A Weekly Journal Chronicling My Life
As It Intersects With The Garbage Dump Community Near La Ceiba, Honduras

Friday, December 7, 2012

Lauro

I talked to Lauro the other night for the first time in almost 2 months, he asked me for 50 cents. I was fortunate for that request I suppose as the week prior I heard him through Duk's phone in the background declaring that he didn't know me and didn't ever want to speak to me.

Lauro is an enigma, I've written about him before both here on the blog and in my newsletters; he so desperately craves love and affection and someone to make him feel valued yet he always expects rejection and lonliness. He can demonstrate such strength and loyalty and true love but if ever crossed or let down he becomes like a lover scorned; vengeful, withdrawn, a shell of a person. This past year has been particularly trying for our relationship; when I first moved back down to Honduras in April he avoided me and my attempts to talk with him, when he saw me approaching he would simply run in the other direction. One day I caught him though when he wasn't looking; I grabbed his arm, said his name and told him that I loved him - he looked at me and smiled. Just melted really. From that day forward until I had to leave Honduras in June he followed me everywhere; if there was an errand to run Lauro came with, if I took a daytrip Lauro was always a part of the group, he even, and against his prior proclomations to the contrary, started coming back to church with us. And then I left. These numberless days that I've been here in the U.S. I've received many calls from many people in Honduras, it's good to feel loved. Just one though came from Lauro, back in July.

            He said "Gringo, you've forgotten me haven't you."
            "No," I replied "It turns out though that I can't call you if I don't have a number to reach you at."
           "Lies," He said "You call Duke, you call Sergio, you even call Chamu but you never call me."
           "And how am I supposed to reach you if you don't have a phone? All of those guys have phones."
            "Just call someone and ask for me, that's all you have to do." He said
            "And what's up Gringo, when are you coming back?" He asked
            "I don't know" I said " Someday, I don't know."
            "Cheke" He said "See you later."
            "Lauro" I said "I love you."
            Silence.

In the months that followed I tried to connect with him but he was never to be found, for a time he was living in another part of the country with his sister and her husband, other times he was simply working. A week ago as I was talking to Duke he stopped short and said:

            "Hey here comes Lauro."
            "Put him on the phone." I yelled in a desperate voice.

Duke tried but when Lauro asked who it was and discovered that it was me he declared:

            "I don't know any pinche Mateo."

I laughed, Duke laughed - I wanted to cry. This past week then I was chatting with Sergio, he stopped short and told me that Lauro wanted to speak with me. He handed off the phone to Lauro and I heard:

            "Gringo, send me 50 cents to buy some food."
            I laughed and asked him "I thought you didn't know me?"
           "I don't but I'm hungry." he replied.
           "Why are you hungry?" I asked him
           "Gringo" he said matter-of-factly "You can't eat without money and you can't have money without work. I haven't had work in weeks."
           "How are you surving?" I asked incredulously
           "I sleep till 11 everyday, that way I don't feel the hunger quite so long and then the rest of the day I wander around looking for odd jobs or finding food where I can."
           "Why don't you go to your father and ask him for food?" I asked in shock
           His voice dropped "My father doesn't want me. I don't know what to do."
           "Me neither." I said
           "Maybe if I had a stove." He said his voice perking up a bit "I could cook all the time."
           "What would you cook?"
           "Chickens and avocados that I could steal."
           "You shouldn't steal Lauro." I scolded
           "Gringo, send me 50 cents." He returned.
           "I will Lauro, I will Lauro. Find a way to call me tomorrow."
           "Ok." He agreed
           "Gringo?"
           "Yes Lauro?"
           "Come home."
           "I can't." I replied
           "Lauro?"
           "Yes?"
           "I love you."
           "I love you too." He said in a low voice

He never called the next day.

Pray for Lauro - he's only 15.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Now For Julito

For those of you that are so-minded, I would ask for prayers for my good friend Julito. His is a fascinating story to-be-sure, one though that I probably shouldn't publish on the internet just yet. If you want details, or to be regaled with a story that will knock your socks off, email me. Regardless, he goes in front of an Immigration Judge tomorrow to determine what the process will be for deciding his fate and status as an immigrant. Pray for God's will to be done in this processs and for direction in young Julio's life; he's essentially on his own in a strange land at the young age of 17. Good fortune or the Holy Spirit or both have brought him this far; pray that he continues to be led and that he is able to resist the temptations that seem to so easily ensnare many a young immigrant.

