Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Tiny Dancer

"Tiny Dancer" is proudly playing out of the speakers of my computer, Alison and I are wired with sugar from the cookies made by yours truly, we hacked into Scotty's facebook for the third time and the ninos are off school the next two days due to some random holiday..tonight is a good night!

We lose three volunteers this coming Saturday who are headed back to the land of cheese so our schedule was broken up more so those of us who will remain here can all rest up a bit before we lost the extra "help." It's been nice and given us the afternoons more or less off. Yesterday Scotty Dawg Peckler took us to visit the other orphanage here on the island where we learned a new alternative to taxis-hitch hiking rides (don't worry mom, I only had to show a little leg, JK-I kid, I kid). All joking aside, it was nice to see the other orphanage and see how one that is properly run and set up looks like..very different atmosphere from here. Today after our weekly missional book discussion took place Alison and I went to the coffee shop for an iced beverage and cinnamon roll (yes we had cookies and a cinnamon roll today-it's part of our plan to get skinny) and then were off to read at the dock.

I've been thinking a lot about what it looks like to live holistic missional lives. The misconception that people who go on "missions" trips are really doing anything different than what we're called to do daily from whatever country we reside in. What I've done by coming here is simply moving my life to another country to disciple to another nation other than my own. It seems a lot easier to be focused on living missionally when you're on something deemed as a missions trip because, for me at least, I'm away from a lot of the things that tend to distract me at home and my "work" is to be here. I read something I found interesting and sadly very true today in the book Walking With the said "On Sunday morning or during our devotional or prayer life, we operate in the spiritual realm. The rest of the week, and in our professional lives, we operate in the physical realm and, hence, unwittingly act like functional atheists." I'll expand more on this topic next time I blog..but for now I need to get to bed because morning duty awaits us bright and early..

Peace & Love,

Monday, April 28, 2008


I feel like a crazy person tonight. I think Naseem is also crazy. The end. I just thought I should warn you.

So who wants to hear about the orphanage? I don't even feel like writing actual paragaphs composed of actual sentences, so I think that I might just resort to a Top 5 list. Ready?

5. Taryn's birthday: Naseem and I had the world's worst day off on Saturday (don't ask, I'm still bitter) but it was redeemed by Taryn's birthday dinner; almost all the staff got to go out to eat and have cake. Maybe cake doesn't sound like a highlight to you, but then again, maybe you aren't as pathetic as me.
4. Dolphins: Today Naseem and I got to watch some dolphins jumping and flipping around. They were cute, but not as cute as Naseem and me. Trust me.
3. We changed all of Scott Kenneth Peckler's Facebook info. It was priceless. Did y'all know about his pasion for unicornios? Check it out. It comes highly recommended.
2. A Christian school on the island has offered to take Kerry, Nolan, and Sarah to school...starting sooner rather than later. This isn't set in stone for sure, but we are all crossing our fingers that things will work out. I think it would be so helpful for them to be in class with other kids. It would definitely be hard because they are so behind but I'm not sure I have much faith in my own ability to handle learning disabilities, so I would be grateful to have them in the hands of someone who can work with them more practically.
1. Brandon doesn't live here anymore. I don't mean to include this as the number 1, best thing (because I wish this could've been a good environment for him), but it certainly is relevant news. He had a freak-out the other day in which he physically drew blood and he was given one more chance before he was sent back to live with his mom; obviously he acted out again and he and his mom packed his things and that was that. A lot of thought was put into this decision: it wouldn't have happened had everyone not thought that Brandon's presence here was not beneficial to his well-being and was detrimental to that of the other kids.

Ok, so now I want to spend a bit of time discussing something I've been thinking about a bit lately. I'm reading THE FOUNTAINHEAD by Ayn Rand, for which Scotty has already judged me, but whatever. Anyway, so in this book, Ayn Rand puts forth the idea that the way man achieves greatness is through his own selfishness; in other words, man's ego is the fountainhead of his profound achievement, therefore success and selflessness are mutually exclusive. Rand exposes two kinds of selfishness: the honest, personified by the hero Howard Roark, an architect who builds for himself and does not care for the rules which society dictates, and the dishonest, manifest in Roark's rival, the wildly successful Peter Keating who, despite his mediocrity, has cheated and manipulated his way into society's upper eschelons. The honest sort of selfishness leads to true success, whereas the latter leads only to a superficial achievement, despite the fact that this is the success which society glorifies. So, is this true? Is the only way to "succeed" to put oneself and one's ambition ahead of everyone and everything?

My initial reaction was to fight this proposal but then when I thought about it, I suddenly found myself in her camp. Sure, to succeed--and here are the key words--by society's standards, it is inevitable that one must place himself first...because that's how society operates. Right? The world helps those who help themselves (but in THE FOUNTAINHEAD, this is only to an extant: society rejects those they fear for their reckless innovation), and those who cannot or do not help themselves are allowed to be cast aside. This is not my own personal view--to adopt this credo is to deny a basic tenet of Christianity--but I sort of feel like this is what is preached by the prosperous. Sure, humanitarianism is a fad right now, but for the most part, the idea of the inherent importance of selfishness is certainly underlying the actions of a broken world. I think that to see this is to identify correctly what my dad calls "the bogus world system." This is what the world teaches, but it is not what the Truth is. We are fallen and broken and thus enslaved by an innate selfishness. The world tells us: don't sacrifice your dreams, do what makes you happy, etc, etc. These are wonderful adages and not ones to be dispensed of before analyzing, but if these are taken to the extremes, as we tend to do, then suddenly "don't sacrifice your dreams" becomes "sacrifice everything for your dreams at any cost." And if you do that, well, you'll probably make it, whatever "it" may be.

But is it worth it? From a Christian standpoint, the answer is a resounding no. We, if we are rightly pursuing a theistic worldview, place value not on our worldly success and wealth but on our bounty through Jesus Christ. According to the world's standards, however, it's worth it to give up everything to achieve greatness, even love, even beauty, even community. In THE FOUNTAINHEAD, a girl gives a little speech about she cannot possibly do something she loves or even be in love with someone because she would then owe the world something: she would be dependent on the world not to take away who or what she loves; therefore, she would be enslaved by her hope, relying on her selfishness as her sole rescuer. She can destroy that which she loves because to have it would destroy her freedom. She must disregard the world and focus solely on her own needs in order to survive. Isn't this what we tend to do? I've mentioned before our flirtation with destruction and how it makes us feel alive, how it proves the mannishness of our humanity; this seems an extension: if we hope for something, we are trapped by our desire, thus we become held captive, so we destroy to prove simply that we can. We tell the world, and this includes the marginalized, that we are too busy getting by or too caught up in the whirlwind of our achievement to care for it. All that matters is, essentially, ourselves. (Here, some may argue that because this world system is inherently corrupt, we are given a "get out of jail free" card: we cannot fix it so why bother? Wouldn't it be better to expend our energy on something that offers material gain? Yes and no. It is true that we cannot fix the world, but we are called to care for it, to act as stewards and caregivers, and to serve is the best thing we can do).

I would like to argue that selfishness is not a freeing thing, but rather something that enslaves. I see where we could pass it off as freedom--it is liberating to disregard what the world teaches as truth, but this is where it stops. Selfishness holds us captive in the respect that we become prisoners to our own worldview. When we can no longer look past ourselves, the world suddenly becomes a lot more limited and thus our ability to be relevant for the Truth fades away.

I believe that to be free is to hope. We have been given freedom in Christ: we have been give the ability to hope for a different world, a kingdom, a place that is not governed by the bogus world system. Not to have hope is to be imprisoned by fatalism.

Ok, I hope this has made sense. I keep feeling like I've missed a few crucial points and I'm sure once I exit the blog, I'll remember what I was going to say. Then the internet will go out. Then bugs will bite me and the ceiling fan will probably fall on Naseem. That's just the way life goes around here. Hope all is well Stateside.


Sunday, April 27, 2008


Sorry for slacking on my blog writing...spotty internet, exhaustion, and lack of words had me putting off the task. Today Alison and I got recruited to work in the nursery during Church. Initially we were excited for the task and more than happy to sit with the cute, little, chubby babies that don’t talk back to you...that is until one started screaming and the others followed suit. The room was ill-equipped as a nursery and we are ill-equipped at knowing how to entertain babies. An hour later we were released...a bit sore from toting around a baby on each hip to calm their tears and strangely happy to go back to children that could respond with words...

