Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Dream

First, let me apologize for not having blogged in so long. I am finding it very difficult to turn my raw emotions into words. So much has happened in my transitioning to Honduras. In all honesty, I have sat here for minutes trying to write to sentence to describe it; I can not. One day, these emotions that swell in my throat and keep coming as tears to my eyes, will spill onto a page and reveal the sweet love and glory of our Lord. Thank you for all who have so faithfully prayed, loved, and supported me, Mama Tara, and the kids of the la Moskitia. Please know that despite my few scattered words and Facebook posts you are cherished and appreciated. 

There are many stories I want to tell ... but for now, I will start with this blog I wrote last December:

The Dream

Tonight I was reminded of a day that came a few months ago. It was a particularly difficult time of year. The kids were busy with school, trying their boundaries at every turn, there were changes to be made ​​in employees, and uncertainty all around. 

It was in the midst of that chaotic time when I felt the most frantic, that a revelation gently impressed my heart.   That morning I spent like most others, grasping for a little time with the Lord, trying to make myself presentable, get my twenty two (there are presently 24 kids residing in the orphanage) kids up and bathed and ready for school-teeth brushed, uniforms on correctly, fingernails cleaned, breakfast and devotions all before the beep of the cab and the familiar hum of 'Ruby the Rhino. "

The morning continued to that step, the cab and Ruby came bearing my inaugural class of the "Mercy and Grace Child Development Center" with all their energy and enthusiasm. We rushed through our greetings and table time, we fumbled through our morning meeting, struggled to form a line, and finally made ​​it outside. With the guilt of a world first teacher, I drank my coffee while watching my students play on the playground (recently donated by the Home Depot and put up by sweet friends, Wendy, Scott, and Jenna). 

The morning of corralling my little preschoolers moved on as we went inside for snack.   Washing hands without running water, having wait times much longer than the three minutes allotted in my early childhood training, kids touching the ground after hand washing, and many other little things racing through my mind as I tried to coordinate bathrooming, handwashing, book reading, and snack preparation. 

After giving commands over my shoulder in a language I hardly know to kids who barely understand it anyway-my revelation came.  I was spreading peanut butter on about my eleventh piece of bread, when, like the coming of rain across a field , it came-I am living my dream.

I resisted at first, "No, my dream is a little neater than this," I thought. But how do you argue with the rain? I was reminded of how as a young person, I liked to like to watch all the TV shows featuring families with multiples.  I  remembered how the moms had made many sandwiches, just like I was doing.

I started pouring Tang into my colorful plastic cups    I remembered how excited I was when my cousin bought me those plastic cups, when life in Honduras was still an unknown. I smiled.

I looked at my little girl who came for a sneak peak at the snack of the day, her hairbows a little askew.   I was reminded of how excited I was to start a hairbow collection for her. 

I looked around my classroom, which is also my living room, and remembered childhood days filled with hours of setting up Barbie houses, playing school with my friends, and later, setting up my classrooms in the states-all building blocks of my dream.

I had not exactly forgotten that moment, one does not forget such, but tonight that gentle rain poured once again.

I was so tempted to be annoyed.   Annoyed with the way it took more than an hour for a cab to retrieve me.   Annoyed that I had to leave my kids when we were supposed to be having 'Homeschool for the Holidays.' Annoyed because I had to go to physical therapy because I hurt my knee-again. Annoyed that I walked all the way from the hospital to the bank when I did not need to-and on and on.

When I got home, I was disappointed that was three o'clock and I'd missed the whole day. I saw a group of boys off playing marbles my- like it was not even raining and they did not have colds.   I  walked in the house and noticed posters and half down the Christmas garland hung haphazardly on my chalkboard instead of evenly on the curtain rod like I put it this morning. The frustrations continued.  

I fed my cat and sat on the bed. I was tempted to let my disappointment and frustrations turn into a rant. But, as the rain pounded the tin roof, that familiar revelation swelled in my heart-This is my dream. 

"Neater," I chuckled, but was quickened that God wanted to speak to my heart. I resolved to see the dream.

A few of kids asked they could play with the preschool toys.  I looked around at how everything was mixed up, resisted the urges to scold them for not having taken care of things already, said 'yes,' and enjoyed their squeals of delight. 

Their play developed.   I heard them singing songs from our Bible class (VBS Curriculum donated by a sweet friend).   I watched them sit their 'family' down at the table and sing a prayer.   My heart swelled.

 I listened as they explained their play. (I was reminded and thankful for people like Sylvia Gilliam and Diane and Mike Bindewald who spent so much time listening to my play when I was little.)  They were pretending to have Christmas. They decided who was the child who was the 'madrina'-the word for godmother and how they view their sponsors.   They made ​​gifts and cards for each other. I held back tears.

I sat outside.  I was grateful for the cool breeze that came with the rain.  I gave little Roger, who just lost his mom last month, some clothes I'd found for cheap in town. I was thankful for old navy clothes for a dollar twenty five.