Julio
Always happy, always so positive.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Sergio Brings Me Back

I realize that I've been less than diligent in my blogging lo' these many months; the very real grief that has set in as a result of being physically separated from my beloved community of Los Laureles only seems to intensify when I sit down to blog. Thus I've chosen to ignore this little corner of my world, hoping instead that it might die an inconspicuous death; mourned by none, namely myself. I find myself though being drawn back here as of late to bring to light the plight of dear Sergio - whom I miss with every fiber of my being. I have very real doubts that anyone other than hand-full may still be reading this but regardless, I feel led to ask for prayer for him.

He's in a bad way - after his baptism in July, for whatever reason, he never connected in with the local Mennonite church in La Ceiba, or any church for that matter. He's been adrift, allowing the winds of life to blow him where they might. He feels lonely, completely alone and purposeless. He wants to stay in Laureles, then he wants to move across the country, then he wants to come illegally to the United States. He feels betrayed by his sometimes girlfriend, abandonded by me and out of earshot of God. Sergio is not in a good place emotionally or spiritually and I would ask that you pray for him - for protection, comfort and companionship. For a deepening sense of God in his life and what God has for him.

Monday, September 17, 2012

What Doth September Hold?

The weather's turned here in Central Pa, decidedly I think; it's downright cold these days. As I was perched on the roof outside my bedroom window the other day I realized that this will be the first Pennsylvania Autumn that I've experienced since 2006. Feeling the cool breeze on my face, watching the first leaves begin to swirl down the hollow; I'd forgotten how much Autumn puts me in a cheery disposition. It's hard to be dour this time of the year - the very feel of the air makes me happy. Lately there seems to me nothing so delightful as making myself coffee and sitting on the front porch (or the roof) and watching the weather. I remember that about Honduras, that was one of my small joys - the daytime heat may have been sweltering but very often the evening cooled off just enough to enable enjoyable porch-stting and coffee-drinking. Oh and the rare rain storm always warranted a stoppage to work and a reason to sit, drink and watch. Funny how weather has that effect on me.

I realized the other day that I haven't truly blogged since the end of July - I am embarrassed. It hasn't been for lack of life's happenings or fun facts to share. To be honest I've had little desire - it just isn't the same to be perched up here in Williamsport relaying the news from Los Laureles or even worse, the news from Williamsport. I do think it's important though, I think the stories of Laureles need to be heard and as of yet there is no one else to take that mantle. I will do better.

I sent some Birthday money to Blas the other day - he turned 18 last Monday. As he lives by himself in my old house I knew he wouldn't have anyone else that might celebrate it with him. I miss Blas, he's quiet and pensive but one of the most reliable, responsible and self-less people I've ever met. Maureen told me the next day that that particular Monday night she saw Blas and three of his closest friends downtown eating fried chicken at a small, hole-in-the-wall restaurant. He had taken his birthday money, at least some of it and invited his friends to a fine meal of fried chicken and soda. They asked her to take their picture. Maureen recounted this with an air of "would we expect anything less from Blas?" - and she's right, we wouldn't. Although he's barely scrapping by on his trash collector's salary he still always thinks of others first. That's all for now - all I care to muster.

Blas Antonio Irias Bardales

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Has it really been a month?

Since I've blogged...good grief where has a month gone? It's too late right now and I be some kind of tired but tomorrow I will update. Buenas Noches a todos.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Those Honduran Mennonites Sure Don't Drag Their Feet

 There was a baptism the other day at the Mennonite Church in La Ceiba.
Almost 20 people got dunked in an ice-cold mountain river.
Not simultaneously, but you get the idea.

Sergio, who had just accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior the week prior was among them.
I don't think he imagined that he would be baptized quitee so quickly.
Normally you have to take a 4-month long class at the church prior to your baptism.
The pastor though, after talking with Sergio, decided to expedite the process and baptize him now.

Just so happens the baptism occurred while a group from Frazer Mennonite was visiting and Pastor Brenda Martin Hurst was the person that actually baptized him.

I talked to him that night via telephone and he said that he was grinning from ear to ear, that he was just so happy and felt like his life had begun anew.
It has Checho, it has.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

I'm an Uncle

Silas James Beach,
Welcome to the World.