I’m not really sure what to share in the blog today. I have a lot of thoughts that have been running through my head but I haven’t properly sorted through them enough in my own head to articulate them to others via a blog. Something that has been on my mind a lot this past week is my departure from here and the things I need to make decisions about for when I return home. School, a possible trip to Iran, living arrangements, leaving this place, leaving these kids, having someone else coming and filling my place here..I feel anxious and so unsure about it all. I’m just not sure what direction to take from here and what move is selfish and what move is obedient…

Anyhow, here’s something kinda funny-not to me really but hopefully someone can find humor in my continual misfortunes. When I blogged on Monday I mentioned I had gotten bitten by something on my eye…well turns out it was sea lice and sure enough my right eye was swollen for the next few days until I took a trip to the clinic to get some medicine for it...I literally looked like I had gotten punched in the eye…it was solid!

I hope this blog finds you all in good spirits and bug free…

peace & love,

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

i'm sleepy

I don't really feel like posting anything tonight but for the sake of our readership (just kidding), I'll do it. Y'all are lucky tonight, though, because I'm still processing some things that I've been thinking about about selfishness and freedom and the relationship between the two...but I guess you'll have to wait until the weekend. I know you're at the edge of your seat. Haha.

So days have been pretty much the same so I don't really feel the need to give y'all a play by play of what happened today, but I'll share a little anecdote of what it feels like to be a mother figure to 10 kids (to some more so than others, obviously. Brandon doesn't want anything to do with us). Naseem and I, thankfully, have Sunday school duty with the kids, so instead of sitting through a pretty bland sermon, we get to sit through an hour of listening to a tape of children with unnaturally high pitched voices singing about their joy like a fountain. Sometimes we color and sometimes we do hand motions to songs about being in the Lord's Army. It's pretty exciting. Anyway, so, just like in every Sunday school class, third grade class, or movie about children and their little shenanigans, there is this one punk kid. I mean, this kid just looks like he's always up to no good...or like his name would be Brick. Or Tank. And someday he would be that one kid who gives skinny trombone players swirlies and shoves Latin Club members in lockers. Alright, so you get the picture. Well, Naseem and I usually try to sit in between our kids so they don't punch each other but Nolan was sitting in the row in front of us and i was sitting next to Brick, whose real name is incongruously Grady. So as we're singing our sing-a-long songs, Nolan keeps turning around and looking at me really sadly. I ask him what's wrong and he tells me Brick keeps hitting him, so I lean over and tell Brick very nicely that it's not nice to hit people and that he should probably stop. Brick grunts something and I turn back around to Gabriel who is making farting noises during the prayer. Just a few minutes later, Nolan looks back at me with these big, sad, brown eyes, and I ask what's wrong: Brick is still hitting him. Now I'm a little angry, so I get in front of Brick and say, "Alright, that's enough. If I hear that you're hitting my kid again, I'm going to be very upset and you're going to get in biiig trouble. Do you understand me?" He says yes and then there are no more problems.

Obviously the latent maternal instinct in me came out of hibernation and I had to protect my child, who technically doesn't really even belong to me, but the thought of someone hurting Nolan...I couldn't stand it. I can care for Nolan so much only after knowing him for a month; when I see that he is sad, I want to make him feel better and protect him from things that hurt him. So I was thinking: as cheesy and cliche as this is, Jesus loves us infinitely more than that. It's incomprehensible and inexplicable really. So as much as I love Nolan, God loves him a hundredfold times a million, and as much as I wanted to save Nolan, God has already had that feeling to the nth degree and done more for his salvation than I could ever possibly imagine.

And that's what I want to leave you with tonight. I know it sounds lame, but hey, may everyone feel loved tonight.

Peace, Alison

PS: I'm posting a photo from our trip to the iguana farm. It was a little creepy. An iguana sat on my foot and it scared me.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Mi amo bug bites

Alison and I have developed a drinking habit here on Roatan. We now must have a Canada dry and/or chocolate milk every night or we get the shakes. Call for concern? Maybe. We can probably use all the help we can get, let's just be honest. It's been one of those days where I found myself slipping to my room as often as possible..I notice these days increase as the number of days I'm here progresses. I'm not really sure what set it off today.

Sarah, the 11 year old we home school, is being taught a lesson this week and instead of being in school she is working at another orphanage here on the island to learn several lessons but one being that school is a reward. Ideally, she will come back to school a little more motivated next week with a bit better understanding of the privilege of school. We'll see. That said school went over seemingly well with the two boys. Lunch time arrived rather quickly which is always anti climatic. We decided to satiate are hunger after lunch with a chocolate snack pack topped off with some me it's delicious! Beach time was bit hectic..the kids seemed especially wired and ran wild on one of the docks..we all got home in one piece though, however and no surprise here (seeing as every strange thing or problem a person can get I manage to) I came home with some rather large bites under my right eye. With my luck my eye should be swollen shut by the time I wake up tomorrow..

Nothing terribly important to report on but I will share this little tid bit I find humorous. So for those of you that know me you know my feet are covered by tattoos. I was told I would need to cover them while I was here due to cultural issues. Well, that didn't last long. By now all the kids have seen my tattoos and every once in awhile they comment about them but it's a pretty mute topic. Gabriel at one point asked me why I had them and told me tattoos were bad..I took his words into consideration and smiled. Another day Shenice looked at my feet and asked me how come they were still there. Then the other day we were sitting on the dock and I felt some cold water being poured on my foot and I look over to see Kerry who is now rubbing one of my feet with his fingers. He then looks up at me perplexed seconds later and asks why it's not rubbing off...and on that note I hope all is well back home and thanks for always leaving my posts exactly 2 comments and Alison's hard feelings..JERKS! (I would of inserted a winky face there but I've sorta decided the winky face is creepy)..

Peace & Love,

p.s. we finally did the "about me" section..check it out..a lot of heart was put into that

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Que cera cera

I would like to begin with yet another apology. Sorry I misled everyone by titling my last blog, "The shortest blog I've ever posted," or something along those lines; I realized soon after that it was in fact one of the longest ones I've ever written. Haha. Whoops?

Anyway, so ends the weekend. Tomorrow it's back to school, back to the cyclical battles of will with the kids, back to trying to make the ABCs less repetitive and more fun, back to trying to convince our kids that the ability to read and write is the beginning of success and the end of dependence.

Or is it? Well, maybe. Yes and no. Yes, if you place the emphasis on free will, the idea that man has some control over his destiny. No, if you prescribe to the tenet of predestination: God has already ordained everything that will come to pass, so if the kids are destined to get out of poverty, off the island, or go where ever it is they identify with success, then they will; if that's not in the cards, so to speak, then they're stuck.

But isn't it a little fatalistic to adhere to the latter? It's sort of like going through life with your hands clamped tightly over your ears and singing loudly that really annoying song that Doris Day sings in that one Hitchcock film, "Que cera cera, whatever will be, will be" and so on. The future's not ours to see and so who cares? If we're meant to be rich, beautiful, poor, ugly, then we'll be it; if our kids are meant to be financially well off, if they're meant to marry and have children and have jobs and be happy, if they're meant to transform the island into a place of spiritual and moral as well as physical beauty, then it will happen. But if they're meant to live the remainder of their lives dependent on someone else to care for them, if they're meant to live in plastic and aluminum shacks, if they're meant to be lucky enough to have one meal of rice a day, then so be it. Que cera cera. Then it won't matter if they can diagram a sentence or spout off multiplication tables. All that will matter is that they can survive. (And is that all that matters? Survival? Nietchsze would say that the only noble way to live is to get out of life completely, but that's another blog for another day....)

