Showing posts from 2012
¡Feliz Navidad!   Merry Christmas!

A Letter from the Mission Field (Dec 14, 2012)

Greetings to everyone,
I'm settling into my new life in Honduras.  I have an apartment on the fourth floor next to Church  of Santa Maria de los Angeles and its bilingual school.  It has a balcony with a great view of Tegucigalpa.   I also have a guest room. All are invited to come and visit me.  In fact, I expect it. My second week here, I met with Bishop Lloyd Allen, who asked me to work with Aanglidesh, the Anglican Agency for the Development of Honduras, the social arm of the diocese.   The Tegucigalpa office is promoting small savings and loan cooperatives among the poor in rural areas.  They are also involved with small business development and consultation, health and architecture in rural areas, and other projects.
I will be involved with architectural design and construction, as well as some small business development.  To date, I have started designing the San Simon Church in Joconico, a remote village outside of Tegucigalpa.
I wish you a blessed Advent, Merry Christmas and …

Sketches for San Simon Church

Several Sundays ago, I accompanied Fr. Roberto Martinez, a priest and Aanglidesh staff, to his small church, San Simon, in Joconico, an hour outside of Tegucigalpa. It is located at the end of a road so rough, that I wasn't sure the four wheel drive pick-up would make it. But it did.

We met in a small school house to celebrate the Eucharist. 
Afterward, we went out to see the site for a new church. It is a beautiful location in a valley between the mountains. 
The church design, based on the simple features of colonial Spanish mission architecture,takes advantage of this view.

A Meditation for Advent

And the Word of God came to John son of Zechariah....

"For the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire."

"And the crowd asked him: What then shall we do?"  

And he answered them, "Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise."    

Luke 3:51-53

This picture of a woman and child was sent to me by Ana Aquilera, a young Honduran woman, working among the poor of her community. They stand in their barren home in the mountains near Copan Ruinas with no more furniture than a stove, a table and a bed. The expression on her face shows the deep sorrow of poverty in Honduras.
Ana, herself, is unemployed, income to her family is minimal, and she is behind on the rent.   But as a Christian, she has responded to the Word of God and is reaching out to the poor.  She visits the poor children around her, giving them clothing, shoes and medicine.  To see…

Savings and Loan Cooperatives: Self-empowerment for the Poor

On Wednesdays, the Aanglidesh office goes into the field to work with several savings and loans cooperatives,  which encourages mostly women (although there are some men) to manage their personal finances through small savings and loan cooperatives.

I traveled with Fr. Roberto, Allan and Celia, to Yuscarán, the capital of Paraiso, the department (state) to the east of Tegucigalpa, for a day-long trip, visiting the several small cooperatives in the area.

Each group is organized in a similar fashion.   A staff member from Aanglidesh gives a short presentation on personal finance, such as saving money, making choices between investment and personal spending, dealing with a friend, who comes begging for money, and other relevant topics.
Then the business part begins.   One women acts as chairperson and another keeps the accounts.  The chairperson goes around the room, as each member makes a deposit, pays off a loan or borrows money.  If a member falls behind on her obligations, she  must pay…

Bishop Allen Responds to Media Coverage of Crime in Honduras

Posted at Episcopal News Service. December 6, 2012.
Click here.

A Letter from the Mission Field (Nov 1, 2012)

I have arrived in Tegucigalpa, capital of Honduras, to officially begin my mission.  I am excited and a little apprehensive.  Since I am the first staff architect in this diocese, it is taking a little while to determine the focus of my work.     In the meantime, I am meeting with the people here and learning of their priorities. Before arriving in Tegucigalpa,  I spent three weeks in Copán, tuning my Spanish and attending the Project Honduras Conference for NGO's (Non-governmental Organizations).    

The economy in Copán, which is tourist dependent, continues to decline. Many people are suffering. The Ixbalanque Spanish School has laid off all their teachers, asking them back, only when the occasional student comes.  I was told that the school was empty for six weeks. The decline is a result the 2009 coup, the negative publicity regarding violence here and the recession in the US.
My friend Concepción, the pastor of the church of the Holy Spirit, is in an equally grim position.  He…

A Mission in the Mountains

You may remember from the previous newsletter, that Concepción had asked us (and many of you made donations) to help build a new traditional adobe house for the Canán family, which was literally living in a bundle of sticks. We are currently in the process of building this house within the constraints of a limited budget. Nevertheless, it is a great improvement for this family.

Señor Sinforso Canán, who could only afford a shack for his family in the remote village of Ingenio (pronounced In-hen-io), had become very ill.  He had headaches and vision problems, which made it impossible for him to support his family. Concepción, whose new mission, the Church of the Pentecost, had just been built in the community, could not, in good conscious, ignore their situation.  For that reason, he asked us to help.   
The house is being built by the church members, some as volunteers, others for pay.   The Canán family hopes to move in shortly.

Upon my return to Copán, I was invited up into the mountai…

The Problem with Incarnational Mission

A very informative article in Christianity Today by Todd Billings, professor at Western Theology Seminary, about the theology of mission.  

The Problem with Incarnational Mission

Project Honduras Conference

Project Honduras, which is a conference for Christian groups and NGO's working
in Honduras, is coming up Oct 18-20, 2012.  Tickets are still available.
How Effective Are Short-Term Mission Trips"Instead of asking us what is needed for ministry here, or how to convey the Gospel and be culturally sensitive, they tell us what they do on mission trips." More stuff on the pitfalls of short term mission trips from 'Missionary Confidential'.
Missionary Confidential

Here is an article from Christianity Today on short term missions.  Personally,  I am in favor of short-term missions.  A short-term mission is an awakening to each participant, regarding the conditions in the third world and about the  faith of those, who live with much less than we.  Also, if a short-term mission is well run, it does make a difference in peoples lives. I've heard many favorable testimonies in Honduras on this subject. Nevertheless, the criticisms in this article are helpful in planning future short-term missions and avoiding the many pitfalls.

