My Personal Log of the mission to El Hogar, a home for poor children in Honduras
Alabar al senor! We arrived safely about 1 PM local time to the hospitality of Don Raul and El Hogar. Our flight from Miami was delayed, so we were "late", but not too terribly late. Tired smiles all around.
After a welcome lunch and introduction from Don Raul, we were soon mingling with the children and sizing up our new surroundings. As a tall Americano, I stand out quickly. I announced that, "Me llamo Felipe" and soon the children I met knew my name and greeted me before I had much of a chance to get my weak Spanish legs beneath me. But I was blessed by a flush of emotions (akin, I think, to love) as I looked over the yard full of the children of El Hogar. I met the eyes of a few of the children and returned their smiles and waves.
I met Fernando, Felipe (who was ferried over to me by a gaggle of his friends since we share the same name), David and Christopher, among others whose names I am not now able to remember. This evening (after a blessed nap), I met and actually conversed with two teachers, Moisses and Kena. Moisses is teaching the children English this year for the first time and, although he was apologetic for his English, it was worlds ahead of my Spanish. While I hope my familiarity with Spanish improves rapidly this week, I pray to Jesus that I can let go of my self-consciousness in regards to my limitations and accept with grace that I can be inferior in language skills (and other things), so that I can meet these children and people in Him and His love. Let your power work in my weakness, dear Lord!
1: Felipe and friends
We worshiped at the cathedral in Teguchi this morning. Although the service was in Spanish, the Prayer Book format and liturgy was familiar. I found the exchange of the Peace especially touching: it seemed that nearly every member of the congregation came up to our team members and welcomed us in the name of Christ.
The last couple mornings, I've been blessed to share my yoga exercises with a willing student/beginner, Greta, who is 25. I told her that she's about the same age when I started to practice yoga and that if she continues to practice daily she will be rewarded with new agility and balance.
We are progressing slowly. She is not able to do the plough or shoulder stand yet. But she still smiling and said she's not discouraged. “Baby steps," she says. That's a very good attitude to have about yoga and a great many other things. “Baby steps” in loving God and loving others is where it's at for me: Morning and Evening prayer; repetition of the Psalms and Gospels and Epistles. In our American culture, we exalt the dramatic, the breakthrough and the climax. But we hide the fledging baby steps and daily practice that make these high points possible. I showed Greta how to pray a couple Psalms (my favorites are Ps 23 and 100) while in the sitting and kneeling poses.
O Lord, continually pour upon us the dew of your Grace that by dint of your love we may share in your eternal kingdom!
2: Line up for Reading Program
The cock crows outside; it’s a new day. Yesterday, we traveled to the Technical Institute (89 all boys). They have classes in metalworking, woodworking or electrical wiring in the morning and, after lunch, they have classes in the nationally prescribed secondary school curriculum: studying language, math, science (physics, chemistry, biology) and history. Today I'm going back with John and Steve to the Institute early in the morning. They will teach cabinet- making and I will teach geometric constructions. My goal today is to teach them how to construct certain regular polygons inscribed within a circle (square, triangle, hexagon, octagon). If it goes according to plan, tomorrow we will tackle construction of a regular pentagon and, if time permits, string constructions (ellipses). I pray that my translator (Greta) can help me communicate and that the boys see the beauty of these ancient constructions. May God the Father, Creator of the universe and order, illuminate the boys’ minds to a vision of His design!
Yesterday’s class was a good success and I am looking forward to continuing today with octagon, pentagon and decagon. I left the boys with the exercise of constructing an octagon, after showing them how a hexagon is constructed by bisecting the interior angles of the equilateral triangle. I am anxious to see if any of the boys recognize that the same bisector technique applies to the square; an example of generalization. The class’ success owes much to Greta who functioned as my translator and companion and to the instructor of Electricity (who very graciously accommodated us and arranged for the boys to attend the class and who gathered the paper, compasses and rulers we needed) and the boys themselves who helped my Spanish along. Praise the Lord!
3: Mural in on a classroom wall
After class, our mission team worked to paint an iron gate and chip away at the retaining wall of a large pool destined to become a tilapia farm. I worked on the chipping project. The purpose of the chipping is to help the new coat of cement adhere to the wall, rather than slide off. When we started in the morning, I did not think that we would be able to finish chipping the entire wall. We didn't seem to have enough of the right tools (picks, bars, hammers and chisels) but we set out to do what we could. Working in the hot sun quickly generated a sweat and we needed to drink water in copious amounts. But by the time we returned from our lunch break the end was clearly in sight and we redoubled our efforts in order to finish the wall before we would have to leave for the day. And indeed we did finish: another small example of the parable of the loaves and fishes. You are generous, O Lord!
Yesterday was a glorious day for me, but also the first day here where I hurt myself (playing basketball in my sandals, I twisted some toes on my right foot; earlier I banged my head when entering the van taking us to the Technical Institute) and also where I missed an opportunity to give praise publicly to God. So beware of the heights!
