Monday, November 24, 2014

missionary cookbook // expat lasagna

Sweet Maggie Stewart, who is currently serving in Ukraine, requested this recipe to be next in this collection. This is for you, Maggie! 

Let me tell you something. There are some amazing ex-pat/missionary/whatever you call them people who can make anything from scratch. I'm talking making your own ricotta cheese kind of people. And yes, I've heard it's not that hard, but living as an expat in a developing country, there are some things I don't mind making from scratch and some things that I just say "forget it". And ricotta cheese is just one of those things. You don't have time to reinvent the wheel on everything you've ever made.

So let me introduce you to my version of "expat lasagna", or maybe better named "you-can-make-this with-the-stuff-you-already-keep-in-your-fridge lasagna", or even "won't-break-the-bank-in-imported-goods-prices-lasagna."

You pick which name you like best.

Though this recipe is for the less-terrified expat home cook, I personally feel like this recipe is one of the best ones I have to share because it marks the time where my overseas cooking really came full circle. I stopped feeling like I couldn't make anything, and started feeling like I could really make things that tasted like home and things that would wow my guests.

And to be honest, I don't even really miss the ricotta cheese! I didn't love it to begin with.

Step 1: Prepare the meat sauce. (Or pull some out of the freezer from a previous batch!) For this recipe, feel free to use your own meat/marinara/bolongese/red sauce recipe our change it to you or your family's liking. But for the purpose of this post, I will include my own. My husband is extremely partial to using meat sauce, but of course it changes a little every time because really what I do is just dump in spices until it looks good. So this recipe is truly just an estimate. Please note that when making sauce with only tomato paste as a base, using butter or margarine is extremely important, as well as a dash of sugar! A lesson I learned from my Honduran friends.

Meat Sauce:

1 lb ground beef, browned
1-2 tbsp oil (olive is best, but whatever you have access to)
4 tbsp margarine
1 medium to large onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced small
14 oz diced tomatoes, fresh or stewed
5-6 cloves of garlic (if using powder, 1/4 teaspoon is one clove)
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
1 bay leaf (or 1/2 tsp powder)
1 tbsp parsley
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp black pepper
3 bags of tomato paste (mine are 4 oz each)
1- 1 1/2 cups water, to desired consistency
2 tbsp Worchestshire sauce (opt)

Brown ground beef ahead of time, set aside. In a large dutch oven, heat margarine and oil together. Saute the diced onion, green pepper, and your choice of garlic until soft and onions are translucent. Add tomatoes and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Add the remaining spices and ground beef and stir well. Next, add the tomato paste, stir in well, followed by the water until you reach your desired consistency of the sauce. Optionally, you can also add 2 tbsp of Worcestershire sauce (if you have access to it) to help cut back on the bitterness of the tomato paste. Allow the sauce to simmer for at least 30 minutes, during which you can prepare the other ingredients.

Step 2: Prepare noodles. At some point during your sauce preparation, bring water to a boil in a pot large enough for 8 (or however many depending on the size of your dish) lasagna noodles. Cook based on package directions. Do not overcook, or they will tear easily.

Step 3: Make a béchamel sauce, to replace the American-loved ricotta cheese. Does the name béchamel sound scary to you? Because it's really not. Make a roux first, by melting butter/margarine in a pan and then adding equal parts flour. For this recipe, I used 5 tablespoons of each, because my margarine sticks here are about that size (a bit smaller than the standard 8 tbsp sticks in the States). Whisk to remove a lumps, and then continue cooking and whisking the roux for two minutes, until it begins to look something like melty cookie dough or applesauce. (Hey, that's what it looks like to me!). Then, based on however much butter/flour, stir in 8 times as much milk; so if you used 5 tbsp of butter and flour like me, that's 2.5 cups of milk. Stir the milk in slowly while heating and stirring the mixture together until it thickens.

Step 4: Grate cheese(s) if necessary. For making this dish in Honduras, I am able to affordably purchase grated parmesan and mozzarella cheeses. I sprinkle a layers of parmesan evenly, and I use approximately one cup of shredded mozzarella cheese per layer.

