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Saturday, January 26, 2013

An Unexpected Journey: Day 2

Our goals for today are to visit and film two outerlying areas from Tocoa. Tony is leading us to clinics in Abisinia and La Esperanza. We are the same team from yesterday, and I intend on staying with the group this time!

Michael Franklin, Dr. Martín (Tocoa Municipality Minister of Health), Pastor Luna, Rev Dr. Tony Ponceti, and Antonio Martinez (City Council Chairman of Abisinia)


We first traveled uphill through the muddy, rutty road to Abisinia where Ton'ys ministry is laying plans to build a birthing center next door to the local centro de salud. This time of year is called the rainy season...And I finally know why. It has been raining since I landed on Wednesday. After making it up the mountainside and successfully fording through each subsequent stream, Tony improves our chances slowly from 10/90 to 40/60 to 80/100 until there was no chance we wouldn't make it.

Centro de Salud in Abisinia

Parasite Awareness
Tony and Crew discussing the birthing center
The centro de salud the crew filmed in Abisinia is one of the best I have ever seen. Dra. Erohina Gissel Galeana Hernandez and her staff of nurses were friendly, professional, and seeing patients when we arrived. The pharmacy was stocked; information posters filled the walls. I was impressed and probably in the way. The crew filmed a few interviews as Tony discussed plans for the birthing center with local community board member Antonio Martinez. I was happy to see such positivity in a completely unfamiliar part of Honduras.

Filming interviews in Abisinia


What I was really glad to see was Pastor Luna. In my previous blog I don't think I gave enough attention to Pastor Luna as equally important in the Tony/Luna dynamic duo that got the Christmas container through. 

Pastors Tony Ponceti and and Oscar Luna
This man has the most honest eyes and open heart. He kindly refuses reimbursement for the trouble he went through to help AHMEN help him lead his country toward a brighter future. It was great to finally meet the new friend in Honduras I had heard so much about recently.
Building relationships in La Esperanza
After some of the best soup I have ever eaten, we all traveled to La Esperanza.  La Esperanza means "hope" in Spanish, and although it is not the La Esperanza I usually visit, both embody the hope of Honduras. The videography team filmed a meeting Tony was having with eight pastors and two nurses at a recently-built clinic. In order to encourage ownership in the new community clinic, Tony told the pastors that their parishioners would receive reduced-cost medical care there. Patients who do not go through the church would be charged a normal rate. Tony also plans to challenge the churches to tithe toward paying the salaries of the clinic's nurses. In this way, the pastors would not only boost church participation but also improve the health of the community in the process.
Tony explaining how his ceramic water filter works

After the meeting was over, guess who showed back up with my favorite Honduran snackPastor Luna arrived with pastelitos and banana soda for everyone! One of my New Years resolutions was to not eat meat until Easter. Life is short, and I've never been good at abstinence of any kind. I had already given away the chicken in my chicken soup...Pastor Genia, I owe you a dollar!

When all was said and done, I learned a lot being a part of the Lifeway team. I visited new areas of a familiar country, met new friends, and learned of new ways AHMEN can partner with Honduras. I learned that Baptists weren't as strange as the preacher told me. They even interviewed me for the documentary, and for that, I say “thank you!”

The pastors of La Esperanza...and...Steve!
 Partnership is a funny thing. We all bake bread differently to feed the world, but there is no guarantee our own loaves will be eaten. Even in unity we have our own special interests.  Nonetheless, here's to 5 million people learning they can experience what God is doing in Honduras today with AHMEN!

Together, we are the difference.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

An Unexpected Journey: Day 1


January 17, 2013

Justin (left) and Bill (right) filming a game of marbles in Punta Piedra
The sole purpose of Bill Neal, Justin, and Steve of the Lifeway team being down in Honduras was to film what God is doing today for a reissue of the book “Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God by Henry Blackaby.  These guys had never been to Honduras and were invited by Tony Ponceti.  Also along for the ride as Tony's project architect was Ed Alvarado of Texas Baptist Men and Vice Consul of Honduras in the United States Lilian Gomez.  





Why was I there? Well, Tony invited me to both see some of his projects and to show Lifeway a bit of what non-Baptist organizations like AHMEN are doing in Honduras

Pastor Nehun wants to learn more about how to clean up his community.
Today the plan was to travel from Tocoa to Iriona.  The night before when I found out where we were going I immediately sent an email to Pastor Nehun and Byron Morales to schedule a meeting with some of the available community agents.  I wanted to finally meet them and evaluate their opinions of AHMEN-SIFAT Initiative community development workshops.  After sending the email, and for the first time in Honduras, I got immediate results.  Pastor Nehun emailed me back and asked me to meet him in Cusuna.  Not wanting to miss filming and a chance to share AHMEN with the world, I immediately wrote him back to clarify that we would be in Iriona and not Cusuna.  No answer...

