We’re back in the US, and two years went by in a snap. It’s a little like waking up from a dream… a really vivid, meaningful, and beautiful one.
With a few weeks left to go in Honduras, Stephanie flew back early to be with her Grandma who is very sick. And so the great experiment began. One day, Sam said, “I was worried about it just being us here.” Presumably, by “us,” Sam meant the three of us… Evie, Sam, and myself. To be honest, I was very worried, too, likely more so than Sam… However, luckily for both of us, “us” in Honduras means something different. Now it’s unfair to make generalizations about the people in any country, but there are clear differences in the societal norms between these two places I have lived, so I am speaking generally, not to accuse or celebrate one geographically distinct group of people, but rather to point out differences that we all can possibly learn from if we choose to do so. Students have babysat my children. They have helped them find me after school and put Evie’s hair in a ponytail. They have said hello to them. They have smiled at them. The genuineness of community here is not taught through a lecture at school… it is passed on through the example of your grandma, grandpa, aunt, uncle, mother, father, cousin, brother, sister, all of which are willing to put aside their personal concerns at a moment’s notice in order to help you with whatever it is you need, especially if that something is making you feel bad or sad or mad. I had challenges in Honduras every day. I usually had more help than I knew what to do with. My cultural experience tells me to tell other people to leave me alone, and I’ll handle it, even if it’s awful. Cultural experience in Honduras doesn’t let the individual off the hook so easily, which can be extremely humbling, especially if you’re as self-proclaimedly self-sufficient as people like me.
I have actually intentionally avoided people so that I could avoid accepting their help. How messed up is that? It’s just that if you tell people a minor problem you are having, they will make it their life’s mission to solve it for you. For instance, if I can’t find butter on my own at the store, I’m not going to buy butter. I’ll go home and make something that doesn’t require butter, or more likely, I’ll go buy food at a restaurant. But if someone sees me looking for butter, and asks what I’m looking for, then I’m screwed. If that store doesn’t have the kind of butter that I’m looking for, it’s entirely possible that this person is going to walk to other stores with me until we find that butter. This makes me extremely uncomfortable… both because I’m messed up, and because it undermines the independence that I’ve been trained to value so highly, even above the relationship that another human being is offering to me, and that’s the part that’s really messed up.
But by accepting some help, we made it through the end of the school year and the packing and the traveling. Through it all, I was reminded that the people who surrounded me in Honduras are really the right kind of people.
At the end of my last class with the seniors, I asked them if I could pray for them. Bad idea… I couldn’t. I choked out a few words and wrapped it up. They applauded. I do believe in high school, I would have just felt awkward and then made fun of the teacher later, but they met my vulnerability with applause. The right kind of people applaud vulnerability.
Then on the last day of school, the 9th graders threw me a surprise party. Now I kind of saw it coming based on some stuff they had been saying before, but when they came to me and told me that they had broken some stuff in my room and I needed to come immediately, I got mad… really mad. And I scolded them the whole way to the classroom, where I switched to a different kind of mad… being upset with myself for getting duped. Eventually, I mellowed out and it was awesome. The right kind of people take your bad and give you good.
Then on the day we were scheduled to fly back, I didn’t feel so good. I’ve heard about people dealing with illness while traveling before, and it always sounded like the worst thing in the world. I can confirm now… it is. We got to the airport and I figured some coffee would set me straight. And it did… after it made me puke in the airport bathroom garbage can, because all the stalls were full. A nice stranger handed me paper towels. The right kind of people hand puking strangers paper towels. But it didn’t stop there. After getting through security, we had a while to wait, because we had gotten to the airport early. I spent most of the time sleeping or trying to sleep close to or inside another airport bathroom. It was as awful as it sounds. But luckily, we were traveling with six other people who were able to take turns watching Sam and Evie while I took turns in and out of consciousness and the airport bathroom. By the power of the almighty alone, the worst of it wore off by the time we took flight, but the flights weren’t exactly fun. I’m still shaking the effects of that virus 4 days later. Trust me, Honduran viruses are strong. So thank God I had friends there to travel with. The right kind of people buy your kids drinks and toys when you’re indisposed.
We all have the opportunity to be the right kind of people every day. It is not dependent on our birthplace or ethnicity or living situation or current country of residence, but rather on our intentional choice to be someone who lives for others instead of living for oneself. I spent 31 years living for myself. I’ve spent 3 years trying to live for others. It is perhaps appropriate or not quite enough to swap those numbers when quantifying the overall amount of joy I have experienced while living through them.
And that joy may seem to come from within, and it sort of does… but specifically, it comes from the place within where God himself implanted it. And it is only expressed because of the other people God has placed in my life.
But the world around us does not know this joy. The world around us can choke out this joy.
Today is actually the 10th anniversary of the coup in Honduras, where one government was removed, and another took its place. So on this day, I’d like to point out two things.
First, Honduras is not known to me by the anniversaries of political unrest. It is known to me by the beauty of the mountains and the trees and the rivers. It is known to me by the great coffee served with great frequency. But primarily, it is known to me by the kindness, empathy, genuineness, and beauty of the people I came to know there, who redefined for me the meaning of the word community. I share with the hope that it will be known to you in a similar way.
Second, the kingdom of heaven does not deem significant anniversaries marked by the passage of time. It’s completely arbitrary, really, to say that some particular time is significant because the earth has revolved around the sun exactly ten times since it happened. Now, there’s nothing wrong with celebrating a birthday or a wedding anniversary or whatever, but let’s keep in mind that these human observances are minutia in the grand story of God’s ongoing redemption of the world. Tick marks on the wall lose their power on the day the prisoner is set free. When it seems the world and all its negative influences and horrible situations have power over us, we need to remember that we serve one who has overcome the world. The bad things in life aren’t “punishment” from him or things he “allows to happen,” but rather they are an indication of the distance to which we have intentionally stepped away from him and his love and his perfect plan for our lives.
In John 16:33, Jesus tells his disciples, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
There aren’t just problems in Honduras. There are problems in the United States… there are problems in every country in the world.
And there aren’t just problems in other people’s lives. There are problems in our lives… every one of us. No matter how debilitating or overwhelming those problems seem, we need to continue to choose to have faith that God is near, whether we can feel him or not. Sometimes we will… sometimes we won’t. But luckily, we serve a God whose presence isn’t subject to the current state of our emotions, but rather dictated by an enduring promise from the all-powerful.
In the last half of the last verse in Matthew (28:20), Jesus tells his disciples, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
There is no place and no time and no feeling beyond the reach of our God. There is no global nor personal crisis he can’t transform and redeem. He does, however, leave the decision to us to either reject him, or to allow his loving and healing presence into our lives, day by day, moment by moment. It’s what I keep trying to do, and it’s my prayer for you.
So pray for God’s presence in your life, and please pray for God’s peace in Honduras.