Ongoing photojournalism project. See Part 1.
*Disclaimer: Maybe this is common sense for some of you. If so, GREAT! Unfortunately, from my Facebook newsfeed this is still an issue among people I know.*
Dear oblivious friend, family member, angry and bitter Facebook acquaintance,
Your comments hurt. Yeah, remember that time you thought it was funny to joke about those
illegals or those violent Muslims? Or, maybe because you feel as if the government or the media is unfairly slanted toward “anti-American values” (and due to the fact that you don’t have any diversity whatsoever within your Facebook friend list) you thought it would even the playing fields by lashing out at an entire group of people by reposting a cruel meme. You justify your hate speech with scripture and make biting comments and sarcastically wish ill on “those people” all in the name of patriotism or religion or whatever twisted combination of the two you pledge allegiance to.
Those things hurt.
And it makes me question if there are any loving Christians still out there. 😦 (I know there are because some of my best friends still represent the very best of Christianity)
I know I’m sensitive. I get emotionally involved in situations and people’s lives too easily. I feel drawn to outcasts and misunderstood people. My worldview (read:
politics) is determined by my faith in Christ + personal experiences and friendships NOT by talking heads in the media who supposedly share my faith.
(I don’t want to get on the subject of politics but FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, why are so many Christ-followers supporting a clearly arrogant, bitter, angry, unloving, anti-grace bigot this election season? I am appalled.)
“I see the confusion of politics and religion as one of the greatest barriers to grace. C. S. Lewis observed that almost all crimes of Christian history have come about when religion is confused with politics. Politics, which always runs by the rules of UNgrace, allures us to trade away grace for power, a temptation the church has often been unable to resist.” – Philip Yancey
I do believe that God has given me a burden for marginalized people. I confess that I am not always the best at loving people consistently but oh, how I feel a heavy burden. I have been an advocate for immigrants for some time and just recently I have made a couple dear friends in the Muslim community not too far from where I live. I am consistently amazed at what we have in common. Why had I never noticed our common humanity before?
Maybe because most of the voices I hear paint these every-day people as a murderous, revenge-seeking caricature. That is so far from my personal experience. I choose to believe that my friends are not the exception to the rule, just as I hope they choose to believe that I am not the exception either. And I hope I’m not.
(Funny, random story: the other day I was giving some friends a ride home after the ESL class that I teach. It sounds like the start of a joke but we were… a white girl, a Latina and a Muslim lady all in one little car. A group of people was on the corner at an intersection where we stopped and they all had posters offering free hugs. I honked and waved and a black girl ran across the street and reached into my car to give us all hugs! It was hilarious! I don’t know what that group represented or if I would even personally agree with them on what they stood for but it didn’t matter, I’ll still take a free hug! All four of us had such distinct backgrounds and stories. That to me looked like such a lovely picture of diversity. I wish someone had actually taken a photo. ❤ )
Some people would rather live their lives looking at others with suspicion and fear. That doesn’t sound like a nice way to live though.
If you live wide-eyed in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. Keep your eyes open, your lamp burning, so you don’t get musty and murky. Keep your life as well-lighted as your best-lighted room.” Luke 11:35-36 Message
..unless it is actually just you because “out of the heart the mouth speaks.” …or the fingers post.
Action step: Let’s try to be more considerate with what we post online. Have a little more discernment before sharing that hilarious thing so-and-so just posted.
We can all THINK before we post. Is it…
And I am certainly not saying all of this out of political correctness. Could there be a more nauseating topic of conversation?? How about we all just try not to be *rear ends* in general as we interact with one another. It’s not about being politically correct. It’s about being patient and kind and loving and gracious. I don’t know if Jesus would be too down with your redneck renegade rant you just posted offending half of His creation. Let’s be gentle in our speech.
For the most part, this is me while scrolling through social media…
But sometimes I want to sit down with the person and have a good coffee (or Yemeni chai tea) and ask what kind of horrible experience they had that made them so hateful toward another person… maybe that is a conversation we should have?
Photo collection from my travels in Honduras and some interesting things I learned about the country in the process. This is an ongoing photojournalism project.
It’s been a busy summer in Honduras! And that is just the couple of groups with which I was able to be present. Praise God for all the volunteer work that goes on in all parts of the country due to foreign teams. The San Pedro Sula (and I would imagine Tegucigalpa as well) airport is always buzzing with English speaking groups coming and going during the summer months.
I was able to spend 6 weeks total in the country. Needless to say, my summer flew by! (And I like it that way. 😉 Now fall can hurry up an get here please.)
But I wanted to follow up on the project in the currently sponsored village in Copan and share a bit from our 2 weeks of medical clinics.
