Humbled by Joy

Let those who delight in my righteousness shout for joy and be glad and say evermore, ‘Great is the Lord, who delights in the welfare of his servant!’  Then the tongue shall tell of your righteousness and of your praises all the day long.  Psalm 35:27-28

We had some new experiences today.  An unexpected task for some of the construction crew today was that the pump at the children’s home went out and needed to be fixed.  Without the pump there was no water to the home.  There were three miracles regarding this event.  First, the pump went out at a time when our team was there, and there were some team members who knew how to fix it.  Secondly, we didn’t have any big projects that needed to be finished up that morning, so there was time to fix it.  And thirdly, the pump needed to be replaced, and it just so happened that we had some money left in our budget that we had to spend, and amazingly enough, we had enough money to cover the cost of the new pump.  God works in pretty amazing ways!

For the first time in the five years that I’ve been coming on this trip, we visited the government run hospital.  Like so many other moments on this trip, our visit was an eye opener.  One of our interpreters, Marisol, works at the hospital as a nurse in the maternity ward.  Because of her, we were able to visit the maternity ward and have a mini tour of the hospital in general.  We were privileged to meet several moms that had just had babies, as early as today.  The maternity ward consisted of a room for delivery, next to an operating room, next to a recovery room.  We met a first time mom, and a mom who was there because her stiches were coming out from a C-section.  In the same recovery room were women who had had hysterectomies, as well as abortions.

Once again, as Americans who are far too privileged, it was difficult to imagine having a child in the conditions that we saw.  We wondered how they could mix new moms with women who had been through an abortion in the same recovery room.  We also saw a pediatric ward with injured and sick children, and we secretly shook our heads at the rusty beds, and the sometimes dirty sheets that we saw.  It is uncomfortable to be in such a place, realizing that that place is the best that the people of Roatan have, if they need medical help.  The equipment was old, the space was cold and uncomfortable, and yet there was gratitude and joy on the faces of the people that were there.  The staff were friendly and doing the best they could with what they had.  It was inspiring to see. Once again, the spirit of the people here always shines.

Entrance to the operating room

Entrance to the operating room

Mom and April, born that day.

Mom and April, born that day.

Sweet, sick boy. :(

Sweet, sick boy. 😦

Main hospital hallway

Main hospital hallway

Open air waiting area

Open air waiting area

After fixing the pump and visiting the hospital, we had a short visit to a new community called Mangrove Bight.  We made an initial contact with the church there and we visited 12 families with groceries and Bibles.  We also provided fluoride treatments to dozens of kids.  It was awesome to form new relationships in a community that we haven’t visited yet.  The church members that we met there were so grateful and warm.

Praying with a family and Mangrove Bight.

Praying with a family and Mangrove Bight.

As our trip is wrapping up, it’s difficult to internalize all the things that we’ve seen, the people we’ve met, the blessings that we take away from this place, and the awesome privilege it is to serve here.  There are so many moving parts to this experience and God, being the grand weaver that he is, knits it all together in a way that we never could.  It is really quite overwhelming.  There are so many special moments that we experience here and it fills my heart with so much joy!  Words can’t express how meaningful and humbling it is to be a part of what God is doing.  We thank him for using us!

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All About the Kids

But Jesus called them to him, saying, ‘Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.  Luke 18:16

Our experiences in Roatan are all about relationships.  Our motive for coming here and doing this work is a response to God’s love for us, and our love for Him.  God has blessed us with many on-going relationships here on the island.  When our team goes into the community of Oak Ridge, we are recognized and greeted with warmth because of the relationships we have built there.   It is also a vital part of our ministry to carry on the relationships that have been established with the kids at Greenfield Children’s Home.  Today was all about those relationships.

As we were planning for this year’s trip, we made it a priority to make sure that we spend more time with the kids.  We wanted to take an afternoon when we could put our tasks aside and just spend time bonding with the kids.  It was awesome!  Everyone involved had a fabulous time, and we left there tonight knowing the kids a little bit better.

