What a whirlwind past few days. I just got back from Tegucigalpa, Honduras this week for a quick mission trip. It was fantastic. One thing I like about these short trips is that you get a lot of bang for your buck. The tough part is, it is non-stop moving the whole time you’re there!
We arrived in Teguc on Thursday last week around lunch. As soon as we grabbed our bags we went to the worksite where the men would be. We wanted to get a quick assessment of the work that needed to be done. If you have been on a trip like this before, you know that plan flexibility is the name of the game. This one was no different. A large chunk of the work we were looking to do didn’t get approved by the city, so we didn’t have the permits yet. Enter plan B. Which was breaking up concrete and breaking down concrete walls.
The job site is really quite interesting. The goal of the site is to be a church for those we’re called to look after…the poor, widows, orphans, drunks, prostitutes, etc. It’s in a not so great area of town, which was the full intention when buying the building initially. Over the next 4 months, they’ll be transforming this warehouse into a church/recover center complete with dorms for housing those in need of shelter. They’ve already built an indoor soccer field there complete with artificial turf.
Thursday afternoon was spent delivering water to people in the Villa Nueva community. For just $75, we had a large water tanker truck show up that provides about fifty 55-gallon drums of water. We distributed water to those who needed it. It was amazing to see the need for simple necessities such as clean water. The government supplies these water trucks once per month and water can be purchased at a cost of ~$3/barrel. Unfortunately, many people run out of water and some can’t afford it at all. The living conditions we saw were harsh.
That evening , we were back at the hotel. We stayed at the Humuya Inn. I would in no way call our accommodations “roughing” it. We had a few in our group that had never been on a foreign mission trip before. I got the sense that they were a little concerned that we hadn’t accomplished much. I tried to reassure them that we’d get in all the work we could handle. I’m happy to say, they weren’t disappointed.
Friday morning started off with a bang. The guys were busting concrete by 8 am and the girls were off to clean two of the schools. I don’t think I’ve worked that hard in a long, long time. We were using 3 pound hammers and sledge hammers to bust the concrete. By 9:30, most of us had hand cramps and had to pry our fingers away from the tools. Lunch arrived about noon. None of us had to be told twice to take a break. The afternoon brought an electric jack hammer (which was much needed) and more ear pounding, shoulder aching sledge hammering for the guys. The girls headed over to the House Home to do a bible lesson with the kids.
The house home is an orphanage of sorts. 13 kids are there full time along with a house mom. The kids range in age from 5 to 13. These are some of the most well behaved, loving kids you’ll ever meet.
After we finished for the day with the concrete busting, we ran back to the hotel, showered and headed to the house home to meet the girls. We had dinner with the kids and got to spend some time just hanging out with them. They spoke a different language that most of us couldn’t understand…but laughter and love transcended language barriers.
Saturday brought more of the same for the guys. We worked all day breaking up concrete, breaking down walls and started putting up the foyer wall in the church. The girls helped put on a women’s conference and spent more time with the house home kids.
Saturday night we went out to feed the homeless, drunks and prostitutes. We hit the streets about 10pm. Let me explain to you the prostitute situation. There are about 1200 of them in Tegucigalpa. The vast majority (like 99%) are males that are cross dressers. Many of them take hormones. My understanding is that a lot of them aren’t from Tegucigalpa, but are from smaller villages/towns all over Honduras. They’re outcasts there so they come to the “big city” to try to make it.
Esteban Elvir, the director of POI on the ground in Honduras, has a heart the size of Honduras. To see the way he loved on these people literally brought me to tears. Hugging these people, picking them up off the ground, LITERALLY giving one man the shirt off his back. To see the way these people looked, smelled and acted contrasted to the way Esteban and others from POI were treating them was amazing. They didn’t see the exterior, but saw the soul underneath.
While we’re on the subject of Esteban, let me tell you a bit about his vision. He envisions brining these people to the church we’re working on. Running vans early Sunday morning to pick them up. Letting them stay in the dorms that will be built so they’ve got a warm place to stay. He understands that he won’t change them overnight. That he can’t force them into a change of lifestyle and an acceptance of Christ. But he knows that if they stay, he’ll have opportunities. Opportunities to share with them. Opportunities to show them love. And at some point, they’ll recognize it for what it is.
When we finally got back to the hotel in the wee hours of Sunday morning, we were exhausted but energized.