Monday, July 9, 2012

A Brief Sergio Update

I am thrilled to report that yesterday afternoon, in the middle of our scheduled discipleship class via Skype, Sergio asked if he could accept Jesus into his life as Lord and Savior.
In that he was skyping from Maureen's house we called her over and through many tears from all three of us, she helped him say a prayer that confessed his sins and invited Jesus into his life.
I am elated, proud of young Sergio and a little sad that I cannot be there in person. Please, more than ever, prayer for Sergio and the road ahead.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Sergio

Sergio & Rafael his Sunday School Teacher

I thought to update the blog with a post about Sergio (Checho), who in many ways became my chief focus the last 2 months that I was in Honduras. I wrote an article about him for the EMM's monthly magazine and I think I'll post that here and then give some updates.

From the June-2012 Missionary Messenger:

Our work in the garbage dump community of Los Laureles these past four years has revolved around offering hope.  Hope in a way out of poverty through a quality, secondary education. Hope in a positive sense of self-worth through soccer teams, birthday celebrations and loving, Christ-centered friendships. Hope in Jesus and his transforming grace through Bible studies, church meetings and discipleship classes.  There are many, many youth in Los Laureles that are learning to live by this newfound, holistic hope in Jesus; allowing him to take their brokenness and the brokenness of their community and transform into something beautiful and new. One such boy is Sergio, a 17 year old child of a garbage collector. Sergio was born and raised in Los Laureles and when I first met him he was a 13 year old in 5th grade; working on the garbage trucks in the mornings with his father and attending classes at the community elementary school in the afternoons. From the beginning I could see that there was something special, something unique about young Sergio. At the time he didn’t have hope for a different life than what he’d known, he fully expected to join the family garbage business once he’d graduated 6th grade the following year and from there I know he imagined soon after finding a wife and beginning a family. It may not have been what he wanted or hoped for, but it’s what he knew and what he expected. I could see in Sergio though a deep desire for something different in his life – he worked hard with his father so as to help his family survive and hopefully prosper, and he worked hard at school because he truly wanted to learn and be educated. As I grew to know him better I learned too that he longed to be different from the vices and darkness that seemed to flourish around him. He would often tell me, quite frankly at times, how he daily turned down invitations to alcohol, drugs, and sex; he knew what kind of corrupting influence they could have in his life and he truly desired to walk a different path. He just wasn’t sure how or if he could hold out forever.
What strikes me as so remarkable about Sergio and his desire for a better future and a life free from darkness is that Los Laureles is a dark place. Death, destructive living and darkness is celebrated and actively sought after. It’s seen as axiomatic that beginning in their teen years, people will begin to live any kind of life as they see fit and that no one has the right to correct them. I don’t stand in judgment of the community, I imagine if I lived in destitute poverty on the edge of a garbage dump, had worked in garbage from the time I was 6 and had no hope for anything I better, that I too would try to self-medicate as means to escape reality. That’s why this boy has struck me as so special. With so many people around him, much of his family included, racing headlong towards self-destruction; Sergio, for as long as I’ve known him has longed for and strived for something more, something different; the better part.
Our presence in the Laureles community has been about offering that hope for something better, about helping him realize his desire for a different life, about putting a name and a faith behind his longing for a different way of life. For the last 4 years Sergio has actively participated in our daily activities –eagerly joining in the group devotionals, Bible schools and outings. He’s become a regular and much-loved attender at the local Mennonite Church in downtown La Ceiba, a leader in the Los Laureles Soccer Club and a member of the high school scholarship program; instead of working in garbage for the rest of his life he’s now in his third year of high school. He talks expectantly of attending University to enter either education or medicine. I’m not sure if such dreams are realistic but the fact that he is even considering the possibility of University is amazing; three short years ago such talk would have been laughable. In many ways life has changed dramatically for Sergio and as he matures and grows both in his educational career and as a follower of Jesus, his desires and hopes for something different are being cemented and turned into reality. It’s not all positive and perfect though – Sergio still has a number of challenges and difficulties that beset him. His mother has not lived within 3 hours of him and his family since he was 10 but more recently his father has also disowned him because he, now studying in high school, isn’t able to help support the family like most 17 year olds in Los Laureles can. As a result, back in March Sergio had to move into a tiny shack along with his younger brother, find work during the day so that he could survive and then take high school classes at night. When I arrived back in Honduras at the end of March after a 4 month furlough I found Sergio severely discouraged – he questioned why this was happening to him, if there was any point in continuing to attend classes and if he should just get full time work on a garbage truck and start a family. In many ways he was wallowing self-pity. The past month then has been spent reminding him of his hopes for the future, about the strides he’s made in his life, about the scores of people that are praying for him, and about what awaits him if he chooses to turn aside from this path. We’ve spent long days together talking about the options he has, where he can seek help and the fact that for now this is his lot in life and how he decides to proceed in this moment will affect how he lives for the rest of his life. I’m happy to relate that he’s in a better place than he was a month ago – back at school, working hard through the day and learning to save his earnings and live within a budget. I would ask for your prayers though; Sergio has a long road ahead of him and pitfalls and discouragements are bound to come. We will also soon begin a year-long discipleship program with 3 other young men from the community, discovering on a deeper level who Jesus is and what it means to be a follower of him. Pray for transformation, maturation and developing leadership in that process.  - mlk
Update:
I wrote this article at the end of April and am delighted to say that the month of May was much of the same in seeing growth in all areas in Sergio's life. He got serious about saving money and so we devised a system where of the $40 per week that he made he would turn over about 75% of it to Maureen to be put away in the bank; as of my departure he had about $100 saved. He did have to drop out of school in order to continue working but he made it very clear to me that he fully intended to enter a trade school this coming year so that he could both work and study at the same time. Most importantly, I continued to see growth in his spiritual life - he very often and without any coaxing from me simply showed up to church on his own, he began establishing real friendships with the youth from church and he began to see the church family as his main foundation and support-system. A few days before I left he even began inquiring about baptism and what that means.
Since leaving Honduras 3 weeks ago I've been in regular contact with Sergio and it has been a rollercoaster of emotions on both ends. I've had many long conversations with him about his feelings of lonliness and abandonment - there were many times in these 3 weeks that he's felt directionless, hopeless and depressed. He even talked of running away to escape life in Los Laureles. He's resilient though and through encouragement from myself and others he's begun to once again reach out to the church family, stop by Maureen's house to simply hang out with her, and continue to attend church on the weekends. More than that though he decided that we as a discipleship group needed to continue our weekly lessons at Maureen's house via Skype, he organizes people from Los Laureles to go to church on Sundays and he's told the pastor of our church there that he wants to get baptized this year. All of this is exciting to me, to see how God is at work in the life of Sergio, to see how the church is fulfilling it's mandate to mentor and disciple others and to imagine the great man of God that Sergio will become. Please continue to pray for him.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A New Journey

