by Bishop Leo Frade
Bishop of Honduras Journal Entries for:
December 9. November 28. November 26.
November 17. November 16. November 11.
November 10. November 9. November 8.
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"If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, let Israel now say- if it had not been the Lord who was on our side, when men rose up against us, then they would have swallowed us up alive, when their anger was kindled against us; then the flood would have swept us away, the torrent would have gone over us; then over us would have gone the raging waters." Psalm 124:1-5THE GREEN TOILET
It would have been normal if it would have happened anywhere else. She was our neighbor that happened to be standing in her living room. Well, not exactly she was standing in the second floor room that was now the bottom floor and she was standing in the rubble of her property.
I had not seen her for a long time but she remembered me quite well. The fact that I had my purple shirt makes it easy for people to know who you are. Not many people are daring enough to walk around with the outfits and colors we consider an honor to use.
She invited me to her home. Actually the best way to reach our church is by climbing through her home. As I talked to her I felt a sense of awe. Here we were standing, two neighbors in the ruins of what use to be our property. Nothing was left except what was buried underneath the debris of our past existence.
She told me how every morning about 9:00 a.m. she will go to her property to make sure that nobody digged in her property. She complained how people were taking pieces from our church. Just yesterday someone walked out with a green toilet, she said. Then I remembered that when we were remodeling the office after my consecration, about 16 years ago, we bought the green toilet in a hardware store nearby that was also destroyed. They must have been sturdy toilets because that one managed to survive regardless the collapse of the building. Someone out there in the capital of Tegucigalpa will be the owner a green toilet not fully knowing its full historical value.
As I listened to her I began to realize that besides the toilet they had removed several beams, the balcony, and most of the wooden floor that was left on the second floor. What Mitch didn't destroyed the diggers were removing piece by piece. They worked in the properties where the owners let them. What was only rubble for me had a certain value in the open market of recovered articles.
Even in our destruction that church was valuable for someone. How marvelous, I thought that someone can see past that horrible mess created by a collapsed building. I think that God must be like one of those Tegucigalpa diggers. We can only see the ruins of our broken world, the failure of our proud empires, the embarrassment of our sinful world. What else did you expected? He or she were worth nothing!
But wait, somewhere there in us there must be a valuable green toilet. That's worth something! And look at our iron works of the balcony grill, our door is also made out of mahogany and the floor is made out of rich wood. Those beams are worth a pretty penny indeed. Yes, I am pretty sure of that. God must be like those Tegucigalpa diggers, always finding something valuable where others can only see rubble and refuse.
It was the last thing I expected. I had been there the night before with Mrs. Griswold and Canon Potter. We had gone to visit some of the people living by the road that we had been helping.
We had come back in the morning in order to see the water purifier under the bridge. But God had other plans for us. Just a few minutes after we had left the night before one of the neighbors from Tent City had been killed by a speeding truck as he crossed the street in order to go to the toilets. He was 47 years old and he was laying there on top of a table covered by a white sheet.
Several women came to us weeping in distress. We need to bury him. Bishop, can you help us? Come with us, we will show you. As I walked along Tent City not a single person stayed in their tents, they all followed us as if a massive political demonstration was beginning to unfold. But there was no protest from anyone there. They were going to mourn what could have been anyone of them. We prayed and then began to discuss the funeral. Since Mitch my staff have become experts in obtaining coffins for the best price. I called my office on my cellular telephone. It took only a few hours and thanks to the help that many of you have provided he was given a proper Anglican funeral later on that day.
As we continued with our schedule showing off our water purifier a man came over to me. He wanted to talk to me and give me thanks for making it possible for his brother to have a proper burial. He had been looking all morning trying to find money for a coffin. Thank you Bishop, thanks to your church for giving us dignity in the midst of all of this filth.
I had started to feel bad with the Dengue Fever already, but as I heard that tough man express his gratitude for the little we had done I also gave thanks to God for the generosity of so many around the world that have responded so graciously. Thank you to all for giving us dignity in the midst of all of this filth.
It will be a brand new year in only a few days. I have promised my wife and doctors that I will stay away not only from work but also from my home computer. I am being disconnected! God willing we will be back the 4th of January. In the meanwhile stay healthy and know that our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth. With God we can face another new year indeed!
'But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31
THE OLD LADY
I got drafted to help with the distribution of food, water and used clothes that went to the Chamelecon area in a neighborhood named Morales 4. The area had been hit severely with the floods and there was mud all around us. I was leading the 4 vehicles convoy and of course being the bishop I was leading the pack. Bishops walk at the end of the line in church processions but for the most part we have a heavy foot when we get behind the wheel.
We already had a list with the names of the people that were going to receive the food, used clothes and water. It had been prepared the day before and we had the exact number of bags needed. As the truck went around to the area we were going, people began to leave their homes and run behind the truck through the mud and water.