Christianity Today
An interesting new organization of architects from Massachusetts
involved in health and architecture in third world countries.

Mass Design Group

A Letter from the Mission Field (28 March 2012)

Greetings Everyone!
I am making great progress in the study of Spanish, thanks to the tireless, patient efforts of my teachers at the Ixbalanque School. In addition,  I have become involved with the local church, offering my design services, as needed.  I have provided several  sketches for the Holy Trinity Church in La Ceiba (on the north coast) and construction plans for the Church of the Holy Spirit's parish hall in Santa Rita(a few miles from Copan). Furthermore, I have a request for a schematic design of another evangelical church in Santa Rita.

Beyond architecture, I feel called to reach out to the very poor. However, because of the overwhelming and unyielding needs here, it is hard to know where to begin.
On the edges of life, I have seen great hardship. 
The other day, I saw a man, without legs, drag himself through the streets by his arms. He had strapped tire treads to the trunk of his body to protect himself against the concrete and the cobble stones of the street. On anot…

Learning from Purim

A few a weeks ago was the Jewish holiday of Purim.   One of the special mitvot (commands) of this holiday is to remember the poor. And, especially, to help them face to face.
I found an interesting article, which started with this midrash (a story told to make a point) from the Talmud.   The message is worth reflecting upon.
Mar Ukbar was a righteous man, who every Shabat on the way  home from synagogue, would slip some coins under the door of his poor neighbors. One day, his neighbor decided to find out, who his benefactor was. However, when he opened the door, Mar Ukbar with his wife fled, preferring anonymity.  They hid in a large stone oven,

which had been recently cleaned. Mar Ukbar's feet started to burn, so his wife told him to put them on hers.   Mar Ukbar was tiffed that his feet were burning, and not his wife's. She obviously was being protected by God's hand.  "What's with this?", he asked her abruptly.  "When I am at home," she replied,  &quo…

Tropical Cooling Systems

Every three months, foreigners have to leave Honduras to renew their visa. I took the opportunity to visit Rio Dulce, Guatemala, experiencing, first hand, the natural ventilation of the palm-covered wooden bungalows typical to the area.   I have to say that I was impressed.
These lightly-built houses are typical to tropical areas. Similar structures are found as far away as Asia.  
Their cooling strategy begins with the large screened windows permanently open under the roof at both gable ends.  The screens are a modern improvement to prevent mosquitos, which can be dangerous in the tropics.  The bungalow, itself, is oriented in the direction of the prevailing wind. My bungalow pointed toward the river, which had at least a 10  knot Wind Scoop at Ceiling.
wind blowing in the day, and at night, just a breath of air. In addition, these buildings are constructed above the jungle floor on wooden piles, which help catch the more frequent, higher breezes.   (The other purpose is to keep out the f…

Violence in Honduras

Even before the death of Natalie, many of you have been asking me about the violence in Honduras.   The Washington Post recently ran an article, claiming that Honduras was the murder capital of the world, with a homicide rate of 82.1 per 100,000 (Mexico is 18.1 and the US is 5.0). In addition, the U.S. Peace Corps has decided to withdraw from Honduras for the protection of its volunteers.
The news and statistics are frightening, as is the loss of someone in our community. But, in reality, much of the violence occurs only within certain barrios of the two big cities, San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa, or in the drug-infested jungles of eastern Honduras.  Most communities are safe in the daytime.  The countryside is  more safe than the city. Copan Ruinas, where I am, is extremely safe both  in the day and night. International Homicide Rates
Source: Washington Post

Most Hondurans at- tend to their business without concern during the day. However, at night,  people agree that it is safer to remai…

Ven Senor Jesus (Come Lord Jesus)

The most remarkable claim of Christianity is that God has come into the world.   It is remarkable because most of us, at times, have  felt like orphans. It is the answer we want to hear, that God does indeed love us  .... if we can only accept it. But we live in an age of skepticism.  Many in science (which  itself is neutral on question of God) prefer theories, excluding any hint of a divine explanation.  Is this even reasonable, when we are talking about cosmology? Yet this doubt pervades our whole culture, casting shadows over all of us. 
Even the saints have experienced the dark night.
St. Anselm, a Benedictine monk and scholar, writes: "If You are everywhere, why do I not see Your presence? Truly You dwell in unapproachable light. But where is the unapproachable light, or how shall I come to it? Or who shall lead me to that light and into it, that I may see you in it? Again, by what signs, under what form, shall I seek you? I have never seen you, O Lord, my God; I do not know yo…

Christmas and New Years in Honduras

I was surprised to find a Christmas Tree in the Copan's central park.  As far as I can remember, there were no Christmas trees in Bethlehem; and Santa was a Greek bishop in Turkey, (back then, Anatolia)  who never wore a red jumpsuit.

Nevertheless, both symbols are popular here. Living under the shadow of the US, the children are influenced by our television shows, and demand from their parents  both Santa Claus and Christmas trees.   And, of course, the bottom line,  Christmas gifts. 

Here, Christmas Eve is the big day, or I should say big night, for celebration.  For weeks before hand, everybody is buying fireworks from the back of pickups, everything from sparklers to rocket bombs.   At sunset, the show starts with an explosion here and rocket there.  If you wander outside, as I did,  watch out for the low-flying missiles racing by fast and furiously, across street and park.  Slowly it builds, leading to the great crescendo at midnight.  At the stroke of twelve, everybody lets l…