Lions, Tigers and Bears . . . more like Mosquitos, Tarantulas and Cucarachas, Oh My!

Apologies in advance for the length of this post and my run on sentences.  Hope everyone is doing well and had a fantastic summer filled with fun and relaxation. Thank you all for everything. Without your prayers and financial support, I would not have been able to join the Missioners here in Honduras and to continue serving with them.

The business of summer is officially over now and we are slowly returning back to routine. I wish I could say I am now fluent in Spanish but alas, I can only say I am a pro at charades and butchering Spanish. I am impatiently trying to grow in patience with myself while I learn. Jeremiah 1:4-8 completely captures my feelings this summer.

“Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you; and before you were born, I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations”. Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak for I am only a youth”. But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, I am only a youth, for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Be not afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you.”

Only, I think my reaction was a little more extreme then Jeremiah’s. More like:

“. . . Then I said, “AHHHH! Are you nuts, Lord!! BEHOLD, I don’t even know to speak Spanish let alone understand it. All I can say is hola and smile really big! I mean, there are so many places in the States that you could call me to serve and yet, errrm, you are calling me to Honduras?”

And he spent the whole summer breaking down my fears and insecurities and granting me the opportunity to grow in so many ways.

Language School

I arrived June 5th with the intent to head off to language school in Antigua, Guatemala but Volcán de Fuego erupted. Due to uncertainty of safety, myself and Katelyn (an incredible Chica who was here for the summer) ended up attending Koinonia Spanish School in Valley of the Angels, outside of Tegucigalpa, Honduras for two weeks. The humility struggle bus was so real. I had to admit that I remembered nothing from high school or college Spanish classes and literally had to start with learning the alphabet. But with the understanding of why I was trying so hard to learn, it made it easier to pour into studying, practicing and more studying. After two weeks, attempting to find donuts, headbands and sadly discovering that Churros in Honduras are not delicious fried bread sticks with cinnamon and sugar but bags of chips, we headed back to Comayagua, Honduras to prepare for the High School Mission Trip.

High School Mission

This year’s group of High Schoolers were truly beautiful to work with. With the High Schoolers, we do ministry in the local Aldeas (Mountain Villages). That way we can return back to the retreat center for the night. My Team was assigned the breathtaking aldea, Matazano. I say breathtaking not just because of the stunning views but also because walking up a straight incline, where when you take a step, your other foot slides back some AND you are out of shape, breath.taking. The mission went so well but to be honest, I spent most the time in frustration. I felt so useless. My spanish was mainly “small talk” spanish so I felt like I wasn’t getting to truly know the people. Or be of any assistance because I couldn’t understand anyone. Then on top of it, I had been struggling with ..errm…stomach issues since day 3 of getting here and they started to worsen (It is what I get for thinking brushing my teeth with the water was okay) (Immodium is the best invention ever). And also came down with a sinus infection that was turning into bronchitis. Then discovered that even when covered in deet of 98% strength, I still get eaten alive by mosquitoes. So.much.fun.  I die laughing now thinking back at it. I was such a hot mess. But I loved it! In not being able to communicate, I had to sit back and just listen and be in the moment. Now looking back at it, I got to know the people so much more then I would have if I could have talked. In simply sitting with them, smiling, hugging, letting them teach me to harvest/grind coffee or make tortillas or them belly laughing at my ridiculous charades of trying to communicate a story, oh, I wouldn’t trade it for a thing.

(1st photo below: Gianna, one our High Schoolers from Seton High School in VA, playing soccer with the kids. 2nd: 2yr old Jose. The amount of time I spent all week trying to get him to smile…At least he let me hold him.  3rd: Conner and Elias embracing their inner child) 

 

Local Ministry

After the High School Team returned to the states, we had a about two weeks before the Young Adult Mission. During this time, in between doctor visits and recovering, I was able to participate in the local, daily ministries that the Missioners run. On Mondays, all the other female missioners and I go to Hogart Nazareth, the girls orphanage. We break the girls into age groups and do various activities and ministries with them.

Wednesdays are my favorite. In the morning I go to Asilo, which is a Nursing home for elderly men and women with Aids/HIV and assist the Missionaries of Charity, who run the home. But in the afternoons, I go to Casa Misericordia. Casa Misericordia was organized as an extension of Hogar Nazareth. It is a home for women and girls with deep emotional, psychological, and mental illness, as well as deafness, muteness and Down Syndrome. They are the absolute sweetest but the craziest and I love it. At first, I was so out of my comfort zone, but these girls just want to love you so much that you can’t help but fall in love with them. 

