Monday, August 13, 2012

Snorkeling Photos

I took an underwater camera with me on the snorkeling trip, and I just got the photos developed.  Here are a few of the better ones:

 3:18 AM

Well, this is our last day in this wondrous place.  We have been  blessed this past week by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in many different ways.  The weather has been uncommonly mild and cloudy and cool.  The day the team went snorkeling the day was clear and beautiful.  We were blessed to come to know Mike and Erin, John and Kathy and Mike and Ashley.  The three missionary teams working down here.  We were blessed to have the perfect team: Zach our team leader made it easy for us to enjoy our trip since he worried about all the stuff behind the scenes, Daniel and John the builders who helped actually build the home, Trevor and Caleb the young men who were able to see the world thru different, innocent eyes and loved the kids here. Phil the friend, the pastor, the mentor the best friend I could ever have, and myself, Richard, he guy who was lost when he got here, who was blessed to be able to come, who now understands why God put me here in this particular place ,during this exact week, with these wonderful people.  I don't ever see myself as a long term missionary, but like I told Mike after dinner last night, I'll be coming back as long as the Lord wills it and Mike wants me back.  And when I can't come back, I'll be supporting those who will come after me.  I needed this trip to understand what I am about, what my life is about and to appreciate all I have in my life. From my wonderful sister Jackie whom I would love to bring down here, to the children Stephanie, Richard, and Kevin whom the Lord blessed me with, I plan to bring them down here, maybe not all at once, but hopefully one a year. To Josie the woman who has stolen my heart, ( no thats not true, she didn't steal my heart I gave it freely and with abandon to her) I am such a blessed, blessed man.  I don't live in a beautiful 4 bedroom home with a pool and greyhounds racing across the rolling hills I don't drive the latest sports/luxury touring car, but what I have I need to appreciate more and thank the Lord for providing it to me.  What I have is through his will, and I need to understand that and embrace it with all my heart.  when we went to the Honduran worship service on Sunday night, the speaker was talking about being proper stewards of Gods gifts.  Everything we have is a gift from God. Not somethings, not most everything, but EVERYTHING we have is through Gods will and we need to cherish and embrace the gifts we have. If I have learned nothing else,  I have learned that on this trip

We are at the ferry landing waiting for our departure at 9:30 watching Honduran tv, blogging, reading.  Boarding the ferry, I moved to the front to watch a bit of Animal Planet.  After about 15 minutes I moved back to the safety of the rest of the team. Put on some Alan Jackson and fell asleep to Itty Bitty.  As the drone of the engines stopped I woke up to the sight of the ferry landing.  We gathered our bags and once again Phil took the lead getting us 2 taxis for the ride to the airport. As we got the airport at 11:30 we got in line to check our bags and we were told we needed to wait until 1:30 to check our luggage. As we searched for a bit of floor to park our luggage and our tired sunburnt bodies we looked like a bunch of lost ragamuffins.  But we were a bunch of happy ragamuffins, we are on our way home!!  I sat down for a bit to read my book but soon the hot hard floor and my old bones were at war and in the end the floor won making me yield,  I had to get up and walk around.  Soon enough it was time to get back in line to check our bags and go through the X-ray machine again.  Once through we found seats and proceeded to wait some more.  But finally it came time to board, and board we did, now we are winging our way to Houston and the arms of our loved ones!!!  Arrived in Houston, with a list of things we needed to get accomplished, get our checked bags, go thru customs, go thru the screening process and then recheck our bags to get them to Phoenix.  All in 45 minutes.  Normally that would not be an issue except that it seemed that the entire 737 needed to catch a connecting flight, everyone was rushing, and everyone was trying to get the same thing done.  When we were finally thru everything we came to find out that the flight was delayed about 45 minutes.  So we got to the gate as fast as we could, then went on a search for food, panda express, subway, and some Greek restaurant that caught my eye were where we ate at.  Then we boarded the plane for the flight to Phoenix.  We landed in Phoenix, and Phil, Caleb and I  took off to Tucson.  During the drive Phil and i had wonderful conversation regarding the Bible, how to learn from it and how to talk to people about Jesus.  Before I knew it we were at my house and I was saying goodbye to Phil who was gracious enough to drop me off at my house to see the people I love.

Sunday, August 12, 2012


Here's a brief video Mike put together of our time in Honduras:

Friday, August 10, 2012

Health Update

Overall, the week went very well health-wise.  There were no major injuries on the work site--and given the safety conditions that was a definite blessing.  Richard took a beating this week, but after staying in the dorms and sleeping most of the day he feels "a million percent better."  Some of us are dealing with stomach issues and flu-like symptoms, so please pray that those will clear up for our day of travel tomorrow.  We should arrive in Tucson around midnight tomorrow.  Please pray for safe travels.

Day #7

Today was our day off, and we went snorkeling.  Richard wasn't feeling well, so he stayed behind and slept most of the day.  He's feeling much better now.  We took about a half hour bus ride, and then an hour long boat ride out to a small set of islands where we snorkeled.  It was called the Cayos Cochinos, which means Big Keys.  There were two larger islands made of volcanic rock, and then seven smaller islands made of built up reef and coral.  We watched a short video (which had way more sea life than we actually saw) and then the told us what we could and could not do, and then we went out in the boat and jumped off.  For the most part we stayed horizontal above the water because there is fire coral that if you touch is poisonous and they warned us to stay away.  I took an underwater camera with me, but I'll have to wait and see how the pictures turn out.

This is view of the mainland as we were leaving.

Here's the boat we rode over in.  There was also a group from Spain there on vacation that rode with us.  It was a pretty choppy ride.

Here is our tour guide giving us a lecture on the local islands and what we can expect to see while snorkeling.

