Yes, We Can

12244422_1104381276262177_5549374682467680442_o

This weekend, my church, Northshore Vineyard Church, launches a shoe drive on behalf of  school children in my former ministry on the outskirts of Tegucigalpa, Honduras.  In Honduras, one cannot attend school, even public schools, without paying for uniforms, fees, books, and even shoes. The shoes must be black or brown and closed toe. Due to the rising costs of school attendance, many parents do not send their children to school.

Shoes are a great investment in the life of a child. With a pair of sturdy shoes, they can walk into opportunities such as the classroom that are otherwise beyond their grasp.

We have selected fifty children who are in need. All of these children are from very poor homes. Most live in substandard homes. Many don’t eat but once a day. Many are supported by parents who are day-laborers existing on less than 10-15 dollars wages per week. Many are single-parent homes whose moms juggle selling food on the street with child-rearing duties.

Not everyone lives like the homes pictured below, but an alarming number of Honduran children grow up in homes such as these. In the area where we minister, none have running water or inside sanitation of any sort, and the use of electricity is usually restricted to a few lightbulbs or small appliances. A gift of shoes is a great investment for a mother who can scarcely afford to feed her children.

green houseIf you want to give towards this project, the funds will be used for purchasing shoes as well as paying for shipping. We want to ship in late December, as the new school year starts in early February in Honduras. We are asking for donations of $20 for each pair of shoes. A gift of $25 will help pay for shipping as well.

This PayPal link to my bank account is reserved for Honduras projects.

The inspiration for the title comes from a song recorded by the late Allen Toussaint, a New Orleans legend. Here’s a bit of the lyrics from Yes, We Can Can.

Yes, we can great gosh Almighty
Oh, yes, we can, I know we can, can

And we gotta take care of all the children
The little children of the world
‘Cause they’re our strongest hope for the future
The little bitty boys and girls

We got to make this land a better land
Than the world in which we live
And we gotta help each man be a better man
With the kindness that we give

As far as this small project is concerned, there’s no pressure to give. There’s a world out there waiting for you and I that needs our love and help. We can help a refugee, an orphan, a widow, a neighbor, a Muslim, a Christian, or anyone in need. That’s the sprit of Yes, We Can, Can.

 

Can You See Me?

Last week, I misplaced one of my hearing aids. I wanted to fix my hair, so I took them out and laid them on the bathroom counter. When I finished, I saw only one on the counter. After a few minutes, I located the second one. It had been on the counter the whole time, but I couldn’t see it because the neutral color blended into the similar color of the countertop.

I wear hearing aids due to a family-inherited trait. I am moderately deaf in both ears. I lose sight of those small devices quite often. They are meant to be not easily seen, to protect the vanity of the user who wears them behind the ear. Personally, I would prefer them to be bright yellow or orange as my hair covers them.

The phrase that comes to mind when I lose one of these tiny instruments for a moment is “hiding in plain sight.” If you think about it, lots of things as well as people are hiding in plain sight. They are there all the while, but we don’t seem them. Our mind fools us, and we can’t see what is in front of our eyes.

I think that the poor often hide in plain sight. We don’t see them. Our own concerns and issues form such a tight context around our lives that we can’t see the sometimes urgent problems in the lives of others.

I am no longer working in Honduras, but I am still concerned with the overlooked and unseen poor children there. I have many young friends who are not enrolled in the new school term that began in February due to lack of funds for things like shoes or school supplies. Later this week, I am shipping a small shipment of shoes and school supplies, although I didn’t have enough funds to buy shoes for all of the children.

If you are not involved in helping someone in your own community or abroad, please consider being generous with the poor. They can’t repay you, but God makes a promise to do just that. Proverbs 19:17 states that whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward them for what they have done. Even if you can’t quite imagine a literal recompense from God, perhaps you can agree that helping poor children ultimately benefits everyone, as well-nourished and educated children will make the world a better place, not just for them, but all of us.

Here are a few pictures of the children in Honduras. Donors are always welcome. Information concerning giving is available at His Eyes Ministry site or their Facebook site.

 

kids
Some of our kids only eat once a day, or eat only beans and tortillas daily. A daily meal makes a great deal of difference in the lives of these children. The cook is trained to use nutritious ingredients in the meat spaghetti sauce that children may normally not eat, such as texturized soy, carrots, and other shredded veggies.

 

10980758_1434317170193865_6435298442360535369_n (1)
The center provides tutoring in skills such as math, English, and computers. The public schools are subpar in this community.
10848793_1435697306722518_8340251530058849797_o (1)
Mariela is always hungry. Her mom supports the family by making and selling corn tortillas. Unfortunately, she seldom earns enough to feed her family well.
11030832_1441510786141170_5266553576985460979_o
Nicolle is a typical child in the project on the outskirts of Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

A note about photos: I have been questioned why our children appear healthy and well-dressed. I do not like to manipulate emotions of readers by posting children who appear sick, dirty, or with torn clothing. Also, our children are aware they are being photographed, so they chose their best clothing for photographs. The ministry also provides clothing at little cost to parents. In some cases, clothing is free, but we feel it lends dignity to charge a small fee. In addition, the men and women who sort and sell clothing receive a small recompense as their salary.

