I have not slept well the last two nights. Yesterday I benefitted from Rhonda’s electrolyte powder and from Tim’s magnesium pills and fruit. And spent most of the day resting inside the church where it was a bit cooler, feeling light-headed and a little spacey. I felt fine by the afternoon and could sit outside watching some of the work.

Image of a pila.

Image of pouring the mesa for the second new stove.

Image of the new roof taking shape for the tortillería.

Image of Gustavo digging a drain.

At morning devotion Padre Marco and Abigail had asked me to lead a couple of songs, so I found chords and lyrics online to play from. Even songs I play every week at Spanish mass I still need the chords in front of me. We sang Cristo Libertador and Quien Es Ese. As far as I could tell folks sang along just fine, but Padre Marco later said these songs were not familiar to them and would I do them again tomorrow. Maybe I can also record some video they could refer to while learning the songs. Both are in their hymnal, but it is words only.

Abigail has finished her biography for us; Rhonda and I intend to start a GoFundMe for her college expenses, especially because it is likely she will need to rent an apartment.

If you ever need to remove acrylic nails and have no acetone handy, it turns out that 100% DEET will dissolve the glue…

I felt more disconnected yesterday, probably in part from not feeling well, in part from a natural lull in spending time with the same people for a while, in part from language issues. I have been able to speak in Spanish much more effectively than I expected, but it is still a lot of effort and anxiety and so it can be tiring. Sometimes being anxious to connect with people means I make stupid jokes or talk too much or too dramatically.

Later in the afternoon when Carlos and I noticed we were both sitting to rest a bit, he asked for the guitar and taught me some new songs, one of which I especially liked. He allowed me to record them on video, which will help me learn not only the melody but the chords, since the video shows his left hand positions. I’ll need to copy out the words from the hymnal.

Image of Carlos playing guitar.


Things that happened today, in no particular order.

I learned how to use the tortilla press, which is used for corn tortillas, and I got decently fast at it and didn’t have too many tear as I peeled them from the plastic.

I went to the grocery store with Padre Marco, his wife Maricela, their son Keller, and Luz, to buy food for today’s meals and I think tomorrow’s. The store was not terribly different from ours, with a lot of the same brands of cereal and sodas, some different produce and cheeses, etc. And you could change your points into,tickets to put into a big drum from which a winner would be drawn, with a nice red car as the prize.

I sat in the church singing songs in the hymnal that we also sing at Santo Tomás, and some of the kids came to sing with me: Luís, Keller, and Helen (whose dog had three puppies, one black and brown, and two all brown). It was great fun to sing together. Oh, and Justin sat with us for some of the time, too.

I chopped cilantro for the pica for today’s lunch. I spent a good bit of time sitting in the kitchen today, and talking with the women. I think now I know all their names, and have learned a little about them. María Suyapa is the oldest and the director. Another María made yesterday’s donuts, has four children from thirteen to twenty; the oldest lives and works in the States. The youngest, Jorge, came to hang out at the church after school today. Luz’s husband also lives and works in the U.S., and has been away for eleven years. They have three daughters. One is in high school, one makes gift boxes, and one does drawings (design?) for jewelry. Wendy’s husband Gustavo is the senior warden, and has been working hard on the tortillería project.

The little boys played with the iPad again, and so I took no pictures today.

I am a bit run down today. I think I am getting enough sleep, and mostly drinking enough, but probably my electrolytes are off or something. Tim gave me some V-8 and a banana and two oranges.

Pineapple is a thousand times better where it grows than when it has to be imported. Anything is, I suppose.

The new floor is about half done. First they leveled the ground, adding dirt to the rubble, smoothing it, and tamping it down. They dug the dirt from the base of the hill by the side of the road and carried it up in buckets. They had tied a string as a guide for the height of the concrete. This they mixed right on the sidewalk, like making pasta dough. First they used shovels to mix the dry ingredients: sand, rocks, and cement mix. They dug a shallow lake into which they poured a bucket of water. They then took shovelfuls from the sides and tipped the dry mix into the water along the top edges of the lake. When the lake was thus reduced in diameter by about half, they started turning the whole pile over until all was mixed. Then shoveled the mix into buckets which others poured where the floor was going, and Gustavo smoothed it out. Whew.

We were honored to be invited to the priest’s home for dinner. A wonderful time of fellowship over food, and learning more of his story, how he came to faith and to his vocation as priest.


Breakfast was quesadillas in corn tortillas, with beans and avocado, plus the regular juice, watermelon, and papaya.