I guess it could be likely that a lot of our kids may end up living in poverty after they leave the home, that is, if they don't get adopted before they're old enough to leave. (And not that being financially well off is the key to happiness, obviously...look at America, look at Friendswood...we can be impoverished and downtrodden and still be profoundly, spiritually wealthy). But to say that, to say that because the odds are against them, that because maybe their fates are already foreordained and written in the stars or whatever, we can write them off is not right either. In fact, it's pretty close to flat out wrong as you can get. So I guess what I'm getting at or trying to get at in my own convoluded little way is that when it comes to humanitarianism, who cares about predestination? I mean, I know it's an important topic in Christianity, but maybe we should just push that aside right now and focus on the things in Scripture that are clear: we are called to love one another and love Jesus, to take care of the marginalized, those whom society has forgotten. Maybe we should act like everyone has a chance for transformation no matter where they are, no matter who they are, no matter what the cards hold in store for them. Maybe we should believe in a God who doesn't write people off and model ourselves in that spirit. Because to believe in a God who doesn't give people a chance is to refute Jesus' crucifixion. Isn't that what grace is? Giving undeserving, screwed up people a chance they shouldn't have?

Ok, so I'm not sure if that has made any sense. I think I confused myself, so I've likely confused all of you. But on the bright side, this one really is a short post, right? By the way, Naseem and I have committed to not showering for a week. We're almost there. Two more days and we'll have reached our goal. Dream big, everyone.


Friday, April 18, 2008


The younger boys are having sleep over tonight so Alison and I were inspired and are having one ourselves-which really is just justification to eat the bag of popcorn we bought, drink a canada dry, and watch mean girls on her laptop while I blog.

I sent an email to about 15 people last night and I'm really just too tired to process my thoughts to blog something new and would much rather zone out to Mean Girls so I'm just going to pass on the thoughts I sent last night in an email..

Today has been a super rough day for me. The kids have been ridiculously hard to handle. It's so hard knowing how to balance it all! Administering proper consequences, being respected, playing the role of entertainer and in the same swoop, for Alison and I, teaching three unwilling children five days a week. It's physically exhausting playing the role of a parent, but it's more emotionally exhausting than anything. This place is in such a state of uncertainty. The home itself is in crisis mode still and after reading an article on the previous sketch of a director it's easy to see why it's in such shambles right now.
How long it will take for calmness, peace, respectability, and trust to come back into this home is unknown. All I know is we're amidst the storm right now and it's easy to feel the brunt of it. I left Friendswood full of distractions in my life and I literally feel I left them behind there and I've come here welcomed by all new ones. Strangely I welcome these distractions. They seem to cause me to question, ponder, and seek things I find necessary instead of being distracted by things I know were unhealthy and detrimental to my well being.

I was reading 'Mere Christianity' the other day and I came across this..'The moment you have a self at all, there is a possibility of putting yourself first-wanting to be at the centre-wanting to be God, in fact. That was the sin of Satan: and that was the sin he taught the human race.' I blogged about it a bit the other day, but like every last one of us I struggle with control and submission to the Almighty. A song by Casting Crowns we sung at worship tonight (shout out to Ryan- thanks for that) asks 'Just how close can I get, Lord, to my surrender without losing all control?' They then sing, 'Somewhere between who I was and who You're making me. Somewhere in the middle, You'll find me.' And that's exactly where I am, where I feel I'm fighting not to be. In the middle. Just when I feel like when I'm about to stop being stuck I end up being brought back down again. Fighting to not be defined by who I was, where I was, or who others define me as and fighting to be who I was made to be, who I am, and where I'm going. I don't quite know how to get there and I'm quite confident theirs not a formula for the matter. I think it comes down to submitting that control and my willingness to do so. Ultimately my ability to be actively pursuing not being at the centre.

'Lord, I feel You in this place and I know You're by my side. Loving me even on these nights when I'm caught in the middle.'

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Probably my shortest blog ever. Be thankful.

In case y'all haven't noticed, Naseem and I are down to blogging every other day. It wasn't working out. We just need more time. It's not you; it's us. Really. We hope we can still be friends.

Anyway, so tonight I'm trying to sort out some thoughts that have been flying through my brain when I'm not being chased by children, having glue poured into my hair, or picking at my peeling suntan. This is a caveat to those who read this blog solely to get a rundown of our Honduran adventures: the first part of this blog may not be what you want to read, in which case I advise you to scroll to the bottom of the post. With that said, I'll continue with the scrutiny of my own behavior and strange thoughts.

I've been thinking a lot about the bond that exists among communication, perception, and reality. What really matters in regards to these concepts? Is what we perceive to be reality more important than actual reality, or vice versa? Do our differing perceptions make it impossible to communicate with one another in a real and authentic way?

One of my favorite subgenres of literature is impressionism, wherein the writer describes what is perceived, rather than what may or may not actually be the truth. For example, have you ever read Heart of Darkness? You should have, and if you haven't, it's probably because you were slacking off in high school lit class. Anyway, Marlow, the narrator, describes his search for the infamous Colonel Kurtz as he alone remembers it; this fact makes him an unreliable narrator. We can never know the true story of what happened in the Congo because all we have access to are his thoughts and memories. Here, the truth of reality is unattainable. The idea of this fascinates me, probably mainly because I struggle with this so much. Most people who know me pretty well know that I tend to have a slightly skewed perspective of the truth. I have to try really hard to think, as my therapist would say, objectively. My perception becomes my reality, and this in turn shapes how I respond to things and the ways in which I interact with people; so my perception of reality becomes pretty important. So which reality matters? Does it even matter at all in the long run, as long as we treat people lovingly?

How we think changes the way we approach everything, even in missions. We all have different worldviews and which worldview we hold to determines how we move forward in aiding the hungry, poor, and fatherless.

But how well can people ever understand each other if everyone follows his own perception of reality? Inevitably everyone will have different realities, thus fracturing our communication with one another. Can we ever truly understand each other? Is it possible to empathize or only to sympathize? For example, and I'm sorry to keep going back to literary genres but I am (hopefully) going to be a high school English teacher, for example, let's look at postmodernism. One of the defining characteristics of postmodern literature is the inability to communicate: in other words, there will inevitably be a breakdown in communication because our unique and individual experiences color our ideas of what reality is, thus we are sentenced to a life in which we will never understand each other. For example, last spring I read "Entropy", a short story of Thomas Pynchon; I won't try to summarize it because it's really complicated (but super cool), but there was a line in there which I can't remember word for word but I'll try to paraphrase. One of the characters is describing a fight he had with his lover and explains that they couldn't communicate. "For example," he says, "take 'I love you.' There's nothing wrong with the first and last words. It's the middle one that messes you up." It messes us up because we all have different ideas of what love is. What it means to me may be different than what it means to you. Based on this reasoning, it follows that we couldn't ever have a genuine conversation about love. Our perceptions of reality inevitably will differ. So is that really true? Can you ever understand me? Can I ever understand you? It's tricky, eh?

Does it even matter that we can't communicate? Does it all come down to grace? Can we look past our inability to understand everyone's individual perception and love everyone anyway? There's this quote from the movie The Last Kiss, which I watched by myself and cried, that I think may be applicable here: "What you feel only matters to you. It's what you do to the people you say you love, that's what matters. It's the only thing that counts." Maybe this is true. It's certainly a valid point. Perhaps it's selfish to make your perception your reality, but then again, I never claimed I was right in my actions. It's just how I function automatically, and generally my automatic behaviors are a little off. Or maybe I can continue to live in my own little world of skewed reality as long as my relationships are still authentic. Any thoughts?

Ok, that's it for now, I think, at least as far as my pseudo-philosophic rambling goes. Things at the orphanage are going well. Naseem and I have officially been here three weeks tomorrow. I started teaching Sarah Social Studies last week and I was sort of at a loss at where to start, so I channeled my nerdy side (not that that was too difficult) and decided to teach her Greek mythology. This has probably been my lowpoint in dorkiness. Wait, no, I take that back: one time Kerry and Nolan wanted to write about Smeogal from Lord of the Rings and they said he was a human before he became Gollum, but we all know that's just not true. Don't worry, I corrected them and let them know that Smeogal was a River-folk, a creature sort of like a hobbit. Then I died because I knew that.

Anyway, so Sarah loves Greek mythology. In other news, Naseem and I have decided that Brandon still hates me. Tonight he was laughing and being generally pleasant in the kitchen, then I walked in, and he immediately gave me the death stare, as I have affectionately started calling his default look. It was terrible. Like daggers.