Step 5: Arrange all of your ingredients closely together and build your lasagna. I used a square 9x9 baking dish, put you can use whatever size you have. Grease the dish first, then lay down enough noodles to cover the bottom of the pan. I my case, I put 4 noodles. Your layers should be as so: noodles, meat sauce, béchamel sauce, parmesan cheese, mozzarella cheese. Try your best not to mix the meat sauce and béchamel sauce together, because the béchamel will blend with the cheese(s) to make a wonderfully creamy layer. In my pan, I had two layers that included noodles, then of course you layer again ending with cheese on top. (You may not use all of the béchamel sauce, it's completely up to you.)

Step 6: Bake at 400 degrees F (204 C) for 25 to 45 minutes.

Missionary Tips:

1. I like to use a pre-seasoned tomato paste as one of my tomato pastes that are used in this recipe. (See picture.) That's basically because I tell myself that the flavors have been absorbing into the tomato paste for longer... but I have no idea if that's true.

2. Can't buy lasagna noodles where you are? Use zucchini strips instead! It's healthier too.

3. A tip for the béchamel sauce. You are supposed to slowly stir in the milk, but for some reason, with our ultra-pasteurized milk here in Honduras, I've found that it works better for me if I stir in the milk in thirds, each right after the other, and then stir all of it together well for a minute or two after I've quickly done this. I know, I'm breaking the rules. But it really works better for me! Make your own decisions based on whatever milk you have.

4. Tomatoes: you can diced fresh tomatoes and they will cook down in the sauce. Most people would discard the seeds for a pasta sauce, but I'm a little impatient when it comes to that and the seeds don't really bother me. Or, you could stew your own tomatoes, freeze them in batches and use them in place of canned tomatoes. It's pretty easy and directions are easily found online.

5.That cheese problem again. If you can buy grated parmesan, it's actually possible to make this dish with only that. You can also substitute mozzarella for a local variety of a similar soft cheese, like quesillo here in Latin America. Or you could get fancy and make your own mozzarella from milk!

Please share with us if you make and enjoy this recipe!

Friday, November 21, 2014

right now // november 2014

READJUSTING to elevation changes. Traveling between Colorado Springs (around 6,000) ft) to Houston (about 75 ft) to Honduras (2,600 ft) in the span of one day was enough to make our bodies go crazy! Thankfully we are starting to feel back to normal, but if the elevation change wasn't enough, the weather was quite a shock as well! It was about ONE degree Fahrenheit when we landed to attend the EMI Conference. Very different than what we are used too! But nevertheless, thankful for the time of learning and fellowship.

RESTING from lots of computer screen time. The Total Water website is finally launched and Lesley is enjoying looking at the computer screen LESS this week. Once you stare at the same thing for too long, your mind starts to play tricks on you. Go check out her hard work at and don't forget to share about Total Water for Giving Tuesday (Dec. 2nd)!

CONSIDERING putting the Christmas tree up early... like before Thanksgiving early. Normally, we are very respectful toward the order of the holidays and decorate for Christmas starting the day after Thanksgiving!! But we're considering it because we won't be here to enjoy the tree on Christmas day (which is okay, because we'll be with our families instead this year!) and because we just want to feel like the holidays in always-summer Honduras. Speaking of the holidays, we are...

SEARCHING for easy peasy Thanksgiving recipes. Pray for us as we Lesley will be cooking a Thanksgiving meal by herself with one mini-sized oven, that only has one shelf (gasp!), and that runs on gas (so we'll need to conserve baking times). Last year we played it low key, but this year we have some curious Honduran friends that are being introduced to Thanksgiving food for the first time. We want to do it justice! First item on the list, bake the pumpkin pie the day before.

GETTING creative with crafts that only use paper + glue, because that's what we have the largest quantities of. Most recently, we tried braiding paper at the CDI! Check out these awesome bracelets (or ties, or bookmarks, or belts, or whatever the kids want). These kids are rockstars, and get a kick out of the simplest things!

