Honduras Day 3: Tablon Fun Day

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(If you want to see yesterday’s posts, click here to see the home visits for Maria, Yeyson & Greysi, and Cristian).

What I love about how Manna 4 Lempira structures the sponsor visit week is how much time you get with your sponsored children! Because they are such a small organization, along with many thanks to hard work from Sowers 4 Pastors staff, you get to do home visits with each of your children along with bringing them to a fun day, equalling TWO days together! This is something that isn’t possible with the larger organizations. Not to mention how nicely it is spread out with fun days, as I have children divided among different churches, so I was able to spend time with them in smaller groups throughout the week and not feel too overwhelmed.

When we arrived at the pool, located in Gracias and just about a 5 minute drive away, the kids were there waiting for us! It was fun to see them again, ready to go, and get to pass out swimsuits and start blowing up pool toys.

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I spent the entire day with them in the water, just enjoying these 4 precious children and the time I had with them. (I ended up with a really severe sunburn on my wrist, but that’s another story… and worth it). So pictures were taken kind of sporadically, every so often when I’d be out of the water and I’d grab my phone to snap a few. I wanted to preserve the memories, but I also really wanted to be in the moment.

Greysi and I bonded very quickly. 3 year olds are my jam; it’s what I do for a career and I love ’em. But I’m incredibly in love with this 3 year old in particular, and I think the pictures will make it evident. This little girl adored the pool, most specifically the shallowest one with the small slide. She never wanted to get out, whether it was to go to another pool, to eat lunch, or to get dressed.

Greysi is fearless. Her mom had come along, but I realized quickly that I couldn’t let this little one leave my sight. Since her favorite pool was obviously different than older kids, who also wanted my attention, I’d have to carry her over to the others with me for as long as I could keep her there. Eventually, though, she’d always end up scurrying back to the pool she adored. I’d ask her if she’d want to go to the other side, and she’d always say no, at which point we’d playfully argue back and forth, giggling as I carried her. My limited Spanish got me through more with the kiddos, especially the younger they were!

Is she not adorable? Soon into the day, she began saying “mi niña!” (or “my girl!”) when she wanted me. I was her niña, and she eagerly soaked up all of that attention in our time together.

At lunch, she was the first one to finish, and she was getting antsy, so I pulled out my phone to entertain her 🙂

Nope, not shy at all, this one!

It was also fun to watch Yeyson and Greysi together and seeing him be a sweet big brother. I love joy that sponsoring siblings has brought!

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I always thought Yeyson seemed like a gentle, sweet boy before I met him, and I can say he definitely is! I loved playing with him and watching his huge smile all day as he had so much fun.

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Yeyson and Cristian being such good friends was also an unexpected but awesome benefit! They are a few years apart, but as cousins who are neighbors, they understandably are very close. Let me tell you, both of these boys are FISH. They were excellent swimmers, with no problems in water way above their head. They were even doing flips into the pool to impress me! I got to spend a lot of time playing with the beach ball with them, which they loved. True soccer players as they are, these boys were headering and kicking the ball every chance they got! 🙂 I had a blast keeping up with them!

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At one point, they wanted to go see the animals there. Yeyson was braver than I was, even touching Lola the monkey’s hand.

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And speaking of brave, there was the time when Cristian had climbed on top of the cave by one of the pools, and then proceeded to jump off of it…

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This kid has such a great smile, and he definitely had a great day. I loved when he would lay on one of the rafts or inner tubes in the deep pool, sometimes the only one in there, with hands behind his head just relaxing and smiling away!

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Maria was the most unsure about swimming, I’m assuming because of her location up in La Azomada. But she got more comfortable as the day went on, and she even came in the deeper pool with me for a little while, as she held onto me. 🙂 She had a couple younger cousins who were also there, and I think they helped with her comfort level some, too.

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She did change back into her clothes before the day was done, but I get how a day like that could be very overwhelming and tiring if it’s such a completely different experience, especially for a quieter personality like hers. I know she had a great time, and I wanted her to be comfortable and happy, which she was. She got to spend some time after she changed talking to Yeyson and Greysi’s mom as they sat together in the shade. I don’t know what they talked about, of course, but it was sweet to watch them together!

The kids and any family members that came with them all got huge meals of fried chicken and french fries, but they ate those meals up! A meal like that is a real treat for them, as is every part of a day like this, and it was just so special to be able to provide that to them! I got the meal each swim day that was gluten free, the beef, and it was delicious, too.

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At the end of the day, popsicles were purchased for all the kids, which they gobbled up! I unfortunately didn’t get a picture of Maria with hers, as she was sitting farther away. Greysi sat right next to me and dripped purple all over both of us, but I wouldn’t trade those drips for anything!

Saying goodbye was the hardest part, without a doubt, but we all left there with full hearts and lots of wonderful memories! This picture, with all of the kids wearing shirts I gave them just the day before, happy and tired from a full day, makes me so happy ❤

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That evening, after we had all gotten a chance to shower back at the hotel, we went out for dinner to a local restaurant called Asados Anahí, where we got TONS of meat and plantains! It was delicious, and even though there were a lot of us, we didn’t even finish close to all of the food. We were able to box it up, though, and bring it to family of a former sponsored child of some of the team!

