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The Prayer Chair…

Well it’s 5:45 am and my heart has found it’s way toward a place that it recognizes as sacred.  I bend my knees and kneel down next to this chair that becomes holy ground about this time every morning.  It’s where Momma Grose and the Lord meet.  Same time, same place, for years worth of mornings.  I think at this point more than 25 years worth of mornings.  That’s 9,125 mornings give or take a few.  9,125 moments of bringing yourself before the Lord before the start of the day and submitting to His Lordship over it.  

I remember early on in my walk with the Lord asking, “you mean you come and spend time here EVERY single morning?”  Her response, “yeah I have learned that this is where my peace is going to come from and if i want to live in peace it starts here.”  Well alrighty then.  Every morning it is.  

Now one would think after witnessing the way that she lives her life and realizing that she largely attributes that to what happens in that space every single morning that I would have adopted that regimen.  I mean if God transforms you there in that space and you find peace – it seems a natural response right, that I would create that space and be diligent.  Nope.  I so wish that I could say that was true.  I did not run home, create a “prayer chair” space and retreat to it every single morning, or every single night, and if I’m super honest there are days I never pick up my Bible – ok maybe stretches of days sometimes.  

But I digress with my own confessions…Image

I don’t pretend to know what occurs in that prayer chair beyond what my eyes have been so incredibly blessed to witness – but every once in a while my heart has been invited into this space.  This morning is one of those times.  Well I sorta invited myself, and I don’t do that often – because this isn’t shared space.  It’s Momma Grose and Jesus space, but on rare occasions when it matters – we share Jesus time here.  

So we kneel down this morning because this weekend she will be traveling to Dallas to get to do what she was created by the Lord to do.  She will stand before a group of women and she will hold that worn pink Bible in her hand.  It will peel open and unfold over her hands in familiar ways because let’s face it – that Bible she proclaims in public has seen years worth of days unfolded in private.  She will stand and talk about a Savior who meets her EVERY single morning in a green striped oversize chair in the corner of her den and she’ll speak about Him like she knows Him.  Because a years worth of mornings of allowing Him to speak over you can do that to a heart.    

There’s something about this space.  It’s worn and familiar.  It’s miles upon miles of life piled up and laid at the feet of Jesus.  And in the “shared” spaces – It’s the place where we prayed when I was wrestling to figure out whether I was gonna sell out to this God thing.  We’ve lifted up sick loved ones here and broken hearts.  We prayed in this space before I left my life here to move to Honduras.  We’ve prayed here when I’ve lost my way.  We’ve prayed here when those we love have lost theirs.  We’ve prayed for reconciled relationships with people dear to us.  Messy, authentic, beautiful shared space.  Doing life together and attempting to do that all centered around a cross space.  

And so today, I think I stand reminded of a few things from a bent knee view near the prayer chair.  

A Bible that’s tattered usually belongs to a life that isn’t. 

Seeking His face, really does mean “seeking” with diligence and consistency.

An authentic message comes from a place that knows how your Bible unfolds over your hands, your heart, and your life in private before it ever attempts to speak from it in public.

I am honored to my toenails to share this relationship with her. 

My life will be marked forever because of the lessons I learn in this space.

Some gifts should never be taken for granted.  

And last but not least…maybe today isn’t too late to decide that peace comes from an EVERY single morning dose of Jesus.

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A Bigger Cross – A Louder Boast

“Jesus, may your cross get bigger, and may my boast in it grow louder.”

– Scotty Smith, Everyday Prayers (March 17)Image

I posted a part of this blog yesterday, but realized I had much more to say when I reread it – so here is the “more of my heart” version.  🙂

This picture is of “The Junk Cross” in Santa Ana Honduras.  Pretty fitting huh?!  Santa Ana is the little town where I started my adventure in Honduras almost 8 years ago now.  Casa de Esperanza (the children’s home that we helped to begin there) is just a few minutes from this little park which houses this cross and an amazing view.  We took a trip out there Sunday afternoon after playing with the kiddo’s and passing out food bags in a community.  

This monument was erected using old car parts and turned into the shape of a cross.  The symbolism is so incredibly apparent that it doesn’t need a ton of explanation but it moves me each time that I see it.  

