2009 -> 2019 Decade in Review

What a significant decade in my life! So many ups and downs and interesting experiences. So much learning and growing! So many dreams accomplished and so much evidence of God’s providence and faithfulness. How can I not be thankful?

I still consider 2009 to be one of the most significant years of my life. I would say it was the peak of my existence but that’s a little dramatic and also kind of depressing for the rest of my years here on earth… *ahem, nervous laughter* so, anyway I thought I’d share the highlights from that year and then the highlights from the rest of the decade. Maybe I’ll throw in some lowlights too just to be real…

2009

The year I turned 20! I finished my sophomore year at Lee University and started my junior year in the fall. I had gotten involved in a community tutoring and mentorship ministry in an immigrant neighborhood near my college campus that I would end up leading the following year. The experiences and friendships formed through this ministry were nothing short of life-changing for me. And my Spanish advanced exponentially this year!

The summer of 2009 was packed for me. I don’t remember the specific order but it involved traveling as a volunteer to Honduras, Mexico, and DISNEY WORLD. Yes, I went to Disney World on a paid trip as a volunteer Spanish interpreter with a Mexican family for a type of make-a-wish dream vacation. Occasionally I think about that opportunity and wonder WHAT IS MY LIFE. (that trip was not without its mishaps and fails – which make for hilarious stories – but it was overall truly MAGICAL)

After having traveled for 5 years with teams, my cousin and I were able to travel to Honduras solo for the first time as independent volunteers. I think the trip was a total of about 3 weeks, which was cut short because of Honduras’ infamous MILITARY COUP that took place smack dab in the middle of our stay. Of course, at 20-years-old I was more concerned about my missions adventure being thwarted than the actual political ramifications that it meant for the country. #typical

Thank God that I have grown as an individual and as a missionary since that trip. I was naïve in so many ways.

We were also in Honduras when Michael Jackson died but that had no implication on my life. I just remembered that being big in the news.

The Disney World experience was enriching in so many ways. I got to see the incredible collaboration of Children’s Hospital of Alabama and the organization, Magic Moments, in granting the wish of a precious little patient whose cancer was in remission. The organization, Give Kids the World, in Kissimee, FL was super impressive as they provided housing, food, and activities to all their guests – families of children with terminal illnesses. One activity in their “village” allowed the sick children to write their name on a gold star and choose where they wanted to hang the star along the roof of “Castle of Miracles” along with thousands of other stars from kids in similar situations. We got park hopper entrances to all Disney parks and to Universal Studios, fast passes to every ride, park meals and souvenirs covered, and the patient’s Give Kids the World button she wore on her shirt signaled all characters in autograph signing lines to stop the line and direct their attention to her. I had never seen anything like it.

The biggest mishap of the trip was that I was the only licensed driver of the group (and the only English speaker) and the family’s vehicle broke down somewhere in south Georgia on our way to Orlando and it was a Sunday and we couldn’t find any mechanic shops open. This was also before smartphones so I guess we were just calling random people asking for help. (we actually waved on a police officer who stopped to ask if we were ok) We finally got in touch with a friend of a friend, some latino mechanic who came and helped us out. That day I learned the Spanish word for spark plugs. And I learned a few other things about my own privilege.

For the first part of this year I was working as an office assistant and board operator at Christian radio station J103 in Chattanooga.

2010

I visited Costa Rica for the first time with a group from college this summer. I tried gallo pinto (Costa Rican rice and beans) and my life hasn’t been the same since.

I think this was the year that I started working in retail – JCPenny!

2011

This was the year I graduated from my incredible alma mater, Lee U, with a bachelor’s of arts in Telecommunications, minors in Spanish, Latin American Studies, and Religion. I was interning (and eventually worked) at Church of God World Missions editing video footage for missionaries around the world. I loved it! I eventually had to leave Cleveland, TN and was super sad.

My highest highlight of the year was visiting Puerto Rico for the first time. ¡Me enamoré con la Isla del Encanto! And I halfway learned to dance Bomba. Second highlight was getting my first DSLR camera (Canon T2i).

In the fall of this year I moved to Panama City, Panamá for three months as a volunteer with a Honduran missionary family.

This was the year I started getting more involved in fighting for comprehensive immigration reform, and specifically against a state-level anti-immigrant bill that was promoting self-deportation of undocumented immigrants. I wrote to my representatives and traveled to the state capital by bus with a group of activists to rally against it.

377166_2722674178720_405362252_n.jpg

2012

I went back to work with the World Missions video editing team for the first part of this year then I was invited to move to Honduras in August on an English teaching contract. I was nervous about teaching and living there for A YEAR but I jumped at the chance. One fateful month after starting my teaching job in San Pedro Sula, Honduras I met Natán Martínez at church. My first impression of him was him standing up in front of the congregation praying a passionate missions prayer for some chosen country of the month… it I weren’t so skeptical of these kind of things I would say it was love at first sight… or love at first prayer… idk. Basically a few weeks after that we were officially dating.

