Short and Sweet: What I’m doing these days, in a nutshell

I’m home. (The USA one)

After a year in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, I’m back. But not for good good. I’ve been here for almost three weeks. I’m still re-adjusting. I felt like a foreigner in an Alabama Walmart and I almost had a breakdown in the frozen section of Target. Here in the U.S., we have a lot of choices. And a lot of convenience.

I wake up in the mornings and am just grateful that I can drink clean water from the faucet and that a gecko didn’t jump on my head in the middle of the night. I’m living in luxury.

But I miss it. And I know God has been and is still going to move in big ways in the country of Honduras. And somehow He wants me to play a small part in that! I spent the year teaching English in a bilingual Christian school and it was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done in my life – I’m proud I completed it! I learned so much in the process and made some great memories. I lived at the children’s home, Hogar Esperanza, and got close to the kids especially the teen girls. I participated in a some medical trips into the mountains of Copán, Honduras and got to see first-hand the transforming, holistic work of community development that the Church of God is doing in that area. And then I met the Tolupan Indian tribe. <– another entire story for another entire blog post… (stay tuned!) 😉

So, there are several things that I am doing now:

  1. Representing a humanitarian non-profit organization under the Church of God in Honduras called, New Life Honduras, which exists to unite the efforts of social action across the country. Under the non-profit there are many community development projects already in existence and many more that can be initiated once sufficient funds are obtained. My goal is to find resources in the U.S. (willing volunteers, monetary/material donations, etc) needed in order to launch and/or reinforce these projects in Honduras. It is not really that we are asking North American Christians to make sacrifices in order to give to impoverished Hondurans; but as the president of New Life, Brother Orestes, explained… We are simply moving resources from one geographical area of the body of Christ to another. (From an area living in excess and abundance with a high concentration of wealth, mind you.) Doing as mentioned repeatedly in the Old and New Testament, like 1 John 3:17 – “But if anyone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need and refuses to help — how can God’s love be in that person?” IMG_8949
  2. Looking for a job! There is nothing glamorous about the reality of post-univeristy debt but that is exactly what I am dealing with these days. I am trusting God that my school loans will be paid off in a timely manner so that I will not be burdened when I move back to Honduras for missions.
  3. Making plans for a training and receiving center for missionaries in Honduras! Stay tuned for the official reveal of Honduras Missions Center… meanwhile have a sneak peek at this gorgeous logo designed by Jay Perez: logo

Here’s where I need your help! I am looking for opportunities to share with church congregations about what God is doing in Honduras and how you can be a part of that. I have two goals: 1. raising awareness and funds for poverty alleviation / community development projects AND 2. speaking with youth and children – God called me to missions when I was 11 years old! It is very important that young, impressionable hearts are exposed to missions at an early age. It is something I am passionate about.

Please get in touch if you would like me to visit and share about my experience in Honduras. Also, I am currently raising funds for personal traveling expenses by selling some of my Honduran landscape photography. <– click the link to check it out!

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We are already through half of 2013??

I can’t believe it’s the end of May and I haven’t written an update since the beginning of March! (and all of my half-empty journals at home are thinking, “yeah, we believe it.”)

Well lots has happened in the almost three months since my last post. Lots of things are stirring up, some of which I can’t quite yet disclose to the public… oohh, mysterious, right? Well, I have decided that one way to keep better in touch with friends and family back home and to keep everyone in the loop will be to send out occasional email updates. They will be a bit more intimate than a blog post and I don’t have to leave out certain information that I might not publish on my public website. If you would like to receive those emails, shoot me a message using the section of my page to the right of this article on the home page. –>

Now, what exactly has happened in my life over the last 11 weeks…

 1. I went home for the strangest and most bittersweet Spring Break/Easter/birthday of my life.

  • My sweet Pawpaw went home to be with the Lord. I was amazed that his passing was at the perfect time, right after I had gotten in the country and was able to go by and see him 24 hours prior and was able to stay for the funeral. Although not the most ideal circumstances, I was able to see almost all of my extended family which I had not counted on.
  • I spent an interesting and short but relaxing mini beach trip with my two youngest siblings.
  • I turned 24 and nothing fun happened. Wouldn’t do it again.

2. I visited Guatemala for the first time! I was reunited with the Church of God World Missions media team to document the Latin American Summit in Guatemala City. I loved it! I will have to go back to the country when I am not working in order to explore it a little better. I made some wonderful connections through the COG’s missions work in Latin America and I practiced/learned some more Portuguese. (I’m determined to make it to Brazil someday.) 🙂

3. Hogar Esperanza, the children’s home where I live, just welcomed four new precious children into their doors! (If you are interested in more info about them or how to help with this new financial need, also message me on the home page to the right of this entry.) The siblings have a background of abuse and neglect but the Lord is already bringing healing and restoration into their lives. Pray for their continued adaptation to their new home and that the youngest two would heal quickly of malnutrition and various other health problems.