A heap of junk in the shape of a cross.  

That’s really the gospel in it’s simplest form isn’t it.   I bring my junk.  He brings His blood.  And somehow my junk shapes itself into the form of a cross and finds itself covered there.  Amazing grace.   

I am reading a daily devotional this year (for those of you who know me, you know that consistency and predictability are not strengths, so an everyday devotional stretches and grows me) but this book has captured something and has me hooked.  The whole premise is that we would preach the gospel first to ourselves every day before we attempt to ever share it with anyone else.  Each day the author, Scotty Smith, shares a prayer that he has written through a year of intentionally focusing his heart on relearning the gospel.  It’s beautiful and it’s moving me in really sweet ways.  Oh that we would have a cross in front of our eyeballs every single day as we attempt to advance His Kingdom on this planet.  I could honestly give you a quote from just about everyday that is a nugget worth gnawing on for a days worth of thoughts.  He also has a blog that includes each of the prayers from the book HERE.

The quote above was from yesterdays devotional reading.  “Jesus, may your cross get bigger, and may my boast in it grow louder.”  It’s it.  The sum total of it.  Whatever it is that we’re doing with our life today or in the days to come it’s all wrapped up in this one thing.

So option one … A cross that gets bigger in my hearts view.  A cross that covers this life … all of it – which requires BIG – way BIG!!   My life boasting of it with ever increasing volume.  Sometimes the volume with words.  Sometimes merely by a life that looks like it lives under the shadow of a cross.  

True confessions – here’s the other possibility as I think about the image and implications of that “junk cross.”  I live like my junk is TOO big and that cross is TOO small.  No boast.  No glory.  Just junk with a distant glance at a cross that I wish I could live beneath.  

Perhaps like me you’ve spent time in each of those places.  

And to be honest we live one of those two beliefs out in our every moment sort of life.   

As I consider whether that’s happening from day to day, I’m humbled.  I’m also challenged and empowered as I think about that as my life’s truest mission.  To boast in a cross…

As you travel through your day – each new opportunity that arises … a potential boasting in a cross and a Christ that has hidden your life in His.  Glory.

It’s my prayer today.  For myself, for us as His bride.  That a watching world would suddenly start to see a group of Jesus followers who completely buy into the beauty of a cross and all of it’s implications and truly live to boast only in the power found in living underneath the shadow of that place where His blood pours down to cover us.

May you be so incredibly aware today that all of your “junk” has been swallowed up in the shape of a cross.  In the love of a Savior.  In the mercy of Calvary.  

Go live like it and make Him famous.  Boast about THAT!! 

Be blessed!!

“Live Above”

It’s Sunday.  A day of rest.  Reflection.  A day that has come to be known to my heart as the day that I unpack my week with it’s successes and failures, lay them before the Lord, and ask for His eyes and heart to look forward to what is to come for the next 7 days.  I think I am really finally beginning to learn that this day was intended to be a central point for the rest of life.  Intentionality.  Solitude.  Silence.  Diligence.  Seeking of His direction and having a date to check in with His heart.  Precious time.  

It just so happens that this particular Sunday is spent on the other side of that stamp I wrote about just a week and a day ago.  My heart is running miles alongside this airplane yet again and I get another stamp today.  Another departure.  Another re-entry to “home.”  Home as foreign as that now sounds – as though one place could really house my heart any more than the other at this point.  I have learned that home is more a space in my own heart now than it ever will be able to be a physical location again.  There’s just no going back to a place where that makes any sense.  My heart has been remodeled and it’s address no longer fits in either space completely.   

A funny thing that concept of “home.”  One country in a sense birthed my “body” and it feels as though the other sorta birthed my “soul.”   While that’s not exactly true – I gave my life to Jesus before I knew Honduras, I found the hills I would die on within the dirt and dust of that country.  My “come alive” happened while looking into poverty and injustice and knowing that the heart of Christ toward both pounded within my own chest.   And so it’s absolutely no surprise that as I reflect on another week spent there I have plenty to “unpack” on this Sunday.  

