Saturday, November 29, 2008

I know Janelle said I would blog yesterday, but in my defense, I told her she shouldn't promise anything.

Last Sat. the school here at La Finca had a nice graduation ceremony for the 6th graders who passed and will be moving on to "colegio". You can see the 8 students with their teachers in the picture on the left. Several of them were kids that Janelle had in kinder class the last time we lived here. It was great to see them moving ahead with their education. I was the "padrino" or sponsor for Alex, the boy kneeling on the left.

This week we started some remodel work on the place where Dwain and Audrey will be living. That is also where the classroom for our children will be. That's Angel and Samuel in the picture plastering the kitchen area. We hoping it turns out a bit cozier than it had been. I was also working this week on leveling off a parking area for our truck next to our house. I'd like to get back to working down on the farm land but right now other things are taking priority. It is great to have some good help with the work here. In fact, the older boys in many cases know better than I do how to go about things here.

Thanksgiving Day found us doing our usual day off routine of shopping in Teguc. Didn't feel like much of a holiday to us. We did buy a new stove and Janelle made us a nice belated Thanksgiving dinner with it today. Smoked chicken though instead of turkey. It was very good. We've been inviting some of the young adults to share a meal with us. Today Kelly and Mirian ate with us. And Andrea has been eating most of her main meals with us.

The primary elections in Honduras will take place tomorrow. Pray for God's will to be done there. Pray for us as we continue to adjust and seek to find the balance between personal time, our family time, work, and time with the greater family here at La Finca (oh, and blogging time of course!)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Hey, good news. We have cable internet in our house! We're having a few little glitches with the internet and our laptop, but we're figuring it out. This is so much better than typing a page at the house, downloading some pictures, running to the internet cafe, cutting and pasting, then posting! Harlan will be updating the blog tomorrow so I'll let him fill you in on everything. :) Good night and Happy Thanksgiving!!

Friday, November 21, 2008

How's everyone doing? We're still in Honduras :) and doing good. This week has had various changes and new things from when we arrived, though.

First, it rained! And yes, the roof still leaks, but not as much as before. We only had to put 3 or 4 containers down and none of our stuff got wet. Harlan has ripped out part of the ceiling so we can see where it's coming in.

Then, the wind and cold came. And man, is it cold! It was at least 55 degrees outside and 60 degrees in the house when we woke up one morning. Now I know that might not sound too bad, but keep in mind there's no insulation, no furnace and very few airtight windows. You can see our curtains blowing. We feel very fortunate to have hot water in the shower, which is a great blessing!

The cold brought another first: we used our fireplace. Our kids loved it and most of you know how much Harlan loves a good fire, too!

Also, the daily rotation schedule has been changed. We are now “on” every third day. So this coming week we'll be in charge Sunday, Wednesday, Saturday, and then the next Tuesday, etc. This means everyone (Alonso/Michele, Angel/Bertha, and us) gets every third weekend completely off. The rest of the things I listed on the last blog stays the same except our shopping day in Tegucigalpa may vary.

We will also have cable internet in our house next week, God willing! That doesn't mean blog updates will happen any more frequently (that would just be boring for everyone :), but maybe emails will get answered more quickly! Harlan's looking forward to being able to research some farming questions, etc on line.

We also have a new phone number. I was able to get my cell phone from the US unblocked and bought a new sim card. Since blogs are public I won't be giving my number here, but if anyone needs it they can contact our families or support team.

We appreciate your continued prayers for our adjustment to life here. I know it's kind of running joke about blaming everything on the high altitude here, but is does affect how you feel physically. And though we were used to have a bunch of neighbor kids at our house in Pa, this is taking it to a whole other level!

Also, please pray for Ali. She deals with some kind of allergy, which also then inhibits her breathing and now both her ears have been hurting. She rarely complains, which is a blessing :), but it also means we don't always know how badly she's hurting.