As many of you are now well aware - I am no longer in the employ of Eastern Mennonite Missions nor in Honduras. For the last 2 weeks I have been staying with my family in Williamsport, Pa reeling from the shock of being back here so soon and trying to take stock of my circumstances and the events that led me here. For reasons of privacy and confidentiality I will not go into details as it relates to my being released from service with EMM but I do feel it incumbent to write that I made decisions in my time there in Honduras that certainly necesitated just such an action on the part of the mission board. To put it bluntly, I am grieving; grieving my actions and decisions, grieving the impact that it has had on loved ones, grieving my severed relationships with my beloved community in La Ceiba, simply grieiving. I have never been quite so melancholic for so long and the road ahead seems ever so long. I should say that I am not directionless or spiraling into depression; I have found employment, been received with love and warmth by my family and friends and though I am separated from the community of Los Laureles I am still very much in contact with them, offering support where I can and graciously receiving their love and care.

This blog then is far from over - I no longer work for EMM, I no longer live in Honduras and life has suddenly become something completely unlooked for. I haven't the foggiest idea as to what the future holds; I know that I am young, I know my bond and connection with Honduras and more importantly many people there, is fixed and deep and unwavering and I know that my Redeemer lives. For you interested few then, I would invite you to check in on me here from time to time to discover how God is at work both in the lives of the youth of Los Laureles and in my own life and how, in his infite wisdom, he continues to intertwine our paths.

-mlk

Monday, June 25, 2012

Hiatus

I will be taking one for the forseeable future. More details to follow.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

These Posts Are Far Too Infrequent

Life has been terribly busy as of late and every time I think I have an opportunity to post, something crops up to grab my attention.
For now be content with these strange creatures below.

 Today Chicki (a strange creature in-and-of-himself), tried to sell me a pisote (not an opossum), a cuddly and affable creature that apparently lives on dogfood and has all his shots.
It was all I could do to say no but the asking price of $250 helped me in the decision-making process.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Milagro.

