A Trip to Town

This piece is written about a family we know from a village in West Honduras. This essay describes the reality of an impoverished rural family and a morning that we met with them to take the oldest daughter back to the city where she is temporarily living in a host home and attending school. Names have been altered and some details slightly changed. Although I took some creative liberty in the description of emotions and internal dialogue, the story is based on true observations and firsthand accounts from the girls and their mom.


4:00 am – Iris

Iris awoke on the bare mattress next to her three small daughters. She grabbed in the dark for the tiny flashlight, the only thing that would break the oppressive black that clouded her vision. They had not yet gotten electricity to her one-room adobe brick house, nor had they added a single window because this living arrangement was supposed to be temporary. It was makeshift because soon, better times would come. Of course Iris only halfway believed this because her 36 years of life had taught her otherwise. Most hope is empty and most plans for the future end up being the worst possible disappointment.

This is why it took every ounce of strength in her tired body and weary soul to muster up even the flicker of hope needed to believe that her oldest daughter, Rosy, might have a better chance with these strange people in the city. Could it be that God directed them from so far away to end up visiting this tiny corner of the world? Could they have ulterior motives? The whispers of her neighbors and even family members planted more doubts. But nothing so far had validated those claims and Iris had to do something, anything, to help her daughter. It was worth the risk. And maybe, just maybe, God was real and really good and actually saw her.

These thoughts weighed heavy on her mind and on her frail shoulders as she gently lifted groggy babies to get them ready for the day of travel they had ahead of them. There was no time to grind corn or light the wood-burning stove for a few tortillas. They would have to leave on empty stomachs. This was nothing new, of course. How many mornings had Iris awoken with an empty stomach and lain down again at night with the same hunger pangs?

The bus will be here soon! Iris hurried her two oldest daughters, Rosy, 14 and Maritza, 10, as they packed Rosy’s bag and helped put shoes on the little ones despite their sleepy protests. They were shoes that Rosy had brought back as gifts for her family from the city, luxuries really. When had Iris imagined that one day all five of her daughters would have their own pair of shoes? Of course they didn’t wear them around the dirt-floor house so as to keep them as clean as possible. These shoes were for special occasions, like today. For the first time Iris beamed with a little more pride as she imagined all of them traveling by bus and arriving in the bustling town of Copán Ruinas decently dressed.

It was a good 15 minute walk in the dark on a mountainous road to the entrance of their village where the van they referred to as el busito would arrive for its passengers. Iris didn’t travel much but it was known that every day there was one bus in and one bus out of this little cluster of villages. They waited. And waited. Iris and her oldest daughters took turns carrying Rosy’s suitcase and holding the little ones while they drifted in and out of sleep, occasionally lifting their heads to look around and cry out until they were soothed back to a state of calm. Still they heard no sounds of an old van bouncing up the rocky dirt road; only roosters crowing and a distant mill whirring away grinding someone’s corn for their morning tortillas. The sun was still at least half an hour away from peaking up behind the rolling green hills.

Finally someone down the road called out to Iris and the girls – ¡buenos días! – telling them that if they were waiting on the bus that it wasn’t coming today. They’d have to catch the other bus two villages away that would be arriving any minute. What? Iris jumped up from where she was sitting and nursing the baby, jolting little Anita into wails again. We don’t have enough time! Disoriented from sleep-deprivation, the five girls and their mom took off on foot in the dark again right as a light drizzle descended.

It was a miracle that the six travelers actually made it to the bus stop (a mango tree where the dirt road comes to a split) before the rusty van pulled away. They had had to run, sloshing through the mud and dragging a suitcase, for several miles. Breathless, tired, sweaty, thirsty, hungry, and at this point drenched from rain… Iris and her daughters loaded into the van and she handed the driver some damp and crumpled lempiras, the few dollars it would cost to take them to town, two hours away. It was all the money she had. She wasn’t sure when or if they’d be able to eat this day but she had to get to town.