Words sorta fail in every single one of these spaces, and I ask for them often as they would be so incredibly beneficial to attempt to explain to others what transpires between the maker and keeper of your soul in between the stamps.  Some things do indeed remain sacred however, because there really just aren’t words to touch it all.  I think that is how we know that sacred has happened – when we can neither explain nor mar it with our vocabulary.  

That being said, may I attempt to just share for a moment the view from above the clouds.  Pun intended.  At 38,000 feet in the air, I am desperate to look at this week from a “live above” sort of view.  (As a sidenote:  The “live above” concept comes from one of my very favorite memories of my years spent in Honduras.  Momma Grose, one of my spiritual mentors, would always hug me and whisper into my ear before we separated to live in different countries … “Be bold and courageous honey and LIVE ABOVE.”  Some days I think I succeeded and some days I failed miserably at living above what my eyes and circumstances could see, but the mantra is beautiful and I want to choose to live in that space)  

If I looked through my human eyes and an earthly perspective back through this week, there are still an abundance of failures.  Injustice.  Poverty.  Little boys being beaten up.  People still hungry no matter how much food we handed out.  My own pride.  My own weakness.  Desperation.  Discouragement.  Insecurity.  Fear.  There are also plenty of successes that I think we could make a list of – things we did well.  What a precious group of folks who loved so well.  We had an amazing team of young people on fire for the Lord and His people and what He is doing in the world.  Houses built.  Food distributed.  Bellies filled.  Hearts wrapped up.  Children prayed over.  A list of plenty of “do goods” as well.  

I wonder if the view above the clouds looks a bit different though – if maybe up here it’s not what you did well or didn’t.  If I can pull my heart up here and attempt to view just this week through the lens of a “live above” mentality, I can’t just sum this all up to a list of successes and failures – neither my own or anyone else’s.  I can’t just chart the plan and the agenda and assume that we either made it or missed it and let that be the gauge.  The barometer shifts up here.  The expectations are really just to lose your life in Jesus up here.  There is absolute approval up here in your position in Christ alone.  All of Heaven is applauding love being extended up here.  All that’s cloudy down there becomes more clear from this angle.  Maybe from the view up here I can reclaim a few things that I know for sure… 

I am the beloved despite of my own definitions of “success” or “failure.” 

This planet is messy.  

Messy needs a Messiah.  

I know and love Him.  

I am in the process of being redeemed by Him. 

So is this planet.

There is a kingdom.

Meaning there is a King.

He is the prize.

His heart stoops low and loves well. 

Mine deeply wants to do the same.

And so although my heart is full of tension between a broken planet and a gracious God – (and maybe all the more because my heart is full of the tension of all of that) – I continue the search for a place with a view that can provide correct perspective as I sort through and unpack the memories from this week.   That seems easier up here with a beautiful picture out my window,  beckoning my heart toward the truth it resembles.  

But, when my feet touch down and the literal view is not of the clouds, my heart prays for a way to continue to remember that what these eyes have seen and the ache this heart feels – is not the sum total of my mission or the God that I serve.  We are living in the already and the not yet and the tension will remain and that won’t change until He returns for His bride.  

 

I can not see the end of the stories that He is writing in the lives of those that I love.  I have no real idea what is born in an impoverished life that depends completely on God’s provision.  Suffering has a way of refining.  I don’t know what might be being built in the hearts of some little boys who will know what it’s like to suffer at the hands of people who were supposed to love and protect you and what may come out of that.  Warriors are sometimes formed in spaces like those.  Those words hurt to write … I hate those words if I’m honest … yet I know that they’re true.  I can’t possibly know what is being born within my own soul as I wrestle through hard spaces and my own humanity and wanting to control the outcome because I’m scared to death to leave it in His hands because He doesn’t always do things the way I think He should.   Surrender has it’s best chance of freedom in seasons like these.  

So I run to the only place on planet earth where I could possibly have “live above” sight in light of all that is reverberating in my heart, and I crawl up into His lap as His daughter and remember that sometimes the very best thing I can do in moments like these is to let the one who offers to be my “Abba” hold me.  That’s my plan.  

As I think about the highlights between the stamps … 

Precious people.  Sacred memories.  Unity in the body of Christ.  A common mission and purpose.  His heart exposed yet again for that country.  Provision.  Favor.  Time spent loving with abandon.  The gospel lived out.  The gift of witnessing God coming near.  God literally WITH us.  