 

Click here to see Day 4:

Brayan’s Home Visit

Valery’s Home Visit

Ludvi’s Home Visit

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Honduras Day 2: Maria’s Home Visit

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Breakfast started every morning during the week at 6:45 am, but really, the birds made it pretty difficult to sleep much past 5:30 anyway. I never sleep well the first night in a new place, so despite how tired I was, I got very little sleep. I also never cooled down from being in the grocery store and then scrambling to pack all of the bags of gifts, and of course there is no air conditioning there. But it was okay, because I was up and ready to go Sunday morning- I was going to meet four of my sponsored children and visit their homes!

On the way to breakfast, I got some pictures of the beauty that is Hotel Guancascos…

El Tablon is the closest to Gracias of the communities that Manna 4 Lempira works with. It was just a short drive away. It is made up of 3 distinct churches based on location: La Azomada, Guanas, and the main church. We started our day in La Azomada, the furthest up in the mountains and the one of the least well-off communities with Manna 4 Lempira. This is where Maria, my oldest of my Honduran children, lives.

The drive up to La Azomada was very bumpy! It was incredibly beautiful, though. This is what the views look like for Maria where her home is. I was struck by the contrast of how much beauty there is in the views but how in need the community is.

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When we got to the church, several of the kids were there waiting for us, including Maria, whom I spotted right away!

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Meeting your sponsored child for the first time is a bit of nervousness mixed with a lot of excitement, as I’m sure it is for them, too. I always feel ahead of time thoughts of “I hope they like me” and “I hope I live up to their expectations”. In all of my experiences, though, I’ve never had anything to worry about, because God knows what He’s doing when He brings a sponsor and child together, and it’s such an awesome thing to witness. If you ever go on a sponsor trip, take time to look around at how perfectly matched everyone is. It’s one of my favorite things!

We took one of the trucks to Maria’s home, along with a couple other sponsors and their children who were traveling to those children’s homes. Throughout the week, if the homes were farther away, we took trucks to get there. They were easier, safer, and more time-effective, and we had them available. But let’s not forget that however long the journeys were (and for some children they were VERY long), these children and families are walking those roads every day, because they don’t have any other options available.

At Maria’s house, her mother and younger sister were home. Her mother wasn’t expecting us, she had thought the pool day was that day, but she graciously welcomed my translator and me with open arms. Maria is the second to youngest of several children. Her parents had thought she was the last one. But then a little surprise blessing, in the form of her youngest sister, who has Down Syndrome, came along. This little one was absolutely adorable and put on quite the show. She asked for water from my translator’s water bottle, and after her mother told her no, she went to find her own bottle that looked similar, which she would take drinks out of and then purposely spit the water back out into the plants. She tried lifting up very heavy rocks, I’m assuming to show off her strength 😉 She wanted to come with us, and got quite upset when she couldn’t. First, she kept trying to get out of the gate and start walking down the road by herself. When that didn’t work, she grabbed a small piece of wood and tried to secure the gate closed with that, so that if she couldn’t leave, none of us could!

She even had Maria laughing, who is a great big sister. Maria’s mom was so kind and appreciative for all the help provided for Maria. She told me that I looked very fancy in the photographs I had sent, but in person I was very humble. I could take that different ways, but I know it was meant with love as a compliment 🙂 She told me how I had brought a blessing to their home by being there, which is so humbling and almost mind-blowing to think about, because I’m just a very ordinary person from Illinois. To realize how much you mean to people you have never met in person before can blow you away. But then I think about how much these children mean to me, even way before I met them.

I learned that Maria would not have been able to go to school without the backpacks provided by Manna 4 Lempira and Sowers 4 Pastors, something I had heard was the case for many Honduran families that Sowers 4 Pastors provides backpacks for. She said that she told Maria they weren’t going to be able to send her to school, but Maria was determined, and she told her mom that she had to and she was going to. Well, where there’s a will there’s a way, and now this 13 year old is thriving in school at an age where many Honduran children stop attending. A backpack full of school supplies and a pair of shoes are things that seem so simple to us, but they are literally the difference of an education and a different future or not for children like Maria.

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Continue on to Yeyson and Greysi’s home visit here.

Click here to read about Day 1: Traveling to Honduras.

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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 Maria

Today I’m sharing the most recent letters I’ve received from the El Tablon area, which is actually made up of 3 separate churches, through Manna 4 Lempira. It’s just 2 days now until I arrive in Honduras, and the El Tablon children are the first ones that I will get to see! Maria is my oldest Manna child at 13 and she is from the La Azomada area, which is even more poverty stricken than other areas. She is smart and determined, though, and I love her. I even got some extra photos of her this week when the team visited! Here they are:

at school and getting a medical checkup

Receiving a letter from me and writing a reply– the team member who took the photo on the right said she’s so happy I’m coming! ❤

“Dear Sponsor, I greet you with much love. Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year with all your family. May your Christmas be celebrated well. I will celebrate it well. I send a greeting to your family. Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. My family is happy that I have a wonderful sponsor. May Christmas and the new year be good for you and all your family. What do you do for Christmas? It is a joy for all the family. May the new year be filled with blessings for you and your family.”

