Beauty That Remains

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Building a house is no joke. How about this? Building a house in a third-world country.

My heart still stings when I think, talk and dream about Honduras. Back one week now, tears bite at the corners of my eyes on mention. Little by little I reacclimatize to being home and I get so excited to tell our story.

Actually….God’s story.

We had an incredible team hand-picked by God; a blend of new people, some of whom had never left the country before, let alone on a mission trip and some who are well-traveled veterans. None of us, with the exception of one (I believe) have any real building experience.  Funny how that has never made a difference….. IMG_1068

UnknownGod enters into the scenario. Only through Him do you get a team of men and women to create something wonderful with no experience. He always shows up and always blows my mind. This is who He is.

We arrived on our build site to find 2 foundations poured, side-by-side. This was amazing, as we were really praying for this prior to the trip, so we could share recourses throughout our build time AND not have to split up the team. We made some preparations with our team foreman, and set off on our task of building two transitional homes for families living and working in the trash dump in Tegucigalpa.

We had 3 and a half days to build these houses!

IMG_0928IMG_0863   Building relationships is one of the best things that I love about mission work. Partnering with God, alongside other people; some of whom you’ve never met, to create something; These people become your family. It’s happened with every mission trip I’ve been on. There is nothing like that bond. It lasts and is one of many things that I feel blessed with from these trips.

As the days continued and houses were erected with the help of some amazing Honduran workers I loved watching the process. I loved being in the moment. I wasn’t rushing to get things done; I knew they would be. I wasn’t feeling a sense of urgency; I know everything works in God’s timing. I wasn’t worried we wouldn’t complete the houses; He who sent us, will equip us.  I found myself, several times, standing back and smiling at what was happening around me…..IMG_0848IMG_0830IMG_0780

Laughter between people of two different countries.

Conversations between people that do not speak the same language.

Differences being worked out in respectful ways between two strong-willed men.

IMG_0755Women learning how to use tools that I’m sure they’ve never used or possibly seen before.

Children shyly making eyes contact with us.

The young boys in the neighborhood who were always right there to help lift lumber and our spirits.

All of us bettering our Spanish language.

Learning new things everyday from our translators. (Some not so great…hello Chinche bug)

Women caring for one another when one of us fell ill.IMG_0710

The compassion we had for the ones that had to stay back at the hotel for sick days.

Making jokes with one another.

Laughter.

IMG_0912Dogs barking.

Turkeys gobbling.IMG_0706

So. Many. Smiles.

Generosity like I’ve never seen.

How thankful we were for one day’s rain.

Prayers being whispered for the clouds to show up in the sky.

The care everyone took to make sure everyone had a chance to try something new.

Complete selflessness.

IMG_0765Walls of a home being lifted.

Nails being bent and re-nailed to perfection.

Complete surrender and reliance on a God who was preparing the way ahead of us on this trip the entire time we were there.

Softened hearts.

IMG_0915Rooves <roofs> going onto houses.

Children teaching us Spanish.

The strengthening of our hearts.

Playing a simple game of Telephone in English and Spanish that created unbelievable amounts of laughter.IMG_0939

Smashed thumbs and healed hearts.

Fears being released.

Lives being changed.

Family being able to share an amazing experience together.

The love between a mother and son.

A mama trusting me enough to hold her chubby, baby girl.

IMG_0688Hands working together.

Great patience.

God’s love and presence everywhere.

IMG_1004A dad’s love for his sweet daughters.

Tears of joy.

Tired bodies still willing to do something more.

Butterflies.

Beauty in the struggle.

So. Many. Answered. Prayers.

And then….the day came for us to dedicate these houses to the families. This is really the moment we wait for. Meeting the families for the first time. Seeing them coming up the road, quietly, shy and grateful.  Maybe a little overwhelmed. This is where we see a reverse of blessings. The place where we think we are blessing someone, only to find out the blessing is coming right back onto us. To stand and witness a mother and her 3 small kids as she sees her new home for the first time; blessed.  This is the beauty of God.  It’s etched into my mind forever. I think in this moment; THIS, this is why we are here. This is why we have life. This is why we have been blessed beyond belief with the recourses to be here, in this moment. This….does it get any better than this? This is making kingdom differences. This is making world differences. images

As we pray for and dedicate these homes to the families;tears fall.  Our hearts ache with a joy that’s inconceivable to most.  The witnessing of God’s presence everywhere is undeniable and unimaginable.  God’s beauty is thick like a blanket over this place.  His never-ending mercy and grace abounds.  It’s what brought us here and what will continue to bring us here. Amor, Fe, Esperanza.  Love, Faith and Hope…To Him be the glory!