Pray for baby Milagro and her mother.
When I talked to her the other day she matter-of-factly told me that Milagro wouldn't be alive in 5 months.
I can tell she's deeply saddened but is at the same time, enjoying every moment she has with her daughter.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Nutsy Castillo

Crazy Train showed up at my house the other day.
The Laureles house, not the downtown one.
I was inclined to run her off.
But she came bearing flowers.

And wood.
She's not all there, that one.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Mennonite-ing Our Way

When I saw Marcos wearing this shirt this morning everything in me wanted to play the Mennonite Game with him and ask which Hunziker's he knew.
Then I remembered that I was in Honduras.
Here Mennonite names aren't Yoder, Smucker and Kolb but rather Velasquez, Lacayo and Green.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Lauro is 15

Lauro turned 15 the other day - I really can't believe that I met him when he was yet 11. We had a very private celebration at Maureen's house, just he, she and I..and some Tres Leches cake. Lauro is not into public displays of thoughtfulness but he very much needs attention and acknowledgement - this was perfect for him.

Lauro is an enigma, he is at once sweet and affectionate, compassionate and generous yet also easily angered, jealous, rebellious, and knows how to hold a grudge. His life has been one of rejection; his mother repeatedly abandoned them through the course of his childhood, leaving the family to beg for food from other families in the community while she shacked up with other men in Laureles. She finally left them for good when Lauro was 9, moving to the other side of the country with another man. Lauro then was a raised by his father until he got a new wife who in due time let it be known that she had no interest in raising another woman's sons. Lauro's father then essentially chased he and his brother Checho out of the house and left them to fend for themselves. And that's what he does, he works from 6 in the morning until 9 at night selling and counting and loading bananas - there is no thought for studying, nor plans for such; there is no time. I worry for Lauro - he's willful, long's to be a grown man, to experience the grown-up life and everything that comes with it. I love this kid, want the best for him and see so much potential in his life; and I see the path he's headed down. Pray for young and still quite innocent Lauro.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Eastern Mennonite Missions

Going Where The Church Is Not...
How Cacho got this shirt is beyond me - but he is definitely where the Church is not yet.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Honduras May Update

Greetings all from Blistering Honduras,
I trust this finds you well and enjoying the beauty and wonder that is Spring in North America. We don’t have Spring in Honduras we have heat waves, blistering, incessant, inescapable heat waves – they’re not nearly as beauteous or wondrous, let me assure you. That little weather tidbit aside though life here in Honduras has quickly gotten back to normal – it’s been a little over a month now that I’ve been back after a 4 month break and I’ve been surprised and relieved at how smooth the transition has been. This then is my May update relating the events of the previous month, specifically as it relates to the transition back into life and ministry here.
 
The Big Move Out
A lot has changed from last year, principally my living situation - I no longer live in Los Laureles but rather am back living in the apartment I was in for my first 3 years in Honduras. This has been a truly mixed-bag of emotions; we (EMM) still have the home in Los Laureles and I do spend a goodly portion of my week there, tidying up, sitting on the front porch and entertaining people. Blas and Santos still live there, though they now care for themselves, and very often I will spend my Saturday nights there so that I can wake up in the community on Sunday morning and get our group of kids around for church. I don't want to disparage the year that I lived in Los Laureles - I really do miss it in fact, but the act of living there limited the amount of time I actually truly visited other people in their homes. People instead visited me and did so around my schedule. It limited my time for activities with the youth of the community, as much of my life was occupied by maintaining my home, caring for the guys living with me and searching for water. And it limited the amount of quiet, alone time I had - the only time I had to myself was either early in the morning or late at night. Now though that I'm back living where I was prior to life in Laureles I'm finding that the rest of my life is finding balance as well; I'm spending my days in people's homes, my focus when I'm in the community is on the kids, their needs and our different activities and I have much more time to myself for rest and reflection. It's hard sometimes, in fact it doesn't feel quite right when I have to leave the community in the evening; I love that place and everything in me wants to stay - wants to have my place, my home be there in Laureles. I very often miss just sitting on the front porch late at night and watching the stars, I miss being part of the community in a deeper way. I'm seeing the good in not living there though and the balance I feel in my life tells me that I'm living right where God wants me right now.
One More Meeting
This also has been a month of meetings and if my calendar serves me well, this next month will hold more of the same. Much of my time has been spent in support-style meetings and studies, things that I longed for and missed out on for the first 4 years of my experience here. I now have a regular mentor that I can physically meet with as opposed to having to meet over the internet; I’ve known him for almost 5 years now and am so happy to have him speaking wisdom and encouragement into my life, even if he is a Presbyterian. For the first time in a long time I’m also working in a larger EMM-team setting, with 5 Eby’s and 3 YES Team members we could open up an old-fashioned mission compound. We all meet together twice a week, once for Bible study and once for team planning and ministry coordination. Of course they all cut out of here in July and I think I’m really going to miss the input and support once they’re gone, but for now I really appreciate their presence and help here.
Finally, just about 2 weeks ago we formed an oversight board made up of members of the two main Anabaptist churches in Honduras and to eventually include a few members of the Los Laureles community. Andrew Eby sat in on the meeting as he’s been handling the administration of the school scholarship program this year and I think we were both very encouraged by the tone and optimism of the board members. We received a lot of affirmations but also a lot of suggestions and vision for the future, especially with regards to the School Scholarship program. I came away encouraged and energized; a lot of their ideas were things I had been ruminating on even from the beginning but in being one person, had felt overwhelmed to implement. I never knew where to start. With this board I feel like there is support for my work, a group to help discern the vision and future and people to help me implement the needed changes. In a lot of ways, I feel like a weight of guilt has been lifted – guilt for not being able to run the program as well as I might like; with this new group I have real hope for the quality of the project.

