Wednesday, April 8, 2015

20 Months and Counting

It's been 20 months--almost 2 years--since I left on this journey.

I can't thank you all enough for your support.  I hope one day you'll know how much I appreciate it and how I actually could not have done this without your prayers nor could I probably continue to stick it out.

Life here is looking up in a lot of ways.  Our kids are happy, healthy, and safe.  They are growing both in wisdom, maturity, and size! They're doing really well in school and back in the routine and stability we all need here with our daily schedules. Some are getting grounded for being bratty and throwing fits.  They're acting like normal pre-teens and teenagers.  But they are happy, healthy, and safe! It brings us all so much more joy and peace. 

Today I'd like to share some fun life lessons I've learned over the last 20 months:

1. Lice hate olive oil.

Add some of this goodness into your shampoo and conditioner (not too much! I speak from experience...) and the lice will stay away.  Tea tree oil works as well, but when you almost live in the Mosquitia of Central America, your options are limited.  Any type of oil works!

2. Mosquitoes hate garlic.

When I first got here, one of our little girls would walk around all day with a clove of garlic in her mouth. It was disgusting.  She refused to brush her teeth and insisted on smelling overwhelmingly of garlic. Lucky for her, she wasn't just repelling her house-mates.  It works as a natural mosquito repellant as you sweat and it's also known to be a natural antibiotic.  You go girl! Don't worry, she now brushes her teeth...most of the time.

3. All medical people are doctors and dentists only take out teeth.

Back when I was a Kindergarten teacher, I made two bad mistakes.  First came the dentist brigade.  They were checking all of the school kids...and they were only pulling out teeth.  That's all they really can do here.  Well, I was still in my American mindset thinking they would just be cleaning and giving out prizes. I walked my line of little minions over to the clinic, bribed them with promises of prizes for the best behaved the next day, and left to teach my English classes.  The overall message to calm them all down was, "NO, they are NOT going to take out your teeth.  I promise! The dentists are nice people.  They won't hurt you."

The next day, three kids showed up to class.  They all got teeth pulled out.  Profa Tiffany is a liar.

Then came the eye doctors.  Kinder was up first once again.  I pried and pulled one little boys hand begging him to come outside with the others.  "What is wrong," I asked him. "What on earth has gotten into you."  Then my beautiful little slightly cross-eyed kindergartener responded in a whisper, "Van a sacar mis ojos. Ellos van a sacar mis ojos."  "No, no Christian, I promise they are not going to take out your eyes.  I promise."  But did he believe me? No. Profa Tiffany is a liar.

Don't worry...eventually he went and they did NOT take out his eye.  They did give him an eye patch to wear. He didn't enjoy being called a pirate though so that didn't last long.  Moral of the story: don't tell your kids the dentist won't sacar sus dientes.

4. Apple Cider Vinegar cures all.

Living in a tropical, rainforest environment, you tend to pick up random things.  Last year I had a strange skin fungus (even grosser than it sounds) and nothing would kill it.  Eventually after trying everything and even seeing a Dermatologist in the city, a friend recommended I try bathing in apple cider vinegar.  Guess what, I now bath daily in apple cider vinegar.  Adding that to the list of things I never thought I would be doing before.

5.  Four wheel drive can get you out of almost any muddy mountain situation.

6.  If a kindergartner says he's got to throw up or pee, make him run, not walk out that door!

And don't question slang.

7. "Hi lady", "Bye lady", and "I love you" are the only English most Hondurans in Trujillo know right now.  But they're working on it.

8. Time is relative.

When someone tells you to meet at 3:00, they really mean 3:45.  Unless it's a religious event.  Then they mean 2:45.

9. Putting names on things make everything nicer.

It first started with the pesky rat in room 3 of our house.  Once we named him Francisco, he didn't seem as threatening.  Don't worry, we killed him will some rat poison called "The Last Supper."

Now it's amoebas mostly.  Everyone gets them.  But once they have a name, it's just like a friend you're mad at or an annoying sibling causing you intestinal issues.

10. A stamp makes anything official and legal.

Got a problem with residency? No worries. I'll put a stamp on it and fudge the date.  A good stamp is the cure for all.

Well, that's all I can think of for now.  But this was so fun I just might do it again.  Thanks for reading! God bless and Happy Easter!


Saturday, February 21, 2015

a different kind of poverty

Today I want to start off by saying I’m sorry.  I’m sorry for not keeping in touch more often, for not making the extra effort, and especially for not writing since what…august?  You, my family and friends, my support deserve better.  I could say that it’s just that I’ve been so busy…which is true.  It’s also the average American cop-out.  

