2019 Mission Work Update (VER International)

The three villages we are focused on this year are known as PVII, Copán; PSP, Choluteca; and SM, Santa Barbara.

Health and Hygiene

In the village, PVII, we have started medical checkups with school age children. After our preliminary checkup with a local Honduran doctor, we discovered that out of the 103 children evaluated, 45 suffer from mild to severe malnutrition. Because of generous donors, at the checkup we were able to provide each child with anti-parasite medicine and iron, and multi-vitamins for those with malnutrition. We’re looking into therapeutic food options for the severe cases.

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In Honduran villages, outhouses are the most common kind of bathroom. In PVII, 70% of homes have no toilet whatsoever. Our goal for 2019 is to be able to install outhouses for 50 families in various villages. (We have 29 of 50 donated so far!)

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Education

We sent 150 kids to school! Generous donors helped us provide education awareness training for parents, a backpack full of supplies, and a complete uniform for a total of 150 kids in 4 different communities. On a recent visit we left a sack of 100 lbs of rice with the teacher to be used during lunch time for those who often don’t have food at home.

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In PVII there are almost 100 children enrolled in a 2-classroom schoolhouse with a leaky roof. The kindergartners meet out on the patio and have no desks or materials. We are writing a proposal to be able to supply them with the necessary resources and repairs by the end of this year, 2019.

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Entrepreneurship

We were able to invest in a pig farming micro-business in PSP that is helping a family build a new house, and will benefit several other needy families in the community once piglets are born.

Our single mom entrepreneur, “momtrepreneur,” in Copán is still running her secondhand clothes micro-business; and we are investing in the startup of a food vendor in Comayagua.


In the area of spiritual formation, we are partnering with the local church of PVII and their new pastor to help strengthen the congregation, especially their children’s program.

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I got a namesake! A mom in PVII named her new baby girl Kristen. ❤

 

Last week we brought a pre-teen girl from her village to the city to live with a family while she recovers from chronic malnutrition and catches up in school.

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The only way we could do what we do is because of monthly ministry partners and friends who give to each project. We are in awe of God’s faithfulness!

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The Privilege of Sharing

If you ask a missionary what is one of the hardest parts of serving full-time on the field you very likely will hear “fundraising.” Raising support has gotten a bad reputation and sadly can become one of the biggest burdens in a Christian worker’s career. Much of this comes from lack of understanding either on the missionary’s part or that of friends and family back home. You might be surprised to discover that being fully supported by faith communities not only is biblical but it is designed by God to be a blessing to everyone involved.

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Chapters 8 and 9 of Paul’s 2nd letter to the Corinthians is basically a fundraising petition. I love that he starts out describing the eagerness of the congregation in Macedonia to give, “pleading for the privilege of sharing in service.” It’s a privilege, not a burden! The interesting thing is that they gave out of their own poverty and desperation. Oftentimes the most sacrificial and significant donations come from those who have tasted poverty and hardships firsthand themselves. I can attest to this in our ministry.

It’s good to realize that all we have comes from God. And although we are just stewarding His resources we have free will in how we spend our time, energy, and possessions. The Message paraphrase says in 2 Cor. 9:6-7, “Remember: A stingy planter gets a stingy crop; a lavish planter gets a lavish crop. I want each of you to take plenty of time to think it over, and make up your own mind what you will give. That will protect you against sob stories and arm-twisting. God loves it when the giver delights in the giving.”

I don’t always understand God’s ways but I do know that they are counter-cultural. When He prompts us to act it doesn’t always have to make logical sense. Several times while I was back home working 4 contract jobs and paying off my school loans before moving to the mission field I saw specific needs (a friend fundraising for her adoption, a friend fundraising to move as a missionary to Asia, an organization fundraising to help newly-arrived refugees) and I sensed God wanted me to give. Never once did I feel deprived or delayed in reaching my goals.