Our morning devotion included some singing with Deacon Carlos playing Abigail’s guitar.

The ladies didn’t need any help in the kitchen, so Abigail and I sat down to learn some guitar chords. I showed her D, G, A, and Em. Hispanics use Solfege to name the chords, so D is Re, G is Sol, A is La, and Em is Mi menor, or just Mim.

Otherwise, I spent a LOT of time just sitting around. Had some good conversation with Rhonda and Abigail, some with Maricela. Rhonda and I would like to start a GoFundMe or something to raise support for Abigail’s college expenses, especially if she needs to rent an apartment. The diocese was to send the family to Tegucigalpa for his next call, in which case Abigail could live at home, but it is possible they may be asked to stay at San José de la Montaña. Anyway, as much as I enjoy being with the kids or talking with folks, it takes a toll in terms of psychological energy and anxiety.

The kids played on Amy’s tablet quite a bit. They each individually asked my permission, and took turns easily.

I did get to help a bit with the stove, finding the measuring tape when Carlos needed it, bringing another two shovelfuls of concrete over, and holding the pipe in place while he put concrete and a box of firebrick around it.

The church women have made special food for us, the kind of things normally reserved for birthdays and such. Yesterday lunch was fried tilapia with beans and rice and pica, a mix of onions, lime juice, and jalapeños. In the afternoon there’s a coffee break. Yesterday they made homemade donuts, and today pastelitos, fried hand pies filled with chicken and shredded vegetables.

The skeleton of the new roof is taking shape. Padre Marco is welding the steel beams together, sometimes precariously from the very top of the stepladder, secured by the hands of one or two others. Wednesday I think the plan is to pour the new floor. Pour is perhaps misleading. It may be poured one shovelful at a time, or perhaps aided by the wheelbarrow.

After work we stopped at the supermarket. I needed that Lindt 85% cocoa bar. Got some almonds to go with.

At dinner Byron, Marilyn, Freddy, and I were at one end of the table and heard Freddy’s story, of how he came to learn English, and along the way all the things he has learned to do. He worked as a tailor for a time, and if he had a commercial machine and a serger, he could earn a good bit of extra money in the sometimes long stretches between short-term teams. A good sewing machine could cost about $500.

Then we crashed, and then we woke up; another day.

Work begins

Our day began with tostada francesa, French toast, along with a thin slice of ham, watermelon, papaya, and orange juice. And coffee, of course. We only arrived Friday, and yet it feels like we’ve been here longer than that.

Now that we have had a couple of days to settle in, see a bit of the country, and meet some people in the diocese, it is time to get to work.

When we arrive at Iglesia San José de la Montaña, Padre Marcos leads us in a devotion from a small booklet, with his daughter Abigail translating again. It was the story of a woman who, when she started making bread herself, seeing how the yeast works through the dough and how the dough transforms into bread, started to understand more what Jesus meant when he said, “I am the bread of life.” Padre Marcos invited anyone to look at the booklet to share the devotion any day this week, encouraged us to rest anytime in the sanctuary, take time to talk to anyone with Abigail’s help translating, and to feel at home as we are all the family of God. He introduced us to the women who would be cooking for us, three people helping from a government program called Vida Mejor, “Better Life,” and the man in charge of the construction project. After a closing prayer we got started.

Some people helped clear rubble and debris from where the expanded floor would go. Some demolished the old stove. Some started framing the new fence and roof. Some began to build the two new ecological stoves. Our team helped where and when we could, carrying things, holding things, wielding sledgehammer or pick axe, washing windows, reading to and playing with the kids, or getting out of the way.

I asked the cooks if they would like some help in the kitchen, and they let me attempt to make flour tortillas, slapping the dough between my hands. My tortillas were oblong, too thin in the middle, and prone to folding up on the way from one hand to the other, but María S., director of the tortillería, fixed them for me. Luz showed me how to form the tortillas on a circle of plastic on a cutting board instead, and that was much easier. These tortillas became baleadas for the workers’ breakfasts.

Later I helped with the corn tortillas for lunch, shaping the masa, a corn dough, into small balls that María flattened between plastic in a metal press. For a while I sat watching, chatting with Maricela about the lives of pastors’ and teachers’ wives. Among other things, I learned that until recently she and Padre Marcos worked with an AIDS program through the Episcopal church. They administer HIV tests and provide psychological support to those who test positive.

Those working outside saw the neighborhood children walking home from school in their uniforms, white polo shirts and navy pants or pleated skirts for the morning school, gray pants and skirts in the afternoon. None of the students looked older than eight or nine; it is expensive to go to school. They also saw the neighborhood trash pickup. Everyone piles their trash at the corner by the church. Three men load all the bags on the truck, and then unload bag by bag at the dump.

