blessed to have been able to get a glimpse into the life that she lives daily.  The Lord is doing great things in Honduras. 

Lauren is a beautiful girl, both inside an out, as I’m sure you already know.  The Lord has challenged her greatly in her life, and she has always accepted each challenge graciously, even when she knows the road ahead will be a rough one.  She does not realize the impact she is making on the children in Honduras and in the United States.  She works hard every day and gives so much of herself without ever expecting anything in return.  Please continue to support her and encourage her, as her sacrifices are not always easy.  She is eternally grateful to all of you who have supported her emotionally, financially, and spiritually and I know she feels unbelievably blessed by your willingness to help her along her journey.  

Through Debbie's eyes...

First I would like to thank Mama Ty, Pastor Pete, Bobby, Julie, Mary Beth, Erika, Lisa, Denise, Crist and the children for such a wonderful and memorable experience.  I didn't know what to expect; I have never been out of the US, but it was by far one of the greatest times in my life.  I was amazed by homes there, poverty on one side of the road and wealth on the other.  Amimals grazing along the road and many small food stands with women cooking wonderful authenic Honduran food - which was great ( we stopped and sampled)!  I was really surprised by the city - fast food like we have at home and a huge shopping mall.  I was a little uneasy to see armed guards there, but they are there for protection.  We went to visit women at a gang village and they  greeted us with open arms and kisses on the cheek.  These women are poor and have very little, but seem happy with what they have.  The children are all so beautiful!  The school is great and the children all speak English.  Each one hugged us at least a million times. They LOVE Ms. Lauren!  The children made us cards and posters, which I will keep forever.  The ministry there is doing a great service, not only in the school but in many areas in the villages and in the prision.  The only time I was really scared was when we were traveling. There are no traffic rules and it was like dirt track racing. Everyone drives really fast and it will scare you to death!  I now understand why Lauren has a love for Honduras and it's amazing to me the ministry opportunities she is involved in. THANK YOU Lauren for such a wonderful week in Honduras!!!!   

Through Becca's eyes...

My trip to Honduras....where do I start?  The people…the food...the fellowship...the roads...the beauty...the new friends????  This was a trip I will definitely never forget.  I can see why Lauren has fallen in love with it.  There is so much need everywhere, but also so much happiness and beauty.  First I will start with the school.  The teachers are wonderful!  Mama Ty, Pastor Pete,  Bobby and Julie, Mary Beth, Lisa and all those who work so hard for the children are a blessing from God.  The center/ orphanage is also blessed with Erika, Debbie and Cinthia who give of themselves so unselfishly.  While we were there, we were given the job of organizing the library.  I had a wonderful time!  That's the closest I'll ever be to becoming a librarian.  Bookshelves were made and we color-coded the books.  The children were so beautiful.  We got hugs and kisses, a party, cards and they were always tagging along after us.  Their little faces will always be in my mind and heart. 

We also went to the gang village.  We took beads so they could make necklaces and bracelets.  They were all waiting for us in the street.  The people there all kiss you and smile a lot.  Their children were so clean.  The women are so grateful for anything you do.  Everyone loves Lauren.  She knows a lot of them by name and where they live.  It brought tears to our eyes when we saw how little they have, but they are proud of what they have.  Norma, one of the ladies, made a rice and chicken dish for us.  It was very good and she was so proud to serve us.  That was the most heartbreaking day I spent. 

Now, food...we had some wonderful and different food there.  Some came from restaurants, Lauren's kitchen or made out on the side of the road.  I loved everything. We met Denise and Crist, a couple Lauren knows, and they were like someone you have always known.  They will always be lifelong friends.  We ate at their house on Friday before we came home.

The roads were awful.  No rules of the road.  Some were dirt with no gravel.  If it rained they were slick mudholes.  Everyone went where they wanted.....driving really fast and passing in curves or whatever.  Horses and cows grazed on the side of the road, and people walked like they were perfectly safe. 

Lauren, you have made a big sacrifice in your life, but now I can see why.  God bless you and all the generous-hearted people who give of themselves to help these poor, but happy people. I know this trip has given me a different way of looking at how blessed I am to have what I have and to live where I do.  There is so much to tell that I can't possibly tell it all, but my adventure in Honduras with my family was one of the best times I've ever had.  I'm so lucky to have had the opportunity to go.  Lauren, can't wait to see you.  Love you!!  

