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