I was more grateful for the sweet smile on this boy's face as he tried them on.   But words can not describe the feeling in my heart when he put his chubby little cheek against mine and whispered, "Mama Linda."

I ate some noodles a friend sent from the states. I was grateful for its warmth. I was more grateful for how Roger threw his head back in a smile when he finished the last sip for me.

I was touched when I watched Soraya meet her mom at the gate. I was blessed when her mom, Kiadura, gave me sugar that probably cost a good portion of her day's earnings. I enjoyed her laugh and smile as we sign [she is hard of hearing] to each other how we could drink sweet coffee.

I enjoyed the comfort of that cup of coffee with my friend, Linda.  I was grateful she'd accompanied me to the hospital that day. I was grateful for how she laughed and made ​​me laugh. And how she even bought a coke for the lady so I would get seen faster.  I was grateful for her friendship.

As I went in my room to get a pillowcase dress for our neighbor's baby who got wet in the rain, I was grateful for my friends who've made ​​and sent them (Lissa Lee and Lisa Gould.)   And I was grateful for the orange and white cat sprawled out on my bed when I walked in the room. (follow him on Instagram #sugarthemiskitocat)

As the little kids woke up from nap, I was grateful my big kids had put the little ones down when I was not even home.   They joined in the play.   I was blessed when they brought me 'Christmas gifts'. 

I am touched when I see my big kids playing 'UNO.' I am even more touched when I notice, Claudia, who has struggled a bit in school, pull out her math workbook on her own.

The night went on that way as we read from 'The Chronicles of Narnia' and ate Tootsie Rolls.

 With all this swelling in my heart, I now listen to my girls chattering and giggling across the house. Sitting on what was Mama Tara's bed, looking around at the room that was hers. I question my revelation, "So maybe it is my dream, but is it her dream? " The swarms of uncertainties fill my mind as I measure what I am doing next to what I know of her. I am once again overwhelmed.

I look in the same mirror she looked into and  wonder if she ever felt as unsure as I do. I miss her.   My heart aches.  My watchman sings worship songs outside my window. The rain falls like the tears rolling down my cheeks. 

God comforts me with this ... Your dream, Her dream, My dream.

I surrender all my dreams to Him ....... And May all dreams come true!


Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Road to Mercy

This video is an introduction of sorts to the Mama Tara Miskito Orphanage ministries.  In it there are interviews with Mama Tara and a few of my fellow board members.  They describe their connection with their sponsored children.  It was my inspiration for this blog entry of how the Lord led me down the road to Mercy.

My father led me to the Lord soon after his own life changing conversion in 1985.  I was only four years old.  Being a musician, it was important to my Dad to surround us with Christian music.  My brother and I wore out our Beta Max tape of Carmen and cassette tapes of Petra, Leon Patillo, and David and the Giants.  In fact, Petra's Beat the System became the soundtrack to my early childhood.

My Mom, on the other hand, enjoyed the ever increasing popularity of the televangelist movement.  Still a preschooler, I was emotionally moved by the 'sponsor a child' commercials depicting malnourished children with swollen bellies and big eyes.  I wanted to help them.  Not knowing how, I prayed for them... and ate all my dinner as not to waste food when "there are starving children in Africa."

As a teenager, my Dad bought a cd of Beat the System to replace our long worn cassette.  I listened in nostalgia.  I felt a familiar tug deep in my heart when this song played:  
 (click on title to see youtube video)

Matthew 25:35-46
Words & Music by Bob Hartman

Another day in Nigeria the children beg for bread
The crops failed, the well ran dry
When they lost the watershed
A baby dies, its mother cries the children gather 'round
They're wondering what the day will bring
Will they be the next one found
Do you dare to look into their hollow eyes

In the crowded sheds the children lay their heads
To escape the Haitian heat
The hunger pains drive them to the street
Wondering if today they'll eat
Some found food in the refuse heap
Others find disease
Some find it harder just to live
When they can die with ease
Do you dare to look into their hollow eyes

The least of these is hungry
The least of these is sick
The least of these needs clothing
The least of these needs drink
The least of these knows sorrow
The least of these knows grief
The least of these suffers pain
And Jesus is his name

I thought about those commercials that moved me as a child, "Maybe now I should sponsor a child?"  That thought, however, came a midst growing criticism of sponsorship organizations that were reportedly misusing funds.  Not long later though, our youth group attended a convention we loved to frequent called, Acquire the Fire.  There, Mr. Luce endorsed an organization and showed videos of actual children who'd been helped.   As a group, we decided to sponsor a child.  Although, all good, I didn't receive the fulfillment I thought I would.  

In 2000, I joined Teen Mania Ministries on a mission trip to Trinidad.  It was, as is the Global Expeditions motto, 'a life changing experience.'  What I found missing in that trip was the same thing I longed for in sponsorship... connection.  In effort to fill that, I went on the same trip a year later.  Again, an amazing experience that I would not trade, yet I wanted more.

