Honduras Day 5: Mercedes Fun Day

ADVENTURE-5

Click here to see Day 4’s home visits for Brayan, Valery, and Ludvi(I’ve been having issues with WordPress in my browser, which caused me to not be able to write for awhile. And then I started a new job and have things have been busy and stressful for awhile. So sorry for the HUGE delay in posts!!)

Because of when my trip started, the team who was there for Week 1 did home visits and a fun day for Quelacasque before I arrived. I had the option of coming 2 days earlier for these, but I wanted to arrive when others were, and everyone else coming for Week 2 was all arriving on Saturday. I preferred not to be alone coming into the airport, which turned out to be a good thing, considering how long it took us to find the Sowers people. Also, experiencing the at least 4 hour ride one way, I’m glad that no one had to make a special round trip just for me. I have one child in Quelacasque, Jenny, and even though I wouldn’t be able to visit her home, she was still going to be able to come along to one of the other fun days. That turned out to be the Mercedes day, and a couple other kids from Quelacasque who were newly sponsored by another team member came along, too!

I woke up very early in the morning of day 5 and realized just how swollen my sunburned wrist had become. It had been bothering me quite a bit the day before in terms of pain, and it seemed to be getting worse. Ouch!

I was very excited to meet Jenny for the first time, and the Quelacasque kids were at the pool waiting for us while the Mercedes kids hadn’t arrived yet, which allowed me to spend a little time with just her first. She was such a sweetheart from the start.

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Not too long after, the Mercedes children arrived. I met up with Ludvi and her brother, Valery and her mom, and Brayan and his sister and passed out swimsuits to everyone and blew up the pool toys again. Like the first fun day, I spent the day primarily being in the moment with the kids enjoying our time together. Every so often I’d get out and take pictures quickly, and then rejoin them again.

Valery had a great time, and so did her mom. Her mom was great and attentive with her the whole time, and I could see her enjoying herself too. I was glad when I saw her go down the large water slide near the end.

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One of her friends from school was also there, as she’s sponsored by another sponsor as part of our team, and they had fun playing together.

Brayan was still shy with me again, but he ADORED the water. So I had a blast just watching him play and have fun all day. This is the child that only received one smiling photo of in all the photo updates over the 2+ years I had been sponsoring him, so to see him smile so often, in person, was such a special and wonderful treat!!

His sister, Lourdes, was a great big sister looking out for him, but she also still got to have fun with some of her friends that were there!

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Ludvi reminded me of Maria on the previous fun day, as she was also the most unsure of the water, staying in the shallow area, and ended up changing back into her clothes before the day was done. Ludvi also comes from an area that is even more so in need and higher up in the mountains, like Maria, so it’s very understandable for a day like this to be overwhelming and tiring, especially if it’s a completely new experience. Her smile was undeniable, though!

I got some alone time with her too, when we took a walk down the bridge. She was fascinated by the fish in the water, and started saying how her father used to have fish ponds. I knew that she was being raised by her mother, but she shared with me that her father had passed away a few years ago, due to an accident at work. It sounds like the family moved to their current home in Ollada after he passed, probably because it was what they could afford. With one parent and 9 children living in rural Honduras, Ludvi’s needs are so great, to a point it can be hard for us living in countries like the US to comprehend. But to see her, and her brother, just be kids for the day, having a special day of fun and love with a big meal is something that I know was even extra special for them.

Here, Ludvi is wearing a top and a necklace I gave her the day before, along with her birthday Tiara. It was her birthday just days before I met her, as with Valery, so I gave both them a birthday card and a tiara along with their gifts. She wore that tiara all day after she changed back into her clothes like the princess she is ❤ Even though she’s not smiling in these photos, as smiling for pictures is not a part of growing up for Ludvi like it is for many of us, she was smiling a lot in person.

And then there was Jenny, the biggest fish in the water of the day! I was worried if Jenny would be shy not really knowing anyone, since she was coming along for the Mercedes fun day, but it turns out I didn’t have to worry at all. She has such a fun, curious, adventurous personality! The sweet girl is just full of life and an absolute joy to be around!

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I also got some nice alone time with Jenny as we walked along the bridge and into the greenhouse. She picked flowers for me, made a flower mosaic in the sand, told me which flowers she liked and which ones she didn’t, and even fearlessly walked right up to the geese! 🙂

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I had put the flowers she gave me for my hair in the outside pocket of my backpack. When flying home, I forgot to take them out, but somehow they made it fine through security, and I’m glad to still have them.