There were a lot of people and not much space, so folks took time to talk with one another here and there. Some of us chatted with Abigail.

Abigail is eighteen and has graduated from a bilingual school. She is registered to start college in Tegucigalpa, where she plans to study medicine. When she was a little girl, her aunt gave her a toy doctor kit that she loved to play with, and she has wanted to be a doctor ever since. She would like to be a pediatrician, possibly specializing in neonatology, or maybe she will be a neurosurgeon. If she becomes a pediatrician, she would love to start a hospital to serve poor children. She’s also interested in serving with Doctors Without Borders. AND she learned how to knit today (some of the other kids gave it a try, too), and has a guitar and wants to learn to play. I asked her to bring it tomorrow…

When she was in tenth grade, Abigail had an opportunity to spend fifteen days in the U.S., living with a host family in D.C., attending St. Andrews Episcopal School in Maryland, and visiting museums and other places. She was born in Paraiso, lived a few years in Puerto Cortés where her brother Keller was born, then the family moved here to San Pedro. Twelve-year-old Keller is interested in architecture and maybe engineering. Kenan is the family’s little dog.

Second day

imageToday we went to church and to Omoa and to Baskin-Robbins.

For breakfast Carrie and Maria of The Green Frog served us orange juice and watermelon and papaya again, and baleadas — flour tortillas wrapped around a filling and heated through kind of like a quesadilla. Mine had beans, crema, and eggs. Others had avocado and cheese instead of the eggs.

We got to church early so Padre Marcos could show us around and talk about the work they have been doing and what we will be helping with this week. The church has a beautiful painting at the front of the Last Supper set with contemporary people and the risen Jesus. I suppose it might be the marriage supper yet to come. Its outdoor setting also brings to mind the miraculous feedings.

The priest showed us the tortillería where four women make between 2500 and 2600 corn tortillas each day, selling them for about fifty cents for two. The cleanliness of their operation and the quality of their tortillas keep customers coming despite competitors in the area. The place needs to expand. The plan is to extend the cement floor, install new high efficiency woodburning stove(s), replace the metal roof, make a fence, and get some seating for waiting customers.

Between the church and the tortillería is another building that needs some work. I think it might be used for the Sunday school? They have already poured concrete for an eventual second floor.

The mass was lovely. I sat with Loren and Rhonda next to an older lady whose name was something like Maria but a little longer. I tried to ask her if she had family coming and needed more space, and I think she indicated it would be fine. We sang two songs I knew from our Spanish mass at home, Vienen con Alegría, and Cristo te necesita para amar, and some I had not heard or sung before. I could follow some of the readings and a little of the short talk Padre Marcos gave between the psalm and the Gospel, and of course the liturgy I knew from home. His daughter Abigail translated as he read the Gospel and preached the sermon. She had also translated while he had shown us around earlier.

The Gospel was the story of Martha and Mary, and the sermon challenged us to not be tempted to pit the sisters against one another, but to see them as opposites along a range. He said that the problem Martha was having was that she was distracted by her work and lost in the distraction. The work of hospitality is deeply valuable, and it is possible to be distracted and lost in it. He asked us to ponder three questions.

How can we balance being and doing?

How can we balance the inner spiritual discipline work of discipleship and the outward service work of apostolate?

How can we balance sitting at Jesus’ feet like Mary and being hospitable like Martha without losing ourselves in distraction?

After church we were treated to “catrachas,” tostadas topped with thin layer of beans and shredded cheese. I dropped mine when, stepping back to set my things down in order to take a picture for Loren, I tripped on the center pew support. Managed to catch myself halfway down. This was not the first time I failed to meet Bob’s rules… This one was the one about watch where you’re going because things are different; steps are different heights and widths in the same stairs, overhanging things might be lower than we’re used to, there might be exposed wires in unexpected places, and so on. Other rules include putting toilet paper in the trash can because all of the country is on septic that can’t handle the paper, and the typical one about not using the sink water for brushing teeth.

We intended to visit La Playa in Omoa for lunch, but learned it had closed. The Paraiso hotel was a lovely alternative. It seemed to take forever to order, then to wait for food, then to pay. And that was after what seemed quite a long drive to get there.  Things move more slowly and relationally here, and there is less hurry to just get things done.