What I mean when I say clean

My friend, Sandra, visited my house a few weeks ago. She had never been to my place. The first thing she said was, “It smells clean.” She could scarcely have paid a sweeter compliment.

My dad was from a clan of cleaner-than-thou folks. His mama could wear out a wash rag on a kitchen cabinet. His brother kept a can of spray Lysol in the glove compartment of his car. My dad’s mechanic shop had a floor that one could perform open heart surgery.

My sister and I inherited the clean gene. Since I have been in college, we have engaged in a ritual of vacuuming when we see each other, before we eat, before we chat at length, we clean. A good clean sweep clears the air between long spells.

You can scarcely imagine how I was affected by my first extended stay in Honduras. I was volunteering with World Vision for eight weeks during a break from teaching. My guest room was in the patio of a middle-class home. The place seemed alright, except that the city was repairing sewer lines in the street.

For 8 weeks, raw sewage assaulted my senses every morning and every night. To make things worse, my worksite was in Villa Franca, a neighborhood that lacked basic services such as garbage pick-up. Mounds of refuse with the accompanying starving dogs greeted me at the entrance of the colonia. The toilet at the kindergarten and clinic was a hole in the ground that, for modesty’s sake, was enclosed within a wooden shack.

Not surprisingly, I had one of my best years as far as weight loss. I may be fat now, but by God, but there have been lean years, too. Those smells and sights there helped motivate me to shed a few pounds.

After I moved to Tegucigalpa, Honduras, I realized that Hondurans are not on a mission to be unsanitary. It’s just hard work to stay clean when one is poor and government services are not up to US standards.That’s why after I was there a few years, I began to ask my guests from the US to attempt to try to not appear horror-stricken at meal times.

My US friends looked like they were indulging in a sacred rite, more holy than Communion, when Purell was pulled out of a backpack. Conversation ceased, hands were held out, and the alcohol flowed freely.

I still like clean. In fact, I love the smell of clean. I just know now that Honduran housewives work very hard to keep themselves and their homes clean. We should all try hand washing our clothes for a week. Or dishes for that matter outside because most lack plumbing.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen it’s time to bathe. We will use a bucket, a bar of soap and a towel behind a small curtain in the yard. That’s how most of my Honduran friends keep themselves clean.

“Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow,”  is part of a prayer in Psalm 51. Jesus referred to unclean spirits as afflicting people. He came to bring something utterly holy and clean in exchange for the stain of sin and the uncleanliness of evil. The wonder of God’s word is how universal it appeals. Most of us want to be clean. Spiritually, to be clean, is something I think we have to receive from God.

But what about physical cleanliness? God isn’t here in human form to wash dirty clothes or bathe children. That’s where you and I have to do our part. We have to care about the poor who don’t have access to clean water.

Last year, I participated in a fundraiser for Blood:Water, a non-profit funding water projects in Africa. I will write a post about how I helped bring clean water to those without access soon. Why not see how you can be involved? Follow the link to Blood:Water for information.

Ricardo’s Story

Ricardo was a daily part of myricardo life when I lived in Honduras. I don’t remember when I first met him, but it has been at least a year or more that he grabbed hold of my heart and my hand.

Ricardo does everything with the utmost enthusiasm. If he were a bit larger, he would knock me down when he runs to greet me. And he always greeted me with two hands out, hugging, holding and giggling. Since Ricardo has hearing and visual impairments, he tends to shout, too.

We helped cure him of the shouting, so at least my salutations from Ricardo might be a bit rough, but at least I could escape without my ears ringing. His mom is raising him alone, supporting herself and Ricardo by selling tortillas on the street. They live in a tumbledown wooden shack with a host of other relatives.

I am not in charge of the project that helps Ricardo and the other kids ricardo homewho receive meals and educational support in my former ministry in Honduras. However, I am in touch with the ministry that is overseeing the children. They are looking for someone to sponsor Ricardo. Want to help?  Need details.

Follow the link to His Eyes for information on tax-deductible giving.milk+and+Jesus

 

 

 

And Then There Were None

IMG_1606 (3)
Walter, learning to read again

“I am hungry all of the time,” said Walter.

He sat on the steps outside of the kitchen door. His dirty clothes hung off his body.  His hair had whitish wisps around the ears, a sign of malnutrition.

I began to feed Walter and later, his sister.  They lived quite close, so they walked  home after a morning sandwich, and they came back later for a hot meal. We didn’t have the resources or the need to feed all of our kids twice a day. This family was obviously an exception.