We ordered our lunch before going snorkeling, and then they went out and caught what we ordered to have ready for us in a couple hours.  The restaurant is a tiny grass hut building without walls.

Most of us got the fried fish.

This is Jennifer, and she is a new intern with the Pettengills.  She'll be here for 11 months, and she arrived just a few hours before we did and was thrown right in to a role of responsibility as head of the dorms and translator.  She's been doing a great job.

Daniel went big with the lobster.

The shrimp were good as well.

Here's a view leaving the island we ate lunch at.  It's small, and has maybe 70-80 huts on it.  You can stay there for $5 a night.  Not too bad.

After our snorkeling trip, we went out to a souvenir shop where they had some local trinkets and stuff.  Now we have one last dinner with the team, and then pack up for our trip home tomorrow.

Thursday  08/09/12

Oh my gosh, I am so sore!  My knee, my mouth, but most of all my back... I can barely walk upright.  I guess being 51, I don't bounce like I used to, and it takes longer to get back up.  But I am gonna take it easy today, I'll do anything I can to help, but I'm not gonna kill myself.  After breakfast of cornflake I went outside to put my shoes and socks I was listening to the rapid fire Spanish from the workers building the compound. Smelling the wet earth, the ripe mangos alongside the rotting mangos, the whiff of  the trash pile.  Something I learned about the workers here is that a skilled laborer, a cement worker or carpenter makes around $15.00 a day, a manual laborer makes around $10.00 and they are grateful to have a job.  As we left the compound on our way to Armenia Bonita we were in high spirits  and also kind of sad since this would be the last day we would be helping our families and playing with the kids. 
We get to the house where we were working on the septic tank and the homeowner was hard at work already.  We jumped right in and started mixing more cement to build up the foundation for the lid on his septic tank. I took a video of the cement mixing process to show it in action.  My camera ran out of memory just before the end. You will get the idea when you see the video.  We mixed I think 5 batches of cement in the morning.  Since we we going to play with the kids after lunch we knew we would not be seeing this family again this trip so Pastor Kruis (not Phil Kruis, a very different person) said an amazing prayer for the family who will be moving into the home.  We walked back to the location of the house we were building and enjoyed a lunch of peanut butter and jelly sammiches again.  After lunch we loaded up into the 2 trucks and drove back to the compound.  The young energetic athletic members of the team went to play with the kids, while the more refined and gentlemanly members of the team took a more leisurely view of the afternoons activities, and conserved our strength by sitting and conversing with members of the dental team.  Once the dental team finished with their last patient, we packed up their gear for our ride to the restaurant.  A word about the dental team, in the 2 dental clinics they ran in Armenia Bonita they blessed approximately 75 people with dental treatments.  Many of these people had never seen a dentist before, or if they had it had been several years.  The are even leaving behind a " dentist office in a box". It's a suitcase sized portable unit containing a drill, and suction device and the handles and bits and everything needed to conduct dental clinics except the dentist.  It is a huge blessing for the Pettingils.  This will allow more dental missionaries to come down and have the equipment they need for their job.  At the restaurant we had three different dishes from 3 different countries down here.  Honduras, Ecuador and Mexico.  They were a thick deep fried corn tortilla, a flour tortilla filled with beans, cheese and scrambled egg, and a taquito.  Guess which one's from Mexico?  Just to bac ip a little bit, earlier in the day I got a case of Montezuma's revenge, not to bad but bad enough to be a concern to Erin the nurse. And back at the compound when my team mates were playing with the kids I was busy puking up 2 pb&j's, a bag of papas fritas (potato chips) and 56 ounces of Gatorade! What a glorious way to spend the afternoon. Not to mention that my headache was nearing epic proportions by that time and only got worse with my intestinal issues.  The reason  I mentioned this is to tell you that all I had for dinner was the flour tortilla with beans and scrambles eggs. It was very tasty, but I would have enjoyed it better without the eggs.  But I survived....  After dinner both teams went to an indoor soccer arena to play some soccer, I wasn't there, I went back to the dorm to try and heal up for the next days activities, snorkeling!!  As soon as I got back to the dorm I went straight to the shower to cool off.  Let me just say this, I HATE COLD SHOWERS!!  but when that all you got its all you got. It took me 10 minutes to slowly work my way under the shower spray, once there I commenced to shivering and trying to wash up. 30 minutes later I must admit I did feel better and cleaner and almost human, I got out, dried off and went back to my bunk, where I proceeded to wipe hand sanitizer on my cut knees and hands.  OUCH!!! According to Mike pettingil, the lead missionary, an open cut is one of the easiest way to get sick down here and we need to be very careful with scrapes and cuts, thus the sanitizer.  I laid down in my bunk and putting in my ear buds proceeded to fall asleep to the sounds of Allan Jackson, Brad Paisley, and Earth Wind and Fire.  I slept right thru my call time to my love, I jerked awake, called her then went back to sleep... So much for Thursday.......

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Day #6

Today was our final day of ministry, and we had mixed feelings about it.  It has been an exhausting week, but a great week, and it's sad that it has come to a close.

We spent the day in Armenia Bonito again.  We found some more cool bugs.  This ant was about half an inch long in the torso, about an inch long including legs, and had huge jaws.  It would bite your fingernail and just hang there.  We also saw leafcutter ants, which were really cool.  They climb up to the top of the trees and cut out pieces of leaves to carry back to their homes, where they grow mold on them that the ants can eat.  It's the kind of thing I've seen on TV, but never in person.  It was pretty cool.

After we left yesterday the foreman changed his mind about putting block in the trench, and took it out.  The five of us (not including Jon and Daniel) spent the day mixing cement and carrying cement and river rock over to fill the trench.  It's amazing how tiring mixing the cement can be.

