Sunday, December 29, 2013

personal // christmas 2013

On the week of Christmas, we made the best plans. Instead of staying in Choluteca, where we currently live and having a quiet little Christmas in our apartment (because our friends would also be out of town with their family), we decided to travel too! We went on a little adventure to see all of the other friends that we have in Honduras, including our beloved friends at the church we feel called to be working with very soon in Danli.

One wonderful early Christmas present we were given was we actually got to travel and see ALL of the other friends we have in Honduras -- while making a transportation switch-over in the capital city of Tegucigalpa, we got to meet up with our dear friends Jim & Sonia Bridge, whom we got to know while at Mission Training International, for an hour and a half! God is so good; He provides gift after gift for us daily. How wonderful that we were able to meet missionaries that would be serving in the same country as us; how wonderful that we would also be blessed enough to see them for CHRISTMAS!

Getting to see our missionary friends, Jim & Sonia, in Tegucigalpa before heading to Danli. 
Some of our best friends from Danli, Luis & Belkis, had invited us to stay with their family for Christmas. We've stayed with them on previous mission trips. It was such a delight! They picked us up in Tegucigalpa after our three hour bus ride there, and we talked the whole drive home. It had been almost two years since we had spent time together! We could hardly believe it had been that long, because it didn't feel like any time at all. When we arrived in Danli, we immediately began helping the family run errands and prepare for our Christmas celebration; we had just one day after we arrived to get everything ready because in Honduras, they celebrate on Christmas Eve night -- with a big Christmas dinner at about 8:30pm with celebrations lasting into the night. At midnight, people all over set off fireworks and hug each other rejoicing. You're up until at least 2am, if not longer, and pretty much everyone eats Honduran nacatomales and torrejas. Actually, we had a lot of torrejas for several days before and after Christmas! (It's a dessert of cinnamon bread cooked down in a sweet leche sauce. Yum!)

But, on the day before Christmas we had a really important job to do: drive all the way up to the top of a mountain (a very, very bumpy ride, might I add) to a farm to select & retrieve our huge pig to be prepared for Christmas dinner. Our friends had joked that that they were going to make Jamey catch and kill the pig. Thankfully for Jamey they were kidding. :) Here's some pictures from the absolutely beautiful top of the mountain -- we sincerely wish these landscapes were our 100% all-the-time-real-life.

We had to add the pictures of the turkeys from the farm because these two enjoyed chasing Lesley around the farm that day! And their "gobble" hilariously sounded EXACTLY like Hokie game days in Lane Stadium.

Just one view from the top!

The "lagoon" where the tilapia live and grow!
Our silly "little sisters", Lia & Mimi, enjoying some hammock time while waiting on the pig to be done. haha!
Luis grilling half a sack of corn-on-the-cob for Christmas with lime and salt on top! 
After all of the fun on Christmas Eve night, there is a lot of sleeping, cleaning up, and eating leftovers. For us personally, we woke up just before 8am to make sure to video call with our families and siblings! Lesley's grandma in particular thought that video calling was something extremely "nifty", giggled the whole time, and used the call as a "show and tell" time. Then we used the rest of the day to get really good at new card games we were learning from our friends! The family asked Lesley to make lunch that day, with a special request -- her version of spaghetti :) Unfortunately, it hasn't been perfected using Honduran ingredients yet. But it was good to practice again and to get to serve them in that way.

Also on Christmas day, Jamey and Luis (the husband of the family we stayed with, who is a deacon at the church in Danli) went to the dump directly to take the trash from Christmas, so that they could also take extra food to the children that live there and share the Gospel with them.  This was definitely a very meaningful moment for Jamey.

During our week stay, we also were so glad that we went to the Danli church to see what has been updated since we were last there in person! We were so thrilled with and impressed by the additions that have been made to the children's nutrition clinic on site and with the stage in the main church building. It all looks SO great!

The new stage design (left) and the view from the new second story of the nutrition clinic (right). 
Lesley in front of the nutrition clinic, and Jamey with our tour guides,
Luis & his little shadow, Eimi (affectionately called Mimi.) 

