Archive for the 'Honduras' Category

Jun 27 2014

The Beast: A Short Tale

Published by under Honduras,Poverty

It’s called The Beast. And it’s not the rollercoaster ride at King’s Island outside Cincinnati.

Also called “The Train of Death,” The Beast is a catch-all phrase used to describe the 10-15 train network throughout Mexico that ferries immigrants from their countries in Central America and Mexico to the borders of the US.

I just returned home from Honduras and made a genuine new friendship with a guy there named José. José and I made two round-trips from Tegucigalpa to San Marcos and spent about 14 hours in the car together during that time.


We also worked next to each other all week.


On one of our 3.5 hour drives, José and I talked about soccer and what it means to Hondurans. José explained:

There are many poor people in Honduras. So many poor people who are struggling. The great thing about fútbol (soccer) is that for 90 minutes everyone has hope. Eight million people have hope. We have hope of winning something.

An extremely common misconception when people visit the poor in other countries is that the people there are all happy. “They’re so poor but they have so much joy,” is the oft-repeated refrain. It’s not true for many.

There is such a thing as manners. To be unkind and ungracious to visitors would be rude. Although I’ve been flicked off numerous times in my travels, it’s an infinitesimally small percentage who are so ill-behaved.

In addition, we need to imagine ourselves in their shoes. Imagine you lived in poverty and you heard some wealthy people were coming on a fact-finding trip to see what conditions were like. You’d have hope they might help out your community. THAT would make you happy. You would be abundantly kind to them in order to win favor.

I’m not so cynical as to believe that NO ONE in poverty is happy or joyful. Or that their motives are selfishly driven. But we Americans need to stop being silly in thinking all poor people are happy. They’re not.

One of the great disadvantages of going to countries where you don’t speak the language is that you can’t have full conversations with the locals, asking questions that really probe the realities of their lives.

The other disadvantage of short-term trips abroad is that they’re, by definition, short-term. We don’t spend enough time to really get to know the people there so we don’t earn enough trust with them.

A final hinderance is that we rarely get to spend extended time with the SAME people. Even if we have conversations, they’re often with multiple people throughout the week – which prevents us from going deep with one person.

If we can overcome one or more of those barriers with locals, what we discover at some point is tears. It’s probably true of all human beings – spend enough time with any of us and we’ll cry when we talk about our lives. But I’m telling you the tears come quickly with many of the poor when you get beneath the surface.

An article in the New York Times reported just this morning that the US Border Patrol has apprehended 39,000 adult illegal immigrants since October. This is in addition to 52,000 CHILDREN traveling WITHOUT adults that have been apprehended in the same time period. 9,000 people were apprehend this May alone – a new monthly record. That’s roughly 100,000 people. We have no estimate as to how many have been successful in crossing the border.

Pain, high unemployment rates, and lack of hope is what fuels most immigration to the US. Many of the materially poor are not happy where they are. It’s why they risk life and limb to leave their families and homes.

When I was in Honduras this past December, my friend Samy told me about his friend who had gotten on The Beast. About halfway to the US, his friend fell off the train while he was sleeping (a common occurrence on The Beast) onto the tracks and had both his legs severed. He survived but now lives back in Honduras in a wheelchair, begging on the street because he’s unable to work doing the manual labor he once performed.

(If you’re interested in learning more about The Beast, I’d recommend the films Sin Nombre, Which Way Home, and De Nadie as starters to the topic. If you’re a reader, I’d recommend Sonia Nazario’s novel “Enrique’s Journey”).

Throughout their journey on The Beast, people deal with the constant threat of violence from gangs who board the trains at various points for purposes of robbery, rape, kidnapping, and even outright murder. In 2010, there were a reported 11,000 kidnappings of people from The Beast. At a ransom of almost $2,500/person, kidnapping is big business for Mexico’s drug cartels.

There are biblical things we don’t understand a lick. Our wealthy lives insulate us from some biblical understanding. Someone traveling on The Beast understands this Psalm in a way I probably never will…

Hide me from the plots of this evil mob,
from this gang of wrongdoers…
They shoot from ambush at the innocent,
attacking suddenly and fearlessly.
They encourage each other to do evil
and plan how to set their traps in secret.
_Psalm 64:2-5

As I stood 4,700 feet above sea level in Honduras’ Sierra de la Botija mountain range, I talked with a teenager named Juan who is quitting his job next month and trying to make it to the US on The Beast.