WONDERING where the time has gone. This month we celebrated ONE YEAR in our host country! Somehow the time seems to go by faster here? Or maybe it's just because we aren't always aware of exactly of what day it is like we were back in the States, and work always spills over to the next day and the next with all that needs to be done, so the day called "Friday" sneaks up on us a bit! Sending a big Thank You to everyone who has supported us and prayed for us this year! Seriously, this ministry wouldn't be possible with each one of you!

INDULGING in anything chai flavored. Chai Tea of course, but we've also gotten into putting chai spices in other things, like cookies. Can you make chai cinnamon rolls? We don't know, but we might figure it out soon!

PRAYING for the two local civil engineers that Jamey is currently discipling. Praying that he is an example to them, and they that would begin to take interest in being open to the Gospel. Praying that they will continue to strive towards integrity-driven professional work, and that they would want to learn more about what has changed our hearts towards wanting to do good for all people.

PLAYING just a little bit more as we are wrapping up the Honduran public school year. The kids studied hard for their exams (well, and crammed a bit too) and they will be receiving their final grades in about a week. Then the government gave them surprise extra school days after their exams were over, with just a days notice, because that's just the kind of thing that happens here and no one really understands! Now they are receiving some well deserved extra play time at the CDI, which many of them don't get very often... time to play with other kids their age, in a safe area, without worrying about anything else. We have plans for a very creative cardboard Christmas tree before we break for the holidays!

Friday, November 7, 2014

friday photo dump // november 7

Welcome to the Friday Photo Dump! 

As an October baby, all Lesley wanted for her birthday was pumpkin! Pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie, pumpkin candle, pumpkin anything. We searched and searched here, with no luck. But thanks to Lesley's dad and stepmom, she ended up getting all three! Now we're trying to convince our Honduran friends that it's a great idea to eat big orange gourds that they've seen sit on your front porch. 

We have been busy bees at the children's development center figuring out creative ways to bring construction paper and glue to life for our students. Recently, as you may have seen on the CDI's Facebook page that we and the students created a table-sized board game to review all of the English they've learned all year. The craziest part is, most of them have never played a board game before and some of our kids are 11 years old or older.

In addition to other things our students have never played before, we are reviewing English numbers with our homemade Bingo cards! 
While traveling to Northern Honduras, we had two Honduran friends with us that once again taught us the art of car travel here... you stop at the shakiest looking little fruit stand and buy a huge bag of your favorite fruit, especially if it's known for growing better in the part of the country you're in. Though Jamey still has a hard time opening them, we enjoyed eat licha! 
(Also known in other parts of the world as rambutan.)

The reason for our travel was to go to the October GCLA Leadership Conference in La Ceiba, Honduras. Though we didn't spend as much time outside as we would have liked, it was beautiful to get to see green mountains and the Atlantic Ocean right beside each other. 
Honduras, you're pretty. 

During the conference, we had the pleasure of getting to attend a special session where we heard one pastor's story of living and ministering in Eastern Europe and Western Asia, where it is incredibly dangerous to even identify yourself as a Christian. It was so amazing to hear his stories and wisdom, and once again praise God for all of the countries who have religious freedom, while so many are still fighting for it.  

One of the biggest parts of Lesley joining the trip to the conference was having the chance to visit another CDI in the GCLA network at the Iglesia Gran Comision church in La Ceiba. They currently have over 100+ children in their program, which was great to see and learn from. It definitely helped us gain more vision for the direction our CDI in Danli could go as we continue to grow. 
We would love to visit more CDIs if God permits!

As many of you probably already know, we have other missionary friends from the States that live in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. They were kind enough to make the trip out to see us and us their tools/talents to help us get some projects done around our home, which was an amazing help to us. 
In this picture: we were cutting back our "weeds".

Just to realize the size of our crazy weeds trees, use Jamey as a reference!  