Sorry I don't have any other funny stories but Naseem and I were off half the day yesterday so we weren't around too much, and today it rained all day so the kids were pretty mellow. I'm sure as soon as I exit this I'll think of something hilarious to report. This blog is lame. My apologies. Please keep reading.


Monday, April 14, 2008

Crafts, Emails, Bed Time, OH MY!

It was some national holiday here on the island so all the ninos were home from school, which for us means we don't get up till 7:30ish but I guess the kids had a different idea for a wake up time. 7 a.m. loud knocking on the door begins. "GOOD MORNING! GOOD MORNING! HELLO?!? ARE YOU THERE?!" I think a small child is in the house. Seconds later..they're now outside our bedroom window. "WAKE UP! WAKE UP! TEACHER!!! HELLO!! WHY AREN'T YOU AWAKE? I'M GOING TO SCREAM LOUDER IF YOU DON'T GET UP!" Oh geez..we're coming! I stumble to the window where Kerry, Shenice, and Gabriel are mischievously looking through the screen. "Teacher, can we do crafts?" asks Kerry innocently. Is this some joke? I have yet to have an art class without persistent whining and resistance to the idea of structured arts and crafts time and now I'm being woken up by yelling children to come partake in this?! Fine. So the morning consisted of drawing on construction paper, paper parrots, kites, ripping up things, making a huge mess, and pouring glue in Alison's hair..good times, eh?

After the craft filled morning we escaped to our room for a moment where the electricity, that had been off for the entirety of the morning, had come back on and we checked our emails quickly before it went out again. I was startled to find an email that the girls coming in May were told they may not be coming. I quickly became unsettled and frazzled for many reasons. We walked back in the living room to talk to Tonya and found the kids occupied watching this awful Christian sing along full of Little House on the Prairie children decked out in big hats with large flowers. We slipped away thankfully because I already had the I Am a Christian lyrics in my head from the last viewing of the video on Saturday. The situation with the girls not coming turned out to just be a mere misunderstanding but I had gotten very flustered over it all. Why? Because what I had pictured, counted on, planned on was perhaps falling apart and I felt like I had no control. Control. It kills me. Why do I waste precious moments of my life being distracted with the idea of controlling whats happening tomorrow or even a week from now? Or why do I become so distraught when what I picture as what's supposed to be turns out to be something so different? I even had myself worked up earlier about something I had written someone and the possible miscommunication of my intent in what I sent. But why? When I knew my intentions were good and honorable. Why am I sitting and worrying about what someone is thinking of me or how I need to map out my next move so the puzzle fits together the way I see fit? The point is it's not my job to control, worry, etc. about things. I'm a tool being used for the work of God's kingdom not the one mapping out the story. This verse doesn't necessarily fit, but I have always loved it.."Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed," says the LORD, who has compassion on you" (Isaiah 54:10).

Anyhow, enough of my that we've been here for almost three weeks we are being integrated into morning duty, quiet times, and bed time. Amongst the staff and volunteer we have split up the responsibilities of these tasks and various others and devised a very thorough schedule of our daily duties, which I'm a huge fan of. Tonight we had night duty and it was about as smooth the bumps on my disgusting, peeling back (I look like I have a disease on my upper back but that's not important). Shenice and then Jefferie decided to have huge meltdowns while the other boys decided to test us on whether we were serious about bed time. The older kids can stay up a little longer and all took care of themselves fine..thankfully no meltdowns there. I'm hoping things go smoother the more times we do it but it's still not smooth for the staff that has been here 5 weeks but hey one can always hope! Are day off was supposed to be tomorrow but has been switched to Saturday so school can remain uninterrupted throughout the week. We still get the afternoon off after school is done tomorrow so we aren't going 10 days without anytime off-that would be harsh..I'll leave you with this..Tonight we caught Jeffrie stomping around with one leg in a jenga can singing "Do Lord" and it was the funniest thing was even funny enough to over look his screaming meltdown at bed time..

Peace & Love,

p.s. we decided we are members of the babysitters club-see our club photo above.."Say hello to your friends"

Saturday, April 12, 2008

judge not...oh wait.

Happy weekend, everyone! To celebrate, we're watching Swiss Family Robinson, which I just don't really dig. I put it in the same category as Annie. why? i'm not sure, but i don't like Annie either. It's just so chipper and wholesome. That's right, people, in case you hadn't figured it out, I'm a bit of a film snob. Others may argue that my exclusivity extends into other forms of media, and they may or may not be correct. Judge for yourself. Engage me in conversation regarding film, literature, and music and we'll see what we come up with, eh?

I tend to be just as picky about churches as well. I know I shouldn't be quite as high maintenance as I tend to be, and there are times I try harder than others to give things a chance, but for the most part I fail miserably. I mentioned the other night that Naseem and I went to a church service that hardly appealed to us; it intrigued me, yes. Did it make me uncomfortable? Yes, but not in the good sort of way (I believe that to understand Jesus' message as one of radical subversion as he intended it to be is to be made uncomfortable, but the discomfort is one accented with a challenge and this challenge is, in a word, good). So anyway, the service is held at the church I described earlier, the one with the wall painted with the Bible waterfall, by a prayer team from California. Now we all know those West Coast-ies are crazy (those damn liberals!) but who knew they could be so...charismatic? We walk in to the little church; there's a power outage so there's no electricity. The only light glows softly from candles placed sporadically around the room, creating an almost eerie irridescence that bathes everyone in the same pale light. We arrived late because, hey, how do you get twelve children out the door on time? And by the time we got there, everyone was already caught up in the rapture of worship. I know a lot of people close their eyes when they sing but I'm one of those creeps who likes to look around at everyone singing together. I love to see everyone so caught up in praising the Liberating King, all these different people acting as one voice while somehow maintaining their own oneness. It's lovely, divine really, to see the beauty of the individual. Anyway, so after we worship for a bit, a man gets up and starts talking about how the tops of our heads should be tingling with the fire of the Holy Spirit. Alright, I think, my head isn't all tingly, but sure, amen, brother. Preach it. Everyone now is alive with the Holy Spirit, everyone shakes and quakes. Again, this is not so much my style, but different strokes and what not, etc, etc. Then he asks the prayer team to lay hands on everyone and pray: well, I can always use more prayer, so this I appreciate. Finally I notice this guy next to me, the epitome of the California dude decked out with a puka shell necklace and sun-bleached hair, speaking in tongues and ending each prayer with something that sounded reminiscently of, "Shantih, shantih, shantih," which are the last words of Eliot's masterpiece "The Wasteland," and the conclusion of the Vedic Upanishads. It's a blessing, and now that I think about it, I should devote a whole blog to "The Wasteland" one day because I think of it often and I find it one of the most applicable poems floating around today.