For more about partnering with AFE:http://www.afehonduras.org

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Dump-Teguciglapa Honduras

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The dump day is so hard. I wake early, knowing that this will be the day for the visit. Praying to God that he protect and surround the hearts of our team with a supernatural force. That he allow us each to see exactly what we need to see.

For me, breakfast is quiet. Being in Honduras last year; I know. I understand what’s coming. It’s hard not to try and explain to our new team members what’s going to happen. I want to prepare them for the ambush to the heart that’s going to happen as we drive up to and visit the dump, but I cannot. They need to take it in the way God sees fit for them, and not some prewritten script from those of us that have prior experience.

As we turn onto the road, my heart seizes. What will it be like this time? I have been here. Will it be less impactful? Will it seem old hat?

As we climb the bumpy hill, I start to smell what’s ahead of us. That thick, rancid smell of rot and decomposition. I pray silently and tears sting my eyes. “Spirit lead me where my trust is without boarders. You’ve called me here. You’ve prepared me for this. Be here with us. Open my eyes even wider on this journey. Allow me to have the heart and eyes to see these people as Jesus sees them. I have prayed so many times “Send Me.” and here I am in the middle of this, thank you.”

~Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” Isaiah 6:8

Unknown-1We step out of the truck into a war zone. Ravaged ground teaming with busyness. The buzzards and dogs swarm around heaping piles of decay. I pan out as the smell lands thick and rancid on my tongue. My eyes burn. My heart heaves in my chest as I see them appearing. Sepia-toned people.  Dirty and broken as if they came from underground.  They head towards us, knowing that we have come to feed them. They surround us fifteen, maybe twenty deep or more with hands reached out. I stand back from the line taking it all in with my bag of tortillas and rice. It’ s brand new to me again. Not the same as I remember it being. I hear the Holy Spirit speak to my heart “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” These are the least of these.

The line in front of me runs out of tortillas and it’s my turn to step up. I feel my heart quicken and a sob starting to climb up my throat. I step forward and look at outstretched hands. My eyes continue to travel down disheveled arms to faces. Women and children surrounded in meagerness. It’s a need so profound it’s undescribeable. I reach into my bag and we touch hands. I think “this could’ve been any of us” Had we been born of a different country. Smiles emerge on the faces of these sweet, women and children. I just want to grab them and hug them. I want to scoop them up, and bring them with us. The passion I feel runs so deep for them it burns my stomach. I stare into their eyes. They are grateful and genuine. A meal today. They have one meal today. I think of my own children. As a mother this stings me. Had I been born in any other place; this could’ve been me. Us. It’s hard to hand out only one pack to each women and child. They ask for more. “Dos por favor?” as they hide one behind their back. I wonder if they have more children back in their home made of plastic and parts that the dump has given up to them. My heart lurches thinking about this. What would I have done for my children in this situation?

I am down to water now as the team walks and spreads out a little. We still stay somewhat close as this area is not safe to wander far. I smile and talk to people. Are they thirsty? Do they need agua? The hands continue to stretch out and I continue to see their eyes crease in smiles. How much we take for granted every single day in our country. Our abundance. Our taps that run gallon after gallon of fresh water at our disposal at any second. Water is something I don’t even feel we are really grateful for; but they are. This small plastic bladder of water I hold could mean life or death for them today. I think about waking every day to a restart. That’s life for them. It’s a do-over every day. They wake to scour the dump for recycleables or the scrap food left behind. The possibility of an old bottle of hot, coke with one sip that was left. That’s their day. Every day.

People begin to surround us asking for prayer. Their needs run so much deeper than their poverty. You would think that this would be their first need. I think too immediate. Our culture has done that to me. They need prayer for sick family members. A son that is dying. Here in the disintegration and rot, a son is dying and this mother is weeping. Our team surrounds her and prays for her in our English language. God hears us. She hears us, and knows what we are saying even though she doesn’t speak the language. She hugs us and is so grateful. As this mother leaves another approaches; this time, pregnant. She will give birth to and raise her baby right here.

As we climb back into the truck I allow my tears to fall. I continue my prayers for these people as we drive away. My emotions run wild and I feel that twinge of guilt. We can leave. It seems unfair.

It’s hard for me to see that type of need and not be able to change it in an instant. I think about the impact we have partnering with AFE to build homes for these people, and for the children to have the opportunity for education through AFE. God is good. It may not happen in a spilt second, but it is making a difference. One family at a time.

I am reminded of the verses we studied over the week. The parable of the talents in Matthew 25. Everyone got something, but no one got everything.

