Beauty That Remains

images-1IMG_1062

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

IMG_1009IMG_1052

IMG_0731

IMG_0745IMG_0718

IMG_1027

IMG_0973

IMG_1031

Advertisements

Day18- Thankful For Moore, Oklahoma

Unknown-1

I’m sitting this morning, back in the warmth of my North Idaho home.  A heap of emotions running through my heart and mind.  The past 8 days in Oklahoma City still crisp in my mind.  As I sit here with the hubs, I cry while drinking our morning cup of coffee together.  “What was the most emotional and physical part of your OK trip?” he asked.  The tears flow freely, as they do so easily when talking to him.  He sat patiently as I gave him a recap of the week that we had.

photo 1

My body is worn down by emotion and physical labor.  The normal feeling, post mission work.  It happens, and I am grateful for that.  If I came home ready to hit the ground running, I may have to think twice about my mission journeys.  Anyone who has done the work, knows what I’m talking about.  Spending time with people, hearing their tragedies, seeing their tears, desperation, despair.  Seeing their discomfort and heartache, would take a tole on anyone with compassion in their heart.  photo 2

I sit here this morning still in complete awe of what we saw this week.  The devastation caused by an F-5 tornado is something, until now, I could not wrap my mind around.  Gorgeous neighborhoods, flattened into unrecognizable, rubble.  Walking through a neighborhood once populated with families and children; I imagined kids riding bikes, running through sprinklers, dogs chasing balls.  Now, those balls are gone.  Along with their bedrooms, toys, their entire home.  Stuffed animals lie, twisted, muddy, where sleeping babies should be.  Families completely displaced.  In a moments notice….nothing.  Looking into their underground storm shelters, I think about how it would be down under the ground, waiting out the storm.  297 mph winds hit this community.  TWO HUDRED NINETY SEVEN!  I considered that moment of resurfacing to see what the wickedness of the tronado left behind.  Seeing your home, twisted, distorted, or not there at all, like most.  We spoke to so many people about this day; heard their stories.  I held hands, wrapped arms around and whispered silent prayers for so many.  photo 1 copy

The rebuild effort is ongoing.  Asking about their time frame, it is estimated to be about 2 more years before this area is back to “normal.”  TWO YEARS! photo 3We will be ready to go back soon.

Another chapter in my book has been filled with the treasured stories of so many others.  When someone pours out their heart to you, you are not too soon to forget it.  They become a part of you.  The families our team worked with are  a component of our hearts now.  We wept tears with them; shared smiles of hope with them.  And they are hopeful.  Many of them sharing the blessing of this storm on their families and community.  photo 2 copy

All of the emotional and physical exhaustion that we came home with was heavenly.  As we rode the bus home at midnight last night, we all agreed that if we had to turn around and go right back, we would, beyond a shadow of a doubt.  Immediately!photo 3 copy

photo 5 copy

Murrah Federal Building Memorial

photo copy

Written on the Wall at the Murrah Building

I am remarkably grateful that we were used.  That we were the hands and feet of Jesus. That we could in some small, tangible way, share the love of God with these people.  Their needs are limitless but our God is unlimited!  He is bigger than any need, larger than any storm, greater than any affliction.

The lives of these families will never be the same.  The lives of those coming back home to Idaho will never be the same.  Both changed forever… by faith, hope and kindness.

For more information on Moore, Oklahoma and Hoperaiser.

photo

The Build

IMG_2337

Our Amazing Build Team

bfc77a5e8ac24fed22dc3d20b65c4a22

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.

typeapersonality

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.

Untitled

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.

Kids

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.

Untitled HOUSE

From Framing to House (click to enlarge)

IMG_2312

Our Sweet Family…dedicating her knew house!

IMG_2316

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.

IMG_2163

Click to Enlarge

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!

IMG_2387

IMG_2340

Girls just wanna have Fun!

Having Our First Pupusas

Having Our First Pupusas

IMG_2339

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