Our approach was to have a few planned activities that could be loosely followed as the interest levels dictated.  Earlier in the week the construction team put together bulletin boards for each of the kids to have in their rooms.  Today, they got to paint the frames.  It was quite a sight to see all 19 frames sprawled out on the driveway, each kid expressing themselves in their own way.  It was something that all of them really loved, from the youngest (2 ½ years old), to the oldest (15 years old).

Creativity abounds!  Painting bulletin board frames to put in each kid's room.

Creativity abounds! Painting bulletin board frames to put in each kid’s room.

Many of the kids at Greenfield are awesome football (soccer) players.  So, we decided to go ahead and play a game with them.  They showed us how athletic they are, and we showed them how we’re not really good at soccer.  But the point was to get out there and play with them, and to share in something that is important to them.  We got schooled, but it was a lot of fun!

After the game. we had a water balloon launcher that the kids would use to fling water balloons down to the soccer field, about 300 feet.  Some of the kids tried to catch the balloons as they flew through the air.  There were other kids that were giving mani/pedis, and still others helping in the kitchen to make homemade pizza for dinner (followed by brownie sundaes!)  We all had a blast!

Balloon launch!

Balloon launch!

Richard's million dollar smile!

Richard’s million dollar smile!

 

Our time with the kids ended today with each adult and each kid picking out a Bible story, and acting it out in any way they could.  It was such a blessing to be able to spend time with the kids in such a fun, goofy way, but still teach them about God’s love for them.  We had a really good day!

The construction crew and community crews both had different tasks to do this morning.  There were some general repairs around the home, and care packages to put together for the families that we visited yesterday.  There were about 20 suit cases hauled up to Oak Ridge for the thrift sale tomorrow.  It’s the most we’ve ever had in donations to sell at the sale.  What a privilege this day was!

Prep, Prep, and more Prep

Now there are a variety of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are a variety of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.  1 Corinthians 12:4-6

 

I don’t usually like to write about only the tasks that we did during the day, because they are so secondary to why we’re here.  We do our best to have a healthy combination of productivity and relational time with the kids, but today was mostly about preparing for the rest of the week.  Our team was busy at work at the children’s home accomplishing a myriad of tasks.  Here are some pics that show our work today.

Bunk bed parts being cut

Steve, Rick and Dave cutting bunk bed parts,

 

Ty framing bulletin boards for the kids.

Ty framing bulletin boards for the kids.

 

Lisa and Gary building a table.

Lisa and Gary building a table.

 

Henry, Lisa, and Gary still working on the table.

Henry, Lisa, and Gary still working on the table.

 

Anna, Naomi, and Jon priming frames for the bulletin boards.

Anna, Naomi, and Jon priming frames for the bulletin boards.

The construction team was also busy with plumbing showers, and making a 3 ring toss game for community day.

Our community team was very busy sorting through the donations.  We had more donations this year than any other year.  We have a huge amount of clothing of all sizes, shoes, hygiene items, lice kits, and school supplies.

Christie sorting school supplies.

Christie sorting school supplies.

 

Airing out some donations that have been in suitcases for awhile.

Airing out some donations that have been in suitcases for awhile.

 

Lori sorting a mountain of clothes.

Lori sorting a mountain of clothes.

We had a great day together as a team.  Everyone young and old were able to help in many different capacities.  The kids on the team also did some babysitting for some of the younger children and Greenfield, and they were also able to help them with homework after school today.  We ended the day with a pairing up with the kids to talk about their favorite Bible stories and some of us even learned a little Spanish!

 

 