We were so thankful for this trip for so many reasons; not only did we get the chance to spend Christmas with people who love and care about us so much (even when we were far away from home) and get to learn about Honduran holiday traditions, but we also were able to reconnect with God in a brand new way about His original calling for this to be our lives in Honduras. We were also able to have talks with some of the leaders about their vision for the future of the church and the communities in Danli as well as our future roles in helping to advance the Gospel in Danli. It was truly a time of rejoicing in Him. Also, as it would have it, we've officially been taking Spanish language lessons for a little over a month now and this trip served as almost a "end-of-the-first-month-exam" for us! This was both of our first trips to Danli with no translators and staying with a family where no one speaks English. Truly by the grace of God, we were able to make it the whole week with little to no confusion and with having wonderful conversations! Of course, it helped that it was two of us working as a team to listen carefully and "translate" in our minds, but we know that it sincerely helped our Spanish SO MUCH. You can't learn a language without practicing it, and there is no better way to practice it than to absolutely have to use it! 

Just a few last pictures we just really want to show (because we know you think that's the best part just like we do):

Jamey getting a LOT of driving experience in Danli! This photo was on our way to
 going to see one of the funniest people we know, Miguel! 

The view from hiking up on the side of the mountain where one of the huge cross statues
is in Danli early in the morning on the day that we left. 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

right now // a week of firsts

In Honduras, church service happens on Saturday nights for most churches, including ours. It's still something to get used to, especially since it's dark out when we leave from church -- still feels a little funny! But it's interesting, because it's really put us on a new weekly schedule. Saturday night has really become the official "end" of the week for us. It is well known here that Sundays are dedicated for rest and time with family. Your new week starts from a place of rest, of Sabbath. It's the idea of starting work from a place of rest, not resting from all of the work you've already done all week. (Our Mission Training International friends will certainly understand what we mean about that!) 

So, with this being the end of our week, we took a moment to just think about what we'd accomplished and we realized that we've had quite a few "firsts" this week! It's really been a big week!

1 // We took a public transportation bus around the city out to work at the CDI (the children's nutrition clinic) in Limon for the first time. We had already toured the CDI before, and we have actually taken a long-trip by bus between cities before, but this was our first time actually going out to work there and taking a around the city bus that if you don't hop on it and grab the handle bar above your head as quickly as possible you will either miss the bus or fall down. The buses around the city have the same design as a U.S. school bus, but the seats are closer together to fit more of them. They practically keep rolling instead of stopping for passengers to get on. Thank goodness we had our friends with us who led the way and remembered to turn around long enough to shout "Hang on!!!".

The kids having their morning meeting at the nutrition clinic to start their day! This is also where they had to prove they could remember our names instead of just yelling out "Gringo! Gringo!". (Gringo = white person in Spanish.) 
We had a great time working at the Limon CDI -- they were having more of a relaxed morning, so after Jamey was done helping the older kids with their cleaning projects and after Lesley was done helping feed the younger, malnourished children breakfast, they each got to spend the rest of the morning just playing with the kids and getting to know them all! They all just want any love and attention they can get and to ask us as many questions as possible. It's also always fun when you're a kid to have someone new to explain everything you know about! It also gave us some more practice with our Spanish because kids are always willing to repeat and talk slower because they want you to understand what they are saying.  We can't wait to tell you all more about the nutrition clinic and all that they are doing! 

2 // We were very blessed to be able to see a movie in the theaters in Honduras for the first time, and that we were able to see a specific showing where the movie was in English with Spanish subtitles! We were so grateful for this luxury, because there is no other way that we would have understood an entire movie in Spanish that we'd never seen just yet! It was really nice to go with friends and to be in air conditioning for a few hours too. :) Also, the sound in the theater was much louder than we were used to! We have a new saying that we love to say: "Everything is louder in Honduras."

