Soy Sordo

Soy Sordo

If I didn’t know any better, I’d say God still has more to teach me in this life, because things haven’t exactly been going my way lately.  Among other things, we’ve had some car issues, and I got sick the other night and missed a couple days of school.  I’ll spare you the details, but it was one of those “Which way should I face the toilet now?” kind of nights.  Ok, maybe I didn’t actually spare you the details.  Much like the people here in Honduras, the viruses are very strong.

I can’t say I’ve been “religious” in my commitment to daily devotional time lately, so maybe that has something to do with it.  Sometimes, God has a way of working through circumstances to get our attention to bring us back to himself.  Maybe it’s not that quid pro quo.  But that’s probably a discussion for another time.  Thinking that way can just help me rationalize things.  And there’s yet another discussion for another time… or I might just keep that one to myself.

But it’s not all bad… in fact, a lot is really great.  Our neighbor has a pool on her property that is filled naturally by kind of a lukewarm hot spring, which is absolutely perfect for the kids and the weather here.  All we had to do was clean out the leaves, rinse it all out, throw down some powdered Clorox, and let it fill up.  And by “we,” I mean Stephanie and about a dozen kids from the neighborhood.  So now we have a natural, beautiful pool we can walk to anytime for free.  And that’s incredible timing, because it’s starting to get just plain hot outside, and I haven’t heard one person yet even try to put a mild twist on what the weather is usually like here in April and May… I take that as a significant warning.

So in regard to the car, I’ll admit, I bought a cheap one.  We have a 1997 Toyota 4Runner with 160K miles on the odometer, which I don’t think means a whole lot.  So I guess this all goes with the territory.  But we needed some work done on the steering, so we took it to a shop out of town that also did some brake work, alignment, oil change, etc.  Good to go.  Except not.  About a week and a half later, Stephanie comes to pick me up from school, and says, “There’s something wrong with the brakes.”  I get in the car on the hill it’s parked on to test it out and discover that, indeed, she is right.  The problem is that there are no brakes.  The emergency brake being on was the only thing keeping it from moving, and brake fluid was all over the inside of the front left wheel.  I consider it a miracle of God’s protection that she was able to get it stopped there at all.  We called our guy, who called his guy, who was able to come up the hill and get the brakes sealed and get us moving, but there was still some work that needed to be done to secure the brake lines properly.

I think in any country, it’s fairly important to have reliable brakes.  Maybe that’s just me.  But in Honduras, it’s very important, especially when you live 1500 feet in elevation above town, and getting groceries means entrusting your life to a car that is kind of fixed.  For about a week, for one reason or another, each day, we couldn’t get the permanent repair done.  Now, the brake line was basically in a spot where it might interfere with the suspension, but it should be ok.  Maybe that’s ok for a day, but that’s something that even in all my humble graciousness made me increasingly exasperated as time went on.

Finally, I got the car to the shop.  I was still kind of sick, and I was trying to explain the problem in Spanish.  And by “Spanish,” I mean three or four Spanish words and a lot of hand motions… which is an improvement from where I was a couple months ago with one or two Spanish words and a lot of hand motions.  It’s so hard to communicate in Spanish… hurts my brain just thinking about it.

So while I’m doing this, a lady who looks a little down on her luck comes up to us selling stickers.  I don’t normally know what to do in these situations anyway, and I definitely don’t know how to deal with them in Honduras, so I follow the mechanic’s lead.  He buys a sticker, so I buy a sticker.  He doesn’t really say anything to her, which I think is weird, so I try talking to her in my best Spanish.  She smiles.  Actually, she smiles really big… really really big… oddly big… I’m missing something.

After she leaves, I look at her stickers, and there’s a note on the back of them that says in Spanish please help me out because “Soy sordo,” which google translate told me means “I’m deaf.”  She wasn’t smiling at me… she was laughing at me because she knew this gringo couldn’t read Spanish and didn’t know she was deaf.  Well anyway, I guess I’m glad it brought her some amusement.

