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.

Friday, February 21, 2014

the dignity of serving others

On my first day of actual vacation away from the Farm, my first reaction is simply that I miss those kids.  It's shocking to hear, especially considering that the day before I left was full of meltdowns and drama. The question I keep coming back to is, "why am I here?" What's the point?  Please don't judge.  It's something I think all of us naturally ask ourselves at least once during our time here. 

When one of the teens lashes out at you to make sure you understand that you're not poor, you'll never be poor, and you'll never know what it's like to be in her shoes, what would you say?

When the pain of seeing and hearing about children you love hurting other children you love is thrown directly in your face and it feels like nothing is in your control, what would do?

When the constant feeling of you're not enough, there aren't enough of us, and you know you want to be giving more than you physically can, how would you cope? 

These aren't dark times in the Finca, but there have been some dark days.  A local community leader of Corazalta, the pueblo half way up the mountain near us, passed away unexpectedly and, unfortunately, in a way that would have been preventable in the States.  There have been several incidents where we, as missionaries, have been asked to use our free time to spend with specific children for long periods of time to help give them some space from there houses, but we've been forced to neglect the others who need our love and attention as well.  School started three weeks ago and, while we've all adjusted to the fast-paced life we now lead with our lives scheduled down to the T Monday through Saturday, I'm not sure any of us have had a second to breathe. 

So yes, vacation is good.  But no matter what, the world keeps on spinning, things keep on happening, and none of it revolves around me. Or anyone for that matter.

What is service? I think I'm starting to finally realize that it's not in what I do here.  I'm not here to do things.  It's great that I can teach Kindergarten and English, run Girl Scouts, a small youth group, running club, and many other random odd-jobs.  It's great that I can go to the local women's faith group and support our neighbors in that small way.  But whatever I do, it will never be enough.  I will always disappoint someone, even if that someone is myself.

What I can do is listen.  That's all people really want anyway, isn't it?  Isn't that why we spend all our time on Facebook and twitter, sending snapchats and pintristing our lives, our faces plugged into our phone screens constantly.  Trust me, even though I live in the campo, everyone still has a facebook and cell phone.  People just want to be known. To be heard. And why shouldn't they? There's dignity in that. 

So you want to serve others?  Don't you ever tell yourself you aren't enough.  You are enough.  All you have to do is be a listening ear and willing to hear the stories of others.  That's a service we can all give.  That's giving dignity to the world.

Monday, January 13, 2014


                All my life my mother has told me she loves me unconditionally.  My dad did too, but my mom said it more often mostly because she was reprimanding me more (don't worry I know you loved me both the same). I know that did more for my self-confidence than anything, though.  Knowing that no matter what I did, my parents made it clear that they would always love me, always. I guess I never realized how much that affects a person until I got older and began to notice something different in those who didn’t have that security.  I felt grateful and sorry and I wanted them to have what I had and know that feeling of safety all at the same time.  I especially want that for our kids here. 

                Ever since I found out I would be the Kindergarten teacher this year, it’s been on my mind to give the classroom a much-needed paint job.  So, with some donations from last year’s Kinder teacher and my parents, we were able to finally buy some paint.  When the kids are on break here and too old to be in winter camp, they go to PAVI which stands for Puente a la Vida Independiente or Bridge to the Independent Life.  It’s a way for them to learn basic skills like gardening, cleaning, building, painting, etc.  In it they are able to help beautify the finca, literally eat the “fruits” of their labor when it’s ripe, and earn a little chore money to buy ice cream or save up and get a nice pair of fashion sandals all the girls are obsessed with.  Part of their money does have to go into a savings account that they will work on building up over time until the day they leave our care and another portion goes to charity and the Church which they choose to do themselves.  It’s a great program and really gives our kids life-long skills and a good understanding of solid work ethic.  

                So, when it was suggested to me that I use the PAVI girls for two days to help me paint the Kinder classroom, I thought to myself, “Well, I’m sure it would be easier for me to do this on my own, but these girls deserve a fun project and I can teach them the proper, professional way to paint.”  What I forgot was that they’re all teenage girls. 

                It was what they would call here in Honduras an absolute relajo (or an absolute mess).  Not only were they painting their hair, their shoes, and each other when I wasn’t looking, but they painted literally every single part of the classroom save the floor and ceiling but including the electric sockets and the light switch. I made them stay late to clean out the school pila they dumped the paint brushes and buckets in leaving a nice layer of watery paint sitting and staining the inside of the sink.  After that first day, I realized I was in way over my head and I was dreading the next.  But, as we left the girls were laughing and singing and I knew that at least they had enjoyed themselves and the first coat in the classroom didn’t look half that bad.  I found myself wishing I spoke better and could explain myself as clearly as I wanted to.  I understand their frustrations with me when I can't tell them specifically what I want; I had plenty of Chinese TA’s in college who barely spoke English…I feel for them.  It’s not easy, but they could be a little easier on us too.  

                The next day was worse because it was raining and they had it in their heads that this meant we don’t have PAVI.  They fought me on it all morning and by the time we got there and started painting, they had an attitude I hadn’t yet seen come out before.  It’s hard for them because up until this point, they saw me as a friend who came to spend time with them and hang out all the time.  And it’s not their fault because in the past as a Summer missionary and someone who came with the Church brigades, that’s what I was.  But now I was in a disciplinary position and I had to hold them accountable for their actions to help them grow and become good human beings and it isn’t comfortable for anyone.  I felt like I had been hit by a train and I was so frustrated and angry at the way they were treating me.  The Farm has a system where the kids get graded on their work from that day on a scale of 1-5, 5 being above and beyond and 1 being needs great improvement.  At the end of the week, they get their points added up and that determines what privileges they get such as going to the weekend movie night or being grounded at home.  Let’s just say that this particular weekend there were quite a few older girls who were not at movie night.   

                I tried to stay as calm as possible, but when we all came back after those two horrible days, I just felt like crying.  This isn’t what I came here for and what good am I doing here if they all hate me?  The last time this happened on a slightly smaller scale, one girl didn’t talk to me for 3 weeks straight. Despite all this, I’ve come to an understanding that this is normal and expected.  Being a missionary is hard.  We are stuck in this small in between of friends and peers who these kids can and should trust, but also as the adults responsible for disciplining them when they act out.  It’s basically crash-course parent training.

                In the end, some wrote me apology notes, others asked for me to come hang out with them several times a day, and another one just needed a hug to make sure I still loved her.  It reminded me that not only do these kids not have what I will always have in my parents, but I'm reminded of the sacrifice it takes to live, work, and give here and that it’s all worth it.  They are worth it.  They remind me of the unconditional love my parents showed me as a child and make me want to be a better person every single day.  We have to be those people for them.  In the words of my parents, “I can be your friend and your parent, but if you make me choose I will always pick being the parent because I love you.”  I feel like I’ve never understood those words more in my life than I have now.