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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Changing gears

So the last trip was south.  I am still in contact with some folks from Honduras, and I look forward to more connections there.  I'm hoping that individuals at Central will ratchet up their support for the Manuelito Project by sponsoring the kids at Manuelito through Hope Teams International.  That connection is not going away.

And God continues to put Spanish language ministry on my heart, whether in Honduras or Minnesota.  By the way, one of the cool things that happened this past week is that I had an opportunity to meet with some potential church leaders in Melrose, MN -- about a half hour on the other side of St. Cloud.  These are all Spanish speakers, looking to start a Spanish-language church in their local community.  So far they're having preliminary meetings, praying, getting people together and building a leadership team.  It was great fun to sit with them, talk with them, pray with them, listen to them, and be a small part of what God is doing there.  In the not-too-distant future, I hope we can have a similar team meeting in Elk River!

But this week I am also trying to change gears.  Julie and I are headed north soon -- going back up to Alberta to the Canadian Lutheran Bible Institute where I'll be teaching church history from the Reformation to the present.  I have so much fun with this I can hardly stand it.  LOVE teaching church history.  This is the first time I've taught my way through things like the Enlightenment and the rise of Pentecostalism.  It's fascinating to me how these movements and many others create our present context.  We have no idea how much we are in bondage to the movements of the last two or three hundred years until we start to study our history.  Wow!

So my goal is not that these forty students I'll be teaching will memorize a lot of dates and names of dead people -- though that can be a necessary evil of studying history -- but rather that we will be able to talk through the movements that have shaped our current context and come to a better understanding of ourselves and our own time.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Telling Honduras stories

I want to tell you stories about Honduras.  It's a struggle for two reasons -- first, because the daily details of life are starting to push our Honduras experience to the back burners.  This happens after every mission excursion, after every international trip, after every time of passionately focusing on the kingdom of God in any form, whether local or global.  The immediate, overwhelming focus on the kingdom in this time and this place begins to fade and get diluted by immediate concerns.

It's frustrating, because you can feel it slipping away.

The second reason is that even as the immediacy of the experience slips away, it is still overwhelming to take nine days of cross-cultural experience and sum it up.  Yesterday I worked for a couple hours to put together a fifteen minute powerpoint slide show of Honduras trip pictures, and it brought so much back.

So here are a few pictures and a little commentary.  This Sunday you can come to Central at noon, enjoy lunch served by our Jamaica mission team, and hear summaries of Central people's recent trips to Tanzania, Mazatlan, and Honduras.  You can also review a LOT more pictures here.  Click on these images for a larger picture:

Sunday, our first day at Manuelito, we got to worship with the kids and their leaders in their dining hall, called a "cocina."  I had the privilege of preaching, and Erica translated for me.  It was very gratifying to work together with her, each of us using our best skill to bring God's word in an understandable way.  The focus of the sermon was that Jesus is the "friend of sinners" from Luke 15.

Nearly all of the kids brought their Bibles -- whatever level they use -- to worship.  Whether Beginner's Bible or a full translation, each one did their best to focus and follow along.  It was very impressive to see!

Monday we got to work.  One of our biggest tasks was painting the school, getting it ready for the opening of classes on Friday after their winter break.  Here Angie is touching up the first coat of paint around the windows on the preschool wing of the school.

Not everyone likes heights, so I got to paint some hard-to-reach trim in the entryway.  Not quite sure why, but several of the team and a few of the Honduran teachers gave me funny looks while I was doing this.

Backing up for a moment, on Sunday afternoon we walked into Talanga and climbed a high hill on the north end of town.  Looking south across Talanga you can see the light-colored roofs of the Manuelito buildings and the open area around them in the center of the image.  It's good land with a lot of potential both for agriculture and as a building site.

People from Central sponsored library books in Spanish.  Here Denine is going through books that had previously been donated, trying to pick out the best of the best for a revamped library in the school.  By the end of the week, the Spanish language books donated from Central had become the cornerstone of a new library that can be a real resource for teachers and students.  Often the kids at Manuelito are at loose ends for something to do after classes and chores, and many of the books we brought can provide hours of mind-expanding entertainment.

Here Johanna and I are taking a look a book while I take a break from painting.  We're reading the first few paragraphs of My Side of the Mountain, one of my favorite books as a child.

On Friday, after a long week's work, we helped to host an open house where the people of Talanga were invited to Manuelito to celebrate the opening of school.  22 new students from the community are joining the Manuelito kids for school this term.  Here many of the new kids and their families are enjoying hot dogs and Coke provided by our team.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Dividing hearts

It always amazes me how easy it is to transition from one place to another.  When we arrived home from Honduras a week and a half ago, there were so many new thoughts, fresh memories, fledgling relationships.  It felt like those things would make a permanent impact in my life.

To some extent, they have.  I find myself thinking and talking a lot about Honduras and what we experienced there, especially about the Manuelito Project.

But I'm also amazed how quickly the tyranny of the urgent reasserts itself and I find myself putting all available energy into things that, two weeks ago, seemed like trivia.  Even while my focus is on the minutiae of life in Minnesota -- a snowblower axle that is stuck so I can't fix my snowblower, a hymn we've sung two Sundays in a row, concern about the roads between here and St. Paul and whether I squeeze in a hospital visit and still make it back for the noon Ash Wednesday service -- at a deeper level I'm aware that there are kids in Talanga hoping to get past the gate at Manuelito to dig through the garbage in hopes of finding food or recyclables.

I find that I have to be intentional about that, however.  It's too easy to forget.  So yesterday, under my bulky orange sweater, I wore my new t-shirt that reminds me, "Children shouldn't live in the street."  Los niños no deben vivir en la calle.

Yes, at the moment I'm responsible for a lot of details here in Minnesota.  It would be irresponsible of me not to have my head in the game right here, right now.  But I don't want to forget, don't want to transition so easily.

This is one reason I'm glad I was part of a group.  I can't imagine how hard it would be to hang on to these memories, these perspectives, if I had been alone in Honduras.  So our group is getting together Saturday evening.  And in the meantime Julie and I share memories, or I check in with the girls, or I look on Facebook and see what's new at Manuelito.  Because once again, as has happened so many times before, my heart now lives in more than one place.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Getting back into the groove

I feel a little like I've been run over by a truck.

It was worse day before yesterday.  I have been developing a traveler's cold -- that icky cold you get from being short on sleep, off your routine, sitting in airplanes with lots of people ... it's a recipe for disease.  I'm hoping that ten hours of sleep last night helped me turn the corner.  We'll see.

To catch you up, I just got back Sunday night from a week in Honduras with my family and six other people from Central.  Sinus congestion seems a small price to pay for the privilege of going on this kind of a trip!  We visited the Manuelito Project, a residential school for children who have been rescued off the streets.  The PR slogan of the school is "Los Niños no deben vivir en la calle" -- or in English, "Children shouldn't live in the street."  Seems simple enough, but thousands of children are picking through garbage in Tegucigalpa and other places every day, living and sleeping in the streets.  Many of these children have parents who are simply not caring for them because they're so absorbed in their own problems -- where to get drugs and how to afford them, for example.  Others actively abuse their children.  These situations become unspeakable in a hurry.

Manuelito has about 40 kids who have been rescued off the streets, given a safe place to sleep and appropriate relationships with caring adults.  They are provided with food and an education.  It's an amazing ministry.  I'll tell you more about it -- and what we were privileged to do there -- in the next few posts.