When I heard this, I immediately and reflexively blurted out, “Buena suerte, hermano!” which means “Good luck, brother!”

Can you now imagine the difficulties that await him on his journey?

His path forward is one fraught with danger and I hope God helps him survive and thrive.

I have no action steps. In the last 12 months, I’ve been on eight trips to six countries on three continents. I’ve seen the opulence of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and the dilapidated shacks of Kibera in Nairobi, Kenya. Every single trip I’m taking is disrupting my life a little bit at a time.

And that’s why I wrote this post. I want it to be something that moves the soil of our hearts just a little bit. We need to see the lives and experiences of the poor and understand they’re made in God’s image just the same as us. He loves them just like he loves us. And from our perch of power, God is expecting us to do something. Each of us can do something to help the poor in the US and abroad. We need to discover what it is and how to do it. We already know the WHY. May it fuel us every day to dig a little deeper.

We love because he first loved us.
_1 John 4:19

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Dec 19 2013

Now the Hard Work – Honduras Trip 1 Day 7

Published by under Honduras

It’s almost time to leave Honduras. My first trip here has been a huge success. Before I go, I have two observations and a truth I’d like to finish out with.

All countries have things that foreigners find amusing. One peculiarity about southern Honduras is that people regularly sit on the road. They park themselves right on the white line like it’s a bench – as cars speed by them at 50mph.


I posted on Twitter earlier this week that Welch’s is the official grape juice of communion. After a week here, it may be equally true that Pepsi is the official sponsor of Honduras. Everywhere you look there’s a pulperia (corner store) with a sign out front sponsored by Pepsi.


Joke’s on them. I drank Coke all week.

As I pack my bags to leave Honduras, I’m reminded that experiences like traveling to a foreign country are difficult to remember once some time has past. The painting that was fresh quickly dries and fades as the days wear on.

We go home and tell stories of what we’ve seen and done, so often remembering the events of the trip but not as completely remembering the people.

Truth be told, sometimes we want great stories so people think more highly of us. But it seems the only real reason to remember things is so we can DO SOMETHING about what happened previously.

We remember a birthday so we can buy a present.

We remember what God did in the bible so it encourages us not to fear the challenges of today.

In Acts 20, Paul knows he’s close to dying. Before heading for Rome, he says goodbye to his friends for the last time. These are his last recorded words to them…

In everything I did, I showed you that by…hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

There are all kinds of weaknesses in people the world over. They need help with various things. Paul reminds us we’ll be happy if we fill up what’s missing in their lives – if we give – our time and our money and our hearts.

And how does this happen? Paul tell us. Hard work.

We can’t let ourselves go home and only tell stories. It’s too easy. Going on the trip is even easy.

Each day needs time set aside to remember the weak and consider our role in changing things.

The people in a poor place will OFTEN say to you, “Please remember me. Pray for me.”

Our consciences will often say, “Don’t forget them.”

Jesus was seemingly so concerned about us forgetting him that he instituted communion – a reminder of his sacrifice for us. He said, “Do this in remembrance of me.”

We can read books, talk to experts who do this work regularly, or wise friends who can help us process things if we’re having a difficult time with that.

We can’t just go home.

The picture will fade and we’ll miss out on the happiness of playing a role in helping work happen in these countries.

To set aside time to consider all these things each day once we return home is one of the highest forms of love and respect we can show the people of poor places – both the poor themselves and those doing work with them.

Trips and experiences end. Love never should. I want to see the people of Honduras prosper – in all areas of their life. Now comes the hard part. It’s time for me to prove it!

The work of Mission Lazarus continues on down here.

May God give all of us wisdom about how to help the poor! Adios from Honduras!

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Dec 18 2013

Meeting Superman – Honduras Trip 1 Day 6

Published by under Honduras

My Spanish isn’t the only thing that’s failed me on this trip, yo. Common sense, as usual for me, is absent. I didn’t use sunscreen yesterday. My neck got a little toasty. Sunburns basically yell to the world, “I CAN’T TAKE CARE OF MYSELF!!!”

Today we went out to a Honduran island called Amapala. What a place! We docked around the back of the huge island in the middle of the photo.


What kids!


Do you know what it takes to do this kind of work with the poor? Four things: God’s hand, poor people, rich people, and people with big hearts who actually do the work. Mission Lazarus has all four. They do work in 28 communities here in southern Honduras which equals about 120-150 full-time employees depending on the time of year. Here are a few of them…


UPPER LEFT: Jarrod and Claros
UPPER RIGHT: Emma, Marina, and Immanuel
LOWER LEFT: Victor and Roberto
LOWER RIGHT: Justo (on a WELL-DESERVED lunch break!)

