“This is SO hard, Daddy! But it is SO worth it!”
My 7 year old daughter, McKinley, looked up at me, sweat and dirt painting her face in a form I don’t often see in our otherwise clean existence, and exclaimed the above with an otherworldly sincerity.
It was Day One of our trip to Honduras, on mission with Jesus. We were mixing concrete to provide flooring for a “house,” so that the family who lived there could have a more sanitary environment, and a greater sense of pride in their home and life.
In third world countries, you don’t get redi-mix concrete that you “just add water” to. You have to mix dirt with the concrete, and then add water. It is a back-breaking process involving lots of buckets, shovels, sweat, muscle, and maybe some blood.
This is where my sweet daughter set the tone to me for Jesus being heard, seen, given, received, displayed and glorified that week in a distant land.
This would be the first of 9 or 10 houses (I lost count) that we would mix and sling concrete for over the course of the week. What I didn’t know until later was that this very first one would also be the most difficult by far.
The challenge was that the sand pile was at the bottom of a 200 foot trail, a trail that seemed to go straight up, and was fairly treacherous to navigate. We had to get the sand from the bottom of that trail to the top, in order to mix it with the concrete and water. Oh, and the water had to be brought up the other side of that “hill” from the stream below – no less of a challenge.
I consider myself to be in above average shape. I mean, I do Crossfit! 😉 Well, I’m here to tell ya that if Crossfit introduces a new WOD (Workout of the Day) called, “Honduran Bucket Lug” – I’m likely to punt.
This was no joke work.
But there was this little Honduran lady who lived in the home we were working on carrying bucket after bucket of dirt up this hill. Full buckets. Never stopping. For 5 hours.
With no shoes on!
And there was a precious 7 year old girl, who has barely done any kind of physical labor in her life, carrying bucket after bucket up this hill (granted while not full buckets, and with shoes) for hours, never stopping.
And never complaining. Not once.
“This is SO hard, Daddy! But it is SO worth it!”
This isn’t a Daddy brag on a Daughter. She wasn’t alone in her response. This is a brag on Jesus. This is a boast about His Life and His Mission here on earth. This is a testimony to dying to self and Living by the Life of Another.
The heart of Love required to do this work does not come from a human place in the temporal, but from a Person and Place in the Eternal. And I saw It in my 7 year old daughter, her 5 year old sister, my bride, an entire group of kids of all ages, a diverse group of adults…and myself.
Jesus freely gives His Life in abundance when you are on mission with Him.
And He, His Life, and His mission are SO worth it. Whatever the “it” happens to be at the time.
I have been blessed to be on mission with Jesus in Mexico and the Philippines in the past. I have had my heart broken by being in the dirt (literally) with people. I have been out of my comfort zone and have had my modern conveniences suspended, and replaced with the uncomfortable and sometimes just downright gross.
But my family had not.
Those of you who’ve experienced how most of “the rest of the world” really lives first-hand know well that there is a chasm of difference between intellectually knowing (and even compassionately hurting over that knowing) about the condition of “the least of these” – and seeing it, tasting it, touching it, living it, and being forced to access an indwelling Lord to Love through it.
When the Lord prompted this trip in my heart, one of my prayers was that it was not just for me. Selfishly, I wanted my entire family, even and especially my girls, to experience – to be literally shocked by, to hurt over, and to love through – what He had for us to engage with Him in.
Thankfully, my plea wasn’t selfish at all, but exactly what the Lord had in mind (I love when that happens), as He quickly planted the seeds of confirmation and desire in Marie and my girls – as well as my sweet sister-in-law – for this mission as well.
I went into this experience fully expectant to view it through their eyes. I wanted to learn more of the Lord via his Life and Love in them, as they received Him and gave Him alike in Honduras.
So when McKinley, just a few hours into our trip, said “It is SO worth it!” I knew it was Jesus speaking. He was setting the stage for the lessons of the week.
Jesus was saying, “This is what it looks like, feels like, smells like, tastes like….hurts like…to Love, to give My Life, to be on My mission. It is not always safe, but I am with you. It is not always pretty, but it is beautiful. It does not always feel good, but it does fill you. It does not always smell good, but it is a pleasing aroma of Me. It is not always comfortable, but you are Comforted. It does not always taste good, but I am your true Bread. It is hard, but it is worth it… I am worth it.“
And He didn’t stop speaking…
I was asked by someone if “we did any Bible teaching?” while we were there. Well, no…but soooo YES!
When Jesus is given and on display, when His mission is tangibly lived via His Body on the earth, the Gospel is preached. He is speaking and is translated to the hearers via His Life and Love.
