Happy National Dog Day!

Dogs are family too

National Dog Day, founded by Pet & Family Lifestyle Expert and Animal Advocate, Colleen Paige and has been celebrated annually since August 26, 2004.  To honor man’s best friends, this day especially encourages dog ownership and embraces the opportunity for all dogs to live happy, safe and “abuse-free lives”.   The goal for celebrating National Dog Day is to find homes for all dogs in need of a loving family. The Foundation’s goal is to rescue 10,000 dogs each year.

Time Magazine is honoring National Dog Day this year on their time.com webpage by pulling a 1928 magazine cover and story from its archives.  It features “Max,” an ordinary basset hound who saved his owner’s life . A brief synopsis follows:

“Max barked until a policeman came to revive Gilbert Kirkwood”

National Dog Day 8-26-1928 Time MagTIME Magazine looked back at the the first nonhuman to be a TIME cover subject: a basset hound puppy who was a born show dog with champion parents. But the story, which was prompted by the 1928 Westminster Kennel Club dog show, took a much broader look at the state of dogs in America.

In Manhattan, Max, a police dog, watched his owner, one Gilbert Kirkwood, a plasterer, going to sleep with a cigaret in his mouth. When he saw that Gilbert Kirkwood’s cigaret had dropped and ignited the bedclothes, Max dragged the burning bedclothes away from Gilbert Kirkwood and put them in the kitchen. Then he dragged Gilbert Kirkwood, overcome by smoke, off the bed and put him in the kitchen right next the bedclothes. After this, Max barked until a policeman came to revive Gilbert Kirkwood and to extinguish both his bedclothes and the conflagration caused by dragging these from room to room.

Harley2We, too, celebrated National Dog Day in 2015, by rescuing a stray long-haired chihuahua who was slated to be euthanized because of his age (estimated at 10 years), anxieties (in a kennel surrounded by about eight barking pitbulls), and massive dental problems (12 of his teeth were infected or rotted and had to be removed).  After three weeks with us and our two other chihuahuas (ages 13 and 9), Harley, as we named him, began to reveal his delightful, almost puppy-like personality.   And, it took only a couple more weeks for him to vocalize his needs, interests, and concerns. In all, we spent about $350 to bring this little guy back from a questionable life–he still shakes and shivers during lightning and thunder storms, which means we just get to snuggle with him a little more.  And during some of our family’s recent stressful times, he has been quite the gentle companion.

Tri-County Animal Shelter (TCAS) Observes National Day Dog, too!

As an aside, I am aware that our local Tri-County Animal Shelter (Charles, Calvert, and St. Mary’s), in Hughesville, MD, seldom receives good press. However, this is an occasion where I would like to share with you that they, too, honored our locally surrendered and strayed animals.  On Saturday, August 15th, they held a “Clear the Shelter Day.”  Their kennels were filled so they waived the $85 – $125 adoption fees on all animals adopted that day.  As a result,  all 67 animals were either adopted out to families or placed in other rescue facilities.  And, today, on the annual day of honoring dogs, they again waived their fees.  Kim Stephens hasn’t yet tallied the results but she will forward them to be included in the Charles County Government to be posted on its web page (charlescountymd.gov/es/animalshelter/tri-county-animal-shelter).

As you can see in the table below, the Hughesville facility in calendar year 2014 received 3,130 dogs and adopted or found rescue shelters for nearly 82 percent of them–our adoption will be included in the 2015 stats.  In honor of this year’s dogs and other animals, we hope the numbers of received animals decreases and the numbers of adoptions and rescues increase.  We can do our fair share by ensuring that all our animals are micro-chipped, spayed or neutered, and receive their innoculations and vaccinations.TCAS 2014 Calendar Year Stats

A Poem For All You Genealogists


Image provided by Len Augsberger

I am taking a short break from working with data sets about my ancestors from the Tidewater Region, Virginia. Today I am exploring old periodicals made available online.This time I happened upon a poem in the monthly magazine, Hobbies from the May 1940 issue.  As an aside, Hobbies began in 1931 with articles of interest to various collectors. Its publisher, O.C. Lightner of Chicago, (still listed at this address when this 2010 photo was taken), started by purchasing a stamp magazine and then “rolling up” more than 20 other publications which were usually in financial difficulty as the Great Depression lingered. The monthly issues might have as many as 130 pages, mostly text, smatterings of photos, and small ads paid for by collectors.