Through Mike and Donna's eyes...

What a great trip and wonderful experience it was! We were overwhelmed at the extent of the poverty, and at the same time, amazed at how friendly, clean and proud the Honduran people were. Everywhere we went they all wanted us to visit their home, and when we did visit, they wanted to show us great hospitality. Even though they may have very little for their own family to eat and drink, they wanted to be sure each of us had something to eat and drink. We did not need to speak Spanish to understand their warmth and sincerity.

Spending time with the kids, teachers and other ministry personnel was an extra special blessing and something we will always remember! The driving was a wonderful experience for me, but probably not so much for Becca and Debbie. No speed limit, no painted lines and people passing three wide on a two lane road and we never saw an accident. This is an area where we could definitely learn from the Hondurans (just kidding). I hope Becca and Debbie will forgive me but when you are told to keep up with the car in front of you and you have no way to communicate with them, you have to keep up.

Mom and I want to close by saying how incredibly proud we are of you (Lauren)  and the work you are doing to serve our God! We are blessed to be your parents. Since this is going on your blog, we also want to thank all those that have supported you with their prayers and finances! There are goers and senders and to all you senders thank you for helping our daughter be a goer for God! Your support is being used in many very special ways!

Through Leia's eyes...

At first when my sister Lauren told me she was considering moving to Honduras for a year to do missions, to be honest I was mad and upset. She told me she felt that it was what God wanted her to do, but I was confused and angry at God for taking my sister away from home. For a while I was angry and upset, but then I saw what great things she was going to be doing and I was so proud that MY sister was soon going to be doing such wonderful things so far away from home! When my family and I took our trip to Honduras to visit my sister, immediately I fell in love with the atmosphere, the people, my surroundings and I instantly knew why she wanted to move there. I had the best time and I'm so proud of Lauren and all the wonderful things she is doing and the people she has touched! I am so extremely grateful that God blessed me with such an amazing sister with such great faith and such a big heart to help others! I fully support her in what she does and I'm so glad she got the opportunity to move to Honduras!  She is making a bigger difference then she will ever know! I love you, Lauren!

Below are pictures of the many deserving individuals and families who received shoes and clothing.  Thank you to Canton First Baptist Church, Jen and my family for donating and providing financial support for this specific mission!  The faces say it all...

Leia made cloth flower headbands for my girl's group

Sorting through donated shoes

And donated clothes

Giving out the clothes

Dona Sonya and her two grandsons received shoes and clothing

Another family who received

And another

And another

And another

Precious Flor

Baby Gynger

And another

And another

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

One month

One month…how is it possible that I only have one month left in Honduras?  I will be honest and tell you that I am in serious burn-out mode right now.  I’m guessing this must happen in any and every school setting, no matter the country.  I wish that I could just spend the last month visiting people, doing ministry and just hanging out with my kids.  I’m still trying to gather my thoughts on how I feel about leaving; some days I’m ready, other days I’m not. 

The blessed part of all this is that God has made it very clear what my next move should be.  I am a firm believer that God always wins out in the end and that you will ultimately end up doing what HE wants.  I struggled with my decision on coming back to Honduras for another year or moving home.  While I love this country, the people and my life here, God has boldly spoken and has shown me that I am to be in Haywood County.  I truly believe there is work to be done there, especially with teens, and I pray God uses me in a mighty way. 

For the last few months, there has been a certain “distraction” in my life.  Unfortunately, it can be so easy to get caught-up in situations that may make you happy for a little while, but turn out to not be so great for you as a person.  I felt like I wasn’t getting any answers about what I was supposed to do and God kept telling me to let this “distraction” go.  Well, as God would have it, when I finally sat down and was honest with myself and decided to move past this area of my life, doors flew open in a matter of days.  It is almost like God was/is just laying opportunity after opportunity in my lap.  Isn’t it incredible how God works when we remove our selfish desires and just let him do the dirty work?  I am still very guilty of (sometimes) thinking that I can do it better…ha, that’s a joke.  I encourage you to lay aside your distractions - let go and let God!  I know it isn’t an easy task, but it’s a worthwhile one!

