January 2016 Update

Dear Friends and Family,

First off, THANK YOU to all those who have been praying for Job and I as God directs our steps these next several months! I have a lot of news to share this month as we make plans for our wedding and future ministry together! Let me begin though with what we’ve been up to lately…

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Job, along with our ag help, is finishing up the patastera. If you are still curious about what exactly is a pataste, check your local Mexican grocery store for chayote (another name for pataste). There are several varieties of this vegetable, a member of the squash family. Walmart has also been known to carry chayote.
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From this pic you can see the pataste plants (planted in the tires) are flourishing, despite the sporadic rains we’ve been experiencing. The vines are growing up the tree trunks and will spread out overtop the bamboo canopy, where plastic twine is used to form a latticework in-between the bamboo poles.
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Toyano, Calin, Erwin, and Job… showing 2 different varieties of pataste. So far they’ve planted 3 different varieties, all found in the vegetable market in La Ceiba. Looking at this photo, we really should have taken before and after pics to show the entire process and all the progress made!
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The water project in La Muralla continues to move forward. The community is now working on building a cement structure to house 2 water reservoirs. The men took on the role of carrying the 100-pound sacks of cement across the bridge and up the trail to La Muralla.
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Some (like Erwin here) were fortunate enough to have a workhorse carry up a load.
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The women (Odalis pictured here) carried up the lighter, but still very heavy, rebar.
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Once a week, either Friday or Saturday afternoon, we have a youth group for kids from both Las Mangas as well as the nearby community of El Naranjo. We start with praise and worship and then follow with a short message from either Bayron, Walter, or Job. Later the boys play a game (oftentimes either soccer or capture the flag) and have snacks. Two of the boys have recently accepted Christ and proclaimed their faith in Jesus! Several others are also believers. One particular afternoon this past month was especially encouraging when some of the boys openly expressed that they come to hear the Word, not to just play games and eat snacks! It was incredible to me to see kids at such a young age, coming from some very rough backgrounds, so openly and shamelessly express their yearning for God!
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Each Saturday morning we work together in groups on campus maintenance projects. We don’t have full-time help for maintenance so we work on it all together. This past weekend Job and Walter worked on sanding and painting the front gate. Fighting rust on metal is a constant challenge here in the tropics.
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I worked on fixing the “fogón” where we cook beans. The stovepipe was not staying in place so I used the same clay mixture used to make the fogón to re-attach it.
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Several of the vegetables I’ve planted are growing rather slowly. I’m wondering if it could be due to short days. Also, possibly not getting enough sunlight from the frequent cloudy weather. This plant (with the red stem) is called malabar spinach. I got the seeds from ECHO. It is known to tolerate a wide variety of soil conditions and does well in humid areas. Unlike your typical spinach, this variety grows like a vine, up a trellis!
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I also transplanted these volunteer cowpea plants that had sprung up where Larry had planted cowpea in the past. We will use the trellis to grow the cowpea up over the walkway in between the dorms and the dining hall.
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Another plant I’m trying that has taken off is this seminole pumpkin. It seems promising as there are already a few flowers budding! Again, I bought the seed at ECHO. Originally, this variety is native to South Florida. So far, it is doing very well in this humid, tropic weather.
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Onions might also be a great low maintenance and hardy plant here. Some varieties have been selected for short days.
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Welcome to the… composting latrine! This is also a method I learned about at ECHO, using composted human waste as fertilizer. The urine is diverted outside to a 5 gallon bucket and can be diluted with water and used immediately. The waste is allowed to compost for a year before it is ready to be used as an organic fertilizer. Surprisingly, this method doesn’t smell! I’ve visited many a latrine here in Honduras and I have to say, I’m impressed with this one!
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In preparation for the married life, I’ve been diving into a couple books on the subject. I’ve finished Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas and have started The Mystery of Marriage by Mike Mason. These books have/are/will challenge me quite a bit in how I view marriage! I think one of the most important lessons I’ve learned is this: I can’t love. My love for others, even my love for myself must be God’s love. God doesn’t give us His love… God IS love! So my love for others, myself, and my future spouse all hinges on my relationship with God. If the Holy Spirit is living in me, His love will flow through me to others.
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Pic (by Job): Larry viewing early morning sunrise at Utila. Earlier this month, the guys took a short trip to Utila, an island just off the north coast of Honduras. They had an awesome time snorkeling and experiencing coral reef. Allison and I stayed back at campus and had our own girl’s night. We watched a documentary on Mother Teresa and the Missionaries for Charity. It was very interesting for me, as I had never learned much in detail about Mother Teresa and all the mission work she started.