Lesley obviously overly excited to see the second Hunger Games movie. 
3 // Cooking in Honduras has certainly been an interesting feat for Lesley; everything is different! One huge difference is not having any of the shortcut conveniences for cooking that we had in the U.S., like canned foods (that allow us to always have access to certain foods no matter the availability of fresh, and allow for a lot of work to have already been done... like with canned tomatoes!). So here, you have to make almost everything from scratch. Thankfully, Lesley already had a lot of experience with cooking, experimenting in the kitchen, and learning to make from scratch before now, but there are still a number of things that she never needed to know how to make or prepare on her own. So it's been a week of "firsts" in the kitchen this week, too! It was the first time Lesley made homemade peanut butter, finally perfected a homemade salsa recipe to be just right, and made homemade applesauce! Just a few small steps in the right direction of learning to become a fully from-scratch home cook. But, we have definitely realized that we did not bring enough mason jars for all of this scratch-made cooking!! Also, Lesley already had a lot of practice at making homemade coffee creamer, to which Jamey is VERY thankful. It's not available in the supermarkets here, except for the imported (read: very expensive) version.

First ever homemade peanut butter & applesauce, and a finally perfected homemade salsa. 
4 // We actually had another "first" adventure this week -- it was also our first official time going out to work at the church's living community, Casa Hogar Vida, as well and Jamey's first time driving more than two miles down the road in the city. He did a great job driving on the crazy Honduran roads all the way out of the city limits! If you've ever heard us talk about roads and driving here, it's a real experience. Let's just say there are a lot less road rules than we are accustomed to!  Be on the lookout for more information about Casa Hogar Vida soon!

Lesley outside of one of the new orphanage "family homes" at Casa Hogar Vida.

5 // This week was also Jamey's first haircut in Honduras, which was MUCH overdue with how quickly his thick curly hair grows. However, the end result is much better described as "Jamey's first Latin American 'Do!". We, with our friends included, all found it very humorous! He came out with Latin American vertical hair "stacking", Latin American sideburns, and a definitely Latin American mustache (with no more beard). The mustache, especially, wasn't his intention. Lesley couldn't even believe it! He looked Honduran! :) With a couple of fixes from Lesley and a good clean shave, the old "Jamey" look is back now.

6 // On Friday, we had our first Christmas party in Honduras!! We went to our small group's annual Christmas dinner with the other same-aged small group from the church. It was very fun, but the games were quite an experience! Before the food came out, they had everyone pull their chairs away from the table in a large circle and basically played "Hot Potato" with balloons that had sparklers affixed to them. In order to pass it to the next person, you had to say a word that started with the letter chosen for that round. If the balloon popped on your turn or you got scared and dropped it on the ground, you were out! We both elected to stand aside to watch and take pictures. Hondurans absolutely LOVE anything with firecrackers!

Our small group's annual Christmas dinner, with our friends Frank & Emily (top right),
and silly games with firecrackers (bottom). 
Bonus: 7 // Tonight at church was our first time hearing "Amazing Grace" performed in Spanish. We have already heard many songs we know performed in Spanish, but there was something very comforting and peaceful about hearing the melody of that particular song. It's a melody that you know, recognize, and feel no matter what language it is.         

Friday, December 6, 2013

friday photo dump // december 6

The amazing views from flying that remind you how widely diverse the world is,
and just how big God is. 

One of our new favorite foods in Honduras -- plantains!
This picture is from Lesley's second attempt at cooking them at home. 

Jamey's battle against the ant colonies continues -- from tiny sugar ants to the bigger ones that bite!
This was when we were trying to see if cinnamon really does keep them away. 

A "Honduran" Thanksgiving! We hosted our neighbors/friends/co-workers, Frank and Emily, at our apartment for the U.S. holiday of Thanksgiving to show them our appreciation for taking so much time out of the last several weeks to take such good care of us! We couldn't find suitable turkey, so we roasted a chicken instead! Complete with brown sugar-glazed carrots, green beans, mashed potatoes, some awesome mac & cheese that Emily brought, and Lesley's homemade apple pie. Pretty good for week 2 of trying to figure out how to cook things in Honduras! 