On the way home, brakes repaired, sticker in hand, I was dwelling on how hard it is to communicate in Spanish.  Then it struck me abruptly that this is the way I’ve been trying to communicate with God for so long… in a second language in my head… which can be difficult at best (like talking to the mechanic) and utterly ineffective at worst (like talking to the deaf girl).  I felt like God was saying to me, “Just talk to me in English, son!”  That is to say, talk to me in the native language I put in your heart, which is actually more intuitive to us than even our first spoken language.  The whole reason we are here is to fulfill our role in our relationship with Christ and he put inside each one of us a method of communication more rich and robust than even the most sophisticated collection of words in any spoken language.  It’s just that the way the world communicates has taught us to smother these divine soulful impulses and trade them for crass, rudimentary words… blah.  There’s a language in each of our hearts that has no possibility of miscommunication and no levels of proficiency.  Even the most basic utterances we choose to make with it are understood and embraced and redeemed by our loving heavenly father.  We just have to talk to him.  We just have to want to be there with him.  We just have to want to use the beautiful eternal language he blessed us with in order to communicate with him… whatever that looks like for you.

Maybe communicating with God is hard for you to wrap your head around.  It is for me.  There’s a reason for that… our heads have very little to do with the process.  Not that the process doesn’t make sense… it’s just that it does so much more than make sense, that it’s not limited by your little human brain that can run a billion billion calculations per second.  Not impressive… regardless of the magnitude of the number, it’s still infinitely smaller than God’s infinite capacity to meet you where you are… wherever that may be.

So I think a little differently as a result of that experience, and I believe the way God wants us to think in every area of life is not exactly traditional, to say the least.

When we are caught up in sin, I don’t think he wants us to focus on “not sinning.”  Of course, we should try not to sin, but our focus should be on talking to the God who has power over sin.  In that way, don’t let yourself be overwhelmed and anxious every time you fail, but spend time with the one who will never fail you.  Your story is so much less about sin’s power over you, and so much more about God’s power over sin, and his great love for you.

And while we’re at it, don’t just focus on whether you’re getting into heaven or not, focus on the one who can bring heaven to earth… now… through you.

We need to stop talking about trying to solve our problems, and instead focus on communicating with the only one who can solve all our problems.  You may ask, “Then if he can solve all our problems, why hasn’t he already?”  Well, maybe he wants us to grow… or something… I really don’t know… I have the same question.  But maybe you should put some of these ideas into practice and just go ask him for yourself.

Control, Understanding, and Hope

Control, Understanding, and Hope

I feel like our plane just landed back in Honduras after Christmas, but it’s been over a month and a half… an absurdly busy month and a half.  We have a couple days off school this week Thursday and Friday, and I’m definitely looking forward to it.  I know many of you who aren’t teachers lack sympathy for me, and that’s fine… I’m ok with it.  I also understand people may lack sympathy for me if I chose to complain about the cold 55 degree weather we had to endure in January, so I won’t bring it up.  Because now, it’s more like 75 degrees most of the time, so I just won’t complain or rub it in about how beautiful the weather is here right now.  And I won’t mention how if it gets closer to 80 in town, it can be a little too warm, but our house is up the hill another 1500 feet in elevation, so it’s always just perfect there.  I won’t bring it up.

If it makes you feel any better, there are some trade-offs to life here, though, and that includes occasionally having a lot of air in your water pipes.  It’s not the end of the world, except that the way you get hot water in the shower is based off a little heating element that is wired right into the shower head.  And this heating element only kicks on when it senses sufficient water flow.  And then when there is a lot of water flow, it’s not nearly enough heat to warm the water.  So the last couple days, we’ve taken showers that are marked by periods of slow trickles of warm water, great rushes of cold water, and brief moments of no water, all in rapid succession with no indication of what’s coming next.  It’s one way to get yourself going in the morning.

So since Christmas, we’ve been hard at work at school and at the clinic.  At school, we just finished the second quarter.  I’m beginning to understand Spanish just a little bit, precisely when I don’t want to understand what 15 year olds are talking about… just before Valentine’s Day.  “Tiene novio?”  “Quien es?”  A few feet away, in the midst of giggles, students are asking each other who they’re dating, presumably because they think I don’t know what they’re saying.  This time, I almost wish I didn’t.