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“Hello Dear Sponsor! I greet you affectionately, hoping that you are well. I am grateful to write you this letter to tell you that I continue to bring out good grades. God bless you! I like to see the creation of God. You can feel His love and His counsel. I am going to study. I like flowers. They are beautiful. Roses are very pretty. I am very happy to return to school. I pray that you continue helping with the things you sent me. I like to look at your photo. I would love to receive more photos from you. I love you with all my soul. I have you in the palm of the hand. Although I don’t know you, I love you very much.”

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“Holy Week is important because we have a great time going to the river to swim. For vacations my family likes to go to the beach, to the hot springs, and to the pools or the river. Typical Easter foods are fish torts, ticucos, and Chilate. Traditions of my country are swimming and going for a walk. My favorite part of the week is going swimming and walking with my aunt. ‘Seek the Lord while He can be found. Call on Him when He is near.’ I want the Lord to manifest something in my life. I tell you that I am doing well in my classes. I made good qualifications. I am very grateful to you for having sent me the backpack. May God bless you greatly. May He keep you and your family well. I love you with all my soul. I am going to always love you. I will miss you. I tell you that it will be my birthday on April 10. I am going to spend it at school. I am very happy to write you again.”

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She is such a special girl. I just love that in two different letters, she told me she loves me with all of her soul. I’m writing that back to her inside the journal I’m giving her ❤

Photo Friday: New Photos of my Manna El Tablon Children

As of today, it’s only 22 days until I arrive in Honduras with Manna 4 Lempira and soon after meet these wonderful faces! Here are my sponsored children from the El Tablon church that I will be meeting.

Maria, 13, in the year and a half that I have sponsored her, still wants to be a doctor. I love her big aspirations and her smart mind. She is from the most impoverished area of this community.

Cristian, 12, had his older brother leave school and therefore the program to help the family work. I’m always praying he can stick with school. In his second photo he is wearing the cross necklace I sent all of them!

Yeyson, 9, seems like such a nice kid, and I can’t wait to meet him and his little sister Greysi below.

Greysi, 3, is the little sister of Yeyson and looks so stinking cute in this photo trying not to smile.

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New Photos of Maria, Cristian, Yeyson, and Greysi!

El Tablon is the feeding center with Manna for Lempira that I have the most sponsored children with. I am so tempted to sponsor another one or two specific children there that are calling to my heart, but since visiting Honduras with Manna may now be a very real possibility this summer, I’m conflicted about whether it may be too many children at one center…

Maria is 12 and my oldest Manna child. With each new profile she still says she wants to be a doctor, and I really think she can do it.

I love how it looks like she’s laughing about something. I just love this girl!

Every time that I see new photos of Cristian means that he’s still in school, which is such a huge relief to me. His older brother stopped attending school to work, so I’m always worried that there’s that possibility with him. And I lost one of my other children, Deilin, because she stopped attending school. Going to school is a requirement to stay enrolled in the Manna program. I recently wrote to Cristian (and all of my older kids), about how many more opportunities are available as a result of staying in school, encouraging them to do so. I want the best life possible for him and each of them.

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11 year old Cristian is growing up fast and I think he looks even older than he is in this photo!

Yeyson and Greysi are the set of siblings that I sponsor. I couldn’t bare to only choose one, as I fell in love with both of them. 9 year old Yeyson always looks so kind and gentle.

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The extra photo of him with the huge smile after receiving his backpack makes me SO happy! The letters for the children at Yeyson and Greysi’s church had to be distributed on a separate day, which means I got to see a photo of him wearing one of the shirts I sent him (the green one). It looks great!

And then there’s 3 year old Greysi, the little sister of Yeyson. This girl is absolutely precious.

In the photo of her with the letter, she is wearing a dress I sent her! I just love seeing this on her and fitting her well, because I was so excited when I found it while backpack shopping!

Letter from Maria

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Maria is 12 and lives in the El Tablon community of Lempira, Honduras.

“Hello godmother! I am greeting you with much caring. I am praying that God will help you and bless you a lot, because I am very thankful for the things that you sent me. This trip that you made to Guatemala, I am praying every day that this trip was safe. I really like the photo that you sent me and the princesses. I like them a lot. With much caring I hope you are healthy. I was sick and I asked God and he took away my cough. For this I am thankful, that God made me well. They took my sister to the hospital but she is home now. I rejoice because she is home and thanks to God all is well. I am glad that you help me with school supplies so that I am able to study. Thanks for all.”

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I find it amazing that she was praying for my safety everyday in my travels with everything she has going on. And I think it’s adorable that she wanted to tell me how God healed her cough.