Happy Thanksgiving from Honduras,
It's been a harried month since last I wrote with nearly all of my time being consumed by the home construction...I will be overjoyed when this project finally ends. In spite of that, a lot has been happening here in the life of the community of Los Laureles and the following then are some of the highlights as they relate to me and my work. Remember that if you'd like to read more about my work here you can visit my blog at www.honduraskeiser.blogspot.com
My New Home
Still isn't done - I was supposed to move in on November 18th and was really looking forward to cooking a truly thankful Thanksgiving Day feast in my new house but we have had some setbacks lo these many weeks, mostly climatic in nature and as a result it looks as though I won't be able to move in to Los Laureles until the 1st week of December. Which is fine, I'm anxious to be there, to be a permanent part of the community but two more weeks isn't going to kill me. Please continue to be in prayer about this move though - pray that good things come of it, that it be a blessing for everyone involved, that I live life there wisely...and that the home be finally finished and livable.
Our High Schoolers
Finished their school year well for the most part this past month. Of the 7 students we had enrolled in private, Christian high school, 6 of them passed for the year and 2 of those 6 passed with high honors. That unfortunate 7th, well...what can I say - he reminds me of me. He just did not take to school or studying and no matter how many extra tutoring sessions we instituted or how many times we hassled him we just couldn't force him to do the work if he didn't want to. He's a nice kid, he's great to be around, he just hates homework and studying. You can pray for Tati then; he's only 13 but he has no desire to continue studying in any capacity which means very shortly he'll have to start looking for work, which at this point means selling bananas or picking metal off the garbage trucks. I'm not sure if he truly grasps what few choices he now has in life but he soon will be hit with it; very often it's that sudden realization of "this is it" and that onset of hoplessness that leads the kids into early alcoholism and drug use. It's been a sad lesson for everyone involved, especially his parents who were really hoping he'd make the most of this opportunity, but it at the same time it's also taught me about choosing candidates wisely.
Stacy Nofziger wrote me in response to my October Update and said that while she enjoyed it well enough she really wasn't interested in general facts as much as she wanted personal stories. Well dear Stacy, those tend be lengthy and hard to condense down but this month you're in luck. Recently one kid in Laureles in particular has become an absolute joy to be around - who he is now and who he was a few months ago are like night and day, this transformation has been dramatic and rapid and I'm not sure what to attribute it to but it sure does make me happy. His real name is Bayron Lenin Espinoza Velasquez but everyone just calls him Lauro. He's a diminutive yet spunky 13 year old that has the voice of a life-long smoker and for as long as I've known him he's driven me insane. He has issues you see - he's naturally angry, jealous of others, has a hard time trusting people or believing that their intentions are good and in that he's a middle child he's constantly trying to compete with and overtake his older and more winsome brother, Sergio. Anything I give Sergio, either materially or in time, I have to give at least as much and usually more to Lauro - of course that's impossible and so when I fail, which I always do, he becomes sullen, withdrawn and refuses to speak to me. When he feels that I've slighted him in some way, if he thinks I've been making fun of him, if I don't understand him, he'll go for days, sometimes weeks without speaking to me; he'll follow me around and make sure he's aware of my every movement but he'll ignore anything I say to him until he's decided it's time to speak to me again. One day this past September I arrived in the community and began chatting with an adult there, Lauro passed me by and said hello but I didn't hear him and because I didn't respond to his greeting he refused to talk to me for 3 weeks. He also needs constant reassurment, at least 3 times a week I have to tell Lauro that I love him; I have to physically pull him to me and whisper in his ear that I love him...as Paula Massanari can tell you, this is no small feat for me, I loathe feelings or the expression of them so this thrice weekly exercise in emoting is almost tortuous. He's been this way as long as I can remember, Konrad and I used to get so frustrated with him because he was impossible to please, he was simply never happy yet he insisted on being pegged to our hip. It made no sense, if we angered this little storm cloud so much why did he insist on being such an integral part of our time here? For some inexplicable reason all of that began to change sometime in mid-October; he became remarkably less angry, calmer, easy to please, in short he became a happy, well-adjusted child with a sunny disposition and song in his heart. As he began to shed his angry ways other hidden atributes began to shine through - he's fiercly loyal, a hard worker with the heart of a servant, he has a strict sense of right and wrong and he's incredibly affectionate and demonstrative. He's also become an integral part of the church - he has always attended regularly and without fail but recently he's become somewhat of a mascot for the older youth; they love him and insist that he accompany us when we do things as a youth group. More than that he's begun to participate more fully in the church services; he sings, stands for the prayers and even recites verses in front of the congregation when asked to. I can honestly not say why Lauro has made a change for the better, it was nothing I did so much as a decision he made but I love it, I love being around him, I look forward to seeing him each day. I never thought I'd say that. Pray that he continues down this path and that he meet Jesus along the way.