Mary Louise TredinnickMary Louise Tredinnick (1892-1964) , author of The Genealogist poem that follows, was born in Lynn, Massachusetts, in 1892, the daughter of William and Mary Emma Hutchinson. Her family moved to Wakefield in 1914. She actively served in many Wakefield, Massachusetts, community and national organizations from 1936 on; including the  England Genealogical Society.  Mrs. Tredinnick was a member of the Court of Honor for the Massachusetts Mother of the Year in 1946 and honored as the West Side Social Club’s Citizen of the Year in 1958. A gifted writer and an avid student of music, poetry and dramatics. She was a weekly contributor of poems to the Boston Herald and authored a book of poems as well as an essay ‘The Only Book’ to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the printing of the Bible. The essay was reprinted widely throughout the country and in college textbooks. Mary Louise Tredinnick passed away in April 1964.

The Genealogist
by Mary Louise Tredinnick (1892-1964)
As Published in Hobbies Magazine, May 1940, Page 112

The genealogist is one who traces back the family tree

In all its sad diversity,

Pride, shame, and plain perversity.

We are preoccupied with graves, and probate courts, and slaves

Deciphering epitaphs, and saves

the evidence of queer old Dave’s

Odd will–Aunt Phoebe’s sin–

Apprentice, convict,( with chagrin

Too bad this line is genuine–

Thought it began with Peregrine!).

No mercury so fleet as we

In search of widow number three

Relict of Uncle Zebedee,

Died in Portsmouth, 1693

His figure is a question mark!

Direct collateral, to the Ark.

Female and male, each patriarch

He was recorded with remark.

Born, married, humble, eminent–

Careers good, bad, indifferent.

No genealogist is content

Until “died” seals the document.

A Fallen Limb

A Fallen Limb

Our only fallen tree limb in 2015, happened two days ago. It took out a shed and a fence. It’s actual size is about 60 feet long.

I came upon this poem today, author unknown, and it just seemed right for me to share it on my blog. It’s been awhile since a limb has fallen from my immediate family tree and we have only God to thank for this. Yet others, very recently, in our biblical community have lost fathers, mothers, husbands, brothers, and sisters. I can only hope that when it’s my family’s time again to experience loss of a loved one, that we, too, will stand firm and strong, and refer back to the words of this poem that I believe are so true–for the one who passes, and the one’s who remain until God says that it’s their time.

A limb has fallen from our family tree.
I keep hearing a voice that says, “Grieve not for me.
Remember the best times, the laughter, the song.
The good life I lived while I was strong.
Continue my heritage, I’m counting on you.
Keep smiling and surely the sun will shine through.
My mind is at ease, my soul is at rest.
Remembering all, how I truly was blessed.
Continue traditions, no matter how small.
Go on with your life, don’t worry about falls
I miss you all dearly, so keep up your chin.
Until the day comes when we’re together again

–Author unknown

Along the Tidewater Region–I Can See Clearly Now…

The Tidewater Region?

North Atlantic Coastal Plain

North Atlantic Coastal Plain

Have you ever heard meteorologists or others refer to an area called the Tidewater Region? It’s one of those things that for years I have been meaning to learn more about.  You know, what’s “tidewater” mean and just how large is the region; does it span more than one state?