71823_4891590000260_1360603978_n

This was also one of the last years that I was into death-defying stunts like hiking through a roaring waterfall with an amateur guide. (NEVER AGAIN) Yes, those tiny people in the photo are my friends and me.

427847_4396524463931_1100110206_n

This year I traveled to Belize for the first time.

2013

I finished my teaching contract in June and made plans to move back to the states. Natán was preparing to start seminary in Guatemala and we were already talking about getting married. We both knew we wanted to be in ministry in Honduras but didn’t know what that would look like. I still had about $20,000+ of student loans to pay off and he had 3 years of seminary to get through. We pledged to do long distance until we met our goals. AND WE DID. 2013 was the start of 3.5 years of LONG DISTANCE dating (kind of already engaged) in two separate countries.

For the last half of 2013 I started the job search. My first contract job was teaching English to adults through a literacy program grant for Hoover City Schools at an elementary school. I eventually started teaching Spanish with a homeschool co-op, and doing Spanish interpreting in medical facilities and Tarrant City School System. I loved each of these jobs. At one point I was working 5 contract jobs at once!

I also started using my photography/videography as a side hustle, doing photo sessions and videoing events.

2016

Natán and I would see each other about twice a year when he’d go home to Honduras for break and I’d travel to see him or travel with a missions group. Finally, in spring of 2016 I traveled to visit him in Guatemala and then again in November to see him graduate. This was when we took engagement photos to announce our wedding date for the following March.

This was the year I paid off the last of my student loans! FREEDOM. And Natán graduated from seminary. I had started raising monthly missions support and that has sustained us in our ministry. We accomplished what we set out to do before getting married and starting our lives as full-time missionaries.

24879765_10213571906024663_7113258762233686047_o

2017

WEDDING TIME! Natán and I (finally) got married in an intimate ceremony on the Caribbean island of Roatan on March 27, 2017, four days before my 28th birthday. IT WAS A DREAM. It was at my dream location, I wore my dream dress, DSW clearance high heels, my grandmother did my hair AND made our delicious strawberry wedding cake. (don’t tell anyone she iced the cake in our hotel bathroom) We found a great local photographer and were surrounded by closest friends and family. Those who couldn’t be present watched via Skype.

2018

In February of this year I lost my paternal grandmother and it was really hard but I thank God that I happened to be home on a scheduled visit during her last days and I was able to say goodbye while she was lucid.

We got a slow start this year as we founded our poverty alleviation nonprofit organization and we kept hitting bumps in the road. The last few months of 2018 were pretty stressful in our personal lives but we made it through. I was glad to see 2018 go.

Four highlights were: loving married life, visiting El Salvador for the first time, having my mom and grandparents visit us in Honduras, and photographing the birth of my nephew, Brooks!

EDIT-2851-2

2019

In 2019 we officially got 501c3 status as an organization! We hit a few important goals and had our first official benefit event for our org in Alabama. I also turned 30 this year and it felt fabulous.


This last decade brought many pleasant surprises but also a couple painful disappointments. I learned some ugly truths about the world but I think I grew and gained wisdom from it. I am not as carefree and naïve as I was at twenty but that would be kind of weird if I was.

I might not be exactly where I’d like to be for 2020 but as I reflect over the last ten years I think I can say it was a freakin’ good decade. I really don’t have any regrets. Here’s to the next!

Nueva Alianza village update [PHOTOS] and Mission teams recap

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.

11147859_10206197929119849_654569487239188292_o

Natán and Walter in Nueva Alianza

178

Laundry mat! Where some of the families wash their clothes. Most don’t have the typical pila. (large concrete wash basin)

I posted a picture and caption on Facebook from our preliminary trip up to the village about a little girl named Mariela:

11392805_10206193901779168_8825985041062028215_o

|| The best view. ||  My new friend, Mariela, showed me her house and her family’s garden yesterday. They were proud of their new water filter they received about a week ago. Two families live together in the tiny home so she calls the little room that she shares with other family members her “house.” Their outhouse style toilet has stopped working so they have to use the bathroom in the woods. They wash clothes in the nearby creek.

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…

Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 8.37.51 AM

…and just a few weeks later we went back for a visit and got to see the completed and functioning outhouse!

IMG_0177

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.

380

me, Natán, Pastor Joaquin, Jonathan, Yanela – overlooking Nueva Alianza in the background

Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 8.41.42 AM

* JOY *

______________________________________

Mission Teams!

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.

11760152_10205002953259842_7629764036312742616_n

Family! me, little bro Carson, little sis Tori

11221689_10205276025000317_1373135726277555889_o

Lovely cousin Kate! What would I do without her?

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.

11752511_10204995670957789_8970705600916606151_n

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.

boys

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.

bath

chief

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.

donation box

  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!

baby

“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

_____________________________________________

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.

hike

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

boy

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.

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.

———————————————————-

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