Prospective Plans and Prudent Proverbs!

Proverbs 19:21 says, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”

Yes! Many are the plans we have in our hearts! Since our engagement, Job and I have been discussing lots of ministry plans, ideas, strategies… call it what you will, but one thing we pray: May the Lord’s purpose prevail!

The doors have neither opened nor closed for an opportunity to study tropical agriculture. But as we’ve been praying for God’s direction we both sense the need to keep the spiritual needs of those we serve as top priority of our ministry. Physical needs are still a priority, just not #1. Job feels God is calling him to study in seminary to better prepare for our work. So now we are praying for an open door to know if/where God would bless his desire to grow in Bible training for our future ministry. Currently he is looking into SETECA, a well-known seminary in Guatemala.

Also this month, Job and I have been writing up our ministry vision, mission, values, goals, etc. As I mentioned before, we have a lot of ideas to meet both the physical and spiritual needs of “the least of these” in Honduras. We’ve been needing to get them all on paper so we can present our ministry proposal while we are visiting you all in the States… which is coming up quick!

Proverbs 15:22 says, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”

As sure as we are confident and hopeful, concerning our ministry vision, we are also very aware of our need for counsel and advice. To embrace the wisdom and experience of other missionaries, we will be visiting with several different missionary families/ministries during the months of February and March. February 17th we will travel to Siguatepeque to attend the annual missionary retreat and general assembly meeting of the HFMM (the Honduran Fellowship of Missionaries and Ministries). Just a note for those who don’t know, this is the organization that has helped me (and most other missionaries in Honduras) establish residency and avoid making trips outside the country to renew visas. After this retreat we will stay in Siguatepeque throughout March, as it is within reasonable driving distance of the different missionaries we will be visiting. I will be staying with Katharine Marrow, a missionary friend whom I roomed with last year. Then, sometime in April, I will be heading to the States to finish up wedding arrangements!

Also, please note that beginning March 1st, during this time of transition, my ministry funds will need to be processed through a different organization. I will be working on those details during February and will send out an email when that’s ready.

Wow! Well, that is all I can think of to share for now. I know this is a lot to think and pray about, and we greatly appreciate your prayers concerning these decisions and plans. I treasure the emails you send me, reminding me of your prayerful support and intercession on my behalf. We could easily be overwhelmed with all the changes and transitions coming up; and I won’t lie, there have been some stressful days this past month. But Job and I are committed to serving the Lord and are trusting in Him every day for His guidance in each plan we make. Proverbs 16:3 says it perfectly, “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” Yes! We pray that He be the One to establish our plans! 

Prayer Requests:

  • Proverbs 16:9 says, “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” Please pray that the Lord would make clear each step He has for us.
  • Please continue to pray for God’s work in the hearts of all those involved in the La Muralla water system project. There has been some discord among different individuals involved but it seems the issue has been resolved. Pray for God’s light to shine through Larry and Dilmer as they work together with the 7 families involved.
  • Pray for Bayron and Walter, as they begin classes this year. Pray that they would continue to keep what they are learning here in the discipleship group on their minds while they are surrounded by their peers. Pray for courage, that they would be a firm, yet loving voice for the Truth.
  • Pray for God’s will as Job’s parents are in the process to apply for a visa to attend the wedding. We are really hoping for them to be there, but also understand that attaining a visa is very difficult. Pray that we all have peace with whichever way it turns out.

Praise:

  • The answered prayer of a request for a little sibling for the 3 Smoak girls! Allison is due in late July! Pray for health and strength for Allison (and baby) during her pregnancy.
  • For all the ways God shows us and teaches us about who He is: Love!
  • My quick recovery from a head cold this past week!