Now 2001, I was an intern at Teen Mania's Honor Academy.  One night during a worship time, Mr. Luce offered us a challenge.  He asked us to prayerfully consider making a commitment to God to spend at least three years of our lives on the mission field.  I was no stranger to responding to challenges made by Ron Luce.  In fact, it was his bold teachings that had shaped my youth.  But, I warned myself not to be too quickly moved to accept this challenge.  

It wasn't long before I was sure God was tugging my heart to commit.  The thought was intriguing, but too scary to really grasp.  I raised my hand at the altar call later that night, but didn't tell many people about it.  I consoled my frightened inner self, that could not believe it when I raised my hand, "You can just go for two weeks every summer until your old."  "I mean, surely you'll get some connection that way," I reasoned.

It would be almost four years before I put the next 'dent' in that commitment.  I went to Thailand after the tsunami of 2004.  This trip was different for me.  It fact, it changed everything.  It was heart wrenching to see such devastation.  After the trip, I felt as I had after each of my others, though.  It seemed that I had little to offer. I seemed to always be ministered to more than I felt I did ministering.  

Oh, I got a connection.... but it was not what I had expected.   I had heard the Christianese terminology that said 'the Lord broke my heart for the lost.'   It seemed just that Christianese, but now... but now my heart was actually broken at the thought of hurting people without the hope of Christ.  That challenge that once scared me was challenging me again. 

I told myself I was going to get serious about that commitment. But truthfully, I was feeling a much deeper calling to Christian service, but three years seemed much more reasonable.  So, I signed up for another trip.  A month this time, and to the 10/40 window.  I was determined to make a connection and to really be a World Changer.

That trip fell through and I joined some friends who were going to Mama Tara Orphanage in Puerto Lempira, Honduras.   That summer I met two people who would forever fill my longing for connection, Mama Tara and a sweet shy little girl with deep eyes and the most beautiful smile I have ever seen.  Her name is Mercy.  


Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Full Heart

In the Miskito language, the word for love and pain are the same, latwan.  It may be a strange concept to think of these two words meaning exactly the same thing, but somehow it fits my feelings exactly.

It was summer 2006 when I first met Mama Tara.  Many people I knew had already been touched by her.  She certainly deserves admiration, a woman in her eighties single-handedly caring for over twenty orphans.  But something unexpected happened that summer.  My heart was sown to hers with a beautiful crimson thread... latwan.  My heart would, from that summer on, be tied to Mama Tara and the Miskito people.

I remember standing in my hotel room that night.  I held my hands high and, with everything within me, sang the song God had put in my heart before that trip...  

                 Here am I, Lord.  Is it I, Lord?
                 I have heard You calling in the night.
                 I will go, Lord.  If you lead me,
                 I will hold Your people in my heart.

My heart was different after that trip; an ache was ever present.  When I'd see the sun or moon glisten on a body of water, I'd long for la Moskitia.  When I'd sip my coffee in the morning, I hurt to hear Mama's voice.  When I'd watch children playing and listen to them laughing, I'd ache to see little Miskito faces and hear their funny chants.

Since then, I have gone to the orphanage several times and felt a strong calling there.  But, I also knew it wasn't time.  I knew I was where God wanted me. So, I have lived with latwan, the pain of love, in my heart.  Knowing I was in the will of God, I gave all my heart to that calling.  That crimson thread always tugged.

In October, I was afforded the opportunity to travel with three of the Mama Tara board members to Puerto Lempira.  Our trip had a defined purpose.  I thought I would be somewhat safe from the thread's pull.  I thought it would relieve the tension and I would happily return to my call of Grandma and Ladybugs (my pre-K class) since it wasn't yet time.

I was wrong.  The pull was not relieved. As the trip progressed, it was hard to ignore the strong hand behind the pull of that crimson thread.  The time has come for me to move to La Moskitia.

I expected such news to overjoy me.  I wanted to be elated. However, the tides of latwan ebb and flow. The pain I had felt because I could not yet be at the orphanage was quickly replaced with the hurt of leaving the people I have loved and served these past five years.

I was used to wiping the tears I once cried when watching that red dirt runway and mint green building grow smaller from a blurred old airplane window.  I never expected to feel sad when I wouldn't have to do that again.  Latwan is a miskito word.  I made sense to me to feel pain in love in relation to La Moskitia.  

In English, love is just love.  I pondered why I felt so much pain when contemplating leaving my family, friends, and the calling I have followed.  The answer is summed up in the picture above- my heart.  It seemed divided between America and La Moskitia. But it was not divided at all.  I have simply loved with a full heart.

 "The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying: "Yes I have loved you with and everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindess I have drawn you.""   Jeremiah 31:3 NKJV