We picked up Anna Reed on the way, to join us for lunch. She coordinates short term teams like Bob does, but in this more coastal area. And she likes hammered dulcimers, which she encountered while hiking the Appalachian Trail. Some of the other things she does include supporting people into new things. One young woman, Jilma, learned to do basic triage with a visiting medical team, and liked it enough to think about training to be a nurse. Anna helped her find a program and get registered and agreed to provide books and things if Jilma would commit to the monthly program cost. When people are ready and motivated, this sort of help is really effective and encouraging.

After driving to look at the old fort, which was later a prison and now part of a museum, we headed back here, with an ice cream stop on the way. It is, after all, National Ice Cream Day. (Not here, but still.)



En Honduras

Estoy en Honduras. Hemos llegado ayer despues de horas de viajar, esperar, velar, esperar, mas horas de esperar… No hay ningun problema, excepto dos. No dormi la noche jueves, y la aduana tomo casi tres horas. Pero me alegraba viajar con Loren y Rhonda a Chicago, y estar con el resto de nuestro grupo desde entonces.

I am in Honduras. We arrived yesterday after hours of traveling, waiting, flying, waiting, more hours of waiting… There were no problems except two. I didn’t sleep Thursday night, and customs took almost three hours. But I enjoyed traveling with Loren and Rhonda to Chicago, and being with the rest of our group since then.

We have so far eaten some very good food. My favorites were garlic shrimp last night (which seems much longer ago than it was) and a coconut curry shrimp today served with green plantain chips. Breakfast was orange juice, watermelon and papaya, scrambled eggs with beans, crema, cheese, and a corn tortilla. For lunch today I got chicken tacos that were a lot like the kind they make at Mila’s.

This morning we went to the Guamalito market where you can get varied crafts and food. It was interesting to see all the things, some made locally, some imported, many of the same kinds of things in many different stalls, many things with “Honduras” written on them. I got into conversation with one young family, saying to a girl about Amy’s age, “I bet you know English.” She shook her head. If I understood rightly, only her two youngest siblings still go to school, because school costs too much for all of them to go.

After lunch we went to visit La Esperanza de Jesus children’s home, where Mike and Kim Miller care for sixteen kids with the help of Honduran house mothers and other staff. Their coffee farm helps support their work. (Ask me how to buy some.) Otherwise they depend on donations from within and without the country. It was really good to see the place. The two buildings that house the kids are homelike and sweet. There is a chapel with lovely large arched windows with dark wood doors. There is a computer lab, dining hall, a playground and small soccer field, gardens, and a large room for art and crafts, including the jewelry the girls are learning to make for sale.

In the van, or during meals, or down times, there have been interesting conversations. Today I especially enjoyed a long chat with Bob, who coordinates short term groups like ours for the Diocese of Honduras, and a shorter chat in Spanish with our Honduran driver Freddy, who wants me to figure out why God made woman from man’s left side and not the right. He tells me this is not a joke.

Meanwhile, Fr John has been here a few more days than the rest of us, traveling around the country with Bp Allen teaching about Asset-Based Community Development. The meetings have been going very well, and there seems to be a lot of energy in the diocese. As it happens, the national church will not financially support the mission in Honduras or the rest of this province past 2019, so the church here needs to find ways to become self-sufficient by then.

ABCD, by the way, is an approach that focuses on a community’s own existing resources in terms of talents and knowledge and connections as well as money. These assets can be mapped through a long process of conversation, listening, interviewing, looking for passions, dreams, and motivations. Part of the idea is that when helpers try to do things to or for others, often there are disconnects that render the help less effective or not useful at all. Helped and helper may have distinct perspectives on what is needed or wanted, or how goal should best be accomplished. The very distinction between helped and helper can be problematic, too. Mutuality and partnership are much better.

Lo siento por no traducir lo resto. Estoy muy cansada…

Sorry for not translating the rest. I’m very tired…

Compañeros de Cristo

The Compañeros de Cristo (Companions of Christ) group in our diocese (Northern Indiana) is planning a trip to our companion diocese of Honduras in late January; I hope to go.

I have been playing guitar and singing for our parish‘s Spanish-language mass since Easter 2013. I sometimes also serve as a lay reader. Many of the folks connected with this mass are from Honduras. My Spanish is perhaps at a second- or third-year level; I can understand a lot of what I read, my pronunciation is pretty good, conversation is challenging, and so is listening.

From now until mid-January, any proceeds from CD sales or other musical endeavors will go toward my travel costs.

I also have handmade jeans bags for sale. All are made from thrifted jeans, lined with other fabric scraps, with inner and outer pocket(s). If you’re not local, you can buy them on Ebay.