Rice Bowls in Honduras part 2

My last post described what I felt was my reason for being there, loving and encouraging the tias who care for the children at the Good Shepherd’s Children’s HomeBefore Rice Bowls partnered with BMDMI, (Baptist Medical and Dental Mission International) the children were being fed, but due to the cost of running an orphanage the meals were mostly simple tortillas and beans. With Rice Bowls taking over the feeding of the children, funds that used to go to food can now be used elsewhere in the operation of the orphanage. Because of Rice Bowls, the children have fresh fruit and vegetables at every meal. Every morning as we walked from our casona to the cafeteria for breakfast, we would watch the cows getting milked. Then shortly afterwards, we’d see the farmer delivering the milk to the ladies in the cafeteria. Can’t get much fresher than that!Besides the cows, there is a full working farm growing many of the fruits and vegetables the children eat.There are chickens and pigs providing eggs and meat for meals also.A variety of healthy food allows these children to learn, play, sleep and grow. Rice Bowls not only fills the kid’s tummies, but it nourishes their souls. The teens on our team, plus JP, who’s really a big kid at heart, led the P.E. classes a couple of days that week.Teachers in our group taught classes.Others tutored children in different subjects.Meal times helped build relationships.As Aaron was trying to show off his wheelie skills, he came to realize as he fell flat on his back, that most of the bikes don’t have brakes that work. Immediately, he got the older kids to bring him some tools. He taught the boys how to tighten the brakes, fix a flat and how to do a wheelie. Aaron was a hero that afternoon.Babies were held, kissed and played with. The children come to this orphanage because a government agency has pulled them from their home due to neglect, abuse. A parent brings the children because they can’t afford to feed them. Sometimes the children are found wandering the streets or found looking for food in a local garbage dump. This orphanage is giving these children a second chance.Many of the children have no family, so they have no one who will visit. Time and again the children feel rejected and unwanted. So what does Rice Bowls do? We have a Buddy Night! The team members got paired up a child who usually doesn’t get visitors or hasn’t left the orphanage in a long while. This is my sweet pal, Gabbi. We all loaded a bus and headed to the local Mercado. Many of these kids had never been in a store before, much less been able to pick out a few treats for themselves. Although the kids could choose whatever they wanted, ice cream, soda or chips, many picked items that they could share with their friends in the casita!After our little shopping trip, we loaded the bus again and headed to the local pizza joint. Here Fernando and Thomas are picking out what toppings they want on their pizzas.Again, something we take for granted, ordering pizza, was a really big deal for some of the kids.  This restaurant was wonderful. Not only was the food good, the prices crazy cheap, it had a fun playground for the kids to run all over. On the way home, a 4 year old fell asleep on his buddy’s lap, teens giggled as selfies were taken and many of the kids were excited to share the leftover pizza with their casita.The girls who grow up at the Good Shepherds Children’s Home don’t have many positive father influences in their life. So the missionaries who run the school decided to have a Daughters Of the King dance. All day Friday was spent helping the teachers decorate and getting all the girls from kindergarten to sixth grade ready. They had their nails painted, hair done and put on their fanciest dresses.Here are my casita 1 girls all dressed up!Dads of the students who attend the school from the village wait for the festivities to begin. Don’t let their quiet demeanor fool you. Honduran men can play a mean game of Musical Chairs as good as any of them.All of our guys from the team, the older guy teens who live in the orphanage and the male workers got all fancied up too. They met the girls with flowers and a heart necklace. Then hand in hand they walked to the dance together. Here is a video one of the teachers made of the dance. It is so sweet. What girl doesn’t want to feel beautiful and dance all night with some handsome guys?One morning as I was helping with the washing and drying of the breakfast dishes, I watched the tias begin the preparations for lunch. Cabbage was being expertly thinly chopped and plantains were cut into slices. Watermelon and cantaloupe was being cut into a large bowl. Handmade papusas were being stuffed with cheese then grilled to a delicious golden brown. I was  overcome with emotion.  

These sweet little children were getting nutritious food for their bodies and love for their souls.

This is Rice Bowls.