As I am only one month out from leaving this part of my life, I want to say THANK YOU!  I know it may be repetitive, but thank you for the prayers, financial support and unwavering love.  I ask that you continue to pray for me and consider supporting this mission.  There is still work to be done and areas I would like to bless, however, I cannot do this without you!  Learning and accepting a life of relying on others for your financial needs has been one of the hardest but best experiences of this journey.  There have been so many times when I had no money and needs that had to be provided for.  I remember nights where I would just sit in my bed and cry because I didn’t know where the money would come from, but God has always provided!  The money always came at the right time and in the right amount.  Words of wisdom, love and encouragement always come when I need to hear them.  God has proved over and over that He is a gracious God who wants so badly to bless us.  I know God will send support during my last month here and I am grateful that He is speaking to so many of your hearts!  Outside of God, you keep me going and I am forever grateful for your loving spirits and generous hearts.

Let’s make it a great last month!  Let’s make our impression on Honduras!

If you would like to financially support Lauren and her mission in Honduras, you may send cash or check to:

Canton First Baptist Church
74 Academy Street
Canton, NC 28716
*please make checks payable to Canton First Baptist and write “Lauren Wood” on the memo line

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Inside the 53

53...that's how many days I have left in Honduras.  I've been experiencing a sense of deja vu lately because I am being asked the same questions I was getting before I moved.  "Are you excited?  Are you nervous?  How do you feel?  Are you ready?"  Funny thing is, I don't really know how I feel.  I have days where I'm so ready to go home and live a "normal" life again.  Yesterday was one of those days.  All I wanted was to get in my car and drive wherever I wanted.  I feel like I'm yearning for freedom, but what I've realized is that this "freedom" I am so longing for is usually centered around something of material worth.  Can't really call that freedom.  Other days, it terrifies me to think about leaving.  This has been my home for 8 months and there are so many people that are now a part of my life.  Not to mention, there are some decisions I will have to face and make when I get home.  I'm not so sure that I'm ready for some of it.

Want to know something crazy?  Part of me worries that my friends won't like me as much anymore.  I'm not the same person.  Now, yes, I am still "me" in a lot of ways, but a lot about me has changed.  Interests that I had before do not seem like such a big deal anymore.  While I was home over Christmas, there were times when I found myself having a hard time connecting to certain conversations because I felt distant or like I couldn't relate anymore.  This goes back to the whole "ruined" thing...the mission field ruins you forever.

For those of you who didn't know, my family came to visit me last week.  It was the most incredible time and a tremendous blessing!  Be on the lookout in the next few days...they are going to guest blog.  Anyway...having my family here really brought to reality the fact that I'm moving home in 53 days.  Now, us missionaries don't really make a lot of money, so looks like I'll be moving in with the parents.  This is another aspect that terrifies me.  I love my family, but I haven't lived at home since I was 18 years old.  Honestly, I feel kind of lame...25 years old and moving in with mom and dad.  I've been independent for so long.  I am not doubting my decision to come home; I feel 110% confident.  However, I am still human and selfishly want so many things.  I want a job in a middle school, I want to coach cheerleading, I want my own place, I want to volunteer, I want to go to grad school...basically, I want everything I can possibly fit on my plate . I think God tends to laugh at me on a regular basis.  I will make plans, worry, make plans and worry some more until I'm blue in the face.  For example, I have e-mailed principals, updated applications/resumes, reserached organizations and grad school and everything in between.  Do you think I've heard anything?  Why no!  I think there is this thing called trust, but I'm still working on that one.

Basically, I'm kind of all over the place.  Not really sure what I'm thinking about anything.  All I know is that I'm itching to do something great!  But for now, I'm doing my Honduras-thing and trying to really live inside the 53.


If you feel led to support this mission in Honduras or my upcoming mission to Africa, please send donations to:

Canton First Baptist Church
Attn: Lauren Wood
74 Academy St.
Canton, NC 28716
*please specify "Honduras" or "Africa" on the memo line

Thank you for your continuous support through prayer, encouragement and financial donation(s).  It is because of your generous hearts that so many lives have been and will continue to be helped and provided for!  I am forever grateful!

Monday, April 9, 2012

To live is what?

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain
Philippians 1:21

I keep reading and pondering over this verse.  I think we spend our whole lives searching for the meaning of life when the whole time it was simply written, thousands of years ago, in four words – “to live is Christ.”  Without spilling the beans on my recent journal entries, I have been battling some decisions in my life lately.  Life, love, right, wrong, go, stay.  The overwhelming occurrence of some and the lack of others has really placed a bad taste in my mouth the last few weeks. 