7:00 am – Rosy

Mom, if they don’t come I’ll just go back to our village with you. Rosy and her family had only been sitting in the town’s central park for seven minutes. She was now torn between two worlds and was secretly hoping to stay with her mom and her sisters. For years Rosy was like a second mother to her younger siblings. When she was away from them she only worried about their well-being. Was she making a mistake by taking this opportunity to study in the city? Would they be okay without her? She couldn’t escape the worries about the future nor the memories from the past that haunted her. She feared the worst. Would her remaining family members face the same fate as the others? Her father and little brother had both spent weeks in bed suffering before malaria took their last breath; her other little brother was mysteriously found in the woods dead. Her mother now struggled to keep food in the house. Was she not abandoning her vulnerable family when they needed her? She questioned whether it was the right thing but one memory rang loudly in her mind: her mother telling her, I don’t want you taken by a man and having babies at 14 like me. If you stay here you will have the same life I had. Go and study.

7:23 am – Maritza

Of all of Iris’s children, Maritza was the most curious and precocious. She had heard a lot of talk from a lot of grown ups in her village, and a lot of it was about her. Problem child, rebellious, nosy, too talkative, and the dreaded diagnosis that was neither scientifically proven nor dared to be questioned… unable to learn at school because she doesn’t pay attention. In Maritza’s village, this was a case-closed prescription for life at home because no overwhelmed and overworked teacher could stand her in their classroom. With fifty boisterous children in one dimly lit cinder-block room, spanning over three grade levels, who could blame them?

All of these “problematic” personality traits were exactly why Maritza would not accept being left at home on this momentous day while the rest of her family traveled to the big town. She could not miss out on the adventure (and the subsequent gossip she could pass on to her friends and neighbors upon her return). At 7:23 in the morning, sitting in the town’s central park, damp and muddy and hungry and nauseated from the jostling bus ride down the mountain, Maritza was not feeling as much excitement as she had the previous day. Her mom and older sister were acting more bossy and irritable than normal and she was starting to wonder if these people were going to show up anyway.

The couple that had made the arrangements to take her older sister to the city were not technically strangers. For the last few years they had been visiting Maritza’s village to help and teach the people there. They recently built an outhouse for her family, the very first toilet they’d ever owned. Because she was a self-appointed village lookout, Maritza was almost always the first to detect the rumble of the Diesel engine and then the sight of the bright red truck coming into view around the curves and through the banana trees that lined her village’s dirt road. She would then enthusiastically take off on foot (often barefoot) to alert neighbors and the school that the Honduran city pastor and his gringa wife were arriving. This would allow plenty of time for anyone who so desired to scramble to the windows of their home or the edge of the road to wave or simply stare in curiosity at the outsiders.

Today, although in a much different space and a greater state of delirium, Maritza was on the lookout again. From the park bench she had patiently watched countless vehicles and motorcycles and the typical red and white mototaxis boasting their rambunctious ranchera music zoom through the town square, all of their drivers and passengers important and focused on their destination. All at once she spotted the red truck coming up the cobblestone street and she jumped up from the bench where she was sitting with her family. Maritza recognized the pastor and the gringa’s familiar goofy grins through the truck windows and she took notice that they were in contrast to Rosy’s expression of consternation. It was all so exciting but deep down, she too, would have been happy if her sister ended up going back home with them to their village.

Pleasantries and greetings were exchanged, including those strange hugs that the gringa always gave. It had taken Maritza a while to get used to an affectionate pat or embrace since no one typically exchanged physical touch in such a way in her village, not even parents with children. Slowly, after several repeated visits from the red truck couple, she began to interpret an extended arm as something other than a threat. Today Maritza willingly wrapped her arms around the gringa’s waist and was relieved to hear her say, busquemos desayuno. Let’s get breakfast!

On just a couple other occasions in her life Maritza had visited the town of Copán Ruinas. To her, this town was another world. It was a world of commerce and trade and government work and where her mom has to go after having a baby so that she can register the child and bring home their birth certificate. Maritza was not too young to recognize that her family didn’t fit in here. The busy people walking up and down the streets, standing in line at the bank, coming and going from the stores all had an air of confidence and belonging that she knew she didn’t quite possess but hoped to imitate. As the group approached the door of one of those establishments, Maritza felt a jolt of exhilaration.