We were out in Urrutia, the community where we are doing our pilot water project, recently conducting bacteriological tests to see if there is contamination in the well due to lack of sanitation. You can also see that most of the people out there don't understand proper water storage because their collector bin is sitting outside uncovered where rain, animals, trash, mosquitoes, and more can get into it. 
Speaking of the water project, our website for the Total Water ministry is in the works right now and will be making it's debut VERY SOON! Be excited. Seriously, excited. If you haven't yet go like our Total Water Facebook Page to get more updates on our ministry here.

We had a good response to our first installment of our "missionary cookbook" series of recipes, which began with Honduran empanadas. Comment to let us know which recipe you'd like to see next in the series: perfect banana muffins, lasagna made abroad (without ricotta cheese!), or one of our favorite meatless Monday meals, pasta primavera. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

missionary cookbook // honduran empanadas

Anyone who knows me knows that I am an avid cook. I have been cooking since I was about 10 years old and my passion for it has only grown. But for some reason, I never thought about looking for a missionary cookbook during our (very long and tedious) packing process to move to a developing country. I honestly thought to myself, "I make up recipes all the time, and I love Latin American food. I'll figure it out in no time."

Well you know what?

1) Latin American food is NOT all the same. The words "tacos", "salsa", "queso", and "enchiladas" are very different things and prepared very differently in each country. Even the type (and state) of tortilla that you're supposed to use changes with each meal, and they really only use two types of cheese that aren't really what the word "cheese" means to me. Honduran food, as far as my experience goes, is actually fairly plain and very specifically made. (I'm very much missing my Mexican food restaurants from home.)

2) Almost everything that I expected to be normal about food flew out the window. Hondurans practically only use cilantro, natural salt, garlic cloves and "especias" (which only refers to a mix of black pepper and cumin) to season their food. Where were all of my different spices and distinctly different flavors? Why do so many people tell me that onions and green peppers are not for eating here and only for flavor? What? I eat them all the time! Oh, my, there is only one kind of each vegetable (one kind of tomatoes, squash, potatoes). I didn't realize the variety I had before!

3) Surely someone had thought of making a missionary cookbook! Nope. Once I realized that I couldn't purchase so much of what I always used to cook with and that you'd start to miss "your way" of preparing food sooner than you thought, I realized that I really needed very simplified recipes with all homemade ingredients (read: no pre-made sauces and mixes) and with items that could be easily substituted if you couldn't find them. Thus the hunt for a great missionary cookbook began. There just had to be one out there! Nope. Well, technically, yes. BUT the only widely known one that was referenced to me is still so very basic and keeps you missing flavor variety. I wanted to be just a little bit closer to how it's done at home.

So, in hopes that this is helpful to at least someone, I want to share the recipes I've found, tweaked, loved, and shared. And the perfect way to start that is with the very first Honduran recipe that I learned to make from one of the ladies in our church here. Enjoy!

Honduran Empanadas
Makes: 15 half-moon empanadas
Time: Prep (20 minutes)
Wait (30 minutes)
Cook (10-15 minutes)
3 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 stick of margarine (120g)
2 eggs
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1/3 cup cold water
Fillings (beef + potatoes, onions and peppers, quesillo/mozzarella cheese, etc.)
1) Prep your dough. Begin by mixing the dry ingredients together well (flour, salt, sugar, baking powder). Then blend the margarine into the flour mixture with a pastry blender or with your hands, blending the dough between your thumbs and your other four fingers. Blend the dough until it resembles coarse meal. Lastly, whisk the eggs, cold water, and vinegar together and pour onto the flour/margarine mixture, stirring it with a non stick spatula or spoon until it forms into a large ball. 

2) Form the dough into little balls of dough, each about the size of a ping pong ball, then cover the bowl and let them rest for 30 minutes to let the gluten relax. Your dough should yield 13-15 balls of dough. 

3) After the waiting period, flour your work surface, then roll each dough ball flat. It doesn't have to be a perfect circle! The creasing of the seal will perfect your shape. 

4) Fill with desired ingredients (quesillo and beef are traditional) and press closed with your fingers and the wrong-end of a fork.

Cooking Instructions: Put enough oil in your size frying pan to generously cover the bottom. The oil amount should not cover the empanadas, but it should come up around the side. Fry each side on medium heat until golden brown! 

