August 26, 2018
Reflections on Honduras: More than We Can Handle on Our Own
By Doug Haddix and Pastor Tom Rice
(Note: Our Sunday worship services were led by members of the mission team that spent July 11-18, 2018 in Honduras at Montana de Luz,an orphanage supported by Worthington Presbyterian Church for children and youth affected by HIV/AIDS. Our church sends a mission team each summer. You are welcome to join us in supporting this ministry! Find out more at MontanadeLuz.org)
Doug: After a few days at Montaña de Luz, I posted a couple photos on Facebook. My friend Craig was the first to comment: “Great job walking the talk. Not many people are capable of doing that.” I appreciated the compliment but disagreed, so here’s how I replied: “I believe nearly everyone is capable. It is a leap of faith but rewarding beyond measure. We all are being pushed way beyond our comfort levels.”
I do understand Craig’s reaction, because that’s how I felt before making this trip. I worried that I didn’t have any skills that could help on a mission project. I’m not exactly Mr. Fixit. I’m the guy who once tried to fix our kitchen sink disposal. Somehow, I managed to provoke a geyser of disgusting food chunks that shot all over the kitchen!
Despite my doubts and insecurities, I decided to go to Honduras. So did 13 others, including five who don’t attend our church. Later, I realized that God had put together this team of 14, and that each of us had been called because we had exactly the right mix of skills for this trip. It wasn’t random.
Our main work project was building a shower with running water at a home about 30 minutes from the Mountain of Light. It’s part of a larger project to improve the house, so that one of the teen girls at Montaña de Luz can return home to live with her mother.
Despite my reputation of being Mr. Breakit instead of Mr. Fixit, it turns out I actually was useful! I learned how to mix sand, cement and water to make concrete. I had the strength to carry heavy buckets of concrete mortar. I could put bricks into large containers of water to soak. I could stack them and use a trowel to mortar them into place. Each of us found ways to help. Each of us mattered.
I thought the project -- building the shower -- was why I had gone to Honduras. Do something tangible. Help build something. But I was so wrong. God called me to Honduras not just to build a shower, but to see what the kingdom of God looks like here on earth.
When I thought about heaven, I used to picture streets of gold and pearl gates. Not anymore. I don’t believe that’s what the kingdom of God looks like. Every day at Montaña de Luz, I felt and saw God’s boundless love. I felt it every morning when we joined hands in a circle with the children for morning prayer and songs. I felt it through sweat and sunscreen and bug spray while we worked together under a tropical sun. I felt it during our evening circle time and devotions, our bonfire with the children, during meals, card games, Bible skits, crafts and soccer games. I felt God’s love through our service team, too. We worked hard together, shared our snacks, bared our souls, held hands and hugged. For me, that’s what the Kingdom of God looks like.
One afternoon, we went on a walk with the children down the mountain. For safety, each child was assigned to one adult. Since we had the same name, I was paired with Duglas, a bundle of energy. I was so focused trying to keep up with him that I missed an incredible sight. Our MdL coordinator, Anyssa, captured a photo of the group walking along the path. Right above us, in an otherwise sapphire sky, was a white puffy cloud. It was clearly shaped like a heart. Even when we’re distracted, signs of God’s love and blessing are all around us.
Even though we all feel safest in our comfort zones, it was incredible to see how quickly we adjusted to conditions at Montaña de Luz. There’s no air-conditioning. We slept on bunk beds under mosquito netting. Wifi and cell service aren’t reliable. Our group faced another challenge. On Friday the 13th, after a particularly hot and sweaty day of work, we returned to the mountain -- looking forward to showers. When we arrived, we learned that the well pump had broken. Amazingly, none of us complained. If we didn’t have running water, neither did the kids. We didn’t have running water for the rest of the trip -- five days. We learned to adapt. We took containers of water into the shower, soaped off and then doused ourselves. It worked, and it was so refreshing! Not the luxury of running water, but we adapted. To me, that’s what the Kingdom of God looks like.
During evening devotions, another member of the team commented that this had to be “a God thing.” By not having running water, we had a fuller appreciation for the impact that the shower we were building would have on the Honduran family. We were taking bucket showers for five days -- but this family had never had a shower with running water.
On our final morning, we had a little free time to pack and hang out. “Duglas!” one of the teen boys shouted at me across the courtyard. I walked over and sat with the boy, whom I had talked with several times during the week. We talked a bit more, as far as my limited Spanish would take me. I pulled out my phone and opened up Google Translate. I handed him my phone, and he typed a question in Spanish. The app instantly translated it to English. His question pierced my soul: “Do you want to go home?” I gulped and bit my tongue to keep my composure. “No. I would rather stay here longer with you. I’m going to miss you and all the children so much.” He smiled and nodded. Then he typed another question: “What about your wife?” I told him she would like to stay longer, too. He then typed a message of comfort: “You can come back.”
He’s right, and we probably will go back to Montaña de Luz. 3
Already, I feel like I’ve gone back there several times in my heart, in my soul. What calls me back is a desire to see the kids again, of course, but something more. It’s a desire to feel that close to God again. I felt closer to God during that week in Honduras than I’ve ever felt in my life.
As I’ve tried to process the trip, I keep coming back to comfort zones. I don’t know about you, but when I’m in my comfort zone, this is my attitude: “I’VE got this. I’VE got this.” But the way to draw closer to God likely is not in our safe space. Don’t get me wrong. Of course, God is in our comfort zones, too, in our affluent suburban lives. But, honestly, I don’t think Jesus wants to spend much time sitting on a leather seat in my Toyota Avalon!