It also warmed my heart to see Ludvi and Jenny interacting together and making friends. They are right around the same age, but never would have met otherwise, as they don’t live near each other. I had brought pipe cleaners and beads in my backpack, a hit when I was in Guatemala last year, and I was very glad I had them. I brought them out after Ludvi had changed, for something for her to do, and she and Jenny really enjoyed it. One of the other sponsors also used some with her little girl who was injured and couldn’t play much. And what I didn’t expect was how much fun a few of the younger moms who joined us would have, too! Ludvi’s mom and another mom had a blast making bracelets and pipe cleaner flowers, which I showed them how to make. I loved seeing their joy with the crafting!!

In the second picture, both girls are standing next to each other, and you can see how much taller Jenny, who is actually a little over a year younger than Ludvi, is. Ludvi is especially tiny for a 10 year old, which typically goes hand-in-hand with nutrition in countries like Honduras.

I absolutely love this picture, taken by another sponsor. I could feel how Ludvi needed extra love and attention that day, and I tried to never leave her for long, while also giving  attention to all my kids. But this picture perfectly sums up the unspoken joy and bond that was created between us this day, and I look at it with a full heart, knowing God used me to make His daughter feel extra loved.

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At one point, we all went to see the animals.

Jenny, in per pipe cleaner creation that perfectly complemented her free-spirit, was curious as always.

Valery, her mom, and Ludvi preferred to watch from a distance.

And Brayan’s sister Lourdes kindly helped him reach.

Lunch was a huge treat for everyone who attended again! Ludvi brought along the purse that I had brought her gifts in the day before, and everything was handled with such care. I later saw the very carefully wrapped leftovers of hers and her brother’s, leaving nothing to waste, to bring back home to the rest of the family.

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At the end of the day, we got popsicles for all of the kids again!

Saying goodbye was the hardest part again, although by this point in the trip, I was convinced that I was going to do whatever I could to attend again next year. Valery’s mom told me how hard it was for her to say goodbye, and that she felt like she was saying goodbye to and leaving a family member. And Jenny’s goodbye’s were the hardest. She was the last to leave, since the small group from Quelacasque had to be transported back separately, and she said goodbye to me about 4 times before she actually left. Each time her hugs got tighter and longer, to the point where I was holding back tears by the last one, because it’s just amazing how quickly and strongly a bond between a sponsor and child can form, and how much love is felt on both ends ❤

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I left with another full heart and an armful of bracelets!

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Click here to see the previous posts:

Day 1: Arriving

Day 2: Maria’s Home Visit

Day 2: Yeyson and Greysi’s Home Visit

Day 2: Cristian’s Home Visit

Day 3: El Tablon Fun Day

Day 4: Brayan’s Home Visit

Day 4: Valery’s Home Visit

Day 4: Ludvi’s Home Visit

Click here to continue on to Day 6: Helen’s Home Visit

Bringing Gifts to my Sponsored Children

I leave for Honduras tomorrow!!

Long before I was ready to pack for this trip, the thought of it just stressed me out. I can tell you now, actually having been going through it, that the act of packing is no less stressful. It’s funny to me now that I was worried about packing all of the gifts for one child and for centers when I went to Guatemala. This time I had to pack gifts for 13 children, plus small family gifts for each of their families!

I did have a blast shopping for all of them, though. There are some things that are consistent for every child. Each one is getting two shirts, a bathing suit, and a stuffed animal (I figure any age loves a stuffed animal to hug, right?) I went through and assembled each bag, took pictures of its contents, and then disassembled everything to pack it as tight as possible. The pictures will help me to reassemble everything when I get to Honduras! Here is what I packed for each child, starting with the boys:

Brayan, age 5:

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a purple shirt (his favorite color), a striped shirt, a pair of swimming trunks, a toy train, a blue superhero cape, a Jesus loves me bracelet, a stuffed goat, a fidget spinner, and a paw print bag (these are the same ones my students got at our school picnic, which I figure the kids will get a kick out of)

Diego, age 6:

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a dinosaur shirt (he’s a dinosaur fan), a Chicago Bears shirt, swimming trunks, a large toy car, a blue superhero cape, a Jesus loves me bracelet, a stuffed dinosaur that makes noise, a fidget spinner, and a paw print bag

Yeyson, age 9:

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a blue shirt (his favorite color), a Rainforest Cafe from Downtown Disney shirt, swimming trunks, a stuffed dog, a harmonica, an Angry Birds kite, a fidget spinner, a Jesus loves me bracelet, and a paw print bag

Junior, age 10:

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a Rainforest Cafe from Downtown Disney shirt, a future rocket scientist shirt, swimming trunks, dominoes, a harmonica, a stuffed horse, a fidget spinner, a Jesus loves me bracelet, and a paw print bag

Cristian, age 12:

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a Rainforest Cafe from Downtown Disney shirt, an Old Navy shirt, swimming trunks, a stuffed dog, glow in the dark stars with removable putty, a bag of marbles, a fidget spinner, a Jesus loves me bracelet, dominoes, and a paw print bag