Yolanda was the first one I connected with. This beautiful soul is mute and partially deaf but has NO ISSUES with getting her point across. We communicate in crazy hand gestures and facial expressions. She is always the first to greet me with the biggest hug. She loves to dance and tease me. Luz is another one I fell in love with. I am not sure of her entire story because, well, I need to learn more spanish, but she has physical disabilities and has trouble walking. Her face lights up when I offer my arm and “run” along side of her in the relay races and dance with her. I love watching the girls interact with each other. Whether its holding each others hands to help them move about, wiping the face of another who has difficulty feeding themselves, or helping them cut/glue/color the craft because they are still learning hand coordination, they love each other so much and continually teach me the importance of the little things. You don’t need to make grand gestures, you simply need to be willing to retie a shoe or hold the tissue while they blow their nose.

(Photos below: (1) Luz, in the red shirt, laughing at my attempt of Spanish. (2) Yolanda in the white shorts striking a poze. (3) Girls walking us to the door as we leave, with arms wrapped around our waists.)

 

There are several other local ministries such as house visits, assisting at the local medical clinic, but  the girls orphanages are the main ones I work with currently. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I also help out with our scholarship program and do tutoring. Anything from english to math. Doing Math in Spanish is a struggle because they have different names for numbers and symbols but thank goodness it’s all the same written down. I love local ministries because I am getting to walk alongside of them in their daily struggles and joys. They are so welcoming and inviting into their life and it is truly humbling. I cannot wait to learn more Spanish and become more confident in conversing in it so that I can continue getting to know the people we serve.

Young Adult Mission

On July 19th, the young adults arrived from the States for our Mega Mission. We called it the Mega Mission because there were 8 different Teams and each team had anywhere from 3 or more Aldeas to work with. These Aldeas are also more remote and some were two or more hours up in the mountains, so we lived in the Aldea during the week. My Team was assigned to El Transito, a beautiful Aldea located above the clouds and in the middle of a huge coffee farm. We also visited La Cidra and La Laguna de Tigre. This mission was challenging not only because of the walking, or rather, the climbing everywhere. But mainly personally. I went into the mission with the mindset that I was going to serve others. That I was going to help them. Instead, I got served. These people stole a part of my heart.

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One example of the love these people had for us is when we first arrived to El Transito on Monday. We arrived with the expectation to be sleeping on the church floor in sleeping bags. But found that one of the families, moved in with another family, moved all their stuff out of the house, and then the village all donated beds to fill the house, so that our team could not only stay together at night, but also sleep in beds. All week it was like this. Every house visit, they would hurry around pulling out anything that could be used as chair so that we all had seats. Did I mention that El Transito was in the middle of coffee farm? Aka fresh coffee at every house visit. I didn’t think my eyes would ever close due to the amount of caffeine running through me.

The kids’ program was from 2-3pm every afternoon, but they would show up at 1:15ish ready to play. So much energy. They would also help us set up for their program, and then clean up after and set up for the teens. And let’s be honest, they wouldn’t leave till after the adult program, so two of us would take turns each day playing Pato, Pato, Gonzo (duck, duck, goose) ad nauseam. Or tag, or simply braiding hair and coloring and attempting to keep them from distracting the other programs. Also quickly learned that if you give one kid a piggyback ride, you will have to give ALL the kids piggyback rides. Thankfully though, in the afternoons after the Kids’ programs, the cutest, crinkly faced grandmothers would bring us coffee and bread to refuel for more Pato, Pato, Gonzo. These kids were so stinking excited to have us there, didn’t want to leave our sides (So many stories of their antics, but for another time).

The Equipo (team)  I was assigned was phenomenal. Each member had incredible talents to bring to the table and together. I will write more later on this mission only because it deserves its only post but I do want to state in writing that I have forgiven Jenny and Penelope for trying to kill me. I woke up one night gasping for air because Jenny decided to fumigate the room with bug spray, including spraying me down because she said I was the reason the Mosquitoes were in our room, they liked my blood. She could have at least stopped spraying me in the face when I was trying to talk.  I could not stop coughing. AND then, Penelope came in and took off her shoes, my eyelashes curl just at remembering the smell. I was coughing because I kept inhaling bug spray and then crying because the smell and then dying because I couldn’t breathe from laughing so hard. Oh the adventures of mission.

