Today is Passover, as I write. We (Cathy and Brian) just moved back to Cerro Azul. How long we’ll be here we don’t know as we have yet to find a permanent place to lay our heads. Josh and Paulet have moved three times in the last year as well. It’s hard to believe it’s been four months since two Cat 4 and 5 Hurricanes, flooding, and derrumbes (day-room- bay -landslides) temporarily disabled our ministry and devasted Honduras as a whole. It’s been a year since COVID was projected to peak come to an end. Everything was supposed to return to “normal” after Easter. Still, COVID remains the least of most people’s concerns here. Perhaps that’s because hardship and disruption are the “normal” in Honduras and carefree prosperity downright weird. Hence COVID is just one more irritant to add to the list along with Dengue, Zika, and Chikungunya, etc. Aside from challenges with finding a permanent residence, constant terrain-related vehicle breakdowns, Josh becoming a one-armed bandit after falling off a ladder, family tragedies, and Cathy falling in the mountains rendering her right hand temporarily useless (she’s fine now); life here is going pretty darn well.
If you follow us on Facebook then you know we have been looking into rebuilding homes starting with Jose’s and his mom’s house off the beaten path in the mountains. It was destroyed at the exact moment that ours (Brian and Cathy) was wiped out.
Jose’s mom, 76-year-old Nicola was adamant that they rebuild in the same spot. However, we were concerned that what destroyed their home looked and sounded a lot like an earthquake. Luckily our Honduran friend Douglas from the City of Refuge had already planned to visit us.
Douglas is a Civil engineer. He agreed that while water may have been the precipitating force, an earthquake was indeed the cause of the destruction that night. He said it is not a question of if the hill his house was built on will slide into the valley below- but when?
Jose had another site in mind. The only problem was an extremely violent part-time neighbor of whom Jose’s mom is terrified. Douglas inspected and approved the second site and prayed with Jose asking God to give Jose the wisdom to make the right decision. We let it sit for a week and then hiked in to see what he had decided. Long story short he made the right decision and hired his friend to begin excavating the site.
Still, no one builds a house based on an hourly rate.
“My friend wants a contract,” Jose said.
As it turns out Alex is an experienced builder in Honduras and like most Hondurans, he is desperately in need of work. We talked with him at the site and agreed as a team that he seemed qualified, trustworthy, and sincere. So the next day we called him and asked him to give us a bid on the entire project. 92,000 HNL, about $3800 USD was his price.
We intend to complete this project and learn from any mistakes before taking on any others. There is a lot to be done but we want to be certain we are working smart and properly stewarding the monetized lifetime our supporters lay down in Jesus’s name.
Initially, we were buying beds along with food until suppliers in Honduras ran out of beds. Still, the bulk of our efforts went toward assisting local Honduran ministries in some of the hardest-hit areas like La Lima, San Pedro Sula, Urraco, and Santa Barbara.
Honduran staples namely beans, rice, cornflour, and lard were temporarily hard to find as crops in some areas were destroyed and flooding had destroyed bridges and roads. So we purchased them in areas where they were not in shortage and transported them to ministries in need.
In addition, we found locally manufactured and lab-tested water filters for about a third of the cost of those purchased in the US. We distributed them in areas where the water supply was contaminated and or obliterated and where severe price gouging was in effect. In this case price gouging meant it was costing some families as much as day’s wages ($8-$10) for a two-day supply of bottled drinking water.
Light in the Darkness
Solar-powered lights donated by our friends in Hawaii are especially helpful here especially for the elderly, disabled, and mothers with young children.
Roofs for the Roofless
Perhaps one of the most effective interventions we have found thus far is roof and home repair. Granted the standard mountain homes here look a lot like the forts that some of us built as kids but they are nonetheless solid and many weathered the storms better than newer more modern homes.
Some only need a few sheets of tin to patch up holes, others need a partial rebuild. Still, others are being rebuilt from scratch.
Suffice it to say that the skill and ingenuity it takes to fashion timbers and build a viable house with a machete and hammer is not something that should be taken lightly.
“…He directs our paths.”
One of the most amazing and fun aspects of our Proverbs 3:5-6 lifestyle is that God often connects the dots in the most poignant and amazing ways. We met Caesar on one of our roofing jobs when he volunteered to help carry tin roofing into a valley where we were working. We were exhausted ourselves didn’t even notice him until he collapsed at our feet under a single sheet of tin. What we first thought was laughter was actually Caesar having a seizure.