So today I would like to share something I’ve been dealing with for the last few months and am finally starting to receive clarity on.   This life is hard.  Poverty is hard.  I’ll never know what poverty is actually like for my neighbor, but I know my neighbors and I know their struggles second hand.  
The life of the missionary here is hard because of a different kind of poverty.  This is a kind we still can’t ever fully know, but we most definitely experience here with the local villages.  Spiritual poverty. 

What do I consider spiritual poverty?  One priest for the entire diocese of Trujillo.  One bishop who has to cover for said priest quite often.  Confession for our kids maybe once a year.  Mass with a priest and real, blessed communion maybe once every few months for each village.  No spiritual direction.  Very few spiritual resources.  Nuns who are wise, but who are just as young as you are and dealing with their own struggles of being so far from spiritual support as well.  

It’s certainly worse for our neighbors.  They don’t have any reason to try to go to Church.  It costs too much to send the whole family into town, often times they have to work still, and there isn’t anyone else around them who loves to pray and be Catholic.  No incentive.  

By definition, this should be my role, right?  I’m a missionary.  That’s what missionaries do.  They bring Christ to those who don’t know him.  

We lead a different kind of mission.  It’s most certainly not a bad one.  It definitely has its perks (a lot of cute kids to make you laugh).  Our mission is to serve, protect, and care for these children and this organization.  The Farm of the child itself has brought jobs, economy, and life to this rural part of Trujillo.  It has brought education, Catholicism, and hope.  This is a good mission too.  It’s just much different than what one might think of at first hearing the term “missionary”.  

I’ve decided I like the word now.  I wasn’t always sold on it.  But I believe that we’re all missionaries for something.  And our mission here is good.  It is often times dark, but that pushes us closer towards the Lord.  Over the last year and a half, it has made me a woman.  It has made me strong, resilient, hard-working, more understanding and pulled me out of my own self to realize that I am selfish, weak, judgmental, can be hurtful at times, don’t like to share always, and sometimes lose all hope.  Those are fights I continue to work on daily, but this place is drawing it out of me slowly and painfully.  I feel like I’ve become a new person here.  

Now, if you ask me if I’ve grown closer to God, I will most certainly say no.  I don’t feel much of anything.   I feel a lot of things though, and it draws me to desire that relationship more.  On our last retreat, a priest explained the concept of desolation and consolation to us.  He said not to worry, desolation is a good thing.  That’s where we really grow.  That’s where we aren’t comfortable and we need God most, we need him when we can’t feel Him.  No matter what, He still continues to be my hope.  If anyone can keep this place together, it’s got to be Him.  

Like I said, this is only something I’m starting to get clarity on, so bear with me as I continue on the journey.  If you’re experiencing desolation or have in the past as well, have hope!  Try and trust that this is where we will find God. 

 Finca Missionaries of 2015

So Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!

 Check out this video made by my fellow blonde and beautiful nurse friend, Brooke Adams (brookinhan)

Here's a link to her blog: Brooke Adams 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014


I never knew Hunger before
Nor the many faces that she held
And yet still I never saw her coming my way
Passing closely by every day
In the image of a happy child

I didn’t know she’d be hidden
Behind the eyes of a courageous mother
Choosing coffee over nourishment at every meal
For that one meal they may manage a day
Just so her children can fall asleep without pain

I guess I just never thought
I’d find her so clean and put together
That she’d be thriving in a nice sturdy home
Alongside the pride of an eldest son
Determined, driven, desperate
To make up for his father’s failure and fault

So how did I not think
I would find Abuse as her only companion?
I must’ve been blinded by ignorance
Asleep in this blissful dream of poverty
Just so that I might rest
Peacefully oblivious to her world of suffering  

Saturday, August 2, 2014

coming back home

                Since I’ve last written, much has happened.  We’re almost into the fourth quarter of school now, my vacation has come and gone, and our missionary house got a little pick-me-up with some very energetic and fun summer volunteers.  The kindergarteners still talk about how they miss Profe Cherry y Tomate--an endearing nick-name they came up with for him because of how red he turned when he would laugh or get tortured when they would all decide to tickle him (but you know how much they love you Michael!) and my middle school English class always brings up how fun Profe Jackson was.  I’m beginning to think they did a better job than me, honestly.  