I posted a picture and caption on Facebook from our preliminary trip up to the village about a little girl named Mariela:
From the post a sweet friend messaged me wanting to send money for this family to have a new bathroom! So on the following trip we were able to sit down with the pastor of the village and write out the materials needed to construct a new outhouse for this family with a toilet that could be “flushed” with (a bucket of) water instead of what they had before – a hole in the ground that would fill up. Then we went to the hardware store…
…and just a few weeks later we went back for a visit and got to see the completed and functioning outhouse!
The donation we received was enough for two entire outhouses so on this follow-up trip we bought another load of materials to construct a second outhouse for another family who mentioned this need and whom the pastor knows personally. Also, we DO NOT build or hire anyone to build these for them. Part of maintaining dignity and pride in work and your possessions is taking ownership of them from the beginning. We do not endorse handouts but we work with them and listen to what the needs are. We do the basic things that they are not able to do on their own and come alongside them as they work to make it happen. Our goal is to develop communities and individuals, not be their vending machine, which is why the church’s consistent presence with them in their village is so important. I wish I was there to be able to visit monthly or even more often.
So, this year was pretty exciting as far as teams go. We had a lot of people and each year a lot of my family go, which I love, but this year it was even more exciting because my little (giant) sister came for the first time! And I was about her age the first time I traveled to Honduras and fell in love with the country.
Our first week of medical clinics was in the area of La Esperanza, Intibucá. Such wonderful weather and beautiful people! Our second week was in Copán as usual, which will forever have my heart. ❤ I actually didn’t take any pictures these two weeks because my main role was interpreter and I can get easily burned out wearing too many hats. Let’s face it, missions is not always smiles and giggles and I can get cranky by the end of these trips! But to be honest, even though it is a lot of work, this time was refreshing and reenergizing for me. Exhausting and sometimes emotionally taxing, but the Lord taught me new things and I treasure the moments shared with family and friends, new and old, on the 2015 Honduras medical mission trips.
For anyone who’s been doubting or feeling skeptical like I often do, I am here to tell you that the REAL God still changes hearts in REAL life.
[So, I am working on a Honduras update post or two but I wanted to give a quick testimony and word of praise for what I experienced yesterday at church.]
First of all, the worship team started off the service with a song I had never heard before called Covered by Israel Houghton that absolutely tore me up…
At the cross you called it finished!
All my past is covered… all my sin is covered by your grace…
No matter what I’ve done
No matter where I’ve been
No matter how I fall
You pick me up again
You have removed my shame
You take me as I am
You call me justified
Now I am covered by your grace
Without mentioning the name of the church (because God gets all the glory, not any person or physical location) I want to say how much I admire this team of ministers for creating such a welcoming atmosphere and having the spiritual discernment and anticipation to be prepared to minister when a person has some heavy crap to take care of. Let’s be real, as humans we get shocked and offended and scared at some of the real life junk that people are dealing with deep down. It is a lot easier to dress up on Sunday mornings and intentionally not think about the personal hell that our neighbor might be living in.
My heart hurts for those who think they wouldn’t be welcomed in a church building. We as Christ-followers should be the most welcoming people on the planet. Why do we screw this up so much?
Well, God isn’t offended or intimidated by our mess. He loves us so intensely that just one encounter with His presence, one taste of the REAL Living Water, is enough to quench our thirst and make us realize that we had been so foolishly drinking out of the wrong well for so long looking for something that didn’t even satisfy.
A friend of a family member whom I met for the first time yesterday got a RADICAL taste of this unconditional love and overwhelming grace. He got set free from some crazy stuff on the spot while praying with some staff members after the service. I’ve been in awe of the Lord and feeling kinda weepy ever since. God is good.
Sometimes in ministry we feel like we’re treading water, maybe we are in the “sowing seeds” stage and it feels really slow. The all of a sudden we get to participate in the “harvest” and it is so encouraging and affirming. And I was reminded again not to ever underestimate what God can and will do. He’s been using unconventional ways and unconventional people since the beginning of time. Who are we to predict or “approve” of His methods or even think we could possibly have Him figured out? (And who says ministry only happens in the church building? That might be one of the most debilitating myths of the Church’s ministry today and there are even pastors who perpetuate this mindset.) When we start recognizing the divine in the mundane and becoming aware of sacred moments in secular settings we will be much more effective in the Kingdom. Let’s not miss God-ordained opportunities because we’re too busy with our heads down shuffling through our daily routines.