New Ministry Direction and Prayer Request

This past week I began a discipleship program with 4 youth that I have been close with since my time here in Los Laureles began. These are 4 guys, leaders amongst their peers, on distinct paths (career/education-wise) and in varying relationship with Jesus (some closer than others). I will be meeting separately with each one so as to be able to tailor our time to their specific needs. Be in prayer for each one of them: Duke, Cristian, Chihua and Checho. Please pray especially for Checho – I have spent many, many hours sometimes whole days with him, counseling him, encouraging him, simply trying to be a support to him. He’s 17, in 8th grade, works by day and studies at night. He has to support himself because his father has essentially disowned him and his younger brother Lauro. The weight of that responsibility has weighed on him recently and he’s been very discouraged. He doesn’t see much hope in the future, is not sure that this education thing is any guarantee of a better life – and I think he kind of feels sorry for himself; his mother ran away when he was 11, his father disowned him, if he doesn’t work, he doesn’t eat. Life’s not easy right now, pray for encouragement, for support and for wisdom in speaking into his life.
That’s all for now – thanks for taking the time to read through this and once again thank you all for your continued support and prayers. I felt them as much as ever in the 4 months that I was home and rarely a day goes by that I don’t realize that were it not for you all and your faithfulness, I would not be here and this work and ministry in Los Laureles could not exist. Thank you and Blessings to you.
 
Peace,
 
Matt Keiser
P.S. – Remember too to subscribe to my weekly, sometimes daily, blog: www.honduraskeiser.blogspot.com
 
 
Los Laureles Life
April 2012

“'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD Almighty.” – Zechariah 4:6


Monday, May 7, 2012

How Do You Celebrate Communist-Utopian Pipe Dreams?

This past Tuesday, May 1st, as I'm sure you all know, was the International Day of the Worker, that "cherry on top" of heady 19th Century Socialism and the reforms that it extracted from weak and ineffectual politicians, mostly of the European variety. If you have no idea as to what I am talking about it may be because the day was never anything more than an empty symbol, a kind of "finger in the eye" to all those Capitalist Fatcats, who apparently, by virtue of being succesful, aren't workers.

The day was originally intended to be an international holiday for all those unsuccesful-types i.e. workers, to commemorate the brave socialist martyrs that had gone on before and to rally for more workers' rights (is that noble task ever really over?); but it never quite worked out as such. Those of you living in the U.S.A. have never celebrated an international-style workers' fiesta on May 1st because 120 years ago old Grover Cleveland, in not wanting to give a foothold to the blossoming Socialist movement, agreed to establish a national holiday for the "worker" but moved it to September just to show Eugene Debbs, Jane Addams and the rest of their rabble who was in charge. Later on down the road, just to really stick it to the Leninists, Congress actually declared May 1st "Americanization Day", whatever that means; and since 1958 it's been celebrated as "Loyalty Day", which sounds even more ambiguous, but also not terribly communist-revolution-inducing, which I guess was kind of the point. And that's why we celebrate Labor Day in September with retail discounts and car sales. I truly hope you see the irony in that.