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Donna Wilson of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship says, “When raising funds we can be tempted to think, ‘I’ve got to convince people to give me some of their money.” However, the biblical view is: ‘I’m inviting people to give back to God some of His resources for His work.’ (1 Chronicles 29:14-16, paraphrased)

We’ve all been given different gifts and we all have different callings. Missionary Tom Stickney explains, “I am simply a mediator seeking to connect His people and His resources with His plan. That takes all the pressure off. The Lord calls some of us to be missionaries in Kenya, and some to be campus workers in America. Others are supposed to wear coats and ties and spend their days investing funds or buying real estate. Once we realize we’re all in the game, it’s a fixed result. We all simply play the role that God has assigned us, faithfully fulfilling the Lord’s purpose in our lives” …and on the earth!

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I’ll share a sweet testimony as an example:

My cousin, Katelyn, and I began traveling together to Honduras on short-term trips 15 years ago. We always dreamed of moving down here one day as full-time missionaries. During our college years and the time after, the Lord has led us down paths that look a little different than the original plan. Katelyn got a wonderful job as a high school math teacher and is able to positively influence teenagers. (Kingdom work!) Her job still allows her to travel on short-term trips and she has committed to partnering with my husband and me as a monthly ministry partner. She was in fact one of the very first ministry partners to commit to partnering with us financially. She knows she is fulfilling God’s call on her life in so many areas and we know that our work in Honduras would not be possible without her.

More than once I have thought, “If only I just had magical unending resources to meet my basic needs and implement all my community development program ideas here in Honduras. We’d get so much done!” But then I remember that it is a communal experience. We weren’t meant to be islands and work isolated from each other – we were created to depend on one another and so much spiritual growth comes from those relationships. This is what I keep in mind in the slow and sometimes agonizing process of support raising. Sharing is a privilege and it is a blessing to grow together during the process.

Some well-meaning people I know often get confused about what my husband and I do in Honduras and ask us some interesting questions. A common one is, “Are you looking for a job?” insinuating that our ministry is not a real job. (probably the same people who see support raising as a disguised form of begging)

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Donna Wilson says, “North American culture tells us our value is in what we own or accomplish; and our worth is reflected by position or salary. Family and friends may not consider ministry a “real job” because it lacks these traditional markers. But scripture teaches our value comes from God and His love for us. Scripture describes us as friends, children, and heirs of the King (Romans 8:14-17).

The Kingdom of Heaven is an upside-down economy. It is an economy of downward mobility. One who has grasped the revelation of the Kingdom won’t be satisfied with an earthly perspective of success. We hold Jesus as our ultimate example who left the riches of heaven and set aside all entitlement to dwell among us; Emannuel.

It’s also important to note that Jesus and His ministry were supported by the gifts of others (Luke 8:1-3) and although on occasion Paul chose to be self-supporting, more often than not he was supported by caring donors (Philippians 4:14-16).

P. L. Metzger warns us that if we’re not careful our society will lull us to sleep with its apprentice-style “survival of the economic fittest” which eclipses the biblical narrative. If you grew up with the “pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps” mentality, this kingdom economy seems really unconventional.

We are simply stewards and servants of a King who owns the cattle on a thousand hills. He is Jehovah Jireh and He is a good Father who gives His children what they need. I do not worry about tomorrow. I do not grasp too tightly to what is in my hand for I may be called to give it away and I may be called to receive something I didn’t expect – whatever is necessary to fulfill God’s purpose.


My husband, Natán, and I are incredibly grateful for the friends and family who have partnered with us in our work over the last 13 months. I can confidently say that we have not suffered lack. My lifestyle is quite different from how I grew up and in many ways is a bit more inconvenient and uncomfortable but God knows what He is doing and hasn’t failed us yet!

#detailsdeHonduras part 2

Ongoing photojournalism project. See Part 1.

(Kristen Bruce Photography and Multimedia)

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|| Shelter || Homelessness, family displacement and child abandonment are all problems that the country of Honduras has to face. Unfortuantely this puts many young people and children in a very vulnerable situation. But I want to take the opportunity to highlight two incredible ministries who are working toward providing shelter and a family atmosphere for kids at risk. The dear children’s home, Hope House – Hogar Esperanza, where I lived a short time, currently houses about 20 kids and is in the process of expanding to be able to provide a family atmosphere to many more. To help with this project see their facebook page. Identity Mission is a great ministry that is (as their facebook page says) …embracing the full spectrum of orphan care in implementing a foster care system throughout Honduras, preserving families, and reaching kids in orphanages. Amid desperation and difficulties, God is doing great things in Honduras!