A friend’s Facebook post a few days ago also fascinated me and intensified my interest in this term “Tidewater Region.”  The post referenced award winning journalist and historian Colin Woodard’s 2011 book:  “American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures in North America,” that identifies 11 distinct cultures that have historically divided the United States.

So, I ordered the book that is said to take readers on a journey through the history of our fractured North American continent and reveal how conflicts between our cultures have shaped our past and continue to mold our future.  And next, I put on my research cap and started probing online for information about the Tidewater Region.  I discovered that it is no small area as I once thought.  In fact, it is part of the North Atlantic Coastal Plain that covers about 50,000 square miles extending from the North Carolina-South Carolina border northward to Long Island, New York.

Tidewater_region mapThe Tidewater Region within it is an area of low, flat coastal lands that lie along the ocean coast and stretch inland to what’s known as a Fall Line.  The Fall Line is a natural border between the Coastal Plain Tidewater and Piedmont regions.  It’s  where rivers drop sharply from the Piedmont Region on their way to the sea and waterfalls and rocks stop ships from going any farther inland.

Next, I happened upon demographic information about the Tidewater settlers who emigrated from the Old World and how the Tidewater region slowly became an area of comparative wealth. Merchants and shippers lived in the towns and planters who grew tobacco, rice, indigo, and cotton, dominated the tidewater population.

The tidewater coastal area is very narrow in New England, and its terminology now is more applicable elsewhere, particularly to the middle and southern Atlantic regions, which I am focusing on in this post.  They were initially British colonies and the later states of the federal Union (Maryland and Virginia in 1788 and North Carolina in 1789). First to settle and establish themselves economically, socially, and politically, tidewater region inhabitants secured control of the government. Almost inevitably, they used the machinery of government for their own benefit and in accordance with their own traditions and ideals, and they resisted any efforts to weaken their control. (I am like a child on Christmas Eve, so anxiously waiting for that one gift.  I just need to see how my genealogy data match up with the Tidewater Region’s cultural descriptions in Colin Woodard’s book.)

Now, the following are results of me instinctively using my Ancestry.com tree and Family Tree Maker applications, to match up the tidewater areas’ geography with my family ancestors to unearth the following:

Virginia’s Tidewater Region

Maryland Tidewater RegionOf my 2,496 ancestors  who settled in Virginia, 562 (nearly one fourth of them) settled in what is known as Virginia’s Tidewater region counties that include the counties of: Accomack (1 ancestor), Campbell (359 ancestors),  Charles City (8 ancestors), Chesterfield (36 ancestors), Dinwiddie (1 ancestor), Goochland (31 ancestors), Henrico (58 ancestors), Isle of Wight (2 ancestors), Nansemond (1 ancestor), Norfolk (5 ancestors), Northampton (9 ancestors), Prince George (33 ancestors), Southampton (2 ancestors), Surry (15 ancestors), Sussex (1 ancestor), and York (0 ancestors).  The eldest among them was Chief Powhatan (father of Pocahontas) who oversaw more than 30 tribes when the Jamestown colonists arrived in his territory in 1607.  Ten of my more notable family names among my Virginia tidewater region relatives include:  Blair, Blandford, Bolling, Hawthorne, Jefferson, Lee, Randolph, Rolfe, Taylor, Washington, Webster.

Maryland’s Tidewater Region

Of my 1,200 ancestors and relatives who lived or now live in Maryland, nearly one-third of them (389), were/are in the Tidewater region that includes Southern Maryland counties: Calvert (25 relatives), Charles (152 relatives) and St. Mary’s (71 relatives).  Some definitions even include Prince George’s (128 relatives) and Anne Arundel (13 relatives).