Noticing God

As we’ve traveled to Roatan today I’ve made it a point to intentionally notice what God is doing all around us, in us, and through us. We’ve had months of preparation for this week, and God has been working the whole time. I don’t want to miss the supernatural in and among the natural this week. As I did my best to take note and notice, here is what I came away with…
Today we saw God in the TSA officer at the airport who, instead of giving us stern looks, gave us a bright smile and handed out stickers to the kids. She was a breath of fresh air. We saw God in the people on the plane who are also coming down for a mission trip, who offered to give all of the kids at the children’s home free eye exams and glasses. Who does that? God showed up in the guy who couldn’t stop smiling in the customs line, when everyone else was complaining and crabby. We saw God in the warm greetings of our friends who live here in Roatan. It is because of the call to come here every year that we know them and have come to love them. We saw God in the faces of the kids at the children’s home, as they ran to greet us as we drove up. We saw God at the dinner table where 21 willing hearts sat, ate food, and were bonded by the common opportunity to be part of what He is already doing on this island. After the 3 a.m. wake up call, the lines, the endless luggage, the connecting flights and the fatigue along the way, we’re all safely here. I can’t help but attribute that as a God thing as well.
Tomorrow we’re all looking forward to spending time with the kids that have grown so much in the last year. Please pray for the teams and the children’s safety moving forward this week. Pray also that we only do what God would have us do here. We want to be focused on His mission, and not our mission. Thanks to everyone who is supporting us in so many ways. Because of you, we are able to be here this week. It is a humbling privilege.

 

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Community Day A-Z

A is for Adoration. There are so many families in the Oak Ridge community that we are coming to love!

B is for Broken hearts. God breaks our hearts for the people of Oak Ridge every time we come here. Today we spoke with many people who don’t have enough food. We met one boy with Cerebral Palsy. He had a seizure while we were surrounding him. There are people who are hungry and hearts that are broken and discouraged.

C is for the love of Christ. God has given us the privilege of showing the love of Christ to the people here, and it was our pleasure to do so.

D is for Direction. There are so many kids in the community of Oak Ridge, and it is our prayer that they grow up, become leaders, and be able to direct their community and their church in the direction that God has in mind.

E is for Edwin. Edwin is an 11 year old boy that used to be at the Children’s Home. He is now living in Oak Ridge. We’ve been told that he’s been getting into trouble and is heading in the wrong direction. We saw him today, and he had a black eye from a fight that he was in. We are very concerned about him and lift him up in prayer.

F is for Families and Fluoride, and Familiarity.   After the event at the church, we visited families in the community again. This time we brought them clothes, Bibles, shoes, toys, hygiene items, and first aid kits. We also gave the kids fluoride treatments on their teeth. For me, one of the coolest things about coming back to the same community year after year, is that people are becoming familiar with us. I recognize faces, and they recognize me. There is a comfort in that.

G is for God. God is working here in Roatan, and through all of the brokenness that we see, we also see miracles and restoration.

H is for Hot Dogs. We served 400 hot dogs to the community today. Everyone got something to eat.

I is for Incline. Oak Ridge is a very hilly community. Our team sometimes has to climb significant inclines to get to the homes of the families.

J is for Joy. We see joy in the people of Roatan, and it is contagious.

K is for Kids. I was such a joy for us to be with all the kids today. There were about 300 kids at our event today. They watched a skit, did crafts, and ate hot dogs. We saw lots of smiles.

L is for Limpira. Everything at the thrift sale today was 2 limps. That’s about 10 cents.

M is for Mustard and Mayo. Remember those 400 hot dogs? They all had ketchup, mustard, and mayo.

N is for New Toys. Every kid in the families that we visited got a small toy.

O is for Officers. This year we had a presence of the local fire department, national police, and the military at our event. They heard about last year, saw the crowd, and decided to stick around for crowd control. The military guys were wearing M-16s. Yikes!

P is for People. There were 3-400 people at our event today!

Q is for Quality tooth brushing. Jill used our tooth monster to give a tooth brushing demonstration.

R is for Rope. Dan C. played Jesus in our skit for the kids. His costume was a sheet with a rope tied around his waist.

S is for Sale. We had a thrift sale today. There were about 2-300 people who were able to buy shoes, clothes, school supplies, and hygiene items for a nominal fee. The money that was collected went to the local church.

T is for Towels. We used towels in the foot washing part of our day. Towels were also one or our crafts for the kids.

U is for Uniforms. The kids here in Roatan are required to have uniforms in order to go to school. Some of the thrift items that were for sale were geared towards the clothes they need for those uniforms.

V is for Victory. It feels like a victory to our whole team that we were able to pull off such an event that we had today. There were a lot of logistics and details to remember, and with Gods help, we were able to do it.