People - Regional Emigration Since the early twentieth century, Honduras has had the challenge of absorbing thousands of immigrants from neighboring countries. Political tensions throughout Central America have been a key factor behind much of the immigration. The number of immigrants from El Salvador looking for land or jobs was especially high between the early twentieth century and the onset of the 1969 Soccer War between El Salvador and Honduras. A significant number of Salvadoran immigrants worked in the banana plantations during the 1930s and 1940s. Armed conflict in Nicaragua, Guatemala, and El Salvador in the 1980s resulted in the arrival of more than 60,000 refugees. Most of these refugees live near their respective borders, and the majority are women and children. Throughout the 1980s, Nicaraguan refugees continued to arrive in Honduras as the war between Nicaragua's Sandinista government and the Nicaraguan Resistance forces (known as the Contras, short for contrarevolucionarios-- counterrevolutionaries in Spanish) intensified. By the early 1990s, Honduras hosted an estimated 250,000 refugees or immigrants from Central America. http://countrystudies.us/honduras/43.htm

|| People – Regional Emigration ||
Since the early twentieth century, Honduras has had the challenge of absorbing thousands of immigrants from neighboring countries. Political tensions throughout Central America have been a key factor behind much of the immigration. The number of immigrants from El Salvador looking for land or jobs was especially high between the early twentieth century and the onset of the 1969 Soccer War between El Salvador and Honduras. A significant number of Salvadoran immigrants worked in the banana plantations during the 1930s and 1940s.
Armed conflict in Nicaragua, Guatemala, and El Salvador in the 1980s resulted in the arrival of more than 60,000 refugees. Most of these refugees live near their respective borders, and the majority are women and children. Throughout the 1980s, Nicaraguan refugees continued to arrive in Honduras as the war between Nicaragua’s Sandinista government and the Nicaraguan Resistance forces (known as the Contras, short for contrarevolucionarios– counterrevolutionaries in Spanish) intensified. By the early 1990s, Honduras hosted an estimated 250,000 refugees or immigrants from Central America.
http://countrystudies.us/honduras/43.htm

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Sometimes I just get a cool shot of something that creeps me out… 😉

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|| People – Child labor || It is reported that over 150,000 children in Honduras are involved in child labor. The most common work among children is agriculture but many are sent to beg in the streets and in the worst cases solicited for the sex trade or to work as hit men or extortionists for gangs. Some children combine work and school but often the economic situation of their family is so severe that they are expected to work full time leaving no time for education. Recent data indicate that 60 percent of working children work in agriculture. Children are sometimes trafficked from rural areas into commercial sexual exploitation in urban and tourist destinations such as the Bay Islands, La Ceiba, San Pedro Sula, and Tegucigalpa. In addition, reports indicate that Honduran children are trafficked to Central and North America for commercial sexual exploitation. In 2013, Honduras made a moderate advancement in efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor. The Government of Honduras passed a Legislative Decree harmonizing legal protections for children and trained labor inspectors on child labor issues. Most of the inspections take place in the urban areas of San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa, and the ILO Committee of Experts reported that resource constraints limited labor inspections in rural areas and in indigenous communities, where hazardous activities in agriculture and fishing or diving are concentrated. http://www.dol.gov/ilab/reports/child-labor/honduras.htm

Grief? Pain? Anger? Bless the Lord

There are whole lengths of time that I go without having anything to say (as obvious from my lack of writing in the last few months) and other times such as these past few days I want to write without stopping.

This season of life that I have been back in the U.S. has been hard. I occasionally have glorious days when I just really “get it”; I understand that I am here in this waiting time for necessary preparation and apparently to learn a few good lessons. And although my prayer daily is “Lord, use me where I am” and “make me content in all things,” more often than not I have a bad attitude.

