Some stuff happened this week that prompted a few – or 40 - people who love us to ask us some very good questions about our lives in Honduras. We don’t always have the answers folks are looking for, but we love questions, and we love people who love us enough to ask the questions. We ask ourselves questions all the time, and we hope you’ll keep asking us questions, too.
This week has been hard. Life in general can be hard here, but the dynamics of this week have added to that. Here’s the skinny on the situation. There was an election last Sunday. It’s Saturday. The results of the election have still not been released. There are two presidential candidates who are both proclaiming victory. There was tension before the election, and after six days of waiting for election results that tension has escalated to crisis.
Last Sunday, Election Day, was calm, and we were thankful. Monday was calm, too - so calm that we made the decision to continue with plans to travel to Catacamas for a training that had been on the calendar for months. A few folks weighed in on the decision, and we talked with our people in the know about the risk involved. We sought the face of the Father, and in the end we made the trip. In the hours leading up to our leaving, we were confident in our decision, and despite all that happened, we are still confident we made the right decision when we stepped out in faith.
About 6 hours into our trip, we made a stop in Tegucigalpa at our friend Christy’s house to drop off Olivia and Wyatt for a couple of days, planning to pick them up on Wednesday on our way back through the city. Everything in Tegucigalpa was status quo as we made our way out of town and headed east toward Catacamas. The highway between Tegucigalpa and Catacamas is one of the better roads in Honduras, which makes for a nice road trip. When Dean and I are alone in the car, we can actually have a conversation without a million interruptions. So, I ask him if he thinks we made the right decision. “Yes,” he says. He’s steady and sure. He doesn’t second-guess. He sees beyond the risk to the opportunity to be light and salt and to be about God’s business. His steadfastness encourages me and points me back to Christ when I get to second-guessing.
Our dear friends and hosts welcomed us in around 9, and their embrace and the opportunity to minister to one another was a gift from God. The training scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday went well, and Dean and I were able to enjoy the tranquility of the retreat center, a rustic lodge with cabins in the woods. It was the perfect place to share about trauma competent care and soak up a little self-care. We know this beautiful group of caregivers well and thank God for the way they give of themselves to love and care for children who otherwise would not have families. I am grateful for the opportunity to share the training with them and the risk was definitely worth it to encourage them and equip them to do the hard work they are doing, work that isn’t going to go away because of this crisis.
We woke up early on Wednesday morning and went out in search of internet to check on the children at home and try to resolve an issue with my computer holding hostage its documents. It’s about 25 minutes from the retreat center back into Catacamas. When we arrived all was peaceful and calm, business as usual. We did what needed to be done and turned around to head back to the peace and quiet of pine trees, cabins, and hammocks. I was a little unnerved by the large group of military special forces being briefed in front of the police station, but Dean doesn’t worry and wouldn’t let me suck him into a worry-filled conversation about all that military special forces implies.
Rallies, marches, and demonstrations concern me. Military and police officers in riot gear and special forces units stationed around town concern me. These sights paired up with the stories I've heard about what happened here in 2009, and a little part of me wanted to be afraid. At the first feeling of it, the Holy Spirit pressed me to do something, so I opened my bible. The little blue slip marked “fear” took me to the place where help comes from.
I life up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. - Psalm 121:1
It’s true. There has never been a time that help didn’t come. Another blue slip…
The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread? - Psalm 27:1-3
We missed the mark on predicting exactly when the tension would escalate to crisis. There and back was the plan. We’d be home before things got rowdy. Things didn’t go as planned, though. The rowdy arrived earlier than expected. As we arrived in Tegucigalpa we drove past parades forming and protestors gathering. By the time we pulled in the drive at Christy’s house to pick up Olivia and Wyatt, I was preoccupied with worry about the kids at home without us. Christy is a heart friend, and a heart friend does what heart friends do. She found me out back searching for peace on the internet. That’s not where peace comes from, by the way. God gave us the body of Christ to edify, encourage, and point us back to Him, and edify, encourage, and point is what Christy does well.
The decision to not continue on home was made within minutes as news stories and photos poured in about burning barricades of tires and barrels that cut off access to the highway just blocks from Christy’s house. We checked in with Ellie and the children at home, and despite our concerns felt at peace about our situation. This is not a peace that we can rationally muster. It is Holy Spirit, and he dwells in us. We were safe and unafraid. Our children at home were safe and unafraid.
