The Worlds of Excess and Lack

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Take about a minute to study the illustration above. Move your eyes back and forth between the child with the iPad and the child eating off the ground. What do you feel?

This hit me like a punch in the stomach.

Shocking.

True.

How can I do more?

It says what I haven’t been able to find the words to say for a while now. Here in Central America I live in the tension that you feel when you look at this image. It’s an uncomfortable place, I admit.

I’m much more comfortable in my middle class home in Alabama, watching House Hunters on TV, surrounded by all my iThings and justifying the couple hundred dollars of recent purchases I just made on frivolous stuff for myself. I mean, I’m not rich and wasteful like those people, right?

We play the comparison game. The truth is that in the U.S. I feel borderline poor and almost convinced that I deserve more: more convenience and comfort, better service, newer gadgets, faster technology, the latest styles. But who is making me feel this lack in my life? Advertising companies? The family down the street? That friend from high school who flaunts her lavish lifestyle on Instagram? Maybe it’s time to cut those things out. I’ve recently started a discipline online of unfollowing people/media/companies that feed that insecurity in me, that insatiable hunger that tells me I need and deserve more more more. They. Are. Lies. (For parents, it might be those that convince you that you should take out a 2nd mortgage just to get your kid all those gifts for Christmas.)

As an adult (more specifically, an adult living as a foreigner in a developing country) I am fully #woke to the fact that in my family we were lavishly spoiled as children during Christmas. (which I loved as a kid, don’t get me wrong) But I think it fed that little materialism monster in me and now it’s my job to try to starve him.

It’s the reason I have a hard time answering when someone cheerfully asks, “Do you love living in Honduras?” Well, part of the time, yes, but not because I’m thoroughly enjoying myself or super comfy or even “living the adventure of a lifetime.” My lifestyle here is very different and a lot of days are hard. It helps keep me grounded and more aware of the majority world’s reality and I value that far more. In the states I can easily and comfortably forget the suffering of those outside my door – the ignorance is bliss kind of thing. Even when I go back home and spend an extended length of time I start to forget. We humans have such short attention spans.

Here, the suffering is unavoidable.

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Now that I have seen I am responsible. – Brooke Fraser


If you’re still wondering if you might be considered rich or not by global standards, Screen Shot 2017-11-27 at 1.20.26 PMcheck out the Global Rich List and see how you compare. I can bet you’re at least in the top 3% richest in the world. ūüėČ

  • sidebar: It certainly isn’t a USA vs. majority world problem either. Economic inequality is sometimes the most extreme within the borders of one single country. The gap between rich and poor in Honduras is painfully obvious.

I just finished reading the book 7 by Jen Hatmaker¬†– I’m behind the times, I know.¬†The tagline is “an experimental mutiny against excess.” Yes. It encouraged me (Again. I will forever and ever need these reminders) that there is value in living more simply and that most of the things we think we need aren’t really necessities but, in fact, excess. The premise of the book is to free ourselves of the bondage of materialism while at the same time opening our eyes to the needs of others around the world. liberation + solidarity.40e6ebd24f7c0e79951a2463ca2290e6--truth-quotes-a-quotes

A good friend of mine used to say, “The most important things in life aren’t things.” Amen.

A few years ago I blogged about something similar after reading Jeff Shinabarger’s book¬†More or Less.

I wrote, “the real kicker is that the kind of life I live here (Honduras), which at first I considered sacrificial, is still seen by many around me as living in abundance. That blows my mind.” The car I felt embarrassed to drive during college now looks like a huge blessing when I consider that most families here do well to buy one used shared vehicle. And mine was one of FIVE vehicles that my immediate family owned – practically unheard of here in Honduras.

I‚Äôm caught between these two worlds ‚Äď but I want so badly that they understand each other.” (Full blog post here.)

My great frustration in life is feeling misunderstood. (My Myers-Briggs [INFP] and Enneagram [4 w 5] personality type results confirm this) So, as if to complicate things even more I decided to move to and marry into a new country and culture and language. Communicating effectively and achieving “being understood” is even more challenging yet at the same time more rewarding when it happens.

And it’s not just on the Honduras end. Sometimes it’s hard for family and friends back home to relate to my daily life (no fault of their own) or to understand that the values, norms, and status quo in Honduran society are different. It gets tricky trying to balance two different value systems. Small talk becomes even more painful when you have so much heaviness weighing on you. Very few in the states truly understand the plight of an average individual trying to make ends meet in a developing country like Honduras and even fewer truly grasp the reality that:¬†The poorest 40 percent of the world’s population accounts for 5 percent of global income and the richest 20 percent accounts for three-quarters of world income.¬†The inequality is staggering and it’s an inequality that has actual faces and names here.

Did you know? The money spent on diet plans in the U.S. alone could feed all starving children around the globe? The 60 billion dollars spent on Black Friday in the U.S. could solve the food crisis TWICE and the water crisis 6 TIMES?

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The wonderful thing is that statistically, Americans are more likely than any other country to voluntarily give to help the poor in other countries. Ironically, those with lower incomes actually give a higher percentage. We could improve on the fact that there is still 33% in our country who do not donate to charity at all.