I will highlight some of the weeks stories in the days to come as I attempt to formulate the words to share them.  Thanks for journeying with me and praying for us as we were away.  

Blessings.

Another Arrival

I look at the clouds out my window and recognize a familiar path that my heart and my frame have traveled more times than I can count in this moment. My passport has the stamps to prove it. I just flipped through that little blue book with all of it’s immigration enterings and departings and was overcome in some ways by the stories that are held within those pages. So many arrivals, so many goodbyes. So many prayers that we would know how to come near suffering in its purest form, the most ravishing forms that I have ever witnessed with these eyes and this life. A multitude of faces flood my mind as I think about who I have traveled with, who we have met in our journey, the stories attached, marked with those dates that all mean something. Some journeys gone solo. Many times teams of people who have given up a week of vacation to move near and sacrifice and serve. Some arrivals and much time before departing again. Some few day trips because my heart needed to see my boys and remind them they’re amazing and chosen by God. I am humbled as I think about the gift of this particular vain of my life. It has had some incredibly rich moments, some horrible mistakes, much revelation about who God truly is – coupled with the most enormous doubts while living in the middle of seemingly unrelenting suffering and pain. And somewhere in the swirl of all of that – rich remains. Depth of both sorrow and joy. An enlarged heart that both beats with deeper compassion and stronger conviction about much. A strange mix but one I wouldn’t trade.

There’s something about this plane ride that somehow always feels like a trek through my own heart. Somehow between that “Ladies and gentleman, we are preparing for departure,” and the “Ladies and gentleman we are approaching our final descent,” my heart has traveled almost as many miles as this airplane.

And so we embark upon another stamp in this passport, another story waiting to be written, another week full of opportunities to touch my soul and shape my faith and advance the family of God and the movement of the Kingdom on this planet. I am ill-equipped and unqualified for this…I know it. I’m reminded every single time these wheels touch down.

BUT THEN GOD…

Moves in. Takes over. Empowers. Leads by His Spirit. Purposes every step. Wrecks my own pride. Whispers in my ear of my place as His daughter. Reveals His heart for these people. Leaves me undone.

And by the time the next stamp enters this passport a week from now, another precious package of memories will be symbolized within that one stamp and this one trip.

We only get the chance to do this date and stamp once, please pray with us that we do it well…whatever well may look like for such a time as this.

Be blessed!

Happy New Year

December 31 - from Everyday Prayers by Scotty Smith

December 31 – from Everyday Prayers by Scotty Smith

Well it’s a new year, and for most of us, we begin it with both a reflection backward at all the memories and a forward gaze at the new adventures yet to come. My heart still finds itself there this morning. Recounting and yet ready for a clean calendar and a fresh start in 2013. There were a truckload of blessings in 2012. There was a truckload of hard. Each seemed to come in equal measure last year. It’s not always that way, but it was for sure for my heart in the past 365 days we call a year.

I started a new devotional book recently called “Everyday Prayers” by Scotty Smith and I thought yesterdays entry spoke so well to my heart concerning my past year. A mixture of glad and sad.

I pray it blesses you as we think toward beginning this new year with our eyes on Jesus aware of who we are and how desperately we need Him.

Here are my honest new years resolutions so far.

To know Him more.
To love Him more deeply.

I figure a whole lot of other goodness will come from those two things. I’m formulating prayerfully a more thorough list of goals, but these two are really the deepest cry of my heart right now. I am weary of who other people tell me He is and pretending that I know those things in my own knower. I want to KNOW His voice clearly among a thousand others. I want to bend my ear to hear what He wants to speak and KNOW that it’s His voice because I KNOW His heart. I am aware of how much more I have to learn about His LOVE…for me personally, not some corporate He is nuts about you, loves the whole world, sort of love. (While that’s super true.) I want to KNOW more fully the kind of LOVE that you learn while nestled up near His heart hearing Him speak into the places in your soul that only His love can mend. That sort of knowing Him and loving Him.

I offer those goals and words not from a cliche easy place because this is what we are supposed to say. I sorta groan them from somewhere deep this year. Looking back I see the effects of losing this as my souls only aim. Gazing forward I see all we have to gain as He reveals more of Himself to my heart.