We could not understand a single person we engaged with from Honduras. They could not understand us. But Love transcends language. When Jesus is the communication, the “Message” is heard and understood loud and clear.
Whether it is a widow across the street, or an orphan across the world, there are lost and hurting and broken people in need of the Love and Hope and Touch of Jesus. He has commissioned us, His Bride and Body, to display His Love and Hope and Touch into every corner of the world. Even and especially the dark and dirty ones.
He is speaking – and we are the translation. His Life and Mission are not easy, but it is worth it.
We met a 62 year old man named Teo. He walks 1 and a half hours, over 8 miles, through hilly terrain, one way, every single day, to work in relief aid for his fellow man. He is paid $5-10 per day for this. Teo is one of the most joyful, hard-working people I’ve ever met. He weighs no more than 140 lbs. and does the work of 2 men bigger than that, and never stops. I mean, never takes a break.
Teo showed me Jesus. Teo lives like the Mission of Christ is worth it.
We were overjoyed the day we worked to provide Teo, who lived in a little 6 foot by 4 foot wooden shack, a concrete floor of his own. He had helped to mix and lay many floors for others, yet slept on dirt once he walked all the way back home. When we saw that Teo had a wood crate and a thin foam mat for a “bed,” we knew we had to help.
Tonight Teo sleeps on a brand new bed, in a room with a brand new concrete floor. Tomorrow he’ll rise and walk 3 hours and 16 miles again – and shovel and mix and lift and carry heavy buckets – with unending smiles and energy – but hopefully with a renewed knowing of Love. That is so worth it.
We met a room full of seniors, men and women mostly in their 80’s and even a few in their 90’s, who gather together at a local Senior Center in Campamento. These Saints walk 1 mile straight up hill just to have a little fellowship with each other.
We were able to provide for the purchase of glasses for every member of their group so that they could correct poor vision. They expressed such gratitude over our loving them, as in many cases they are not loved at home. They are old, cannot work, and take up space and food, so they are treated less than lovingly by their families.
In one instance, a sweet lady had been made homeless by her son, all because she has such uncontrollable incontinence that “she smells too bad to live here.” She sang us a song of gratitude and thanks for our just being there and loving her. She may have smelled bad, but I think she was beautiful. She loved us, and we loved her – and loving her was worth it.
Marie was put in a position to care for open wounds several times. I am not a nurse, like her, and do not have quite the stomach she has for blood and gore and stuff like that – so I am telling you that some of these things were just gross. Given their living conditions, I am shocked that they still hadn’t lost body parts due to infection. One lady had a hole in her leg that you could fit your remote control in. Another punctured her leg while we were working on concrete at her house. By the time they called Marie over to look at it, she had put some corn meal looking substance on it and pasted it over – then taped it up with electrical tape!
My bride is a comforting, gifted nurturer. I see so much of the Lord in her. It was so worth it to get her hands in the middle of dirt and blood and infection to be the physical touch of God on those people.
We lived and worked in a daycare in Campamento that cares for orphans. So many “fathers” in Honduras are killed in gang-related infighting, abandon their family, or are away working. It is not uncommon to see only women and children in the homes. In the saddest of cases, children are largely or completely orphaned. Jesus said it is worth it to care for these. By Honduran standards, the daycare is “nice.” But you wouldn’t stay there at home in modern North America. It is hot, dirty, no hot water and sometimes no running water at all and sewer gas smells fill the air.
But all of that vanishes in the smile of a child. A smile that says, “I love you. Thank you for loving me.” All of that is worth it, for this:
We support a dear friend, Donnie Anderson, who is working full time in Honduras. Donnie works with the Church and Bread for a Hungry World to develop relationships in Campamento with leaders and the people. He then coordinates relief efforts, including working with the people to build and make improvements to their homes and living situations.
One of the other awesome things Donnie is coordinating, is the establishment of aquaponics farms. This is a terrace style of farming and irrigation that dates to centuries ago. Fish are overstocked in an “upper” pond. As they produce waste, the natural nutrients move through ditches to irrigate a crop row, and flow down to a “lower” pond. Ultimately, both fish and crops are harvested to provide food and funds. These will be used to support the efforts with the orphans at the daycare, making both the farming and the daycare more self-sustaining.
Donnie gave up his life in Texas to follow Jesus and His Life into Honduras because It, and He, were worth it, and so was the work and the fruits of that work.
I love weddings. They remind me that we are the ultimate Bride of Christ, and that being on mission with our Groom is a sweeping romantic adventure as one deeply beloved.
