Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Tale About a Christmas Goat

Christmas Dinner
Merry Christmas!  Things were hopping around here for the 25th!  We had invited our Pastor and his wife, and they invited some people.  We invited some friends, and we invited the ministry up the road, and almost everybody came, but that gave us a grand total of about 70 people coming for lunch.

In preparation for all these folks, I decided it was time to kill the Christmas goat.  So I gave the honors to the Botkin Boys and they were all over the idea.  They had never eaten goat, and never killed one either so they seemed to like the thoughts of both.   They Botkin's are a family of 6 persons, who have come to help us with all the 31 girls we now have at the ministry.  So these guys performed the deed with the help of our night watchman, and some of our girls who have had more experience in butchering farm animals.  They got everything done in record time.  They wrapped the goat up in trash bags and put him in the freezer to cool.

Christmas Eve is like Christmas Day in the United States here in Honduras. We had to get all the girls something for Christmas Eve night.  We had already done the shopping for each one of the girls secret friends, a few days prior.  We would carry 10 excited girls to town with 5 dollars worth of limperas in their hot little hands.  They bought a gift for their secret friend and then we would carry them all to the Kios Pizza place and they would watch the flat screen and fill up on Pizza and coke.  Ben Heath was chauffeuring the girls around while Linda Botkin and I were buying groceries and paying bills before the holidays began.  While we were out shopping I noticed a dog running with what looked like a plastic bag in his mouth.  That is not unusual to see dogs in the community running with small trash bags that have been discarded.  As I got closer, I realized he had a whole frozen chicken.  He was having difficulty holding his treasure that he had pilfered out of the back of someone's truck that held the Christmas groceries because his teeth were freezing.  He would run for a few steps, drop his chicken and try another way to get a good grip on the frozen mass.

We have 31 girls now.  We received 3 before I came home for our daughters graduation, 3 were returned to our farm after a one year absence, and one returned when I got back.  The 3 little ones that returned had been kidnapped by their mom from our farm almost a year ago exactly to the day.  We are expecting one more girl this week, which will give us 32 girls altogether.  We almost don't fit in my living room anymore for movie night.  The girls and I had prayed for more girls and we received what we asked for.

Christmas Eve day was filled with pie baking and the organizing of the gifts.  Throughout the year, people have sent down gifts that I put in a trunk called the "The Birthday Box".  We have birthday and Christmas presents that people bring down or send with teams.  We also have things that teams bring that I set aside for the girls for Christmas Eve's Party.  This year a lot of Barbies were accumulated, sketch books, coloring books, markers, colored pencils, clothes of every type and every size.  Some people sent costume jewelry and so I just put it in the pile. The "pile" was in my bedroom.

When I leave the country, my bedroom becomes a catch-all for everything that the staff doesn't know what to do with or doesn't want the girls to know that we have.  When I walked into my bedroom with my luggage and what had been place in there after the last team left, I could barely get through.  We had to make a chart and write down by each girls name exactly what they received so that everyone would get about the same amount of stuff.  Ben Heath, our professional missionary intern,  and Angela Serrit our newlywed, helped me with this 4 hour activity, while Brenda Hernandez, our other older girl, who has graduated out of the farm years ago, who has just been promoted in her job as financial administrator to a wonderful ministry here in country. It is such a blessing to have our older girls come home for the holidays.  We wrapped up the girls gifts in plastic bags and tagged each one.  We didn't have bows or ribbons, just the black plastic bag, but the girls couldn't have been more excited with each bag that was loaded into the truck that would transport them to the mission house.

When we finally got back to the mission house, with the cake, nacatamales, and guava juice, the girls did their secret friend first.  Through all the transporting of stuff, I left my secret friends bag back at the house.  One of the girls will start and give a brief description of her secret friend, and the other girls will guess who they have.  It is a lot of fun.  Afterwards, we eat, and then we open our bags.  We take turns on opening gifts so it really takes a while, but we need to know what each girl got, not only to rejoice with them but so that in case it gets misplaced we will all know what belongs to whom.  While everyone was eating I ran back to the house in the dark, eating my nacatamale to get my secret friend gift, tylenol for one of the little ones, field questions from the new watchman, close up the barn, and made a pot of decaf coffee so I could try my new thermos out.  I ran back to the mission house just in time for the girls to start round two, of the gift giving. It was late by the time we all got back to our houses.