It was a kind of chaotic. People were desperate. Water, water, please. I began to realize the magnitude of the problem we were facing. This was not one of our isolated villages in the rural areas. This was in San Pedro Sula, a city of about 600,000 people were the basic services were gone completely. People were hungry, they were thirsty and they were sick.
From the big truck with the bald tires (for those who keep reading this journal please know that Toqo quit his job), we began to distribute the food, used clothes and water. Then I began to feel a gentle tapping on my foot. As I looked down there she was, the old lady. She was skinny and her teeth were gone. She looked nice with a big handkerchief over her head. Please father, I want some food. Is your name on the list. No, well I'm sorry. The food is for the people on the list. Please father, I want some food.
It's better to ignore the poor and the hungry. We know how to do it, life gives us a lot of practice. After all we were there feeding the poor and the hungry. The ones on the list we had made. But the tapping continued. A reminder that there are many more poor than the ones we have in our lists. The world list is much larger than our lists.
The food and the water was gone. She kept tapping my foot. Please father, I need some food. I'm sorry lady, it's all gone. Here have a bag of used clothes. But father, I need some food. Then I saw her eyes for the first time. It's dangerous when you look at the hungry in their eyes. Hunger does strange things to the souls both of the ones that don't eat and to those who have more than enough to eat. Her eyes had a tear, a tear of frustration. But father I need food. Sorry lady, you are not in the list. Maybe next week.
She walked away through the mud, back to wherever she lived. We will be back in that area next Friday. This time I will stash away an extra bag of food for the old lady. A little more than the list we prepared. A little more for the elderly and for those who keep tapping your shoes insisting that they are hungry and that they need food and water.
THE DEACON'S RESCUE
Deacon Carlos is one of the new clergy I ordained last April. He works at Santa Maria de los Angeles and he was showing the destruction of the city to Archbishop Njongo from South Africa and to me. Then Carlos began to point to an area that was like a beach covered with mud and sand. There was the school where the kids were sheltered. As I looked I could see nothing, There was nothing left. Everything had been washed away. I had heard about it in the news. 300 children had been saved by people that dared to come out that night and removed the children that had been sheltered in the neighborhood school. Deacon Carlos and his wife had been listening to their transistor radio when they heard that help was needed to move some children trapped in a school that was about to collapse. They got into the church van and drove to the area where the children were stranded. There were other cars that had come to help but they had a van. Carlos and his wife went back and forth placing the kids in a safe shelter until all of the children were saved.
He told us the story not to impress us, just to explain that there was a school there where there is nothing but sand and mud. After all he doesn't need to impress anyone, he is already a deacon in the Diocese of Honduras. That's enough right there.
CATHOLIC CLINIC, ANGLICAN DOCTORS
The clinic had not doctors and we had no clinic to work from. It was the right combination and we worked it out. For a whole week the doctors and nurses from South Carolina worked in Asentamientos Humanos. In Spanish it means Human Settlements, and it looks just like it. A poor collection of dilapidated homes destroyed by the floods that covered the houses completely. If you want to see the water line you have to look to the light at the electrical posts.
The line of patients was very long as the Roman nuns and our Anglican volunteers prepared the patients that were going to be seen by the Episcopal doctors. It went quite smooth. This time it meant to save lives. Everyone was invited to be healed. No dogmas managed to separate us there.
I'm sure God was smiling and probably thinking that next time he will establish clinics instead of churches. It seems that we manage to get along better when we heal than when we pray.
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"So Moses and Aaron went in to Pharaoh, and said to him, "Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, "How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me? Let my people go, that they may serve me." Exodus 10:3
THE FOREIGN DEBT
It's so abstract that after a while of hearing about it your mind begins to wonder into other seemingly more pressing matter. I have always been a proponent of the condonation or at least a reduction of the debt for developing nations. It's a must in order to break out of poverty. But today, Honduras as well as the other Central American nations, have requested their condonation or forgiveness. Why? Why should we get a break and avoid paying our bills? Well, actually we have paid our bill several times and the interest is what keeps killing us. Today Honduras spends 33 cents of every dollar in servicing the debt, which means that we just pay the interests to remain solvent. We keep paying it over and over again. It doesn't matter how hard we work we will not be able to have the schools, hospitals and roads we need. Regardless of our efforts we will always be kept down on our knees unless we can alleviate this burden.
Our Minister of Finance is a woman named Gabriela Nunez and she together with the President and the people of Honduras are requesting the condonation of the debt.
Our Ambassador in London, Roberto Flores, is also leading the effort to make the world understand what must be done if they really want Honduras to flourish again.
I ask your prayers for these people so their efforts may be blessed by God and the hearts be softened of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the Paris and London Clubs, and the other organizations and countries that end up with 33% of every dollar we make in Honduras. The heart of the Pharaoh is still hardened but we must keep saying: "Let my people go."