God is so much bigger 🙂
*PREFACE* This was the blog entry that I was working on when my computer was stolen Sunday afternoon. The saved draft was open along with my photo editing software and the couple hundred pictures that I took during our visit to the village of Nueva Alianza. One of the purposes of this trip was to document living conditions and to have a picture of each family with their last names in order to correspond with the data we had on each child. This was part of Natan’s internship. The photos saved in this blog are the only ones we have from the trip.
A couple days before my trip down here I got an unexpected large donation from a close family member that surprised me to tears. I was overwhelmed and so thankful to God. I wasn’t worried about paying for our rental truck to get up to the mountains or the even bigger issue of how I would continue to pay on my school loans for these couple of months that I’m not in the states. I had a purpose, a mission, and God was my provider. Then because of a small issue out of our control with the rental truck we almost had to pay an outrageous fee on top of the rental price. I was upset and didn’t understand. We returned to the rental place to sort out the issue the next day and it was taken care of. They didn’t mention the issue and we weren’t charged. Just in time! God is good.
Then Sunday happened. My backpack along with my prescription glasses and laptop and a few other things was stolen out of Natan’s car. And I’m almost positive that it happened in the church parking lot… while I was hearing a sermon that would prepare me to deal with the very situation: Paul said in Philippians that he has learned to be content in whatever circumstance, whether in lack or abundance.
I certainly won’t pretend that me minus my laptop equals lack or poverty but I have to admit that it felt like a heavy blow. I use it for most of my jobs and especially for photo/video editing which helps fund my mission trips. Also, I feel really uneasy about all my personal info that was on it. Recent books I have been reading are about ministering in hard places and missionaries who remain in dangerous areas and are friends with those around them even after they have been robbed by the very same ones. When I got back to my room Sunday evening I remembered the book I was reading and decided I would read a little before bed. Then I realized it was in my backpack…
Its pages are most likely being used as toilet paper in someone’s outhouse right now.
Needless to say I am asking God to help me with my attitude. He is still good, He’s my provider and I promise my pity party will be short-lived. I really have been preparing myself for something like this. I am amazed that after 10+ years of traveling/living in Latin America (especially Honduras) that this is the first incident I’ve personally faced. It really is minor compared with other things that happen here. God, help Honduras.
And, now let me introduce Nueva Alianza…
Last year our missions team spent a day in Nueva Alianza (Copán, Honduras) pouring a cement floor for the pastor’s family. This was for the part of the house that was used as a kitchen, which was where they previously had to walk on dirt/mud.
Natán, his brother Walter, and I were able to go back for a short visit last week. Here is a view almost a year later of the completed floor with the kitchen walls back up. The pastor’s widowed daughter and grandson stand in the doorway.
The purpose for this particular visit was for Natán to conduct some interviews and gather research for his social ministry internship he is completing this month for seminary. This village had been chosen by the Christian Social Ministry to receive sponsorship so based on that connection and the friendships already started, we planned our visit. We just happened to get a last minute unexpected donation of children’s literature and workbooks that we were able to deliver to the school.
Let me give you a glimpse into a day in the life of the students there. The school is only first through sixth grade and they are all grouped into one “class.” They are split into two groups depending on the subject being taught. After sixth grade (if they make it that far) is when they are expected to work and support the family. Typical work includes farming and construction.
One of their classrooms is a cinderblock room and the other is made of wood and metal scraps.
A government sponsored program provides the kids with a snack of beans, rice and tortillas during the school day. When the ladies walked up with the pots and pans of food all the children starting singing in unison a song about “snack time.”
We made a couple home visits and saw several inoperable toilets and some stove ventilation pipes that needed to be fixed. But we also saw some new water filters in the homes and a vegetable garden that the Christian Social Ministry helped start. We are hoping to come alongside them to partner with this beautiful community as well. My heart was especially touched for the children. I hope that one day they will each realize that they are precious and loved and can achieve any dream they put their mind to.
I’ve had a couple good conversations with friends recently about how at this point in our lives (several years post-grad) there’s a disappointment that inevitably hits when we realize we aren’t in our glamorous dream job or leading these world-changing ministries like we thought we would be by this age. We decided that that’s okay. (especially considering how wide-eyed and mystified we were in our college years!) 😉 Sometimes life throws a few curve balls and you have to roll with it. What’s important is having the understanding that our significance should never come from our vocation or ministry position to begin with, no matter what that may be.
The rise of self-promotion via social networking has made it quite tempting to post with the purpose of making ourselves appear to be doing something more worthwhile with our life than everyone else is. It’s like we feel the need to announce to the world, “Look! I am doing something significant!” God, let that never be my motivation. When in reality we are all different parts of the body of Christ with many different functions. (Romans 12:3-5) No one is more important than the other.
