First, I would like to apologize, because this is a long blog. Normally we would not post a blog this long. However, it has taken a while to get time to write this blog and every time I thought I was finished I felt like I needed to add one more thing. So I hope you enjoy!
Last week, August 9th – 13th, was by far the greatest week we have had here in Gracias. The week began with a slow start. On Monday we went downtown and ran some errands. Our first stop was to drop off the truck so it could get washed at Danny’s Car Wash. Next we walked downtown. While Kristi bought groceries and went on the hunt for a clothes rack (because we do not have closets here, nor does anyone else), the kids and I headed to the “Central Park” of Gracias. Our first stop was to get some ice cream. After that part of the mission was accomplished I grabbed a cup of coffee at a café in the center of the park. The café is two stories high, so after I got my coffee the kids and I went up stairs to engage in an intense game of UNO.
The game ended as well as the shopping trip about an hour and half later. We went to pick up the truck but it still was not ready. So we camped out at a little tienda near the car wash and began a second game of UNO. Around lunch the guys at the car wash started vacuuming out the truck, and the kids were getting hungry. We decided to order lunch at the tienda we were playing UNO at. We ordered four quesadillas, a taco, and three drinks. The bill came to a whopping total of 79 Lempiras (L.79). That is equivalent to about 4.00 lunch for all four of us. We spent the rest the afternoon working on our house. We had several jobs to do before the arrival of our new housekeep, Marissa.
Around 4pm we loaded up and went up the mountain to the home of Marissa, in the village of Catulaca. Along the way it started to rain heavily. It was clear this was going to be the first real test of our new truck. With rain rushing down the hills and the small rivers swelling, our new Toyota Hilux proved to be the perfect selection. After picking up Marissa we returned home and helped her get settled into her small apartment located behind our house.
Monday was also the day a new team arrived from the States led by our ministry partner Larry Johnson from Ellis Baptist Association. The team of three had been planning for months for this trip. On Tuesday we are going to take them to a village 24 km or about an hour from Gracias called San Manuel and drop them off. From there they are going to hike over the mountain range of Celaque to deliver solar powered radios programmed to our radio station, Rio de Dios, as well as preach the Gospel. They arrived Monday evening in Gracias around 7pm. I meet up with them the hotel, Finca el Capitan. Bro. Armando was also there and we decided to eat dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, Guanacascos. It was a great meal, great fellowship, and a great time of introductions.
Tuesday began quite early at 6am. Armando and I went to a town called San Juan to pick up the translator for the hikers. His name is Carlos and he is very excited about going with the group. We retuned to the hotel around 8pm and ate breakfast. The hikers needed some additional supplies, so I took them downtown to look for the items they needed.
Around 10am we left for San Manuel. At San Manuel we met up with a pastor named Manuel who is going to be the guide for the hikers. It took a little over an hour to load up the donkeys and get the guys on their way. Around 12pm the hikers headed towards Celaque and we headed toward the village of El Encontradero with the pastor of San Manuel to visit a family. Along the way we picked up another pastor named Trini and his family. The family we visited had recently become believers. Our goal was to go have a house church service and to look for a potential leader. We had to park on the side of the road and hike about 200 yards down a hill to the home of the family. We had a great service and we may have found a leader amongst the family to continue the house church each week. We left mid-afternoon for another village called San Isidro. At this village the house church had recently finished building a church building. There were well over 50 people in attendance at this special worship service. We sang for a while and Larry preached. While Larry was preaching I noticed two young men in the back of the room. After the service I felt the Lord leading me to go visit with them. With the help of Brother Armando I asked the two young men if they had ever asked Jesus into their heart. They said no, and I lead them through the plan of salvation. When I was finished they prayed and asked Christ to be their Savior. By the time the service was over and we drove back to town it was starting to get late. We stopped along the way to pray with a family. The husband of the family had recently left the family to go live with another women. The family was still crushed. We made it back to Gracias around 8pm and called it a day. A great day it was!!!
We got up Wednesday with a full schedule of events. Our first stop was to at the radio station. It was a brief visit. We made another stop in San Juan. We spent some time with Pastor Sebastian, who is the cousin of Carlos, the interpreter for the hikes. He shared with us that his ministry was booming. He has a radio program on our radio and he is starting several churches. He also has some incredible video testimonies of answered prayers. These video testimonies were some of the most amazing stories I have ever heard. One of them included the healing of a barren women, another was the delivery of a demon possessed man, and another of a girl who was sick. We had a good time of fellowship and prayer. Afterwards we grabbed some lunch before making the trip to a village called Gualquiri.