HABITAT FOR HUMANITY
Anglicans and Habitat get along well. We have built several houses with Habitat in the past years. Now we need many more. Melvin Flores is the director of Habitat para la Humanidad of Honduras and he is also happens to be a good friend of mine. He is a Mennonite that should be an Anglican, but I found out early in my ministry that we just can't have all the good people. The Lord insists in spreading them around.
Melvin and I designed what for us is a good plan. We want to get in touch with the many Anglicans that are involved with Habitat groups in other parts of the world in order that they may help us building houses for the poor of Honduras. It's part of the reconstruction and it is a way to fight poverty and besides it makes sense. We don't want to put people back in sub-human standard houses that are unfit for humans. For those of you who are familiar with Habitat you know what I am talking about. If you are not familiar with Habitat you should be. Get in touch with your local Habitat group.
As you can see by this reflection we are definitely planning to get out of this dark hole where Hurricane Mitch put us in. We want to do it and are willing to do it but we need you to throw us a rope to climb up. We'll climb up from poverty with a rope of hope. It's simple. We are just asking you to get your Habitat groups to pledge with Habitat para la Humanidad and La Iglesia Episcopal de Honduras to build one or more houses down here. Actually we will even let you come down and sweat with us.Think about it. Spread the word. Write me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Melvin and I will be waiting. In the meanwhile I'll keep explaining to him why it is OK to pray from a book, the use of vestments in church and that God really doesn't mind if you have a glass of wine for dinner.
THE CONTAINER ARRIVED
It was parked in St. Simon's Episcopal Church in Miami, Florida. That's the church that presented me for my ordination to the diaconate many years ago. They decided to help us as many of you have. I am sure they worked as hard as you have. It arrived and we rushed to the Puerto Cortes to get it out. We had our papers in hand all approved and stamped.
The container is now empty and parked in front of the Cathedral. We have already delivered one third of its contents in just a day. It will be gone over the weekend. There were some of the medicines we needed that arrived from all over. We know that there are more coming and we will be waiting for them. Your help arrives and it gets used. Thank you so much for helping us. Thank you Rev. Dr. Carlos, Henry, Marta and.........................................................
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"The Lord is good; a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him. Nahum 1:7
THE THANKSGIVING MEAL
Thanksgiving Day for us in Honduras is called Thursday. Actually we don't have a set day to celebrate such an important holiday. But many people are going to have a meal on the feast of Thursday. Our truck is ready and Toņo the driver keeps arguing with me about getting better tires. They are already bald. Maybe tomorrow when we get more help for that. Right now is Thursday and many people are going to celebrate with beans, rice, tortillas, flour, coffee, lard, matches, baby food, sugar, spaghettis with tomato sauce, etc. They will celebrate when the big truck gets there. I'm sure that the tires will hold for another round. What is Toņo complaining about? He has a spare tire, although I must confess that it doesn't have any thread on it. But it's a spare after all. He is not impressed. He wants better tires anyhow. After he leaves I go to my office. The doctor that sleeps in it is now gone to see patients.
I have to prepare a homily for noon and 7:30 p.m. It's not for a church. Instead I am talking about Thanksgiving at Gran Hotel Sula. They have this program every Thanksgiving and they serve turkey. People pay to have a typical Thanksgiving meal in a nice atmosphere. This year they invited me to speak about the celebration of Thanksgiving. I imagine I accepted because they always give Episcopalians a good discount. I can get two free meals today but I must pass on it. Somehow I just don't feel like Butterball turkey and having to think at all the volunteers working hard to get ready for Friday which is another feast that we must celebrate with the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and with those who are trapped in their communities.
JESUS THE PATIENT
There are 9 doctors from New Orleans working with us healing the sick. They came organized by Romi Gonzalez, a lawyer from New Orleans where I once worked. That's why I have a bed in my office. One of the doctors sleeps there. He is the one with the single room. All the other doctors are sleeping in the Hilton and the Sheraton. That's how we call our Diocesan Apartments that have been having full occupancy.
The medical team is working at Francisco Morazan Elementary School just across the Home for Girls Our Little Roses. The line is immense. They haven't had any medical help since the hurricane. They are in rags, dirty and smelly. Their belongings were lost by the floods and the river is still too dangerous to bathe.
Now the girls from Our Little Roses, a home for abandoned, abused or orphaned girls are helping to translate for the doctors that don't speak Spanish. The line gets larger with those people that have only known misery from birth. Then of a sudden the thought came to my mind: "When I was sick you visited me." Maybe Jesus is here among them. It"s so hard to identify him among this people because he blends so well. I kept smiling, actually I smile a lot but now I wanted to impress the boss if he happened to be around.
Maybe he is that woman there breast feeding her child, or that old man being carried by her daughter and grandchild. "As you did to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me." Yes, sir I was not going to take any chances. He was definitely there waiting in line like the rest. Waiting for the doctors to heal his people.