7:45 am

The pastor and the gringa had to prod and encourage Iris to step inside with her girls. Maritza observed the natural way the red truck couple glided into this place, this restaurant, as if it were their own home. Did they have permission to walk in like that? If they did, surely Maritza and her family did not. Who were they to just open a stranger’s door and walk through it? Maritza received no clues from her mother, verbal or nonverbal, as to whether it was really appropriate to enter this strange place but curiosity got the better of her and she stepped through the door.

She froze. All within the same second a blast of cold air hit her skin; she inhaled a strong aroma like she had never experienced before of high quality coffee and pastries and a variety of foods; her ears caught the strange sounds of machines and music that seemed to come out of the walls; and her vision was bombarded by two big screen TVs in opposite corners and the most pristine and orderly floors, tables, counters, and workers all dressed in matching uniforms. It was dizzying. Maritza’s senses were instantly overwhelmed and her fight or flight response kicked in. She whimpered and curled up in a corner. It took the couple another several minutes to calm her and coax her over to the table where they would eat and help get everyone seated. Iris was still uncomfortably standing in the doorway with baby Anita on her hip, possibly experiencing a milder version of what her second daughter had just faced. The odd situation was compounded by the uniformed servers staring on suspiciously at Iris and whispering among themselves. They had been trained to swiftly and inconspicuously usher beggars out the side door in order to maintain the utmost comfort of their customers. And this frail woman with the downcast face certainly fit the profile of a town beggar.

Becoming aware of the increasing tension, the couple stood and motioned with big gestures for Iris and her baby to join them at the table, hoping to reassure the nervous mom as well as the onlooking servers. Now it was time to choose something from the menu.

Knowing how overwhelming the experience was becoming just within the first few minutes, the pastor suggested setting aside the menus and ordering a simple breakfast of traditional baleadas (flour tortilla with beans, cheese, and cream) and a cup of coffee for everyone. Maritza realized how famished she was but was also perplexed by where the food would come from. She certainly smelled food but saw no fire or stove or pots and pans anywhere. The large table where the guests were seated had little boxes in the center with paper napkins and little paper packets of something. Were these free to take?

Her question was answered when one of the uniformed workers arrived with steaming mugs of black coffee for everyone. The gringa showed Maritza which of the little paper packets had sugar in them and she tore them open and emptied their contents into the beverage. Maritza crumpled the empty paper packets and let them fall to the floor beside her chair just like she would normally dispose of any trash in her village. She noticed the gringa watching her and heard her giggle as she leaned down to pick up the paper. Here we leave all the trash on top of the table and these workers will throw it away in a trash can when we leave. Oh.

As they waited on the food Maritza was focused on the TVs. She’d never seen a screen so big with images so lifelike! There was a glass display with cakes that caught her attention as well. How did this place have so much food? The gringa showed her how to sit correctly so she could reach what she needed at the table. When the food arrived Maritza was again intrigued by the heavy silver forks and knives that were wrapped in more paper napkins. For all of these things Maritza wondered, why? The couple closed their eyes and talked to God and thanked Him for the food before eating. Is that where these plates came from?

Maritza watched with intense curiosity as the workers went back and forth bringing whatever the couple requested out to the table. Her mother never dared to speak to the workers directly. She barely looked them in the eye. Maritza observed the servers disappearing around a corner on the other side of the cake display. What was back there? She couldn’t finish her breakfast – it was so much – but to her relief the gringa asked a worker for something to pack the leftover food in and the girl brought a piece of foil to the table. Maritza figured that she wasn’t allowed to carry the ceramic plate out to the street so she had thought about using one of the paper napkins from the box to wrap her food. As everyone began to stand up the precocious child grabbed her plate and utensils and marched herself right past the cake display following the lead of those in uniform. She was cleaning up after herself as she assumed she should! The workers smiled and took the plate from her before she ended up too far into the restricted kitchen area.

She stopped at the cake display to admire in awe. She wasn’t hungry anymore but just what were they going to do with all that cake? Maritza noticed that Rosy had just come out of a door that led to a little room. Do you need to go to the bathroom? The gringa suggested that Rosy join her sister in the restroom to help with anything she might not understand about indoor plumbing. It was all impressive to Maritza, a toilet that flushes, paper and soap in boxes, but the most fun was the giant mirror where she shied away from looking at the weirdly clear image of her own face for too long. The mirror was too exciting to keep to herself so when she finished and opened the door she motioned for the gringa to step inside so they could both see their reflection in the same frame and giggle together.