At the village we had a house church service with a family who was really hurting. The story of this family is very tragic. The mother and two sons were walking to an opal mine where the rest of the family was working. Out of nowhere some military officials started shooting, killing one of the sons right in front of his mother and injuring the second son with a shot to the leg. The wound shattered both bones in his leg. A group from Texas had paid for a surgery to save the young man’s leg. That was 5 months ago. When we saw the young man he was still bedridden and unable to walk. The previous day he was able to get up and put some pressure on the leg, but it was very little. The doctors said he would not be able to walk for another 13 months. We spent a couple of hours leading the family in a service and in prayer.
We arrived back in Gracias around 5:30pm, just in time for me to meet up with Kristi at our house. When I pulled up the director of her school was waiting outside his house, which is beside ours. He was waiting for me to help transport the new American teachers to one of the local hot springs. We spent several hours at the hot springs that evening getting to know the other teachers Kristi will be working with at the Abundant Life Christian School. We left around 8:30pm. I took Kristi and the kids home before going to Brother Armando’s house to discuss some strategic planning. I was there until 11pm before returning home. It was a long day for sure.
Thursday began with a trip to the Abundant Life Christian School. Today was Kristi’s first day at the school. The school is only 3 miles from our house, but it takes 30 minutes because of the rocky road conditions. When I returned I got ready to go with Armando and Larry to a new village called, Mataras de le Campa. The people in the village requested a visit from Armando to help start a new house church through the radio station. We decided to take the rental truck of Brother Larry. We stopped by the radio station to pick up another pastor and radio employee. His name is Arturo. Another reason we picked him up was because he knew where the village was where we were headed. The road to the village was extremely rocky. I sat in the back and it was far from a comfortable ride. As we neared the village a tree in the middle of the
road brought us to a stop. Armando thought the tree might have fallen in the middle of the night due to a storm. There were about 30 guys with machetes cutting up the tree. One of the guys had a chainsaw. After further investigation we learned the men were clearing the road for the promise of electricity to their homes. After the men finished clearing the road Brother Armando gathered them up and witnessed to them. We traveled a few more miles before reaching the village. The further we traveled the more the road condition worsened. The road was also changing from rock to red clay.
We finally arrived at the prospective home. The residents were so excited to see us. We sat on their front porch and admired the view. I do not think we could have been any higher on the mountain. There are neither words, nor pictures adequate enough to describe what we saw. The people had prepared a wonderful meal for us. They seated us at their table and we had a feast. Tortillas, eggs, rice, potatoes, and beans, topped up with Coca Cola. After we ate, we had a church service. Brother Armando taught and shared with those present how to start and sustain the house church. As he taught, I watched the clouds form. They continued to get darker and darker, and thicker and thicker. The lightening boomed and the thunder roared.
At the end of the service three of the people in attendance accepted Christ. There was also a couple considering marriage, and a few needing prayer for illnesses. So we prayed for them. Just as we finished the rain began to fall. It was amazing watching the storm move in. The clouds were so think the enormous mountain in front of us disappeared. Shortly after it began to rain, pea size hail began to fall. In a matter of 45 minutes, 2-3 inches of rain must have fallen. We watched the skies clear and then said goodbye to our new friends. However, we did not make it very far. In fact we made it off a hill where the house church was located and around a corner before getting stuck. The problem was the corner we went around was full of running water and slick mud. We had to shift gears to make it around the corner, and when we did we lost some power making it impossible to get up the slick hillside.
It did not take long for our new friends to come down the hill and around the corner to assist us. We used some machetes to cut grass, branches, and other debris to try and gain some traction. After trying for about an hour it was obvious we were not going anywhere. Armando suggested we leave the truck for the night and start walking back. We agreed this was the best option. So we started to walk. We made it back to the guys who were cutting up the tree earlier. They were still working hard. We asked a couple of them if they would be willing to give us a ride, but they said no. We ended up walking for about an hour before a truck stopped and picked us up. It took another hour and a half to get back to Gracias. They driver dropped us off the main road and we walked the rest of the way to our homes. I knocked on my door around 7:30pm that night, covered in mud. It was the longest, and yet best day I have had here in Honduras.