Bishop, bishop!! My thoughts were interrupted again by one of the doctor that had come down to work with the people. "We have run out of fungal medicine and most antibiotics" he said. That's terrible I thought what about if Jesus has to go away empty handed.
The doctor didn't understand what I was saying. Maybe he is that child with the big belly. I'll ask Jesus to do a miracle. This time it's not water into wine. I rather have him turn money that was going for material things to be turned into medicine and food. Hey, little child do you think that maybe we can also get new tires. The little boy smiled and extended his arms for me to hold him. Probably he is not him but I just didn't wanted to take any chances. Jesus is so obstinate about things like caring for your neighbor.
We have a team of 16 people that came from Charleston, South Carolina. Most of them are not Episcopalians but their leaders are George and Molly Green and they are Anglicans. They are in Honduras to install 6 water purifiers that each produce 14,000 gallons of water a day. Seven of those who came to San Pedro Sula and are sleeping in the parish hall.
The lucky ones use the cushions from my office furniture. The others sleep on the cots. The hitched a ride to Honduras on a USA C-5 plane with all the equipment that is quite large and bulky. When they leave here there will be thousands of people that will have fresh clean purified water taken from a dirty and impure river. What a miracle! And all of that on Thursday, it's going to be a great holiday. The calls keep coming, three city and village mayors called me. They have heard about it and were pleading their case. Yes, they will be coming back with more. I think, I hope.
There are many, many more that will have only dirty contaminated water as their source to drink. Thursday is going to be for them a bad holiday.
A BROKEN CHURCH AND THE WORK REPORT
Santa Maria de las Montaņa is no more. It fell down after the hurricane. Actually the church matches many of the houses of the village of Plan del Portillo. The lay pastor was able to get out and shared the news. He looked terrible, he had been isolated for many days and was just able to come down to see us. He wanted to see me, my secretary informed me. As he walked in, he had a piece of paper in his hand. I knew that it was going to be a request for aid. I was wrong. He handed me his work report. The Archdeacon makes them fill a report every month.
We continued talking and then casually he said that the vicarage was damaged also.
Yes, we would work on it. We will rebuild their church, I promised. Yes, yes, I reassured him that I was going to make sure to give his report to the Archdeacon. I wonder what he tells them. I wish that they will be as insistent with my directives. Well, I am only a bishop and not an Archdeacon. No one pays attention to most bishops these days anyway.
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"Therefore its name was called Babel, because the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth." Genesis 11:9BABEL
It could have looked like that. There were people of many nations speaking different languages. This time they were not building a tower, instead they were trying to show solidarity and working very hard to put together a broken people from a broken nation.
This morning as we waited the Americares jet to unload our shipment I watched as helicopters and planes went up and down bringing and taking supplies and people to the different areas of Honduras that were destroyed by the hurricane.
The Dutch Marines were there at one end, the Mexican dogs arrived from La Ceiba where they were looking for people under the rubble and of course the American troops were there working very vigorously under the San Pedro Sula sun. I found it quite interesting as Cuban doctors from Havana were being transported back to the Mosquitia where they are helping the Miskitos Indians from that region. Of course the Honduran troops were going from one end to the other under the watchful eye of their Coronel who seemed to somehow understand everything that was going on.
Just as they were finishing to load our supplies in the truck, being helped by students from the university that were donating their time to help their compatriots I got to see one little plane landing after the other. They were about 20 of them and I became curious to find out who they were. We discovered that the Aereo-Club of Guatemala was bringing supplies to us because they knew that in Honduras we had taken the blunt of the hurricane and we really needed help. Their tiny planes were full of supplies that they wanted to share with their neighbors.
