Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Lessons of Darkness




Brian watching one of the guys.














Busy classrooms.




 



3 students at a time.








Juanco!









Nightstrike Honduras.







Esther post - Sharpie.








Hector (in white cap) helping one of the guys.






Burning metal.






The classrooms.






Brian James riding a horse at Parque Obrero.  He will never be mistaken for a Honduran.





The dump.  A little piece of hell on earth.






Doug Winn gives a bag of water and some bread to one of the men working in the dump.





Jon, Tony, and Doug with some of the people that live in the market district.





Doug and Jon with 2 of the street kids.







Tony getting ready to start building some classrooms.






It's hard to believe another month has passed since my last post.  I had planned to try make updates once a week but that obviously isn't happening.  Time seems to slip away from us here.

So here we are having successfully passed the 3 month mark in Honduras.  Our 90 day  passport stamps have expired but we still don't have our residency papers, so we had to pay $80 for a 30 day extension.  Of course the woman at the UN says our papers won't be complete for another 60 days, so I guess we'll paying again next month.  Hmmmmm.  $80 x how many foreign missionaries came to Honduras this year x 2 -3 months.  Sounds like a lot of additional revenue to me.  Not that I'm cynical, or skeptical, or anything.

The last month has been a busy one.  The Micah Technical School is officially up and running and to all of our surprise it is the welding classes that came first.  Brian had spent much time praying about how, when, and where to get this all going and he kept feeling the Lord telling him to look up.  Look up?  What in world did that mean?  Then one night while me and my boys were reading Brian bursts through the door and says "I think we're supposed to start the school with welding and put it on the upper terrace at The Micah House."  I looked at him, said "Okay".   He shut the door and we continued to read.  Two weeks later 3 welding booths and 2 tanks of explosive gas were happily living on the terrace at Micah.  Requirements to be a student in the program include attending a church every Sunday and being involved in that church, attending a Monday night discipleship class, actively looking for employment, not requesting any food or financial assistance from Micah, and signing a contract to abide by the guidelines until the training is complete.  15-20 guys show up on Monday nights to study in Ecclesiastes.  How perfect is that?  To take the wisdom from this book and teach them that seeking after worldly gain through whatever means if futile, and then apply it to their lives is very powerful.  These are some pretty rough guys, most have been in gangs and used drugs, some have killed, but the Word of God is giving them hope that they do have worth and that life could be different.

Classes are already full with 6 of the older Micah guys taking welding as an elective, and 12 guys from the streets coming in the afternoon.  Once they have learned how to make decent welds the first practical project will be building the carpentry classrooms on the other side of the terrace.  We were given some very good advice from the Drew-zone to "fail cheaply".  Of course we don't plan to fail, but the general idea is to get started using as little money as possible and then expand as necessary.  Building the welding and carpentry classrooms on the top of the Micah project is a perfect example of that.  Using real estate that's already paid for we'll be able to get both parts of the program up and running for about $12,000.  That includes all of the equipment to build the classrooms and the tools - welding equipment, saws, etc, - and the curriculum.  Very nice. 

Juan Carlos, former gang member and now child of God (I think I'll give him the acronym FGMCOG), was made the shop foreman.  In addition to learning how to weld, he will receive a wage for working while the other students are in class.  It is such a joy to see the life in his eyes, the look of hope and self worth that is now his countenance.  Please keep him in your prayers.  He could be used mightily by God, but life is not easy and old temptations are everywhere around him.  Pray for him to be protected and keep his focus on the Lord. 

Hector Licona, one of the older Micah guys, spent 3 years learning welding in San Juancito, a small town near Tegucigalpa, and is Brian's assistan teacher.  We have always believed that we are not to be Gringos to the Rescue, but to give Hondurans the tools they need to take the ball and run with it, that "teach a man to fish" thing.  Hector has a huge heart for the guys on the streets and when the Lord indicates the time is right he will take over the welding portion of the school. 

The Friday night street ministry is expanding too.  We now have some very poor mommas showing up with their little kids.  Esther is 3 years old and a little firecracker.  Her smile and laughter can melt anyone.  Her mom is 6 months pregnat with a second child, lives near the soccer field, and obviously is very destitute.  Another woman started bringing her kids, between 4-8 years old, and last night Stephen showed up.  We met Stephen in March 2008 outside Dunkin Donuts in the Centro and invited him and his little brother Junior in to have breakfast with us.  We've been wondering about them since we arrived and it was great to reconnect with him.  He is 10 right now, so a little too young for Micah but we are hoping that someday he'll be able to join us. 