At the clinic, five weeks in a row of medical brigades wrapped up a couple weeks ago.  Stephanie was busy, and extremely helpful for the teams.  There were actually some teams that were cancelled over travel concerns, but because she was there, they were able to keep doing surgeries with a smaller crew than expected.  There were even some seniors from the school that got a chance to be translators for some of the medical teams that traveled to some villages around here.  And there is also a likelihood of more brigades coming in May, which is possible partly because of Stephanie being here and being able to facilitate some logistics.

And as for the kids, they are both learning Spanish at an unbelievable rate.  They can speak fluent little-kid Spanish with their friends, and it’s so cool to watch.  I can understand what they’re saying, but I can’t really contribute to the conversation because it’s so fast.  Evie especially is a natural.  I knew she was doing great, but then one day she fell down and hurt herself and was basically crying in Spanish with her little Honduran friends around.  I think she’s using a different part of her brain to learn than I am.  And a few weeks ago, Sam switched from going to school half days to attending for whole days.  I noticed a major change in him for the better, because I think he thrives on structure and predictability.  I’m just not sure where he gets that from.

I think it’s that structure and predictability in our lives that gives us a sense of control, and often a false one.  Just because I know how the work week is going to go doesn’t mean I’m in control of my eternal trajectory.  Coming back to Honduras after Christmas has not been the same as coming to Honduras for the first time.  This time, I thought there were more knowns than unknowns.  There was a greater sense of structure and predictability.  There was a greater temptation to get a false sense of security from thinking that I was in control.

But, I think I was able to recognize that, at least a little bit, and let God teach me what he had for me.  I’m sure like many others, I go through periods of growth and closeness with God and periods of misunderstanding and distraction.  I think God is helping me to level those out.  I’m learning what it’s like to live where feelings and situations don’t alter my view of God, but rather reinforce and enhance it.  I feel that I’m gaining a greater understanding of God… but not by figuring him out in my head… it’s more by letting him speak to my soul.

Even as I feel a greater understanding of God, I find him more difficult to explain in words.  And I think that says less that God is beyond logic and reason and more just that our human language lacks the sophistication with which to properly describe our Lord.  Our powerful, loving, forgiving God who is full of grace, compassion, empathy, and understanding.  Our Lord who invented these concepts to which we haphazardly assign empty words nearly devoid of the eternal meaning intended to be behind them.  Sure, they are useful in conversation, but I’m not sure that they really even scratch the surface when we use them to attempt to describe our God.

We don’t even have the capacity to totally grasp the goodness of God mentally.  And we certainly don’t have the capacity to be in “control” of our lives.  It’s only when we give up that control to God that we can even begin to understand what that means.

We don’t grow in our faith by narrowing our field of vision to things we can control.  We don’t nourish our souls by clenching our fist more tightly around our limited idea of faith.  We don’t do ourselves any favors by pretending like it’s our job to save the universe and everyone in it.  We may want to, or even feel that we should be able to… but we just can’t… and thank goodness that’s a job reserved for our Savior.

And we’re not admitting defeat when we recognize our limitations.  Quite the opposite, actually.  In humility, we must take our rightful seat at the table that was set out for us before the beginning of time.  We must trust God to be who he promises to be, and know that when we commit to him faithfully in the limited roles he has prepared for us, that he intends to use those for both the advancement of his kingdom, and our own great inner peace and joy… purposes for which he felt the need to create us in the first place… to share in his transcendent peace and inexpressible joy.

Although it’s not always easy, I’m glad to let God worry about the big stuff, and I can walk with him in faith and maybe even get something little done once in a while.  We just bought some desperately needed new tires for the car, and I went to Santa Rosa last Saturday to get some more repairs done.  Santa Rosa is a bigger town about an hour’s drive from Gracias, and it’s of special significance because both the clinic and the school just opened operations there.  The clinic has a small office there now, and the school is going to have an elementary school there next year.  Pray that God guides these efforts, and that while his love is spread through healthcare and education, that not only bodies and minds would grow, but that souls and spirits would grow closer to him.