8:55 am

It was time to leave and with teary eyes and full bellies the sisters softly told each other goodbye. The gringa encouraged hugs although they weren’t entirely natural-feeling among the girls and their mom. Rosy swallowed a pill that the couple had bought her for carsickness, since past experience proved road trips to be rough on her stomach. She climbed in the back seat of the red truck leaving her family standing on the corner and watched their forms get smaller and smaller until they faded from her view. Then with determination she set her sight firmly on the road ahead and slowly yielded to the hum of the engine and drowsiness of the anti-nausea medicine. Thinking of the world she was leaving behind and the world that lay ahead, she drifted into a peaceful sleep.

The Pain of Independence: a political deviant

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I’ve never been too worried about conforming. You should have seen my high school wardrobe (it was, um, *creative*) or consider the fact that I’m from the South but have an actual aversion to sweet tea and the SEC. (Yeah, several of you stopped reading right there. I know.)

I wouldn’t call myself a nonconforming rebel either but I’m pretty good at resisting peer pressure. I always felt that my inner convictions and deeply-held beliefs were far more important than popular opinion. During adolescence, right about the time I started finding my own voice and thinking critically about what I believed I received disapproval for straying a little too far from conservativism. (statistics show that most in my generation have)

About 13 years ago I spoke out in History class at my small, Christian high school in defense of immigrants and felt instantly the chasm between my viewpoint and that of my peers. I’ve since gained much more confidence, knowledge, and courage especially on the topic of immigration and have proudly landed somewhere in the moderate area of the general political spectrum. (and I think the political views of many of my classmates have also evolved) I doubt I will ever find myself at any point in my life pledging loyalty to a specific party.

First of all, I should mention that I’m not inherently political. I don’t keep up with most politics honestly and I certainly don’t go around picking internet fights with every faux news article I see shared. (I. see. a. lot. – hello, unfollow button?) The issues I am engaged with are the result of very strong convictions formed by very personal experiences, my relationship with my Savior, and the study of His teachings. I am an imperfect human doing the best I can to follow a perfect King. I honestly would avoid politics altogether (it just isn’t a pleasant subject) if it weren’t for the fact that it highly affects a lot of vulnerable people for whom I care deeply. I won’t go into detail on each policy with which I agree or disagree or those about which I honestly don’t know much. I definitely recognize that most hot-button issues are not easily resolved and are not as black and white as “right vs. wrong.” If it were so I think we would have more clearly marked camps. Obviously I believe that my beliefs are “correct” otherwise it would be non-sensical to believe them, but I do find it necessary to continually seek new information and perspectives and do my best to respect the individual who holds a contrasting opinion to my own. Respecting the individual does not mean tolerating insults, bullying, emotional manipulation, or speech that denigrates a person/persons. We have the right to shut. that. down.


Conformity vs Nonconformity

A neuroscientist, Gregory Berns, conducted an experiment on conformity vs. nonconformity in a group setting by scanning the brains (using a type of MRI) of volunteers as they answered a series of simple questions. Actors were placed in the experimental groups to confidently give wrong answers. The results, other than confirming previous research that group work influences an individual’s decision-making, showed the why behind a majority of individuals’ conformity under peer 7c2daebd86bfcb3047644e7971b0a4e7--conformity-satirepressure. It didn’t have to do with the volunteers’ conscious decision to change their answers in order to follow the crowd. The brain scans actually showed heightened activity in regions associated with visual and spatial perception meaning that popular opinion had in fact somehow changed the very perception of the volunteers. They were convinced to believe something that wasn’t true.

 

 

On the flip side the volunteers that stuck with their gut and did not conform with the
incorrect answers of the majority showed an interesting find in the brain scans as well. The amygdala, part of the brain associated with emotions such as fear and rejection, lit up. Berns called this “the pain of independence” which he says is “the clearest marker of the emotional load associated with standing up for one’s belief.” It takes courage, friends. Especially if a lot of the time you feel like you are standing up alone.