Donnie is on an adventure, and smack in the middle of a love story in Honduras. He serves and loves out of knowing he is a beloved of the Father. He knows it is worth it to be loved and to love – knowing that Love comes from the ultimate Lover. And now he shares a foretaste of that Divine, Eternal Love with his new bride.
In Tegucigalpa, there is a city “dump,” or as people call it, just “The Dump.” We went to feed and love people in the dump on our way to go back home, at the very end of our trip. To that point, I was feeling pretty good about what we had encountered. While conditions are certainly far from ideal where we had worked, there was a certain sense of hope – that progress, while slow and perhaps generational, could be seen and made a way for.
I am not sure about that in the dump.
People come to, and in some cases live in, The Dump to scavenge for plastic or paper (or food) to sell so that they can eat. It wreaks. The smell will stay with me forever. It is massive, like any large city dump. Fires burn all around. Hundreds of huge buzzards swarm overhead and walk underfoot. Cows and dogs with rib cages showing pillage in the trash, looking for food.
And then the people…
The people swarm incoming trash trucks and don’t even wait until the garbage is spilled out of the truck before they attack it like it’s a pile of gold (which for all practical purposes for them, it is). They are beyond dirty, and though gracious and appreciative of our food and water, they had eyes that were devoid of dignity and hope. Despair and hopelessness abounds. Oppression and darkness are a tangible wet blanket there. Girls, 13-14 year old girls, are among the scavengers. But they are dressed like men, so as not to be raped.
I just wanted to fall on my knees and weep, but I also wanted to be so careful to not show that emotion to them – as to somehow protect their dignity. Delaney, my 5 year old, walked around with her fingers holding her nose closed.
I made her let go. I made her smell it.
I made myself smell it – and touch it, and feed in it, and love through it. To Love them.
They are people, humans, creations of God, perfectly and wonderfully made in His image – just like me. There is nothing different between them and me – except we were born in different lands and into different circumstances.
That’s heavy. And hard to process. And so overwhelming – with no sight of relief or end or hope.
But Hope is a Person.
I know God is there. I know He loves them. As I prayed for the Kingdom of Heaven to be released and the fullness of Jesus Christ revealed in that place, I just kept thinking of His own words:
For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ Jesus said that if we give as much as a cup of water to the least of these, we have done that to Him.” – Matthew 25:35-40
So somewhere in the middle of the mystery of being Jesus ourselves while serving rice and beans and corn tortillas and cups of water to Jesus Himself – I see Hope.
I stare Him in the eyes with eyes of my own that are already His too. And somehow I know at the end of it all – it is worth it.
I was thinking of those eyes just hours before we would return home, walking down a charming tourist street in a rare moment of rest after all the work of the week. And I was arrested by this in a tiny street-side studio:
Piercing. Loving. Unending. Consuming.
It almost would not have mattered what it would have cost, I had to have one of these for my home. As it turns out, it was very reasonable, and we got to watch the God-gifted young lady create our very own.
As she finished, she looked longingly into those eyes, transcendently real though pencil on canvas, and blew a kiss towards her work and through it to Him who gave her to that work, and said,
This work of art will adorn a wall in my home just outside my bedroom. Each day and night I will see it. I will stare into those eyes and remember the testimony of Honduras, 2013. I will recall what I saw of Christ through my little girls, through my wife, and through ordinary people as they loved and served deeply. I will recall what I saw of Christ in those whom were being served. I will remember and pray for the beautiful Brothers and Sisters there. I will be convicted that the mission isn’t “trips” that you take once in a lifetime, or even often, but the Mission is Him.
He has called us to go across the street and into all the world to give His Life. To be His follower is to be on mission with Him, always and eternally, in bringing His Kingdom to this earth. The Mission, the Life is Jesus. Sometimes It is SO hard. But It is SO worth it!
Mi Amore, indeed, my King. You are worth it all and worth everything.
If you are interested, you can find more updates and pictures that I posted while in Honduras, on my Facebook page HERE. Look in my Timeline July 14-21, 2013.
I want to specially thank all of our many friends and family who supported our trip through prayer, and funding. Your generosity directly impacted:
- 9 or 10 homes and families having concrete floors
- clothing and food for the least of these
- glasses for the senior citizens
- a new bed for Teo
- new flooring for the daycare
- vitamins, toys, games, clothes and supplies for the daycare
Your prayers were felt, and sustained us. We are deeply and eternally grateful.
Special thanks to Bread for a Hungry World. Please pray for and consider supporting this organization and the work they do being the hands and feet of Christ all around the world.