 Jon and Daniel stayed back at the other house and built more window frames, installed three door frames, and laid about four courses of block on the east wall of the house.

There were giant cows in Armenia Bonito, and the Honduras moved them from pen to pen throughout the day to graze.  One of the pens they were in was right in the middle of our path between the two houses, and we were walking right by these big bulls that didn't care at all.  It was a bit unnerving at first, but they were completely disinterested.

This is the wife of the man we are working with to finish his septic tank washing her laundry.  The town of Armenia Bonito actually has running water, and it is a cleaner supply than the people of La Ceiba.  It comes from up river, is gravity fed, and they chlorinate the water.  The basin is pretty dirty, but the water coming out of the facet is clean.  Not clean enough that we would drink it (we've only been drinking bottled water all week), but clean for them.

Here are the directions on bag of cement for different ways to mix it.  We use a recipe of 3 wheelbarrows full of rocky sand to 1.5 buckets of water to make cement. Richard got a good video of the concrete volcano process.  I'll try to post it later tonight if the internet connection here is up for it. (UPDATE--connection is not up for it.  Will have to post from back home).

This is what it looks like now that we're done.  There is just a little more cement to put in at a level surface, and then they will lay block on top of that, followed by a cement cap.  It felt like we'd never get as far as we did, but at the same time I felt like we should have gotten more done.

Here are the door frames that Jon and Daniel installed.

Here are the people we've been working with.  The man on the top right is who the house is being built for.

This little guy's name is Alejandro, and he is a huge helper to Erin.  He helped with the dental clinic both days, and he always helps when Erin puts on medical clinic (once a week).  He can take blood pressure readings, check in patients, and do lots of little things.  He is definitely one of the sweetest kids here.

We were initially going to be working all day at the job site, but we decided that we really enjoy the time with the kids, so we spent the afternoon back on the soccer court.  It was a little slow at first because the kids thought we weren't going to be there, but they eventually showed up.  Daniel became a new favorite among the girls with his jump rope skills.  Here he is doing push-up jump roping.  He maxed out at 7.

All three soccer balls I took are shot.  At least this one made a nice chair for a little girl.  I left my indoor soccer shoes here.  I want to send more cleats and stuff down.  They love soccer so much here.  Mike said there are kids whose families are dirt poor, but they all try to get ~$100 cleats to play on their teams with.  I'd like to find some good deals and send a bunch of cleats down.

Mike has a mean whiffle ball pitch.  Here he is striking Jon out.

I have really enjoyed spending time with the kids.  I got to pass the ball with Johannesis again today for a while, and also play with some of the older kids as well.  I'm amazed with how much Spanish is coming back to me.  It's been seven years since I've had any Spanish class, so I thought I might remember a few easy phrases to say, but that I wouldn't be able to understand anything they said.  Somehow, it's all coming back.  Instead, I'm having a harder time remember how to say things, and I'm able to understand a lot (40~60%) of what they are saying, and I can usually infer the rest.  Thank you, Mrs. Hancock.

Richard was our major casualty this week.  He had the trauma yesterday with his tooth, and also scraped his knees and banged his head falling on the concrete soccer court.  Today, he was standing on the back of Mike's truck while we were hauling supplies, and a plank of wood in the back caught a streetlight on the side of the road, sending Richard flying into a big puddle.  He landed feet first, spun, and then went down.  Thankfully, he was alright, but then he spent the rest of the afternoon puking his guts out because of some stomach bug.  He went straight back to the dorms after dinner and has been sleeping ever since.  He wants to join us tomorrow, but we need to see if it's smart, given his condition.  Richard's a trooper, though, and he's had a great attitude all week.

We went out to eat tonight to a restaurant that served traditional food from Honduras and El Salvador.  We had taquitos (which are a little bigger than the ones we get in the states), badellas (Mike described this as Honduran put a tortilla, sauce, and anything else on it.  Ours had eggs and some other stuff, and it tasted more like a breakfast taco), some flatbread pancake things with cheese inside, and tahadas (plantain chips).  It was all very good.

From there, we went to an indoor soccer facility that Mike rented out for an hour.  It was covered and had block wall to 4 feet, then chainlink fence on the rest.  It had decent turf on it, too.  Our whole team, a few of the MTW folks, and about 1/3 of the South Carolina team played.  We were a little bummed that John Clow couldn't come.  He played soccer at Le Tourneau, so it would have been fun to play with him.  The game was definitely mixed skill level, and there were some older folks playing from the South Carolina team.  I may have knocked a couple of them down.  After a morning of working, an afternoon of playing with the kids, and an hour playing indoor soccer we can barely move.  I think I was more wet today after soccer than the day when we were working in the rain all day.  Humidity is killer.

Early day tomorrow heading out to a nearby island to snorkel. It's weird because we are basically tourists/vacationers at this point, but we are still surrounded by such great need and poverty.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Day #5

We were supposed to be staying at the complex in La Ceiba today, but we switched it up because yesterday rained us out of Armenia Bonito, so we got to go there all day today.  We split into two groups.  Most of us went over to the house that they recently finished and worked on the septic tank.  It was sitting where an old shack had been, and they finished digging the tank and filling it with large river rocks along the edges a few weeks ago.  The shack had been covering it still, but the storms earlier in the week collapse part of the shack, prompting them to want to get a more permanent cover on it as soon as possible.  We started out by tearing down the old shack.  It was just thin branches with corrugated tin sheets as walls and roofs.  The wood was all rotted out, and when I hit a piece to knock apart two pieces the wood just shattered and termites flew everywhere.  They said that's a big reason why most buildings here are made of block.  Termites are everywhere.