The Dutch Marines watched as the Hondurans and Guatemalans embraced saying something that they didn't understand, right next to the Americans that couldn't understand neither the Dutch or the Spanish being spoken around them. But who cares, all of us there were making a difference and were trying to put together a broken people from a broken nation. THE LAST VISIT Fr. Jose Luis knew him. He actually didn't reside at that village but had close friends there. He just wanted to make a quick visit and see how they were doing. In normal times it would have been a matter of a day trip back and forth. But it was Mitch time and it became his last visit. At the time it was better for him to stay and sleep in the house until the storm passed. It actually made sense because it is so dangerous to be out there in a storm. His friends put him in for the night. They went to sleep hoping that tomorrow he could go back home. He never did. The mud came tumbling down taking everything along its path. Like a wet and cold lava covering every house, every tree and every living thing. They finally found them. He was there with the family he came to visit. He and five more including 3 children. All under the mud after his last visit. TENT CITY If you travel on the 4 lane highway from the San Pedro Sula airport to the city of El Progreso, which normally takes 10 minutes you have to travel only on two lanes. One coming and one going. The other two lanes are called now Tent City. It is not a small city, actually there are at least 8,000 people out there in the street in little tents. It's quite interesting as you travel along Main Street of Tent City and see them trying to continue life pretending as if nothing had happened. Alongside their tents are the few belongings they had, all damaged by the mud and water. Down below you could see the fields covered with mud and water. It will take at least a couple of months for them to be able to go back to their houses. It was quite interesting to see the goal in the soccer field. The top of the goal was only a few inches from the ground now that the water had gone down some. Tent city will be there for a long time. SANTA ANA It took about 2 hours to get there but what a joy to see that the people had survived. Santa Ana is the village that I mentioned to you a few days ago where my worst seminarian is placed. I was not surprised when the service was going on. He is always having a service and the people come of course. I think he was doing readings from Year A of the Lent season, I really couldn't figure out. But in Santa Ana it didn't matter at all. Heraldo had stayed around with them and refused to leave the village when the other pastors had fled. He was a hero. A little old lady explained to me how important it was for me to find help repair their church building that was damaged by the wind and water of the hurricane. The Village President begged us to help repair the water pipes. They had no water now for almost two weeks since the hurricane. They needed about a 100 plastic tubes to connect the water. Everything had been destroyed and washed away. We prayed and asked God to help us. We also prayed for you out there where you are now, for God to touch your hearts and bless you. The people of Santa Ana had no doubts whatsoever that God was going to help them. After all my worst seminarian was their pastor and the readings said that God never abandons his people. We finished distributing the food they needed. The first food they were able to have access to since they finished opening the roads. After I left that river of mud and poverty I was sure that the Anglican Church of Honduras was going to be here for a long time. We had become the people of the land, our roots of faith were planted deep in the hearts of a people that lived in mountains where God could almost be touched by the lifting of your arm
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"I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth." Genesis 9:11
THE SHELTER, THE WIDOW, THE TWINS, THE FRIAR AND THE MAU-MAU'S Luis Landa Public School is located right next to Iglesia Episcopal San Andres in one of our working class neighborhoods. Just because our location we have had a good relationship with the school throughout the year. We still do, but not with the students anymore because classes have been suspended and the school is full with refugees from the flood.
There is a lot going inside the school, that's why the long tittle. Fray Santiago, the friar who is also a deacon of our diocese is now helping there. He is not alone. He is being helped by the Mau-Maus. You see, Fray Santiago works with gangs and he has managed to convince some of them to work with him helping the refugees. It seems to be working, although as a bishop I always worry when the clergy hangs around with gangs. I hope they don't get ideas.
The different classrooms have been turned into homes for several families. Before there were about 9 families per classroom, now there are only 5 as some of the people have been able to go back home. The widow is in 5th grade. She buried her husband last Thursday after his body was found along with other neighbors. They also died because they stayed behind to guard their homes from theft. Reina Carolina is now alone to care for her four children. She was crying of course when we talked about it. I also cried of course as I shared her pain and fears for the future. It's going to be very hard for her. She wanted me to help her to get a couple of mattress for her children. She wants to leave the shelter as soon as she can. Reina Carolina will face her destiny, but she wants her young children not to sleep on the floor. They have lost everything except her dignity and her strength to start again.
First Grade is where the twins are. They were born there in the First Grade classroom. There was no way to get to the hospital in the middle of the hurricane. A boy and a girl born to Maria. Jennifer and Jeffrey are their names. Swear to God, I'm not making this up. People love these English names.Of course if you give birth in a First Grade classroom in a working class neighborhood of San Pedro Sula in the middle of a devastating hurricane you can name your children any way you want. She also lost everything in the floods. My wife Diana is getting her a crib from the home for newborns Our Little Roses that she runs. They also will try to leave as soon as they can, but that will be in a couple of months. Her home is still covered with water and mud. It will be too dangerous for Jennifer and Jeffrey so they will continue being the youngest kids in First grade.
BERTA & GREGORIO
I have a TV program, Monday to Friday on Channel 7 at 10:00 p.m. It lasts only about 5 minutes and when I get long winded it lasts a little more. That's how they recognized me.
I was visiting Tent City with a photo journalist from the Presiding Bishop's Fund for World Relief. She was taking pictures to the devastation that River Chamelecon had created. Berta approached me and I thought that she was going to ask me for money or food.
Instead she pointed to the river and said: Bishop here's where she died, she was only two."It had been barely two weeks since the death of their two year old daughter. River Chamelecon had swallowed her up. She had not been alone, many had died those days due to the flooding of that same river.
Gregorio explained how they were surviving. Yes, they always watched my TV program. They were so glad to see me. They asked me to sit down and I did. It was a kind of surreal as I visited with them in what could have been a living room, Of course, instead we were sitting on the highway, next to their crude tent made with trash bags plastic. Sitting there right next to the river that had taken their only daughter. We talked for a while about life and also about my TV program. They were so happy to have me visit their temporary home. I promised that I will visit them someday in their real home. But they wont be able to go back to their house for at least two or three months. Water and mud was a few feet high already. As we talked their young son showed up covered with mud up to his head carrying some belonging from their house. They were still trying to recover their lives from the mud and the dirt that Mitch had created.
