A Flood of Emotions

My heart this morning…I’m not sure there are adequate words for what I am feeling. I want to give it my best shot so that so many of you that are asking and praying will get a glimpse of what we are seeing and experiencing here. I don’t do this to brag on us or make us look like we are anything more than all of you reading this.

IMG_8850I want to share because if I weren’t here right now I still wouldn’t be able to imagine the things I have seen the last few days, the stories we’ve heard, the smells, or the looks on the faces. We met this community three years ago after a similar flood, we drive past dozens of shanties or “bordos” everyday. Yes, my heart hurts for those people, but to be completely honest, I have no connection, no relationship, to them, I don’t know their names, I haven’t held their babies, or laughed with them about funny things their kid have done, or prayed with them as they have lost a loved one. But this week families that I know and love, kids that I have kissed their boo boo’s, played games with, celebrated with over good grades, these are our friends and they are like family to us. This time it’s different. These are our people hurting. Continue reading

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No More No Puedo

My parents had this rule when I was growing up… we don’t say CAN’T. I could say I’m afraid, this is hard, I need help, or I don’t understand. I grew up believing there was nothing I couldn’t do. It might be hard, it might be scary, and I might need people around me to help me, but I could do anything. They believed in me in everything I did. No matter how horrible I was at Continue reading

A Moment with Maria and Fredy

We were preparing for the last La Mesa of the summer. My last La Mesa until December. So much had led up to this moment, and we were so ready! Our team had been prepared for what was about to happen, 150 plates of arroz con pollo were waiting in the kitchen, the tables were set, the line was forming. There were so many emotions buzzing through my body that I could not sit still. Excitement because La mesa had become a sort of home to me this summer, my heart, my sweet spot. Sadness because this was it, tonight was my last chance to tie up loose ends and say my goodbyes. I planned to float around and make sure things were running smoothly then sit at one of the last tables and eat with 6 of our friends. Then, I saw her. Continue reading

My Storm or Hers?

Last night I sat down at a table with one of my new friends as we cleaned our plates full of Chinese rice, one of our favorite meals. My friend is a prostitute two streets over from the table we were sitting at. Across the room sat another friend of ours that told us a few weeks back that he hadn’t eaten in 5 full days. Two tables away sits a family of 4 that eats dinner with us every week. In the back of the room there’s a crew of street kids that don’t get to go to school because they have to beg in the streets. Their favorite part of the dinner is that they get their very own plates. Well, that and that I kiss little Angel (5) on the cheek before he’s allowed to come in. My best bud Alfredo (ok I might call him Alfredo sauce to remember his name but he thinks I’m funny so it’s ok) is sitting in the front corner. He’s high and always looking for a hug. We see him every time we go to the park and we are always greeted with hugs.13240719_1420696524622493_294059241487033621_n

This place, this dinner, this time of worship we like to call La Mesa. La Mesa means “The Table” in Spanish. The table, in my house, was where we talked about life. We shared our joys, we cried about hard things, we encouraged one another, and we laughed together. That’s what La Mesa is. A meal that welcomes 150 people with names and stories to share their joys and their hurts, to have someone ask about their day, and to laugh. It’s beautiful, it’s humbling, and it’s hard.

13516169_1452203168138495_4685902228090834593_nSometimes when you sit down with someone and they tell you that they have been a prostitute for 13 years, but they can’t read, they can’t write, and they don’t really have any skills so there’s no way out…. sometimes that’s hard. Sometimes you just want to ask Jesus how the heck you’ll ever help them. As I have prayed about someday sharing the gospel with my friend Maria who has been a prostitute for so long I often wonder if we will ever get there. Will I ever catch her at a sober moment? Can I ever actually break down all the hurt and brokenness that she’s walked through? I just want to look at Jesus and say seriously? All this? This one woman and she’s going through all of this? It feels hopeless.

My favorite part of La Mesa is when everyone leaves. Silly right? We have this huge dinner and invite all our friends and the people that we want to someday introduce to Jesus and my favorite time is when they leave. It’s because when it’s over our team circles up with a guitar and we worship. The doors are open so the name of Jesus is echoing through downtown Progreso. A block away are the prostitutes listening to us sing in Spanish and English “Christ alone, cornerstone.” That’s when it clicked for me last night. Feeling thankful, but a little overwhelmed by the brokenness I just encountered, I heard the words we were singing out.