I got the honor of preaching in church on Sunday. Esteban was the translator. The service was great and afterwards we walked across the street and prayed for the “warehouse” that is soon to be the church as well as the people that would attend and the staff that would lead it. We followed that up with a quick soccer game in the indoor soccer field. It was a handful of us from the trip against the house home kids. I don’t know the final score, but I can tell you that they ran circles around us.
We hit the mall for lunch and bought a few things for the house home kids. We went back to the house home and handed out the gifts. It was awesome watching them open the gifts. When I say gifts, I’m talking socks, jeans, tshirts…nothing like our kids want as “gifts”. But they were all so happy to get them. They opened the gifts one at a time. Everyone cheered as a gift was opened.
We had a tough time saying goodbye to the kids. It’s amazing that after spending only a couple of hours with them, you get so attached. I guess that’s what happens when it’s mixed in with the other activities that break down some of the walls in our lives.
We had dinner at an authentic Honduran restaurant and it was back to the hotel. Monday brought the airport, which brought goodbyes, flights and customs. Quite bittersweet. Anxious to get back to my family, to love on them, to tell them what had happened, to start life up again as a different person than when I left. But also missing those that we left behind. A piece of us will always be there…and a piece of Teguc with us.
How could this be, how could three months seem like a lifetime? (Well, for Avery, it is a lifetime.) The past three months have gone by so fast and I have been overjoyed watching our newest addition grow and change. Avery Grace is such a blessing and we all love having her in our family. Her smile is contaigous and on her face all the time. She is the happiest baby. I was anxious to get a few pictures of her sweet smile…enjoy!
I was even more proud because I got to show her off in St. Louis this past weekend. My Grandpa Platten had his 90th birthday on Sunday and we had a fantastic time visiting with family. Of course, we missed Hayden because he was in Honduras, but Julie was a huge help in juggling the kids. We stayed at John and Margie’s and were treated with John’s famous french toast! I finally got to go to Fast Eddie’s in Alton, IL, as a kick off to the weekend. The ride over catching up with Grandma Platten was a highlight for me. The band was good and the food was great (and cheap!). Saturday was the big party at Lou’s blast-from-the-past-pad. No words can describe the decor…I felt like I was on a movie set for an 80′s themed movie. Not only was it fun to spend the evening catching up and re-living memories, but the Cardinals won their game! Imo’s topped off the weekend with lunch on Sunday before driving back. Everyone did a great job honoring my Grandpa. We are all so blessed to have such a wonderful man in our lives.
Fall is here! We are loving the fall weather and have started our daily search of pumpkins. The kids love driving around neighborhoods looking for "spooky" decorations and spotting pumpkins. There was a small festival at the Agricenter two weeks ago and we enjoyed the hay ride, pumpkin painting, and cotton candy! I’ve got several more fun fall recipes and crafts lined up for the kids too. Haley is a great leaf collector- she picks up flowers, leaves, rocks, and any other "treasure" she can find…for me to hold. Of course, Trey is right there with her marveling at the things she finds. He’s more likely to go for the rocks and sticks. They are too cute when they are getting along- which is most of the time. But, don’t let me fool you. They are definitely brother and sister and need space from each other. Haley cracks me up, "Tell Trey to stop looking at me!" "Tell Trey to stop talking to me!" He intentionally aggravates her by repeating "huh?" or "Haley?" It amazes me how young it starts.
Last weekend was traveling whirlwind! Hayden took off Friday so we could begin our trek around the southeast headed to Kentucky to see Justin LeGrand marry the love of his life, Erin. We definitely made the most of each moment:
First stop, was to explore the Casey Jones museum in Jackson, TN. We did the choo-choo boogie (Thanks, Mickey Mouse) as we ate lunch at the buffet, learned all there is to know about Casey Jones- more than the Grateful Dead had taught us through their song- and aced the quiz at the end of the tour. Haley was overwhelmed by all the options at the buffet, then again in the candy store when Hayden let the kids pick 3 pieces of candy. Oh, the choices! The kids loved climbing on the train and ringing the bell. Ms. Norma, the local historian, became our new best friend and told Hayden and I to study as we went through the museum because she was going to quiz us at the end. Well, putting our two heads together we aced Ms.Norma’s test and won a prize! It was so cute- she announced our Casey Jones IQ to all the customers in the gift shop as she presented our gifts- brand new Casey Jones writing tablets. Haley was kept busy for the rest of the trip practicing her letters and drawing an endless amount of pictures for us.