North Carolina’s Tidewater Region

NC Tidewater Region CountiesNorth Carolina has 100 counties; but, only seven sounds (a bay or inlet of water) make up the coastal Tidewater region: Pamlico, Albemarle, Currituck, Croatan, Roanoke, Core, and Bogue Sounds. This region has many low-lying areas called wetlands, where water covers the land. Fifteen hundred and thirty of my ancestors settled in North Carolina. A number of them lived within counties in North Carolina’s Tidewater region.  Those counties included:  Beaufort (2 ancestors), Bertie (3), Brunswick (2), Carteret (2), Chowan (13), Craven (2), Cumberland (5), Currituck (1), Dare (1), Gates (1), Jones (5), New Hanover (13), Pamlico (1), Pasquotank (6), Pender (1), Perquimans (1), Tyrell (8), Washington (1), and Wayne (1) for a total of 61 persons in North Carolina’s Tidewater region.

Peninsulas in the Tidewater Region

There are four peninsulas in the Tidewater Region.  The part of Virginia known as the Eastern Shore is one of the peninsulas.  The Eastern Shore is separated from the mainland of Virginia by the Chesapeake Bay, which borders it on the west while the Atlantic Ocean borders it on the east.

The other three peninsulas are located on the mainland.   One is the Northern Neck Peninsula.  It is located between the Potomac River, which forms part of Virginia’s northern border,  and the Rappahannock River.  One is the Middle Peninsula.  This peninsula is between the Rappahannock and the York rivers.  One is simply called The Peninsula.  It is located between the York and James rivers.  The James River is 340 miles long.  It is the longest river entirely within Virginia.

Rivers, Harbors, and Swamps

The rest of the Tidewater Region, from the James River to the North Carolina border, has two natural features–the Hampton Roads harbor, which is the one of the world’s largest natural harbors, and the Dismal Swamp.

The Hampton Roads harbor is one of the world’s finest natural harbors.  It includes the ports of Newport News, Norfolk, Chesapeake, and Portsmouth.  Millions of tons of products and goods are loaded into oceangoing ships in Virginia’s ports.  These ships sail to other ports in the United States and to ports all over the world.

The Great Dismal Swamp is a large wetland area that includes a series of swamps that scatter from Virginia, to North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.  The Great Dismal Swamp covers about 750 square miles, making it one of the largest swamps in the United States. The Tidewater region is the only place in the world where the Venus Flytrap plant grows naturally.

chesapeake bay bridge tunnelFor years, the only way to get from the Eastern Shore to the mainland was by ferry. Farmers on the Eastern Shore once used the ferries to carry their produce to cities on the mainland.   Now refrigerated trucks carry Eastern Shore fruits and vegetables through the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel.  Opened in July, 1964 it was named “one of the seven engineering wonders of the modern world.” This great bridge-tunnel is 17.6 miles long.  It  has four man-made islands where drivers transition between roadways that sit above the water and lanes that run beneath shipping channels. About 5 million cars take this route every year. (Photo By Steve Earley 2004 — Associated Press).

With all my newly acquired data about the Tidewater Region geography placed in proximity to my ancestry research, and forthcoming demographic/cultural analysis, I expect to write more meaningful posts that illuminate my past generalizations and probe more in depth into my ancestors lives and their stomping grounds.

Scientists Identify Long-Lost Remains of Early Virginia Settlers

Five years after the discovery of the earliest known Protestant Church in North America, on the site of Fort James in Jamestown, Virginia, and two years after archaeologists discovered remains that had been buried for more than 400 years near the church’s altar, scientists use technology to identify the men.

Reposted from:  http://time.com/3975389/historic-jamestown-settlers/
by Maya Rhodan @m_rhodan July 28, 2015

The bodies were buried in the 17th century

A stone cross marking the grave of a 17th-century British settler is seen at the archaeological site of Jamestown, Va., on November 22, 2011. By:    Mladen Antonov—AFP/Getty Images

A stone cross marking the grave of a 17th-century British settler is seen at the archaeological site of Jamestown, Va., on November 22, 2011. By: Mladen Antonov—AFP/Getty Images

Scientists used technology to identify the remains of four early residents of Jamestown, Va., the first permanent English settlement in what would become the United States.

The Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation at Historic Jamestowne and the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History announced on Tuesday that the settlers lived—and held high positions—in early English America as far back at 1608.

About 100 people settled along the James River in what would become the first English settlement in 1607. The colony, however, was nearly wiped out due to conflict—with Native Americans in the area and with each other—as well as famine and disease. Among the identified remains were those of Rev. Robert Hunt, Jamestown’s first Anglican minister and vicar of the Church of England, and Captain Gabriel Archer, a leader among the early settlers and a rival of Captain John Smith. The remaining two: Sir Ferdinando Wainman and Captian William West, were relatives of the governor Lorde De La Warr.

Archeologists with Jamestown Rediscovery have been working to identify the remains since they were found in November of 2013. Scientists from both the Smithsonian and the Rediscovery Foundation examined artifacts from the graves, forensic evidence and technology like CT scans to determine who they were.

The discovery of the burial site, however, dates back to 2010 when Jamestown Rediscovery uncovered what the organization says is the earliest known Protestant Church in North America. Within that church— in the chancel, considered the holiest part of the building—scientists found the four burial sites that held the remains of these early settlers.

“This is an extraordinary discovery, one of the most important of recent times,” said James Horn, President of the Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation, in a press release. “These men were among the first founders of English America. They lived and died at a critical time in the history of the settlement — when Jamestown was on the brink of failure owing to food shortages, disease, and conflict with powerful local Indian peoples, the Powhatans.”

The church they were buried in is significant, too. According to Jamestown Rediscovery, Pocahontas and John Rolfe were married there.

“We’re On A Mission From God,” – Days 7 and 8

It’s very hard to believe that today, Friday, July 3, 2015, will be our team’s final full day of simple acts of obedience to God to help bring hope and life change to thousands of Honduran people.

Some Of Our Simple Acts of Kindness This Past Week– We:

  1.  Installed 4  latrines and out houses
  2.  Installed and/or maintained  17  water filters
  3.  Conducted  2 days of vacation bible school filled with fun and learning activities
  4.  Built a long-awaited roof on a local family’s home
  5.  Participated in 1 inspiring church service with Comayagua friends
  6.  Attended 1 goodbye dinner with El Ayudante leaders, staff and team members in the City of Comayagua
  7. Contributed to improving 100’s of families lives through volunteering in El Ayudante programs and services
  8. Experienced 100’s of Yay God moments
  9. Accumulated 100’s of unique and spectacular memories to our otherwise pedestrian lives
  10. Prayed 1,000’s of prayers to keep the good works flowing and that we might do it again in the future.

Yes, the roof got finished as well as many other projects.  Goodbye for now, neighbor. We hope you and your family enjoy the comfort it brings to you.Goodbye Finished Roof

2015-05-31 007Bob and I took a few minutes for ourselves to savor our time in the mountains; to take a couple of pictures to say to our family back home that we’re never too old to climb a mountain (on land or as a leap of faith), or to just clown around and enjoy life; to give a big hug to a curious toddler who stole our hearts away; and, to remember our friend and translator, David, who was so impressed with our story and our way of celebrating our 50th Wedding Anniversary here in Honduras. And, a shout out to Jonathan, Jose, and Christian–all of them such wonderful young men!2015-05-31 009 2015-05-31 011
And, there are not enough words to adequately thank the El Ayudante leaders and staff for their ongoing efforts and wonderful hospitality.  We love you all and want to be sure to include the guards that watched over us at night and the drivers that knew how to get us safely to and from all our destinations, the clinic workers, and our housekeepers and their families for sharing them.

