Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Day 7 - Friday 3/25/16

Day 7 - Friday 3/25/16

Good Friday is a HUGE holiday in Honduras with many "holy day" celebrations. Perhaps the most famous are the street paintings in the city of Comayagua.

We spent the morning walking through the streets of Comayagua with thousands of other tourists marveling at the artistry and brilliant colors.

The primary medium is dyed sawdust.  Other natural products were used including flowers, rice, and even eggs.

We finished our tour of the artwork in the city's central square in front of a 450 year old Catholic church.

After untold hours of preparation and work, the beautiful displays blew away in the wind.

We stopped by the farm of Letsbi's parents near the town of La Paz for a refreshing treat and relaxing afternoon just visiting in the shade.  We're back in Cofradia, now, packing up and preparing for our return home in the morning.  It has been a marvelous week.  I asked the team to sum up their experience in one sentence. Almost simultaneously I heard…

"It was amazing!"
"It was a blessing!"
"It was fun!"
"It was good!"

Friday, March 25, 2016

Day 6 - Thursday 3/24/16

Pedro is the pastor of the church and the principal of the tiny elementary school in the community of Via Nueva on the outskirts of Tegucigalpa.  Both church and school operate under the name Institución Evangelica Jesucristo Pentecostés. Pastor Pedro's vision for the church is to see it grow into a lighthouse in the community that includes not only an elementary school (already in operation), but a Bible college as well.  

Our route from Cofradia took us through the heart of the capital city where we purchased a car battery at PriceMart (think Costco or Sam's Club). Traffic through the city today was remarkably light.  Most business have already closed for the long holiday weekend of Viernes Santos (Good/Holy Friday) and Easter.

A 290 gallon tank was in place, full of water, and waiting for us when we arrived on Thursday morning. 


Doctor Jorge and his wife Ivonne were already at the church, too.  They were playing and dancing with a group of children and singing at the top of their lungs.  Kasey and Susanna jumped right in and were soon teaching about bacteria and germs with creative skits, songs and other activities.

Several church members pitched in to construct a Tippy Tap handwashing station beside the church building.  By lunch time, the children were lined up to take their turn washing their hands and singing "Lava Tus Manos Con Much Jabón".

Pastor Pedro and several other church members spent the day working with Spencer and Dr. Jorge making sure they understood the ins and outs of safely purifying drinking water with the WaterStep M-100 chlorine generator.

We were treated to a delightful mid-day meal of fried chicken, fries and salad prepared by the pastor's wife and another church member.

The afternoon was filled with more games and an appearance by the ever-popular Anna Maria Diarrhea doll. 

At 4:00 pm, the purified water was ready to drink and we enjoyed a refreshing taste. It is always interesting to see people's reaction to the purified water which has a tiny hint of chlorine taste and smell.  If you live in the United States, you are used to this and probably don’t notice it. Those who are not used to it usually react with surprise. Some like it. Some don’t. But, everyone likes drinking water that will not make them sick!

Pastor Pedro presented each member of the team with a full-color, glossy certificate of appreciation for "blessing" them with the gift of safe water.

We were all laughing and having a good time by 6:00 p.m. when each of the church volunteers "passed" Spencer's test by putting the system through its paces unassisted. We prayed together one last time and asked God to continue to bless this community through the lives of these dedicated servants.

Teresa came just as we were leaving because she heard the church had water that was safe to drink!  Her family has not been drinking water because it makes them sick. She kept saying, “such a blessing”

Tomorrow, we will be "turistas" and visit a city of Comayagua to see the famous street paintings made of dyed sawdust, seeds, rice and other natural products depicting the passion of Christ (not unlike the materials used to decorate the Rose Bowl Parade floats).  Stayed tuned for more pictures!

Day 5 - Wednesday 3/23/16

All day @ Nueva Jerusalem.

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Pastor Ronnie Lazo checks the chlorine level in the first "batch" of purified water.

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Pastor Pedro (white shirt) and Samuel (yellow shirt) joined us to begin their training.  We'll be working with Pastor Pedro on Thursday.

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Buying water from a tanker truck. $1.50/barrel. That's 30% of a day laborer's wages.
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Tour of school with Principal Sara

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Face painting is a hit with the children!

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Children playing with the plastic fly.

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Tippy Tap- hand washing & singing.

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Pastor Ronnie, Sara and others demonstrated a mastery of the chlorine generator operating procedures.