The last 2 Friday nights, however, have become increasingly intense.  There is a sense of danger in the air, a feeling like we are on the verge of a violent outbreak.  Last week there was a shooting just outside the soccer field, and last night the tension was palpable.  At one point it was me and another woman volunteer trapped between the bed of the truck and the serving table with 15 street guys crowded around us, pushing and shoving, demanding more tortillas and crema.  I searched frantically over the tops of their heads for some help, but couldn't find any of my guys.  For the first time I was truly afraid and I did not like it.  So, we are cancelling Nightstrike next Friday to meet as a staff and seek from the Lord how to carry this out in a way that is safe for everyone.  We definitely want to keep reaching out to the mommas and little kids, and we are called to reach out to the harder street guys.  But when do you decide you are casting pearls before swine and how do you go about letting certain ones in and keeping certain ones out?

Understand, the soccer field is in a very bad neighborhood.  There are no security guards and you never want to involve the Policia if you can help it.  The parking lot is not secured with a gate so it is impossible to keep people out with a physical barrier.  Most of the street guys regularly consume yellow glue, so they are somewhat crazy, to put it nicely, especially when they've had it taken away from them for 2 hours.  We suspect that most carry some kind of weapon.  Please pray for us over the next week that God would give us some clear direction on how to continue this ministry in a manner that will glorify Him and keep everyone safe. 

Last month we were so very blessed to have Jon Knapp, Doug Winn, and Tony Weber spend a week here.  Tony got to help make some of the first cuts in building the welding class rooms.  Jon was a great to encourage us in this first year as we focus on learning Spanish, growing deep in our relationship with the Lord, and strengthening our family.  And Doug was able to get his eyes and hands finally on what he's been working on for the last year and a half.  Doug said that when he woke up that first morning at home after the trip he laid in bed and cried; he cried because he thought about the kids in the dump and on the streets that don't have a bed or a nice soft pillow to put their hed on, they don't have a box of Apple Cinnamon Cheerios to eat in the morning, and they don't have parents that love and protect them. 

Our Spanish is coming along well.  We have been working with a tutor since December and were finally able to find a tutor for the kids and get their classes started yesterday.  I was really hoping to be given the gift of tongues when we arrived and wake up on November 18th fully fluent, but that ain't hapnin.  So we study, and struggle, and practice, and stumble over words.  Our grammar is horrendous at times, but in general we are able to communicate throughout daily life.  Brian has learned a ton of technical Spanish, where I have learned more of the day to day speaking.  Between the two of us we manage to get through day to day life pretty well.

We both spend quiet time with the Lord and in His word each morning, me inside and Brian in a nice spot he created down by the river.  We are in the trenches of a spritual battle here and are acutely aware of the necessity of staying in the palm of Jesus hand.  Since arriving here we have felt the adversary step up his attack on all front and so we are building a fortress around us with prayer and scripture.  It's really the only safe place, not just for us, but for all believers. 

As for family life, we are finally settling into a set schedule of work at Micah.  Brian works 10-14 hour days M, T, TH, and F  and we are house parents every 4th weekend.  We have Wednesday's off and basically cut off the rest of the world on that day.  The weekends we do not work we may attend the outing with the Micah guys, but are finding that we really cherish the time here at home with just our family.  The boys and I are enjoying great books that we ordered and had the GPCC guys bring with, and Brian and I are beginning to connect again.  The first couple of months here we were so shell shocked that we kind of passed each other in the hall like a couple of zombies.  So things are moving along well, life is beginning to feel "real", and sometimes when we have to make an airport run, we don't even want to get on a plane and come home. 

Something I shared with the guys from GPCC when they were here was the depression I was battling.  It is something I have struggled with my entire life but it had been pretty well under control back in the States with medication and a settled, routine life.  All of the other women missionaries here had warned me that I would become depressed after arriving but I tried to tell myself it wouldn't happen.  Then one day early in January I looked at my bottle of Xanax and the thought went through my head "if I took all of that I would just go to sleep".  I was shocked.  It wasn't like I wanted to die, I just wanted to disappear.  It dawned on me in that instant that I had been on this slow downward spiral since we arrived, sinking into deeper and deeper depression. 

Moving here was not easy.  I never WANTED to be a missionary, but it was clear that this was where the Lord was leading us and I wanted to be obedient.  In my heart and mind, however, I had been wrestling with God all along.  Why did we have to do this?  We gave up everything to come here.  Our house didn't sell and now sits with a foreclosure notice on the door.  We sold most of our possessions other than clothes and some small household items.  I walked away from a great job at Good Sam.  We took our kids away from their lives, their church, their friends, and they were now home sick and lonely.