We Brought a Zoo to the San Pedro Sula Airport

zoo game 1zoo game2Not really, but a lot of people were watching our spectacle.  You see, to pass the time while waiting to catch our flight out, the teenagers decided to start a game of “Zoo.”  “Zoo” is a rhythm-party game where each player represents themselves in the game as an animal by making a hand gesture. For example, you could be a bear by holding up both hands as claws. In a single “turn,” using both hands in a consistent rhythm, you: slap your thigh, slap your thigh, clap, make your animal’s gesture, and at the end of the next rhythm chain, you make another player’s animal gesture to move the “turn” to a player of your choice.  Rhythm and concentration are key.  When concentration is lost, rhythm is lost and the player who breaks the rhythm chain is knocked out of the game until only one person remains as the winner. Time flew by and we all laughed over and over again as the game sped up and players were knocked out–yet another memory and interaction among the families and the ages.

Our Youth Led An Airplane Full of Passengers 

After a very long day of traveling the youth on our team as we approached Washington, D.C.–our nation’s capitol–on the day we celebrate our Independence–busted out singing our national anthem! The entire plane joined in. So very proud of these amazing kids!

And, I can’t believe that it has been nearly a month now since we departed for our trip of a lifetime that on so many levels was as meaningful to others as it was us.  When I am asked what I liked most about our trip, I am either long on thoughts, or short on words. You see, the meaning of life, from God’s perspective is where I want to be–totally surrendered to His will and His plan for me–not caught up in the mundane hustle and bustle that so many think is “living life to its fullest”.  Always praise God for all His graces and gifts, and I thank him for my peek at heaven and peace in my heart.

“We’re On A Mission From God” – Day 6

Day 6 – Thursday, July 2, 2015

So many remarkable moments, so many exceptional memories–from the instant God put it into my heart to travel to Honduras and be just one helper for just one week at the El Ayudante Campus where changing lives and transforming communities happens on a regular basis, with such total concerted and dedicated efforts, energies, and enthusiasm.  This series of blog posts represents me doing my very best to capture and document the vast array of uncommon, unscheduled, and unique wonders that abound in a climate and environment like I have never experienced.

For example, traveling by bus on the main highway to and from the airport at San Pedro Sula we first gazed upon Lake Yojoa.  It is the largest natural lake in Honduras. Lake Yojoa is 95 feet deep, 4 miles wide, and 10 miles long.  It sits at the base of two mountainous national parks: Santa Barbara above the Northern shore, and Cerro Azul Meambar National Park above the Southern shore.

The Legend of Lake Yojoa (pronounced, Yo-yo-wa)

“Two princesses from a tribe of giants were abducted and taken to the city now called Copan. Their noble brother set out to free them and went to a powerful magician for help, he gave the prince a magic egg and told him to take the egg to his father the king and break it in front of him. As the prince was crossing the mountains on his way home, the egg accidentally slipped out of his hands and broke. Unknown to the prince, his two sisters were captive within the egg and when the egg fell to the ground, Lake Yojoa was formed. According to the legend a city of giants exists at the bottom of the lake where the two princesses now live as mermaids. Their brother, heart-broken not being able to save his sisters wanders aimlessly around the lake as a golden alligator. ”

“And the Lord made the bee, and the bee made the honey…”

We (Steve Bertaloccini, Tristen Mohagen, Bob Dickinson, Kelly Krick, and me),  also had fun times playing beat the clock to finish up ceiling panels on the Howard’s back porch and deck.  After setting up the scaffolding to help us reach the rafters, we started installing cleats to strengthen the areas between the rafters when swarms of Honduran honey bees came at us–and not just to greet us, we feared.

The Lord’s bees were less than hospitable and seemed to interpret our visit as invasions of their various homes in and around the deck.  This situation first led to Tristan’s several “team evacuate and smoke out rituals.” Borrowing Tracy’s broom, Tristan inserted folded paper into the hanger end on it, and then lit fire to the paper strung through the hanger to create a brief smoke cloud.  This worked only to temporarily cause them to retreat and regroup before their next attack.  I next noticed that Tracy’s decorative tin ornaments similar to mailboxes with lids and cut outs of dragonflies on them were of high interest to the bees. Bee swarm on porchSo, I borrowed the broom handle concept and this time, lifted the first of the two tin ornaments off its nail and walked it off the porch and gently laid it on the ground, and the bees stayed in their home.  Success with the first one, gave me more confidence to go after the second. This time, I got as far as my foot on the foot of the deck steps before the tin ornament fell off the broom handle and the angry bees flew up and back to the porch and onto the column from which I had removed them.