Anyway, so I tend to be a little skeptical of speaking in tongues, and while I know that it is Biblical, I just have never heard anyone personally or heard of anyone legitimately speaking in tongues. For all I know, I suppose, this guy could have been the real thing, but I just didn't get the vibe of authenticity there. So after the prayer session a woman gets up to speak and apparently she is the pastor of the church which begat this prayer team; she begins an oration describing how because of what an upstanding Christian she is, she has been given the authority to heal and raise people from the dead. Well, well, well, now I'm at the edge of my seat. Joel Osteen told me how to get my best life now but he certainly didn't help me figure out how to raise anyone from the dead. What a sham, Joel. And apparently all I have to do is have enough faith and follow steps 1,2, and 3 and the gift is mine. She tells us that her city is now practically cancer-free; in fact, the city is so faithful that God has blessed them with barely any illness. What a neat trick. But I'm feeling a little more apprehensive now for several reasons: first, I believe that God rewards the faithful but I'm not quite sure he just hands out the power to raise people from the dead to every Tom, Dick, and Harry who prays. She kept telling these people that all they had to do was pray and God would instantly heal their pain; or, at least, she could be God's instrument and fix them all herself. I do believe that God can heal the sick and raise the dead from the grave. I do believe that God answers prayers and can do it instantly, but I don't believe that God is a genie either. He's doesn't exist to cater to our every whim; he does exist to give us life and life to the fullest but to say that all one has to do is follow the formula to a healthier existence is to miss the mark a bit. That's basically my point numero dos. We must have hope that God is working in our lives for out betterment but to tell these people, the hungry, the weak, the impoverished, that all they have to do is ask just the right thing and they'll get it is to give them a false hope. There is nothing we can do but act justly, love faithfulness, and walk humbly with our Father. This is enough. And like I said, we must believe that God is continuing to redeem all the hard and broken parts of our lives, and if we pray that we are healed from a physical sickness and it lingers, it is not because God isn't listening. It simply means that we are engaged in spiritual conflict. God doesn't want us to be sick. He doesn't want us to hurt but there is a battle going on and there is a side that thrives on our brokenness. Finally, the God this woman was speaking of is not the God I believe in. I mean, of course he is...sort of. I'm fairly certain that she believes that God created the heavens and the earth, etc, and that he is the Father of Jesus and part of a holy Trinity in which we find our purpose and being. Here is what I mean: she mentioned that her city is practically cancer-free. Sadly enough, practically cancer-free is not wholly cancer-free, which means there are still people with cancer in her city. So does this mean that they just didn't pray hard enough, that they weren't faithful enough? Or does it suggest that those suffering are not Christians and so God thus punishes the unbelievers by giving them cancer? Either way this is terrible. To believe in a God who would smite his children who do no believe in him is to ignore the God of the New Testament. To believe in a God who punishes people who don't seem to be faithful enough is a similar fallacy.

They finally rounded out the service by asking if anyone in the congregation had an aching right knee or intestinal problems beause God was revealing to them that there were people there suffering from those particular maladies. No one came forward so I guess they God-dar wasn't functioning properly. Finally they just said, Well, maybe someone had family members suffering those ailments, in which case, all one would have to do is call up said relative and pray with them over the phone until they were healed. Just like that.

I hope this post doesn't seem terribly judgemental, although, let's be honest, it probably does. The thing is I know that the charismatic church movement is thriving in Latin and Central American countries and again I have to trus that God's work is redemptive in places I don't understand. This experience was just frustrating and unsettling, I suppose. And now that I'm tired of typing, I'm not sure I even made a point. Hopefully I did. Maybe tomorrow when I reread it, I'll go back through and clean it up a bit and try to make a bit more sense out of things.

Peace, Alison

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Ninos

Teasing, punches being thrown, lost shoes, name calling, tears, pouting children, and it's only 7 am..geez! We picked the wrong day to have morning duty! Our days continue to consist of a daily struggle with school, the much anticipated lunch time which means not just food but the end of school (hallelujah!), the just as glorious hour or so of "quiet" time, beach time, worship, dinner, and then the day quickly comes to an end and it starts all over again always a little different, a little more frustrating with some things and a little easier with others...

My friend Nathan asked us for info on each staff and child so I will give a very brief description on each one along with ages(sorry no profile pictures!) far as staff goes we work with two adult couples and four volunteers who leave at the beginning of May and three more volunteers will then arrive..I'll group the kids by families..

Debra (19), Theresa (17), Gardina (15), Ricky (14), and half-brother Brandon (9)..Debra moved out a week ago Saturday to live with her grandmother..this family pretty much sticks together and keeps to themselves (which makes it hard to talk, connect, etc. with them) we still struggle getting even so much as a hello back from most of them..Brandon is the hardest one to connect with and gives the most evil, death stares to us..Alison jokingly says it but if looks could kill we would both be gonners..Brandon is the one who told on us for taking that extra 1/2 a slice of banana bread and this is how a conversation (not sure that is the correct term) between him and Alison went earlier..
Brandon: walks in door from school..
Alison: Hey Brandon, how was school?
Brandon: glares..
Alison: Trying to lighten things up jokingly says "That good, huh?"
Brandon: STOP IT!..glares again and runs off (oh geez!)
..they are all absolutley BEAUTIFUL and sadly full of so much pain..the mother is still present in their lives and they usually are with her on weekends..

Sarah (12) and Kerry (9)..Sarah is hilarious-she is going through a rough time dealing with being a twelve year old girl and so one minute she's happy and the next it's the end of the world! Dramatic as any girl and moody no doubt! Kerry is the class clown..he is always loud and silly unless, of course, it's school time and he doesn't want to do it..sometimes I think it would be easier getting Brandon to smile than it is to get Kerry to do work when he's set on not doing it!..they have a grandma who they seem to visit on weekends usually..

Nolan (10) and Shenice (7)..Nolan is super sweet and from what I've observed he gets picked on a lot which causes him to act out. He asks a million and ten questions all the time and lets be honest it gets annoying, but you can't help but love him even when he and Kerry are incessantly whining during school. Shenice would love on anyone because she is seven and she loves the attention. She is either an absolute joy or an absolute pain. Today she couldn't find her white shoes for school cause apparently someone threw them down the field and it was a total meltdown!..their mom visits every once in awhile, but never often..

David (12)..David cracks me up..their's something about this kid I love so dearly! He is super smart and he knows it..He is full of so much character, potential, and life in him..the greatest thing about David is all you have to do is tickle him and he is a little more willing to behave (at least until he can run away)..I'm going to go ahead and admit this before it gets out that he beat me in arm wrestling tonight..I know I'm not strong, but I got beat by a 12 year old boy..that's just embarrassing!..we have a hilarious video of David, but I can't get it to load..I've been trying for over a week!!!

Gabriel (7)..he goes 130 MPH all the all the kids he is either sweet or ornery and he is usually always getting himself into trouble and than trying to act all innocent about the matter and charm his way out of it..sneaky little brat, gotta love it!

Sweet little Jefferie (somewhere between 2 1/2-4-we aren't really sure!) He is a hoot! He cracks me up all the time and he is a sponge absorbing EVERYTHING around him-the good and the bad. His catch phrase is "excuse me, excuse me I (insert word)"'s usually always cute in his little voice especially when he came prancing downstairs the other night in a new pair of pajamas and some girl socks 2 sizes too big that he wanted to show us all..this little kid wins my heart more everyday..

I hope you all have a little bit of a better picture of all the kids now since we do name drop and it's hard to remember you all don't know them like we know's hard to tell how much to share and I have so many stories to attach to each one, but their's not enough space on here and you can go ahead and admit you don't have the patience-it's kinda like a mom talking about her get it, they're so cute!..Can I go now?!..

Peace & Love,
naseem :)

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Lo Siento..

Lo siento yet again for not posting yesterday. I just completely lacked the energy, which I'm also lacking tonight but I wanted to go ahead and see what I could do. Naseem and I just got back from a church service which I cannot even bring myself to blog about just yet. It was all I could do tonight not to walk out of there, run away from the shaking, quaking people speaking in tongues...but I sort of wanted to stick around to see if they brought out snakes and let them bite them, Billy Jack style (shout-out, Ryan Supak). I was actually shaking and quaking myself, and they probably thought I was being particularly moved by the Holy Spirit when in reality I was actually fervently scratching my bajillion bugbites all over my body. During the faith healing part I was really tempted to go up to the front and let them try to heal my bugbites, but then I figured I might get smote for being such a smartass. Oh well.