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My Team 🙂 left to right: Jenny, Penelope, Jose Ramos, Rosa, Me, Asaph, Elias. Not Pictured, Larissa. 

The people of El Transito, La Cidra and La Laguna de Tigre welcomed us so warmly into their homes and lives. Truly a humbling experience. I am continually learning that even though they have so little materially, they have the most to give. I wanted to serve them, solve their problems, and instead, they served me and taught me how to receive love. I realized I had been so focused on how to give love and service, that I didn’t know how to receive it myself. And that by not knowing how to receive love, I wasn’t able to truly serve them. I was so caught up in that I couldn’t speak spanish well and could hardly understand them half the time. When all they wanted was for me to visit their home, sit on their stump, sip coffee from their prized china cup, and be with them. Oh, I have so much to learn.

The mission wrapped up on July 30th many tears and laughter as we said our goodbyes. Bittersweet, because I was excited to return to the local ministries, I missed my girls at Casa Misericordia, but oh I will miss those crinkly faced grandmothers who hugged me so tight and the kids who would climb all over me and all try to sit on my lap at the same time.

Going Forward

Two weeks ago was vacation, recovery and recharge before heading back into the routine. For the first half of the week, I got to go home with one of my friends and fellow missioner, Karen, and experience life outside of the mission house. I have fallen in love with her family. Her mom made sure I never went hungry so I am pretty sure I rolled out of the house when I left. For the rest of week, I explored and shopped in Comayagua (with others who stayed at the house, I did not go off alone, Mom).

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Needless to say, I am very happy. This is definitely where I am called to be. Some days are easier then others to not let the communication barrier frustrate me. Normally I am able to use it as motivation to continue studying and practicing every day. Also, the Spanish speaking Missioners are SO PATIENT with me and always encouraging/pushing me to grow in confidence of speaking Spanish. I am so grateful to have had two weeks of school to learn basics, and then a whole summer to practice and learn just from immersion.

On Saturday, August 26th, I will leave with one other 2-year Missioner to go to Antigua, Guatemala, for 3 more weeks of school. I am super excited because I believe with the basics out of the way and two months of struggling, I know what I want to learn/study and grow in. Plus I can see the finish line, aka being able to converse and get to know those around me better and be able to start jumping in with the ministries and being able to lead. And that is enough to get me through long days of class and feeling like your brain is going to implode.

Thank You!

Thank you so much again for all your prayers and support. I could not do this without you. Because of you, I was able to raise $5,696.00 in only 3 months. I only have $1,804.00 left to raise woot-woot! If you or maybe a friend or family member feel called to continue supporting me financially please see the links below. The missioners FlipCause goes directly to my room and board here in Honduras. Donations made to FlipCause are tax deductible. You can also set it up to do a monthly donation for the time I am here in Honduras if that is easier.

Donations made to to the Paypal link go towards my travel and other expenses (such as when I had to get blood work because I foolishly thought I would be immune to the water while brushing my teeth, and then had to live off imodium and antibiotics for two months).  Because donations to paypal are for personal travel and expense, these are not tax deductible. Thank you again in advance.

I hope all is going well. I pray daily for you and your intentions. If you have a specific intention you would like me to pray for as well ask the community to pray for please do not hesitate to shoot me an email, erin.x.tooley@gmail.com  or facebook message. I am learning daily the power of intercessory prayer, such a beautiful gift.  Love to all and I promise this time to not wait three months before updating everyone again!

P.S. I realized I didn’t explain the tarantula in my title. Mondays are cleaning days. With 15 or more people living in one house, you need a cleaning day. Anyway, I was cleaning my area with Katelyn and we came face to face with a Tarantula. Needless to say I was a screaming mess. Thankfully Roberto came to our rescue and killed it for us. I learned three things,

  1. Tarantulas are big and hairy
  2. They move really fast
  3. I will be perfectly happy if that was my first and last encounter

P.P.S. I realized that I have been really bad with taking pictures. So sorry this post doesn’t have more. I will do better in the future. As well as taking videos. I am notorious for bring my camera and then never taking it out of my bag.

 

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thejoyouswanderer

Lover of Tea, Elephants, Mountain Air, Beach Sunrises and Airports.

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