To be honest, I get really irritated when I’m living my life, quite happily may I add, and then something unexpected comes and puts a twist in everything.  Now, that isn’t to say you don’t like that certain thing, but sometimes it isn’t the best thing.  I have this zany desire to want to be “perfect.”  I know that is unattainable, as it should be because there was ever only one perfect individual, but I tend to place a lot of pressure on myself.  Selfishly, one of my highest goals when I moved to Honduras was that it would cause me to become a better person and Christian.  Now, I will say that so much of my walk and my ideals as a person have become strengthened and have improved.  However, over the last few weeks, there are certain “parts” of my life that have really blinded and distracted me from who I am and want to be.  I am not going to give all the details, but I have come to the realization that I am the hardest person to forgive.  I get so angry with myself because I talk the talk but I don’t always walk the walk.  I know, I know…we are human…we mess up…blah, blah, blah.  I don’t want to make excuses.  The worst part is knowing that your decisions not only affect you, but they affect those who believe in you and love you. 

I have always been a people pleaser.  I need to work on being a God pleaser.  I have been so focused on wanting to please others – saying the right things, liking the right people, etc. – that I’ve forsaken a lot of what I am hoping for and a lot of what God may be trying to do.  I don’t want to live a life feeling like I have to give reason or justification to my decisions.  Sometimes you just want people to trust you and believe in your efforts. 

To live is Christ.  To live like Him, to love like Him, to trust like Him and to forgive like Him.  I’m trying, but sometimes it gets really hard and I slip.  There is this one “part” of my life that resurfaced a couple of months ago and I have tried so hard to handle it in the right way, but somewhere in it I lost sight of the right way.  It was when I recognized this that the above verse really resonated with me.  I was not living this part of my life like Christ, and to be honest, I’m still figuring it out.  I guess my hope is that my efforts will be recognized and there will be reward in the end…not for me but for this “part” of my life.

So, this is where I am and this is what I am learning but still trying to fully grasp:

We are not living until we are living in Christ.  Until our every being is about Him, we are dead inside.  Until our attitudes, our decisions, our words, our money, our relationships, our everything is about Him, we are empty.  But, when we are living in Him, we no longer have to fear death but can rejoice in life.  To live for Christ in this world is only a small piece of the fulfillment that we will completely receive in the next world.  Our goal should not be to simply live life getting by and occasionally trying to do what is right, but to live in Christ all the time because our lives are just beginning at the end of this life.  I don’t know about you, but I’d like to start off with a good track record!  

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Life ramblings

This past week has been a very exciting one!  My dear friend, Jen, came to visit me.  I had been anxiously anticipating her visit and the week went by so quickly.  I was able to take her through my daily life here in Honduras, as well as show her around this part of the country.  We visited Valle de Angeles and did a little local shopping, ate some authentic Honduran comida, ministered to the women and children of the gang village, made bracelets and airplanes with the kids at school and enjoyed much needed girl time.  I am so grateful for the sacrifices she made to come here and for all she brought with her.  I know it is not an easy trip to make and it definitely brings some challenges, but it was a blessing all the way around.  Her visit really got me hopeful for my upcoming time at home.

It has been a couple of weeks since I last wrote and my heart and head have been in constant movement.  I tend to be someone who is very planned out and organized (just ask my mother about my color-coordinated closet).  My “plan” has been to permanently move home in June and spend the upcoming year with my sister.  She will be a senior in high school and I have missed out on most of her childhood and growing up.  My heart has been set on moving back and finding my place in the “normal” world again.  While God has given me peace about this decision, it is still a hard one to make. 

Two weeks ago we were visiting in the gang village.  I have written about Norma before; she owns a pulperia (corner store), has three sons and a daughter and always feeds us when we visit.  Her oldest son is in prison for being a gang member, her middle son is continuously on the run from the police because of suspected gang activity and her younger son and daughter live in the midst of police raids and fear.  During this particular visit, we walked in to visit Norma and you could immediately see the worry on her face.  A few minutes prior we had heard gunshots.  After speaking with Norma, we were told that the police were in the village searching for her son who had just left after eating a quick meal and showering.  She was frantically calling her son but he was not answering.  Had the gunshots been directed at him?  In the midst of all this, she remains a gracious hostess and serves us homemade food.  This is when it happens.  I begin to feel as if I am having a panic attack; I am hot, having a hard time breathing and am overcome with emotion.  I realize that I cannot break down in front of her.  Norma finally reaches her son to find out that he is okay but she is telling him to be careful because the police are after him.  Here I am, sitting in her house, eating her food and witnessing a small glimpse of what her life is every single day – terror, desperation, worry.  All I kept thinking was, “How do you leave…how do you go back to United States?”  Once we left and got in the car, I broke down and spent the remainder of the evening crying and trying to make sense of it all.