4. Makin’ plans for the future. The school year is wrapping up here in Honduras and so is my commitment to live in the country. That by no means signifies me breaking ties with this place. I mean, c’mon, since my first trip a decade ago I have been trying to find ways to stay. Well… let’s just say I got a few. Stay tuned!

Meanwhile (miscellaneous thoughts and updates)

Today marks my 3 month anniversary here in Honduras. On one hand, I feel like I have been here for a lifetime longer than that. On the other, I can’t believe that it is already November. I fear the time passing so fast in the next 7 months.

There are moments when someone back in the states mentions something like, “I heard that you’re living in Honduras,” as if it is unusual. And then I remember that it is… and all of a sudden I feel the novelty of it again. And it feels good. It feels good to know that I feel comfortable and at home here, so much so that I have to be reminded that it isn’t my home. Not really, not yet at least.

I am thinking and praying about the future. These grown-up decisions aren’t very fun and it is all kinda scary but it has prompted me to re-vamp my short-term and long-term goals. I just wanna do it all, is that so unreasonable??

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 Recently:

  • One of the girls at the children’s home where I am living turned fifteen a little over a month ago (ya know, the big quinceañera celebration they do) I helped with makeup and hair and photography of course. It was a fun little event.
  • My friend, Morgan, came to visit me! And we visited the biggest waterfall in Honduras. SO AWESOME. 
  • I traveled to Belize a few weeks ago and visited my Honduran-Panamanian-(and now)Belizean family that hosted me while in Panama last year. They moved to the small Central American country, Belize, a few months ago.

It was so interesting to learn about their distinct culture. I’ve never experienced the feeling of flying into a country on my own without having the slightest clue of what the people or customs are like. It felt pretty adventurous. They speak an interesting Caribbean Spanglish but most are bilingual in Spanish and English. They use the Belizean dollar but American dollars are accepted most places. The majority of the country is rural. Extremely rural. Like no McDonald’s, no movie theater, no mall rural.

It was a great trip but the next time I go I need to check out the islands. 😉 I hear that’s where it’s at!

Quinceañeras, Independence Days & beach trips

The last couple of weeks have been busy and eventful.

I had the honor of photographing Vivi Lopez at her Quinceañera (15th birthday) celebration a couple weekends ago. What a fun night it was! (after a few stressful yet humorous wardrobe mishaps)

Her family is wonderful and I enjoyed meeting other extended family members that night. I was grateful to be a part of the festivities. (including dancing merengue with her grandmother!) 😉

Saturday was Honduras’ Independence Day so as a school, we marched in a patriotic parade on Friday morning. This is a very typical tradition in Latin America to celebrate a country’s Independence – students dress up in traditional outfits or as “Independence Girls/Princesses” or sports players… and many more costumes. We marched a few blocks (in the sweltering tropical sun) and ended up back at the school to participate in an acto civico (where they sing the national anthem & have a little presentation) and to enjoy a small brunch all together with students and parents.

These kids know their stuff! They all sing the anthem, which is about three stanzas longer than the U.S. anthem, and by a certain year in school they are tested on their knowledge of it. They also repeat the pledge and memorize “major and minor symbols” of their nation such as the national bird, tree, etc.

Later that afternoon, we teachers unloaded the textbooks that (finally!) arrived from the U.S. We are using Abeka Book curriculum and the shipment had been delayed… for about two weeks. :/ Afterwards, some of us joked around and had a little zumba exercise class in one of the classrooms then we all headed to Chili’s to celebrate Día del Maestro! (Teacher’s Day) Today, Monday, is actually Teacher’s Day and we had the day off. It’s a good thing too because I needed to catch up on my lesson planning and quiz grading!

On Saturday, the actual Independence Day holiday, I went with some friends to the beach! We are only about an hour away and although the sand is not fluffy and white like our sand back home… it is THE BEACH nevertheless. 🙂 I’m glad that I live so close.

We grilled out (carne asada) and had tortillas with beans. A lot of women and children were passing by selling coconut candy, popsicles, bread, etc so we bought some coconut bread from one lady. It was delicious!

Despite having tried to be cautious with my sun intake, I of course got burned. That way I could at least show my Honduran friends what it really means to be sunburned. Not just turn a couple shades darker… sunburn = red. So I was pretty much a walking tomato the next day at church. It is actually starting to turn to a nice tan shade I think. And it isn’t hurting as bad. 🙂

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 I also wanted to share a few more photos that I’ve taken recently.