And now onto the girls… Angie, age 3 (and the youngest of all my children):

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a pink bathing suit, a kitten shirt, a yellow floral shirt, a stuffed cow, a mermaid doll, two ponies, a reversible sequin bracelet, a Shimmer and Shine doll with a locket keychain, and a summer tote bag

Greysi, age 3:

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a pink bathing suit, a red and white striped shirt, a rainbow shirt, a stuffed deer, a Shimmer and Shine doll and locket keychain, two ponies and hair accessories, a barbie, a reversible sequin bracelet, a Jesus loves me bracelet, and a summer tote bag

Valery, will be 4 by the time I meet her:

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A stars bathing suit, a blue and white daisy shirt, a planets and sun shirt, a stuffed rainbow tiger, a reversible sequin bracelet, a barbie, a Shimmer and Shine doll and locket keychain, a mermaid doll and some little fish friends (when she mentioned in her latest letter that the animal she wanted to see in person was a mermaid, I had to find something related to give her), a Jesus loves me bracelet, and a paisley tote bag

Helen, age 8:

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a rainbow bathing suit, a Frozen shirt, a chambray and lace shirt, a stuffed pegasus, a Minion journal with a lock and keys and extra stickers (more on the back, too) and a pen (I loved these sets from Walmart!), a turquoise choker, a Jesus loves me bracelet, a barbie, a flamingo tote bag

Jenny, age 8:

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a pink bathing suit, a white tribal shirt, an Olaf Frozen shirt, a stuffed horse (she has a real horse at home), a Frozen journal with a lock and keys and a pen and extra stickers, a turquoise choker, a Jesus loves me bracelet, a barbie, and a flamingo tote bag

Ludvi, age 10 (as of yesterday!):

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a tropical bathing suit, a chambray and lace shirt, a blue floral shirt, a journal set of 3 notebooks of different sizes, a turquoise choker, a set of 5 rolls of washi tape, a barbie, a stuffed unicorn, a Jesus loves me bracelet, and a pink striped purse

Heidy, age 12:

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a mermaid bathing suit, a black shirt with an attached necklace, a tribal fringe shirt, a stuffed dog, a brown choker, a set of 5 rolls of washi tape, a set of 3 pouches/cosmetic bags of different sizes, a journal set of 3 notebooks of different sizes, a Jesus loves me bracelet, embroidery floss to make friendship bracelets with instructions, a black Old Navy purse

Maria, age 13 (my oldest Manna child):

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a pink tie-dye bathing suit, a polka dot chambray shirt, a coral draped tank top, a pineapple “pura vida” journal, a set of 3 pouches/cosmetic bags of different sizes, a stuffed penguin, a brown choker, a Jesus loves me bracelet, a set of 5 rolls of washi tape, a thirty-one bag (really excited about that find)

Then there were the family gifts, which I needed 12 of, because Yeyson and Greysi are the same family, so they only need one family gift between them. I’m giving each family a set of 4 plastic cups, a bamboo wooden spoon or spatula, and a dish towel.

I’ll be assembling them once I get in Honduras, and they’ll look something like this:

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I also made tags for each child’s bag, but I forgot to attach them before I packed the bags, oops! So they’re packed, along with more ribbon, to attach in Honduras:

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When you look at each of the individual pictures, it doesn’t seem like much, but when you put it all together, it really is!! This is a glimpse at what only part of my suitcase looks like:

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Yeah, yikes! Here’s hoping my bag doesn’t weigh over the weight limit… I can’t wait to give these gifts to my beloved children and most importantly spend time with them!

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Letters from Jenny

I don’t know Jenny as well as some of my other Manna kids yet, because her program at her church, Quelacasque, is the newest opened, and I’ve only sponsored her since December. But from what I can tell, she is very sweet and a little shy. Something she said her latest letter truly touched me, which I took a picture of to have saved on my phone. I was also blessed to get some photos of her from when the team visited Quelacasque on Wednesday and Thursday! Here they are:

I just love that smile in the first picture. Jenny is 8.

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And this is the walk to her community! :O

“I greet you very affectionately, wishing you success in your daily labors. i am grateful for the support that you give us. I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year. These are my sincere wishes.”

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“My favorite animal is the rabbit. I like them because they are soft and pretty. I also like squirrels. I would like to see an elephant in person. I have a horse at home. I love you very much. I love you with all the strength of my heart. I hope you love me the way I love you. I would like to meet you in person. I am very happy that all is going well.”

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These sentences: “I love you with all the strength of my heart. I hope you love me the way I love you.” are so touching to me from an innocent 8 year old with so much love in her heart to give. I can’t wait to meet this beautiful soul and assure her how much I love her!