After staying the night as the Caswell’s and eating an incredible breakfast, we were off to Kentucky. We made a stop to the fourth-largest city in Kentucky, Owensboro, to visit the Kirkland Clans. It was great to catch up with John, Bailey, Drew and Morgan and to re-live some college memories. We know they are great friends because we weren’t too embarrassed to ask to do laundry the minute we walked it- we had to wash car seat covers and clothes due to some diaper shortcomings.
The wedding was beautiful and the reception was a blast. I was blown away with the classy, personal touches Erin put on everything. The wildflowers she had planted for this special occasion on her farm decorated each table, tastes of South Carolina throughout, and strung lights to set the tone for an exciting and intimate night. Haley and Trey started dancing immediately and only paused to grab a quick bite and sips of Sprite. Well, I take that back, Trey had a slightly rough night- all the dancing and spinning took toll on his stomach and he threw up all over one of Justin’s fraternity brothers and the table. And Haley danced till she dropped. Other than that slight hiccup in the evening we had an absolute blast celebrating the start of a great marriage for Justin and Erin- Congrats! (and thanks for a great weekend) I must say, the Platten’s know how to tear up a dance floor! It was so fun having KJ and Jason around for the weekend. It was sad to say good-bye, we miss them so much.
We’ve been slacking a bit on blog posts so we’ll be doing a couple this week to catch up. The weekend of September 16-18 was a bit crazy. It started of simple enough on Friday, just relaxing around the house. Haley (aka, Pocahontas) and Trey were loving the weather and enjoying popsicles outside. We couldn’t help but hang out with them. Once they finally went to bed, though, the packing began.
Saturday morning started off with a bang. We headed to the Diabetes Walk. As many of you know, Laura was diagnosed in college with late onset juvenile diabetes. She did shots for a while and soon got on an insulin pump (which she lovingly calls her "pancreas in her pocket"). What a blessing the pump has been in regulating her sugar.
As soon as she found out her parents, and especially her Dad, took on the fight against Diabetes with a vengeance. He learned all he could and was instrumental in getting Kroger to be a corporate sponsor of the Diabetes Walk in Memphis. He fund-raised like a madman and even went so far as to be on the board of the ADA. Meanwhile, Laura and I took most of that for granted.
Last Christmas we vowed to fund-raise more than him for the Diabetes Walk. And that we did. Laura set up a team called "Just My Type". A handful of folks were on the team and Laura got to work raising money. Not only did Laura beat her dad in fundraising, but she was actually the top individual fundraiser in Memphis. I couldn’t be prouder of her!
Once the walk was over, we quickly headed off to Millington for the air show. Our financial advisor, Pickler Wealth Management, had a tent set up in the VIP section. Even though it was naptime, the kids’ attention was held. Unfortunately, it didn’t hold long enough for the Blue Angels – we had to leave a little early. I’d hoped to get some pictures of the Blue Angels. I did get some pretty cool pictures of a bomber.
From the air show, we went to the land in Millington. As an aside, we really need to come up with a name for the land in Millington. Anyway, the kids got the nap they needed. We rounded out Saturday watching a movie and eating popcorn.
Sunday morning we were back up early. We really enjoy staying Saturday nights in Millington, but that means an extra 30 minute drive to church on Sunday. When you consider we’re typically a little late for church even living 10 minutes away, the extra 30 minute drive is tough. We were finishing loading the car. Haley and Trey were hanging out on the porch. All of a sudden, Haley’s sick to her stomach.
After a massive cleanup effort by Laura (way to go, babe!), we were off to church. Laura ended up taking Haley home and coming back after church was over to pick me up.
Sunday also marked our 7 year wedding anniversary. It seems like we were married yesterday and a hundred years ago all at the same time. I couldn’t be happier spending my life with my best friend.
My birthday was Monday the 19th, but I got my present from Laura and the kids on Sunday night. An electric smoker! They gave it to me early so that I could use it on my birthday. And boy did I! I smoked a Boston Butt on Monday that was absolutely unreal. I even woke up at 3:30 Monday morning to put it in the smoker. I think I just might enter BBQ fest next year!
(and I threw in a picture of Avery in her game day gear just for grins)