They all work long hours with big hearts and little pay. People like these deal in different currencies – invisible currencies: compassion and mercy and love. They may never win awards. On earth. But they will when they breathe their last.

This is ANOTHER reason why seeing the works of organizations like Mission Lazarus is huge. You get to meet real-life heroes.

We know it’s heartbreaking to see poverty in pictures and videos. Imagine you’re not LIVING in poverty but working daily with the people who are. Yes, there are victories, but there are sadnesses each day – death, illness, corruption, opposition from people in the country and people at home, money issues, and even, at times, self-doubt. With God, the workers are more than conquerors because they’ve made a choice and they make it daily – to love.

“There are six million ways to die,” the lyrics to a Honduras song begins. “Pick one.” The workers here and those who do similar work around the world choose love – practically, actually, really. It’s not a tag line or bumper sticker. It’s life.

“Outwardly, we are wasting away,” the apostle Paul wrote, “yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:16-17).

Like Paul, the workers do this work in the real world but they do it with an eye to the spiritual one.

“We fix our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary but what is unseen is eternal.”

If it’s true we become like the people we hang with, then this is the company I want to keep as often as possible. Because I want to be just like them!

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Dec 17 2013

Feel the Want – Honduras Trip 1 Day 5

Published by under Honduras

Today I was re-baptized in the Pacific Ocean. We went to this island community called Carretal just off the coast of Honduras by boat. It was one of those over-sized canoe boats with a small outboard motor.


As we left the island, everyone got into the boat (about 20 people altogether). The weight bottomed the boat out on the sand. One of the big dudes in our group, Barry, hadn’t gotten in yet and started pushing it. He moved it a little and then three of the local women came to help. My shame meter hit Ultra High. I took off my shoes and spun around the side of the boat to get in the water and help Barry. Overestimating my coordination skills, I ended up doing some kind of Urkel Dance and fell in.


Anyone who knows Urkel felt a connection to that story I just told. We look for connections with each other every day. That’s why when someone talks about random things like blueberry muffins, we try to reply with a story that involves blueberry muffins.

Honduras has been especially frustrating for me in this way. I speak elementary Spanish but not enough to have a real conversation. And without words, it can be tough to have a real connection. All I want to do this week is to talk fluently with peeps like these – Gabriel, Francisco, Victor, and Santos…


Here’s the only way it’ll ever happen… If I feel the want.

It all comes down to comfort.

It’s uncomfortable to not be able to connect with people (which, by the way, is why many people feel awkward at parties – there’s no connection happening). If I feel a deep want to connect to someone, it’s more likely I’ll go out of my way to forge a connection.

Here’s the catch… Real connection almost always requires commitment. We have to commit to language classes or commit to being vulnerable in conversation or commit to a girlfriend. There aren’t any shortcuts. If we want to go deeper with people, we need to commit and put in the time.

All hard work brings a profit but mere talk leads only to poverty.
_Proverbs 14:23

There are obstacles that keep us from deeper connection with people. Often those obstacles are inside of us. We need to move those by committing to paths that lead to deeper connection.

So many of us want to connect with the poor. There’s nothing special we need to do but commit to some path of meeting them. In traveling to Honduras, I simply said, “I want to know the poor. Let’s see what happens.” And today happened. And it was good. And I want you to read about it in my account below. Feel the want of what’s missing in your life. And then fill that want with good things!

We were in this village called El Giote spending time with some of the people there. As we were leaving, a woman ran out and asked us to come to her house. She told us her husband, José, was in bed, and in the final stages of his battle with leukemia. When we got there, José said he was freezing cold. We asked him what he wanted us to do. He said, “I’m in so much pain but I’ve never been baptized.” We said, “Do you want to be baptized now?” He replied, “With all my heart.”

He couldn’t move, so one of our dudes, Barry, picked him up and carried him to a concrete water tank behind their home. He was baptized at 11:47am. This is José coming out of the water.


Frankly, I hope it’s time for José to go home now. But you never know what days will bring when your days have margin for unexpected stuff – when you’ve put yourself on a path of commitment. I’m thankful for being in Honduras with Mission Lazarus!

UPDATE – Five hours after I wrote this: We found out José passed on early this morning. I’m really glad to have spent some time with him.

Feel the want. Commit to more. Peace for now from Honduras, muchachos!

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