Email from the dead or an angel message?

The last couple of weeks at work have been very difficult. Today I sat at my desk and prayed because I felt like I was drowning. When I was finished I returned to my emails to find an email from my stepfather. The subject line said “I GUESS NOW I CAN SHOW YOU.”

My step-father Roy Gillim died three years ago. I never have received a spam email from him before. To top it off the text said, “What is better than coffee?” He loved coffee.  He bought me my first Keurig coffee maker. It was our thing.I give thanks that this is one of the amazing ways that God works in my life.

 I am grateful and comforted knowing that Roy is still watching out for me and still cheering me on. For the rest of the day LOVE kept me a float.

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Roy D. Gillim

“Missionary” Timeline

A few of the stepping stones that led me to where I am today…

1973-76  Attended an integrated public junior high school

1976-79  Ohio State Youth Fair Ministries

1982      Sociology research in Belize

1984      State Department, Sub Sarah Africa, Washington, DC

1997      Diocese of Haiti Partnership Program, Porta Prince,

1999      Honduras Medical Mission, Caception Del Norte, Santa Barbara

1999      Habitat for Humanity, Diocese of Honduras

1999      Establish a feeding program, Caception Del Norte, Santa Barbara

1999      Juarez Mexico, Casa de Christos’, youth house build

2001     Supported a county wide school supply drive

2002     Created an afterschool tutoring program for homeless children

2003     Legislative Aid and Resolution author at the Episcopal General Convention

2005     Co-founder of KERMIT, Katrina Episcopal Relief Maryland Impact Team

2007     Established RIBBIT, Renovations Inspiring a Better Baltimore Impact Team

2003-09     Built-up the emergency winter shelter program

2004-08     Member of the Board of Directors of Anne Arundel House of Hope

2006-08     Member of the Anne Arundel County Executive Clergy Support Team

2009          Continuing education, Following in the foot-steps of Paul through Turkey

2002-10     Creator-Benefactor of Bid for Hope, Homeless Auction Fundraiser

2008-10     Mission leader El Hogar Agricultural School, Talanga, Honduras

Luggage vs. Baggage

I have a large, bright PINK, light weight, suitcase.   In May I packed it and it’s smaller carry-on, for my month long trip to Honduras.   Everything I had I used and I wasn’t missing anything that I needed.  My LARGE suitcase weighed 48.5 pounds and the little one weighed 26 pounds.   To my surprise when I left Copan at 4:30 am, we walked to the bus station, instead of taking a cab, which was almost a mile, over cobblestone roads.  I was soaked and over heated when I got there.

This experience came back to me in the airport in Toronto.  I realized that I brought the same suitcase-even though the items were very different the bag weighed 46 pounds.   Some of the other participants I met in the airport brought a weekender, or small bag, with a knapsack.   It didn’t occur to me that I would take a bus and the subway to get to the missionary training.  The cab cost 50.00, plus tip the bus and subway cost us 2.50 because we bought our tokens at the airport.

In comparison to all that I have, I packed very little.  But I still brought too much.  Too much, because it was more than I wanted

As much as I try to “buy less,” and give away more, I have so much.

So maybe the questions are:

How can I feel comfortable –and I really do want to – have less and pack less?

What do I need to unpack, and leave behind?

How can I integrate into my being that what I have is not who I am?

 Could this be about what we put in our suitcase, or what “baggage” we carry with us?  It has been said that we spend the first 20 years of our life packing our bags so we can move on from our families of origin and the rest of our lives unpacking those “bags” so they don’t weight us down,and keep us from moving forward.

Defining who we are as God’s children outside of the things we own, or being defined by what we “do” or who is our family,  takes much personal reflection, time and intention.   I actually have a list that I look at on occasion when I am packing, to make sure I don’t forget something I need.  So my plan is to review that list, and then take the advice of one of my fellow missionaries suggested, “pack–then take out half of your stuff.”

We can do that with a suitcase, can we do it with our baggage?

 

Rules of the Road in Honduras

Honduras is a very mountainous country. The roads are often very windy and curvy.  Knowing how to drive in the different parts of the US is an art.   Contrary to the majority of people, I enjoy driving in Washington, DC.  The drivers are crazy there.  I learned early on that you are either an offensive driver or a defensive one.  Defensive drivers never win.  If you try and watch out for everyone else it will make you crazy and most likely wind you up in an accident.  So the alternative is to drive so others need to keep out of your way.  For the most part it works in Washington, and I believe that people of Honduras have taken the same perspective.