Missionary Tips: (Or for anyone making this abroad)

  1. My Honduran friends swear by making dough in plastic bowls. I'm sure that it would be fine in glass or stainless steel bowls too, but they are so superstitious about it that I must say I've never tried to make them in anything else. 
  2. If you don't have a rolling pin, anything cylindrical will work. In the kitchen I cook in at our church's nutrition clinic, I use a glass spice jar (with the lid on tight!). You can also use a bottle of cooking spray, soda bottle, whatever. Which is great, because that makes this recipe do-able without any special kitchen tools you might not have access to... just a bowl, a large spoon, and a frying pan!
  3. The fillings are completely up to your tastes and your available ingredients. The traditional fillings in Latin America are either a ground beef/potato mixture (seasoned with cumin and cilantro) or a quesillo filling, which is simply the very popular fresh cheese here (see picture on the left above). However, you can use any similar semi-soft cheese that melts (i.e. mozzarella, etc). My husband and I have also enjoyed these filled with chicken and veggies, or with cheese and pepperonis with a tomato sauce side as a quick version of "calzones". 
  4. As you might guess, especially if you are from the southern region of the United States, these are very similar to fried pies. However, fried pies commonly contain shortening as the fat and could use a little more sugar in the dough. If you would like to make these into a dessert, I would suggest filling them with a fruit + simple syrup mixture, and dusting them with a little sugar once fried. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

highlight // feliz dia del niño (meet naomy)

Feliz Dia del Niño! (Happy Children's Day!)

Honduras has quite a few of their own (highly celebrated) holidays that are very new to us, but we really have a heart for the holiday that is today. Today is the day that children are celebrated, honored, and allowed to be exactly what they are: children. Celebrations happened in schools all day today with food, cake, piñatas, games, costumes, outings, parades, dances, performances, and more. We would like to celebrate by introducing a new series. We'd like you to have the opportunity to get to know some of the wonderful children that we're blessed to work with!

Meet Naomy!

Naomy is 8 years old. She is in the 3rd grade, and is a very, very intelligent student. She was very quiet when she first started attending the children's development center earlier this year, but since then she has opened up tremendously. She used to only play with her little cousin Andrea who also attends, but now she will organize pick up games of hide and seek, tag, and frisbee. She thinks outside of what everyone else is doing with art projects we do, and always wants to go first in English class to prove that she doesn't need to listen to someone else practice before she knows how to do it.

We have loved personally witnessing her skill level in learning English at the CDI. She is very interested in it and has excellent pronunciation abilities.  She also goes home and practices the lesson from the day if it was difficult for her, without ever being asked to, and comes back the next day declaring that she's mastered it after having a night!

Naomy lives in a house with eight other people, which includes her aunt who is Andrea's mom. Naomy's mother is a single mom. She also has a brother who is 18 years old and another brother who is 5 years old. She and Andrea are two of very few who are actually walked by and picked up by a parent or other family member when they come to the CDI. It's simply the culture here that younger children (as young as 7) are permitted to walk places alone or in a group together, but Naomy's family always ensures that she is very cared for even in this aspect. It's a very great thing to see here.

When she grows up, she says that she wants to be an English teacher. Her favorite color is light purple (the "light" is very important to note, she says). Her favorite foods are spaghetti, rice, and carrots.

Please be in prayer for our dear Naomy. She has come so far in just this school year, and we are elated to have the privilege to watch her grow even more. Pray that she will continue to be a part of this program for many more years. Pray that she will become a leader within her class, an example that other kids can look to. Pray that she keeps this spark for learning, and that she won't be afraid to ask her questions she has.  

Thursday, August 28, 2014

5 ways to pray for Honduras

1.) Violence - there are many news reports that depict Honduras as one of the most dangerous countries in the world due to the violence. This comes from the amount of poverty, lack of police force, and corruption within the government. Unfortunately, a lot of times the police force are criminals too.  Even many of our friends don't trust the police.