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Photo Friday: New Photos of my Manna Betania and Quelacasque Children

15 days until I arrive in Honduras with Manna 4 Lempira! It’s exciting how close it is! I leave tomorrow for another trip, and then when I get back I get to start packing to go see these awesome kids. I hope everything fits!

Heidy, 12, was my first sponsored Manna child, so she’s very special to me. In the over 2 years that I’ve sponsored her, I’ve watched her grow and blossom into a more confident young lady. She still has the kindest heart. In both of these pictures, which were taken on separate days, she is wearing a dress I sent her.

Junior, 10, has never stopped smiling in the 2 years I’ve “known” him. He is such a joyful personality and I can’t wait to see it in person! He is looking so much more grown up in these latest photos.

Diego, 6, is the one out of all of my Manna children that I’ve seen the least photos of and gotten the least letters from. I’m hoping getting to meet him and his family in person will strengthen their attendance at church and the program. I didn’t receive a photo of him this time.

Jenny, 8, is my only Quelacasque child. I won’t be there for the church visit and fun day for Quelacasque, unfortunately, but thankfully she still will get to join along on one of the other fun days so that we still get to meet each other. I haven’t sponsored her for very long, yet, but sometimes she looks like she bears a burden. I’m so happy to see her big smile here!

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New Photos of Jenny!

I already posted the surprise video I got from Jenny, something I will always treasure! Now here are the photos of her receiving her backpack and a little intro from me. Jenny is my only child at the newest Manna 4 Lempira center, Quelacasque.

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Based on her photos, this sweet 8 year old always seems on the shy side. I’d love to get to meet her and give her lots of hugs and encouragement in person. Jenny lives with her mom and 8 siblings, so I’m SO happy that she was able to receive new shoes and a backpack, even including a doll! Since this center opened well after the backpack submission date, I actually didn’t pack hers, but rather some generous sponsors donated everything for all of the children of Quelacasque!

Photo Friday- video from Jenny!

The family that runs Manna 4 Lempira just spent a week in Honduras visiting the children and distributing the backpacks that we sent. Each day, photos were posted of the kids, and I’d eagerly go in to look in the hopes of getting a glimpse of my kids. But they were never in any of the pictures posted. I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed as others got to see multiple pictures of their sponsored kids. I know, though, that I will get official pictures once they are posted, and I still enjoyed seeing the pictures of the other happy kids, thinking that mine must be smiling too.

But then, at a moment where I really needed it, I got a message sent from Manna 4 Lempira, and it was a video from Jenny for me! Jenny is my most recently sponsored child through Manna 4 Lempira, and she is part of the new program that just opened: Quelacasque. During this visit, these children learned they had sponsored, got little bios on us with photos, and received their first backpacks and pair of shoes. Seeing Jenny’s smile and hearing her say my name means the world to me. I’m so grateful for this gift!!

Introducing Jenny!

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Manna 4 Lempira just opened a new program this month in a community called Quelacasque. A church wanted to partner with the Manna program, and its members sponsored many of the children, but there were still quite a few available for sponsorship. When the photos and profiles of the kids were posted, I had to look. I love to learn about each kid and pray that they all find the right sponsor. I wasn’t necessarily looking to add another child. But of course, the children were so lovable. Then I thought, if there was one that moved me, and he/she was still available after a few days, I’d consider it.

A little over a year ago, I lost my grandmother that I was very close to. And a little more than a year before that, I lost my grandfather, her husband. In January, I sponsored Oxford through Compassion in honor of my grandmother. They share the same birthday and I knew she would have loved his huge smile. Since then, I’ve been looking for a child to sponsor in honor of my grandfather. Every so often I’d look through children available for sponsorship with the same birthday of him, but although the children were wonderful, I never felt that “click” moment with any of them to know that they were right child.

When looking through the Quelacasque children, I noticed that Jenny had a birthday one day after my grandfather’s. I loved her shy, sweet smile. I loved that she wants to be a doctor when she grows up. But what really made the difference was when I saw she had 8 siblings and a single mother. I have a special place in my heart for children from large families, and four of my other Manna children also have many siblings. Imagine as a parent in the US living in financial stability and having 9 children. That seems hard enough, but now imagine it in poverty. I love to be able to make children from large families feel special and singled out. I love to send them things that are just for them and not hand-me-downs. And I can’t wait to do these things for Jenny.

So guess what? I didn’t end up waiting a couple days. I barely made it a couple hours after I got home from work on the first day that the children were available for sponsorship. I was happy to know that Jenny was still available and to hear the news that I was able to sponsor her gave me a feeling of peace, knowing that after many months, I finally had the child who was meant to be sponsored in honor of my grandfather. I can’t wait to share some of this story with her either.