                Being back after a month long visit to the States is strange in many ways.  I didn’t realize how accustomed I’d become to ice cold showers, always sweating…always, power outages, the water…and the lack of water, and always, always eating beans.  I had some readjusting to do, but it gave me some time to reflect on the mission itself and what my personal mission here is.  Without a personal mission in mind, I think it’s pretty hard to keep yourself sane here.  

I can’t help but wonder what everyone back home is thinking now as they are starting to hear about all that is going on in this country.  Thousands of families are sending their children stateside with the hope of a better life.  It’s the same here as it’s been for years: poverty, a lot of abused, neglected, abandoned kids living on the streets, women who have been left to raise and somehow feed their kids on their own, no jobs, the main income coming from family working illegally in the States, a corrupt government, drug trafficking, human trafficking, sexual abuse in a never-ending cycle, and a very distinct line between the rich and the poor. I think that last one has become something I’ve only recently noticed more of in the last few weeks.  

                I’m in training for a new job as the Administrator of Finances here at the Farm and part of that job entails making trips to San Pedro Sula every 2 months to pick up donations, medicine, and buy things you just can’t find in Trujillo or even La Ceiba.  Last week I went to go and learn the route and the city.  What I was expecting out of one of the world’s more dangerous cities was not what I’d consider the medieval version of the wealthier parts of Miami.  Everything was just so nice.  It was clean, people had iPhones, they were walking around in suits, heels and fancy shirts with nice purses.   For the first day that is what I saw.  Even from my view off the balcony of the Seminary we stay at was not what I would have ever considered Honduran before.  I was staring at a suburban street with actual street lights and a big house across the way that could have been placed anywhere in Tampa and be considered normal.  The one difference is the walls around the houses, which are stucco, painted and quite beautiful, and the barbed wire on top.  And if for some reason you happen to miss that, on the corner of every house’s fortress wall, there is a tower that you can only get into from a hanging ladder for the security guards.  The only word Patrick and I could think of to describe it was medieval.  

                The next day we went to the Market in San Pedro to find a few things and, while it was still in the nice part of town, the difference between the rich and the poor was very clear.  I know you get this in any city, but you don’t just see naked toddlers being raised by raggedly clothed, starving children in abandoned buildings behind the dirty, infested streets of the market in just any American city.  After living here for a year, I’ve been able to form friendships with many different types of people.  I know some wealthier families in the city and some pretty poor ones just next door.  I want to ask the rich here if they know what the rest of their country is like and if they realize that people here are actually starving and dying because of bad water or lack of.  Do they know just how badly the gang violence and drug trafficking affects the future of the children here? But isn’t that hypocritical of myself?  I don’t know what goes on back home.  If someone asked me about the poverty in Appalachia or the inner-city, would I get it?  

                Our kids at the Farm have a very different future from many of those in the poor class if they choose to take what they’ve been given and run with it.  We really are raising some quality young men and women here.  They all have their immature stages, but one thing I notice with the older ones is that they really do rise to the occasion when they suddenly become the oldest kid and therefore the leader in their house.  For some of them I’ve seen a little spark go off in their mind and the change we see with the way they handle their everyday life suddenly becomes more organized and clear.  It’s like one day they just get it.  I pray that happens for all our kids one day.  And I pray that happens for me and my class as well as we approach the final months with our “oldies” and prepare to become the leaders of the missionary community. 

                I was reminded recently about the mission of the Farm when I asked how this place is still alive and running.  This year alone, there were a number of things that happened that could have shut it all down.  And in the past 18 years there have been a number of threats to the continuation of this organization.  The foundress of the mission, Zulena Pescatore, puts it in very simple terms for us.  The founder of the mission itself died a whole year before any children even arrived.  He held the vision of it in his heart and he died before the Chapel was even completed.  And still, it grew and blossomed into the beautiful organization it is today.  Times are tough and there are plenty of reasons for us to say that we can’t go on and shouldn’t be here anymore.  Our children don’t have that luxury.  There is no backup plan for them.  This is it.  So with this renewed hope in my heart, I’d ask for all of you to please keep the Farm of the Child in your daily prayers in general—specifically the children we serve, the mission, and all of the employees and missionaries living and working here every day.  

For more information on the Honduras exodus crisis, check out this article:
Washington Post: Honduran President: 'U.S. has enormous responsibility for immigration crisis'

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Value of a Child's Life

            Monday started out as a typical day. It was harder than usual because the week before my family had visited and been such a source of joy and energy.  The kids still asked if “el niño uno y dos” (aka my father and brother) were coming back to play with them even though I had told them a thousand times they had to go home. 