Pray specifically for this violence to end, for the protection of the innocent people who are involved in this.
Pray that the Gospel transforms the lives of the criminals and the people within the Honduran government and they start to lead as Biblical leaders.
Pray for the safety of people in Honduras especially in areas where it is unsafe to even be outside.

2.) Good Works - Do to the large Catholic background here in Latin America, many people believe it takes "good works" in order for them to spend eternity in heaven.  We've come across many people here who have told us they don't think they will go to heaven that day because they haven't done "enough good things" to be forgiven.  It's very hard because there are many people who don't know why they believe this, only because it has been bred into them by parents, grandparents, even great-grandparents.

Pray that God will open up their hearts to the message of the Gospel, that they will understand that it is by grace that you are saved and that Jesus is the only way to heaven.
Pray not only that they will understand this so that they can spend eternity in heaven, but also so they can have a personal relationship with Jesus while they are still on this earth and feel purpose in their lives.

3.) Food Shortage - Due to the large drought in Central America during this rainy season, we are expected to experience the worst food shortage in 2015 since Hurricane Mitch that devastated the country in 1998.  We've already seen prices rises in supermarkets of staple items like beans and rice due to failed harvests especially in Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua.

Pray for all of the families that will be affected by this and that God will provide for them.  $0.30 a pound increase in beans may not seem like a lot, but to the people here, it is a huge amount of increase as 60% of the population live on less than $2 a day.
Pray specifically for the children at our Children's Development Center and their families as they will be greatly affected by this.
Pray for God to provide our center the resources to help these families and be the hands and feet of Jesus if needed.  

4.) Lack of Sanitation - A lot of work has been accomplished in the last decade for clean water and sanitation in Central America, but it is still greatly lacking.  In Honduras alone, 954,000 people still lack access to safe drinking water and 1.6 million people lacked access to improved sanitation.  When we say "improved sanitation" that doesn't necessarily mean they have a toilet, it could only mean they have a latrine that has treatment.  Only 74% of rural Honduras have access to these "improved" sanitation sources.

Pray against the diseases that are caused by lack of sanitation and for the people who are sick because of it.  A child dies every 20 seconds because of a diarrheal illness that could be prevented with adequate sanitation.
Pray for ministries around the world who are trying to combat this humanitarian injustice and are sharing the Living Water through this.
Pray for us, Great Commission Latin America, as an organization who are in the process developing a water and sanitation project here in Danli. Though it takes a lot of effort, funds, communication, and education to start efforts like these, we know that this is not how God desires His children to be living and we want to help solve this problem. Pray for us as we raise awareness, raise funds, meet with government agencies, and as we share the love of Jesus. Pray that God will use us for His will.

5.) Education - 60% of the population in Honduras live under the international poverty line and a large part of this is due to lack of education. The public school systems here are stretched very thin with very little funding. Most kids only go to school at most 4 hours a day, if they choose to go every day.  There is no requirement for children to go to school in Honduras.  If they can afford it, most parents send their children to private schools, but because the income gap is so large here the families in poverty will never be able to do that. A lot of children have to drop out of school at age 14 or 15 to help their families with the bills and never complete high school, thus furthering the cycle of poverty.  Most families in poverty live for today, and can't think about the future.  The goal of the Children's Development Center is to help and encourage our kids to complete high school and provide them with the resources to do that.

Pray for children to stay in school, finish high school and to have the desire to do this.  Pray they understand the importance of education and how they can use it to change their family.
Pray for the Children's Development Center's efforts in helping bring up Christian men and women and encourging/helping them complete high school.  Pray that God gives us wisdom in this ministry.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

mission team // the rock church 2014

Just a few days after we arrived back in Honduras from a trip, we welcomed a mission team to our church, Iglesia Gran Comision Danli, from The Rock Church in Salt Lake City. We were anticipating this trip quite a bit, simply because we had heard so much about them from our friends here in Danli. This church started bringing teams one year after our sending church, NLCF, so you can imagine the bond they've been forming with the church in Danli.