In the morning I gave my second class on constructions beginning with a very pleasant surprise: the boys had all completed the previous day's assignment to construct a regular octagon. Unfortunately, I had not been specific enough in my instructions and some boys had used a 45° triangle to do it; yet others had done their own angle bisectors as I had hoped. That set up the construction of the pentagon and decagon and we finished with a discussion of the dodecagon. I think almost all the class “got it” because I inspected their papers at the end of class. Praise God!
4: Leaving Teguchi for the Farm
Then Greta and I rested on the rocks by the river below the school until the rest of our mission team arrived. After doing some painting of the grills to one of the buildings (office building), I was asked whether I could teach another class. So in the afternoon I talked to the mathematics class about string curves (starting with the circle and ellipse) and introducing caustics. Because Greta wasn't feeling well, I asked Raul to be my translator and that enabled a more in-depth discussion of billiard ball orbits and optics. I showed by examples that the string curves in two dimensions have caustics and vica versa (the main result of my PhD dissertation). Very gratifying! At least one student, Stephen, “got it” fully. But this is the one instance where I failed to give God the glory for my work. Please forgive me Lord!
Today, we are on the bus to the farm. Since it's a long ride to the mountains surrounding Teguchi, I brought my log to fill in some of the timeline that I left out over the last few, intense days. This morning I took part in the Reading Program (instead of leaving early for the Technical Institute as I had been doing). The program enlists each mission team member in listening to the students read aloud and then in taking a turn reading aloud (in Spanish, mind you!). In the first class I read with Edwin and in the second class with Mario. Both did very well, I thought. They obviously put in the effort to read well and we completed the exercises at the end of the lesson interactively (once I understood the instructions, i.e. “parabales” = words; “perguntas” = questions). Edwin was especially sweet to me and Mario (who I believe is older) was gracious.
Greta is feeling well enough to accompany us on this trip to the farm. The bone ache has passed; today she has a sore throat. I'm feeling the effects of the basketball game with the boys of the Technical Institute played at the conclusion of our stay yesterday. I pretty clearly pushed my body to its limits; my arms and shoulders are sore and my right toes are recovering from a couple of twists. It's the competition I guess. The game seemed to inspire a special camaraderie with the boys who played. Their side won the game. The handshakes and hugs after the game were very touching.
5: John at playtime with the children
I also greatly enjoyed playing with the children at night (and the surrender of my will that playing with small children entails for me) and the reading program this morning with Edwin and Mario. The farm is beautifully settled in the mountains north of Taguchi.
Today is our last full day at El Hogar. Tonight there will be a celebration/farewell, at the end of which we will offer a 15 minute team performance. Johan will juggle, six of us will sing Amazing Grace (Steve will play guitar) and all of us will then lead the children in the song, “We are marching in the light of God” or in Spanish “Nos marchamos con la luz de Dios”. We hope that they will not only join us in singing but also in marching around the auditorium. We've been rehearsing at night after Evening Prayer. We've also made hand bells for us and for the children to add festivity to this finale. May the Spirit of our Lord Jesus descend upon those assembled to animate our joy!
I am also hoping that Greta is feeling up to joining me for yoga this morning. I missed her yesterday and told her so, but I'm not sure that this may not have put “pressure" on her in an unproductive way; we’ll see.
I also had a private talk with John yesterday and we discussed the impediments to seeing each other more often. Consequently we resolved to meet in New Haven for a weekend in September and later in the fall. He expects to be a juror in the trial of a notorious murder and I can provide some relief and moral support. Praise the Lord!
Wonderful prayers of thanksgiving by the team at Evening Prayer tonight. Lord, your kingdom come!
6: Kids present a skit
It's our final day at El Hogar. Or at least on this visit – somehow I believe that the Lord will provide me with the opportunity to return.
Donna Claudia (the Director of the primary school) said on Monday morning in her introduction to the team that El Hogar is a “blessing place”. It has been so for us and it will continue to be as long as its leaders look to the Lord Jesus for their direction. The Lord will provide.
At the play time yesterday evening I played Frisbee keep away with Jimmy, Victor and José Manuel. Jimmy has a tendency to be the schoolyard bully, but he took his turn in the middle, just as I did when it was my turn to do so. This was good for me to see. We had fun chasing each other and “pouting” when we had to be the “monkey in the middle”. We laughed with and at each other. In our play we found our little community. Praise God.
I’ll soon be stretching with Greta for the last time on this trip. She says she will keep me informed of her progress. I pray for her practice of balance and inspiration. God is good.
I'm back in the States. The airplane trip was long but successful. The team all wants to return next year. I suppose that's an indication of our love for the boys and girls at El Hogar and the pain of departing. But man proposes and God disposes. We commit El Hogar to God’s care. May the Lord’s name be praised!
7: Final Team picture
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