Sample of a couples shoot I did back home with some dear out-of-town friends a few months ago. Giannina and Timoteo. The Venezuelan and the Argentine.

Another sweet shot of baby Nohe.

 

This past crazy month [July 2012]

SO much has happened in the last 30 days of my life. Medical trip in Honduras, best friend’s wedding in Tennessee, Church of God General Assembly in Florida. I will try my best to accurately recap.

1. Medical Trip || Honduras

I spent the first week and a half of July in the country of Honduras, which will soon become my home for the next year. With the group from Argo Christian Fellowship (my grandmother’s church) we were able to see 1,700 patients in Copán, Honduras within only 4 days of clinics! In cooperation with several Honduran doctors, dentists, evangelists, translators and other volunteers, we had the privilege of being a part of God’s redemption story by showing His love to the people of this beautiful Central American country.

Me explaining medicine to families in the pharmacy.

“The hills are alive with the sound of music…” It is always necessary to stop on the roadside for a little frolicking in the mountains.

2. Best friend’s wedding || Tennessee

What an emotional weekend that was! My best friend since I was 12 changed her last name and started a new family on Saturday, July 14th. Brianna and I have made so many memories over the years. With her I have laughed harder, thought deeper and cried longer than with almost any other person I know. We went through all the awkward stages of adolescence together…

From when we first met, as nerdy pre-teens, to now… (just nerdy pre-teens in adult bodies…)

Bridal party: Allison, Melanie, Laura Anne, Emily, Brianna, Evin, Me, Jessi.

I am so happy for the love that she and Josh have committed to for the rest of their lives. Bree & Josh: I wish you the best!

Here is a little wedding music rehearsal medley from a couple nights before the wedding. Two very talented families!

3. Church of God General Assembly || Florida

What a long, exhausting but good week in Orlando. I saw many old friends (and friends who are like family) and met some wonderful new friends. I met some seasoned missionary veterans who have been on the field for decades, all who have committed their lives to adopting new cultures and learning new languages and loving people in the name of Christ. I came away from this past week pretty inspired.

My Honduran family I lived with in Panamá last fall was at General Assembly. It was so good to see the Leons!

As well as several videos that I edited for World Missions being used during the conference, this photo of mine of Honduran pastors in Copán was used on the Latin America missions banner. 🙂

Being part of the media team, our schedule was pretty full and a couple days we worked 13+ hours. Other than being in Orlando without being able to visit Disney World :/ and wanting a little more time to spend with friends, the week was great. It made me thankful for divine networking and the way God puts people in our paths at just the right time. 🙂 He continues to be faithful and guide our steps.

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Aaaaand now…. It is time to pack. I move to Honduras in a little over a week!

Life Update / Living Good Stories

I try to only blog when I feel that I really have something worthwhile to say. Then I become hyper-critical and never want to post anything for fear that it might only be rambling. If anything gives me the motivation and courage to write it’s a Donald Miller book. (or blog entry) I just finished A Million Miles in a Thousand Years and it inspired me. Not just to write more freely and more often but to live more intentionally.

There will probably come a time later when I will post an excerpt or quote from him. I am still chewing on what I read. The tagline of the book is “how I learned to live a better story.” Beautiful. The name of my blog, Add to the Beauty, comes from a Sara Groves song that says, “Redemption comes in strange places, small spaces, calling out the best of who we are. And I want to add to the beauty. I want to tell a better story.”

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Right now I am sitting in my friends’ house in East Tennessee. Summer has come early and we have no AC. (along with a handful of other minuscule household crises… enough to make me feel like I am in a third world country again) Last night, as the three of us girls all sat on the floor, (of the bedroom that will soon hold my bed) melting from the heat of this oven-house, we found ourselves reflecting through giggles and welled-up tears on how fortunate we are for the opportunity to be living such a magnificent story.

I’ve never blogged in detail about the ministry in which I got involved during college but you can read about it in two specific past entries: Josh & Laura and my friend’s graduation speech. Those who are close to me know how drastically my life, or “story” if you will, has been forever altered by the relationships I have formed through my involvement with the mentoring/tutoring program, Backyard Ministry. Even while I was living in Panamá doing missions work, I longed to be back in this tiny little Southeast U.S. town with the kids, families and friends I loved.