That is where I am today – trying to make sense of it all.  Honestly, I don’t know if any of us can make sense of it.  Before I began this journey, I imagined it to be a certain way and it has been far from that expectation.  The setting is different from what I expected, there have been new friendships and loss of friendships, overwhelming loneliness but comfort at the same time, unexpected temptations and needed realizations, bold answers and confusion, hope and despair.  I am terrified about coming back to the United States.  I am afraid of conforming to the selfishness and easiness it so boldly offers.  I am afraid of what people will think of me because I am different from who I was before.  I am worried that I will be bored.  I am worried that I won’t be doing enough.  Notice how many times I said “I”?  That’s the one thing I am still working on – this is not about me and my wants and my worries.  This, whatever “this” is, is about Christ – His work, His name, and His grace. 

Grace.  That’s a whole blog series in itself.  Amidst all of my rambling, the concept of grace is what I hope to take away from my time in Honduras.  Grace is God’s unmerited favor and sufficiency in our lives.  Unmerited favor…do you realize that God’s love for us does not change based on what we do or do not do?  This whole time I kept thinking that if I wasn’t constantly pushing myself and doing as much as I could then God was going to be disappointed in me or love me less.  Apparently I haven’t been listening in church. 

So, whether we are serving as a missionary in a foreign country, teaching in a school in the states, waiting tables, writing speeding tickets or whatever it is you may be doing, God’s grace is covering you.  He can use you and bless you right where you are acting as who you are – good or bad.  I pray that you and I would grow to gain a deeper understanding of this grace and that we would never take it for granted.

I ask that you would pray for me as I prepare to leave Honduras in June.  I know God has prepared the path and I choose to stand hopeful in the plans ahead.

Friday, March 2, 2012

What do I have to do with anything?

Before I moved to Honduras, many people spoke to me about how I needed to prepare myself because God would test me on the mission field in ways that I had never experienced before.  They weren’t kidding.  I think when you make the decision to distance yourself from everything familiar and comfortable, the challenges of life become significantly magnified. 

I grew up living comfortably.  My parents have always been hard workers and my dad always made sure we had what we needed, and for the most part, what we wanted.  When you’re a child, you are so na├»ve about reality.  You don’t realize the struggles, sacrifices and hardships that may be alive around you.  Wouldn’t you love to go back to childhood?

Over the last 3 years, my family has experienced more loss, heartache and uncertainty than I thought possible.  The loss of loved ones – both unexpected and expected, my dad losing his job and our family struggling to get by, working through emotions of anger and misunderstanding, me moving out of the country with no means of income and my dad having a heart attack just this past Sunday.  That doesn’t even include the tests that we have either kept to ourselves or experienced as individuals.  During my time in Honduras, my faith has been questioned and tested, feelings have been hurt and bouts of loneliness have masked all other emotions.  There have been times when I felt like my body would just give way to the overwhelming sensation of hopelessness.  You always think, “it couldn’t get much worse,” but sometimes it can.

You know what is so beautiful about this grey picture?  God has been and is alive in it all!  When we thought our sadness of losing loved ones would never go away, we were restored with the hope that they are living in the presence of Christ.  When worries of financial strains flooded our daily thoughts, God provided in only ways that He could.  When sickness struck and family was miles away, God was the ultimate Healer.  If our lives were always easy and effortless, there would be no reason for God and His power.  We are merely the bodies that God has chosen to live out the plans He created.  God is not some evil man in the sky who chooses to release havoc and hurt on those of us below.  Rather, God places us in situations where He knows we will grow and learn, and that growth will come because we have to get to a place where we have no other choice but to call out to Him.  None of this is about us and it never has been.  It is all about a God who loved us so much that HE sacrificed it all through his son.  He is alive in all things and our lives are about bringing glory to His name and nothing else. 

"Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake."
-Victor Hugo

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Take a glimpse

I wanted to take some time to really give you a solid picture of what God is allowing us to do in Honduras.  He has opened the door to many ministry opportunities and is continuing to bring forth many others.