THE LOST BELONGINGS
Our church building in Comayaguela is almost destroyed. I say almost because we still have part of the front wall and the roof in place. All the other walls are gone and the first floor is completely full of mud to the ceiling. We are the only building standing on that block. We were lucky in comparison.
You can see how people are digging for their belongings in the capital. Even if your lose your home you try to recover something from your past. Pictures, furniture, papers, decorations, whatever. They dig in their property searching for something. They always find something but what they find doesn't belong to them. You see the floods redistributed the belongings and move them from block to block. I wonder where our Prayer Books went. It will be fun when they begin to look for things at the Pentecostal Church two blocks away from us and find them. Maybe they will think it is a sign from God.
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"But the disciples took Saul by night, and let him down over the wall, lowering him in a basket." Acts 9:25
THE FOOD BASKET
In most of the places I know, you carry the food that you buy in a basket. In Honduras these days if you want to take food to a part of our country called El Paraiso you have to get inside the basket with the food. When I first heard of the way that you get across the river after the effects of the hurricane I could only think of Paul escaping of Damascus in a basket after his recent conversion.
We are taking food to El Paraiso. There is no food there at present. They are completely disconnected by road because the force of the water has created a canyon full of water. I never thought that it could be possible for that to happen in that area. Actually El Paraiso is one of the dry region of Honduras and rain is not something they have in abundance, well until Mitch arrived. Now water is what they have too much.
In order to cross that canyon you get into a basket with your packages and then they pull you across with a rope. You only pay 5 lempiras to go across, that's about 35 cents American, and then when you get to the other side you wait for buses to take you to the different towns. It makes sense of course. It is hard to make it to paradise, which is what paraiso means in Spanish. But if you want to go to El Paraiso you better bring your own food if not you will be hungry. And of course you have to be willing to cross the deep canyon on the basket and hope that the rope will hold you.
THE END OF RACISM
Racism is a sin. That's what the church says. Of course it is, but for those who suffer racism it is much more than that. It is pain and suffering of not being recognized as equals and being denied what its truly theirs. Sadly racism is part of our existence in Honduras. The problem for us is the same as many places. We are racist but we do not know it or at least we are not fully aware of it.
Yesterday I got a telephone call from Fr. Antonio in Puerto Cortes. He was very concerned about a community of Garifunas, which are the people descendants from African slaves that rebelled in the Caribbean islands of St. Vincent about 1.5 centuries ago and ended in the Honduran shores courtesy of the British that preferred to have less troublesome slaves. They have lived for a long time in Honduras and became part of the Spanish and Native culture around the beginning of this century. They should be accepted fully and share in all the benefits of the nation but that is not the case. Racism is also a sin in Honduras.
"Nobody is caring for us. We need food, medicines, clothing. Our children are sick. We have lost about 35 houses, our churches are destroyed. We need help."
Fr. Antonio told me of his meeting with them. They needed all of those things but also they were asking for gasoline in order to fill their outboard motors and fish for food. But they had nothing, they had spent every cent they had buying food and medicine. Nobody had helped them and they were mad and desperate. Tomorrow we will get there with food. We got someone to drive another shipment to this villages of about 2,000 people in need.We will also bring money for gasoline. They will bring their containers. I am told that after hurricanes fishing gets real good.
But at least that group is alive and eventually through their hard work at the sea they'll get back on their feet. The ones that were not so lucky were those in the capital that lived by the river. Racism ended in that area. They all died. I saw the body bags being piled up one on top of the other. Indian and White, Black and Asian all covered with dark plastic. They were buried together in several huge holes of death. At least in death everyone was the same. Racism had ended.
WE MADE IT TO CORINTO!
My amphibian invasion did not happened. Please don't think that like in D-Day we were giving wrong information on our plans to confuse the enemy. Luckily after they got to the rivers the waters were down and the convoy made it through the rivers. They were able to ride all the way to the border. They had to cross around 20 rivers from San Pedro Sula and many of them with no bridges.
I am sure that my Archdeacon will give you a full report.I got a preliminary one from one of the lay persons that went. Jose Raul is a P.E. teacher in one of our schools and he went with a Canadian and an American teachers. On the way they met with Fr. Guardado and two of the new deacons. It was a full scale international invasion! When they got there they saw some of the fallen houses. Our church, vicarage and clinic were still standing, thanks God. The people were more than happy for not being forgotten. Actually their hopes had gone up when the Army Helicopter that never delivered the food came to give them medical attention. Yes, the army had told them that the Episcopal Church had sent them there, that we were praying for them , that we were on our way. To be patient.