* In short, about a year ago, my friends moved into the neighborhood where we had been investing a lot of time and prayer during our college years – mentoring kids, helping with homework, ESL classes, etc. Over the last three months I have spent a pretty good amount of time here as I worked doing freelance video editing. After confirming consistent work through the summer, I made the (semi-) permanent move back. I couldn’t have been more thrilled!

Even in the midst of the hustle and bustle of our busy lives, my roommates and I will often just stop and smile and say things to each other like, “this is the best life,” or “there’s nothing better than this.” These acknowledgements usually come after moments like pulling into the driveway and being greeted at our car door by a group of children calling our names. Or receiving hugs and handmade cards on our birthdays. Or when we overhear a child refer to us as their “best friend” when talking to someone.

Despite some of the uncomfortable or inconvenient conditions in which we occasionally find ourselves living… we are living a better story than we could possibly imagine living anywhere else. I wouldn’t trade this for the best central air conditioning system or fully functioning bathtub drain in the world.

Road trips, politics, recent ponderings and anything else I can cram into one blog entry

Road trip

This past weekend some girl friends & I took a road trip up through Richmond to Virginia Beach while also spending a little time in Norfolk. I met new friends along the way and had the wonderful opportunity of visiting some old family friends who had relocated to the area a few years ago. We four girls spent our twenty (plus) hour round trip drive singing, laughing, eating, dancing, switching drivers, reading books aloud, reflecting on life and relationships and just enjoying time on the road. It was a great getaway.

montage

Politics

  1. I have decided that I will not be guilted into or made to feel obligated to vote for a candidate in this year’s election if it does not sit well with my conscience. I am thankful for the right to vote, the right to voice my opinion and the right to let my local and national government know if I do not agree with something. I absolutely take advantage of that right but I also have the right to abstain from that right. If my personal convictions do not align with a particular person, I will refrain from voting period. A common reaction to that is “well, you’ll never find a perfect human being anywhere.” (implying that our options will always be limited to less than ideal candidates & we just have to grin & bear it) But “the lesser of two evils is still evil” and I will only give my vote to someone who I think really deserves it. I agree with Derek Webb when he sings “we’ll never have a Savior on capitol hill.” So, just as much as I don’t count on a perfect president, I also don’t feel as though I am grieving the Holy Spirit by not casting my vote this election year. Personal conviction. For those looking for a simple and helpful way to see which candidates hold similar views to you, a friend recently posted this awesome interactive website.
  2. There have been some awesome people that I have had the privilege of working with over the last few months taking action for the rights of immigrants in Alabama, particularly by pushing for the repeal of the recent anti-immigrant law, HB56. So much has happened, it will be a challenge to recount everything. I have participated in several rallies and marches at the capitol. (Montgomery) You can view my photos of those events on my Flickr page.
    rally

    Me at the Valentine’s day “One Heart, One Alabama” rally in Montgomery.

    As an evangelical community organizer, my goal was to mobilize evangelical churches to engage in dialogue about what it means as a follower of Christ to welcome the stranger. We hosted an event at Samford University in Birmingham called the G92 South Immigration Conference. This day-long event facilitated thoughtful, compassionate and Biblical conversation among pastors and church leaders and college students from the area. What an exhausting day it was for us organizers! I can honestly say that until G92, I had not participated in the planning of such a large-scale and important event. It pushed and challenged me and I know I gained invaluable experience. I co-lead a student session with Lisa Sharon Harper from Sojourners called “Engaging Effectively.” This session was planned for the end of the day as a call to action for those students who had just received all the info and wanted to put it into practice. As prompted by Lisa, our first step of action was to confess and repent of the ways we have believed the core lies that perpetuate such laws that oppress vulnerable people. A Samford student wrote a beautiful reflection of this time in the day. (this was probably my most favorite time as well) Lisa shared some thoughts on this as well in her blog.

Read some of the great articles and reviews of the conference:

(Other great resources are a study showing that HB56 is costing the state over $2 billion and a wonderful film portraying real-life struggles of immigrant families, A Better Life, whose director is also working on a project called Is This Alabama?)

Recent Ponderings

Well, for one… I am on the job hunt. And I am considering several options. In and out of the country. 🙂 But I won’t prematurely spill anything on those plans… just yet. We will just have to see how everything comes together. All I can say is that I am working on translating my resume to Spanish.

Thankfully I have had pretty consistent freelance video editing projects in the meantime. And I can’t lie, I pretty well enjoy making my own schedule and traveling for work and never knowing where I might be a week down the road. Who needs routine? Job security is for suckers.

AND, lastly, the group with whom I travel to Honduras for missions and I are preparing for our next medical trip coming up in July. We are currently fundraising and ironing out the details. I’m already pumped to be back. 🙂