We thank God that He healed Angelica's foot without any further effort on our part. I can't even remember if I mentioned it before, but her foot had been bothering her. She has been helping in the Finca kitchen more often along with Ali.

Zack has many scratches and bruises, as usual, but is looking very tanned and healthy. He got to go for a horse ride the other day and is sure to become a cowboy someday :)

I enjoy many aspects of life here, but do miss just as many things from Pa. I especially miss family and friends, which is to be expected I suppose. I'm finally learning to remember that times of transition are always difficult and that's ok. I thank God that He is the constant in my life and that never changes.


Hello everybody! Today is a lovely day compared to what we were having. Although still a bit breezy, it's nice and sunny out. Only a few clouds hanging over the mountains.

Yesterday was our day to shop in Teguc. It was a full day of shopping and taking care of other business. We met a friendly gentleman (he invited us to eat our lunch with him 'cause there was no other tables available). He is a mutual fund manager with Deuche Bank, travels a lot , and has lived in the U.S. It's always great to make new acquaintances from the various sectors of society in Honduras.

I have been doing various odds and ends maintenance jobs along with some work down on the “finca”. We made some “hay” from the areas where the boys were weed-whacking the “monte”. We used some of it to cover the bare dirt around the fruit trees where the kids hoed out the grass and weeds. But with all the wind we've been having, I'm not sure if it's all still in place or not. I also had some of the kids helping me glean the left-over corn from a corn patch someone had planted and harvested from earlier. We didn't come up with much but what we do have we'll feed to the half dozen or so chickens that roam the place (I can here the soft cackle of hens under our deck as I write this). Today they actually laid a couple of eggs, a first since we've been here! They also moved the cattle from the other “finca” to here a few days ago. The banana plantation needs to be replanted and I think the plan is to let the cattle graze on the old stuff first. They aren't milking any of the cows right now because the calves are drinking what little they produce. I'm excited about taking part in improving these farm projects and developing new ones. It will take a lot of patience though with much trial and error. I'm looking forward to having Dwain's expertise in these areas.

Being part of the “in charge” rotation” is going pretty well. I do believe, however, that I feel more worn out by the end of the days I'm “on”. The extra interaction with the kids does drain the “battery juice” away. Sorry about all the words in quotation marks. I should mention again though, the overall improvements in the finca kids compared to when we started out here in 2000. That and everything we learned from previous experiences here combined with God's grace has made settling in here easier. Not to say life here isn't without it's challenges! Zack is enjoying roaming freely about, getting rides on a horse with Jorge, and doing all kinds of things with his new friends. Not surprisingly he gets annoyed with some of the kids who are, by nature, annoying. But they haven't kept him from roaming about, taking it all in. Angelica is more conscious of the language gap, but she's starting to loosen up about it. Ali is keen to learn Spanish but it will take awhile. We thank God that all in all, we are doing very well.


Friday, November 14, 2008

Already more than a week!

I know it's been awhile since we blogged, but it's a little more complicated since we need to be on-line to blog, and in order to be on-line we need to take the laptop to an internet cafe. Plus for those of you who were part of the whole blogging conversations, you also know that Harlan's supposed to be doing this! :)

We are checking into the option of having cable internet in our house and plan to do that as soon as possible. It's pretty expensive, but maybe not a whole lot more than most of you who have high speed internet in the USA.

As of the beginning of this week we are now part of the “daily rotation”. Mondays and Wednesdays are ours, plus we will probably have an occasional Sunday. We are now on vacation schedule since the kids are out of school so the times will change in February. Harlan needs to get up and open the front gate at 6am, pass the kids for breakfast at 7:30am, pass them for lunch at 1pm, pass them for dinner at 5:30pm, be in charge of what's watched on TV in the evening, lock the gate at 8pm, and take care of any visitors, needs or problems in between.

I will need to give the cook all the food needed for the day including breakfast the next day. Andrea and I are also in charge of the girls in the afternoons on Monday and Wednesday. We will be going for walks, taking them over to the other property, in charge of the trampoline, cooking/baking with them, etc.