I think our family came to Honduras under the guise of humanitarian efforts, and that’s wonderful… but God has shown us over and over that there’s more that he has for us all.  These earthly lives are important and meaningful, but they’re merely a dim reflection of the eternal glory he intends to share with us.

In Luke 7, John the Baptist sent a couple of his disciples to ask Jesus if indeed he was the one they had been waiting for.  Jesus told the men, with a sort of oddly-ending crescendo, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.”  As though the healing of the natural body, even the raising of human life from the dead was somehow less impressive than this idea that hope can be given to the hopeless when we proclaim the peace of Christ to their souls.  The body won’t last.  Hope is forever.  The message of the hope of Christ gives us the peace we can’t possibly wrap our minds around, and the joy we can’t possibly keep to ourselves.  There is indeed much that God would like to bless us with in this lifetime, but there is also an incomparable promise that we’ll just have to wait a bit longer for him to fulfill when we finally see him face to face.

It’s 2018.  Do You Know Where Your Faith Is?

It’s 2018. Do You Know Where Your Faith Is?

I was talking to a fellow teacher here, and I told her that I thought there were two kinds of missionaries in this world.  There’s the kind that is born with the intrinsic nature to follow Christ and spread the good news of his gospel far and wide, wherever they are led.  And then there’s the second kind, which includes me.  This is the kind of person that God looks at and says, “Yikes.  I’m gonna have to ship this one off to a different country if I ever want them to learn anything.”

So whatever the reason, here we are back in Honduras.  And it’s wonderful.  It was so, so good to see friends and family over Christmas, and we’re missing them especially hard right now, but it’s also refreshing to be back at it.  To see the students again, to visit Celaque again, to see our new friends here again (which aren’t so new anymore), to realize that maybe our Spanish is just a notch better than it was a few months ago, and to watch in amazement as our children grow and learn and play in an entirely different culture than we’re used to.

One of the new ways Sam loves to play is to take old food containers of various kinds (ketchup bottles, juice cartons) and fill them up with water from the hose… unfiltered water.  Sometimes he likes to add some soap to the mixture and leave them sitting around.  Yes, this is foreshadowing.

The other day, there was a juice carton sitting out on the kitchen counter.  I lifted it up and felt something in it.  Wondering how long it had been sitting out, I decided it would probably be fine to put it back in the fridge.  Later that night, I had some chips and spicy salsa for a snack, but I had neglected to pour myself a drink.  Needing something fast, I grabbed the juice carton out of the fridge and dumped a bunch of it into my mouth.  I swallowed half of it immediately before noticing that something was amiss.  This tasted less like juice than it did like soapy water.  What to do?  In another brilliant decision, I swallowed the other half.  So far, no adverse effects, but I guess we’ll see.

Our expectations often let us down.  When our expectations of relatively superficial things in the world get confused, we drink soapy bacteria water.  When our expectations of other-worldly, eternal things get confused, the consequences can be devastating.  It is absolutely critical in this life that we are aware of exactly where we put our faith and what expectations that sets for both this life and the next.

If you’ve been let down by your government or your leaders, it’s because you have some level of hope, trust, expectation, or faith in them.  If you’ve been let down by a parent or a sibling or a child or a boss or a coworker or a mentor, the same is true.  But if you feel as though you’ve been let down by God, that’s ok, but it’s different in this case… it’s just that he has something more to teach you.

Fortunately or unfortunately, this past week has shown that God has more to teach us all, regardless of what country we find ourselves in.  The thoughtless words of the American president are disappointing and deplorable, to say the least, and the political situation in Honduras remains tense, with indications of continued unrest.  If I were God, this certainly isn’t the way I would do things.  But I drink soapy bacteria water, so I guess it’s a good thing I’m not God.  Something tells me his plans are far better than any that I could put together myself.

And I’ve seen signs already that this is true.  The initial political unrest in Honduras gave us an excellent setting in the classroom in which to discuss our need NOT to put our ultimate hope and faith in worldly leaders.  The American president’s comments have again highlighted that and given me opportunities to have very transparent conversations with students… mutually beneficial conversations we may not have had otherwise.  Do the benefits outweigh the costs?  Certainly not right now, but we are in the middle of an eternal story which is long from over.  God is doing something we do not understand.  He is using the negative of the world to build a path to redemption.  We just have to acknowledge it and give in… in faith.