I need to remember that when I despair and feel down for being left alone with no one to help me. The Word of the Lord tells us: "Wait for the Lord, be strong, and let your heart take courage; yea, wait for the Lord! " (Psalm 27:14). Help is on the way maybe not as you planned it, by air or by sea. Just wait, the Lord is around the bend driving a truck with a whole bunch of angels driving fast to get there, not willing to forget you or anyone even if you live far away.
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"I called on thy name, O Lord from the depths of the pit; thou disdst hear my plea, Do not close thine ear to my cry for help!" Lamentations 3:55THE LOST SHIP
We are not sure what happened to it yet. It was just another sad piece of news related to the hurricane. Indeed it was sad to know that a ship full of tourists enjoying the beautiful Caribbean Sea was missing. Phantom was lost and it just meant another piece of news. Well, until we got the news that a young man named Jesus, a member of our church in Omoa was among the missing in the ship. His wife and two children don't think anymore that he was so lucky in finding such a nice job. He was my Archdeacon's acolyte when he served in that area, he had been like a father to him and now he was gone into the depths of the beautiful Caribbean Sea. Another victim of the storm and not just a piece of new in a far away place.
YOU ARE THE ONLY ONES!
We have heard it a lot in recent days. The need is so great that there are many communities that still have to be helped. We work day and night to reach them before it is too late. Volunteers young and old labor hard to fill the trash bags with food. They gather in the Cathedral and the Diocesan Office making such a horrible mess that makes my hard glad. Everyone of those bags will mean that somebody will eat tonight! The story is the same when the volunteers come back covered with mud but with a beautiful smile, like the ones you get when you get to feed Jesus, when you give water to our Lord, when you get to clothe our God. " You are the only ones that have helped us, we were getting desperate, thank you, thank you!" That's what they are saying when we come with help. I am sure that eventually the government and other more professional agencies will reach them in due time. We were there but you were there also. You were there feeding our Lord because you made it possible for us to have the means to do it.
THE AMPHIBIAN INVASION
It's plan for tomorrow, early like all efficient operations. The trucks are already loaded with food and the tanks are full with diesel. This time we are going to try by land and by sea.We have failed for two days by air. The Honduran Army didn't make it all the way and decided to drop the food in another community before turning back.
I can understand why. Corinto is as far as you can go until you get to Guatemala. I always enjoy when they count the offering in there. I love seeing when they separate the Lempiras from the Quetzales. It's one of my international congregations so far away from the center of both countries. We have received some messages from them. They are hungry, they need help. This time tomorrow I should know if our amphibian invasion will work. They will drive the truck for about 2― hours, cross about 14 rivers some of them with bridges and then go by boat to Corinto. They will load the food on their backs or by burro and then reach Corinto. They will have to rush though, because they need to get all the way back to where the truck will stay. That's the advantage of being a Bishop, I can send my Archdeacon, a SAMS missionary, to do this. It's shall we say a kind of tough. Besides last time I got in boat to help people I ended in jail, but that is another story! Right now what we need is for you to pray that the food gets to our sisters and brothers in Corinto and that my Archdeacon and his crew gets back safely.
A MOTHER'S TESTIMONY
Rosa gave her testimony last Sunday. We have a new segment in our service where we let people tell their stories as a form of community therapy. Also we get to find out what great things God has done for us. Several people shared their experience of how God had preserved them and then I saw Rosa getting up and coming to the front. I wonder why? What could she be thankful for? You see, just a few days before we had buried her 21 year old son. He was electrocuted as many people have died these days due to the floods. What could she be thankful for ? I began to hear her as she thanked us for making it possible to find a coffin, for being there with her for the funeral, to hold her hand. Yes, he was dead but he knew the Lord, she said. He was now gone but he was with God. It was a simple faith more pure than any faitj I could ever have. She was willing to thank God at all times and not just at the good times when good things happen. Even with Hurricane Mitch taking a death toll of her son she could see well that God still reigned.
Thank you for sharing with us in our pain and our hopeand tolerating my stories. But remember we still need your help in the form of contributions and prayers. Honduras continues suffering and its digging itself from the rubble.Please help us.
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"You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us in answer to many prayers." II Corinthians 1:11THE LORD'S SQUAD
For those of you that have been following our saga from the beginning you will happy to know that we finally have worked out the problems we had originally with the government. There has been a complete cleansing of those responsible for irregularities and things seem to be in order. Our church is now treated more than fairly. Thank you for your prayers on our behalf.
What is more amazing and exciting for us is that in a recent meeting with the Vice-President and a Cabinet Minister in charge of the emergency response for Northern Honduras we were asked to minister spiritually in the many refugee shelters of our area. We ask your prayers for us to be able to respond to this difficult task of caring for the thousands of people that are now without hope and that have lost everything.