So anyway instead of paying attention to all the stories tonight about this prayer team that raises people from the dead, I was trying to formulate my blog and add a little order to the chaos of my thoughts. I just finished The Moviegoer, which I referred to the last time I posted as a tale detailing the existential quest of one Binx Bolling as he seeks authenticity and genuine life, becoming tantalized by the beauty of his surroundings while trying his damnedest to avoid falling into what he calls the "malaise," or the everydayness of life that can suddenly swoop down on one and bring about a dark period of feeling like Anyone Anywhere as opposed to a specific Someone in a certain place. Does that make sense? To become Anyone is to lose the unique essence of one's being; while he wants to avoid falling into this trap, he's slightly jealous of the individual who can allow himself to become Anyone Anywhere because he thinks maybe life is a bit easier for the Anyone. Alright, so in light of this, here's what I've been thinking about: it's certainly no secret that everyone is looking for something, and maybe not something in particular, but life, which, I know, I know, couldn't be any more general. Say we narrow it down a little more...everyone is looking for the secret of, the solution to discovering authentic and meaningful existence, and from a Judeo-Christian standpoint, the answer is that what we are looking for is perhaps not something tangible, but something transcendent. But here's the thing: do we think this makes us feel alive? Again, based on the Christian ultimate reality, people sin, and if we didn't sin, we wouldn't be human, so if we define our humanity by our propensity to err, does this mean we are saying to live is to sin? Surely not but somehow we find ourselves doing things we would classify as "sinning" and then we chalk it up to life experience. It makes us feel alive...or it makes us feel alive according to society's humanist standard. We do these things just to feel something, anything, even if it's suffering. We allow ourselves to feel pain because that's how we know that we are living. When something unbelievable happens, we ask someone to pinch us so that we wake up; that short, dull prick proves we are engaging in life. In The Moviegoer, Binx relates that "Christians talk about the horror of sin, but they have overlooked something. They keep talking as if everyone were a great sinner, when the truth is that nowadays one is hardly up to it. There is very little sin in the depths of the malaise. The highest moment of a malaisian's life can be that moment when he manages to sin like a proper human (Look at us, Binx- my vagabond friends as good as cried out to me- we're sinning! We're succeeding! We're human after all!)." It seems that to live life in its truest form, to experience all that it has to offer, to succeed and beat the malaise means one must sin and sin well. The world that is in the malaise, which, according to Binx is just about everyone, isn't even up to sinning, not because they think certain behaviors are wrong, per se, but because they are just too lazy.

Have you ever seen the movie Crash? It won the Oscar for Best Picture in 2004, the year Brokeback Mountain was expected to win it all. I keep thinking about that first line of the movie: Don Cheadle's voiceover is describing this desire for touch, for life, for a valid encounter:"In L.A., nobody touches you. We're always behind this metal and glass. I think we miss that touch so much, that we crash into each other, just so we can feel something." I think the reason why this small movie resonated so well with us is because it expresses such a true sentiment. We crash into one another just to feel something; we run ourselves into a brick wall just to prove to the world that we are participating in it's little game. We drink too much, we take too many pills, we jump into bed with people whose last names we don't even know, and what happens? We sober up, the high comes down, our lover rolls out of bed and puts on his shoes and walks out the door. How about that for meaning? This kind of careless, life-is-absurd, Nietzsche-Camus hybrid worldview is destructive but not only do we participate in it, we brag about it the next morning. But, my friends, where is the hope in that?

One of my favorite short stories ever is Hemingway's "A Clean, Well-lighted Place." It's sparse, true Hemingway, consisting primarily of a converation between two waiters in a Spanish bodega concerning their only patron, an old man who faithfully comes in to get drunk. One of the waiters understands why the old man comes back night after night; the bodega is a perfect refuge for someone hoping to escape the black fog that envelops the world. Everyone is looking for a clean, well-lighted place in the midst of a moral darkness. It's just that we don't know how to do it properly. We look for all the wrong things. Finally the waiter, in the depths of malaise, concludes that it is all "nada y pues nada y pues nada". He hails "Nada full of nada, for nada is with thee." Nothing is there. All we have is what we can get out of the world; all we have is our search for a clean, well-lighted place in which to pass the time. I think Binx ultimately comes down on this side as well.

So I have been thinking a lot about this and as dismal as this post may seem, I want to leave us on a hopeful note. The world is not nada. Man is not nada. We don't have to crash into each other to feel or live authentically. We don't have to sin grandly to gain validity. We sin because we are human; we are not human because we sin. Life is not absurd. I believe that there is an Unmoved Mover who not only moves but in whom we can live, move and have our being. It's lovely and true. Now if someone can figure out exactly how one might continue avoiding the destructive behaviors, please let me know because while I can label them as unhealthy and enacted in vain, I can't quite shake them. I find myself continuing to get myself into messy situations just so I can have an interesting story to tell later on. I look for a clean, well-lighted place in every dark corner and announce proudly to the world when I sin well. Can someone fix that for me? Thanks. 'Ppreciate it.

Alright, so just when you thought my posts couldn't get any longer, WHAM. Sorry, folks. But I promise the show's over now. I do sincerely hope that someone has tracked with this even in the slightest degree. It may seem a bit like rambling and I apologize. By the way, I got Skype so if anyone wants to talk to me, please do. My name thingy is aliwisdom to me and I promise I won't blather on about my own existential and moral dilemmas. Maybe.

Peace, Alison

Monday, April 7, 2008

Muy Caliente..

Sorry for no blog yesterday, I just didn't have the energy. I'm fully healed from the hellish misery that I was sick with for about 24 hours thanks to some antibiotics and rehydration fluid that tasted like a mix of salt water and warm milk..Delicious, right? Now I'm listening to a medley of the Decemberists, Rilo Kiley, and my girl crush Tifah and pondering what to share with our devoted blog readers...

Yesterday was pretty relaxed. Scottie, Alison, and I attended Church with a sweet cab driver named Roy whom we were introduced to by Scottie. The Church service was all hellfire and brimstones with the message consisting of the pastor shouting repeatedly as if he was angry about the matter that "JESUS WAS COMING BACK!!!" The music was painful to the ears, but the people singing sung with such passion that it made it bearable and left you with a smile on your face. Also, Roy was so excited to have us joining him that it was a pleasant experience that I'm thankful we got the opportunity to participate in. We also got Bojangles for lunch, it's pretty much soul food and is a nice alternative to rice and beans, eh?..and yes I just said eh like I'm from Canada..

Speaking of Canada, Ryan and Taryn, the awesome Canadian couple here that we home school with, got a much needed 1.5 day break so Alison and I had all the classes today! We were both nervous about the whole thing and, to be honest, dreading the entirety of the morning. However, things went over fairly smooth until art came. Those boys just don't like behaving during art and so I have given them the task of being Alison and my art teacher the rest of the week and we will act as their students..should be interesting, if it works out. We'll see..

Tomorrow is our day off and we're both very much looking forward to the break. I definitely feel the need for some time away to refocus. I feel like I only catch my breath enough to lose it again moments later. I'll leave with you with another excerpt from Rob Bell that still has my head spinning. I still have not completley digested all that I read in Velvet Elvis.

"I am not defined by what I am not. And understanding this truth is a huge part of becoming whole. I had to stop living in reaction and start letting a vision for what lies ahead pull me forward."..

I am often times trapped in trying to figure out how to be the things I fall short of being. I feel defined by my flaws, my insecurities, and feel I'm constantly trying to fix those things I'm not, therefore living in reaction, which is a vicious unheatlhy cylce to live in. It focuses on creating someone I'm not rather than focusing on developing the things that I am.

I am constantly observing the now only eleven kids I live amongst. I see them consumed at times by what they don't have rather than thankful for what they do. Struggling to figure out who they are and so lost in the matter of even where to start. Grant it they are children and adolescents and being content let alone knowing themselves is far from expected, especially due the circumstanes in which they have been exposed to growing up in. But what about me? Am I content with life? I'm only 19 and it's not unusual that I don't have "it" figured out, but I'm at times not even sure I know right from left. I offer these kids love that I work at giving agenda free. But, what else do I offer? What will I go home with to offer to myself and to others? Perhaps I'm just rambling and I'm super tired and ridiculously hot...

peace & love,
p.s. we didn't die from sickness, but heat exhaustion may take us in the night..

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Something I call God

Naseem and I are probably dying, so if you're going to leave comments on any blog entry, this is the one because tomorrow we'll probably be dead. Sorry, everyone. It was nice knowing you all.

Ok, obviously I'm kidding. Sort of. We actually are both sick and at least feel like dying, but odds are we'll probably stick around a while longer. We'll just need pretty ready access to a bathroom, that's all. We really did spend most of the day feeling fairly miserable, which, if you're going to spend a day feeling fairly miserable, I suppose this would be a good one. The kids were preoccupied with the freedom of the weekend; they all got invited to a pool party thrown by this prototypical family of towheaded Dallas people, so we crammed seventeen hot, sweaty, smelly bodies into a decrepit eight passenger van (legal? I think not) and chugged along the streets of Roatan until we reached a swanky resort with an equally swanky pool filled with well-groomed, Scandinavian looking kids with abnormally thick blonde shocks of hair framing their wholesomely all-American faces. Even I felt out of place. The kids, however, loved every minute of it, and Naseem and I sat in the shade, focusing on not running to the bathroom every few minutes.

