We are in the rainy season now, but the normally heavy autumn rains simply haven’t come here yet. On the north coast they have had enough rain that there has been flooding, but in our part (the western portion) and in the south it has been very dry and still very sunny. Normally at this time of year it is drizzly and it can rain any time and all the time for days at a time. This year it is still very much like the early part of the season – sunny or partly cloudy in the morning, then clouding up in the afternoon, sometimes with a shower in the afternoon, but often not. The result for us is that we are enjoying the extra summer-like weather (mid 70s in the daytime and mid 60s at night) but the drought conditions are seriously damaging the crops. In the central and southern parts of the country which are known as a drier zone anyway, the subsistence crops of corn and beans have largely been lost (90% losses). This is not good news when we are entering a new El Niño period. This pattern of dryness has persisted since before the last El Niño in 2014; the El Niño here generally produces a climate with much less rain and also fewer violent storms and hurricanes which come in from the Atlantic and Caribbean side of the country.
I want to thank all of you who have been praying for Odilia’s health and healing. She has improved a lot, and is slowly but surely returning to a more normal level of activity. At the end of October, we had a visit with her doctor and new X-rays. These showed that the surgical site in the bone is closing well and filling in, the doctor was pleased with her progress. She is able to walk and get around without crutches or other aid, although she still has a pronounced limp, it is improving every day and we are thanking our God for His healing touch. All good news there. She is largely off all of her medications at this point except for some supplements which help to boost her resistance. She will need to be a bit careful as she gains strength as her X-rays showed some porosity in the lower portion of her tibia (between the midpoint and the ankle), symptoms of osteoporosis. We went back to the original X-rays and this porosity was present then as well, but they were not looking for that condition at that time. She’ll need to keep up on her calcium and careful exercise to improve the bone density in this area. Her next scheduled appointment is in January and she will have another X-ray cone at that time. We are praying that there will be noticeable improvement in that amount of time.
We are at the end of the school year here. The boys have finished their school year – Samuel 8th grade, Elias (and Keidy) 7th grade, and John 2nd grade. Allison, 4th grade, is in finals this coming week and will be done Thursday. Samuel is now 13, Elias is 12, Allison is 9 and John is 7. Keidy, who is with us each day, is also 12 and her little brother Carlitos is 4. Our house is often full. We were blessed to have Raquel Lara stay with us for a month in October while she was doing her practical; she is studying computer technology. Raquel is from Bijao (an aldea of Dolores) and we came to know her and her family through the project in Dolores and have helped her with the costs of her education for some time. She is 19 now, and lived with us for a time to help us in the house when Denia gave birth to Carlitos. My daughter Carlita is now in the university in Tegucigalpa, Marisol (14) now lives in Tijuana Mexico with her mother who is working there, Adriana (8) lives in Zapote with her grandmother who generally brings her to visit us for an overnight on Friday nights – Adriana’s mother Rosa is in the United States (undocumented), trying to pursue the American dream, and my youngest son Caleb is now 5 and lives here in Santa Rosa with his mom Jadira Marisol.
My first son Given (now 40!) is living in Stow Ohio and working as a programmer. He and his wife Erin have a daughter Olivia who is now 4, I see them and her when I visit in Ohio and she looks a lot like Given did at that age. His daughter Molly (12), by his first wife, lives in Florida with her mother and I have not had any contact with them in 7 or 8 years. My daughter Angel is living in Virginia and is working there; I have not had any contact with her in 4 years so I don’t know a lot about her life. I understand that she has graduated from a university and has changed jobs and residence, but the details are unknown to me. As you’d expect, this is very painful and is unlikely to change.
Projects for 2018
We finished the project year in the kinder projects at the end of October in almost all of the projects – the exception is Juan Carlos Elvir where we continue through the exam period until the very last of classes in mid-November. I’ve attached a list of the teaching projects this year, 26 in all. Of those, we were feeding the children at 18 of the projects, those in the top part of the list (“Alimentación”). There are four of the projects which are year-round (El Pinal, Dolores, El Pinalito and San Juan de Opoa) where we teach a broader age group and have the classes on Saturdays, not associated with a public school.
We opened four new projects this year. Three of these (Sonrisas Infantiles, Dulce Nombre de Maria and Elza Moreno) are located in the town of Dulce Nombre, which is about 25 miles from Santa Rosa. This brings our total there to 4 kinders and we are blessed to have the support of a pastor’s wife there to help us with the teaching load and with organizing the feeding therein the three new kinders. The fourth new project is in the largest kinder in Santa Rosa, over 380 children in 11 separate classrooms, not far from our house.
We lost one project last year and have been unable to re-open it this year. The kinder is called Mary Flakes and it is a relatively small kinder. We began that project perhaps 10 years ago and in the first year, were feeding the children there as it is in a very needy area. Unfortunately the administrator/teacher there was not reliable or trustworthy and was diverting part of the funds we provided to buy food to other more personal uses and then falsified the reports she provided to us to cover this up. After the first year, we cancelled the feeding portion of the project but continued to teach there until we could find someone trustworthy to do the administration. In 2017, there were enough children registered to justify a second teacher there, and the one who was hired was one we knew and trusted so we were able to begin the feeding project again with her administration. All was well until the Departmental agency who oversees the teachers discovered that the number of children who had originally been registered was fictitious and the number actually attending was considerably less, the new teacher was doing all of the teaching and the one in charge was doing nothing. The new teacher was transferred to another kindergarten with greater need, and as a result, we suspended the feeding portion of the project. The teacher who remained was very resentful that we had cancelled the feeding and told us not to come back to teach the children either. We respected this, and tried again at the beginning of the school year 2018 to re-establish the teaching portion of the project there, but she was still angry and unwilling to allow us to teach there unless we were going to open a feeding project too. We are unwilling to do this as the trust issues are not resolved. We will try again in 2019 and see what happens, but we are praying for this project to be restarted in this very needy area and would appreciate your prayer too.