God doesn’t work like us.  This isn’t just a way to try to explain the things of God that we don’t understand.  It’s a real and defining characteristic of his divine nature.  If we had to believe in him, there would be no room for faith.  If he worked exactly the way we expected him to, there would be no room for awe.  If he didn’t have to go on a long and arduous journey to seek us out, there would be no room for joy when we find each other.

Furthermore, the Christian life is a proactive one, not a reactive one.  Constantly responding to all the negative inputs of the world is no way to live.  It’s like only making decisions when a salesman comes to your door.  When they present to you a problem you didn’t know you had so you’ll buy their product you didn’t know you needed, you’re being reactive.  You’re missing all the beautiful and real moments in life when some outside force isn’t telling us about some new imaginary problem.  There’s a better way.  It’s allowing yourself to be informed by the goodness of the Holy Spirit every moment of every day.  Then, when disappointing news comes along, it can’t gain a foothold in your life, because there’s no room for sadness to take over when your soul is filled with the peace and joy of Jesus.

So where do you put your ultimate faith?  Do you put it in the words of your political leaders?  Don’t.  Do you put it in the actions of your fellow countrymen?  Sooner or later, they will let you down.  Do you put it in a guy who drinks soapy bacteria water?  I sure hope not.

It’s ok to hope and expect and pray for your government, your countrymen, and your brothers and sisters, but it’s critical that we don’t put our ultimate faith in them.  That must be reserved for Christ.  That must be reserved for the one who laid down his life for us and would do it again, but doesn’t need to!  It must be reserved for the one who loves us with his entire eternal being, who created us in this world just so we could share in his joy.  Our faith must be poured out to the one who cradled us in his arms before we were even a thought in our mothers’ minds.  Our heavenly father is there to give us his peace and joy in the face of anything and everything going on in our lives.  He not only walked in our flesh and promises to be with us always, but he also experiences our difficulties with us, through the loving and powerful presence of his Holy Spirit.

There is no other God like him.  Praise his holy name.  May your ultimate faith rest in him alone.

A Man’s Reach

A Man’s Reach

So 2017 turned out to be the most difficult year of my life… BY FAR.  If you had told me exactly what I was going to need to do to get through the year, I really may have chosen a different path.  However, that does not mean I regret it; rather, the opposite is true.  I’m so glad it was exactly as it was.  I’m filled with joy at the opportunities for growth that were put in front of myself and my family.  I’m overwhelmed by peace as I look back on how God sought to use this year to bring me and my family closer to him.  More and more, I think that this life is less about what we accomplish, and more truly about our journeys of progress toward the heart of our creator.

You’ve probably heard Robert Brown’s quote that “… a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”  The Bible has its own, albeit differently faceted, version of this sentiment in 1 Corinthians 15:19: “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.”

I really like talking about our God in a way that indicates his desire to bring heaven to us on earth… right here and now.  But the fact is that that isn’t the whole story.  As long as we remain on this earth, there will always be unimaginable and inaccessible glory that can only be revealed to us in heaven.  It’s too much for this earth.  It’s too much for our mortal minds to comprehend.

What we do have now is the journey toward that glory.  And the journey toward a goal isn’t always easy, and it doesn’t always look like we want it to.  It’s hard, and messy, and we don’t know what the outcome is going to be.  But then, doesn’t that make the goal so much more precious when it is reached?  God’s glory is our ultimate goal, and we can only do our best to work toward it in this lifetime.

But we have an all-powerful advantage in that work… his Spirit is here to help us.  However messy the journey, he is there to help us, even to carry us, along on the journey.  We just need to ask for his help.  When God’s heavenly aspirations for our lives exceed our grasp, his Spirit is there to guide them back into reach.  If only we humble ourselves and admit our need for help, it will be there in abundance.

So for as difficult as this year has been, it’s taught me to be ok asking for help.  That’s such a big part of the plan for our lives, that it’s absolutely essential.