We have assembled the Lord's Squad formed by the laity, deacons and priests of the area in order to reach most of the shelters. Can we do it? We will try indeed because this is a unique opportunity to reach thousands in their time of need. Please pray for us.
THE DEAD COWBOY
It was his livelihood. He was a Honduran cowboy. He had worked very hard in the mountains of Santa Barbara to care for his family. He knew about farming but cattle was what he loved the most. Finally he was being successful, 15 heads of cattle was quite an investment. Soon things were going to improve even more. Until Hurricane Mitch came, the rains begun and he went out to round his cattle. He was going to be right back. But he never came. He was one of the 20,000 missing. They looked for him throughout the mountains for days, maybe he was stranded somewhere. Yesterday they found him far away where the river had dragged him with his horse and the 15 heads of cattle. The waters began to go down and there he was with his cattle. They were all dead and all was gone.
THE MEXICAN DOGS
We have a love hate relationship with Mexico. I imagine it goes back when we fought them for our independence from Mexican Emperor Iturbide. Maybe because they beat us most of the time in soccer. Today Hondurans are very thankful to Mexico because they came right away to our help. They came with planes, helicopters, rescue personnel, doctors and medicine but they also brought their dogs. They are experienced dogs that can detect persons under the rubble. They had worked in past earthquakes in Mexico but now they search for our dead.
The Mexican soldier in charge of the dogs was speaking the other day. He said that it was only common sense to realize that there were many dead in the capital. They were still under the rubble. The dogs don't have a hard time to locate them, he said. The smell of the dead is easy to detect.
ANGLICAN ROAD CONSTRUCTION
You can help the people in many ways indeed. The Anglicans of Honduras are in road construction in order to help the villages of the mountains that were completely isolated by mud slides. The government has so much to do and so little to do it with that it will take weeks and months to open the roads so the people can have access to the outside world.
It requires lots of digging and lot of persuasion to get the few machinery available to the areas that are isolated. A little encouragement and being like the insistent widow does wonders to get some machinery to move the mountains. What a joy when people are able to see their town connected with the rest of the world.
Today I had the visit of the village leader of Santa Ana. He walked many kilometers until reaching the nearest form of transportation. He had come down the mountain to the city in order to get supplies and also to thank me for what I had done. I told him not to thank me but the many Christian sisters and brothers that were helping. He asked me to tell you thanks. I am now doing that through the internet. Every one of you: Muchas Gracias
WRITE US IF YOU CAN HELP
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"How the gold has grown dim, how the pure gold is changed! The holy stones lie scattered at the head of every street". Lamentations 4:1
A BROKEN CHURCH
It is sad to receive an engineer evaluation of a broken church building in the capital. We did not need a door to get in, we could use any of the two holes in the wall. Everything was destroyed, just the facade as if it were one street in a Hollywood set. So much work and sacrifice gone in a week of rain and wind. The holy stones lie scattered at the head of every street when the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem in 587 b.c. and our holy stones lie scattered also in 1998 a.d.
A HONDURAN CHRISTMAS TREE IN NOVEMEBER
The videos scare you as you look at them on TV. You can see the trees full of trapped bodies or people that tied themselves to make sure they were not washed away. It will take days for those people to be removed from the trees as the waters go down. There is not time for that because the few helicopters makes it hard to rescue the people still living waiting for days in Honduras.
A family tells their story about climbing a tree when the waters came. It was a tall tree and they thought they were saved. But they were trapped unable to go anywhere, starving and thirsty. When the sun finally came out they realized that they were in a middle of a flooded land. Where there were no rivers now there was a sea. The mother cries as she tells the story of their children falling one after the other into the raging waters below. No food, diarreah from drinking the infected water below. A broken world indeed that remind me the words of Lamentations again: "My eyes are spent with weeping; my soul is in tumult; my heart is poured out in grief because the destruction of the daughter of my people, because infants and babes faint in the streets of the city." Lamentations 2:11
AN EXALTED LAY PASTOR
I will not mention his name because I have to say that he is the worst student of the theological program of the diocese. He is indeed academically challenged and I am sure that the congregation he is in charge in the mountains of Santa Barbara don't get to read the correct lessons for the day. He has a hard time with the lectionary and for that matter with all the disciplines of his training to be ordained under Canon 9. But the Magnificat says that the Lord has exalted those of low degree, yes indeed!
My seminarian was the only pastor in town that stayed around unlike those of other denominations that spend their time putting us down. He went house to house caring for those in need, helping the elderly, comforting those afraid. When the mountains came rolling down blocking the village for over a week he was the only minister around because the others had fled. Everyone gathered in the local Episcopal Church Prayer Book and all regardless of their religious persuasion. I I wonder what lesson he found this time in the lectionary, but who cares he was there as their pastor reflecting God's love that never abandon us.
Tomorrow I'll share with you a few more stories that are part of our experience in this broken but not defeated diocese.
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