Rice Bowls in Honduras Spring 2017

A week ago I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Honduras with the non-profit organization Rice Bowls. Our church has been filling these brown plastic rice bowls for years, so when this trip was announced, Thomas and I jumped at the chance. There were 20 on the team from my home town and two from California. Although I kinda sorta knew some of the folks going, Thomas and I went with open hearts knowing we would make friends while we were there. And that we did. 

As soon as we drove into the orphanage, the team teenagers clicked immediately with the kids. Because Rice Bowls makes it a priority to continually visit the orphanages throughout the year, and team members return time and time again, relationships are made.When the kids hear the bus arriving with the Rice Bowls team, they come running out of their casitas to greet their “family”. Yet, even through all of the excitement, I felt a bit unsure of my role there. “Mar- it’s an orphanage for heavens sake! There are children to love!” Yes, yes, that’s very true, but even as I rocked the beautiful little children in my arms, I felt there was something more. Thomas on the other hand was fitting right in. The 7-9 year old little boys followed him everywhere. It was hilarious to see their eyes grow huge when Thomas flexed his muscles. Boys will be boys, no matter where they live Before we left the states, Johnny (the Rice Bowls’ ambassador, trip coordinator, head honcho, Papa, pita, Ta-tay, kid at heart) asked if I would encourage the tias (house moms or aunties) in a little devotional. Of course I would! So, in MerryMary style I made some little bible verse cards. That I can do. Unfortunately, I was feeling a bit stuck on what I was actually going to say to so many women that I didn’t know AND speaking through an interpreter. Yikes! Again, God reminded me that no matter where we are from, women need to feel valued. I had a few days before this devotion time, to observe the women at work.I watched Tia Anna every morning bring the nine little 4-6 year olds freshly bathed to the cafeteria for breakfast at 6:30am. When the kindergarteners went off to school, she swept and mopped her casita every day. She hand washed the children’s clothes at the wash house, then hung them to dry. Cleaned the bathrooms and straightened the toys.Meanwhile, these little monkeys got into all sorts of four year old trouble.They swung on the swings.They climbed trees.They built with Legos.They colored.And Tia Anna found the patience to teach them crafts. The tias in the cafeteria handmade ALL of the meals for the hundred children, dozens of tias, workers and missionaries.Every plate, cup, fork, pot and pan is hand washed and dried. 

Whew! I don’t know about you, but after watching what these women do, in addition to absolutely giving their hearts to the children, I was humbled. I immediately realized how lazy my life is. And I knew I needed to encourage these beautiful women. I had to let them know how important their work is and how much it is appreciated. God led that devotional time with the women by us all sharing a little bit about ourselves. The tias shared with us something that no one knew, a secret dream maybe. We all celebrated when one of the Tias announced her pregnancy! The tias shared the worries and anxieties they have being a house mom. They watched as I wrote these prayers down. We gathered in a circle and a few of us prayed God’s Word over these amazing women. Even though we don’t share the same verbal language, God’s language of love spoke loud and clear. We cried, we hugged and we loved.My job was to love on these women.It was laughing and sharing a cup of fresh brewed coffee.It was allowing Tia Olga to share her passion of painting nails. Pretty fancy, I must say!It was giving the women a 15 minute pampered facial session. The ladies had never had a facial mask done before. With soft music playing in the background, the ladies on the team gently provided facials, back rubs and hand massages. Initially, I felt a little uncomfortable getting into the ladies faces, but within moments I realized what a blessing it was for me to have this opportunity. As I applied the mask and massaged the lotion into her hands, I silently prayed for each part of this sweet women…her eyes to see the beauty in herself and the children; her mouth to say words that would encourage those around her; her ears to hear the truth of God about her value and worth; her hands to be strong in her work and gentle in showing love to the children. 

As each tia finished her session, there were more tears and hugs, and each lady was given a bag of beauty lotions, candles, and potpourri. Yes I went to an orphanage and played and loved on kids of all ages, but I think my main reason for being there was to encourage the women. 

I can’t wait to share with you other aspects of this great trip! 

Tune in next time!