Dear Friends and Family,
August has come and gone in a whirl of new experiences! I’ve got plenty to share!
At the beginning of this month I visited a children’s home ministry called GiveHope2Kids. Jason and Sarah Furrow started the ministry and you can read more about what they do on their website: . They are located about an hour further up the road from Las Mangas, so it was nice to meet other missionaries in this area. Larry and Allison as well as Jason and Sarah are part of a group of missionaries in the area that get together every couple months to pray together. Each couple has their own ministry, but they unite together in praying for each other and for fellowship. http://www.givehope2kids.org/ Well, now on to explain this picture… Jason and Sarah have added various agriculture components to their ministry to become more self-sustainable. They currently have 26 cattle on pasture and milk 5 cows each morning, which supplies their ministry with about 30 liters of milk each day. So while I was there visiting, I got to have a go at milking a cow by hand! I had never milked a cow before, so this was quite an experience. I guarantee you, it’s a lot harder than it looks! They have an intern working with them that has been milking now for almost a year. Needless to say, he was much more efficient!
I just had to share this picture of a Hercules beetle that decided to come sit beside my water bottle. The Hercules beetle is native to the rainforests of Central and South America. These beetles get their name from their strength, some being able to lift over 15 pounds! I honestly could just fill my blog posts every month with all the incredible insects I find here in tropical Honduras. They typically tend to be HUGE! Every time I think I’ve found the strangest or largest insect I’ve ever seen, about a week later I’ll see something new that breaks the record!
Pic: Kirsten, fertilizing an avocado tree at Jason & Sarah’s Speaking of insects, also while I was at Jason & Sarah’s I met Kirsten, an entomologyst studying for her master’s degree at Purdue University. She happened to be visiting as well, helping give ideas and insight for the self-sustainability projects. I have to say, I consider my chance meeting Kirsten a completely God-ordained event! She is an incredibly energetic, purpose-driven Christian that was such an encouragement to me as she shared some of her dreams and God’s calling on her life to use her education in missions work. As I talked with her about her studies I learned that there are various options that make studying for a master’s degree in the agriculture field very do-able. When I graduated from Dordt I never even considered continuing my education, even though my plant science professor and advisor encouraged me to. I put it out of mind, mostly because of my finances. Later on, when I first started searching for opportunites to serve in agricultural missions work, I started realizing how helpful it would be to continue studying. So I applied for an internship at ECHO. When I didn’t get selected for the internship, I decided to just go ahead and DO ag missions work, rather than continue preparing myself and studying for it! Now, after talking with Kirsten, I’ve learned about some research assistantships that make studying very do-able, financially! This was all new news to me! I didn’t even know these type of graduate research jobs existed! So now I am praying about possibly returning to the States next year to apply for a master’s program. I haven’t had a chance yet to do much research, but from what I have looked into so far, there are Sustainable Agriculture and International Development programs that I think would be very helpful in my missons work here in Honduras. Also, I’m considering the study program at ECHO, as their vision to “honor God through sustainable hunger solutions” is the very purpose and calling God has on my life. So… all this to say, please add this to your prayer list. I will be praying about if this would be something God would have for me in preparation for my work here. I will continue to do more research on master’s programs, research assistantships, and the ECHO study program. I will keep you updated on this! Those of you who have taken the master’s degree route, please pass on to me any suggestions/wisdom you have on this!
Pic: Dilmer’s trusty dog, Bonita, scouted out this armadillo for our supper! Well, my first 2 weeks in my homestay have been great! I’ve been learning so much about the life of the subsistance farmer in this area and the life of rural communities in general here in Honduras. My first supper at Dilmer and Lupe’s included armadillo meat, or “cusuco” in Spanish. I don’t know how many of you have tried armadillo, but it’s actually pretty good! It was a special treat, served right alongside the rice and beans that make every breakfast, lunch, and dinner complete. Some other meats, common to be had at Dilmer & Lupe’s are: “tepescuintle” (a lowland paca), “mapache” (racoon), “zarigüeya” (opossum), “ardilla” (squirrel), “gongolona” (mountain chicken), “checo carpintero” (woodpecker), “watusa” (agouti), as well as “jutes” (snails).
Pic: Odalys (14), Katerin (5), Gabriel (10 mo), Guadalupe, Dilmer This is my wonderful homestay family! I was able to snap this family photo before the church service got started. Each Wednesday evening, Dilmer invites the community of La Muralla to congregate in their humble kitchen to worship together and learn from the scriptures.
