It didn't take Esther very long to remember how to use chopsticks! She put us all to shame.
Sunday, January 28, 2007
Thursday, January 25, 2007
Two years ago when we traveled to China on our first adoption trip, we had the privilege of visiting a foster home run by Americans. While there, we were able to meet a wonderful American woman, Lisa Bentley and one of her six children, Levi. I've shared before Levi's incredible story of how he was found in a field- severely burned and left to die when he was only an infant. Lisa and her family had just moved to China and she was longing to go back home. She had been praying for strength and asking God to give her a "Chinese heart" when the call came that a baby had been found, and he wasn't expected to live. It was then that Lisa realized why her family had moved to China, because she needed to be this little boy's mother. The road ahead was going to be tough- Levi went through numerous surgeries for the serious burns covering his body and lost most of his arm, several fingers, and toes. Levi's about 4 or 5 now, and doing amazingly well. The Bentley's are continuing their work in China and have just started a new foster home called Harmony Outreach.
Lisa has just come out with a book all about Levi's amazing story. I've just ordered our copy and I strongly recommend everyone to purchase this book! I haven't read the book yet, but after meeting Levi in person and realizing what a miracle he is, I already know it will be a wonderful book and I can hardly wait to receive ours!!
Here's a link to purchase the book from Focus on the Family:
****UPDATE: I finished reading the book and it was wonderful!! I honestly hate to read, but this was one of those books I could not put down! Lisa Bentley tells Levi's story in such a simple yet powerful way. Even though I've met Levi before, I never realized what a true miracle he is until I read the book and saw all he had gone through. Everyone needs to order at least one copy for themselves.. and get a few more to give to your friends, family, or co-workers!!
Monday, January 08, 2007
My Dad and I have been home for almost a week after returning from an amazing trip we took to Honduras. We had been planning this trip since right before Thanksgiving when my Dad first asked if I'd like to go on a missions trip. Dad and I had really been looking forward to our upcoming trip, but first we had to endure our faith being tested!
The week before we were scheduled to take off Dad and I started taking preventative Malaria & Typhoid medicines. The bitter taste of the medication was just the beginning of what it did to me!! I had a really bad reaction to the medication and instead of helping to cure what I might pick up in Honduras, it gave me it to me!! So, all through the week of Christmas I felt awful and became sicker and weaker. Finally on Christmas Day after an i.v. I was starting to feel a little better, but now unsure about my upcoming trip in just three days!
Just two days before take-off my Dad told me he had hurt his back and wasn't sure if we could go. At first, I thought he was joking.. but later realized as he layed on the couch in masive pain, that he wasn't!! Honduras was really looking out of the question for us.
The day before we were supposed to leave, Dad's back wasn't feeling any better and it was looking like I needed to start finding other plans for New Years, instead of spening it in Honduras. Later that afternoon, Dad had an MRI on his back, and when the results came back-and were clean- I told him he'd have to make a decision. I was ready to go even though I was still a bit queasy. Just about 12 hours before our 8 AM flight.. we made the decision to go and so the packing rush began!!
Thursday morning came way to early as I woke up at 5 AM! It wasn't until we took off on our first flight that I could finally breathe a huge sigh of relief. We were finally on our way!!
Most people don't know about the small country of Honduras located in Central America. When people found out I was going there most just said, "Oh, isn't that somewhere in South America?" Close.. but not exactley! Honduras is located south of Mexico and borders Guatemala and Belize. It's a beautiful mountainous country that has seen it's fair share of hardships. Eight years ago a terrible Hurricane destroyed most of the country and left thousands of people homeless. Since then, they have rebuilt, but it's taken time. Our "mission" was to help provide medical care to a small clinic located in the city of San Pedro Sulla.
We arrived in San Pedro Sulla on the afternoon of December 28th, to absolutely beautiful warm weather!! After a rainy Christmas week, the sun was very welcomed by us! Travelling along with us were my Dad's friend John and his 14-year-old daughter, Erin. Our first day there consisted of checking in & exploring our new home for the next five days, the Copantl Hotel. Dad's back was still hurting a little, but much better than before! We went to schedule him for a massage later that night when I found something I had been dying for.. Red Bull!! That night we met several members of the local church who started the clinic, along with two of the doctors and a few girls who were around my age, who spoke English!! I realized when I first arrived that I should have learned more Spanish! Only my Dad can speak the language and not many people there speak English! Erin had been to Honduras before, so she knew the girls. They all were so warm and welcoming and I really enjoyed getting to chat with them! One of the girls, Cindy was my age and we really hit it off!