This is to point out the risk of social ostracism when one is part of a homogeneous group that doesn’t facilitate diverse viewpoints. Peer pressure is a beast.

But what if I truly agree with my group? Great! The objective is critical thinking and being able to arrive at our own conclusion and if that conclusion happens to be exactly what those around you think then, well, majority rules. 🙂 Congrats. (but maybe have a little grace with the person you meet who came to a different conclusion?)

Of all the social settings in which I’ve lived I can say that my college campus, Lee University, felt like that sweet spot of intellectual autonomy + Christian tradition. I felt very little anxiety about voicing my convictions there.

Some of the things I appreciate about my country are democracy and the freedom to express any opinion or belief. In theory we say we can respect differing opinions but we often consider a person with an opinion in contrast to our own to have some sort of character flaw. (or in evangelical circles… a crisis of faith)

Democracy depends on majority rule in the midst of dissenting voices but what happens when the majority conforms to the loudest and most obnoxious voice(s)? I hate to say that more than once I have fallen prey to psychological bullies trying to reason or guilt me out of my deeply-help opinions. Other than these less-than-desirable methods of persuasion I do appreciate having such diversity of belief in my circle.

5a20ce32c8aed4bb9feb267dcf376a65--my-life-quotes-a-quotesI would venture to say that if every one of your friends and acquaintances agrees with you religiously and politically then you probably live in a bubble and are lacking some factors that would help hone your critical thinking skills. Maybe you’ve created that bubble intentionally (I certainly gravitate toward likeminded people) and that’s your right but I’ll probably pass on having a political conversation with you. When entering into any kind of discussion over policy my first thought is, “Who is someone you know personally affected by this?”

Something else that keeps us in bubbles, and has surprised me recently, are our search engine biases. Online algorithms used in everything from our social media accounts to email to the ads on random websites we visit to what we search for in Google often keep us from venturing out of our idealogical sphere. Ever searched for something then all of a sudden see it pop up in ads with every new window you open? Same concept. We typically see what we want to see, literally and figuratively.

Our society, in its ideal state (of being), would be free thinkers and give themselves permission to dig a little deeper than their party and the news clips and sound bites and viral memes. We would graciously admit defeat when our candidate loses and we would have the integrity and humility to admit when our candidate or party is wrong. We wouldn’t assume someone’s entire idealogical makeup based on one position they hold nor would we attack someone’s opposing viewpoint with all the built up force of a lifetime of political frustration.

i.e. I share a heartwarming story about an undocumented immigrant I know who is struggling to make ends meet (unqualified for state benefits contrary to popular belief) and faithfully serves in her local church congregation. This is obviously personal and emotional to me but I am not attacking any opposing view or, believe it or not, trying to promote an agenda. I’m simply sharing a FACTUAL story from a compassionate perspective of an issue about which I care deeply.

This opens a can of worms where others (who in fact have no personal ties to an individual who had to make the difficult decision of leaving their home to provide for their family) assume the right to verbally attack me or the protagonist of my story. My question is, how did this incite such fervent refutation? Why is a popular tactic of arguing politics to take the humanity out of the debate? – and it’s done so passionately?

For the very reason that we usually bring a little too much baggage to the debate, I am very hesitant to share specific political beliefs online. We rarely understand the context, nuance, or background of the person posting the comment. There still exist many who don’t exercise as much deliberation when posting or sharing. Occasionally I’ll entertain a friendly discussion of politics from behind the screen but mostly I feel it is best reserved for personal conversation. (which isn’t necessarily always friendly either, haha)

I could get a variety of reactions to this blog post (assuming that even a handful of people read it) due to the diversity of my friends list. I don’t even know how many might actually relate to my story. My social network includes nominal evangelical Christians, Catholics, Hindus, Muslims; devout evangelical Christians, Catholics, Hindus, Muslims; atheists; agnostics; Republicans; Democrats; international friends who don’t know the meaning of either political party; heterosexuals; members of the LGBT community; so many races and nationalities I couldn’t count them all; police officers; active military; veterans; pastors; addicts; teachers; documented immigrants; undocumented immigrants; professors; missionaries; feminists; doctors; lawyers; etc.; all who are human beings with their own experiences, stories, passions, struggles, and beliefs.