I am also having devotions with the girls, one night a week with each of the three houses. Harlan does the same thing with each of the 2 boy's houses. We go after our own kids are in bed. Although when it was time to get up and go to their houses it felt like something extra at the end of the day, the devotional times have all felt very meaningful and I have been blessed. But that's how our God works!

Thursday is our day “off” and we go to Teguc to do our shopping. Hopefully the process will eventually take less time, but this week we left around 8am (Honduran time :) and got back around 3 or 3:30pm. Thursday night and Sunday night we have also designated as “family night” and we had our first family meeting last night. Everybody feels much better now that all chores have been properly assigned. :) They will also be nights of playing games, reading books, etc.

The kids do not enjoy spending the day shopping in Teguc and decided to stay out in Valle. They get to be with Karla Patricia and Lilian and yesterday enjoyed going down to the creek bordering the property. Zack got more than he bargained for when his flip-flops started floating away and he fell in the water while trying to retrieve them! All three continue to do very well. Ali enjoys spending most mornings in the Finca kitchen helping the girls make pancakes, flour tortillas, etc. Angelica was helping today as well. They really enjoy the “fruits” of their labor. :) Angelica still enjoys reading every chance she gets and it's a good thing she doesn't mind reading books over again! Zack has some up and down feelings about the Finca kids. He loves playing with them, but sometimes gets tired of someone always wanting to grab him or carry him. He enjoys playing with Caleb (Alonso and Michele's son), Daniel (Angel and Berta's son), and Gabriel and Jonatan (both Angel's nephews) here in our house.

Harlan has been spending some time raking hay to be used as mulch when the Livengoods come, fixing various plumbing issues, and trying to mosquito proof our house. Ali has an ongoing battle with mosquitoes and keeps losing. She has several bites on her face. They also wake Harlan and I up at night singing in our ears. We hope to buy more screen next week.

I have finally finished cleaning most of the house, which really needed it, and most things are in their places. Karla Patricia and Lilian have been a huge help and are the only reason it is mostly finished. I have forgotten how much time it takes to do things here like meal prep and cleaning up after wards. I'm sure things will get easier as I get accustomed to where everything is and get into more of a routine.

I was just saying to Harlan that it feels like we've been here much longer than a week and to some degree like we never left. I think it's partially because this was home previously and therefore we have returned to something familiar. I also think it's because God is answering all those prayers given on our behalf and I praise him.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Since I came to the internet cafe to get the email, I just wanted to write a quick note. We are all doing very well. Harlan, Zack and I went into Teguc on Thursday to pick up Andrea Zimmerman and do some shopping. We already had some hardware supplies to pick up for some small projects:). The girls decided to stay at the Finca with Karla and Lilian.

Harlan has been working on several small projects already. Among other things, he put a "widow-maker" shower head in for Andrea so she has hot water. Since it is unseasonably sunny here right now he will be working on the roof to try and keep our living room from becoming a pond when it rains:)

Along with Lilian, Karla, and Andrea, I have been working at sorting through the items in our house, cleaning, unpacking, cooking and washing clothes. I look forward to the time when everything has a place and is in it!

Ali and Angelica have been doing their school work, organizing their room, reading and connecting with some of the kids. As always, I think that will go much easier as they continue to relearn Spanish.

Zack has been going, going, going! He only comes back to the house when we make him. Yesterday he went with one of the older guys to buy us gas for our stove and ended up going on more errands when they got picked up by Angel in the truck. He is thoroughly enjoying himself and doesn't let the language barrier inhibit him. Anybody who is letting the language keep them from going to another country can take a lesson from children!

Thanks again to all for your many thoughts and prayers. May God bless you as you serve him.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

We made it!

We are here, we have made it. Praise God for His protection and provision through out our journey. Hard to believe we have come to the end of it. It does feel go to be here and we are looking forward to resting up. What an experience we have been through!