One great thing about this church is they are able to bring such a wide variety of people and ages on their teams -- from teenagers and their parents, to nurses, to previous longer term missionaries, to photographers and engineers. That dynamic makes for a very unique experience between the members of the team each year, and it's very cool to get to witness the amount they have to teach other, and the people that they encounter here in Honduras. We were lucky enough to be the "host parents" of one of the translators from Tegucigalpa and the team leader, who was thankful to be in a house with good internet since he and his wife had welcomed their first baby 3 week prior!

We had several people on the team that had been on this same trip before, so we were able to immediately bond with them, even on the ride from the airport back to Danli, by sharing our stories together. Between these stories and us comparing the similarities and differences between Virginia and Utah, we never ran out of things to talk about!

The week began with a classic Honduran Sunday, a day of rest and fellowship. We went to what we call "the mountain" (the actual name of the mountain is "La Roca", which means "The Rock" ... appropriate for this team!). We ate carne asada for lunch, went for walks around the beautiful property, rigged some homemade fishing polls, and then rigged a rope for a Honduran version of volleyball. It was a beautiful day!

The rest of their time here was very busy; filled with evangelizing in different communities, working at under-funded government run daycare centers, and visiting the very poor hospital and giving out supplies. The team also raised the funds to build the third wall at the church (!!).  We're only lacking one wall to completely close in the church!

The face on this little boy was pure joy when he got his new shoes!
Also proud of these young boys from our church going out to help share the gospel.
On Friday, the team spent the morning with our CDI kids, which of course the kids loved. The highlight about this was one of the team members is a sponsor to one of our CDI students, and the two got to meet for the first time. It was an awesome thing to witness! Tim, the sponsor, also gave Brayan, the student, a few gifts; Brayan, however, realized that the other kids didn't get to meet their sponsor that day, and he chose to share his bag of candy with all of the other students and the teachers. It was precious!

Brayan meeting his sponsor, Tim, for the first time. 

The CDI kids making crafts with the mission team.
On Saturday, while part of the team was at band practice, the other part of the team made two beds to be given to two CDI students that needed them most. Now our students Anner and Angel both no longer have to share their beds with their two other siblings.

One of the beds being delivered to Anner's house. He now has a bed to himself!
As we said, there was a variety of people on the team and two of them specifically are the very talented folks who made the recap video above, as well as kept up with a great photo/video blog for the people following them back home, which you read more specific stories from the week here.

We're already looking forward to seeing you next year, you guys! Thank you for everything.  You're such a blessing to the GCLA church here in Danli!

Friday, August 8, 2014

highlight // fundraiser event for the danli cdi

On July 1st, there was a fundraiser event held in Covington, VA to benefit the GCLA Children's Development Center (CDI) that we work with here in Danli. People from Jamey's home church, Faith Baptist Church, and other churches in the area all helped to make this event possible. We were so fortunate to be able to be in attendance at the event to witness all of the people who came out to support us and this ministry! We had roughly 120+ people in attendance. With so many people filling one event space, we had to turn the dessert table into overflow seating! (Which is not a bad problem to have!). There was a spaghetti dinner, which included awesome salad, bread, desserts, and refreshments as well. 

We just wanted to say again, a HUGE thank you to everyone who helped make the event happen, to all who came out, to all who donated additional funds, to all who brought school supplies to donate, and to all who sponsored kids at this event! We were so happily overwhelmed by it all. In just one night, we received:

  • 9 new sponsors for new children to start coming to attend the CDI,
  • Monetary donations to the CDI that totaled around $1800, and
  • Enormous amounts of much needed school and craft supplies for our students (Like 2500 crayons!)

Some might ask, how will these things specifically aid the Children's Development Center in Danli? First, adding new students to the CDI does not only allow us to help and feed more children, but increasing our number of students will hopefully help us split up our after school Bible and English classes into separate age-specific classes. We are also excited for our current students to have even more kids to play with. Since the children in our program attend public schools, they only go to school for 4.5 hours a day, which leaves little time for playing or recess. Our recess time is some of the only "fun time" that our students get with other kids! 