Through the storm, He is Lord, Lord of all

In the middle of my storm, though sometimes I forget, He is Lord. But He is just as much Lord in the middle of her storm. Her storm is not too big for Jesus. He is not lacking in faithfulness when it comes to alcohol addictions and prostitution. He is Lord, Lord of all. He is the one that calms my storms as well as the people He brings into my life. I don’t need to be overwhelmed with their situation because I feel the need to “fix it”. He didn’t ask me to calm the storm. He did say follow me, lets go over to the other side (Mark 4:35-41). He is asking you to get up, go to the other side, to the homeless guy, to the prostitute, to the kid in your class that has no friends, to your boss that everyone hates. Then the cool part is he doesn’t say okay now calm their storm. He is going to take care of that. To you He says sit in the boat with the people I love, hold their hand through this storm. They are scared, they are hurting, and they don’t know me yet. As we hit wave after wave and its cold and dark, just sit beside them. You of little faith, remember all the storms I’ve calmed for you, I will do the same for her. Don’t let your fear of brokenness keep you from climbing in the boat with her.

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A Place at the Table

Have you ever been crazy in love with somebody and they don’t even know? Or maybe they know theoretically that you love them, but you’re like no no you don’t get it, I love you. Like I’m so crazy in love with you and all I want is for you to know how much I love you. Have you ever been on the other side of it? Feeling like yea sure he loves me but I’m totally not good enough for him and honestly he probably just thinks he loves me cause if he knew me..gosh if he REALLY knew me he would want nothing to do with me. That’s how she feels. She sits at the table next to me. She eats her dinner and keeps her head down. As the band plays I see her look up for the first time. “Soy amado por ti” (I am loved by you). She shakes her head and looks back down. After the song ends a man walks up on stage and explains that we have a good good father and that no matter where we are in life, what we have to give, or who we are, we are still loved by him. I look over to the woman and she’s blinking back tears. Nobody has ever told her she is loved. This woman is a prostitute that hasn’t darkened the doors of a church in several years because she knows she would be asked to leave. Tonight she was welcomed and given a nametag. Nobody ever asks her name. She ate dinner at a table for the first time in years. Tonight she feels like she has worth. Tonight she feels loved.

This story hasn’t actually happened yet. But it will. Over and over and over again starting this March. In about 3 weeks, Hope Through Him Ministries will be opening a new ministry called La Mesa (the table) in downtown El Progreso. This will function as a community meal where every one is welcome. The prostitute, the businessman, the drunk, the homeless, the politicians, the street kids, and the missionaries will all sit down at a table and share a meal. There will be worship and the gospel will be presented in a light devotion every week. Yes, we’re aware it sounds an awful lot like a church plant. We believe in the power of the table. We know that the table is where we do life, it’s where we talk about struggles and joys, it’s where we talk about who we are, and it’s where we learn who He is. Through much prayer and planning, the building is rented, the invitations are made, and the name tags are ordered. After talking to my parents this week about how things are coming with the building and all the excitement they are hearing from people in town I was broken and humbled. As a team from City Hope Alabama prayed over the building I got this glimpse of Tuesday nights and couldn’t hold back tears. Hundreds of people are going to feel so loved maybe for the first time on Tuesday nights in that building.

Table settings

Think again about the first sentence of this post.

Have you ever been crazy in love with somebody and they don’t even know?

I think that’s where Jesus is sitting right now. I think that as we plan all these things, as we worry about funding, as we try and estimate attendance, as we fix lighting and plumbing he is so not concerned. He could probably care less about whether we go with a yellow or tan paint.

Jesus is antsy.

All he can think about is the prostitute. He cannot get her off his mind. I’m not trying to make him reliant on humans or knock him off his throne. I’m just being real. The King of the Universe is antsy over that prostitute. He’s watched her for years as she stands on that corner telling herself she’s worthless, selling herself to men that will never love her, looking down hoping nobody sees her face. He watched as she searched for him. As she walked into a church one morning to have the elders say, you can come to our church, but you need to change clothes first. Wow. Take a moment and thank Jesus that when you came to him as filthy rags he didn’t say I’m glad that you want to come to me, but you need to go change and make yourself look worthy first. He reached out his arms and embraced our filth and our sin and our brokenness. Now he looks forward to Tuesday when she will finally know! The walls will break down as someone asks her what her name is. Wounds will be healed as someone hugs her and says I’m so glad you’re here. He is sitting in Heaven right now thinking about her, He can’t wait to hold her in his arms, to love her, and to call her his.