I am supposed to be here paying off school debt and raising funds to get back to the mission field but it has felt more like a financial step backward. And then I hear: “I will meet your every need, Kristen, through my eternal riches in Jesus Christ.” (Phil. 4:19)

I stress about the timeline of things and certain roadblocks to where I think I should go or to the things I think I should be doing. And then I hear: “I will be the voice behind you, Kristen, guiding you in the way you should go.” (Is. 30:21)

I look at others my age who are starting families and buying houses and traveling and I start to compare. I complain to God that it isn’t fair. And then I hear: “Are you now seeking the approval of man, or of God, Kristen?” (Gal. 1:10) “The good things I have planned for you are too many to count.” (Ps. 40:5)

I spent this past weekend at a retreat hearing incredible testimonies and getting to know some beautiful women of God. I got slapped in the face with another personal glimpse of that radical grace – grace that is to be received and given away. Ouch. That’s hard.

I have been in an intense 16-week missions course learning about God’s heart for the lost and the global missional mandate of the entire Bible and it is rocking my world. I feel the heartbeat of Christ as I teach my adult ESL class and look into the eyes of some precious women who need the deep, unconditional love of a Savior. (several of whom come from closed countries with no access to the gospel) God is giving me opportunities that I didn’t expect, and guess what… I am just as much “doing global missions” in an American classroom as I was in a Honduran classroom. I am just as much being the hands and feet of Christ while interpreting during a Doctor’s appointment here in the U.S. as I was praying with impoverished Honduran families.

God’s call on my life is not on hold just because I’ve changed geographical locations and I never want to treat it that way.

The biggest thing I am learning now (other than patience) is to praise God and bless His name in the middle of any circumstance. “Bless the Lord, oh my soul.” (Ps. 103) Feeling frustrated? Bless the Lord. Feeling alone? Bless the Lord. Feeling insignificant? Bless the Lord. Feeling angry? Bless the Lord. Feeling confused? Bless the Lord.

I want to share lyrics to one of my favorite old Sara Groves songs called Kingdom Comes. I feel it appropriate for this time in my life:

When anger fills your heart
When in your pain and hurt
You find the strength to stop
You bless instead of curse

When doubting floods your soul
Though all things feel unjust
You open up your heart
You find a way to trust

That’s a little stone that’s a little mortar
That’s a little seed that’s a little water
In the hearts of the sons and the daughters
The kingdom’s coming

When fear engulfs your mind
Says you protect your own
You still extend your hand
You open up your home

When sorrow fills your life
When in your grief and pain
You choose again to rise
You choose to bless the name

That’s a little stone that’s a little mortar
That’s a little seed that’s a little water
In the hearts of the sons and the daughters
The kingdom’s coming

In the mundane tasks of living
In the pouring out and giving
In the waking up and trying
In the laying down and dying

That’s a little stone that’s a little mortar
That’s a little seed that’s a little water
In the hearts of the sons and the daughters
The kingdom’s coming

Checking in…

En route to Honduras, sleeping in a hotel somewhere in the U.S. because we missed our connecting flight this evening. We will head out tomorrow and get busy running errands, grocery shopping, etc for the coming week and the medical team that will join us in a few days.

  • I just love airports. At the risk of sounding like a small town country girl, (which I practically am) airports just make the world feel a little bigger. And it reminds me that I don’t have as much control over things as I think I do. Strangely, that is a comfort.

Yesterday, I packed up my life in Tennessee, (again) threw my belongings in my car, said teary goodbyes to the roommates, friends, coworkers & neighbors (again) and headed “home” to Alabama where all my things are in storage. I really have gotten good at dramatic farewells. All too often I end up returning anyway. I packed what I could into a backpack and a carry-on suitcase and started on this two-week adventure…

Other than medical clinics like we always do, this trip will be sort of a prep time for me before I begin teaching. I hope to speak with the school supervisor and get some things taken care of before I head back to the states.

Then it will be wedding time for my best friend, Brianna!

Oh, life… you move really fast sometimes.