The last leg of our drive was pretty uneventful. Just some hot brakes from all the mountain driving. Driving in Tegucigalpa was crazy as ever but a familiar craziness so it wasn't bad. The weather is actually very nice here considering it is supposed to be the rainy season. Hope it continues at least until I get some roof repair done. Our house seems to be in pretty good shape all things considered. I thought it might look worse.

It was nice to unload our truck knowing we won't be loading it again for a long time. Our kids are excited to get settled in ( we are too).

Well I'm doing this at an internet cafe (minus the cafe) and we're all here and would like to be in our house instead. So I have to wrap it up. More on our grand adventure some other time.

We will probably be blogging only once a week until if and or when we get our own internet service. We hope to check our e-mail more often.

Thanks once more for all your prayers. We are humbled.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Honduras at Last!

At long last we've made it into our country of destination!

Today's journey was our last long one. We started out this morning from our hotel with a short drive to the border. We came up on a. long line of trucks waiting for paperwork to clear. A guy waved us over and some others came rushing up to offer their assistance. As advised we ignored them and drove up as close as we could to the border buildings. Fending off a few more offers for help, Janelle set out on her own to clear us out of Guatemala. That turned out to be fairly easy and we were soon on our way through 2 kms. of no mans land to the Honduran "aduana".

Same thing, we came up behind another line of trucks and were rushed by another crowd of guys hoping to handle our paperwork. We again drove as close to the buildings as we could and found a guy who spoke some English. Janelle determined he seemed fairly trustworthy and set off with him to begin our paperwork process for the truck and our visas. We stayed with the truck. The migration window officer in an interesting roundabout way let Janelle know that we could do the truck paperwork ourselves and didn't need this guy to help us. So Janelle offered $10 for the help he had given us so far and told him we would handle it ourselves. He eventually gave up on us and Janelle proceeded on her own. The Honduran customs officials were very helpful and she eventually got through the process and we got on our way again. Ask Janelle for more details some time! We probably spent two and a half hours at the border.

What we have for the truck is 90 days temporary permission to operate it in Honduras. That temporary permission can be extended but eventually to license it in Honduras we will have to pay an import tax of an undetermined amount. We quickly discovered a very good reason why we should get Honduran plates on as quickly as possible. It was one that I suspected would be a problem the whole way south of the U.S. border. We were waved over at almost every police checkpoint between here and the border. I'm sure it's because we don't have a license plate on the front. Any plate would be better than none. When they see nothing recognizable out comes the arm and over to the side we pull! With one exception this has been only a minor annoyance. Just before the city of San Pedro Sula there was a police checkpoint and the guy waved the bus over in front of us. As we were slowly passing him, he must have decided we looked like a more interesting possibility. He blew his whistle for us to stop waved the bus back onto the road. He came up to our window and claimed he had waved us over instead of the bus and since we didn't pull to the side immediately (which we couldn't have because the bus was in the way) he wanted to fine us. We tried playing dumb and then arguing but it was clear he was determined to find fault with something and get a little money out of us. Because when we corrected him on his story about us not pulling over right away he then wanted to know if I had a fire extinguisher (which I did) and orange triangles (which I didn't). Then he wanted to fine us for that. Seeing where this was going and wanting to be on our way again we just paid the fine and took off.

Our drive today took us up and down a lot of mtns. That gave the truck a pretty good workout. The brakes were smelling hot and I found a nail or screw in a tire. I've had to be very alert for potholes and sunken parts of the road in Honduras. They have had a lot of rain here and among other things, it's been hard on the roads.

It was dark when we arrived at our hotel here along Lake Yojoa we were told there will be a good view of the lake in the morning. Nobody else is at the hotel and the owner said they haven't had anybody here for about a month because of the weather. It is a nice place.