 

2 cool things we can’t miss:

  1. This is how he feels about you. Oh my goodness if you don’t know you’re loved, let’s talk. He is crazy about you. He is so excited for you to know that and for you to live in the joy that brings with it. No matter what you have or haven’t done, no matter what you look like or who your friends are, he is head over heels in love with you.
  2. He chooses to use us. This blows me away. I am so incapable on my own of loving anyone, including Jesus. Yet because of grace He still loves me and then that love can flow out of me. He could have very easily made it a two way street, he loves us-we love him. But he didn’t. He gives us the joy of loving other people. It’s like if your best friend is getting engaged and her boyfriend asks you to hide in the bushes and take pictures. Jesus lets us be a part of the incredibly holy moment.

bushes

Don’t pass up that moment. Love deeply. Get sucked into his pursuit of those around you. Realize that even if you know he loves you, He is still eager to show you the heights and depths of his love. Hide in the bushes.

 

We are humbled and brought to tears by the incredible blessing that is La Mesa. We ask for your prayers over the next month as we prepare and then every week as we sit down with people that don’t have a clue they’re being pursued. Pray for their hearts to be so thirsty for love that can truly fulfill. Pray for Jesus to multiply tajadas(really yummy fried bananas) like he multiplied the loaves and fish. Pray for church partners in Honduras. Pray for funding of this project. Pray for churches in the states to get on board and for people to buy in to what we’re doing. Pray for the Hondurans that will serve with us. I am ecstatic and counting down the days until I get to hand out a nametag. We expect huge things from this and we are so humbled to have the opportunity to hide in the bushes as hundreds come to the table and get to know Love for the first time.

 

For more information on how you can get involved with La Mesa or Hope Through Him Ministries contact Brad@hopethroughhim.org

Suyapa

“My story is very hard and gives me a lot of pain” were the first words out of Suyapa’s mouth as she began to recall her story to us. I had just been extremely vulnerable about my struggles and things I am dealing with in this very moment. I could not wait to hear her story, to hear her open up, and most of all to encourage her in her struggles after she finished. Sometimes things go absolutely nothing like we plan. OK, most of the time here. That’s what happened on this day, but it was for several reasons especially hard to take in.

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Suyapa was born here in Campo Llano to a very very poor family. Many times for dinner her father would give her water, salt, and one tortilla. At nine years old she began to work for a woman cooking and cleaning, a very normal job for a lower income girl here. This would mean no more school which would mean no chance of ending this cycle of poverty. The lady she worked for would feed her and give her some money that she would give back to her family. When Suyapa was 18 she left to go live with a man. She had two children, boy and girl, with him. When she was 21 her husband was murdered. Financially this was too much to handle. She was suffering even more now. Her children were hungry. She went to find work again, but instead found another man to support her. She just could not watch her children suffer. She had 4 more kids with this husband before he was shot 4 times in the chest. The suffering and financial stress continued to build. She tried to go back to her parents and see if they would support her. Her parents took her in along with her 6 kids. She again marries a man and has twin girls with him. This new man treated her children very bad, abused them, and would not allow her to use his money to take care of them. He would buy rice and beans and instruct her to give them each one spoonful of rice and one spoonful of beans. The kids cried of hunger. She left him and began to wash clothes for someone to support them. Her kids continued to grow. She continued to not have enough money. She struggled to pay bills and had threats of losing her one room “apartment”. She begged the owner not to kick her out. This room has one mattress that a few kids share and everyone else shares the floor. She wanted to build a very small house at the end of the community where everyone will have a bed. Her children did not have anything to eat this morning, but she thanks God for life. She may be one of the poorest of Campo Llano, but she thanks God for life.

It sounds like a perfect heart wrenching story to turn into a blog and show tons of Americans the struggles of growing up poor in Honduras, right? Well, maybe, but that’s not what this blog is for. Their Stories were meant to start conversation, to get the gospel worked into that conversation, and to change stories.

I went into the conversation with Suyapa knowing hard questions were coming. So, I began to ask them and they got harder and harder. The content of the questions did not change much at all, but I was so agitated and discouraged that I could hardly speak.

What is your biggest fear?

I only fear God.

Do you have any regrets?

No. God lets all things happen for a reason.

Do you have fears for your children?

No, my children are my biggest blessing and I trust God.

Some of you are responding with: “Wow, the people there trust God so much.They are so happy with so little.”

Honduras is full of some wonderful believers that trust the Lord for everything and are joyful in the midst of suffering. But I hate to tell you that you are dead wrong. These answers do not show a happy, trusting woman that has turned over control of her problems to God. These answers are like a recurring nightmare of my biggest fears coming true.

