Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Stacy and Jon's Excellent Adventure

As I have mentioned before, Jon and I wanted to go visit the Waldron family to get a feel for what their mission work was all about. We were amazed that the weekend at the end of our Mayfair trip was the only weekend they were available for the next several months! We extended our trip, and on Friday, June 4th we began our 'Excellent Adventure.'

We drove with our group to the airport and saw them off, but instead of going into the airport with them we turned right back around and re-rented our pick-up truck that we had already had all week. Federico, the manager of Friendship Car Rental in Tegucigalpa was so kind and helpful to us, as well as Cameron from Mission Lazarus. They both helped us make sure we had our rental, an accurate (well, mostly) map to follow and all the information we needed to make a 6-hour-one-way trip into Western Honduras all by ourselves.

It was a mixture of emotions flowing around in my head as we watched our group walk off. On one hand I felt a little bit nervous that we were now on this journey alone. We didn't have the security of the whole group around us. On the other hand, I was SO excited that we were embarking on this journey together. I mean, how often do two people who are kind-of stuck in the early 30s, 2 small kids, drowning in our bills RUT get to spend 5 days driving through beautiful countryside, learning from seasoned, wise missionaries, and working and worshiping with brethren in a foreign country? And on top of the excitement of all that, knowing the plans that were brewing and the reasons for this survey trip made the feeling of elation almost too much for me to contain!

Our trip started out relatively smooth. There was some construction traffic to drive through, and the heat was oppressive but Jon and I were passing the time by looking at the breath-taking landscapes and by having great conversation. We had gotten directions from Donna, and were on our way. We stopped at Burger King before we got too rural to get food safe for our innocent North-American stomachs, then headed on, following the directions we had been given.

We thought everything was fine, Donna had said the road was steep and very curvy. We would pass through a few small villages, but it was very remote. We thought we were going the right way. On the map (that was mostly right) it looked like we were on a legitimate road that went to where we were going. We came into a small town--a super cute, quaint town that looked like time had forgotten it about 50 years ago--and kept driving until the main (key word-paved) road we were on ended and continued in a rustic, gravel form! I thought, "Surely, if this had been the case, Donna would have warned me!" So, we looked for someone to ask directions of--preferably someone who looked like they may have gone somewhere in a car before. We found an older man strolling the street so Jon pulled over, I rolled down my window and started talking:

Buenas tardes! No somos de aqui, y estamos buscando la ciudad de Santa Rosa de Copan. Usted sabe como llegar a esa ciudad? (Good afternoon! We aren't from here and we are looking for the city of Santa Rosa de Copan. Do you know how to get to that city?)

And his answer was this (with a friendly, yet amused smirk on his face):

Santa Rosa de Copan? Estan PERDIDOS!! (Santa Rosa de Copan? You're LOST!!)

He gave us directions, but I didn't believe him because they didn't match up with what Donna told me. Thank goodness that after driving around that town for what seemed like forever we found the one spot that my cell got signal (at a shocking international rate, I might add!) We got in touch with Donna, and when we told her we were lost she promptly gave the phone to Phil, who promptly realized she forgot to tell us about a right turn before the left turn that took us up the remote mountain where the road ended!!

In the end, we got to take the hour-and-a-half-longer scenic route, seeing a beautifully picturesque little town, a herd of cattle walking up the mountain taking up both lanes of the paved road, cowboys trotting on their horses, and a lovely banana plantation. And we have an awesome tangent to the story! :)

We ended up arriving in Santa Rosa just in time to have dinner then head out with Phil, Donna, and their 2 youngest children who live there with them, Harrison and Laura. Friday nights are when their small groups meet and they invited us to come with them. We told them that we were there to see that their life was like, so whatever they did we were going to do too!

Small group was great--there was singing and Bible study, then snacks and a good time of visiting. I spent most of the study time trying to paraphrase the ideas quickly so Jon would know what they were talking about, and most of the visiting time talking with a teenage girl who wanted to practice her English with me!

