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. ūüėČ 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.

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Nat√°n and Walter in Nueva Alianza

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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:

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|| 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…

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

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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.

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me, Nat√°n, Pastor Joaquin, Jonathan, Yanela – overlooking Nueva Alianza in the background

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* JOY *

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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.

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Family! me, little bro Carson, little sis Tori

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Lovely cousin Kate! What would I do without her?

Our first week of medical clinics was in the area of La Esperanza, Intibuc√°. Such wonderful weather and beautiful people! Our second week was in Cop√°n 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.

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Short-term missions: how to be helpful, not harmful – Part 1

“When we do for those in need what they have the capacity to do for themselves, we disempower them.” – Toxic Charity

Melvin is a single dad of six, living in a small tribal community in Central America. He and his family live in extreme poverty and have struggled, especially since the recent death of his wife. Melvin has no work and no longer hunts for food due to the diminution of their tribe’s land and consequent lack of wild animals. His face is worn and tired and his expression is downcast. His words echo with a hollow hopelessness.

A young missionary couple from the city a few hours away has moved to the base of the tribe’s mountain and they have been investing time building relationships, getting to know the indigenous culture and language and discipling those interested in a new life in Christ. Along with a couple pastors, this missionary team began assessing the main physical needs of the tribe. While listening to the members of the community and collaborating with the tribe’s chief, they came up with a community development project plan and the first priority was to construct safer houses for the families.

It would be much faster to pay a contractor and team of construction workers to erect ten new homes, but the goal of this particular project is more than providing physical roofs and walls. It is about bringing back a sense of dignity to the individuals and raising the morale of the group.

“The goal is to see people restored to being what God created them to be: people who understand that they are created in the image of God with the gifts, abilities, and capacity to make decisions and effect change in the world around them; and people who steward their lives, communities, resources, and relationships in order to bring glory to God.” – When Helping Hurts

So, the group began to implement the first steps of this plan. They paid a small team of workers from the city to begin the first phase of house construction in the community and to teach the moms, dads and older children the skills necessary to complete their homes and eventually help their neighbors construct their new houses. Through this long process, men and women are regaining a sense of self-worth and pride in their work. But then came the American missions team

IMG_8431With their good intentions and willingness to help, they came to Melvin’s tribe. Seeing the small amount of labor left to finish Melvin’s house, they made the executive decision to finish it for him. As able-bodied Melvin stood watching beside his six children, a team of “strangers from the North” robbed him of his opportunity to finish what he started and provide something nice for his family. Instead of feeling pride for completing something made with his own two hands, a dependency-on-the-white-man complex was perpetuated.

But what a blessing! With pats on each other’s backs and an abundance of Instagram-worthy selfies, the U.S. missions team returned to their church to show the slideshow of how they had labored for the Lord in Central America.

Never do for someone what you can do with them.

Sometimes our charitable efforts can actually take a toll on the self-esteem of those we serve. We in North America are very task-oriented and we like to see fast results. A huge lesson that all mission trip leaders should understand before traveling is: you don’t always know best. Listen to the indigenous leaders and pastors and missionaries. DO NOT override their decisions or plans just because you think you have a better idea.

Unhealthy missions partnerships are formed when native hosts feel obligated to cater to the domineering mission groups because they bring the financial support. Be as open and transparent as possible about this.