As I have shared before, we travel to Los Estados Unidos (18th Street gang village) every Monday.  We meet with the homies’ (gang members in prison) families and the guys play soccer with the kids.  We start off the afternoon in one house and have bible study with a local family.  For fun, we have been teaching them how to cook certain foods and have played some really hilarious games. 

We tied donuts to strings and raced to see who could eat them the fastest!  So funny!

Once we are finished, we walk to another house and visit with a very special family.  They are an older couple that just recently had a baby girl, along with having three other daughters and an older son.  The father has been out of work for months and has no way of providing for his family.  God, however, always provides and someone has volunteered to support this family every month.  The girls are dying to go to school but they have not had the funds, so this monthly support is helping the young girls attend school.  When we visited last week, we walked in the home to find the baby screaming and the mother all alone and struggling to keep strong.  Stress and worry flooded her face but she put on a smile for us.  We sat down with her and we shared with her that her family would be receiving support money every month.  She began to cry and relief took over sadness. 

Our last stop every Monday is Norma’s pulperia (corner store).  Norma is a precious woman with a teenage son and daughter.  She also has an older son who is in prison.  Every week, Norma prepares food for us and offers us a place to sit and relax.  She refuses to take money for the food she prepares.  Language is still a barrier for me but no words are needed when you look at her face – tired, afraid and weary.  The police raid her home on a weekly basis because they are purposely looking for a reason to cause trouble.  The police know that her oldest son is in prison for gang activity and they are hoping to accuse her younger son of the same offense.  However, he is innocent.  When we visited two weeks ago, her younger son was gone.  The police had raided her home at 4 in the morning the Thursday before and beat him.  They saw the boy wearing Nike tennis shoes (Nike is one symbol for the 18th Street gang) and came to attack him.  Because she was fearful of what may happen, Norma sent her son away for a couple of weeks.  Her daughter lives in fear and suffers from panic attacks on a regular basis.

If you read my previous post, you heard about the family that lives in severe poverty by the river.  We saw the need and prayed that God will allow us to help this family.  Because of the financial support I receive from so many generous hearts, myself and another person were able to fully supply new clothes, shoes and other necessities for this family of almost 30.  Last Saturday, we spent our morning and afternoon bathing the children, cutting and styling everyone’s hair, painting nails, dressing them in their new clothes and taking individual/family photos of them.  There are no men that live there because they are in prison.  Due to this, they never get to see their family.  The photos that were taken will be shared and given to the men in prison, which will be one of the only connections they still have to their families.

 Every other Tuesday, Ms. Lisa and myself lead a teen girl’s bible study.  Young girls from Valle (Valley of the Angels) meet with us in a little church.  Ms. Lisa and I have scheduled topics that we feel are important for these girls.  The girls have so much energy and are thirsty for love and attention.  It can be challenging because they have a difficult time focusing and really listening to what we want to say.  However, God is allowing us to love on them and spend time with them, and sometimes that can be just what people need.

 Hard to believe that I only have four months left in Honduras.  God has already spoken to my heart about where my path may lead.  My heart has been burdened for people who need love and a voice, and God has shown me that He desires for me to continue with missions.  While my path may take me away from Honduras, I have said many times before that we are all called to be missionaries.  There are needs in all corners of the earth.  Along with having the opportunity to live in Honduras, God has opened another door for me to travel to Africa.  In July, I will spend two weeks in Kenya.  During my time in Kenya, I will be ministering to the local people, helping to finish building a school for orphaned children and loving on those on those sweet children.  I am eternally grateful that God is orchestrating opportunities for me and many others to serve Him around the world.  My prayer is that you would pray for these ministries, the people and for the needs of so many.  Pray that they would be met and pray that God will burden your heart for how you can help serve.  I know that sometimes we cannot be the one to actually go, however, God allows us to serve by giving to those who can go.  For what you have already given and for what is to come, thank you for your spiritual support and for your financial support.  Changing lives and spreading the love of Christ in Honduras and Africa would not be possible without generous hearts.  I am simply the body that God is using and you are just as much a part of this as I am.

If you would like to support this mission in Honduras or my upcoming mission to Africa, you may e-mail me or write a check to Lauren Wood (please send to Canton First Baptist Church Canton, NC 28716 and write Honduras or Africa in the memo blank). 

When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them.  Always be eager to practice hospitality.
Romans 12:13