The next morning I told the older girls to wake me up at 5:00 a.m. so that we could get the goat started. I also told the girls staying with me to cover the kitchen counter with wax paper and take the goat out of the freezer and put it on the wax paper.  The next morning, I was awakened by someone tapping on my wooden shutter.  I jumped up because it was 5:30 and I was late.  I ran outside with my two helpers to get the fire pit started.  We had to chop some green oak limbs, and I had the foresight to buy some charcoal.  We finally got the fire going and so I went to get the goat off the counter, except it wasn't on the counter.  It was still in the freezer!  I then grabbed the clorox and washed out the huge brown tub that they had used for killing the goat the day before.  I threw the frozen goat blob into the water, and told Stephanie to bring some hot water from the main kitchen and prayed it would thaw out enough to lay on the coals.

We finally got the goat laid out on the rack and covered it with sheets of roofing metal, while were running back and forth from my house to put the turkey in the oven, green beans on the stove,  and the potatoes in water to boil.  We assembled the jello fruit salad, rolls were rising, turnips were washed and cooking.  Every fifteen minutes during the cooking extravaganza, we ran out to uncover the goat and put some salt water and spices over the roasting carcass.  It was beautiful!  But then we had some people come in and I didn't get to the meat until 25 minutes later and when I came out the door I saw smoke.  My beautifully golden brown grilled goat was on fire!  Thankfully we rescued the meat, but I was sad that we couldn't serve it in one piece.  I literally had too many irons in the fire.   The older girls in the kitchen were cooking deviled eggs, rolls, and cornbread stuffing.  Some of the mid sized girls were keeping all the dishes washed along the way and the little ones scrubbed the potatoes and picked up the trash in the yards, watched after the little ones, and prepared the kitchen for the guests to arrive.  It was a huge team effort all the girls and the staff and that's how we do Christmas at Project Talitha Cumi.

I am writing this blog while laying on a heating pad in my bed, thankful that I can now see the floor to my bedroom.  I am thankful for the generosity of all the teams who sent so many nice things so that we could make a wonderful Christmas for our girls.   I am excited about this new year and with all these new girls.  We have a lot of activity going on here at PTC.  We have a team of 17 coming in 2 days, 3 new house moms are coming and a new teacher also.   So please be praying for us that we will be prepared for the plans God has for us in 2012.  Blessings, the Christmas Celebrating, Goat Cooking Honduran Mom                                                                                          

Thursday, December 22, 2011

HIs Ways Are Perfect

Family Photo
I am back home in Honduras as of yesterday. I was in the States for a couple of weeks to attend and celebrate my daughter's graduation.  We also celebrated our Christmas together on the 18th, and I had to leave on the 20th to get back to the mission to get things ready for 31 little girls.  I was looking forward to getting back.  The 3 little sisters, who were kidnapped by their mom and aunt the year before had been found and returned to the farm.  I was so excited about getting to see them again.

So I decided not to go to sleep because I was going to the airport by myself.  Sarah loaned me her car to get there, but I was afraid that I would go to sleep and not wake up in time to be at the airport at 4:00 a.m.  So I packed and cleaned the house, dyed my hair, and tried not to sit down lest I would fall completely asleep.  My plan worked and I got to the airport.

I was surprised that Natalie Martinez showed up at the airport with last minute cards and gifts for me to carry to the girls.  I had a horrible phone situation while in the States.  I had two phones.  I got the other phone because the first had the range of a gnat in a mason jar.  I was forever trying to find a signal.  So I got another brand of phone which had better coverage.  It was so small that I had to use the pitiful phone to call my tiny phone that always sunk to the bottom of my oversized bag.  The sad part to this phone story, is that I permanently relocated the phone unexpectedly.

I was babysitting my grandkids and I had to get back home to finish up last minute details before I left for Honduras.  It was about midnight and I ran to the bathroom before I left for home which was about an hour away.  I didn't want to make any stops that late at night.  I was in a hurry.  Earlier that evening, my sweet sister in law loaned me her creme colored, fleecy coat with slick satiny pockets when the weather turned cold that afternoon while I was visiting with her.  My phone was in the satiny pockets.  I washed my hands and then I flushed the toilet and made a quick turn to leave the bathroom and my tiny phone with good reception slipped from the satiny interior pocket of my nice warm borrowed jacket into the toilet in the middle of the flush cycle.  It was a nano second and I barely saw it leave the building.  My first thought was that I messed up my daughter's plumbing.  After several flushes I realized it was okay, and then I realized, " All of my numbers were in that phone for Honduras and Stateside". Then I thought, " I have the cruddy phone with no reception and hardly any numbers to work with for the last two days that I am in country."