The project we do in Álvaro Contreras is in its second year; Álvaro is a combined middle school and high school with over 2500 students from grades 7 through 12. This project is again done with all volunteer teachers. We have had fewer volunteers this year (about 11), but are able to continue teaching in all of the 7th, 8th and 9th grade classrooms (27 classes, 9 sections in each grade) once a week: about 950 students each week. This project has been successful as people have already noted that the environment and behavior of the students has improved noticeably since we began last year. As last year, we have about 20 minutes to teach, before classes begin in the morning, and have been teaching Christian values (2017) and Bible-based conflict resolution (2018). Most importantly we have a chance to pray with the students each time we are there and to get to know them and their problems a bit. This has opened the door to opportunities to counsel students and their families on a number of occasions, and this is something we would like to expand in the coming year. We have already been invited back to teach for next year, which begins in February. We’ve noted much less resistance and complaining on the part of the professors and parents to Christian teaching and principles this year, signaling that we are getting through the period of “growing pains” which often occurs in new projects such as this.
From Now to Next year.
We are planning 3 vacation Bible schools for this year, in El Pinal, Dolores and El Pinalito. These will each last 3 days and will begin in late November and conclude before the Christmas season. We have left the planning of these three Bible schools with some oversight by Odilia and it seems to be going very well. We are making an effort to shift more of the planning and administrative load to them, including how they prepare their lessons and what materials they use; they are all mature and experienced teachers and this seems to be going well.
We are beginning the planning for the coming school year as well. We were blessed this year with four teachers (Waleska Garcia, Vanessa Lopez, Denys Ramirez and Ester Lara) who are talented and committed. We have asked them to consider prayerfully whether they will continue with us for the next school year, with the preparatory work beginning in January. We would like to continue with all of the projects which we have done this year and are praying for the personnel we need to do so. We would still like to open projects in Carrizal and Yarushin, two of Santa Rosa’s aldeas that are definitely needy. Some of the children from these two towns come to the kinder Juan Carlos Elvir, some cannot and have been going without. There are many details to be worked out, but there are interested people in the church where we attend that can give us some guidance and some insight into the people there. We are thinking about opening a project in a town call La Jigua – we have been invited to work there by a church planting couple that we know well. Vanessa has been to visit the kinder there and confirms the need and the open door. The challenge for us is that it is distant – it would take between an hour and a half and two hours each way to get there and back, and transportation is always an issue for us. It could be done, but would require a full day for one of our teachers to go and support this, and right now we simply don’t have the personnel to support it. We are confident that God has the resources, and can show us what He would have us do and how to go about it. We pray for this and other new projects.
This past year, our monthly budget for all of our project work has been about $2000 per month . Of this, less than 40% is used to pay our four teachers, since this is their sole source of income: Waleska and Vanessa each make about $200 per month, Denys and Ester each make about $150. We hope to be able to give them all a significant raise (I’m praying about 20 to 25%) for the coming year, as they have done an exceptional job in 2018, especially with picking up the slack for Odilia when she was unable to be up and about. The balance of the budget is used to buy food for the 18 projects where we are feeding ($1125), to pay travel expenses (about $150 per month) and to buy the materials we use to teach (probably an average of about $25 per month). We are grateful that we have never had to suspend a payment because of lack of funds to pay for either food or salaries; our God and our Church have been faithful to meet our needs. We anticipate that our food and travel costs will rise in 2019, just as they did in 2018 – the cost of the “basic basket of household goods” has increased almost 20% in the past year, and we expect further rises. The cost of public transportation increased about 25% this year, in part due to rising gasoline costs. The cost of electric energy (government run monopoly) increased about 35%. This is the wave of the future, but we are confident that our God can provide for the needs of the work He would have us do.
Honduras is in your news again, and we see that here. We know that there are those who see these people in a negative light, under the most charitable interpretation of the news – at best lawbreakers who want to come and take jobs away from citizens, at worst terrorists and criminals who come to do violence. We look at the people who are going and see the very people we work with daily, we see friends and loved ones and family. They are leaving a desperate situation here, trapped between the government and the gangs and the drug traffickers, and often without hope of change for the better here in Honduras. These are those to whom we minister; we have a hope in our Lord that many of them do not and we work to share that hope with them, but we also recognize that the situation they are in financially is dire, that they often have difficulty feeding their children and that there are few if any solutions available to most of them here in Honduras. I see much of their situation staying here as a product of sin systematically committed against them, and sin against which they have no recourse. That is life here.
I had promised a fuller report of our activities and this one has run longer than I anticipated. We are grateful as always for your continued prayer and financial support for us as we do the Lord’s work here in Honduras. With the Lord’s grace, I hope to be seeing most of you in November and December this year, as I am planning a trip to Ohio for that time period. I’m excited with the prospect of seeing you all again soon and worshipping with you and sharing about our work and ministry here. We love you, may our God continue to bless you richly in all aspects of your lives, especially your life in Him!!