**Disclaimer: I haven’t blogged in a while and I’m trying to get back into it. This one is LONG. So sit down, have a cup of coffee, and enjoy the novel. It’s honest and real and I’m being a little vulnerable and not trying to dress things up.
What’s been going on lately…
Wow the last few months have been crazy! The first few during quarantine were fine but things started going downhill in June and July.
Here’s my train of thought on the things that have been wearing me down: The restrictions, unknowns, the virus, problems with teammates, problems with boys, problems in the community, domestic violence done to friends, emergency trips to the hospital (for other people, not me), gunfights right outside the academy, theft in the academy, lack of interest from the boys, lack of direction for myself, needing a break from this long ‘break’, questioning and doubting, loneliness, feeling forgotten, feeling invisible and taken for granted, exhausted, sad, weary, brokenhearted, inept, weak, incapable, indecisive, unworthy, unprepared, listless, regretful, untrusting, angry, feeling foolish, feeling vulnerable, struggling with communication in another language, stressed, overwhelmed, always helping people with needs, getting taken advantage of because people only want what you have or want a hand out, missing true friendships, deep conversations, missing empathy, missing spending time with people just because they wanted to hang out and there was not hidden motive or agenda…
So, where to begin with the drama of the past few weeks?
We’re on an extended (going on six months) break of sorts…
But we’ve been reopened for about 10 weeks (Since June 15) with what I’d call a 20% open academy. Instead of having 35-40 boys here 5 days a week, they are all only here one day a week. So just 8-9 boys each day. We have been doing a scaled down version of the academy… consisting of devotional, class time, soccer practice and dinner. And I get it, it’s tough for all the boys to come. Some of them have to work to support their families during this time. For some of them, at least in the beginning, the fear and uncertainty of getting the virus as high so kids didn’t come for that reason. But lately, as attendance has gone down and we’d visit homes to see what’s up, it was what I’d call lame excuses… it was too hot, or kids had homework or wanted to go play ball with some other kids on the community field. It’s hard for me to have mercy when they only have to be here for 3 hours one day a week… and can’t even make that!
So, meanwhile Honduras as a whole has been trying to reopen the country in phases since June. The majority of the country just moved into Phase 2… to give you a clue as to how slow things are going. Movement is very restrictive. People are only allowed out once every 10 days, based on the last number of their national ID. If caught out on a day when you’re not supposed to be, you could get a fine, have to do community service and have your vehicle impounded for 6 months… and there are police checks all over the place.
Recently had a shoot-out right by the academy…
Honduras is unfortunately known for its crime and its drugs. Both of these are issues are in Travesia too, but for the most part it’s a peaceful community and at least when bad things happen it’s almost always drug related or is brought in by someone from the outside. But even with that there’s just people that you can’t trust. And one of them happens to be one of our neighbors… lucky us. We’ll a few weeks ago on a Saturday night, Axel and I were surprised and jumped up when around 9:30 at night we here lots of gun shots… lots being at least 10. I thought that they were coming from inside the property. I run to the door and peek out to see what’s going on and see lots of people running for cover at said neighbor’s house. I watch the house for a while, and no one comes back… the place is empty, and no one is moving or walking around from up there.
I get updated from friends in the community over the next several days about what really happened. Apparently, some other bad guys had come to visit this guy with the intent of killing him, even though he lives with a wife and kids and in a tight little cluster of other homes and families. Well he got away and was not harmed but he and his family were in hiding from these guys in case they come back.
I was extremely angry and upset about this because it happened right next door. We didn’t have any activities going on and it was a Saturday night, BUT it could have been completely different if it had been during a weeknight and if life was anything other than what it is because of coronavirus. I was like wrath of God angry, wanting him to smite this guy and get rid of him ASAP.
Don’t get me wrong, I still think about it and I’m also super thankful that we didn’t have anything going on and that God was protecting Axel and I in this midst of this craziness.
To further enhance my anger and strong desire for some vigilante justice (can someone please send Batman to Honduras to clean things up down here?) I notice a few days later that one of the bullets actually shot through a window into the classroom. It was shot through the window and across the room, being stopped only by the thick concrete wall on the other side.