Sad and glad. I think that’s a great summary for 2012 for this girl. Looking forward to all that is to come in the next 365 days of “groaning and growing in grace”.

Blessings as you groan and grow in 2013 as well.

A New Blog Season

For many years – on again and off again – I have used a blog forum to sorta post ministry updates, things that were going on on the mission field where I was living and loving in Honduras.  I gave my heart away there for almost 7 years and realized that those people made absolutely indelible marks on my soul – that I am even now still learning the true weight of.  

In February of this year I came home for a year sabbatical and to think and pray about what was happening next in my life, and where God was leading.  I knew it was time to work on some stuff that had accumulated in my heart, when I had not been intentional or diligent in tending to it in the middle of my attempting to tend to everyone else’s.  (Sidenote: that’s a scary place to be. As Beth Moore says, “God will NEVER ask you to sacrifice your intimacy with Him on the altar of ministry.”  Truth!!)  It was just time for a break.  I had hit the place that everyone warns you about in ministry and missions and I was burnt out and had hit the infamous wall.  Part of that due to my own choices, part of that due to circumstances of third world life and what your eyes and heart experience every day, part of it due to a hundred other things I’m sure.  

Here’s what has become absolutely certain over the past several months of processing as I have changed pace and environment.  Of giving my heart some time to rest and heal – I have been guilty of pursuing the prestige of ministry without pursuing the person of Christ on more occasions than I would care to admit.  That’s not true for everyone.  That became true for me in some cases.  When that becomes true chaos ensues.  It’s inevitable.  

I can look back and think about when I first went to Honduras and when I read my posts from that very sweet season I was crazy in love with Him.  I had been rescued and redeemed and I knew it and I wanted other people to experience the sweet sweet sense of being absolutely woo’ed by His love.  I was going for the “purity and simplicity of the gospel.”  I believe that to be true to this day.  It was God led and I knew it in the depths of my “knower” and if He would have asked me to live in the amazon in a hut eating insects I would have done it in those days I think.  Recklessly abandoned to the person of Christ and what He was doing in my life.  And then something super subtle happened…one day at a time…

Enter accolades.  Enter watching starving children die.  Enter knowing what it felt like for people to think that what you were doing was selfless and amazing.  Enter a shack and a stillborn baby and a momma who wants to know why and asks you while you sit silently and wonder yourself.  Enter my humanity exposed.  Enter watching God show up and send checks from people you’d never met to prove His faithfulness and provision.  Enter giving your heart away to children who are thriving and watch them be taken by a corrupt system that would return them to parents who beat them.  Enter the beauty of watching a faith you’d never known before ever as you met a woman who had prayed for 8 years for a home while sleeping on a dirt floor with all of her children.  Enter people who serve the poor and bash each other in the same moments.  Enter competition among the family of God.  Enter eyes diverted from the hearts purpose of a cross alone.  Enter a heart that knew she was loved by God and asked to love other people who found it difficult all of a sudden to know how to do and live out of either well.  

The result:  A heart that had to in some ways start over from zero.  There just was no real middle point to return to.  I took every definition and every card I had in my hand that knew what it was like to be a Christian and I laid them out on the floor in front of me, some of them an absolutely crumpled mess and I begged God to help me know which ones of them to pick back up as truth.  I learned (as scary as this is to admit) we sometimes pick up some cards as truth that other people hand down to us that aren’t from God.  It was time to rid those from my hands.  I am still very much leaning into this part of the process and allowing the Lord to use it.  I think it will now become a lifelong quest to make sure the cards I’m holding are the ones He intended for me to know and use as we usher in a kingdom He intended to create through our lives.  

So this became my measuring stick:  if my definitions for faith and favor and provision and faithfulness and so many of the other words we kinda throw around in our Christian circles – can’t hold up for a woman standing in the middle of the dump working to feed her children AND one of my very wealthy friends in suburbia – they’re not truth – cause the gospel … the GOOD news was intended for everyone and God never meant for either side to get “cheated” as He granted His promises.  They were for everyone.  It’s changed everything.  