Here I am washing clothes on a rock in a creek near Dilmer and Lupe’s. The majority of Hondurans still wash their clothes by hand, although many of them have a pila where they wash their clothes. Below I’ve included a pic from last year of me using a pila… in case you don’t remember what a pila looks like! In rural communities like La Muralla, it’s more common to wash clothes in a stream. Lupe actually has singled out a particular rock a little further down stream that she claims is the perfect “clothes washing rock.” This is also the same creek where we bathe. Yes. We BATHE here… fully clothed. In the pic, if you look in the background you can see Katerin (their middle child) with her neighbor friend. For kids their age, bathing basically involves a fun trip to the creek to take a swim and cool off from the heat. If it weren’t for Odalys (the older sister) they just might forget to use soap. We have also collected “jutes” (snails) from this creek to add to our eggs for supper.
I took this picture last year during my homestay with the Valladares family in Siguatepeque. A “pila” is basically a concrete water reservoir typically used to wash clothes and dishes, brush teeth, bathe babies, etc. The sink area oftentimes will have what I would call a concrete washboard, for lack of a better term.
Pic: Dilmer, myself, and Odalys Bean harvest is in full swing in La Muralla. One day we went up (and I mean UP!) to help Geronimo (Dilmer’s dad) thresh beans. To get to this field we walked 1 1/2 hours from Dilmer’s house farther back, up into the mountains. If you look to the far right of the pic you can see how when they harvest beans they tie up bunches and hang them upside down on tree branch stakes, to dry in the field.
Then, they make tall stakes from young trees and tie up a tarp to make an area to thresh out the beans. Here again, they use young trees to make sticks, which they use to continually hit the bundles until all the beans have fallen out of the pods.
After several hours of threshing, Dilmer collected 2 100-pound sacks of beans. Between Dilmer, his dad, and his brother, they harvested 600 pounds of beans that day. Wanting to figure out the yield for that field, I asked Dilmer to tell me the size of the field. He thought it was about a quarter of a “manzana” which would be about 2/5 of an acre. (A note on the “manzana” – This is the unit of area most comonly used in Central America. A “manzana” is equal to approximately 1.6 acres.) If my conversions are correct, that would be a yield of 25 bushels per acre of dry red beans. Also to note, they planted 36 pounds of beans to get that yield. So they planted at a rate of 90 pounds per acre. If I’ve done my research, the yield of 25 bushels per acre is comparable to the dry bean yield in the States. However, I think their planting rate here of 90 pounds per acre is a bit higher. Anyways, just some thoughts and comparisons I’m making as I learn about agriculture and subsistence farming here.
The next step is thoroughly drying the beans out in the sun on a tarp to keep them longer in storage. Now, let me just take a minute to note, these beans were hauled down the mountain, in 100 lb sacks, on shoulders (thankfully not mine), 1 1/2 hours back home. There’s a LOT of sweat that goes on behind the scenes to get this food on our table!
Finally, before the beans reach the kitchen, we winnow out the chaff. This particular day, the wind was very irregular. So, each time the wind decided to take a break, I took a break as well! The gourd container I have in my hand actually grows on a tree! Below is a pic of the calabash tree, which these woody gourds are harvested from and used as scooping containers.
The calabash tree, native to Central and South America. They call the gourds “güiras.”
Please continue to pray for my annual residency renewal. The office now has plastic to print the residency cards. However, my file is in Tegucigalpa, the capital. It needs to be brought here, to the office in La Ceiba, so I can renew my residency here. Please pray that it is sent soon!
Please pray that I would be a blessing during my time at Dilmer and Lupe’s, as they are blessing me. Also, that I would have an open mind, ears, and heart to learn all that God has for me to learn while I’m there.
Please continue to pray for wisdom and clear guidance for Larry and Allison, as leaders of the discipleship ministry. Each Saturday they hold a special meeting with the youth in the discipleship group to clarify the purpose and vision of the ministry. A lot of progress has been made this past month. Please continue to pray for unity, as well as open and honest communication so that God’s will be done.
Please remember to pray for God’s leading in making a decision about studying/researching in a grad school. There are different pros and cons on both sides, whether I do/don’t study, so pray that God would make His will clear.
During my first couple weeks with Dilmer and Lupe I have been able to start forming a friendship with them as I get to know their family better.
God has placed various ministries and missionaries in this rural area that can meet and encourage each other during difficult times.
For the good bean harvest!
Just this past week Job was offered a job with ICF, the Institute of Forest Conservation of Honduras. Praise God for His provision in a rough economy! The institute works for the conservation and sustainable use of ecosystems. Job’s work will mainly involve controlling the southern pine beetle plague that has been infesting forests throughout Honduras for many years.