This culture is crippled by this very problem. I am a white American missionary, so the walls in her life just went from sandbox to the Great Wall of China. She’s a missionary, so she’s got it all together. She’s a gringa, so she wouldn’t know struggling if it smacked her in the face. Regardless of me being a missionary or an American, Hondurans do not share their struggles. There is a word in Spanish (presumido) that is used to describe a person who pretends to have more than they do. This is an epidemic. Straighten up. Fake a smile. Just hold it together in front of them. We definitely do this as Americans, but the culture here amplifies this problem times a million.

My heart aches.

I looked at this woman, broken, alone, searching, scared, and hungry. With tears in my eyes I said please know that as an “American missionary” I have deep pain in my heart. I have so many fears and regrets. I truly hope someday we can talk about yours.

The truth is I do not have it all together. Honestly, I fall apart more than I’m proud of. I can’t even tie up this blog with a perfect answer and a pretty bow. However, there is one thing that I have an answer to and maybe it is the pretty bow. We must be real. We must be broken. We must be vulnerable. If we do not learn to show the reality of our brokenness they will never share theirs. If they don’t share theirs, chances are they will never be introduced to the One that can make all things new. Jesus did not come for the Holy Rollers, Bible Thumpers, or the missionaries. He did not come for the people that have it all together. He came for the sinner, the broken, the messy, and the person whose life is falling apart. IMG_1899

An analogy that has come up a few million times in the last year as I have fallen head over heels in love with brokenness goes like this-

Imagine a mirror. Now shine a light on that mirror and watch as the light shoots right back at you. Now imagine a mirror that is shattered to pieces. Shine a light on that and watch as the Light shines into countless places, dark corners, and valleys. This is the Gospel. If you only let people see your perfect little Christian life it will effect a very small circle of people. However, if you allow people to see your brokenness, your dark corners, your fears, your regrets, eventually the light of Christ will invade theirs too.

I can’t end this with some profound truth or tell you that Suyapa opened up with her deepest secrets. That didn’t happen. Brokenness and transparency is a process, but I am begging you to start that process. Tell your story. Share your struggles. Across a border or across your kitchen table.

-Shelby

Samuel

It’s obvious that someone has a powerful story when they can’t even tell it themself. If I didn’t know that before, I learned it recently with my friend Samuel. This was our very first try at asking someone here to tell us their whole story, so I was super nervous. While the rest of the team played at the soccer field, Samuel, Alex, and I sat in the bus. I knew some of his story, so I told him I wanted to hear the whole thing. He looked afraid. “Can I go get my grandmother?” he said. She would return and begin to unfold a story that has given me more reason to be here than any other I’ve heard. Continue reading

Unnamed

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”-Aristotle

Wrong.

When did this happen? Why is it so important to “be known”? What exactly am I supposed to be known for?

Identity has become a topic for teenage girls to chat about in their bible studies, but I think the problem is deeper than that. We encourage young girls to “find their identity in Christ”, but then as a missionary sometimes finding my identity is the biggest problem with my identity. Continue reading

Stop Celebrating Easter..

Before this week started, someone that I look up to greatly said “I think we have a tendency to speed through Good Friday to get to Easter.” Isn’t that right though? We don’t want to talk about the crucifixion or the beatings or the pain or the tears. All we care about is that He rose.

We are wrong.

If God only let Jesus die so that he could raise him from the dead he probably would’ve let him die in His sleep and then resurrected him three days later just the same. So what is God’s purpose in the suffering that happened between Thursday night in the Garden and his resurrection on Sunday morning? This is something that I feel God speaking very loudly in my life this Easter season. This Good Friday season. (I promise this is going to be just as happy as every He’s Alive/Risen King blogs..hang with me) God wants to do something with Jesus’s suffering and I think He’d like to do something with yours as well. Continue reading

“How Great is Our God” ?

There’s a sign that has sat in our living room for years. Honestly I always thought it was sorta ugly… until I got it. It says, “May our worship turn into action, and our action turn into worship”. That’s what I want to get across today. That’s what I think our churches struggle with. We come to church to get filled up because we had a tough week. We come in a sing “How Great Is Our God”. But what about the lyrics right after that.

How great is our God, sing with me, How great is our God, and all will see How Great How great is our God.

Yes!! The songwriter got it too!! It is all about God. Yes! It’s about his greatness and his glory and his power. But it doesn’t end there. And don’t think I’m trying to steal his glory; God doesn’t want it to end there either. Continue reading