Well I want to get some news on the election and then get some sleep. Thanks again for all your prayers. It's hard to believe tomorrow we'll be at our destination!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Esquipulas, Guatemala

Hey, y'all :) Here we are in Galen and Phyllis Groff's courtyard before we left in the morning. Ali is doing great, thank God. She ate a good dinner and breakfast and only feels a little sick going around all the curves. We did a kind of leisurely day since we wanted to wait until the morning to cross the border into Honduras.

We left the Groff's around 9am. We are very grateful for their hospitality. We've stopped at the town of Esquipulas, which is about 6 miles from the border. We had time to relax and walk around town in the afternoon.

This is the first place we've taken the time to be "tourists"
and see sights in person rather than through a truck window!

This is the Catholic church at the square in Esquipulas, famous for its carved figure of the "Black Christ".

We look forward to crossing the border tomorrow morning at Aguas Caliente and arriving at La Finca on Wednesday, God willing. Please continue praying for the process at the border. We never know how long it will take or what all we may need to do. We thank God for his provision of strength and grace so far and believe he will carry us through the rest of the journey. May you all trust in him and believe he will carry you through the rest of your jouney. God bless and good night!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Into the Clouds

Hi everybody. Today was a day of extremes. We started out from our hotel in the tropical Pacific coast side of Guatemala. Very hot and humid but sunny. As we were pulling into a gas station a motorcycle apparently was trying to pass on the right. He did a little bounce off our side and kept on going. No visible damage to the truck. Well that woke me up if the coffee didn't!

These beautiful volcanoes were in sight for a while as we drove in the morning. The one named "Volcan del Fuego" was shooting off puffs of steam every few minutes. Quite impressive.

We started our climb out of the lowlands towards Guatemala City. We encountered some trouble finding our way around the city. Lets just say we saw a bit more of the city than we were planning on. But with some fairly helpful directions we eventually got back on track.

Our last two hours of driving to Coban and San Pedro Carcha consisted mainly of an uphill climb. Eventually we topped out literally in the clouds. Very interesting scenery, definitly different from where we started out the day. The towns have more of a raw look to them and the indigenous people are dressed distinctively.

We arrived at Galen and Phyllis Groff's home around 4:00pm. We are having a good time of fellowship with them and learning a little more about their work with the Quechi Menn. Church. The Quechi are an indigenous Mayan people who live primarily in this part of Quatemala.

We thought about resting a full day here but we'll probably head back out on the road tomorrow.

Ali seems to be doing better. She still couldn't keep anything down this morning but she ate dinner and so far so good.

Here are the kids with Phyllis, thrilled to be doing something else besides riding in the truck!
I thank God that we are here in Guatemala, at a decent hotel, and Ali is feeling better and sleeping. We left our hotel in Hiaxtla, Mexico around 7:45am. Ali woke up with a sore throat and a fever. As is her custom when sick, she threw up. We left without breakfast because the restaurant didn't open until 9am on the weekend. We were wondering where and how we were going to meet up with Javier, a contact person whose name and number was given us by Bobby Gibson, another missionary living in Honduras. I had called Javier the night before from the hotel (with the hotel clerk helping me try different area codes until I got the right number), but I only had a vague idea where we were to meet him. We stopped at a gas station for whatever breakfast we could find and poor Ali threw up the little she did eat. Then as we drove along a guy on a motorcycle pulled up beside Harlan and said “Bobby?” God helped me understand what was going on and I nodded “Yes”. He then came to my side and said he was Javier!! We followed him to the border and he took care of all our paperwork on both the Mexican and Guatemalan sides of the border. It was a blessing and answer to prayer to have someone take care of all that especially since it was very hot and Ali was still sick and usually threw up after even a few sips of water. The whole process still took about 3 ½ hours and we were finally on the road about 1:00pm.