He recovered as we prayed for him and then helped him to his house nearby which is also in need of repairs. That’s when we learned that Caesar is a proverbial renaissance man who recites poetry from memory, draws murals, paints, and carves plaques with a single $5 chisel. Could Cesar start his own business? We think so. But we need to find a doctor that can prescribe the right meds to control his epilepsy. That will be challenging but not impossible. Stay tuned.
As we often say, “Jesus is our only hope in eternity. Education is a Honduran’s only hope in this world.” If COVID made educating a kid in the first world hard, doing the same in Honduras is exponentially harder. While the government is allegedly looking for ways to reopen schools, most Honduran children remain limited to online classes. Of course, families that can barely feed their children can not afford the internet let alone a platform that supports it. Therefore we started a pilot program where bye we purchase phones and loan them to qualified children and also supply internet for about $20 per month.
The idea is to facilitate personal responsibility and accountability even though they will probably keep the phones. “Qualified” is defined as being serious about school as evidenced by a continually improving (no matter how small) GPA, a signed student agreement that the phone will not be used for social media and games, etc., and a signed parental agreement that they will enforce these rules in their homes.
Keisy (Kasey) and Pedro are our beta test kids and received brand new phones for $65 each. Our friend Ann Bowers on Kauai Hawaii also found six tablets on eBay that should be here in the next several weeks.
If you follow our newsletters then you know that previous to Hurricanes Eta and Iota we were exploring ways to assist coffee growers in getting a fair wage for their labor. What many first-world coffee enthusiasts do not realize is that the coffee business at its point of origin frequently amounts to a form of indentured servitude. Our friend Seth Barnes, founder of the Adventures In Missions World Race has been helping to connect us with knowledgeable people with a heart to help. Recently we invited one of our friends who is a coffee grower to join us in a meeting with David Paparelli of mcultivo.com.
A universal problem in Latin America is that “Coyotes” buy coffee from growers and then turn around and sell it to mills. They often use one scale that “under weighs” the product when they purchase the coffee and another “overweighs” it when they sell it. Still, the root of the problem is communication. Coffee growers and mill owners rarely have real-time access to the daily global market prices. The answer? A little education and collaboration that is as simple as creating a WhatsApp group. Someone could publish the daily going rate so that all growers would know how much their coffee is worth and mill owners would know how much they should be paying for the coffee beans. Coyotes would not be able to marginalize growers who challenge their prices if everyone involved has the same real-time information. The concept is simple. Getting everyone on board is the challenge Given the sheer number of coffee growers in our area, our strategy is to have Alex begin by soliciting a “buy-in” from mill owners first. We need to be wise and keep the communication between Hondurans as much as possible lest a rumor gets started that the gringos are trying to leverage the market and steal from everyone.
Our Alpha and Omega
As valuable and important as all these humanitarian projects may be. The alpha and omega of our ministry is the Alpha and Omega Himself. That said transactional guerrilla-style street evangelism is really not our calling. “Low and slow” is what you’ll always hear us say. Our end game is a relationship that begins with a conversation that itself begins with people noticing or hearing what we are doing and then asking us “why?”. People are beginning to notice and wonder why we haven’t quit especially when so many Hondurans are fleeing for the border themselves. I recently had a conversation with a man whom I have known since we first moved to Cerro Azul that concluded with me explaining that true freedom is found in complete and total dependency on Jesus. Previously he had politely dismissed any attempt to breach his opposition to the subject of God. This was the first time he looked me straight in the eye, held my gaze, and listened in a way that leads me to believe the wall of opposition had been breached. Missions are about intimacy with God that is expressed through intimacy with those we serve. That takes time and patience especially in a culture where “today” can mean today or next week. Our patience is starting to pay off.
Cathy has been biting at the bit to go into the bush and show The Passion of the Christ since we first arrived in Cerro Azul. Yet there was always an obstacle that prevented it be it Covid itself, storms, shipping issues, or other technical problems. But we finally got a portable, battery-powered projector with all the right cables. Cathy is doing a test run as I write.
So far it looks like all systems “are go” for launch. We plan to show it at least once sometime between now and Easter Sunday.
Thank you so much to all who have and do support us. Please keep us in prayer.