I was exhausted when we got here and needed absolute quiet in the house during the day. No radio, no tv, no visitors. The mere thought of adding any noise or commotion to my day would send me into a panic. But I also strongly felt that the Lord was telling me to be quiet, to just abide in Him and listen. I complained to Him for hours on end, questioned Him about WHY? Intellectually I knew why, I could see why in the lives of the guys that have been transformed by Micah and believed that we were right in the center of His will. But it seemed so unfair and I was having a spiritual and emotional temper tantrum and was sinking deeper into the pit. Depression is impossible to explain to someone that has never experienced it. The closest picture I can give is that one scene in Spider Man 3 (yes, really) where the black suit is weaving it’s fingers over the top of the man that becomes Venom. That’s how it feels, like this ominous presence taking over your very being. You feel like you have no control over it, it sucks the life out of you, and you eventually just give in to it.

When I shared this with the guys I asked them to have the prayer groups pray for me, that this bond would be broken. I continued to argue and wrestle with God each day and then on February 11th I felt the bottom of the pit. The Holy Spirit revealed to me my part in this, how I was harboring anger and bitterness, hanging on to them because I deserved to. I was being prideful and selfish, disrespectful and disobedient. Yes, I had come to Honduras, but I was not serving Him with joy and a heart of love. I was doing it because I felt forced and in that there is no blessing.

I was overcome with remorse and regret and fell on my face and asked for forgiveness. I prayed that the Lord would work in me to hold every thought, word, and action captive to Him and asked others to pray that same thing for me. And the darkness began to disappear. On February 14th I read this from Oswald Chambers:  Sometimes God puts us through the experience and discipline of darkness to teach us to hear and obey Him.  Pay attention when God puts you into darkness, and keep your mouth closed while you are there.  Darkness is the time to listen.  Just listen and obey.  If you talk to other people, you cannot hear what God is saying.  After every time of darkness, we should experience a mixture of delight and humiliation.  We should experience delight for having heard God speak, but mostly humiliation for having taken so long to hear Him.   

Light has come back into my life, I feel happiness and joy again and am able to spread that to the rest of my family. My kids are feeling more hopeful and optimistic about the future here. We have found a great school for them to attend next year, have found a church that feels like home (though nothing will ever replace GPCC), and are looking forward to making our new lives here. It is still difficult, we still miss home, but we are finding a joy and peace in the midst of the struggle.

As always, I want to thank all of you that have been so faithful to support us financially and in prayer. You are the reason we are able to be here and our partners in the foxholes. We could not do this without you.

These are the things we would appreciate prayer for:

• That we will be diligent in our Spanish studies and that our understanding and ability to speak would increase each day.

• That I would continue to seek God with my entire being and no let Satan get a foothold through the depression that I have struggled with.

• That the kids would begin to make friends at Impacto, our new church.

• That we would have wisdom, love, and patience in dealing with the Micah boys and those we minister to on the streets.

• That the Lord would give us physical protection from the very real dangers of the areas we minister in.

• For strength and stamina for Brian as he puts in very long emotionally draining days at Micah.

• For new financial supports to come on board to replace the matching funds and pay for the monthly tuition at the kids school.

• For a good meeting with the head of the Young Presidents Organization here and that a profitable relationship will grow from that. They are the business owners that have the jobs our guys need.

We love you and miss you all and look forward to seeing you in May when we travel home for a 4 week break. May God bless you all as you faithfully seek Him and His will in each of your lives.


To become a financial supporter please go to this link at ACTION:

https://www.gifttool.com/donations/Donate?ID=114&VER=1&LNG=EN&PID=1538&T=N&CC=USD,CAD

Brian makes regular updates to his Facebook page.  Become one of his friends on Facebook!

14 comments:

beckyc said...

Hi Natasha,
Thank you for your blog post. We have had you guys on our minds during this crazy time in your life. My husband Ray and I are friends of the Micah Project, connecting by Jarvin's family and by Tino and Freddy's family. We are also friends with Laurie, who you met with recently. And we've also been struggling with the call to come serve in Honduras.

I can definitely relate to your experience with depression. Unfortunately, you cannot really understand it until you've experienced it yourself. Fortunately, more people are aware of it as it has "come out of the closet" in recent years.

You have experienced a lot of dramatic events recently, so it's not surprising at all that the depression has been acting up. I believe that God made us each with our own degree of tolerance to stress and once we pass that threshold, our bodies react with this condition known as "depression." I truly believe that God can heal us of it, but He often chooses not to. So, we learn to cope. Of course, we thank God for the medications! We learn to recognize the warning signs in others and warn them and/or minister to them.

I'm glad to hear that God is answering your prayers. Don't be surprised if He sends others your way to minister to you, and let them do so!

Blessings,
Becky

beckyc said...