And as we look toward the future, we’re gonna need to ask for more help.  We are now making plans to return to Honduras for the 2018-2019 school year.  From what we can discern, that’s where God wants us… so that’s where we’re gonna be.

So guess what… it’s time to ask for more help… first from God, and then from you.  This is where we say, “We could not do this without the financial support of our donors,” which is true, but really means we want to ask you to prayerfully consider giving us your money.  But for what?  It’s really for flights, insurance, rent, groceries, utilities, and snickers bars, among other things.  There are many good reasons why that we could explain, but let me just give you a couple quick stories about some real students.

One day, I was teaching 11th grade chemistry, and it was going particularly well.  Students were engaged and asking relevant questions about the new material we were covering.  At the end of class, one young lady honestly admitted, “Mister… I actually wasn’t going to pay attention today, but then it was just so interesting.”  Awesome… I suppose I’ll take that as a compliment.  So that’s just to say, that there are really moments in the classroom when the subject matter comes alive and gets people excited about learning.  If we can do that with Chemistry, then I trust that God has big things to communicate to these students through me, and I plan to keep at it.

Another day at lunch, I was talking to a couple young men from 10th grade biology, and we had what I thought was kind of a fun conversation about some new technology in the field of biology, and the underlying implications as technology advances and brings up new ethical questions for mankind to consider.  I finished my lunch and went on my way.  Then the next day, one of them asked me, “Mister, can we talk again at lunch another day?”  Yes, yes we can.  I took that as a huge compliment.  Starting with the class material, now we’re forming a relationship and just looking to spend time together, without an agenda.

That’s legit… that is the beginning of the kind of relationship Jesus wants with us.  No agenda, just more of him.  This is the kind of thing that was happening in John 1 when a couple disciples are following Jesus around for no real reason, and he’s like “Hey, what do you want?”  They say, “Um, well, I mean… where are you staying?”  Good one, guys.  Way to play it cool.  At this point (probably truly before this point), Jesus recognizes that they just want to be around him, and he says, “Great, come with me and you’ll see.”

So I want to hang out with Jesus more.  And I think he wants me to hang out with my students some more.  I think he wants me to show them his love some more.  And I even think that in doing so, Jesus is gonna spend some more time with all of us, and that sounds pretty cool to me.

And Stephanie has continued to be an absolute blessing to the people around her.  Her work at the clinic has been extremely helpful to the Honduran staff every day, as well as to the brigades that come into town, and there’s five weeks of them coming up in January and February.  It’s busy, but it’s really pretty awesome to see from this side.  And there have been at least three major medical needs among the American staff just during the time we’ve been there already, where her experience has brought not only the right answer to the problem, but also comfort and security to those involved.  My own bedside manner is somehow not as much of a blessing to people.

So… here’s the scoop.  We have approximately the same budget for next year as this current year, although it’s a little less because we got some house set-up stuff out of the way.  I’m not gonna put our budget on here, just because I think it can be misinterpreted without context, but I would gladly have a conversation with anyone about it.  If you feel uncomfortable giving for any reason, don’t… that’s ok.  We still want you to be involved with our lives through these updates and in other ways, and we ask for your prayer.  Through you, God provided basically the exact amount we have needed for this year, and if he’s in this (which I do believe he is), I’d faithfully and graciously expect the same thing for the next school year.

To give, you can follow the links on this site or go right to, and follow the instructions to give there.  You can sign up for a small recurring donation, which would be awesome, or you can give a one-time donation, which would also be awesome.  You can also mail a check made out to “Modern Day” to PO Box 535578, Grand Prairie, TX 75053, including a note indicating it’s for us.  And remember, the GOP wants you to give today so you can take the deduction in 2017 instead of missing it in 2018.  Don’t look at me like that… I didn’t pass the law.  I’m just the messenger.  If you want to talk to a real messenger, though, maybe consult your tax professional, because, for better or worse, that whole thing is kinda crazy.

Whatever you end up doing, thank you so much for reading this and for being there for us.  We love you because God first loved us, and we continue to strive to follow him on this wonderful journey toward his glory.