So what in the world does all of that have to do with Honduras? Well Honduras, true to their penchants for celebrating anything that comes down the pike and throwing meaningless, symbolic bones to dirt-poor, landless peasants, does celebrate May Day as "El Dia del Trabajador". How, you might ask? Well the true peasants, those that scrimp and scrape and live on the fringes of society - people like garbage collectors, banana sellers, bus drivers, mom and pop store owners, waitresses and fisherman; those people keep right on working. Everyone else though, the bank tellers, the government workers (and there's a lot of them), the franchise owners and teachers (when do they work?) - they all celebrate this socialist sacred cow by going to the beach; it sounds so very soviet doesn't it. Oh the dripping irony of it all, here we are in the 2nd poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, what ought to be a Communist's playground, and instead of large workers' rallies and demonstrations for more rights; on this day of international 99%-style solidarity, the true poor keep right on working whilst the capitalist middle and upper classes take the day to do that most bourgeois of activities, sun-bathing.


So how did we Gringos celebrate this day of tribute to Mother Jones, Karl Marx and his brother Groucho?
We did what any disaffected, disillusioned, culture-less expatriates would do in this situation.
We set up a booth in the park selling mildly provocative buttons and handing out poorly-written communist literature advocating everything from violent, anarchic revolution to the abolition of gender.

 Just kidding.
We took a cue from our Honduran hosts and kicked it into party mode.
Except in being Mennonite Missionaries we chose not to participate in the activities depicted in the above photo and instead headed for the river with Nelson from church and apparently everyone he's ever met. Seriously, he just must have invited his entire rolodex to his own personal partay in the mountains.

So we came here to Nelson's property in the mountains, where in true soviet fashion, we gourged ourselves on sides of beef, whole chickens and hamhocks. And then we swam.

Just so we're all clear out there in Blogger-land, whenever I use a disambiguous "we" anytime in the next 3 months I will almost assuredly be referring to myself and this year's crop of slaves.
In this photo Slave John is remarking to Slave Nick that something is afoot up yonder on them rocks and oughtn't they check it out.
 
 
(Forgive me if I offend with my use of regional coloquialisms but Slave John is from Ohio and in that I would never debase myself be actually speaking to someone from Ohio, I can't quite be sure how this conversation went - thus the aforementioned offending colloquialism is my best guess.)

Slave Nick shows his aptitude for Cardinal Directions by actually pointing to the region they had already been discussing.

And away they swim, though to where we're not quite yet sure.

Well here's a clue, Slave Jetmir (Sounds awfully communist that name, I'll have to keep my eye on that one.)...Slave Jetmir appears to be looking down on his fellow slaves and encouraging them to join him.

(With that communist name of his I should imagine he's inviting them to join in some sort of violent overthrow of my reign and regime.)

And away go the two similarly dressed, similary hued slaves, scurrying up the rocks.

I was right, Slave Jetmir was high above on a cliff beckoning to his brothers. Perhaps in a defeated state of desperation from my tyrannical rule he shall throw himself to the mercy of the churning waters below.


By-the-bye, I invited Lauro along for the day just to have a little sanity in my life.
He was anything but impressed by these three chuckleheads and their less than deft scrambling over low-lying rocks.


Back to our One-man Communist Sleeper Cell.
I was right, he had grown weary of his mortal coil, and my incessant and exasperating demands for more iced-coffee, and decided to let nature have its way with him in the raging river below.
Though ever defiant, even to the end, instead of death-leaping in any sort of traditional sense (can leaps of death really have a traditional method?), he chose to simply lean forward and fall head-first to his demise.


Fortunately though for me (and EMM's insurance company), Slave Jetmir did nothing more than make an inordinately massive splash (must be all them flour tortillas he's been putting away here).
Consuela though, in the foreground, was so impressed that she was spontaneously moved to applaud.
Well done Slave Jetmir.


The twin slaves arrive soon after Slave Jetmir's face-plant and suddenly begin to rethink this plan of jumping to their doom. Perhaps King Matt's reign is more benevolent than what they had given it credit for. (It isn't, but at 25 feet up in the air even I and my autocratic oppression appear worth giving a second chance.)


Lauro, the only sane one in the whole group - grew tired of the charade and opted to return to the BBQ pit to see if there were any racks of lamb left.

Suddenly Comrade Jetmir appears out of the murky depths and surfaces under a bubbling waterfall, resplendant in the afternoon cloud-cover.
(This is not his best profile shot, but it fit the story line.)