After tearing down the shack, we set about digging a trench around the outside of the septic tank.  It  was tough because the ground was uneven, and we kept moving dirt from place to place trying to level it out.  It was futile.

We eventually got the trench dug well enough.  You can see the septic tank pit in the center.  The man in this picture is who the house is being built for.  Part of the deal the Pettengills have is that the families get a house for free, with no strings attached, but they need to help with the work as much as they are able.  The father at each house was very helpful and worked very hard.  This house was completely done except for the septic tank, but they have not moved in yet.  When asked why,  they said that they were waiting for their church to come and bless the home.  It was cool to see.

We then made yet another concrete volcano and started filling in the trench.  The plan is to go about three courses of block high and then cap the whole thing with concrete.  He said it would last about fifteen years if they never pump it out.

We found more cool critters today.  Lots of different spiders and toads.  Here, Caleb is playing with a scorpion.

Here's a picture of Trevor filling in the trench with cement.

Caleb spent all morning chipping away at the edge of the house to make a place where they could lay the electrical line into the house.  They covered it with cement once it was done, and here it is curing.

Jon and Daniel are definitely the two on our team with the most experience and ability on the job site.  They stayed at the first house and built door and window frames, which they are going to lay block around tomorrow morning.  Jon Clow is another missionary down here who does a lot with the construction work and overseeing the job sites.  He appreciated having some people who knew what they were doing, but it is difficult for all of them to work with the Honduran workers because they do things very different than in the states, and are resistant to learning new ways of doing things.


The dentistry team from South Carolina spent two days in La Fey, and they switched to Armenia Bonito for today and tomorrow.  They set up today, and were pulling teeth all day long.

Here are a couple of pictures of the game I mentioned yesterday.  Pay attention to Trevor's hand in the first picture and the kid's hand in the second.

After lunch we got to stay and play with the kids.  Richard and Phil decided that they needed some time for meditation and prayer (aka sleep).

The kids really like one-on-one attention.  For the beginning of the play time we just had a bunch of balls out on the field and it was just chaos.  Whenever one of them got a ball and caught the attention of a gringo, they came over and we would just pass back and forth or take shots on each other in front of the goal.  If any other kids tried to come up and join in, they would usually shoo them away.  They wanted us to focus on just them.  The next picture is of a girl named Kimberly.  I spent a while today taking turns shooting penalty kicks at each other with her, and it was a lot of fun.  I took down three soccer balls to leave here....I wish I had brought many more.  The surface on the soccer court is rough concrete, and it destroys balls.  After 3 days of playing for about an hour a day, one ball is lost (probably stolen), on is popped (see photo below for just below popping), and the other is very, very worn, faded, and lopsided.

This boy is named Johannesis, and he's a really cool kid.  I've played soccer with him every day, and he's always smiling and trying hard.

After a lot of the little kids had left, we started a game.  It was Hondurans vs Gringos.  It was a pretty even game, and I lost count, but they probably won in the end.

Once all of the Honduran kids had been through the dental clinic, Richard decided to take advantage of their services and had a tooth pulled.  Much cheaper than back in the states.

Tomorrow is our final day of working and playing with the kids.

Well, the rain started around 1:00 am and seems to be slacking off now at 7:00 am.  I am tired, deep down to the bone tired, but the funny thing is I want to get out there and work on that home for that family.  I am such a blessed man, I have three beautiful, wonderful children, three sisters who would do most anything for me, my mothers smile is still one of the most joyous thing I can imagine and a woman who really makes me happy and loves me.  Yet even with all these blessings I get wrapped up in the daily hubbub of life and forget how fortunate i really am.  But I guess it all comes into perspective when you see that tiny little house we are building, the 6 people who will be living in it and the gratitude they show everytime we help them.  I'm not sure if they have jobs, or how they earn money to buy food and what we call the "necessities of life",but they manage.  Every day we need to realize how good we have it....
Today at the work site, our two builders started working on the windo and door frames on the home, while the other five of us went to work on a house that was recently finished, but suffered some damage in this latest rain.  The house hasn't been lived in yet, thank God because we had to redig some of the septic tank sides.  The septic tank consists of an inverted cone dug into the grounds out 8 feet deep with river rocks lining the walls, the waste water flows into the tank and the water leeches through the rocks back into th soil.  Guess who was the lucky guy to climb into the bottom of the septic tank?  Yup, yours truly.  After that we had to dig a trench around the entire pit, about 12 feet on each side about a foot deep so they could place cement blocks to support the cement lid they have to add to cover the septic tank.  After we dug the trench we had to mix cement to fill the trench and bricks.  We got an amazing amount of work done today, it sure felt good. I have never sweated as much as today.  It was like a wet t-shirt contest for us, we were soaked from head to foot.    I mean drenched!!  At lunch time we went back to the main compound and ate our pb&j's drank our Gatorade and started playing with the kids.  Playing with the kids consists of soccer, frisbee, bouncing the balls, jumping rope, basically spending time with the kids.  (Come to find out that alot of the kids don't even know who their father is. Most of the kids come from a single parent (mom) family.  So any attention they can get from a male figure is craved and needed.  It is a very sad thing to see.  All the kids love " Miguel" the missionary, they especially like him to play soccer with them, it's not that he is great or teaches them moves, what it is is that he hugs them, roughhouses around, and gives them attention.  He is a very loving man towards the kids).  Pretty soon the soccer field cleared and a game developed, the local kids against the gringos.  We have 3 really good soccer players with us, one played in college, 2 others in high school, these three were our only redeeming grace, the rest of us just plain were terrible.  But we had fun, and the kids had fun. There were 2 injuries during the course of play, of course old graceful me sustained both of them.  The first was when I tripped on the ball and instead of taking the hit to my face, I took it to my hands and left knee.  Scraped and cut, still staying in there.  The second was when I stole the ball from a kids and again tripped over the ball, this time I banged my head really hard against the concrete wall. I banged it so loud that one if the kids was concerned and asked Mike if I was ok, Mike replied " he's still standing, I guess he is ok". I was still standing, thank God I have a thick skull.the game finally fizzled out, then the real fun began. 