As we come back home and acclimate to being back into a wealthy country; a first world country, I need to keep reminding myself of this: Why God put us here and not there. And even though I feel like a refugee coming back into my own home, I don’t allow guilt to swallow me. I thank God for the compassion he has put in my heart. Without that I would walk around in such abundance and only crave more. My job is to feel a burden, not guilt. God gave us what we have knowing he can trust us with the recources. It’s not an issue of fairness, but of what we can handle and how we are going to use it. Partnering together to do kingdom work. images

Our next trip is already in the works. Dates are already being set. I thank God for giving me eyes to see beyond my four walls. To be witness to what real need is and what genuine thankfulness is.

For more information on AFE and their impact on the people of the Tegucigalpa trash dump click here: http://www.afehonduras.org

The Build

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Our Amazing Build Team

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Tuesday through Friday were dedicated to building.  I had no idea how this was going to work…being I have never built a single thing…especially a house!!  This amazed me, but I knew that God put us here and would equip us with the needed skills.

We got to the build site, and it was a flat foundation.  We were literally starting from the ground up.  Our lumber had not been delivered, so we had a while to chat and get to know our wonderful Honduran builders who were there to help us out.  It was interesting to see all of us, so…. flexible, about not having the wood when we got to the job site.  We had been prepped for this.  Hondurans, and I think the whole of Central America is…shall we say…on their own time.  You really have to go with the flow, and if you are a punctual, Type-A person, this might bend your nerves.

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As we waited, the kids of the neighborhood started to emerge, checking out the “gringos.”  They were precious.  So loving and sweet, with huge smiles and hearts to match.  We had brought treats to share with them.  Candy, gum, bubbles.  And they ate it up.

We had some time to interact with a few ladies living within the neighborhood, and I was amazed at the faith of these people.  They have nothing of material means, but are so rich in a million other ways.  We heard great stories of how God has provided so much for them.  Their smiles and heir thankfulness was astounding!  They have faith like I’ve never experienced.

It was incredible to see and hear of the physical miracles that God has provided for this area of the country.  A well that has pure water, when ALL of the surrounding wells are contaminated below the dump.  How unbelievable!!  But that’s our God!  He’s up for the unbelievable!

As the day went on we started building.  It was amazing to see our team move together in unity.  Each of us, taking a job, from carrying lumber to the site, learning to use a hammer to nail boards, using a saw for the first time, measuring (NOT my forte’) framing doors, windows, putting up siding or playing with the sweet niños who were surrounding us all day.  We all tried things we have never done before.  Our Honduran friends were great at allowing us to try as they got the giggles a few times watching us.

On our first day at work, we managed to get up all four walls, framed, and three sided.  WOW!!  Can you say, we work well together?  As the days went on, we felt more and more comfortable in our environment.  We laughed a lot, and were so thankful everyday for cooler temperatures (even a little rain) we learned about one another as we worked, and formed an amazing bond with our Honduran friends that will last a lifetime.  The kids became more and more familiar with us, as we learned their names.  They would come running every morning to see us and the ones that were in school, we looked forward to seeing in the afternoon.  Personally for me, this was one of my favorite things.  I have such a heart for children, and always have.  There were so many conversations with these sweeties, that neither of us had any idea what the other was saying…their English is non-existent, and my Spanish is muy malo!!  But somehow, there was this transcendence between us that made it all work out.  We laughed, and had the best time taking pictures, blowing bubbles and eating candy.  They loved helping us as we built.  Helping us carry wood, and sometimes nailing a few nails.  They acted goofy, just like kids do, and I was happy that they were so willing to allow us into their lives.

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Great Team Work (click on photos to enlarge)

After that first day, half of our team was ask to go and work on another project in the neighborhood.  Building a room for another woman, who needed some extra space for herself and her house full of nephews.  Half of the team and half of our Honduran workers left, and I wondered how this would affect the time frame of our house.  God knew we could all handle it, and as we worked on two different projects, it all came together, and both projects were completely finished.

A Gringa and Her Saw

A Gringa and Her Saw

On our last build day, we were full of anticipation to meet the new owners.  We had a few small jobs to finish up on the house, and then were taken down to AFE school for a special treat from the kids…WOW were we surprised to walk into a room full of ALL the students, cheering for us, and embracing us.  They all performed songs and dances for us, by grade, and at the end had us all come up, and ran to us in a giant Hug Attack!  This made me burst into tears!  These kids, who in one short week completely stole my heart, were laughing and hugging every single one of us, all at the same time!  It was incredible.  My heart was bursting with happiness, love and also sadness at the same time, knowing this was our last day to see them.  I took hundreds of pictures, and cannot wait to go back and see as these kids grow year by year.