Oops, I forgot to mention! I've been following a blog by Amber, who has a successful feeding ministry. Maybe you guys could get with her and learn from her experiences? Here's her blog
http://amberinhonduras.blogspot.com/

Family of God said...

Becky,

Thanks for your comments. For most of my posts I just write as the Spirit leads. "I" thought that writing about the depression was too personal, and certainly is not what most people expect from a missionary. But part of our ministry here is for me to be as transparent as possible about this journey He has us on. I know that it speaks to someone somewhere.

E-mail me your e-mail address if you want. I'd love to talk to you more about you feeling called to Honduras.

Blessings,

Natasha

beckyc said...

I'm not sure how to find your email address, so I'll contact Brian on Facebook (we are already "friends")

Anonymous said...

Hi Natasha,
I can totally relate to your experiences of depression. It runs in my family and I have been on medication for many years and probably will be until I die. I remember once an identical experience to yours--getting out my son's medication and having this unbidden thought pop into my head--"I could just swallow all this." Praise God for medication and dose adjustments. I often think of the majority of the people in the world who suffer this without relief. Praise God for some positives and some light beginning to shine--may God continue to use you both here and there.
Love, Carol (Ranney)

Carol said...

I didn't mean to be anonymous!!

Jon Knapp said...

Hey Natasha,
We are so proud of you! You guys are being prayed for and loved!

Jon

Ryan and Kimberly Smith said...

Natasha,

My mom (Sue McReynolds) encouraged me to read your blog and keep you in my prayers. Depression has afflicted both me and my sister Kelly over the years and I know what a struggle it can be to "get out of that pit".

The daily prayer and time in the word is SO key in winning that battle. I also found that writing out verses on 3x5 cards or sticky notes and putting them up at various places around the house and in my car was a HUGE help. Always having his word in front of me was necessary on those really difficult days.

Lastly, there were some songs that I would listen to over and over again that helped remind me of God's truth. I don't know what access you have to music there, but here are some songs that I would recommend:

Never Underestimate My Jesus - Relient K
All I Ever Have to Be - Amy Grant
I Believe - Barlow Girl

I will pray for you - specifically that the Lord will give you strength to fight off the enemy's attacks on you and your family, and that He will cover you with His love and assurance.

Aaron Jaramillo said...

God Bless You Natasha.... I am praying for you and your family!

Steve said...

'Tash, Brian and "The Boys" er..."Little Men"....I cannot tell you how much you have inspired me by your faith and obedience and how you have honored me by your transparency and authenticity. I pray for the 4 Wiggs often and have you on my regular list - I have taken your requests on and will intercede by the grace of God on your behalf. I praise our gracious Father and his Son, Jesus Christ, and the His ministering Holy Spirit that he has you in his grip...for I am convinced that neither life nor death, nor angels or principalities, nor language barriers or foreclosures, or anything else can separate you from the Love of our God and Father. I pray that you sense His closeness and his protective gaze, that you know that in spite of all else that tells you otherwise - You have His full attention.

I love the Wiggs family! Blessings, grace, love and peace to you.

Your friend and brother,
Steve

www.annitracy.com said...

Hi! My name is Geoff Pursinger, a reporter for The Tigard Times. I would love to talk to you guys about your mission. What is the best way to contact you? E-mail?

Here's my contact info: gpursinger@commnewspapers.com
(503) 546-0744

Hope to hear from you soon!

www.annitracy.com said...

Hi! My name is Geoff Pursinger, a reporter for The Tigard Times. I would love to talk to you guys about your mission. What is the best way to contact you? E-mail?

Here's my contact info: gpursinger@commnewspapers.com
(503) 546-0744

Hope to hear from you soon!

Jessica said...

We love you Natasha and family. We think of and pray for you daily. Thank you for your transparency so we better know how to pray for you. That is one of the things Matt and I love most about you guys and attracted us to you...you are both so "real"--about your faith and your personal joys and struggles. It is a gift. We love you and can't wait to hear about where the Lord will be teaching and leading you next.

Love Jess and Matt O'Donel

Michelle Crosby said...

TASHA! Holy crow, girl! I just got the email letting us know you had blogged, it was stuck in my spam folder. I praise God for making me sift through those 215 spam emails to find yours. You know I deal with depression too and so absolutely I have your back in prayer over that specifically. I totally concur with Kim that the word of God is MIGHTY to save...so glad to hear that is a priority for you DAILY! I love you girl, you are the real deal and God is using you big, big, BIG time because of it! Keep surrendering. Know that you are not alone, you are so very loved not only by the King of Kings, but by a bunch of His princes and princesses! Love you Living Proof Girl!
Crosby

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