The next day we travelled by car 3 1/2 hours (each way) to visit the ancient Mayan ruins in the city of Copan, near the Guatemalan border. We toured a small museam and saw some pretty cool artifacts, and got to walk the streets of the city. We had a wonderful lunch on the top floor of a banana hut which had a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains! Joining us on our trip to Copan were our driver Edolfo, Edolfo's friend Jose (who graciously took off of work to drive us) and his daughters Mariela & Sophia and their friend Brenda. After lunch we went to take a tour and see the Mayan ruins. To me, it was neat but all of the ruins had been re-built by archaeologists. I'd have rather seen the ruins just like they were when the Mayan's built them, but nonetheless it was still amazing to think that about a thousand years ago the Mayan's were standing right where I was! We spent about an hour touring the ruins and then it was time to head back to the hotel! After the long drive back, John, Erin & I went to visit the church that supports the clinic we would work at. Erin and I sat in with our friends Mariela, Brenda & Sophia on a children's class that was sort of like our youth group here in the states. Even though the whole thing was in Spanish, I could read from what was written on the board that the young pastor was preaching about Moses & the Ten Commandments. It was really neat to experience a church setting in a whole different country. But very encouraging as well. After the short service was over, we were introduced to a few more girls around our age who spoke English very well. Most asked how I liked it here in Honduras and were surprised when I told them how much I was enjoying it!!
The next day (Saturday) we would actually get to visit and work at the clinic. The medical clinic was only about 10 minutes away from our hotel. Just about five minutes after leaving our hotel we turned down an alley street into a very poor neighborhood and that's where we saw how the real people of Honduras live. Most of the homes are very small and made of mud, sticks, cardboard crates.. pretty much anything people can get their hands on. As we arrived at the clinic, there was already a huge line of women and children waiting for our arrival. After a brief tour of the clinic, we got set up and the work began! Between the four of us we had brought eight duffel bags full of clothing, shoes and medicines. We removed all of the items and started to get everything organized. The medicines went into the pharmacy, and the clothing & shoes were seperated into different rooms and organized. Not only would we provide medical treatment to the sick, but we would also give out shoes & clothing to the young children. The whole day went by very fast, but it's where we learned the most. Dad was set up in an examining room where he would examine and treat patients since he was the only doctor. We probably saw close to 200 people walk through the clinic that day.. all of them were women & children. I was struck by the fact that out of all those people, only two of them were men. And, we usually got the same story. Most of the women were single and had young children. One of our first patients was a young 23 year old mother of three young children, probably around ages 6, 4 & 1. Her husband had left her and decided to marry someone else, and now she was working washing clothes to feed her family. It was all just very sad. We saw one young mother who is only 16 years old (MY age!) and had a 13 day old baby with an eye infection. Out of all this sadness, we also saw a lot of joy. The children would line up at the gate and wait for hours for their turn to come to the clinic. Once in, we had a system set up where we wrote down their names and ages and also wrote a number on their hands. (This was to prevent the kids from going home, changing their clothes and coming back to get more) Then we fitted the kids with a new pair of shoes (most were sandals, flip flops) and each child got a new article of clothing along with a toothbrush. You could just see the joy in their faces as some have probably never even owned a pair of shoes before!! For the living conditions these people were living in, most were very healthy. We mostly gave away lice shampoo and cold medicines. I did meet one little girl who had a pretty bad open wound on her toe, so I got to play "doctor" and fix it up. The clinic doesn't have any running water, so I used our bottled water to clean this little girls toe off and bandaged it up.
We had run out of most of the shoes and clothing, so the clinic closed early around 1 pm. We helped clean up and were then able to tour some of the surrounding neighborhoods. The clinic is built on a corner of five acres of land, but in the last few years, people have been "squatting" on the land, and have made their permanent homes there. It was interesting and very sad to walk through the dirt streets which were absolutely filthy. But it was good to know most of the kids now had shoes to protect their feet. I took lots of pictures and the kids thought it was just the funniest thing when I showed them the pictures on my digital camera! They kept begging for me to take more and more pictures and would all laugh when I showed them the images. One little boy didn't have any pants on.. we asked him where they were, but I guess he just liked being in the nude!! This was probably one of my favorite days of the trip. I really felt like we were making a difference in these children's lives. After that day of seeing what I saw, it was very hard to walk into the local mall just a few hours later and not think about those poor kids I was playing with earlier. Just down the road is a huge four story mall and this is where I saw a different Honduras. It was much like America- I saw most of the stores you'd see here in the states. There's definitely a vast difference between the lower and upper classes. It was nice to walk through the mall and I even picked up two pairs of nice sunglasses for seven dollars. However, I felt really guilty as I left! It was definitely an eye opening day as we experienced things I've never seen before.