I had a molar pulled.
I had a molar that the temporary crown had fallen out of about a year ago. I couldn't afford to get it fixed, (1000.00) so I decided to get it piled along time ago.  I never had the time or inclination to get it done. The other missionary team has two dentists and a complete dental office in a suitcase.  He offered to take it out so I said sure.  I had a friend take pictures of the chairs they used and the dental process of removing the tooth.  The dentist had to cut the tooth in half, then pulled half out, and then had to cut the half in half again to get it the rest of the way out.  All in all not the most pleasant afternoon.  After that we came to the dorms and showered and ate dinner.  I'm gonna cut this short now and go to bed, I hurt all over, knees, back, hands, and mouth.   But that's ok, I would do it again in a second.

But I am a blessed man having the ability to be here, assisting in Gods work, hopefully inspiring the kids thru our actions.  

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

8/7/12 Tuesday, 

Let me explain something before I get much further,  I am posting my blogs typed from an I-phone.  Yes I have 2-thumbed all this so far.  Not to bad for me if I do say so myself... Ok, here we go, the rain from tropical storm Ernesto came thru with a vengeance starting last night around 6:00 pm and raining really hard all night.  Most nights we wake up because the mangos falling from the trees onto the tin roof makes a loud BANG!!, but last night the rain drowned out the mango drums it was so loud.  We woke up at 6:15 and the rain was just as hard as it was last night, with no letup in the forecast.  We also learned that hurricane Ernesto was passing north of Honduras and we were experiencing the outlying rain squalls from the storm, but we are safe, the storm had passed, we all figured that we would not be heading out to  Armenio Bonito since you can't lay brick in the rain because you need to control the amount of water in the mortar, what we didn't realize, was that cement can be poured in the rain, so we spent the morning helping build up the wall around the compound.  The cement mixing technique here is very primitive but it works, it's all done on the ground with shovels and a big pile of the materials.  Basically they pour the cement and sand on the ground then start shoveling it in to the middle to build a big volcano then create a huge crater in the middle and add the water, all the time 3 or 4 guys are shoveling the sides to keep the walls up and thus the cement gets mixed,  I know, I know, you have no idea what I'm talking about.  I will try to film it tomorrow.  Once we mixed the cement we had to shovel it in 5 gallon buckets and carry it to the wall then lift it up to the workers.  It was pretty difficult but we handled it well.  While the workers were making the forms for a column we needed to pour, the lead missionary mike, introduced us to the joys of eating fresh right off the tree mangos.  Since we aren't supposed to eat any fresh fruit or vegetables we had to make sure that mango came right from the tree and didn't sit on the ground to long.  So basically we had to eat it as it fell from the tree. Man, they were sweet and juicy and delicious.  After we ate around 20 mangos, we went inside and ate lunch (maybe that's why we weren't to hungry) after lunch we went out the Armenia Bonito to hold kids club for the kids.  There were about 85 kids there, and man was it loud! The gringos had to put on a skit based on a biblical passage, create a game, and help with a craft activity. The team leader Zach, the Pastor Phil, and myself had to do the skit based on Balaams Ass (Numbers 23) we needed 3 character an angel, Balaam, and the ass... Guess which one I was?? That's right, the ass....(sigh) that's my lot in life.... But we had a great time and the kids had a blast too.  After skit, we helped the kids do arts and craft, making a paper bag hand puppet of me, the ass... After we picked up all the trash, put away all the benches and table and chair we left to have dinner at a local place here.  We ate 3 things, deep fried plantain chips, fresh beans, refried, and barbecued meat, chicken, beef, and sausage.... Man was it delicious!!! Just what the doctor ordered.   All us guys sat at one table and the beans and plantain chips were devoured almost instantly them they brought out the trays of meat.i think we scared the other tables, be within 5 minutes we were done with our meat plate and looking for others....  I kinda think we scared some of the other tables because they started bringing us their trays when they were done.  We ended up with 6 trays on our table, the only thing missing were the flagons of mead and the elkhounds to use as napkins, so we had to settle for the local beer and a couple of chihuahuas,  (and the beer was pretty bad too....).  That pretty much puts today to rest.  We are back at the dorms, resting after a long day of work, fun, spreading the blessings and the word of God thru our actions and our prayers.  Good night everyone.

Day #4

The tropical storm Ernesto turned into a hurricane today, but it turned north and avoided us completely.  The windiest it got today was about 10 mph.  We did see tons of rain, though.  It poured all night long.  I woke up a couple times trying to figure out who was in the shower, but it was the rain right outside my window.  The rain continued throughout the morning, which forced us to alter our plans a little bit.  They emphasized the first day that the number one thing we needed to remember this week was the "F" word--FLEXIBILITY.  We were unable to work on the house we were working on yesterday because you can't work with mortar when it's raining.  It was a little disappointing, and we hope that the rain will clear up either tomorrow or Thursday so we can go back and make some progress on that house.  I left my camera inside, so no pictures today.