Of course the only people on horses in DC are the police.  Not true in Honduras.  You can see every mode of transportation imaginable: a horse and cart, semis, tour buses, pick-up trucks with people riding in the back, school buses-not always carrying students, “regular” cars, and of course people walking along side the road, all at the same time, going in different directions in Honduras.

Cars and buses will stop and pick people us if they are looking for a ride.

At night it can be a real challenge because working headlights don’t seem to be required and therefore are not always used.  The same is true of windshield wipers (and on some trucks-brakes).

The quality of the roads, are as good as most of the roads in DC, which isn’t always saying much.  On occasion you will see a man standing in the road having filled potholes, collecting money for his services, only then allowing contributors to pass.  DC should look into that.  There are times when a paved road will just stop, it may pick up again, but not always.

There are a few (intentional) four-lane highways but not many; most are two or three depending on the severity of the mountains.  People in Honduras will pass on either side of you, and on coming traffic does not seem to be a deterrent.  Just because you have two lanes in your side doesn’t mean that the person coming  toward you won’t use  “your” other lane.

Solid white or yellow lines don’t really mean anything.  In Haiti there are no traffic lights or stops signs.  So every cross road is a four way stop, yea right.  But at least everyone is aware that it is a free for all.  In Honduras they have stoplights, but some people choose to ignore them.  Not everyone, it seems just a small minority; the problem is you never know who they are, prior to running the light-and into you!!  So in Honduras you don’t hit the gas on green, you wait for a couple of seconds if you are first in line at the light and then it is a crap-shoot.

I haven’t figured out all the rules for using the horn yet.

As I got off the plane in Miami, people seemed frantic, some rushed as they headed toward customs, I thought to myself, I just came from Honduras, I am not rushing any where.   Most things seem to take more time in Honduras.  Some people even speak of  “Honduran time.”  They don’t seem to be in a big hurry, until they get behind the wheel; then the pedal is to the metal and a good offence is the best defense.  I think I will park it here.

 

Farm Girl – finca chica

We only had a few hours, but my visit to the farm was the highlight of the trip so far. The boys loved the yearbook/memorial and looking at the pictures of graduation on my computer. It was great to see the boys. There were a lot of hugs and  smiles.

There are also a number of changes on the farm.  The old pond was drained and new adjacent ponds have been dug for the Tilapia fishery. Yony’s house is almost complete.  They don’t have the water pipes hooked up to the house yet, the electric needs some adjustments and the appliances need to be installed, but the walls, ceiling, floor and front porch are completed. He has moved a few items in, but his family won’t be there for several more weeks or a month.

Jossue Palma the computer teacher is also teaching English!  That seems to be going well.   There are 16 boys in the graduating class.  They were working on catching, naming and displaying insects for a class project.  This year there are only 50 students total.

For those who have worked on organizing and maintaining the bodega (storage are) it looked good. Someone was working on re-plastering the  bottom of the walls inside of the guest house and the outside walls, inside the screened in porch.

I learned that The El Hogar Orphanage and  Technical Institute are accredited by the government but the Farm isn’t; that was news to me.

The time went by so fast.  Before I knew it, it was time to go.  It was very kind of the bishop to bringing me all the way out to the farm.  We visited the Orphanage and St. Mary’s school upon our return to Tegucigalpa.

The he asked if I had brought shoes for the farm.  I mentioned I had special farm boots that are black and white rubber cowboy boots that looked like lace from a distance, but up close have skulls and cross bones on them, which the boys really love, but I didn’t  bring them this time.
I guess I really am a farm girl at heart, because those boys, cooks and teachers at the farm sure do have my heart.

From HOPE to Development

My trip to Honduras in May was initiated by Bishop Allen’s invitation to attend the diocese of Honduras Convention and the Honduras Hope board meeting. Honduras Hope is a non-profit, that supports and facilitates organizations, churches and individuals in their ministry in the Diocese of Honduras.   It had come to their attention that there was also another organization in Honduras using the name Honduras Hope which has caused some confusion as well as difficulty with a web address.  During our meetings this week the board changed their name and clarified their mission and vision statements.