On New Years Eve, we went to the local market, the Mercado, to pick up some souveniers. We bought gifts for the family and for a few of my close friends. Most of the stores weren't open since it was a holiday weekend, but it was neat to see the market and look at all the merchandise! The market closed early so we left and went to visit what used to be an abandoned street, and is now a neighborhood- a place John had visited before. The government built a new bridge, so the road wasn't used anymore and now people have moved onto the land and built there houses there. The people were so gracious and kind as we walked into the small schoolroom and disturbed what looked to be a town council meeting! In this very small school room with no A.C. they teach about 250 kids, between the morning and the afternoon. Most children will only get as high as a 6th grade education and very few will go on to higher grade levels or get a job. What was even worse is that the people had built this school for their children and the government was trying to take it away! One of the women we met invited us to tour her home. It wasn't much-a small home made out of mud and just a small room with a stove, radio and personal things and then a bedroom that slept 8 people. The woman was so kind to us and offered us drinks and brought us out some chairs so we could sit!! I had been so amazed by the kindness of the people we had met. We were complete strangers to this woman and she was caring for us, with what little she had. I noticed a real sense of community in this small neighborhood. There were some boys playing a game of soccer, and two little girls who would keep waving hello at Erin & I. We just had a really nice time talking to this woman and enjoying life, from a different perspective! Later that evening, we went to celebrate New Year's with our new friends Jose & wife Brenda, their daughters Mariela and Sophia, our new friends Cindy and Brenda, our driver Edolfo and his family, and the current doctor at the clinic and her family. We had a really wonderful time as we had only met these people just a few days before. They treated us like family and were so kind. We had a wonderful Honduran meal cooked by Brenda and enjoyed the fellowship even though the air conditioning went out and eventually, so did the lights! We rang in the New Year with no power, but at least we had each other!
On our last day in Honduras we drove about 1 1/2 hours to a small town in the moutains called Limon. To get there, we had to drive on an unpaved dirt road full of pot holes! It was quite the bumpy ride and we were really glad when we finally arrived! We met up with some friends of John's and then drove through a narrow pathway up and down some hills and over a creek until we finally arrived in the village. As we were about to drive through the creek, we noticed there was a man laying face down in the middle of the road! There was a car in front of us and we were concerned he had fallen out of the car and our driver was almost about to run over him! Dad and John jumped out of the truck and went to help the man. A few other people had noticed, and apparently the man had just been partying a little too hard the night before! So the men just picked him up and threw him to the side of the road! Not the nicest way, but he did wake up! Once we arrived, the people all started to come out of their homes and the children started to line up when they saw the shoes! We quickly sorted through all of our remaining shoes and fit the children with some new sandals. The hardest part was that out of the 50 kids there we had to turn close to half of them away because we ran out of shoes. That was hard because you could just see the dissapointment in their faces. So, I tried my best to cheer them up by taking pictures of them! Oh the kids were all so happy! I think for a few of them, it was their first time ever seeing a picture of themselves! I wished that I had a polaroid camera with me because I really wanted to give the photos to the kids. I got a ton of really cute pictures and the kids were all so precious. I even got to hold a beautiful baby girl, who was about 6 months old. She was so tiny and had the cutest pigtails, and even sucked her fingers just like Emma does!! It was really neat to interact with the people and they were all so kind to us. Walking through the town, I was so glad that we were at least able to give out some shoes as the road was covered in manure, and who knows what else! Leaving the town, I felt again like we had accomplished a lot and changed some of these kids' lives.
On our last day in Honduras, we just took it easy. Erin & I enjoyed a pretty tasty hamburger-Honduras style- while talking about life and all the things we had witnessed the last few days. That night our drivers and new friends, Edolfo & Henry took us to a local Honduran restaurant called Pollo Chicken. The food was awesome and we all tried different things. Then they took us to visit the largest lit up Christmas tree in all of Central America!! It was huge and amazing to walk underneath and see all of the lights! We all had to huddle under the tree when a little bit of rain came, but it was quick and the only rain while we were there!! We all enjoyed some ice cream at Baskin Robbins and then went to visit Henry's wife, who had just given birth to a beautiful baby girl on Christmas day!
It was sad as we had to say goodbye to our new Honduran family, but it isn't goodbye for forever. I know this won't be my last trip to Honduras.. I'll definitely be back. The whole trip has changed the way I look at the world. I've been to China twice and went to Jamaica on a missions trip, but never have I seen such poverty like I did in Honduras. It was an amazing trip and I feel like a small part of my heart is still in Honduras. As we lifted off from San Pedro Sulla last Tuesday, I knew that I wasn't going to be saying bye for forever. It was more of a "see you later."
Well, I didn't intend for this post to be SO long! So, if you've read this far, I congratulate you!! I had soo much to say about our wonderful trip there. I hope I've been able to write it in a way that most of you will be able to understand!
James 1:27 says this, "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." Even though most of the kids weren't orphans and widows, they were still in great need and that's why we were there. We are so blessed here in America and we all really do take it for granted. I think everyone needs to take a trip to a different country to realize how truly blessed we are. I thank God every day for what he has given me and that I have a clean clothes, a roof over my head, a loving family and access to education so I can be whatever I want to when I'm older. I could have easily been born to a poor family in Honduras and live in a mud hut with no electricity. I'm so grateful for being able to experience this opportunity. It will definitely be something I will always remember.