God reminds me over and over that this is exactly why I am in this community and want to help these boys. So many people here grow up with violence around them like this and it’s considered normal… they are not even aware of the trauma that is affecting them and pulling them down. I want to help them see that there’s a way out and that they don’t have to do the same things these other idiots are doing!
…And then we had some theft at the academy…
And within the past few weeks we’ve been discovering more and more that some things were missing from the academy and came to find out that different boys have been stealing from us. This hurts me more than the shooting. This is extremely personal for me because these are boys that I love and want the best for. I work my tail off and try to help them and then something like this happens. It’s been a very unpleasant rollercoaster of emotions for me. I’ve ranged from wanting to kick them all out… to wanting to show lots of grace and mercy and hope that they’ll change and come back with true repentance just like the prodigal son. I’ll let you know where I eventually land on this.
This is still very hard for me to think about and talk about. I’ve been procrastinating finishing this blog for almost a week now!
Ok before I get distracted with all my emotions again let me give you a recap:
So, we got word from one of our boys that some others were stealing stuff behind our backs. Axel was looking into it by doing an inventory of our soccer supplies to see what we were missing. And then a few days later our big speaker in our gym was stolen because the gym door was left unlocked. And the very next day a few rhinos nervously came to see me and confessed to stealing a computer (which they brought back and returned) and several soccer balls, pairs of cleats, and shampoos and soaps from the locker room. After this and some intense investigation it was looking like we were missing lots of brand-new soccer balls (deflated balls still in the bag… never been used) and lots of pairs of brand-new cleats. The week that ensued was filled with lots of talks with the boys individually and all together.
The timing worked out that Brock and his fam happened to be passing through Honduras briefly, so we timed our big meeting with the boys for while he was here. I’m so thankful that he was here to help navigate this and bring the hammer down on the boys. At the end of our meeting with them all we gave them a chance to confess and return stolen items. We had eight boys confess and bring stuff back. We still have stuff missing and the pressure is now on the boys to return anything else they have taken. As part of their initial punishment we have closed the academy for a few weeks and they all know that after this punishment period how we reopen will be very different from what it was before and will partly depend on them and if they confess to the remaining things missing and return or at least explain what they did with those things.
I’m not going to lie, last week was probably one of the worst weeks for me ever in Honduras. I was so brokenhearted, angry, sad, disappointed, you name it and I felt it. When the boys confessed, I was torn in two each time because I was on the one hand so proud of them for confessing in front of their peers (this NEVER happens here) and on the other hand so disappointed because I couldn’t believe they had done this. The majority of the boys who confessed are also boys who have been with the academy for nearly 3 years… so we have invested a lot in them, and they know what is expected of them and what is acceptable and what isn’t. Please pray for them, that God will continue to soften their hearts and give them courage to speak the truth and be an example for others.
Prayer requests and some personal thoughts
Please pray for us, the leaders of the academy as we work through this and move forward. There has to be consequences and punishment for this…. To sweep this under the rug and not address it any more will give the boys the message that they can do it again and again. This is 100% not acceptable and they will know it. As a side note, at the beginning of each year, we go over all of our rules and do a big orientation for all the boys at the academy, even if they are returning rhinos. We always explain to them that we have TWO RULES that will get them kicked out immediately, with no grace and no discussion. They are 1. Disrespecting or mistreating women; and 2. Stealing from the academy. We don’t just mention them in passing, we go over them and come back to them throughout the year. So, with that said, every single boy who stole something knew the rules and knew the consequences. Moving forward might be a very tough lesson for them in receiving grace and forgiveness but still have to live with the consequences of your actions.
Please pray for me personally. I’ve already mentioned that this past week has been a doozy. But between the theft and the shooting and other stuff I’ve been worn down and weary. We’ve officially been on lock down and in quarantine in Honduras for 6 months. And since things have shut down, for various reasons out of their control, most of the folks that I work with have temporarily left Honduras and had to go back to the states. Now, I’m encouraged that God thinks that I can handle this on my own (scripture he’ll never give you more than you can bear) but I’m about at the end of that rope. I know myself and my cycles of burn out and fatigue here. When I get tired and need a break, I usually start to get depressed, anxious and things that were normally manageable become overwhelming or impossible. I’d 110% call last week one of those overwhelming and impossible weeks that I only got through because of God’s love and grace and the help of Brock and Kerrie through the toughest days.