Friendship Together Bonding Unity Youth Culture Concept

Of course we’re going to disagree on things. Hopefully we can learn from each other without compromising our core values. As Christians, may we use scripture as a pruning tool for ourselves and not as darts to throw at “the opposition.” May we allow the Holy Spirit to work on our hearts… as well as our tongues. Can we vow to put down our weapons of divisive speech and approach each difference of opinion while waving the banner of kindness instead? We are on the same team after all.

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In Light of their Suffering – Immigration

I wrote this a few years ago while I was living in Panamá and it was published on a couple different websites. In the wake of President Obama’s recent announcement about immigration reform in this country (FINALLY!), I felt I should share it again. I in no way am interested in provoking a heated political discussion or engaging in senseless cultural wars. I know that I serve a King not of this world and He has broken my heart for a forgotten and misunderstood people. IMG_5465 This was written after my home state, Alabama, passed one of the strictest immigration laws a couple years ago which has since been partly repealed/amended.

The following is in reference specifically to undocumented immigration from Latin America.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a grassroots advocate for immigrant rights. This great love and passion for the immigrant began halfway through my high school career after I had taken several mission trips to Honduras and was given a book about a boy who travels by train illegally to the U.S. to reunite with his mother. (Enrique’s Journey by Sonia Nazario, http://www.enriquesjourney.com/) I remember the first time I spoke up in defense of the immigrant was during history class in my small, Christian, southern high school. I knew the odds were against me but I felt a courage welling up inside, like this was something for which I was born. Somehow, I felt that the traditional way I had been taught to see undocumented immigration was wrong. I started questioning my old mindset that made me believe that these people were “less human,” or “undeserving.”

Now, almost seven years later, I am more dedicated to this cause and more sure than ever that Jesus Christ has compelled me to love and serve the undocumented immigrant. I have continued in my travels to Latin America and have seen unfathomable poverty. I have built relationships with immigrant families here in the U.S. and learned the richness of diversity and the beauty of God’s grace. I see the kingdom of heaven being built and it makes me wonder, “How is it that followers of Christ are more quick to identify with earthly territories than with the construction of an eternal kingdom?”

What truly baffles me is the hostility toward immigrants that can be found in circles of believers. I am amazed at how often I hear dislike being expressed toward “illegals” (a word I, personally, never use to label a human being) by the very Christians with whom I have served in third world countries. It is as if we muster up enough unconditional love and grace for the Latinos who live in their own country but when we return we treat the undocumented Latino down the road from us like our enemy. Is a person’s very presence in the U.S. without legal papers the unpardonable sin? Is it our job as believers to play the “us versus them” game?

I think Jesus accounted for the fact that we would sometimes misinterpret our neighbors for our enemies. He said, “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31) but just in case our neighbors really were our literal enemies or we had a temporary case of paranoia and thought that those around us were against us, he covered that by saying, “love your enemies.” (Matthew 5:44) We can’t really get around that one… it pretty much covers all the bases. My hope is that our vision would not be obscured by the ugly blindfold of entitlement but that our eyes would truly be open to see others the way Christ sees. I love how Dietrich Bonhoeffer said it, “We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or don’t do, and more in the light of what they suffer.”

I have several friends and acquaintances that reside in this country without proper documentation. Their stories are all different. They are mothers, fathers, students, brothers, sisters. They preach on Sunday mornings and lead worship; they clean our hotel rooms and construct our office buildings; they pick our produce and serve our meals; they win science fairs and are awarded community service ribbons. They give, they take, they hurt, they fear, they need and they love.

The most recent legislation passed in my home state, Alabama, breaks my heart. It is already creating an atmosphere of chaos, mistrust and fear. I hope that somehow the supporters of this law may have personal encounters with those whom it affects and that their hearts may be changed. Even after years of researching this topic and following the legislative proposals, no amount of data or statistics can persuade me toward either side quite like knowing the immigrant can. You can never go wrong by cultivating human relationships.