It has gone as far back for me as this:  God can I trust you?  Are you trustworthy?  Cause let’s be honest that question isn’t answered nearly as honest or flippantly when you’ve truly and purely loved and lost.  It doesn’t roll off your tongue after you’ve watched starvation and corruption up close.  It begs for an answer from a deeper place after that.

So up until this point – most of my blog entries over the past several years of my life have been about what I was learning while in Honduras and stories about ministry happening there.  To be honest, I haven’t felt like I had anything to say or anything I wanted to really digest and process through in a while.  I think it’s a good sign for my heart that I feel as though I’m in a place where I feel as though I need to write again.  That the cobwebs in this noggin need to clear a bit.  

So maybe now for this season this space is just for a girl who is committed to learning what it means to fall more in love with the person of Christ again.  To just be Jen, God’s daughter.  To lose the titles and the accolades.  To know what it feels like to really be a nobody and yet be everything to Him.  To just blend in in every single crowd and yet know that as I reach to touch the hem of His robe – He sees me and finds my eyes and my hearts deepest cries.   To remember what it means to be lavishly loved as I figuratively stand naked before Him … stripped bare of so many of the things over the past several years that have defined my worth.  

Somehow I find freedom in that today.  That perhaps starting over naked and humbled is the perfect place to be for today in this love story He’s writing.  

Because let’s face it – maybe that’s just the honest realization of what’s been true all along … we are NOTHING without Him!  No matter what title or ministry or good we do even under the umbrella of His name – no matter how well we know our “Christianese” – no matter how many Bible verses we can recite – those things all are meant to point to a PERSON and when they detach themselves from the depth of intimacy in relationship with Him – they mean NOTHING!  He is so worth it.  It’s all a loud clanging mess without the driving force being my love for Him.  

So, Lord, if you’re still pursuing after every time I’ve run or withdrawn or tried to be self-sufficient and do this on my own, this must be the real deal.  You must really love me.  You must have meant what you said when You promised that You would never leave or forsake me.  You must really still be after my heart.  So this scared wounded heart is crawling in your direction again today Lord.  Because You are a gentleman You invite and You never impose.  So I accept Your invitation today to be loved by You and somehow to be made whole and holy in that process.  And no matter how many times I’ve said that before…it seemed like it merited being spoken aloud again today.  

I’ll be doing some processing here again and sharing some things with you that I’m learning.  If you’d like to join the journey I’d be delighted to have you along.  There will be moments no doubt when you’ll feel as though you’ve sat in for a meeting with God and I – you’re welcome to eavesdrop as He continues to teach me and draw me near.  I’m sure today kinda felt like one of those days.  There will be other days when I’ll pass along a song or lyrics or a teaching or something that is way blessing me in the season that I’m in.  If you can be blessed by anything God is teaching this sojourner that’s what it’s all about.  You are welcome here no matter where you find yourself on this faith spectrum.  The questions and fears and doubts are part of the sacred process.  They are.  So make yourself at home.  Jump in on the discussion when you want to.  Read and feel no obligation when you don’t.  

I just need to start tending to my heart again … and so for me … this is one place that I can do that.  I’m planning to pluck some weeds and dig up some crusty dirt in there.  Want to make sure that when God wants to plant something that soil is ready to bear some fruit.  It’s time to be tended.  🙂 

Last day

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“We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” (Romans 5:3-5)

Some days this week, I have had a more difficult time choosing a scripture to “frame” our work than other days. But this Sunday truly felt like a day of hope, sustained by the love of God poured into us by the presence of the Holy Spirit, and so these verses from Paul’s letter to the Romans—a few of my favorites—immediately seemed like the right words to capture the spirit of the day.

We began by driving to Santa Ana, a rural community about forty minutes outside the city, and met with another missions team for worship at the Monumentoa la Cruz de Chatarra—the “Cross of Junk.” Atop a mountain and surrounded by cornfields and gigantic, energy-producing windmills, the monument is a large cross that has been beautifully constructed entirely of old bus parts. Beyond the fact that it is an innovative work of art, the symbolism of this cross is also deliberate and remarkable: apart from God, each of our lives is a piece of junk, but through the cross, we are welded together into something beautiful. The service was led by members of the other service team who were from the Church of Christ in Oklahoma, and from the songs we sang to the Welch’s grape juice at communion, it felt like a familiar piece of home in a strange land.