I'm not going to pretend that I've had a good attitude about things today because, let's be honest, I haven't really been a bright little ray of sunshine. I haven't been a complete downer to be around either but that's only because I adopted the smile-and-nod method of communication: it was kind of like pretending that I didn't know English, so I could just sit there, not excactly participating, and observe and absorb...and, incidentally, get bit all over my body by sand fleas.

But instead of focusing on the negative (my therapist would be elated), I'm going to find beauty in today. I've been reading The Moviegoer by Walker Percy, and there was a passage that I loved. If something I read is beautiful or bittersweet, I have a tendency to think that it is directly applicable to my current situation in life, that it resonates with me in a unique way, that, in a way, the passage found me, and I become extraordinarily affected by it. Anyway, so in this book, the main character and narrator Binx Bolling, who is on an existential quest of sorts, tells about one summer he and his friend tried to do research on some science-y thing, but instead found himself oddly moved and affected by the summer afternoons in the lab, the way "the August sunlight came streaming in the great dusty fanlights and lay in yellow bars across the room." He was "bewitched" by it, but his friend was completely oblivious to the magic, entirely absorbed in his research, which in the end proved successful; although Binx is in somewhat of a precarious position in life, he says he would never change places with his friend "for he is no more aware of the mystery which surrounds him than a fish is aware of the water it swims in." Binx at least sees the beauty, and although he can't necessarily pinpoint it, he recognizes that it is magic, that it is a mystery.

So I'm going to tell about a time today I saw beauty, that I felt the magic of what I'm doing here: there is a boy in the home named Gabriel, and he's about six years old. Today he spent about an hour playing with me and intermittently falling asleep on my lap. It's always wonderful and rejuvenating to spend peaceful time with the kids, with no one hitting, crying, or screaming, and I was thankful for that time with him. As we rode along on our way to the pool, Gabriel was curled up on my lap the entire time, and although I was already so hot and his body was lithe but heavy, his weight was a pleasant, comforting warmth. His hand was wrapped tightly around my thumb and his head was pressed against my chest, gently rising and falling each time I breathed. The road leading up to West Bay was a little bumpy and I tried my best to hold him tightly and cushion his little body so he wouldn't bounce around too much. I had my cheek pressed against his head, I could practically feel his scars, the sun was golden as it flooded the van and colored everyone in its light--outside the window the jungle was green, flecked with yellow, and the trees rose like a canopy enveloping us as we sped along, seventeen separate people all in one place, bound together by a specific time and a certain space--and perhaps a beauty, a magic, a mystery. Jean Toomer wrote about a girl he knew once and how everything flowed into her eyes, "the countryside and something that I call God." That was how I felt this afternoon: sometimes all these discordant elements, these seventeen people, the heat, a child curled up in your lap, the sunlight, everything comes together and creates something lovely and true, something in which I see the beauty and mystery of the Divine reflected. I looked around me and saw something that I call God, a reflection of the transcendence of the Liberating King. And I felt happy.

Sorry once again for rambling on and on. Hopefully you found something worthwhile hidden amongst the wreckage of my language. Continue praying for Naseem and me, and for the kids.

And email us, for the love of God.

Peace, Alison

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Excuse me, Excuse me...

Today started out disastrous..I woke up at 6 am to help out with breakfast detail and while most mornings I'm happy to get up and help Ludie, our wonderful kitchen help, today was not one of those mornings. All I wanted to do was lay in bed and that thought continued well into nap time this afternoon. Nolan and Kerry were atrocious in class today and what little patience I had was worn thin after an exhausting art class. By the time it was "quiet" time I was ready to call it quits for the day or longer. I felt physically and emotionally drained without patience or energy to deal with the kids. During quiet time I tried taking a nap to rid a migraine, but after a restless attempt decided to journal and finish the last 20 pages I had in Rob Bell's Velvet Elvis . I was about to put the book down and prepare for beach time when I read this paragraph..

"Oftentimes the Christian community has sent the message that we love people and build relationships in order to convert them to the Christian faith. So there is an agenda. And when there is an agenda, it isn't really love, is it? It's something else. We have to rediscover love, period. Love that loves because it is what Jesus teaches us to do. We have to surrender our agenda."...

His words hit me really hard. They are simple, but their is so much to wrap our minds around in what he says. An agenda. What agenda did I come here with for these kids? What agenda do I carry with me daily? Maybe I'm misreading Bell, but I took in what he said and put it in perspective of today and these kids.

My patience wears thin when I expect to achieve something with the kids, when I get tired of trying due to the presence of an acknowledged or unacknowledged agenda. But I'm not here or I shouldn't be anyhow with the agenda to see this change in front of my eyes. I'm simply here to love these children. For me in my role here that means teaching them, setting boundaries and disciplining in a non-violent way, and continually surrendering control to God day to day, but even hour to hour in days that are trying. In a day that I felt worthless and helpless to these kids and to myself I felt uplifted by this reminder.

After putting our books down Alison and I went to gather our laundry that we had like domestic house wives hung on clothing lines in the backyard. Before we headed to beach time we went to grab a delicious slice of fresh baked banana bread for snack. Hungry from day two of sadwiches (intentionally misspelled the way Ludie spells it, as they are definitely sad sandwiches) we decided to sneak back in and split another slice. Thinking we were sneaky and no one saw us we smiled as we quickly consumed them, when I heard a small voice I turned to see Brandon sitting in the corner of the room mouthing something to me. Apparently in a fit of rage he had snuck to the laundry room and poured bleach all over the kids clothes and was now being punished with an hour long timeout in the corner of the dining room. I walked over to the child who had been apparently watching us like hawks and in Brandon style this is how the conversation went..
Brandon: You had one and a half slices, you were only allowed one.
Naseem: Yes Brandon, but Alison and I are very hungry because we didn't eat much for lunch
Brandon: glares
Naseem: walks away in shock and shame that she was just caught by a 9 year old sneaking an extra half of banana bread..

Appalled Alison and I slipped away to load up for beach time, which today including a special treat of getting to swim in Ms. Ann's pool. It ended up being a very relaxing, fun afternoon with the kids. We didn't get back till late and dinner was rather uneventful tonight. The kids are watching Baby Genius right now, but due to an iffy stomach I had to sneak out early, sadly..maybe, I can borrow the movie and watch it later?..if I'm lucky..

Peace & Love,

The Moneymaker..

First of all, ten more bonus points to whomever is currently watching "The Perfect Storm." Ten points to my poor kindred spirit who is also being subjected to this film. And then minus ten points for watching it in the first place: Mark Wahlberg should duck his head in shame over his cinematic choices (until The Departed, obviously) and George Clooney should probably stick to movies written by the Coen brothers or ones in which he's ridiculing the government. Also this movie has big waves, which I don't like...thus i blog.

So my friend Ryan Supak, the infamous instigator (I say this only with love, sir), asked Naseem and me an interesting question, one that I think he and I have actually discussed while I was working at Taft:

"Do you feel like this excursion will be a worthwhile use of resources?In other words, is it doing "the most good" to send educated, well-heeled people from a first-world country to the place, or would the money/energy have been better spent hiring some natives to run the orphanage?What can you (and we, in general, as USians) bring to the table that natives can't? Do we really know what's best for poor people?"

Scotty Peckler, a fellow Ecclesian and volunteer here in Roatan, has actually beat me to the punch and posted, in my opinion, a really great answer to this question; even so, I'd like to make a few brief comments. This is a completely legitimate question and a tricky one to address but I believe that this must be a worthwhile use of resources: the resources I have to offer are availability, flexibility, a genuine desire to seek purposefully a wholehearted commitment to serving the Liberating King, and, as trite and sappy as this may sound, love. To believe that these resources are not being utilized in a worthwhile way is to suggest that God is only half-heartedly using us. Do I think that I have anything to offer that Hondurans cannot? Absolutely not. I would never say that Americans know what's best for poor people; I wouldn't even say the Church knows what's best for poor people, but the fact of the matter is Jesus has called us, as Christians, as American Christians, as Honduran Christians, to, as Scotty has said, live missionally and holistically, thus we serve overseas where we are called. We love poor people, and while there may not seem to be any clear and easy answers of how this looks in a practical way, we must trust that God is using for His Glory and for the Kingdom the paltry offerings we put forth. What is at the heart of this is obediance to a King.