With the donations that were so graciously given, our hope is to complete the floor in the kitchen and the upstairs classroom (our future computer classroom) with tiling. Most finished floors in Honduras are tile, but right now these two rooms have only rough concrete. Not only have there been lots of falls and skin scrapes on this rough floor, but in the kitchen especially is hard to fully clean We are so excited for a new kitchen floor that can be swept AND mopped! Also with the donations, we hope to buy new tables for the classrooms. There is also one very old wooden table that was given to us, but the top finish has been torn off and there are tiny bugs that we can't seem to keep out. As we increase our numbers, we are going to need more tables!

The very first craft project that the CDI students completed with their new supplies
were Bible bookmarks to give as gifts to the mission team that came to visit and play with them. 
And with the school and craft supplies, the possibilities are endless for how much these things will change the lives of our wonderful students. First, some of the school supplies are now being used for our Bible and English classes, but about half have been tucked away in order to make school supply packets for our students when they start their new school year in February. This is an incredible help to the families, because most of them don't have the money to buy most or all of the supplies for their kids. Students in Honduras also have to wear uniforms, so hopefully by providing their school supplies, buying a new properly fitting uniform might be a little easier for some families.

Also, why do we do crafts? Well, arts and crafts are great visual examples of class lessons for children, but to these children, it's more than simply that. Almost all of these kids do not receive any art classes in their schools, and we've been able to see what effect that has on them. They have never been encouraged to be creative, or create something that is their very own. They often ask Lesley "What color am I supposed to color the girl's shoes in the picture? What color is right?". And though she encourages them to choose whatever color they think would look great, they can't. They're frozen. We love that by having the capacity to occasionally do crafts with our students, even with simple items such construction paper, crayons, scissors, and glue, we are able to open up their minds just a little bit more. And let them be kids and grow.

Last, but not least, here is the quick video that we showed at the event that we'd like to share with everyone now. (Please excuse any glitches in the video, we need better editing software!). These are the sweet children you've helped with your generosity!

There are still some kids on our waiting list to attend the CDI.  If anyone is interested in child sponsorship at the Danli CDI, please contact us (Jamey and Lesley Smith) personally and we'd be happy to give you more information and help you set up the process or you can visit the GCLA website.

Also, to be kept updated on what's going on at the Danli CDI, visit the Facebook Page.

Friday, August 1, 2014

friday photo dump // thanks for the visit, Virginia.

in cased you didn't catch them all, please enjoy a quick review of our trip to Virginia in photos!

Mom & Dad were pretty excited to see us at the airport!
Day after we got home, it was Jamey's mom's birthday!
Pretty cool birthday present, huh?
The line for dinner at the CDI fundraiser event was pretty long.
We had to use the dessert table as overflow seating!
We were very pleased by all the great questions during the
 Q&A session at the CDI event! Thanks to all again. 
SO many school supplies for our students were donated at the event!
Half of them were saved for the kids to receive school packets
 at the beginning of their new school year in February. 
We just beat all the storms in the area for our July 3rd family kayaking run.
We had a great time being outdoors in our beloved Virginia. 
Jamey and his mom had a mother/son lunch date while Lesley and her mom
 had a mother/daughter lunch date. I guess you could call it good timing! :)

It felt amazing being able to celebrate the 4th of July in the U.S.!
We went to see the fireworks show at the VMI Campus in Lexington, VA.
And it was awesome! We might have also had black raspberry ice cream for dinner.
While we were in, we helped Lesley's grandma purchase a new tv.
She wasn't so sure about how to pick out flat screen tvs, but her
 old one that she bought in 1990 got struck by lightning.
We also taught her about surge protectors. 
We were overly blessed by having the family that Lesley previously
nanny-ed for host us in Northern Virginia for Jamey to be in a wedding. 
And that handsome groomsman would be Jamey. Jamey was so glad
to get to be in his college roommate, Josh's, wedding while we were home. 

There's the happy couple! Congrats, Josh & Louisa!

As the two weeks came to a very quick ending, we couldn't help but
choose Bojangles as our last meal in the States for a while!