This issue has really become much more personal for me in the few years since writing this article to the point that even engaging in a conversation about it is exhausting and can often turn hurtful – although everything I wrote then rings even more true now. If I were to sit down in front of my laptop with one of my undocumented immigrant friends and start scrolling down my Facebook news feed I would be embarrassed and saddened for them to see what many of my Christ-following friends and family members have to publicly say about “people like them.” (of course, undocumented immigrants aren’t the only subculture of people who get publicly bashed on my social media feeds by Christians)

It might be easy to assume that undocumented immigrants are here for a “handout” or a “free ride” to get an “easy way out.” Let me tell you – nothing about their lives here in the U.S. is easy. I would invite you spend just 24 hours with me as I travel to medical and school appointments every day interpreting for them – just to meet one or two personally and hear their stories of hardships and sacrifices they’ve made for their children. Or to be with me when I get a phone call from my friend who lives in another state and updates me on her process to get protection under the Violence Against Women Act – because for so long she was scared to report abuse because of her legal status.

*And if you are one of those people who has a hard time truly grasping the reality of how difficult actually obtaining a visa (permission of entry) is to the U.S. for a person in a third world country, I invite you to take a look at this info graphic that explains the process:

arizona39simmigrationlawgeniuspage2straightdope_4e60963eaf8de It isn’t new to quote scripture from the Old Testament – what God commanded Israel to do or not do regarding foreigners, and take it as a command for us today. But the other day the President referred to one of these Old Testament scriptures in front of the whole nation:

“You must not mistreat or oppress foreigners in any way. Remember, you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt.” -Exodus 22:21 NLT

*For the record, I agree with the President (and the majority of America) that border protection is a priority and that we must know who is entering our country. (because not everyone is hardworking and respectful like the many immigrants I know) I have had multiple personal conversations with individuals wanting to come over illegally from Central America and never once have I encouraged any one to do so. What I want is to see a broken system get fixed. That way we all benefit.

Tolupan Indian update

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*click on the image to see a larger version

This a before and “during” of the house construction project for the Tolupan Indians in Honduras. If all goes as planned, the first two homes will be completed within the next couple of weeks! Thanks to those of you who have contributed to providing healthy homes for this impoverished indigenous tribe in Honduras. Two down – eight to go. We still need your help! Contact me on the home page or in a comment.

Tolupan Indians: How Can I Help?

Following up on my post about meeting the Tolupan Indians in Honduras, I want to share about the current project that New Life Honduras Non-Profit is initiating along with the local pastors and missionaries in this region of the country.

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Healthy House Construction Project!

New Life Honduras is raising funds for the construction of healthier houses for the Tolupan indigenous people. This ethnic group is in the process of extinction and one of the main goals of our holistic development work with them is to prevent this extinction process while also helping them preserve their customs and language.

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The total cost to construct each new home is a little under $2,000. The new houses will feature metal roofs, better walls and floors, and better location and ventilation for the stoves. It will increase the overall health of each family member and provide separate sleeping areas for adults and children. The homes will not be built for the tribe… The homes will be built by the tribe members with guidance from Honduran ministers/missionaries.

We need your immediate help!

We are asking for monetary donations to contribute toward the cost of these healthy houses. Here are ways you can help with that:

  1. Donation drop boxes. If you or someone you know owns a business or is a leader in a church, contact me about setting a donation box in your lobby or front desk to collect change. 100% of donations will go to build houses for the Tolupan people.

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  1. Jewelry Display Gift for Donation. The day I met the Tolupan Indian tribe I bought several handcrafted necklaces and bracelets from them. They are made from seeds found in the forest they inhabit. I have arranged them in shadow boxes with a photo and description and will give these displays to those who make donations to the Healthy House Construction Project over $100.shadow box
  2. Contact me (via email, phone, or message from the home page) about sending a donation and/or writing a check.
  3. I am scheduling visits to talk to church congregations, Sunday School groups and youth groups. Please get in touch if you are interested in hearing more about our community development work in Honduras!