On the road to Limon, we stopped at all the usual spots.  We stopped to film the vistas of palm plantations in Icoteas, fording streams inside the palm plantations, and of course, Piedra Blanca.  even got the team to stop and film the Deaf School in Plan de Flores! 

Mariana is on the left.  She is the founder and chief operator of the School for the Deaf and Disabled in Plan de Flores.  Here she is pictured with her family and Vice Consul of Honduras to the U.S. Lilian Gomez in the center.

We were off schedule, and I told Nehun we would be arriving in Iriona around 9AM.  As we neared Punta Piedra I began to get nervous whether Nehun would be waiting on us in Iriona or whether he got tired and returned to Cusuna.  When I saw a familiar face on a motorcycle passing in front of the van, I knew I had to give up on my dream of being on camera that day.  I told our driver to stop the van and let me out.  With apologies before permissions, I told the crew I was sorry I had to leave.  In complete faith I ran over to greet the familiar face.  It was Nehun!

International Man of Mystery: Pastor Nehun Flores!

 Nehun proposed a meeting with eight community agents: Claudia, Mery, Lydia, Belkis, Patricia, Carlota, Irene and Jacinto.  I could not have been any more pleased.  The nine of us talked about particularities of the program, what they most enjoyed, and whether or not the workshops would further or hinder Garifuna culture.  The stories of an awake, inspired, and active group of community agents were true.  They all spoke of growing confidence.

From Left: Mery, Nehun, Lydia, Patricia, Claudia, Belkis, Jacinto, Irene, Carlota
When the van came rolling back through town I knew I had missed out on some fun.  I hoped I hadn't hurt any feelings by not staying with the team, but I felt like I had to do what I did.  From conversations with the team, the book Experiencing God  is about doing exactly what God tells you to do when God tells you to do it and to not stop doing it until you get further instructions.  I don't know if I God has ever told me to do anything except continue working in Honduras, but I know God put me in a position today to further ensure the success of ASI-Cusuna. 

Maybe tomorrow I will get a chance to talk on camera about AHMEN.  For now, I am content having made seventeen new friends new friends from Cusuna and the U.S.

Together, we are the difference.



Tuesday, January 15, 2013

2013 Begins in Honduras!

Every year since I can remember AHMEN has been sending down containers of stuff to Honduras. While I am generally against stuff, the stuff we send is badly needed in Honduras. The Spring container is usually filled to the brim with all the teams' supplies for the year (i.e. medicines, medical equipment, construction materials, books, etc.), and the aptly-named Christmas container is filled with Christmas presents for thousands of children.

Spring 2012 Container Loading
 

After the coup of 2009 the process of getting the AHMEN containers through customs has become a much more difficult process. Each year since, the containers get to Honduras okay but sit idly for weeks upon arrival. Luckily, the containers have always been approved for distribution. This time three months ago, however, things were looking dire for the 2012 Christmas container. We were worried...

Enter Rev. Dr. Tony Ponceti of GOALS Mentoring Ministry. Tony contacted Dr. Tom Camp out of the blue one day. The two talked about shared goals and projects in Honduras, and just as they were hanging up the phone, Tom mentioned the trouble we were having with the Christmas container. Not only did Tony offer his contacts to get our container through, but his liaison, Pastor Luna, actually fronted us the money! In just a matter of days, the wheels started turning and the container was released in time for Christmas. All of AHMEN collectively breathed a sigh of relief....thousands of Honduran children would have a Christmas afterall! Hallmark doesn't do it better!


What a delight it is to be in a position to experience agape love on a regular basis. What a delight it is to have developed a friendship with Tony. Thank you, Tony, for helping AHMEN do a better job in Honduras. I also want to thank you for inviting AHMEN to participate in the Honduras portion of a documentary being made by Lifeway Ministries as they republish the book Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God by Henry Blackaby.

How do you see and experience God?


I am joining Tony, Dr. Suni Martinez, Vice Consul Lilain Gomez and the Lifeway team January 16-19 in Tocoa. Please look for updates throughout the week. The relationship growing between AHMEN and Tony is surely blessed, and I pray that my membership on this documentary team is too.

In Tony's words, “What is God doing today?” What are you doing today?

Together, we are the difference.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Alabama and Honduras: A Relationship For The History Books

Happy New Year Friends and Neighbors,

It's 2013.  The world didn't end.  Congress finally took action on the "Fiscal Cliff" in the 25th hour, and the AHMEN-SIFAT Initiative is in full gear!

I invite you to click on the following link and read Page 12 of the Christmas 2012 edition of the SIFAT JournalYou will find an account by SIFAT's Kathy Bryson of Byron Morales' community development training programs in Haiti and Honduras.  You will also find the picture below...