Soplo & His Crew
Stacy you're in luck because this month has been one of people and their stories. Soplo has been one of the few older youth (17-20) that I've really been able to connect with here in Los Laureles. I met him last February and since then he's become a close friend and confidant, an integral part of the youth group at church and a great help in all that I do. I know most of the older youth in Laureles and they know me, we greet each other, exchange jokes every now and then but until recently it never really went beyond that. In that the younger kids and youth occupy nearly all of my time and since the older youth are almost always working I just have never had the time to really get to know them let alone leave the community with them. That all changed though a few weeks ago and it was because of Soplo. He's been scheming for some time now with Tino from church to set up a soccer match between the youth from church and some of Laureles' finest. A few Sundays ago it finally came to fruition; 8 youthful, innocent Mennonites went up against some of the hardest and toughest youth that Laureles has to offer - Laureles won...which was nice to see but from that sprung something unexpected, friendship. The two groups really took to each other, they joked, they laughed, we all went out for food afterwards and it came about that the Mennonites invited the Laureles kids to church...and the Laureles kids accepted. All that week as I saw them they kept calling out to me, yelling "Saturday, Church!". I honestly didn't expect them to show, they normally spend Saturday nights drinking and dancing and while their intentions may have been good I thought for sure that when it came down to it they'd flake out. Soplo though had other plans, he made sure that all ten of them were ready and waiting when I passed by that Saturday evening. They seemed to really enjoy it but I thought for sure it was one-time event but the week following, this past week actually, they kept up with the "Saturday, Church!"mantra and Saturday evening when I passed by again there they all were ready and waiting. One of them, Blas, even became a Christian when the offer was put forward by the pastor. I'm not sure where this is all going - it's exciting, a little overwhelming really but please be in prayer for this group of kids, they have difficult lives and of all the people in Laureles they have had it the roughest in their short time here. Pray too for Blas as he begins his new life as a follower of Jesus. Pray for me for wisdom.
School Scholarships - This coming January we're hoping to enroll between 15-20 students in private, Christian high school. This is an incredible opportunity for them to receive a solid education and move beyond the cycle of abject poverty that everyone else in Los Laureles is trapped in. Unfortunately I need to find $1,000 per student to cover tution, uniform and book costs. Please be praying that funds come in soon so that we're able to assure our students that they'll be able to study next year.
Soccer Club - Last year a very generous person donated nearly $2,000 for the purpose of founding a soccer club for all the children of Los Laureles between the ages of 9 & 14. With that money we were able to purchase soccer cleats and uniforms for 45 youth. This year we'd like to expand our club to include any interested youth between the ages of 9 & 18. This of course will require at least double the funds we received last year. Please pray that someone sees the importance of this venture and that they be moved to donate the funds needed to start this year's program.
A School - We are in the processing of establishing a alternative school here in Los Laureles that would offer an accelerated program, high school equivalency courses and night classes for adults and youth that never completed 6th grade. This requires a lot of work, volunteers and buy-in from the community. Please pray that this gets off the ground.
That's all for this month, have a Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving. Thanks again for your support and your prayers as I would not be here writing this if it weren't for you.
Peace to you all,
"Not by might, nor by power but by my Spirit says the Lord Almighty." - Zechariah 4:6