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“A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor.” Proverbs 22:9

The day I met the Tolupan Indians

I have been procrastinating in writing about my experience I had a little over a month ago with the Tolupan ethnic group. I hardly have words to describe what I saw – the most extreme poverty and unhealthy living conditions that I have ever witnessed with my own eyes. After much processing, I am gathering my thoughts and trying to express what I felt that day and continue to feel so deeply. My heart is bursting to share with you about this trip. This indigenous group maintains the majority of their ancestral customs. They are polygamous, they answer to their chief, and they speak a dialect called Tol, although most adults also speak Spanish. tolupan children inside

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We started out in Honduras’ capital city, Tegucigalpa, bright and early Friday morning. 5:30 a.m. We loaded into Brother Orestes’ extended cab pickup truck, the New Life Honduras Non-Profit team – a Honduran missionary couple from Tegus with their newborn baby, my boyfriend Natán, a local pastor, Brother Orestes and me. It took us a little over four hours by car to reach the base of the mountain where the Tolupan people live. On the way, we stopped by a small village where a new church had just been planted – the first in the area – and visited the pastor and his family and prayed with them. (this pastor’s daughter and husband were the missionary couple with us) We took the opportunity for a bathroom break (lean-to style outhouse) and to stretch our legs. The pastor asked if I had ever visited the Tolupan community before and when I told him no he told me to be prepared. I thought he was referring to the physically challenging hour and a half hike up the steep mountain to reach their village… but he put his hand to his heart and said, “prepared… right here.” We parked at the base of the mountain called Montaña de la Flor, as far as a vehicle can reach, and all piled out. About half an hour before arriving we had approached a Tolupan couple walking along the side of the road headed home so we offered them a ride and they hopped in the truck bed. They had already been walking for hours and it would have taken them several hours more to reach their community up in the mountain. couple Then we started the hike up the mountain… I would probably include it in the top 5 most strenuous physical feats I have ever attempted. Of course, considering my drama queen, wimpy nature, it only felt as if I were going to pass out and die in the moment.

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Through the huffing and puffing and swearing, I mean sweating and complaining and accelerated heart rates and breaks to rest, I really didn’t have much of a desire to record video or take photos on the way up. (I seriously question that theory about exercise releasing happy endorphins) We finally reached the clearing where several Tolupan families of one particular tribe have made their homes. Because of the extreme isolation in which these people live I had no idea how they would react to me, a tall white female with reddish hair and blue eyes. (other than one child screaming and running when he saw me, all went pretty well) I was accompanied by 5 Honduran males so I was definitely the odd one out. When we approached the clearing with their little huts set all around, I felt as if I had been transported into a movie. It felt staged or something other than real life. Children and their mothers began to pour out of tiny, poorly-constructed mud and stick huts. It would be an understatement to say that everything was dirty… because how do you really clean a dirt floor? Or dirt walls? Or a bed made of tree limbs? house Every house we entered was entirely empty of food. One mother told me that was her greatest need – food in the house. (They live off the land and were a hunter and gatherer group until recently when diminution of land affected their ability to hunt sufficiently) Their large stone stoves inside the house with little to no ventilation often cause health problems. Chickens and dogs sleeping, eating and leaving waste in the same living space as humans also contributes to many health risks. There are countless other risk factors such as moist dirt floor, unhealthy hygiene practices and their thatch roofs which contribute to parasite problems. A lack of access to common medication has even resulted in death from sicknesses as simple as the flu and diarrhea. This father had recently lost his wife to “the flu” and was left to care for his children in their tiny hut without walls. father hut

May God bless you with holy anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may tirelessly work for justice, freedom, and peace among all people. May God bless you with the gift of tears to shed with those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, or the loss of all that they cherish, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and transform their pain into joy. May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you really CAN make a difference in this world, so that you are able, with God’s grace, to do what others claim cannot be done. – Sr. Ruth Fox

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My next post this weekend will be about the holistic development that New Life Honduras Non-Profit is doing with the tribe, how I am involved, and how we need your help to continue. Please pray for these families and that their hearts would be open to Christ. Pray that their physical and emotional needs would be met. Pray for the Honduran missionaries who are diligently and humbly serving the tribe, making sacrifices that go unnoticed with a silent faithfulness that goes unrecognized.