Saturday morning we helped all of the team members who met to clean out the new church building. Only the week before they had rented a new building because the church had outgrown their previous facility, and it desperately needed to be swept, mopped and just plain cleaned. We spent 4-5 hours clearing out the construction debris, sweeping and mopping, cleaning windows, setting up the chairs/benches for worship and working on the sound system for the next day. It was hot and we did a lot of work, but it was a great feeling to only be there for such a short time but still get involved in the work of the church and get to visit with some of the brothers and sisters there.

We were so thankful for a chance to have some rest Saturday afternoon; we were treated to a delicious lunch, got to check our email and Facebook, and get a short nap in too! Saturday evening the Waldrons had planned for us to have dinner and dessert with all the Mission UpReach team members. This was a great, informal time to just start to get to know these men and their wives, and also for them to get to know a little bit about us too.

Sunday morning Jon and Phil went to run some errands while Donna, Harrison, Laura and I went to the market. I don't really know how to describe the market--I guess that it matched the stereotypical market I have in my head, but there were some things about it that I had never even pictured. I was surprised, though, because I was expecting it to smell very foul and it didn't; I suppose because it was an open-air market and not enclosed in a building. Donna has begun to make several acquaintances at the market, and she searches them out first. If they have what she needs she buys from them because they treat her fairly and honestly. She bought potatoes, onions, carrots, strawberries, and some little fruits that we called snot-balls because we can't remember their real names.

Sunday evening we had worship and it was fabulous. Great attendance, great singing and a good strong message. It sounded like the children's classes went well and I think their first official meeting in their new building was a great success.

Mixed in all of this activity we had time to sit and talk with Phil and Donna about all the different aspects of their work. They told us about their experiences in Mexico and Honduras, and some of the things we could expect when moving our family to a new country. We talked about what Mission UpReach is doing right now, what they want to be doing in the future, and what role Jon and I might be able to play in that vision. They talked to us about the financial side of things and helped us get ideas of how we would address that issue.

Monday morning we stopped in at the Mission UpReach office to see where all their work and planning goes on. We sat in on the first part of one of their team meetings so we could see how a typical morning might go. It was time for us to go, but before we left they prayed over us, our family, our travels, and our decision to return to live in Santa Rosa to work with them in spreading the gospel to their region. Then we thanked them for being so welcoming and gracious to us and we headed back to the capital.

I must say that our visit was so encouraging and uplifting. Jon and I both left feeling such excitement and anticipation for everything that lies ahead of us on this road! The brothers and sisters that we met in Santa Rosa all personally came up to us and expressed how much they would love for us to come be a part of the work that is going on there. They told us that they were praying for us, that we would one day return with our family to live and work with them there. And to think that we had been concerned that we would be led to a place that wasn't receptive or welcoming to us if we came to spread the gospel. I am ashamed of what I was expecting, because I was pleasantly surprised by the warmth and love that was shown on us by people who hardly even know us!

How many times is God going to have to show me that He's got our back? Well, how many times is it going to take before I totally believe him before I see the end result? I'm learning...I'm learning.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

How do you know...

where to go?

I am a person that can cause my husband (and possibly others) extreme frustration when it comes to making choices or decisions. I labor over even the smallest choices, stressing myself out trying to decide if I have made a good choice or a bad choice when, really, much of the time the choice I made really has no lasting consequences at all. Where to eat a meal out, for example. Whether or not to go up and talk to someone. What to wear to a particular event. What to make for dessert, or what meal to take to someone in need. Silly, really, even as I look back at those myself!