OLD NAME:             Honduras Hope

NEW NAME:            Honduras Development Network

The Honduras Development Network exists to encourage and support the Episcopal Diocese of Honduras to be faithful to the Good News of Jesus Christ, as she bares witness to the people of Honduras and the world.

The vision of Honduras Development Network is to encourage and support the Episcopal Diocese of Honduras in becoming spiritually vibrant, economically self-sufficient, socially just and environmentally responsible.

We do this by

  • o Developing, Encouraging and Facilitating, partnerships between the North American and Honduran churches.
  • o Supporting the operations of the Diocese of Honduras as it moves to self-sufficiency
  • o Funding local church initiatives that support the long-range vision of the diocese.
  • o Identifying and Networking gifts and needs of both NA and HN to fulfill God’s mission in Honduras.

I really enjoyed my time with the board of directors of Honduras Development Network.  Their work is vital as The Diocese of Honduras works toward self-sustanibility by 2019.

The translation of the new name  into Spanish is Red de Desarrollo de Honduras, so they will use red in their new logo.  I think they should go with the nickname “Big Red” like the chewing gum.  Why?  Because Big Red gum is snappy and full of flavor which fits the board’s personality.  For more information watch for their web page www.Hondurandevelopmentnetwork.com

 

 

On Tuesday evening Bishop Allen took the Finance staff  and committee along with the board of Honduran Development Network out to dinner.

Sunday May 20th North Coast Hondruas

por amor de Dios
-Flash Funeral

I really missed my tutor Sara yesterday when she didn’t come to school.  When she returned today, she said that a member of her husband’s family was murdered the day before.  He and a co-worker had driven on his motorcycle to a remote location to do some electrical work.  While the two men were working robbers came, stole the motorcycle and killed them both.

I don’t understand.  It is one thing to steal; it is another thing to murder.  Lorena my host mother’s son was shot and killed in the last year, for his phone as was Denis Javier, one of the students at the school, when in Tegucigalpa.

About an hour into class today, Sara’s phone rang, which had never happened before.  She said she needed to go to the cemetery and asked me if I wanted to go.  I figured that they probably needed to pick out a plot or make some arrangements or something.  As we walked up toward the cemetery a pick-up truck with a beautiful gray box in the bed drove up.  Sara’s family was walking behind.  There was going to be a funeral.

I asked her where the priest was and she said there weren’t any. As we approached the gravesite there was a brand new above ground crypt.  The cinderblocks and mortar still looked wet, the end was open. They laid the casket horizontal in front of the crypt and after a few minutes when the crypt mason was finished mixing more mortar, he went to literally place the nails in the coffin.

One of the women indicated that someone wanted to see inside.  They then opened the top; Oscar was wearing a shirt and jeans and covered with a white sheet.  They pulled the sheet back and took pictures of him with a cell phone.  I had never seen anyone who wasn’t embalmed before.  It wasn’t one of those situations where you could say, “m,m,m, don’t he look natural?”

They then discussed which direction the head should face in the crypt.  They placed the casket in and then the mason began to finish the crypt enclosure.  I asked Sara if she would like me to say a few prayers and she said yes and now would be a good time.  We moved over next to the crypt. I introduced my self as an Episcopal Reverenda, and said I was sorry for their loss, in Spanish.  Sara then translated the prayers and scripture I could remember from the Book of Common Prayer.  We finished praying with the Lord’s Prayer, which most people did seem to know.

There was no funeral director, no herse, no bulletins, no liturgy planned, they came to watch the mason work as they themselves prepared to say good-bye.

We stood there a few minutes more as the mason continued to place the cinderblocks.  I softly sang a few verses of Amazing Grace and hummed a few more.  About ten minutes after that, we left the cemetery, leaving the rest of the family behind.  Oscar who was in his twenties leaves behind a wife, Wendy and a son, Steven who appears to be about two years old.   On my way home from class I returned to the cemetery and took these pictures.  Sarah was very appreciative, and I was thankful to end my educational experience in Copan being of service to her and God.

Death seems so close these days, not just here but in Honduras but in Ellicott City, Maryland, and everywhere.  It is so much easier to be able to celebrate a life well lived.  The grief of one taken so soon is so much more difficult.  May all those who have gone before us rest in peace and may Light eternal shine upon them. Amen.