The next day I took Kristi up to school for her second day before meeting Armando and Larry at the hotel. Today there is a special meeting with some of the pastors. I was not able to attend because I needed to meet our lawyer downtown. We are in the process of getting a VISA and I needed him to write a document for me. I was however, able to make it to the end of the meeting. Several of the pastors were asking me what I was planning to do here. I was able to share some of the vision. They were especially interested in hearing the work I want to do in the area of agriculture. They said the people are in great need right now. I told them that I was very excited to begin work, but that we are going to be taking the first few months to just observe and listen, both to the people as well as to the Lord. After the meeting we ate lunch and Armando told us that the hikers had called and were ready for us to pick them up. We had plans to go get the truck that was stuck, but those plans were going to have to wait until tomorrow.
We had to drive a couple of hours around the mountain range called Celaque to pick the guys up. We stopped at a gas station in the last town before we had to go into the mountains. Armando said we needed to pray because he did not know where we were going. He said we were going by faith today. We grabbed a bottle of water and headed towards the mountains. As we turned off the paved road and started down the dirt road, Armando would stop passing cars or those walking every so often to ask if we were headed in the right direction. We finally came across a man who was headed to the same village we were. He hoped into the back of Armando’s truck and we continued to follow Armando in my truck. We continued to go deeper and deeper into the mountain. All of a sudden the man told Armando to stop. He got out and opened a gate to what appeared to be a private road. We followed Armando onto the road and watched the gate close behind us. This was by far the craziest road I have been on so far. The further we went the smaller and rougher the road got. There are not words able to describe it! There were times when we would be going down a steep part of the road and then have to make a 45 degree turn to cross a creek, with barley enough room for our trucks to make it. There was this one spot where I had the truck in low four wheel drive and did not make it up the steep incline. I had to back down with a drop of at least 1,000 feet. There was little room for error. I tried to back down the incline and ended up backing into a hole halfway down getting stuck. At this point I was staring to get nervous. No, I was freaking out. Flashbacks of the previous day flooded my mind. All I could see was in my head was how impossible it was going to be to get my truck out of the mountain. Visions of falling off the cliff, walking home, and everything my mind could imagine flooded my head.
Brother Larry put a few rocks in front of the wheel and my truck inched its way out of the hole. I backed down some more and attempted to reach the summit of the incline once again. This time we made it up the incline and a few minutes later we arrived at the village where the hikers were waiting. We parked and asked where the hikers were. They told us they were down another hill. We decided to walk down the hill to them. Just as I started down the hill they were making their way up the hill in another truck. They were so glad to see us and we were glad to see them as well. We loaded up their packs and they loaded up in the truck. We made the traitorous journey back. It took a little over an hour before we were back on the paved road. We made it back to Gracias around 7:30pm. We grabbed a bit to eat at Guancascos. While we ate the guys filled us in on the events of their week. They saw four come to Christ in the villages and they baptized three in a river. They said the radios were much needed. They had powerful worship services and some great times of fellowship. The Lenca were so excited to see the hikers. This was the first extreme trip to come to the mountains of Honduras. Overall it was a huge success. We hope to see future teams come.
The night ended with a trip to San Juan. The interpreter, Carlos, needed a ride home. We had a great conversation with him on the way home. He is interested in getting baptized. We are planning on baptizing him at the next pastor’s training. Half way to his house it started to rain. It took a little longer than normal to get him home, but we finally made it. I got back home around 11:45pm. It was quite a day.
Saturday we all loaded up to go back to Mataras de le Campa to get the truck we got stuck on Thursday. We took two trucks this time incase one of them got stuck. The rain the night before did not help with the wet and slick road conditions. Brother Armando lead the way and we followed. When we got close to where the truck was stuck I stopped and parked my truck. Brother Armando drove his truck closer while we walked to the truck. I could tell the road was wet, but it was not as wet as it was a couple of days ago. Armando stopped at the top of a hill while Brother Larry walked to the truck. He made a couple of attempts to get up the wet and slick hill. The first two attempts were unsuccessful. On the third attempt Larry backed into some grass and went as fast as he could. He made it up and was unstuck. Unfortunately, he still had a ways to go before he was off of the wet road. After a few close calls, Larry made it back to the part of the road that was not as wet. We followed him back to the radio station for a quick tour. Afterwards we ate and then went downtown so the guys could do some shopping for the families.
This has been the greatest week I have had so far. It was full of adventure and results. We saw 9 people come into the Kingdom this week and three baptized. The team touched countless lives and we visited several churches and families. There is so much more to be done here, but one thing is for sure, God is working in a way like I have never seen before in my life. We are so thankful we get to be a part of it!