What pictures happen when some of your favorite kiddos host you overnight when your 
flight gets in super late at night, and they wake you up promptly at 6:45am to say hello. 
They were a very good cheering-up squad.(Also, the bottom row is what pictures happen when those kiddos take your phone and try to do it themselves.) 

As many of you know, Lesley flew home this week for her grandfather's funeral.
She found a lot of comfort in helping go through some of the family's old pictures of Papa.
These are some of the really great ones we are so blessed to even have. 

This is a classic picture from Lesley's family; three-year-old Lesley inviting Grandma and Papa to tea.
With real cookies, not pretend ones, of course. Remembering cherished memories especially this week.

A really cool God moment from this week: Lesley was really heavy-hearted from the news about her Papa and having to internationally travel alone, so she prayed a lot on the way to the airport that God would sit her beside whoever He wanted to; the whole way to Virginia, God answered this prayer in every way possible, including by meeting missionaries (on the plane ride!) from an organization that provides accurate translations of the gospel story into dozens of languages all over the world. As a gift, they sent Lesley this children's story book in Spanish to help in her ministry here. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

personal // first stop: Choluteca, Honduras

As you all know, our “first stop”, or really our first home in Honduras is the city of Choluteca. Our move was the first time we had ever been to this city or this part of the country, so it was definitely been a great learning experience! Here’s a look at our first week:

Our flight path map on the way to Honduras!

On Monday, November 11, we started our day super early -- woke up at 3 am (after going to bed at midnight) and got to the airport by 5AM. We were surprised at the Roanoke Airport by two dear friends and NLCF staff members, Adriana and Jeanette, who came to see us off! Once we got to Atlanta, we didn't even have time to sit down because boarding started so quickly. Then the 3 hour flight to Tegucigalpa! Made it through customs just fine and all of our bags made it!!  Then our friend who works for GCLA, Frank (who has been serving as our translator), the missions coordinator from Choluteca, Levi, and one of the deacons from the church in Danli, Kike, were all there to greet us. We went to lunch and got delicious Honduran food right away (we hadn’t eaten yet, so we were hungry!) and then went to do some more on our residency cards process to further the process along. The ride to Choluteca took about three and a half hours. We were dozing off so much in the backseat of the truck because it got dark at 5:30PM and our bodies wanted the sleep they were lacking! But thankfully, just before then, we were wide awake enough to see this big opening in the mountain valley and the most AMAZING pink sunset. 

Pastor Geovanny's sweet dog, Maya!
For the first week here we stayed at the pastor's house, and his three sweet sons speak English and graciously translated for us when we'd get "stuck" with words in a conversation. We had plenty of Spanish lessons while at their dinner table! But for the first night, they took us out to get Honduran-style pizza: loaded with lots of ham, olives, shrimp and giant mushrooms. Crazy! Honduran Coca-Cola to go with, of course!  The Coca-Cola is different here because they use real un-processed sugar from the sugar canes they grow here in Honduras.  It is much sweeter!

The view from the orphanage and mission's house. 

Tuesday we got taken around to all of the projects that the church does with pastor from the church, our translator, Frank, and his wonderful wife, Emily, who is actually from the U.S.! The church here has several successful projects going on, and we are in awe of the outreach each one achieves. It was so helpful to be toured around each one of them to get a better understanding of how each project operates. We were also taken to community areas where the church has helped specific families and their individual needs. You can see pictures from one of those stories, here.

Our meeting over milkshakes :) 
Wednesday we were around town all day in stores, locating and pricing things we would need to buy for our apartment. While doing so, we were also given a mini "tour" of the heart of Choluteca, seeing the markets,  the church and the church's bilingual school, even a little museum AND a meeting over milkshakes! ;) On Thursday, we selected and reserved our new apartment in Choluteca. We could not be more blessed that the apartment just two doors down and in the same building as Frank & Emily was available.

Friday was a rest day for us, as we had been going non-stop since we arrived in Choluteca, and Lesley wasn’t feeling well. We did, however, attend our first small group meeting that night which was, of course, completely in Spanish. We didn’t understand much, but we did meet a lot of new people, wrote down words that we recognized during the lesson (to encourage ourselves), and the both of us even won a group game (in Spanish, y’all)! It was a good night.