I’ve found here that the finca, God, or maybe just this place, tends to push you to your limit.  I’m with Mother Teresa on this one—I really wish God didn’t trust me so much.  I don’t really trust myself.  But, it still happened and He will still continue to ask more of us then we might think we can handle.  

The Tía from the little girl’s house came running up to me yelling my name as I walked to the middle school five minutes before my English class started. 

“You have to call Natalie right now! No one is answering their phones and there’s been an emergency. Call her right now!” 

I told her I didn’t have my phone, but she needed a number I had so I left my class in the care of another teacher and ran home as fast as I could.  I called and called and she didn’t answer.  I ran back to house 1 and the Tía got through to Natalie.  

“There’s no service in the hospital and I’m running back and forth.  I’m so sorry. No one’s answering their phones. There’s a little boy who’s be seizing for a long time.  He’s not going to make it if he stays here, Tiffany. He has to get to San Pedro as soon as possible.” 

“What do you want me to do?” 

“Call Larry.” 

So I did what I was told and called Larry, a pilot and owner of the resort Tranquility Bay down the beach from us.  My family had just spent the week down there with them and he flew them to and from Trujillo.  He and his wife met doing medical evacuations in the Outpost of Northern Canada before he became a Captain for Air Canada.  With over 40 years of experience, we were very confident that he knows what he’s doing.

I got through to them right away and Larry said they would be in the air in 45 minutes.  45 minutes! That’s it.  The hospital was ready to take the little guy in an ambulance on an 8 + hour right through rural Honduras on rough, impossible roads to San Pedro and he was dying.  45 minutes to be in the air was a miracle!  

After that, it took a lot of love, care, hard work, and prayers to keep that little boy alive.  It was a miracle the way it worked out, but still a tough call because chartering a private plane for one person is not cheap.  It was like a perfectly rehearsed emergency drill.  It only left Natalie and I thinking: how could God put everything in place so perfectly like this to save this little boy’s life? 

After a tense hour long flight to San Pedro Sula through a storm, they landed safely and got him into an ambulance for the Hospital.  He was seizing and blacked out for almost 5 hours and it took a doctor, three nurses, and his mother to hold him down the whole way.  The pilot, all the doctors, and the nurses working on him knew the same thing: if they had put him in an ambulance for the 8+ hour car ride through the rough mountain roads to San Pedro, he would have died.  

I never thought I would be put in a position to have to personally charter a plane to medically evacuate someone before, but what is the value of chartering a plane in regards to a child’s life, no matter who they are?  Would the decision have been any easier if it had been one of us or even a child in the States?  The value of a child’s life is the same throughout the world.  It is priceless.  And if we had to do it again, we would in a heartbeat no matter what it cost.  And I know those nurses, who I’m so proud to call my sisters down here, feel the same.  

The founder of this mission, Vincent Pescatore, would have also done the same thing.  In a second.  God provides for those who come to Him.  And we came to Him begging for mercy.   

Later on as I let go of everything in the Chapel, I looked up at the stain glass window above the Cross.  And as I lay there crying my eyes out, begging God to save this little guy’s life knowing that they had done everything they could for him, I read the words: 

“El que recibe este niño en mi nombre, a mí me recibe.”

Whoever receives a child in my name, receives Me. 

I’m not a nurse.  I’ve never been asked to do something like this before, but I know God is asking more of me now than ever.  I just pray I can be all that He needs me to be.  

This little boy’s name is Danny Salinas.  Please keep him and his family in your prayers.  He is from a very small, rural community about a two hour walk up the mountain called Buena Vista.  They don’t have much money, but they do have a deep faith and a beautiful family.  Danny is only four years old and the youngest of his family.  The rest of his brothers and sisters are 14 and up.  He’s their little baby will forever be considered a miracle in our eyes. He is supposed to be released from the hospital this week.  The night he was dropped off and given the care he needed in San Pedro, he woke up and said,
 “Mama, ya me quiero ir.  Vamos para la finca!” 

–Mom, I want to leave.  Let’s go back to the Farm of the Child!-- 

This is the mission of the Farm of the Child.  I want to thank each and every one of you for all of your prayers and donations.  Because of you, we are able to serve the people of Colon, Honduras.  Because of your support and prayers, this little four year old boy has a big, bright life to live.  Thank you! Please don’t stop.

                                           Mission Statement of the Farm of the Child:

Farm of the Child USA is a Catholic, non-profit organization that supports Finca del Niño-Honduras, a mission modeled on the Holy Family that educates, protects, and promotes healing and spiritual formation for orphaned and abandoned children, and families in the local community.