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!

So yeah…I forgot my bible. Like I was sharing yesterday, although I was one of the organizers of the Womens’ Retreat, God really didn’t need me to make the weekend so fabulous.With my car completely loaded down with all the food, drinks and craft supplies, my sweet vehicle had a hard time making it around this corner which had been washed away by recent rains and on a pretty steep incline. I, personally, thought it was funny watching the group of gals trying to figure out how we were going to make it up this mountain. Zina is here placing rocks under my tires hoping it would give my wheels something to grab onto. It was a good thought, but I only ended up burning a few layers off my tires as they spun and spun in place. In the end, we unloaded the heavy coolers and packs of water and put them on the side of the road, which helped make the car less bottom heavy. I rolled back a few feet, gave it a little gas and up I went. We worried about the others traveling behind us. Would they be able to get up the mountain? No need to worry, everyone made it up without a problem.What was the house going to be like? We originally had plans to stay at a home in Gatlinburg, TN, but tragically, it burned down in the wildfire they had up there last year. Amazingly, this home, the Sabbath House, was perfect. Not only were the accommodations clean, roomy and had every comfort we needed, it also had a covered porch, which ran the length of the house. The main building was situated in the center with two wings of rooms on either side. All bedroom doors opened to the outside. Friday night and Saturday morning it rained. We were so thankful for this covered porch, in which we not only were able to stay dry coming and going, but when the sun came out, we soaked up the warm sun sitting in the rocking chairs. In fact we brought a table outside to enjoy our lunch on that beautiful day.After the morning session, we had lunch and an afternoon break. Ladies could go for a hike or stay in the porch and be First Responders , in case anyone on the hike needed emergency help. Fortunately for us all, the porch sitters got rest and sunshine and the hikers got a bit of exercise.Many took a nap or worked on a jigsaw puzzle. It doesn’t look like much here, but these gals were able to finish this puzzle by the time we said good-bye on Sunday.When everyone woke from their naps and returned from hiking, I invited anyone who wanted to to paint a canvas. This was another concern of mine, I realize that not everyone is crafty or even wants to be crafty, so offering this painting project seemed risky. I didn’t want anyone to be thinking “Ugh. What a waste of my time.” I promised a “No Fail ” project that even those who claimed to not have a creative bone in their body could do. And again, my worries were for not. I don’t think anyone felt pressure to sit there. And I actually believe that those who hadn’t painted before gained some confidence in their creative abilities. With painters tape, paint, a good old black Sharpie….a few easy tricks to get the scripture onto the canvas…Everyone went home with a beautiful piece of artwork. It was late afternoon, so big pots of coffee were brewed,  the junk food laid out in the tables…and we let the games begin, dice games,card games,and THE MOST FUN OF ALL…Heads Up!This is where our true personalities shone. (Amber, there in the front, is a fish waiting to be fed.😜)It was fun to see how the players would interpret each clue.We did discover that Judy’s technique of getting right up into the clue-giver’s face wasn’t always helpful. I guess she hoped that since she couldn’t say anything, that by getting closer she could send the answer mentally. Wayyy too funny!After dinner, we settled down for our evening session. Amber led us through scripture, then we broke off into small groups to talk and answer questions that had us draw on the scripture Amber presented. When we were in the planning stage, the four organizers didn’t really know how we were going to put the ladies into groups. We wanted a mix of age, life stages and yet have the comfort of being open and vulnerable to share. Not everyone would know each other before this weekend, how was this going to work?Sissy, that sweet thing on the right, suggested the simple idea of just counting off. Sure enough, we counted off, 1,2,3,…on and on. All the fours came upstairs to the loft with me.As God had planned all along, the right people ended up grouped together. What seemed like random counting turned out perfectly where mom’s who have adopted were put together and another group was comprised of an almost engaged, newly married and one married over 30 years. My group was so tender, open and encouraging. Sunday morning came way to fast. After breakfast, Zina wrapped up our weekend by reminding us how much God loves us. We broke bread and served one another the Lord’s Supper. Holding hands with our sweet new sisters, we sang the Doxology. 

What started as a whisper from God, ended with hugs between new friends.  He chose the women who would attend. He filled that house with love, tears and laughter. He refreshed and filled our spirits. All glory for this weekend goes to Him.

The next time a weekend like this comes up, just say yes.

Thanks for dropping by!