…and a Prayer

I returned to  The Church of the Holy Spirit in Santa Rita, Honduras for their midweek evening service.  Sr. Conception and his son picked me up at the park at 6:30 in his son’s car, for the ten-mile trek, to the church.  As we were talking before the service I mentioned I was a little disappointed that he didn’t pick me up on his motorcycle.  We both laughed and got ready for the service which was completely lay led with praise music, prayers and a lay preacher.

During the first song a woman came forward and kneeled in front of the ombrey (the box on the wall where the consecrated bread and wine are kept).   Another woman came up and laid hands on her, she had been kneeling on the bare tile floor for seven or eight minutes and I was starting to worry that there was something terribly wrong.  When the other woman approached her I got up and stood on the other side of her and prayed as well.  Then the woman kneeling got up and the other woman took her place kneeling on the tile floor, and I return to my seat.

This exchange happened about seven or ten times, men and woman.  Again, I am in awe, of how people in Honduras pray.  One of the most memorable experiences people tell again and again after visiting the students on the farm is how long and seriously the boys pray before meals.

In my second church, the senior warden said to me after I prayed one day, Man, was that a grandpa prayer! I said, A grandpa prayer? She said, yes, a grandpa prayer is one of those prayers that goes on forever, like your grandpa says at Thanksgiving.  I never forgot that.  Especially the way it made me feel.   I felt like what she had said was that the length of my prayer had wasted her time.  Prayer never waists God’s time.

God is always pleased to hear from us, and especially when we say “thank-you!”   As I sat there not able to understand very much of the homily, I found myself wondering what the people kneeling on the hard ceramic tile were sharing with God.  No matter what, they had my admiration.   Did I have that much to say all at one time?   I certainly could stay on the phone that long with my best friend or my Mom, so why not have that much to talk to God about?  I know my Spirit is strong but I am afraid my body would be too weak.

When it came time to leave Sr. Concepcion ask me if it was OK to take the motorcycle home.  Of course I said, yes.  So he went and got his small motorcycle and a helmet for me and at 8:30pm in the dark of the night we drove on a hard dirt road home.  I have to say there were several times when I found myself talking to God.  When was the last time you took a moment to talk to God?  Where you on your knees  or where you flying…on a wing and a prayer?

on a wing…

www.macawmountain.com

Decided to venture out and see some of the sights of Copan.  So I invited Lucas, a student from Canada, to go to the bird park and natural reserve with me.  We took a little red “taxi” golf cart up the mountain and spent about three hours there.

During hurricane Mitch, which developed in the Caribbean Sea in October 1998 and became one of the strongest and deadliest Atlantic hurricanes ever recorded; a gentleman from Tennessee became stranded.  While he was “stuck” he decided to look around, do some research and then create a natural bird habitat for native birds of Honduras and Central American who where either abused or no longer wanted. A parrot can live for 80-100 years.

It is fitting to have a “winged” sanctuary  in this geological location.  For the ancient peoples of the Americas, birds were an integral part of daily life and played fundamental roles in religion, art and politics. The ancient Maya – who between 600 BC and AD 1500 lived in what is today Southern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Western Honduras and parts of El Salvador – appreciated birds for their beautiful plumage, enchanting songs, and their ability to fly between the earth and the sky as no other creature can do. They particularly valued the feathers of birds such as quetzals and macaws and traded these for use in elite costumes.

Although the art and sculpture of ancient Maya cities (such as Copan) contain many images of macaws, quetzals, herons, and eagles, archaeologists are just beginning to understand the role birds played in ancient Maya society. Researchers search for clues in the art and architecture, in the hieroglyphic inscriptions, in the remains of bird bones encountered during excavations, and in the oral stories that the living Maya have passed down from generation to generation.

The beautiful habitat has over 180 birds, is handicapped accessible and well maintained.  It sits on a river, that they can damn, creating a “natural” swimming pool.  The “cages” have more square footage than most Honduran houses. The staff has a process of “de-stressing” the birds that need treatment and the hope is to release the birds back into the wild.  They have a separate area for birds that are matting.  The larger the bird the fewer eggs are created.

One of the most thought provoking statements, made during the tour, was the connection that birds and angels both have wings. My prayer for you, on the day, is that the Dove of the Holy Spirit fill your heart with peace and be the wind beneath your wings.  Amen.