Anyway, I hope this is a satisfactory answer to a great question. I've struggled a lot with trying to set myself at ease about ideas revolving around "missions." How much of it is legitimate, how much comes from an authentic desire to serve and not a selfish desire to earn the proverbial jewels in one's celestial crown? Or impress our church friends at the Sunday potluck? And how much good does short term mission work do? It's a difficult thing to wrestle with. Like I said, I don't think that wealthy, well-educated Americans and WASPs will be solving any of the world's major issues anytime soon or that the aforementioned people group can bring anything to the table that impoverished, third-world citizens cannot (except maybe time and money, eh?), but I have to believe that God redeems any authentic, loving service performed in His name.

So, meanwhile back at the ranch, today was pretty hellacious as far as schooling goes. Both Naseem and I had difficulty with our boys and about every ten minutes, there was a crying toddler or a ten year old on the verge of a meltdown. Everyday Nolan gets irate with me because I make him do English work, but as soon as the twenty minutes are over, we get to be buddy-buddy again. Today, however, I got so fed up with him being disrespectful, I ended lessons early, which I'm pretty sure shamed him and he tried to shower me with cuteness:
Nolan: Wait, Alison, can we do the vowel cards again?
Me: No, Nolan, you were not very nice or cooperative so I don't really feel like working with you anymore.
Nolan: But-but-'ice' has a long i sound and 'fish' has a short i sound! Will you come to geography with me?
Me: No, Nolan, I need a break from children.

Later, though, we did arts and crafts together and I made him a sweet wizard hat to show him that I forgave him, and all was well.

So school was a nightmare of epic proportions, but in the second half of the day, things picked up a little: we baked the world's ugliest cake for Debra, whose 19th birthday is tomorrow, ate a lot of icing, went to the beach, laughed at just about everything, enjoyed a lovely golden sunset, reached the pinnacle of our sugar high and now have subsequently crashed in front of The Perfect Storm.

A lot of other hilarious things happened today (including Naseem and I being given nicknames by one of the kids: she was White Monkey and Gollum before cajoling David into settling with Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, and I was Pocahontas) and maybe I'll get energy to write about them at another point, but as for now I'm sick and tired and have somehow been sucked into watching the stellar on-screen chemistry between Wahlberg and Clooney. Signing off for now. Peace.


Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Me llamo oreos..

First, before I write I would just like to say I know I'm not as gifted as Alison with this whole writing thing, but everyone can stop shafting me on getting comments on my days to blog..sharing is caring kids!

Today was back to school with the ninos..aside from Kerry hitting me in the lip with a wooden box everything went over fairly well. I seem to be in the aim of fire lately. Last night a large book was flung at my knee and the same kid found it humurous to yell at the top of his lungs in my right ear, very cute..I walked away without battle wounds so I'll consider myself lucky this time. Today in journal time we wrote sentences about masks..they went something like this..Nolan likes masks because they're cool. Kerry wants to make a superman cape. Sarah wants to make a tiara.

Alison and I, not wanting to break our new tradition of acting out reality tv shows here on the island, had a little "what not to wear" in the children's closests today. We were technically supposed to just be taking inventory of the clothes & getting rid of things that didn't fit them anymore, but took it upon ourselves to get rid of the fashion faux pas..our attempts failed. Shenice seemed to not want to part with the cats in hawaiian shirts and actually ended up wearing it this afternoon(see photograph above).

After lunch and nap time for the kids (and for Alison and I) we went on our daily beach trip with a few of the kids. I would like to report this was a flawless outting, but while my head was turned a young child slipped in the water and decided to go underwater..thankfully, I pulled him out in drowned child..just a scared volunteer.

And now after two meals of rice and beans portioned for Kate Moss we are eating oreos, which we paid way too much for. I think Alison and I may actually be at a fat camp and not realize...

Peace & Love,

p.s. I meant for the title to say I love oreos, but it actually says my name is oreos-same idea..

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

dia de descanso

Well, the unthinkable has finally happened: I'm sunburned. Today was our day off from the orphanage and so Naseem and I celebrated by basking in the golden rays of the sun, free of children hanging off the various appendages of our bodies and begging us to play Monopoly Junior with them. Unfortunately I may have basked a little too long because my Native American skin has a wee tinge of red lurking beneath my otherwise golden brown tan. (By the way, did I mention I'm going to be super tan and hot and skinny by the time I get back? Just you wait and out, ANTM). Before you get too carried away imagining me as a lobster, I should say that I'm prone to exaggeration and maybe I'm not THAT sunburned. Just a little. Just enough to have a really terrible tanline. I'm crossing my fingers that the populace will perceive me as ridiculously tan...and skinny and hot. Just kidding.

Anyway, so yes, Naseem and I spent our day among the tourists of Roatan, meandering through the streets of West Bay, rubbing shoulders with the sun-ravaged Americans, the surgically enhanced older women, the scantily clad peroxide blondes, and the puka shell-adorned, shirtless playboys, while deftly manuevering the speeding taxis and trying our hardest to ignore catcalls and whistles. We relished the rarity of eating non-orphanage food (for those of you following along at home, I ate an omelette and a turkey sandwich, while Naseem had pancakes and a ham beans or rice anywhere) and even went to a little grocery store and bought overpriced ice cream and Oreos. We layed out and read books, real grown-up books, not "Potty Training Is So Fun" books, but actual legitimate literature, and in true Alison form, we had our very own America's Next Top Model photo shoot right there on the beach. I'm pretty sure the other tourists thought we were crazy but we were enjoying ourselves too much to care. I'm going to post a few of those pictures and probably immediately regret it, so I hope you, loyal readers, will enjoy my public self-deprecation and humiliation.

When we came back to the orphanage, where incidentally we did have beans and rice for dinner, we had a major breakthrough: remember the scary girls? The oldest, Debora, actually struck up a conversation with Naseem; I know I'm famous for my sparkling wit and above-average conversational skills, but this really caught me off guard and I sat in stunned silence. Later though, I had my chance. Naseem, Debora, along with her two sisters Theresa and Gardenia, and I sat around after dinner and discussed TV shows. Apparently they are big Lost fans, and while I doubt they share my ardorous passion for Desmond and probably couldn't care less about my various theories revolving around the mysteries of the island, I feel this is a very good start. And, this is more embarrassing, but hey-I've already shared my extensive knowledge of the teeny-bopper world and confessed to the world that I love having fake photo shoots, we all bonded over a love (but I swear mine is one stained by feelings of guilt) of America's Next Top Model. See, you all thought I was just being pathetic when I watched those marathons, but I'm 98% sure God was calling me to watch all those episodes so I could have something to talk about with a snobby, scary Honduran girl. Right? Right??

Alright, I know I tend to go on and on, but I wanted to share something else. Remember Sarah, one of the girls I'm helping with English? Well, she had a spelling test today over the days of the week and if she didn't pass it, her other teacher at the school was not going to continue her lessons with her, so last night Sarah and I spelled Monday through Sunday over and over and over again. Then this morning we spelled again like the world was ending, although now that I think about it, that would be a terrible way to spend your last few moments. We tried all kinds of tricks to help her learn it, but most of them were pretty futile. For example, one dialogue went a little like this:

Me: Sarah, spell 'Saturday.'
Sarah: S-A-...wait, where did they even get that word?
Me: Oh I'm glad you asked that! Maybe this will help you remember...a long time ago there were some people called the Romans and they were polytheistic and they had a god named Saturn and he was the god of agriculture, and that's where we get it!
Sarah: What? Can I go play?

Ok, so despite my paltry attempts to make spelling cool and fun, Sarah was still really worried...but then she made 81%! I was so excited and proud. And she got Saturday right.

I just reread this and realized how dorky this particular post is. Please don't judge me and please still be my friend. Peace.