You can, however, mix and pour cement when it is raining, so instead of going to Armenia Bonito, we stayed at La Isla, the downtown ministry center, and helped the workers here.  Mike keeps a staff of about 12 Honduran construction workers at all times.  Half of them work here and the other half work at the center in Armenia Bonito.  He used to have double that number, and the work progressed much faster, but it was hard for them to sustain a workforce that size.  Unemployment is very high here, ~4x what we have in the states, so he's had the same workers for a long time because they have a good job and want to keep it.  They make $12 a day, which is more than minimum wage, and they get quite a few other benefits most workers do not enjoy as well.  We were able to help out some today by essentially doubling the workforce at this site.  We mostly mixed and carried buckets of cement that were poured to form a top beam on the 12 foot exterior wall of the compound.  We also poured a corner column on the church/school/seminary and made a bunch of rebar ties.  You had to watch your head, because mangoes were constantly dropping from the tree.  We ate some fresh as the fell, and they were delicious.  It's interesting, because the Hondurans like their mangoes very hard and green, and they have a chili-salt sauce that they dip them in.  We chose the riper ones.

We at lunch at the dorms, and then drove out to Armenia Bonito for Kids' Club.  This is a Bible club that Erin Pettengill usually puts on, but we went with Mike instead.  We set up chairs and tables, and then played soccer and baseball as the kids trickled in.  An interesting fact to me was that Hondurans dislike rain a lot.  It seems like it would just be a fact of life here, especially with a months-long rainy season, but Mike said life basically stops when it rains.  Thankfully the rain cleared up by the start of kids club, otherwise Mike said our attendance would have been cut in half.  We had about 75 kids, many the same as yesterday at English class (we had about 40 kids yesterday).  There are definitely a few kids we have each connected with, and it's fun when one will come up to you and point to the soccer ball or say "bate" when the want to play baseball.

Kids club started with a game, which Jon and Caleb got to choose.  They chose dodgeball, and it was probably a poor choice.  The Honduran kids don't believe in things like rules, and any game where honesty is involved basically has to be heavily policed or it's total chaos.  We had total chaos.  After the game Mike ran through some memory verses and catechism questions with the kids.  They do four verses at a time, and 3 of the four are review from previous weeks.  I was impressed with how well the kids knew them.  After that we performed the story of Balaam's ass as a skit in Spanish.  Richard was the donkey, Phil was Balaam, and I was the angel.  Phil did very well with the overacting and beating Richard with a whip.  We did crafts with the kids at the end and made puppet donkeys out of brown paper bags.  I forgot how hard it is to cut out shapes along the lines.  I would not do well in kindergarten.  It would have been nice to have some women on the team to help with the crafts, but we got by.  After the crafts we just played with the kids some more until it was time for them to leave.  Word about me has spread among the kids, and all day random little girls would come up to me and tell me to take my hat off, then point at me and laugh.  They also play this game where they hold up their hand like they are holding something in all 5 fingertips, and if you look at their hand then then peck at you with their hand like it's a bird beak.  They think it's hilarious.  If you don't look, they just shove their hand right in your face and then start pecking at you anyways.

Tonight we got to sample the local Honduran cuisine, but we were limited because we had to eat food they felt reasonably sure was safe.  We have to stay away from the local water (including ice), and any fruits or veggies are off limits as well.  We went out to a local restaurant and had plantain chips (which taste just like potato chips...not bananas) with a bean dip that was really good, followed up by plates of grilled meat.  There was steak, chicken in some kind of sauce, pork, and a sausage that was kind of like a weak chorizo.  We had one tray of meat to share, and it disappeared quickly.  The other group is mostly full of dieting women, though, and three more almost full trays made their way over to us before the night was out.  We made sure none of the food went to waste, and it was all very tasty.

We got back to the dorms around 7, and lights out is at 10, so we have some time left to relax and hang out as a team.  A lot of us are journaling our experiences, and its nice to have time in the evenings to do that and process everything we are going through while it is still fresh.

First full day of work, woke up at 5:30 to be ready to roll at 7:30.  I had to be real quiet since Phil needed his beauty sleep, and i had agreed to set  my alarm for 6:15.  I had been tossing and turning since around 5:00 and all of a sudden at 6:10, Phil comes flying out of his bunk saying it was 7:10 and we only had 5 minutes to get ready!!! It took 3 grown men and a small boy to convince him it was only 6:10.  Then we all had avoid laugh and got ready for the day.  After breakfast, Trevor and I who are in charge of hydration had to fill the 5 gallon thermos water cooler and load it and four other 5 gallon water jugs into the truck taking us to the work site.) I had no idea what to expect. None what so ever.  As we got to the job site I saw a foundation for a house that was about 12 X20.  That as small as my trailer living room or the area under Josie's parking cover.  The structure housed two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a, eating, resting, food prep utility room.  The building they were living in before was half that size.....  They had the footing and the first course of bricks layer when we got there and our job was to lay more brick and build up the walls.  But there isN a lot of things that need to be done before the bricks become a wall, we had to build up the floor shovelful by shovelful, we had to move 500 bricks by hand,  we had to mix enough mortar, again by hand. And all this during a torrential rainstorm.  The good thing and the rain was that it cooled us off at he cost of our clothes getting soaked and weighing 20 pounds.  Since all the water that touch the land is basically contaminated it felt good to be able to open my mouth point it to the sky and thank the Lord for the wonderful refreshing rain.  We ended up building up about 3 rows of bricks around 2 walls of the house.  It doesn't seem like much but my body says it was way too much...  After we finished the house we went back to the compound and ate lunch and relaxed (slept) for about an hour.  Then the kids showed up and the soccer play began.  The missionaries built a covered soccer court the size of a hockey rink for the local community to use.  We played around with the kids for about an hour than we started English lessons.  We helped the children with their english pronunciations, reading, and comprehension.  I guess a kids are the same everywhere, some would try and others would not, it was great helping the kids. The kids had a blast when it was their turn to teach us Spanish they were quick to correct our pronunciation and grammar.  But it was a great time anyway.   We came back to the dorms to a wonderful stew and biscuits and fruit that was prepared for us by the unknown cooks.  It was wonderful, tasty and filling.  After that Phil, Caleb, and myself had dish duty tonight washing dishes. Prewash, wash, rinse and bleach.  Yes I said bleach, since we use contaminated water we must bleach everything.  30 people generate a lot of dishes.... A whole lot of dishes.  After dish duty, I went up to the eating area to relax and start by writing, listening to the rain outside reveling in the miracle that brought a 51 year old call center representative, living in Arizona, to the town of La Ceiba in the Honduras to help build a home for 6 people living in a one room shack.  God is a wonderful provider for me and for them....  After my thinking, I got recruited in to making lunch for the teams.  What would you think that a missionary team in the Honduras eats for lunch? Perhaps a stew with vegetables, or maybe,  a sandwich with a slab of local ham,  no nothing so exotic, we will be having peanut butter and jelly sammiches!!  Hey, at least it's jif brand.  After we made the sammiches, some of my team and the intern and one lady from the other team started playing spoons.  No broken bones, cuts or contusions, just some smashed fingers and bruised egos.vwhich brings to a close today's events, I'm heading to bed now to get some sleep in preparation for a long and toting tomorrow.  Good night all.......  XOXO