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Sang all the way through the Sound of Music soundtrack in the van.

Pictures paint a far more detailed account than thousands of words could ever tell…

Day 4 - Tuesday 3/22/16

Tuesday was full of laughter and relationship building.

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We played, sang and taught children.  We taught adults, young and old, to operate the WaterStep chorine generator. Back and forth we travelled from Cofradia to Casa Diamante to Nueva (New) Jerusalem to Cofradia to Nueva Jerusalem and back to Cofradia.

Tuesday started with our second visit to the Casa Diamante. Spencer worked spent the morning letting the volunteers practice the steps of purifying water with chlorine. They carefully measured salt and water.  They connected the pump and chlorine generator to the car battery, they tested the water, they cleaned the generator and they charged the battery.
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Doug and Pastor Nelson made a quick* trip in town to purchase more supplies and to pick up the missing crate at the airport.  Yes, it finally arrived, and were glad it did!  In addition to supplies, the crate contained a third chlorine generator. We didn't think we'd need this unit this week until Tuesday when we learned of another pastor in the area who purchased a tank and is ready to setup a water purification system.

Kasey and Susana introduced the diarrhea doll (her new name is Anna Maria) to the children. The children were enthralled by the story of Anna Maria's unfortunate mistake.  You see she drank untreated water got terribly sick with a horrible case of diarrhea. The wooden doll, made by Bart Perkey, provides a graphic visual of the turmoil in Anna Maria's stomach. It also drives home the importance of drinking LOTS of "safe, purified" water.  The children clamor for the chance to tell the story over and over again as they treat Anna Maria and her terrible case of diarrhea.
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An always popular activity with the little ones is coloring pages of a story. Tuesday's story was about Juancito, a man wo has hookworms because he does not wear shoes. The parasites have taken up residence in Juancito's body.  The story teaches several lessons about personal hygiene and healthy habits. Each child gets a page of the story to color with crayons. Then, they organize themselves in chronological order and retell the story… over and over, again. Repetition is a power learning approach.
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Everybody had a turn at the Tippy Tap hand washing station and sang two verses of "Lava Tus Manos con Mucho Jabon" to the tune of happy birthday.
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Letsbi and her faithful assistance delivered a huge pot of hearty chicken soup at lunch time complete with rice, noodles, carrots, potatoes, and the mandatory fresh-made tortillas.
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Before saying our goodbyes, we prayed together with our new friends and asked God's blessing on their ministry to the people who live around Casa de Diamantes.
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The ever present circling vultures are a constant reminder of the massive city landfill nearby.  The shacks that line the highway are home to hundreds of families who survive by collect recyclables from the city dump.  Our nostrils will never forget the putrid smell of rotting refuse.

After a 40 minute drive around and through part of the city, Pastor Ronnie Lazo welcomed us to his church - Centro Cristian Palabra de Fuego - in Nueva Jerusalem in the hills south west of Tegucigalpa.  This community has grown rapidly since the government started selling small plots of land there in the early 2000's.  Ronnie and his wife, Sara, were active leaders in the downtown church, Iglesia Amistad Cristiana.  God put a burden on their hearts for the people of Nueva Jerusalem so they pulled up stakes, and moved their family into a tiny two-room house with no furniture.
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Sara is a school teacher. She taught her children and others under a tree because there was no school in the area. In the last 12 years, the ministry… and the school…have GROWN!  Ronnie and Sara reminded us over and over again how God has guided, provided and blessed the work in this very poor community.  Now, the church has its own building with a  thriving congregation. And, Sara is the principal of Nueva Jerusalem Centro de Educacion Basica - a K-12 school with 660 students and 22 teachers!  On Wednesday, Sara proudly gave us a tour of the facility.  Over and over again, she gave God credit for intervening in difficult situations and challenging circumstance.  She bragged on the community which has slowly, but surely, begun to take ownership and rally to support the school in tangible ways. What a powerful witness she and her family are!  Ronnie and Sara have three delightful children: Hesler (21), Naomi (19) and Esther (16).

We spent the afternoon just visiting with Ronnie and Sara.  I assure you, you've never met more genuinely sincere servants with humble hearts of gratitude.

*"quick" is a relative term in a third world city over one million.  Imagine the worst traffic jam you've ever experienced. Then, remove the painted lines, take away the street signs, add dozens of motorcycles, throw in hundreds of busses, toss in thousands of pedestrians and you begin to get the picture (no, I'm not exaggerating).