The two children lacked water, soap, shoes, and decent clothing. The mother

Walter and Ixa at home
Walter and Ixa at home

worked when she could in the neighborhood cleaning houses in exchange for food. Some days, she had no work, thus, no food to share with the family.

Over the year or so that I knew Walter, he began to change. He began to wash. I often sat with him to practice reading and math skills long forgotten from the days when his mother could afford the fees.

Regular meals and occasional bags of beans and rice sent home allowed mom to spend money on water, soap, and other essentials. In addition, my manager talked with her, and she made a hard but good choice: an older son, who desperately needed more calories as he neared adolescence, was sent to live with her sister. I never forget, though, how she left walking and crying from our doors. No decent mom wants to banish a child from the home.

The new ministry that has taken ownership of my children’s project is seeking sponsors for Walter, his sister Ixa, and nearly 40 other children who lack sponsors. A monthly gift of thirty dollars will help ensure  that each child gets a meal, lessons, recreation, and now, English and computer lessons as a new teacher has come aboard with these skills. In addition, school supplies will be provided for the year.

box of boys (4)
Walter loves our project. He’s always up for a picture, a prank, or a game.

I hope one day we can say that extreme poverty has been lifted in this neighborhood.. I think the Father would cheer if we could say to our supporters: And Then They Were None who didn’t eat daily, or didn’t attend school or collected trash to look for something to eat, wear, or sell. 

To learn more about tax-deductible giving follow the link to His Eyes Honduras.

The Humble King

This morning, very early, I listened again to Humble King, a song written by Brenton Brown. At the same time, I was thinking of how much we miss the mark when it comes to being like Jesus, the humble king. Geography doesn’t make one a saint or sinner. Sinner can be defined as one who misses the mark. So if missing the mark is sin, can we hit the target in the center of wherever we live?

A 13-year-old boy is suspected of armed robberies at a Dollar General in New Orleans yesterday.  Who cares about this kid? Would we let him in our mega-church glass and steel structures? He may want more than the free cups of coffee we boast about in the lobbies. We are afraid he might steal from us. Rightly so, I guess.

Yesterday, I was quite proud of myself as I hung some Honduran photographs. They are the faces of poor, rugged old farmers. They are the faces of children living in shacks on mountainsides. I was proud of my photography, and and I think, quite proud that I was a friend to the poor.

Am I really a friend of the poor? Would I trade places with any of them, even for a day? or week? a year? Then it hits me. Jesus became man. The greatest story ever told, and many just think it’s a story, tells us that God became man. He came as a nobody. He was from the backwoods of Israel, a place that we might compare to rural Arkansas today. He was homeless during his 3 years of ministry. He didn’t even own a mule, as he borrowed one when he rode on his last trip to Jerusalem.

Would I leave the right hand of God, seated in heaven, part of the Creation of Everything, to walk everywhere and talk and touch ordinary, even sick people everyday. Would I actually behave like the Humble King?

I leave you with pictures of my friends from Honduras who are grateful for our little offerings. They are big to them, but I think, most of our offerings are very little compared to what we keep for ourselves.  Let me be like the Humble King, who embraced the ones in need and washed the feet of the weary.

Sami, my beloved
Tegucigalpa, Hondudras
Tegcucigalpa, Honduras
Tegucigalpa, Honduras
Valle de Angeles, Honduras
Valle de Angeles, Honduras

Empty Mansions

As I searched for a home after moving back to Louisiana,  I wanted something small. I am single. I have few possessions. I am not a heiress.*

My realtor scarcely heard a word that I said. She wanted me to buy as much square foot as possible. My requests for something smaller were ignored. I received streams of emails detailing big, empty houses in New Orleans.

I switched to another realtor. The younger lady I assigned the task of finding a house did just what I instructed. I am  now comfortably lodged in a small but perfectly adequate cottage sans garage, large porch, or soaring ceilings in a semi-rural, unincorporated part of St. Tammany Parish.  I found a local handyman to put a pine fence to contain the 100-pound package of teeth and fur that followed me.

I learned something after nearly a decade of living with the poor in Honduras. More is isn’t the answer. Now, being miserably without is not a blessing, either.

Yesterday, I read a post from the director the group that has taken over the management of my former ministry in Honduras. He included pictures of houses of some students. No mansions here, to be sure.

green house no bra

pink shirtThese are the houses of parents who genuinely need an extra meal or two every day for the children so that their small wages can go a bit further towards a new roof, an outhouse, or a cement floor. That’s what the ministry is striving to continue in 2015.

I thought about the empty mansions that I see in the US. Some sit empty and for sale, but others are inhabited by people who each enjoy thousands of square foot per person. Something is just not right about that.

*For further reading about a real heiress with empty mansions, I suggest the biography, Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of An American Fortune by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell, Jr.