Black sand and Honduran hammocks. Jamey was clearly exhausted from the week!
Saturday we were invited to go to the beach in Choluteca for lunch that was about 45 minutes away, with the pastor of the church in Choluteca and his family, and with one of the pastors from the GCLA church in Tegucigalpa and his family who was in town to visit the church. We rode to the beach with the visiting pastor’s family, and then spent so much time at the beach talking with them. They spoke some English, and their sweet kids were very proficient at English. They helped us with words we were curious about, and taught us some new ones! It was a great time, and we made wonderful new friends. We even received another Christmas invitation from them – we had already been invited to celebrate Christmas with a family in Danli & with a family in Choluteca before that! The beach in Choluteca was very different than any beach we had ever been too. We had both never seen the Pacific Ocean and had never been to a beach with black sand or a beach with a mountain view beside the coast! We were thankful for plenty of shade (and the Honduran hammocks) since it was VERY warm there. We also had the best shrimp we’ve ever had with perfect plantain fries!  

Edwin, our new friend that translated the church service for us!
That evening was our first church service at the GCLA church in Choluteca. This church is much larger than the one in Danli, and we (well, especially Lesley) were very impressed with their music and stage setup! We recognized several songs in Spanish, and loved when the chorus of a song would repeat a lot because then we’d totally have the hang of it then. J We were given a very pleasant surprise when the oldest child of the visiting pastor, Edwin, who is 17, offered to translate the sermon for us over remote headset. He knew we wouldn’t understand much any other way, and he also wanted to get more practice with his live event translation, so he graciously translated the whole thing even though he was very nervous! We were able to take an entire page of notes, which we promptly showed him after the service, to prove to him that he had done a marvelous job for us.

We spent that Sunday going around to various stores to purchase most of the smaller items we would need for our apartment (like curtains, plates, cups, and pots & pans), with our move-in date set for the next day! 

During our second week, we got all moved in to our apartment in town, which thankfully is near a lot of things, since we don’t have a car. (You can watch a tour of the apartment, here!). We can go to the store right beside us to get more filtered water jugs for drinking & cooking and the basics, which is great to have in walking distance. It has also already proven to be both extremely helpful and very fun to be living so close to our amazing friends. They are also being kind enough to let us use their washing machine while we are here so that we don't have to use the concrete washboard all the time! We seriously cannot say enough good things about how irreplaceable they have been to our quick adjustment to this new city, and to navigating living in Honduras in general! They have never been shy to any question, and have been so patient with us.

We spent the week purchasing our furniture and appliances, getting our internet and such things set up, finding a language tutor and unpacking. We moved in with just a bed, fridge, and a borrowed fan the first night, but quickly bought two fans the next day! The second day we did an intense cleaning of the apartment since it had not been occupied in several months, with some much needed help for the first half of the day. It felt so great to unpack! It was hard at first getting used to a new method and style of cooking, to a new grocery store with different items & everything in Spanish, and to a much heavier load of household chores all in one week, but we are starting to get the hang of it!

One of our first language tutoring sessions with Miriam (left);
 Using pictures in order to learn Spanish words, so that we don't use English in the process! (right)
On that Friday, we had our first Spanish language tutoring session in our home. It felt good to start learning! We spent the weekend catching up on communication with our organizations, ministry and prayer teams, and friends & family.

We are now into our regular schedule of language tutoring every afternoon for several hours, Monday through Thursday. It has been essential to have time to get accustomed to prepping our lessons for each day, which takes a significant amount of time. Because our language plan is completely learner-driven, we are responsible for preparing what we’d like to cover for each lesson! Thankfully we were given that incredible language learning plan handbook from our training at MTI!!

Thanks for sticking with us through this long update! We wanted to be sure to let everyone know what our lives are currently looking like this early in. Thanks to everyone who has been praying for our move and adjustment period! You are so appreciated!