Slave Nick takes heart, rededicates himself to Marxist living and leaps.


 Comrade Jetmir wrings his hands in evil delight. One slave down, one to go, and a revolution will have been born - no more King Matt.

But Slave John won't jump - he considers, and reconsiders, sits down, stands up, rubs his chin and still, Slave John won't jump.

He keeps mumbling things like:
"Them look like mighty pawerful waves down thar!"
and
"I mightin be able to jump off this here stone iffin I were to have a pull on that jug uh recipe yous got there."

(Again, I can't be sure that he said these things verbatim as I stopped up my ears when he began to speak, but in that he's from Ohio I would imagine this was as close to intelligible English that he was able to manage.)

Regardless, King Matt may just be saved.

After about an hour of these shenanigans Comrade Jetmir begins to lose heart. He and Comrade Nick leave the tranquil pool and...


Join in on an Old-Timey Socialist Workers' Rally where they hear speeches about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, The Jungle and Child-Labor Laws.
They log their demands with the Complaints Committee and head off to...
 dance the Maypole at Bryn Mawr College, an all-girls school, where they chant "Death to the Patriarchy" as they dance. This doesn't make much sense to Comrade Nick but he joins in just the same.


 They return from their May Day events to the BBQ pit to find that there's still one cow alive after all the meat that was consumed that day. The two comrades, in true Leninist fashion, invite the cow to join their cause, which she unwittingly does; at which point they point out to her their need to eat and her obvious ability to fulfill that need. She doesn't understand until the recite to her that old communist maxim,
 "give a man a fish and he'll eat for a...",

wait that's the wrong ideology.

They recite, "From each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs".
The docile comrade cow obliges and Comrades Nick and Jetmir gourge themselves on Comrade Cow.

Slave, now Comrade John seeing this feasting as it occurs and remembering that he too is hungry, finally makes the leap of faith into the torment below crying out as he falls,
 "Ima eat me some Mountain Oysters Comrades!"
(Or at least I assume that's what he said.)
Not realizing of course that the cow was a female.
Why?

Because
the Party is over.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Home-Made Fun

mateo with cousins rene and guiselle

Monday, April 30, 2012

Laureles Is Gettin' Hot

 It's a Thug's life for Jefferson

Until his older brother Junior gets in on the act, flashes his innocent smile and ruins the seriousness of the moment.

What's a Hommie to do?

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Konrad's a Father!

The other day I was visiting my good friend Soplo.
We've been close for some time and was one of Konrad's good friends as well.
Some of you that have been reading this blog for a while now, may remember that Konrad Swartz worked with me here in Los Laureles for the first half of 2010.
(his final blogpost here)

Anyway, as we were sitting there visiting, one of the 20 people that live in Soplo's sprawling home appeared with her newborn baby boy.
She told me that he was born on my birthday and then told me that at the behest of our dear friend Soplo, she had named him Konrad Jose.
I almost cried.
It made me miss the original Konrad something terrible.
I called him up at Eastern Mennonite University to offer my congratulations.

Konrad

Konrad

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Keep Laughing Honduran Internet - You're Hilarious


Alright Internet, you win.
Laugh your head off.
Paying for an unusable service is a riot.
An uploaded picture per hour is comedic genius.

I can still write though - you can't limit me there; so write I shall. It's been almost a month now since I've been back and life has quickly returned to normal. In a good way, in a pre-2011 sort of way. I don't want to disparage the year that I lived in Los Laureles - I really do miss it in fact, but the act of living there limited the amount of time I actually truly visited other people in their homes. People instead visited me and did so around my schedule. It limited my time for activities with the youth of the community, as much of my life was occupied by maintaining my home, caring for the guys living with me and searching for water. And it limited the amount of quiet, alone time I had - the only time I had to myself was either early in the morning or late at night. Now though that I'm back living where I was prior to life in Laureles I'm finding that the rest of my life is finding balance as well; I'm spending my days in people's homes, my focus when I'm in the community is on the kids, their needs and our different activities and I have much more time to myself for rest and reflection. It's hard sometimes, in fact it doesn't feel quite right when I have to leave the community in the evening; I love that place and everything in me wants to stay - wants to have my place, my home be there in Laureles. I'm seeing the good in not living there though and the balance I feel in my life tells me that I'm living right where God wants me right now. Now if only I could share some photos of my now-balanced life.

Except I'm not.