Can I just take a moment and talk about Ellie for a second? This is someone who doesn’t bat an eye at the thought of staying with a gaggle of little people and keeping a handful of teens and young adults in line, sometimes for several days. We are so thankful for our Ellie, who holds down the fort and keeps everything running smoothly when Dean and I have to travel, who runs toward Jesus even when it means unplanned adventures and even when she knows I’m driving. We are also thankful for Ellie’s parents who did their best to raise children who are wise, knowing that being wise doesn’t always mean their children end up in the safest places. Because Ellie said “yes” when Jesus said “go”, our children are ministered to and safe when we are not able to be with them.
Dinner time rolled around at Christy’s house, and she asked what kind of pizza we liked. The pizza man made it to the house with the supreme and the pepperoni, and we watched Wyatt and Christy play Connect Four and waited. Even before our current situation, Christy has helped us tremendously as we’ve figured out life here. She has visited us, prayed for us, helped us solve problems, advocated for us when we were in need, and listened to our hearts when they were hurting. She has been a valuable source of wisdom for us as we continue to forge together our thoughts and make plans for Wyatt. Wyatt is deaf, and Christy is the hearing expert on deafness in these here parts. So here we are, stuck in Tegucigalpa with riots all around us, sheltered safe and sound with Christy and her joyful daughter Lili, unsure about when we will be able to go home. I’m not saying I took advantage of the situation, but I might’ve asked a question or two or twenty. We ate pizza, laughed, talked, and waited for news of the election results. The results didn’t come, and we went to bed with a backdrop of shouting, explosions, and a peace that passes understanding. Was it worth the risk? Absolutely. The opportunity to minister and be ministered to was a gift from the Lord in the midst of all that was going on.
Thursday brought no news of election results, and as the delay of news lingered, the situation continued to escalate. Dean and I were able to get out to the grocery store but the main roads were blocked, so we were not able leave Tegucigalpa. Christy is crafty, so she and Dean worked with wood while I cooked. Ellie sent us texts of the kids making salt ornaments and Christmas cookies, and we had a peaceful day in spite of the growing political unrest. Nighttime brought no news of election results, and the protests, both peaceful and violent, got a little closer. We ran back to the grocery store to withdraw some cash and made it in just as they were closing early and locking the gates. Being uncertain about what the coming days would bring, we decided that if it was calm in the morning and we could get through the barricades, we would try to make it home.
Around 4:30 am on Friday morning the explosions and shouting quieted, and the helicopter stopped making circles above us. We got up, said our goodbyes, and got in the car. We were safe and not afraid, and we made it out of the city. It was surreal to drive through quiet streets and see the damage from the night before. We drove by a young man dressed for work dragging rocks and debris from the street, and I was overcome with emotion. The brokenness, trauma and pain are unimaginable to me. I have never experienced anything like this in my life, and I have never had to grieve the kind of losses involved.
We made it to Siguatepeque without issue and stopped for groceries before turning west toward La Esperanza. We thought we might see some protests or come up on a barricade but we only saw the abandoned and smoking remains of the barricades from the night before as we made our way to Gracias. We stopped on the side of the road and bought bananas and drove on wondering when the election news would be released. We were home, hugged, and holding babies before noon and so thankful to be together under one roof again. Praise the Lord!
The situation here in Honduras is very serious. I know all of this might seem scary, but we are not scared. We feel sadness and concern but not fear. These are real people that we know and love that are walking through a nightmare in their country. Some were walking through nightmares even before the tension here turned to crisis. As several were asking us to get out and come home, at least one friend was searching for a plane ticket and a way in. Turns out she was thinking about a future trip, but the very fact that Juli was even thinking about planning a trip during this crisis made my heart sing. We are not going to try to get out. We are not haphazard. We calculate risks. We pray for discernment. We strive to be wise. Sometimes wisdom means we have to find the safest way to do something that involves some risk. This is our home, and we are going to stay here as long as the Lord allows.
It’s almost midnight now. The protests have quieted and the streets are quiet. There is a steady rain that just started falling that makes the most beautiful sound on the roof. It is a gift from the Lord. We are safe and unafraid. We are going to bed tonight, in the words of my longtime friend and prayer warrior Laurel, “confident in God’s protection and provision.”
Behold what manner of love the Father has given to us,that we should be called children of God. – I John 3: 1
Thank you for your prayers, encouragement, and support as we share the hope of Jesus with vulnerable children and families in Honduras.