Following "our guy", Javier, to the border --->

We decided to shorten our travel time (Friday we traveled about 10 hours, excluding stops) and found a nice hotel recommended by the book Lonely Planet. The price listed in the book fit our budget ideas, but when we got here we found the price had almost tripled. We were tired and decided to stay anyway and the kids (and Harlan :) were thrilled with the pool area surrounded by tropical trees and plants. Ali was able to eat a little soup at dinner and is now sleeping without having thrown up since about 4pm. Thank you, God.

The picture on the left was taken out of my window after coming through a heavy thunderstorm.

Tomorrow we plan to meet Galen and Phyllis Groff, fellow EMM missionaries, in Coban, Guatemala, God willing. We look forward to a visiting with them and plan to continue our trip on Monday.

We thank God for all answered prayers and we thank all of you who are praying on our behalf. This will only get posted Sunday morning and we pray you are all blessed as you worship God with others today.

PS. Please pray for Ali. Although she is sitting here with us at breakfast eating applesauce, she just threw up again 15 minutes ago.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Here we are almost through Mexico. We are staying tonight, Friday night, in a small city called Huixtla. It is close to Tapachula and the border between Mexico and Guatemala. We anticipate crossing that border tomorrow.

Wow, there is so much we could say about our last two days of travel. The main thing is we haven't got lost or had vehicle problems or any negative thing like that. We got waved over to the side twice in the last two days, once at a police checkpoint ( this local yocal was looking for money to buy a “refresco”) and once at an army checkpoint (green army recuits). After a couple questions they let us go. I think we definitely seem like an oddity to them.

These two days though have felt like very long days and we're about wiped out by our stopping time at sundown. Mexican driving requires your full concentration ALL the time.

Yesterday (Thurs.) we started our drive going around the city of Tampico. That was a bit dirty and smelly. And the roads in the morning were pretty bad. Lots of trucks too. A lot of the rigs here are pulling double or twin trailers and the trailers appear to be full sized, not the short ones like at home. Of course, they don't go very fast up hills. But when they get going they make the most of their momentum! They certainly aren't afraid to pull heavy loads here.

Later around lunch time we passed through a major citrus growing area. Mile after mile of orange trees up hill and down. We stopped and bought some . They were excellent. Farther along the way, our route took us right out along the Gulf coast. We stopped for a break, played on the beach a little, wet our feet in the gulf, drank a coke then took off again! Everybody wanted to stay there and if we ever do this again I'm sure we'll figure in at least a half day's stop there.

We stopped Thurs. night just S.W. of Vera Cruz. If you can imagine a orangish pink prison cell that's sort of what our hotel room looked like. Maybe not that bad but definitely no luxury (besides A.C.) involved there. Not much picking choice in the area (actually NO picking choice) but it got the job done.

Today, Fri. our drive started out on very nice 4 lane highway that we had pretty much to ourselves. We passed through low flat lands which included a vast pineapple growing area. No, we didn't buy any. Too messy to eat on the fly! By mid to late morning we hit the absolute worst roads of our trip on the istmus between the Gulf coast and the Pacific coast. The “road” looked like the Mexican air force used it for a bombing range. Between the road and back seat drivers telling me to stop hitting all the potholes, I'm sure I was a bit stressed out. Anyway we got back on to some good road around lunch. After coming through the mountains we came down onto the lowlands between the Pacific Ocean and the mountains. The first town is very aptly named “La Ventosa” which means the windy place. Wow, was it ever. I definitely had both hands on the steering wheel there. Interestingly enough, they have a huge wind turbine project under construction there. A very interesting sight. The scenery from there on down to where we are staying tonight is my favorite of the trip so far. Beautiful towering mountains off to our right sometimes covered in clouds. It was also very sunny as opposed to a cloudy and a bit rainy day yesterday and this morning. The city we are staying in is a bit steamy and hot. The small A.C. unit is working overtime and not making much difference.

Please continue those prayers as we head for another border tomorrow. We've made initial contact with a border broker and are planning to meet him around 8:00am Sat. to get our paperwork processed.

Well that's enough for now. We update you next chance we get.

We are so grateful for God's provision thus far!