All of this drama… threat of the virus, closing and not being able to do what I came here to do, extreme limits to travel and getting out, community violence and then theft from our own rhinos… has left me feeling tired and worn out and brokenhearted. I’m so disappointed in these boys, in the trust I had put in them, in being lied to my face, in being used not once but systematically over several weeks in order to steal stuff and keep it hidden so more stuff could be stolen. I’m sad because this trust has caused problems in the academy not just for the troublemakers but for everyone… even the boys who unfortunately had nothing to do with it and didn’t know about any of it.
I am struggling because I want the boys to pay and pay to the extreme for what they did! My vengeance without mercy side is fighting for control. But God keeps bringing me back to center and reminding me that I’m in the same boat as these boys… like Paul says in Romans 2 and I’m on the same level as them… they have lied, cheated and stolen, so have I. I have been given mercy, pardon and new chances by the only righteous judge and giver of justice… and I should do likewise for these boys! That doesn’t mean that they don’t have to face the consequences of their actions, that cannot be overlooked. But to receive it with love and truth and mercy will show something different that they don’t normally see here. And that’s the whole point of us being here to help them grow past all they have ever known and perhaps grown into something greater. We can only do that by pointing them to someone greater… Jesus Christ. And we do that by doing our best to act and do as he would and by sharing his words and promises with these boys.
I’ve been reading some books and devotionals lately that have really helped me to reorient my focus and see a bigger picture of what is happening in my life and in these boys’ lives… a real game changer for me! A reminder that it will all be worth it in the end. I’m reminded of when Paul lists out his suffering in 2 Corinthians 11:16-31… he does this not to boast in what he has been through but in his weaknesses. He knows that through all of his trials God’s grace and power was with him and God was glorified even though the bad stuff happened.
I’m reminded that God is with us when we suffer, and he calls me to give him all my worries and anxieties and problems. “Cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7. And then Psalm 56:3 says “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”
God is with us when no one else is. God knows what it feels like to feel weak and alone… he understands. I’m reminded of this in Hebrews 4: 15-16: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
God will never give me more than I can bear and will give me the strength I need each day exactly as it is.
John Piper describes this perfectly from his book Future Grace: “God will see to it that you are not tested in any given day more than you can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13). He will work for you, so that ‘as [your] days, so shall [your] strength be’ (Deuteronomy 33:25). Every day has its appointed trouble. But never more than you can bear by his grace. Every day will have mercies that are new every morning — mercies sufficient for that day’s trouble (Lamentations 3:22-23). He will not expect any good deed from you for which he does not supply all the grace you need (2 Corinthians 9:8).”
From a devotional called Live Dead Joy by Dick Brogden, I’ve had some bold encouragement and challenges thrown in my face in the past few days. Here’s a sample of a few of them:
Abide in Christ first; “the reality of spiritual warfare is that Jesus fights for us from within us.”
Prepare for spiritual warfare; train yourself! “Wars are won on the training ground not on the battlefield.”
Fight: “When we are deep in Jesus and have built up our spiritual muscles, the next challenge is endurance.”
Trust: the most important (I see my greatest need and lack in this one and it convicts me the most): “We must trust that Jesus will give us the endurance to fight on when no respite comes. We must trust Him to prepare us and train us for the challenges to come. We must trust Him to fight for us and from within us when we are overwhelmed and confused. We must trust that He will win.”
Lastly, also from Live Dead Joy, I love this quote. It has challenged me to seek God, humble myself, boast in my weaknesses and persevere with joy and anticipation… “Many people can suffer and be afflicted, but few have the spiritual fortitude to die completely to self and rise to life and light and joy. Jesus is magnified most not when his children suffer but when they rise up after suffering sweet, gentle, joyous, merciful, forgiving and kinds. It is resurrection not crucifixion that brings Jesus the greatest joy.”