Woke up in the morning and felt a lot better. Whew......  
All 7of is were more tired then we thought, we slept until 8:30 and had what is called "gringo" worship at 9:00 we all took quick showers being extra careful not to let any of the water into our mouths or eyes since we would all probably get very sick.  After showers we all ate a quick breakfast ( popitas de sucre, sugar pops for my gringo kids) and a prepackaged cinnamon roll.  We had service and communion courtesy of pastor Phil.  After that the missionaries took us on a tour of Le Ceiba And Le Fe. Just a back up real quick, there are 2 missionary teams here, 1 team from Georgia and one from Tucson.  The Georgia team is doing dental work and teaching some of the local women to sew.  Our team from Tucson is working in Armenia Bonita doing construction and ministry with the local children.  Ok, back to the story.... After our tour we came back to the compound and rested until 3:30 when left to the local Honduran worship device.  We piled in 3 vehicles, 5 of us climbed into the back of a Toyota truck bed and ride to the service like that, let me tell you, it was the coolest I have been since we arrived.  The service was in Spanish but us gringos were given a translator we could use if we wanted to.  It helped alot, the young lady who was translating kept trying to find the right words to use so we would understand her.  It was kinda funny, couple of time the preacher would talk for 30 seconds and her translations was " we love God" or " "we must be stewards of Gods gifts". I just wondered if we were getting the full translation, but it worked.  But the coolest thing was that they sang one of my favorite songs "Blessed Be The Name".  That is one of my favorite Christian songs, followed by Let's Get Down and Raise the Lord up!!!  a one-hit-wonder from the 70's.  (just kidding about the 2nd song I didn't care for the beat).... After service we came back to the compound and enjoyed a wonderful meal of black beans/shredded chicken bowl "Chipotle eat your heart out!) it was awesome then we had a mango mouse and some sort of awesome pudding.  I am right now sitting outside waiting till 8:00 to take my malaria pills, and then till 9:00 to go outside and look at the moon simultaneously with the woman who has stolen my heart in Tucson.
Saturday, 8/4/12

Honduras..... We arrived in Roatan an island about 60 miles north of the coast and as we stepped of the plane we were smacked with a blast of hot humid air tinged with the smell of the ocean and you could taste the salt in the air.  The customs were handled by 4 ladies who seemed to be totally bored with the jabber of tourists and the tedium of the seemingly endless lines of people who had the forms filled out wrong, the wrong forms filled out, or even no forms at all.  As pastor Kruis got thru customs he was immediately grabbed by one of local bellboys and simply had to point at our bags and they were wrestled from the conveyor belt and placed on a large luggage cart.  Once we had all the bags they were ran thru an X-ray machine that may have been used in an old Jack Palance sci-fi movie.  As the bags exited the X-ray machine, they were dumped in a pile for the travelers to sort thru.  Our negotiator,  Pastor Kruis, them wrangled us 2 cabs for 7 men and a mountain of luggage,  somehow we all fit in the cars and luggage fit in the trunks of 2 1985 vintage Toyota corollas... As we left the airport amid the honking of horns and the squealing of tires, we were treated to a fast and scary ride thru the country side to get to the ferry landing.  All the men made it as well as the luggage (slightly worse for the wear).  We purchased our tickets and proceeded to wait for the ferry to depart.  We ate an empanada type snack filled with beef or chicken, pretty tasty....... We then watched the Olympic soccer match between South Korea and Great Britain relaxing talking and sleeping.  As the time came to board the ferry, which was very modern and clean, and we got underway, I went to stand outside in the midst of the salt spray reliving my days at sea (Man I miss the being at sea......)  I went inside and fell asleep listening to my music, disco music, just woke up in the ferry as it was pulling into the dock.  Got our luggage and met two guys from the mission who loaded our luggage and we took off to the mission .  Oh man, such a different culture here.  There are no traffic lights, the policemen carry full automatic weapons, even the guys giving our luggage at the ferry were packing pistols...... Got to the compound and found a huge mango and avocado tree on the site, I took pictures of them.  We have 1 1/2 hours till dinner.  Just made my bed, tempted to lie down, but I'm afraid I won't wake wake up... One of the guys in our team wanted to go to a local store to look around so Mike one of interns and I went on a walkabout to explore a little bit of the neighborhood.  We went and found the local "Pulpiria", kind of like a Circle K without the Circle.  Turns out my buddy was looking for some chewing tobacco.  I don't think he is going to have much luck finding it.  After the fruitless tobacco search we went to the local soccer field to watch some of the local soccer clubs play.  According to the locals they were wearing the Honduras and Brazilian jerseys reenacting the latest Olympic game between the two rivals that played today.  In the Olympics the Hondurans lost 2-1, but on the local field, the Hondurans won 3-1!!!!!!  The fans and players were very happy that the brazilians lost on the local field.  After the soccer match we walked back to the dorms and ate nachos, (chips, hamburger, tomatoes macho cheese. Salsa and sour cream.) And all the water or Gatorade, or tea you could drink.  After we ate dinner, we were given a do and donts of living in honduras,  a couple of the interesting ones were we are not allowed to pet any of the dogs we saw running around  some of them were quite mangy looking bit some of them were quite cute. The other strange rule was we can not flish anything but human waste down the toilet.  Including toilet paper!  After using the paper we had to place it in the trashcan!  Kinda gross. After dinner all 7 of our team found ourselves back in the eating room talking and basically being friends.  At 8:57 I went on to the roof to look at the moon as Josie and I agreed to do. I noticed that the 3 moon sweepers had pushed the stars to the lower left side of the moon. (Brave the movie, reference).  As we were sitting on the roof, I noticed that I started to itch in my armpits, behind my knees, my groin area, and I noticed that my lips were swelling as well as my eyes.  I told pastor and we went to the intern who is sleeping in the building and she called the pettingils (the missionaries) and while waiting for assistance  I looked  a bit more at myself i saw I was developing hives in all the places I itched.   Erin the nurse, doctor, carever extraordinaire  came over and gave me a shot of 50mg of Benadryl because I was having an allergic reaction to something, she also put me on zirtec and a steroid to help my breathing.  I went out like a light woke up several times to go the bathroom (which is a wonderful necessary function down here.). 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Day #3