Natalie had texted me the night before I left and she asked for my address so that she could bring the cards to my house.  I wrote back a text message on the cruddy coverage phone and pushed the send button.  It didn't send and I wondered why Natalie didn't show up.  I picked up the pitiful phone later and saw in red letters, "Message Failed".  It was very late when I realized she didn't get the message so I didn't call her back.  But then she showed up at the airport at 4 in the morning!!!  What a great heart.  She sent her secret friend gift and cards to the girls.  I can't tell you how blessed I have been with the heart and actions of my entire staff in Honduras.  They just have huge hearts and are always going the extra mile.

So I sat and talked with her for a while and she went home to go back to bed.  I fly stand-by or what is called a buddy pass.  There is a person on our board who knows someone who works with the airline and they receive so many passes that they can use of give away that are about half the price of a regular ticket.  If there is extra seats available you fly, if not you wait until there is an available seat.  I got the seat and I was thrilled.

When we landed in Atlanta, I was looking at my tickets to find what gate I needed to find to go to Honduras.  I noticed at that point that I was going to San Pedro Sula instead of Tegucigalpa.  Joe Reynolds, who is a board member, missionary and long time friend of the ministry, comes to the farm so that I can go to the States.  He is such a blessing.  Anyway, he was going home, and I was going to get the truck and Esmerelda.  Esmerelda has been living at another center for a while, but she is returning to our farm.  She is eighteen but she is going to be going to technical school here, and she will also be finishing up her high school.  I was supposed to sign for her.  Tegucigalpa and San Pedro are about 4 hours away from each other.

So I woke up Natalie to call the guy who made the tickets, because his number was in the flushed phone.  She texted me the number, and I called him.  He said go to the airline counter and change the ticket back to Tegucigalpa.  I did as he said, but all the emergency phones were taken off of the wall!  I had to wait for the agents to come on duty.  They came about 40 minutes later.  I talked to one of the agents, and she said that Tegucigalpa was over booked by 15 people that had already checked in and they were having to pay 9 people not to fly that day because there was no room.  She told me the whole week looked like that because people were coming home for the holidays.  She told me to go and wait and see if I could catch the San Pedro flight and that way I would at least be in the country, but she said hesitantly, that flight is overbooked by 5 people, but "who knows".  I told her I was praying.

So I called Natalie to get some more numbers so that I could get in touch with Joe to find Esmerelda at the airport, and called other people to contact Ben Heath, who is an intern at the mission to come and get me.  Neither Joe nor Ben could call the crummy phone, but we could text.  Joe asked me if I wanted him to stay until I got back, but I told him he needed to go because the flights were full and he might not get out if he waited. Then the creepy phone's battery started dying.  I repacked a bag in Valdosta and my charger cord was in my other checked bag somewhere in the Atlanta airport.  I don't understand the technology of a touch screen phone, or how amazing it really is, but as wonderful as it is, why can't it hold a charge?

I was thinking "What am I going to do?"  and I felt like I heard in my heart from the Lord, "Just see what I am going to do".  The huge group people started filing onto the plane.  I ask one attendant how it was looking for me to have a seat and she said, "You never know, maybe", but she didn't look to hopeful.  Finally, an older gentlemen in a wheel chair and I were left, he had a buddy pass too.  Now clearly an older man in a wheel chair trumps an ambulatory missionary lady.  The attendant checked the records and said there was a couple who checked their luggage in and were in the airport but didn't show at the gate, so I literally got the last seat.  She said, " You will have to sit in an exit lane".  I told her that I didn't care, but I was thinking to myself," I didn't care if I sat in the bathroom", I was just happy to have a seat. Our plane was delayed because they had to search for the luggage of the people who didn't make it to the gate.  I felt bad that the couple didn't catch their flight and that the plane was delayed but I was giving "high fives" to God for what He did for me.

Everything worked out fine.  Esmerelda arrived home at the farm, Joe got home, I got home to the 31 girls, and I am glorifying God about how He looks out for me.  If my flight information hadn't gotten confused, I wouldn't have gotten to fly out that day. If the couple hadn't have missed showing at the gate, I wouldn't have gotten home to the girls.  Even when I thought everything was terribly wrong, it turned out totally right.

If you think about it, Mary was unmarried and pregnant, which seemed terribly wrong, but it turned out totally right.  Jesus never sinned, yet was crucified by a crazy mob of people and that was terribly wrong, but it turned out totally right.

 I hope this Christmas season, if you are experiencing anything that seems not fair, or terribly wrong, that you can trust God to do what He does, and make this time in your life,  "totally right" for you.  He is faithful and He is Emmanuel, God with Us.  I am thankful this Christmas not only for all my many blessings, but because God is not only with us, but He is for us too.  Blessings to you and your family,  The Happy Holiday Honduran MOM

Roomies and BFF
Proud parent and grandparents