Three Boys: Juan, Jr., Daniel and Elias.
Please pray for these three boys, in two different families, with whom I have worked in Honduras. This past April our Presbytery team helped to build a new home for Juan, Jr. and his family. Juan is 21 years old and like many Hondurans small and lean. Juan is one of the few young people I have met who has a full time job. He works the night shift in a “panaderia”, a bakery. (Our restaurant’s name “Panera” comes from this word.) With my limited language skills it was difficult for me to understand exactly what he did at the bakery, but I learned he is involved somehow in the baking process. He works from 8:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m. six days a week. With this money he supports his family, which allows them to live comfortably.
His family was selected by the special mission committee of the Pena de Horeb (Rock of Horeb) Presbyterian Church. Our Presbytery, with my leadership and the support of our missionaries in Tegucigalpa, was providing the funding and the organizational leadership to build a new home. The Honduran congregation was selecting the family to receive the new home and recruit people to help with the construction. I am very pleased with this partnership in mission which helps us move beyond Honduran dependence on the Americans, builds a solid administrative structure for mission in the Honduran Church, fully involves the Hondurans in every step of the project, and includes the full support of our missionaries, Tim and Gloria Wheeler and Mark and Ashley Wright.
Juan Jr. still lives with his parents, Juan and Maria, and his two younger sisters Amanda and Roxanne. Amanda is 18 years old and already has two children: Sarah, six years old, and Brian, two years old. Roxanne, 16 years old, was pregnant when we worked on their home in April, and has now given birth to a baby boy. This family (mother, father, three adult children and three young grandchildren) all lived together in a one room, wooden shack. They are joyous people, and with Juan Sr.’s sporadic income as a butcher, and Juan, Jr.s’ steady income from the bakery they live comfortably within the deep urban poverty of Tegucigalpa.
With the full cooperation of their church, our missionaries, and our Presbytery we built them a new home. It has a long, open air hallway along one side and four bedrooms, each six by nine feet, with doorways off of the hallway. The design of this home was fully their idea; they wanted bedrooms for everyone and decided not build a kitchen inside. So they still use the small, wooden, stall out back for their baths, do all the laundry outside next to the shower stall, and cook outside on an open fire. They have a pit latrine which they share with several other families.
In April, with one week of time, we were only able to meet with them to design the home, purchase all the materials, pour the concrete foundation and lay about four courses of the block walls. I have been following the building of this home by email photographs. I was delighted at our visit this past week to see the finished home. It is beautiful, and this family could not be more joyous.
In preparation for our visit last week, the Pena de Horeb congregation’s mission committee selected another family to support. The boys, Daniel, 20 years old, and Elias, 17 years old, live with their parents, Santos and Francesca, their younger sister Aleya, 8 year old, their grandmother, and their Uncle Omar. They are living in a very poor, wooden shack which has two bedrooms and an indoor kitchen, in which the open wood stove is an incredible fire hazard. I am not at all sure why the tinder dry, rotten wood of this home has not burned down long ago from the fire that is constantly simmering in the kitchen.
Santos, the father, is a remarkable Christian man with whom I spoke at length during our visit. He is university educated and works for the Honduran Red Cross, leading HIV education classes all around Honduras. In his decrepit little shack he has a large, eclectic mix of books, probably 1,000 books, which we helped carry to a neighbor’s home for storage during construction. Santos did not actually help with construction all week because he needed to work. Both Daniel and Elias worked very hard, side by side with us, every day. Again, this is their church’s mission project and their church committee did all the planning and organization with some support from our team.
This construction project is very difficult because the new home is being built right around their old wooden shack. It is an amazing construction task to build a new home, deconstruct the old home, while the family is still living in it at the same time. During our visit we spent most of our time delivering materials. Their home is in a very congested neighborhood, on the side of a mountain. The street in front of their home is actually steps; the only way to get to their home is up and down these very steep steps. Everyone walks! Vendors carrying eggs, milk, vegetables, rice, ice cream climb up and down the steps all day long selling their wares like the beer guys in a baseball stadium working the crowds.
Our team helped to move over 1,000 concrete blocks, 20 bags of concrete, and several tons of gravel and sand down the steps, by hand and bucket, to this work site. We simply created a long line of people and passed all the materials person to person. When the neighbors saw all the Americans, many came out and joined our work line. It took us more than four hours to move a ton of sand; more than two hours to move a delivery load of 350 block. While the Americans moved slow, and took many breaks, the boys never stopped. If one of our team members needed to step out of line, they would step in and pick up the load. When our whole team took a break, they would run all the steps alone. By the end of the week all the materials were delivered, the foundation poured, and two of the outside walls are well under way. When the new walls are up, and the new roof ready to go on, the old shack will be deconstructed and the wood, I imagine, carefully stacked, for future use and for firewood.
The most amazing blessing for me happened naturally and easily on our Monday morning. As we arrived at the work site, Juan and Maria, their daughters, and Juan Jr. were already there working. The family whose home we had built in April was there at the new work site as an expression of gratitude for what they had received. The construction projects serve a powerful connector bringing people together through the church. The new homes are not the point; it is these connections and renewed relationships among their church family, especially these young teenage boys, that is most important.
I pray most of all for these boys, Juan Jr., Daniel and Elias. In the inner city wilderness of Tegucigalpa they are right at the age when the future direction of their lives will be determined. They may easily be drawn down into the scum of the drug culture, gangs and criminal culture which are all very prevalent in the city. Or they may follow the influence of their church, their family, and find a higher calling in the midst of all the poverty and urban filth. I pray that the gift of a new home, which has almost transformed their families, will allow each of them to live into this higher calling.