But what do you do when you are trying to make a big decision? One that really does, in fact, matter? Big decisions can keep me up at night. I confess this--I know that I should not be anxious for anything, and make my requests known to God, but even after lifting it up in prayer I spend too much time still mulling it all over in my head. I don't know why I do this, because He has shown me so many times that He's taking care of the stuff I give Him. I wish it was easier for me to just let it go. Gone. Like a balloon loose on a windy day. Like a flame on a muffed candle. Like, well, any dessert left at my house! :)

When Jon and I started seriously trying to put a plan together to move to Honduras, we tried to discuss exactly where in Honduras we should go. I mean, you can't really just blindfold yourself, wiggle your finger around in front of a map, pin-point a spot and say, "There. That's where we're going." What do you do then? Just show up, put on a big smile, throw out your arms and say, "Here we are!! Ta-da, WE are YOUR missionaries!!!" Not so sure that would work out...I mean, they might not even want missionaries.

So how would we find our place? We had only a few guiding factors for our decision. One, we felt like we were being led to Honduras. Two, we felt that we should go somewhere and assist an existing mission instead of two complete rookies trying to build something from scratch. Three, it was important to us (especially me) to be somewhere that we would have a singular church home. That is, while we would be involved in an evangelistic mission spreading the Word and planting churches throughout a region, that we would be active members in one specific congregation. We feel very strongly that this is essential for our own spiritual growth, as well as developing a sense of security and relationship for us and our kids. Fourth, we were hopeful that we would be able to work with someone who could mentor us during the time that we are so far away from home. We strongly desire guidance and mentoring in regards to our mission, as well as to helping our marriage and parenting skills to grow stronger during this season as well. We thought it would be especially helpful to have someone who either was raising small children or had raised children in the mission field to advise and encourage us.

We originally had planned on applying to work with Mission Lazarus for a year with the goal of spending that time apprenticing and learning from them, then moving on to another more permanent location. Jarrod and Ali Brown were there, had proven themselves as faithful, hard-working, and successful missionaries, and were raising 2 small children, so we thought it would be a great place to learn the basics of the mission work as well as the culture and language. Jon and I both felt confident that this was a good plan. We were halfway through the extensive application paperwork, though, when we received the email that Jarrod and Ali were re-locating back to the States in May of 2010.

So what now? We could still go to ML to learn Mission Work 101, but there would be no one there with children who could be an encouragement and guide for us as parents. There also wouldn't be the opportunity to worship with one congregation, as the missionaries there move from church to church to encourage all of the members in the region.

As a 'shot in the dark', we emailed the Waldron family. You remember? The ones from Cozumel. The ones we saw at Mission Lazarus in 2009. The ones who had just moved to Honduras and planted a mission just one year ago. We weren't really even sure what to say--just that we were wondering where they were at in their mission, if they had considered ever having others come work with them, if they were even at a point where other workers would even have a role to fill there. At the very least, if there was no opportunity for us to maybe work with them, would they mind doing some mentoring or guiding with us as we were trying to take these steps into uncharted territory as far as we were concerned!

Donna emailed back, with such an encouraging response. She shared that they had been open and prayerful that others would come to work with their mission. From then we maintained an email conversation and tried to find a time for us to come visit and see what they had going on in Western Honduras.

Since we were already going to be in the country for our Mayfair trip, we asked the Waldrons about coming to visit the day that our group was flying back to the States. We were hoping that we could visit for a long weekend, then return early the next week, and I don't consider it a coincidence that the weekend we were able to come was the only weekend they had available until after August. Do you?

I will probably do a more detailed post regarding our visit with the Waldrons and the church family in Santa Rosa de Copan, but for the purposes of this post I just want to express that after our little excursion to Western Honduras that we knew God had answered our questions about where we should go.

I could have never anticipated the warm welcome and the encouragement that the brothers and sisters in Santa Rosa gave to us. After only a few hours of working, visiting and worshiping, we felt welcome, included and wanted.

And that, my friends, is how we knew where we should go. We waited for God to work that all out, then we waited for Him to show us. It appears that this is how this entire journey will go...we must learn to wait in faith because just when we need to know it, he will show us our next step.