Following worship, our team travelled a short distance to Casa de Esperanza—“House of Hope”—an orphanage that is sponsored by the Church of Christ and which our team leader Jennifer Wright and others (including Joe Marillat, who was also with us for the week) had worked to start in [2006]. Other members of the team had also served as interns there, and the “little boys” who spent the week with us—Jonny, Giovanni, Marvín, Mario, Francisco, and Antonio—came into Jenn’s life when they came to stay here a number of years ago (I have not yet mentioned the boys in this blog, but would be entirely remiss not to do so at some point. Getting to know and hold and laugh with these six brothers—and they have two younger at home!—was for many of us, as significant a part of the week as anything else we did this week). We ordered a catered lunch for the kids and ourselves, and spend an hour or two visiting and playing with them. I somehow found myself at the center of a group of 9-11 year old girls, who were beautiful and sweet and delightful. One of them, Rosy, was deaf and mute, and the girls all helped to communicate with her, including her biological sister, Sisi. After explaining to me that they were sisters, I said that they were probably all como hermanas—like sisters—here, and another girl agreed: si, hermanas in Cristo. Perhaps this sums up the difference in atmosphere that many of us experienced here in comparison with the other children we visited; one felt less of the presence of the suffering, crucified Christ in them, and more of the spirit of resurrection, brotherhood, and hope.

We stopped briefly at a “neighborhood” where I understood Saul and Carlos—another set of brothers who spent the week with us, much to our benefit—to distribute food bags before stopping at Mi Esperanza (www.thewomenofmyhope.org), an organization that was founded in 2002 by Janet Hines and Lori Connell to promote women’s development and empowerment through education (primarily training in sewing, computer skills, and salon services) and microfinance. Not only here but throughout the developing world, one can find countless stories and statistics to show that not only are women often the poorest of the poorest of the poor (some writers even speak of the “fourth world” of women in underdeveloped nations), but also that promoting women’s empowerment is one of the surest ways to bring greater security and prosperity to entire families and communities. As founder Lori Connell explained to us, they saying goes that if you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime; but if you teach a woman to fish, you feed her children and her community as well. Mi Esperanza—“My Hope”—is not only trying to do this for the women of Honduras, but also helping then find a pond to fish in by marketing the beautiful textile products—handbags and wallets, t-shirts and dresses, jewelry and leatherwork—that they have learned to make. We had the opportunity to shop for all these things in the store there—all proceeds of which go directly back into expanding the work that Mi Esperanza does among the women of Honduras.

Finally, we travelled back downtown to Breaking Chains, to worship with the homeless community there and to help serve them dinner. The service, led by a young Honduran man in a Breaking Chains t-shirt, was entirely in Spanish of course, but many in our group later commented on how engaging they found it nonetheless—that the Holy Spirit was ministering and interceding “with groans that words cannot express,” testifying that we are all God’s children (Romans 8:16, 26). Whether we are dirty and high and impoverished or wealthy and educated and well-dressed, God’s love is poured out to every one of us.

We left several suitcases of clothing at Breaking Chains and headed back to Valle for what would be, for many of us, our last night of a truly unforgettable week. We ate dinner and gathered for a devotional/debriefing on impressions of the day. “Where did you see Jesus today?” had been a focal question for many of our evening devotional meetings this week, and as members of the team shared their thoughts, there was an overwhelming sense of gratitude expressed—not only for the things that we learned about God through the people of Honduras, but also through each other. It really was a remarkable week in terms of our own group’s dynamics—never a conflict that I am aware of, always a pervasive spirit of humility and service and cooperation and joy. It may seem strange, but I think I can honestly say that I laughed and smiled more on this trip than I have for a long time. As I write this final entry from the comfort of my own kitchen table in West Virginia, I feel both full and empty at the same time—wanting desperately to live in solidarity with those who are poor or suffering in Honduras and throughout the world, wanting to keep the spirit of love and joy alive as I step back into my own world of privilege, struggling with feeling the unfairness of it all, and trying to find hope that in God’s great economy of grace, my small life can make a difference for the kingdom.

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