(The humble experience of having to move back to the U.S. from Honduras for an extended time has been such a great teacher. I really am learning a lot of valuable lessons in this weird transition-like season my life seems to be in.)
God has been dealing with me quite a bit recently through reading a book called Ruthless Trust by Brennan Manning.
I’m in tears reading what sounds like the pages of my very own diary or really maybe responses to what I’ve written:
Humble men and women do not have a low opinion of themselves; they have no opinion of themselves, because they so rarely think about themselves. The heart of humility lies in undivided attention to God, a fascination with his beauty revealed in creation, a contemplative presence to each person who speaks to us, and a “de-selfing” of our plans, projects, ambitions, and soul. Humility is manifested in an indifference to intellectual, emotional, and physical well-being and a carefree disregard of the image we present. No longer concerned with appearing to be good, we can move freely in the mystery of who we really are, aware of the sovereignty of God and of our absolute insufficiency and yet moved by a spirit of radical self-acceptance without self-concern.
Humble people are without pretense, free from any sense of spiritual superiority, and liberated from the need to be associated with persons of importance. The awareness of their spiritual emptiness does not disconcert them. Neither overly sensitive to criticism nor inflated by praise, they recognize their brokenness, acknowledge their gifts, and refuse to take themselves seriously.
THAT is a person so caught up in the Father’s gaze that petty annoyances in life mean nothing. Even for a self-diagnosed Highly Sensitive Person, personal insults or subtle questions of character or blatant disinterest or underhanded “innocent” jokes from people with ulterior motives really begin to pale in comparison with the weightiness of the great mission that Abba is inviting us to. That kind of person doesn’t have time to worry about why “she didn’t message back” or why “they never ask about the ministry” or “why he didn’t donate to the cause.”
Because when the enemy uses these tactics against Lovers of Christ to derail them from their focus, instead of feeling defeat, that person so preoccupied with the glory of Jesus says, “Your will be done. Your kingdom come. All glory to Your name. I am at Your disposal.” Not the other way around. God doesn’t exist to ease our egos. We exist to bring Him glory.
And I don’t have time to maintain these regrets (or hold these grudges or stay offended) when I think about the way He loves us…
Our culture kind of teaches us to talk ourselves up. We apply for scholarships and we have to list our achievements and involvement. We interview for a job and we have to expound on our strengths and why we’re perfect for the position.
Recently, I’ve been learning to rest in my insignificance yet accept myself in the radical and nonsensical love that Christ has for me. I am insignificant and all my attempts at being good are insignificant. The only thing worth talking about in my life is Christ in me. (Galatians 6:14) I hear him say, “you are enough.”
__________ In application to my life __________
I graduated from college with an average amount of student loans. Overwhelming and discouraging at the time and seemingly insurmountable. A definite road block to my calling, I felt. I know that it is only by the grace of God that in the last year and 8 months that I have been back in the states, I have paid two-thirds of my total school loan debt!! IN ONE YEAR I WILL BE COMPLETELY DEBT-FREE!! My sole reason for moving back to the states has been to take care of my debt. This has not been a fun process. (if it weren’t for the help of my parents and grandparents along the way, it would have been an even longer and more discouraging process – so big THANKS to them!)
I say it hasn’t been a fun process not just because of the typical cutting back and “sacrifices” of every day life but because I had a timeline and an idea in my head of how things should work and life just was not going to allow it. There have been delays on life decisions and next steps and I have had to fight back tears some days when I was frustrated with God and didn’t understand His plan – especially when it seemed like everyone else in the world was moving on with their life plans and I felt stuck. This is where I have started to put into practice the concept of TRUST. God, I trust You and your timing.
Even when I was having pity parties or hissy fits because I can be dramatic and life just wasn’t fair! – God was faithful. Not only am I making progress and moving toward my goal of getting back to the mission field in Honduras but I have come to see much of my current work in the states as my ministry. (And I do so enjoy all the part-time and contract jobs I am working these days! For privacy reasons, there is a lot that I won’t post on my public blog but I’d love to chat with you about it in person if you know me.)
Although, I would advise a young person to really consider the financial burden of student loans before deciding on a college and how to pay for it, I must say that I LOVE my alma mater, Lee University. I would not be the person that I am today nor be heading down the path I’m on if it weren’t for my school and the experience I had, friends I met, and connections I made there. I am confident that it was part of God’s plan for my life.
All that to say, I don’t know the details of what the future holds for me* (and the man I am in love with so many miles away from me ❤ ) but as the cliche goes, “I know Who holds my future,” and I trust Him so very much!
*except that, God-willing, I will be back in Central America for good by sometime next year 😀