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These Kids Stole our Hearts (click to enlarge)

The time came for us to go back to the house.  We were going to meet the family, and dedicate the house.  I was full of anticipation and excitement!  As this sweet family crested the hill, I saw them for the first time and my heart leaped out of my chest.  Thank you, God for allowing me a glimpse that first day at AFE….the little girls running up the hill to us, were the very girls that leaped into my arms that very first day that we visited AFE.  Again, little Lucy leaped into my arms, standing outside of her new home.  I could hardly believe it!  What a blessing to us.  We loved on the family as we talked/met their mother, Carmen.  We learned of her story of how she and her 4 girls had been abandoned, and they had been living in a hostile environment with her sister alongside the road, 8 in the small shanty.  She told us that her oldest daughter had told her sister that they would soon get a house….this was BEFORE she actually knew that they were getting a house.  Her sister had been mean-spirited and said, “they would never have a house of their own.”  Her daughter prayed and asked for a house….and that’s where God brought us into the picture.  Our team formed to build this house for them.  As we presented her with a Bible, prayed over her, her children, and their new house, and handed her the keys, I couldn’t hold back my tears of joy.  God is so good to the faithful.  It’s amazing to me, to feel at first we were called to go to Honduras to be a blessing to those in need, and as it turns out, I feel that WE were the ones receiving the blessings a hundred times over.  God taught us so much while we were in Honduras.  Thankfulness in any situation, that He WILL provide exactly what each of us needs, to have giant faith, that He can take any situation and make it extraordinary, that we don’t “need” a lot to be happy and joy-filled, that language and culture are never a barrier if you go in with an open heart, a smile, and God’s love that flows through us.

Our fearless leader.  Thank you for listening to God's prompting to form this team, and your love for Honduras!

Our fearless leader. Thank you for listening to God’s prompting to form this team, and your love for Honduras!

Adore this family and their leadership on this mission.

Adore this family and their leadership on this mission.

Mama and Daughter....and the blond gringa.

Mama and Daughter….and the blond gringa.

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From Framing to House (click to enlarge)

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Our Sweet Family…dedicating her knew house!

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Our Honduran Crew….man did they show us patience!

Being back home has been tough this week.  How do we go back to normal?  I have never experienced having culture shock, coming HOME.  I am again grateful for the night before we left and the meeting we had on how to come home.  We prepare for this trip for a long time, but often don’t think of how it will be coming back home.  We learned that when we come home we could have feelings of guilt.  That after seeing what we saw, being where we were, the experiences we went through, we come home to the familiarity of home, clean water, flushing toilets, clean clothes, our jobs, house, cars, etc to not allow guilt to take over.  We should feel a burden.  Not guilt.  A burden for what we can do….How to respond.  We talked about our emotions, when people say, “How was your trip?” and our reaction when people say, “it looks like a great time” well……..

I know they will never understand.  And that’s ok.

We know that what we have in our country is by God’s design.  He has seen us fit to live where we live and have the lives that we have because He knows we can handle it.  He put us here.

I know that He changed me…and all of us, on this trip.  He grew us in ways that were unexpected and astounding.

I have had on my heart for so long, to do a mission trip and was SO thankful that on our very first night in Honduras, as Greg and I sat and prayed together…in the quiet of our room God said, “Paula, I know the desires of your heart.  I placed them there.”

Beautiful confirmation.

So as we take our time, each of us, to get back to “normal life”, dealing with the shock of being home, may we never lose sight of the changes that were brought upon us, a burden to help those in need, to think of others and not always put ourselves first, to shine God’s love everyday, to have astounding faith in every circumstance.  And to see everyday that we are so blessed.

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After our week of hard work and dedication, we had some great down time.  To laugh, and play and shop.  Eat Pupusas and get hopped-up on phenomenal coffee!  What an incredible  city!  What an amazing country.  What a sensational team!

Sean and Melissa (brother and sister-in-law) after a week of hard work.

Sean and Melissa (brother and sister-in-law) after a week of hard work.
At Valley of the Angels on our day off

At Valley of the Angels on our day off. Best coffee EVER! Think I’m still buzzing from it!

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Girls just wanna have Fun!

Having Our First Pupusas

Having Our First Pupusas

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Yes, I DID eat this....A Lychee.

Yes, I DID eat this….A Lychee.

None of us will forget the HUGE military presence keeping us safe in Tegucigalpa.

None of us will forget the HUGE military presence keeping us safe in Tegucigalpa.

Leaving for Home

Leaving for Home