I think Christ himself is more comfortable at the Y Family Center, calling us to join him there. “Come over here,” Jesus says, “and help me serve dinner to homeless mothers and fathers and children.”
He’s more comfortable in a room at Riverside Hospital, where your friend is recovering from surgery. “Come over here,” Jesus says. “I know you’re busy, but can you spare 15 minutes with your friend Bob and me? It’ll mean the world to him.”
Maybe Jesus is standing on a porch across the street, where Sandy recently lost her husband of 52 years. “Come on over,” Jesus waves. “Let’s have a cup of coffee with Sandy.”
Each time, when we’re outside our comfort zone, Jesus says to us: “WE’VE got this. WE’VE got this.”
Think about a time that you ventured outside your comfort zone. It can be nerve-wracking, even a bit scary. But did you feel closer to God? Did you find strength you didn’t realize you had? Did you see how you made a difference? How did that make your soul feel?
We’re all in this together, right? Think about the difference all of us can make, together with Christ, when we get a little UNcomfortable.
Pastor Tom: The Bible says in Ephesians: “Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued” (Ephesians 6:13, The Message).
Those are strange words, aren’t they? What about “Blessed are the peacemakers?” What about “Love your enemies” and “Turn the other cheek?” Has God given us weapons?! Are we as Christians supposed to FIGHT?!
Those words became very personal to me when I went to Honduras. In some ways, I WAS “up against far more than I could handle on my own.” I mean, how was I going to teach all those children and youth about Jesus—after they were tired from a whole day 4
in school? How was I going to connect with them and really engage them—IN SPANISH?! (Our team, with their sense of humor and support—really came through to help me!)
And how was I going to throw cement up against our newly built walls—and get it to STICK AND STAY—IN JUST THE RIGHT PLACE? If you watch me in the video of our trip you’ll see I needed a lot more practice!
But far more deeply, God’s Word became more personal for me because of the children at Montana de Luz! Every morning, when they wake up, they face life without the love and support of family members with them. Every day many of them face a virus that is attacking their bodies and its “self-defense system,” and the virus keeps CHANGING, MORPHING, so it is even harder to fight. Every day they may face the ignorance and prejudice of people who don’t understand HIV/AIDS, and so these beautiful children can be treated as outcasts.
It’s personal! “Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own.” The Bible is very honest. There is evil in the world. We don’t like to admit it, or talk about it. But we know it’s true. Terrorism. School shootings. A diagnosis for yourself or a loved one that keeps you up at night. Cyberbullying. The list goes on and on. Well the children of Montana de Luz know it, and if we come right down to it we know it too: There is evil in the world. Until Jesus returns, until his victory is complete, “We are up against far more than we can handle on our own.”
God’s Word reminds us, though: We have the help we need. Weapons given to us by God to empower us to defend ourselves. Have you ever thought about the Bible and prayer as “weapons”?!
If you, or if the children at Montana de Luz ever hear the world saying: “You’re nobody! You’re nothing!” Because you’re too young, or too old, or too “uncool”—or too whatever—you know better than to believe that! You have the Bible to defend you. You have God saying in Isaiah, “Fear not, for I am with you. I have called you by name, you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1). You have Jesus saying to you, “You are the light of the world. Let your light shine!” This is why I love to teach it, it’s why I love to share it. God’s Word is there for us, to give us power to make it through.
We have the Bible—thank God! And we have prayer—another mighty “weapon”! It’s when I’m out of my comfort zone that I pray the most. And it’s when I’m praying like that—desperately!—that I experience again how great is our God.
Darwin and Eduin taught me this. Darwin and Eduin are two soldiers in the Honduran army. They were assigned to guard us 24/7. You can imagine how uncomfortable we felt at first with these two strangers-young men in full uniform, carrying machine guns (!), with us all the time. 5
We were working off site each day, so they were with us as a deterrent. A strange thing, though, started to happen. At first they were at one end of the table during meals. They didn’t speak English. But before long Darwin was at one end of the table, and Eduin was at the other. We taught them how to play a card game called “Spoons,” and they taught us how to play some Honduran card games.
One day after lunch, they stayed at the table with me. It was clear they wanted to talk. I started to silently pray. Darwin pointed to a guitar in the corner of the room and asked me if I played guitar. That’s when I really started praying! It had been years since I played! I played a little and then asked Darwin, “Tocas tu?” (“Do you play?”) He took the guitar, and boy, could he play! He played worship songs, and the words started flowing out of him. He had been the leader of his church’s praise band. When he joined the army he drifted from the church. But now he was feeling the Holy Spirit pulling him back. I excused myself for a moment and came back with Spanish Bibles—one for each of them.
As the week progressed, Darwin helped lead a chapel service. On our last night we had a soccer game: Hondurans against the Gringos. We didn’t stand a chance! Except for this: Darwin and Eduin said, “We’re Gringos tonight.” They played on our team, and we ended in a tie! A tie which to us seemed like an amazing victory!
When we were saying goodbye at the airport there mission was accomplished—we were safe. Tears were in my eyes because it was so hard to say goodbye to Darwin and Eduin. They taught us! We thought we had come to do construction. We thought we had come to be with the children.
But God was at work through us in other ways too. God’s Word says: “God can do far more abundantly than all we could ever ask or imagine!” (Ephesians 3:20)
The children at Montana de Luz know it. You may know it too. “You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own.” But you’re NOT “on your own!” Following Jesus will mean getting out of your comfort zone—getting UNcomfortable. But don’t worry—God will give you all the help you need.
Thanks be to God! Amen!
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