W is for Washing. Our theme this year was humility and servitude. We used the story of Jesus washing the disciple’s feet. After the skit our team washed the feet of anyone in the community who wanted their feet washed. We estimate that there were about 300 pairs of feet.

X is for…not much starts with X.

Y is for Yourgin. A big thank you to our friends Yourgin and Brandy, Merisol, and of course Orsy for being our translators today.

Z is for Zany. There are always parts of this day that seems crazy and overwhelming, but in the end, it’s all worth it.

Gathering at the church in Oak Ridge

Gathering at the church in Oak Ridge

My favorite part of coming to Roatan

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

Then I heard a voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” Isaiah 6:8

My favorite part of coming to Roatan is going out and visiting families in the community.   Today we got the privilege of doing just that. These are the things that I love about it…

Working with the local church. The fact that we get to come here and become involved in what the local church is already doing is awesome. We are all a team as we reach out to the local community, and it is an honor to work alongside our fellow believers here in Roatan.

Encouraging other believers in a different part of the world. The people here have different struggles than we do. They struggle with health issues that are difficult for them to address for various reasons. Many times they are not close to a hospital or clinic, they don’t have enough money to pay for health care, or if they have a job, it’s difficult for them to take time off for a medical reason. The issues our team came across today were things such as epilepsy, heart problems, a man who was confined to a wheel chair because he broke both his legs in a car crash, a woman who was about to give birth (hospital is 45 minutes away), and a 13 year old girl who had swollen arms, and her family doesn’t know why. There were also emotional issues that people are dealing with. We saw broken families, largely because the fathers leave, along with that, we saw depression, and discouragement. Economic issues were also on the forefront. There were many people out of work, and unable to provide for their families. And finally, we came across a lot of people that wanted to be stronger in their spiritual lives.

Seeing our team grow. Whether we’ve been here several years in a row, or it’s the first time, going out into the community changes us. People on our team come to different realizations, and God is teaching us lessons along the way. We are blessed every time we are invited into these homes.

Being used by God. It is such a pleasure to be used by God in the way that He is using us. Every one of the homes that my team visited today said that we were sent by God because they really needed us right now. Whether it was food, or prayer, or encouragement, they all needed something that we were able to give. It is an awesome realization to know that God is using us to get to others.

Please continue to pray for our team, the families of Oak Ridge, the House parents of Greenfield Children’s home, that for our safety for the rest of the week.

A&W Roatan 2015 Day 4 (28)A&W Roatan 2015 Day 4 (53)A&W Roatan 2015 Day 4 (41)

And They Sang a New Song…

And they sang a new song, saying “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” Revelation 5:9-10

Today was the first day that we got to spend with the kids. Those of us who have been here before, were delighted and amazed at how tall they’ve grown, how their smiles have changed, and how their love for us has not waned. It was truly a pleasure to get re-acquainted with the kids, as well as the staff here, who have made countless sacrifices to take care of these kids every day.

 

Our team, the staff at Greenfield, and the kids

Our team, the staff at Greenfield, and the kids

 

We also had an opportunity to involve our church back home with a Skype call. It was a small miracle that we were able to get the technology on both ends to cooperate, and we were able to have a question/answer session between our Sunday school kids back home, and the kids here at the Children’s Home.

 

Skype session from Roatan to Minnesota

Skype session from Roatan to Minnesota

 

We had a great day with the kids, but I think, for me, the best part of the day was when we visited a local church for worship. We were taken to this tiny cement building, and greeted by friendly locals. They were happy to see us, hugged us, and showed us where we could sit. Their smiles were warm and they were truly happy that we were there. There are about 30 people who attend this church, and they had no problem accommodating the 19 of us. Their worship was passionate, their songs were joyful, and their love and reverence for God was contagious. It was such a rich experience to be in a tiny church in a remote corner of the world, just started 4 months ago, and worship with people who have a sincere dependence and genuine reverence for God. Even though we couldn’t understand everything that was being said, it was clear that the Spirit of God was in that little building.

 

The church in Flowers Bay

The church in Flowers Bay

 

Tomorrow the real work begins. We depend on your prayers, so please keep praying!