Today was our first day of working, and we had a great day.  There are several missionaries down here, and they each have a different area/need that they focus on.  The other church that is with us is working in the village of La Fey, which is inside of La Ceiba on a river's edge.  We got to drive by and see it yesterday.  They are doing some construction, but also have a dentist with them, and he has been pulling lots of teeth already---something he swore he'd never do again some 20 odd years ago.  Another group of women from the other church is working on sewing with some local women.  We got to go out to Armenia Bonito, which is about a half hour drive and outside of La Ceiba.  It is up river and actually inside of the national rainforest area.  It is a poor community with about 3000 people, and is the focus of the Pettengill's ministry.  They are in the process of building a center with a high school, medical clinic, church, and indoor soccer field.  Below you can see pictures of the field and what will be the medical clinic.

I believe the team last year did some work on this complex, but another thing the Pettengills do is find the poorest of the poor in Armenia Bonito and build them houses.  They try to do 2 houses each summer, and the basic floor plan is 2 bedrooms, 1 bath, and a living room.  They have running water and electricity.  It costs the Pettengills just $1500 for to build a complete home.  The family we are helping build a house for is a single father (the mother has passed away) with four of his children and a nephew living there.  A picture is's literally a wood shack with dirt floors and just big enough to fit two queen mattresses.

Here's a picture of what it looked like when we showed up today.  The team last week laid the foundation, and we're working on filling up the floor and the walls.

They stressed very heavily the need to hydrate and not work too hard.  They get a lot of teams down here who push it way too far in the heat and humidity, and this summer has been their worst yet.  Lots of IVs and a few trips to the emergency room.  It's hard advice to follow, because you want to do as much as you possibly can to help, but pushing it too far and causing a medical incident is not what we want to do.  Richard stayed well hydrated.

Jon and Daniel spent most of the time laying blocks on the walls.  The rest of us hauled the blocks over to the work site and brought wheelbarrows full of dirt and rocks to fill in the floor.

Phil, Trevor, and I took turns digging a hole for an outhouse.  It's about a third complete in this picture.

To mix the mortar they make a "concrete volcano" where they basically put cement mix and sand in a pile on the ground and keep pile it up for a while to mix it, then hollow out the middle and pour in some water, and then start mixing again.

Here's how it looked the end of the first day.  You can see it rained quite a bit, which  made us stop early.  You can pray for the rain to hold off until the afternoon in the coming days so we can get as much work done as possible.

After working, we went back to the Pettengill's center in Armenia Bonito for lunch, and then waited around for the kids to arrive.  Mike puts on English classes for the kids on Monday afternoon, so we got to help with that, but a lot of the kids came early and we played soccer for a while, which was a lot of fun.  In English class the kids basically repeated simple questions and answers back and forth with us, and we were spread out among them at different tables correcting their pronunciation
The questions were things like: "What is your name?", "What is your favorite food?", or "Where do you live?".  I was impressed with the very evident desire the kids had to learn and to learn to say things correctly.  You could tell some didn't really care to be there, but most did and were trying very hard.  The kids like to give us gringos a hard time as well.  I worked with a table of 8-11 year old girls, and they were drawing all over me with pens.  It turns out on my arm they wrote something to the effect of "You are ugly when you take off your hat because you have no hair."  Nice kids.  It was fun working with them, and we're hoping to see many again tomorrow at the kids club Erin puts on.

I've seen the emails about the tropical storm/hurricane, and it looks like it has turned north of us, so no worries there.  We are seeing some rain, but should not be in any danger.  It's pouring right now.  We're just hoping it'll stay dry so we can work tomorrow.  We did name a small lizard we found in our room "Ernesto" in honor of the storm.  There are lots of critters out here, and we'll hopefully get to see some more on Wednesday when we go up to the river in the rainforest to swim with the kids.