On my previous short-term trips I would come home to the U.S. to my big comfortable bed and just cry because I didn’t know what to do with what I had just experienced. I knew something was terribly wrong with how I saw the majority of Americans living – their skewed priorities, their indifference to “outsiders.” Unfortunately after a few weeks, those strong feelings of unrest and conviction would start to wane. The awareness that 62% of the population of Honduras live below the poverty line would fade to the background of my consciousness because it was no longer right in front of my face. I would continue with my life and get caught up in the same trivial first world problems. I now consciously choose to keep it in the forefront of my mind no matter how uncomfortable it makes me.

I also choose to keep speaking up about it. I’ll be like that annoying dripping in the kitchen sink that just won’t. shut. up.

You’re welcome.

“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal.” Matt. 6:19

What are some practical ways you liberate yourself and your family from the bondage of materialism and/or stand in solidarity with those suffering in and outside our borders?

*Two other life changing books on my shelf regarding this topic are Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger by Ron Sider and The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns.*

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Blending: Newlywed Daily Life

Today marks four months of marriage. I’m totally counting (and celebrating!) each month but Nat√°n told me just to let him know once we’ve reached a year. *eye roll*

These four months have involved a lot of blending. Blending of two distinct cultures, upbringings, families, personalities, responsibilities, communication styles, general preferences, and expectations. In a lot of ways we had already started some of the blending almost five years ago when we started dating. The fact that I had moved to a new country meant that I was already doing quite a lot of adapting previous to meeting Nat√°n. If I hadn’t been open to a complete cultural change from the beginning there would have been (and would still be) a lot more friction.

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That doesn’t mean I don’t lay down some gringa rules in this Honduran household. 1. Bath and Body Works Wallflowers and candles – this house will smell like a magical garden of magnolia blossom white tea ginger honeysuckle sweet pea, dang it. 2. Decorative pillows are meant to be seen, not touched and certainly not slept on. 3. You can eat your stinky dry cheese all you want but I will keep the fridge stocked with my heavenly cheddar cheese, even if it means splurging a bit at the grocery store. 4. Let me introduce you to a little invention called a coaster. 5. I’m sorry, we’re doing what today? Is it on the family calendar??

He likes to joke that I’m “American-izing” him and my whiteness is rubbing off on him. ūüėČ (you. are. welcome.) Occasionally when he doesn’t want to yield to my really great American idea he claims imperialism. (deep down I know he likes all my ideas)

[One of my ideas is that he will continue to eat fried okra with as many meals as possible until he is as obsessed with it as I am.] 2017-05-02 18.56.45

Contrary to common belief about Latin men being machista¬†he is a wonderful partner who treats me as his equal and willingly shares in domestic responsibilities. I’m so thankful for that. Really, it’s something that attracted me to him from the beginning. I recognized that he knew how to run a household and wasn’t afraid of a broom and dustpan. I’ve learned valuable home skills from him too like how to wash clothes by hand in the pila (outdoor wash basin) and make flour tortillas.

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I can honestly say that nothing has felt more natural than becoming his wife and blending our separate lives together. I halfway expected a big moment of either euphoria or difficulty. Maybe that moment is on its way but so far I can attest that it has just felt right. As a person who thoroughly enjoyed and made the most of¬†singlehood, I now know that I really really enjoy marriage in general and I really really enjoy sharing life with the person I wholeheartedly decided to marry. ‚̧

 

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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 Scoop: My move to Honduras

The not-so-detailed Details and not-very-concrete Facts:

  • I am flying out on one of the last few days of July.
  • I will be teaching English at a Christian bilingual elementary school in the city.
  • School will start (approximately) one week after my arrival. (aah!) *update: no it won’t. I’ll have a few weeks. Whew!
  • I will be working closely with Angie and Hope House.
  • The school year will end (approximately) in June.
  • I will need (approximately) $1000 up front for traveling expenses and some necessities before I receive my first paycheck from the school. It is unclear to predict how much monthly support I might need at this time. Once I know I will update my blog. (if you haven’t watched my support video, please do!)

Some students and me in Darien, Panama from October 2011.

Here’s the thing, I have already committed to participating in Argo Christian Fellowship’s annual medical missions trip (which I love) the first week of July. I have managed to raise enough funds for that trip and, like usual, we will spend our week in Cop√°n, hosting clinics in various villages. This is just the beginning of my crazy month of July – from there I will return home from Honduras, get ready for the wedding of my best friend, Brianna, have a few days at home to pack before I leave to work a conference in Florida and then on to Honduras to live. I don’t know at which point in those 30+ days I will have a chance to sleep but I can at least count on it being interesting.

I am very excited about having students and having a classroom and being able to pour into such impressionable lives to impact their futures. I’ve been reading a self-help book for teachers that belongs to my friend who teaches ESL at a local elementary school. I am only a few pages in but it might be changing my life, haha. I am kind of in the oh-crap-I-hope-I’m-prepared-for-this stage. (hence, the Clase de Ingl√©s teaching Pinterest board I just created)

Pray that I will be prepared to take on the responsibility of a classroom and that I will be able to break through any cultural barriers to effectively reach the hearts and minds of these little ones.