Round one went to the bees, and it was lunchtime.  So, when we returned, (this time with Kelly instead of Tristan), the bees let us know that they were still “kings, (or queens), of the hill”.  Kelly had a different, more aggressive approach. He grabbed a handy but a sizable scrap of wood, slapped it on the rafter over a hive and proceeded to hammer the hive and the bees to death!  So very funny and scary all at the same time, and so totally effective.

Honduran Bee Project to Initiate Honey Production and Commercialization, #23-0057-02; Aldea la Crucita community, Siguatepeque municipality, Comoyaqua state; Santiago Morales-Mata,53, and Isabel Ramos, 50 recipients since 2002; Pictured is: Rafael Morales; 10; especially likes all that honey!

Oh, the laughing, the memories, and the taste of that honey from the Honduran honey bees (as mentioned in an earlier post in this series)… and finally,  the sweet success of progress at hand.

Although we weren’t able to complete all the under roofing work, the Peake youth group from Chesapeake Church would arrive in another week and we’re sure Mark has this on their list of things to do while they are here.

And Then Came Family Game Night

Family Game NightCollage

El Ayudante, in fact, hosted its first ever “Family Game Night.” And any former concerns about a lack of turnout from the community were laid to rest.  We estimate that we had about 200 people participating in games inside the mission house and out around the campus.  I observed that family sizes averaged about 5 people, making for about 40 families who had walked from their homes to learn to play games together as a family unit–something unusual for most of these families where mom is in charge of the family’s care giving and dad’s (when there) inflict corporal punishment as necessary. I played card games (old maid, uno, and phase 10) with four families.  It was great to see the smiles on their faces and their family’s interactions with each other.  At the close of each family’s game, we gave the games to them for their keeping in hopes that this was just the beginning of many more happy social times together.

This event, too, brought about the official opening of the clinic’s refreshment pagoda where visitors to the one-year-old clinic can now buy snacks if wanted.  And, yet another turning point for the local women in the community–a new job, a new skill, to fix and sell the food adding to their family’s economic growth.  Another good day, a beautiful night, and I’m losing counts of the number of “Yay God” moments thus far this week!



“We’re On A Mission From God” – Day 5

Here’s something you might have a little fun with.  It is a Google Maps photosphere (shot in February 2015).  It lets you freely look up, down, and all around to explore the entire El Ayudante campus.

Day Five – Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Day five with our El Ayudante 2015 team of ordinary families and biblical community friends begins with us serving God once more and sharing very special moments and kindnesses with people who live over 3,300 land miles from those of us who make our homes in Calvert County, Maryland and attend Chesapeake Church in Hungtingtown. If it were not for His plans within His time, we otherwise would never have experienced such a communion of efforts and assembly of kindred spirits.

So, on this day, Wednesday, the first day of July, many of us ventured southwest of Lo de Reina to Corralitos where we would prepare and install yet 12 more water filters in the homes of anxiously awaiting families. Our spiritual counseling still continued in El Ayudante’s Clinic and the team members building a new roof in the Lo de Reina Village hoped that today they would complete it a day ahead of schedule.

El Ayudante Community Coverage Map

After Lunch, Onto New Projects


Back at the Lo de Reina School, many of our team would be giving the school a new paint job inside and out. And this afternoon, Bob and I got to team up with Steve Bertaluccini, Kim Shettle, and Mark Howard to build 3 new computer desks out of 2′ x 4’s, 2′ x 6’s, and 3/4″ plywood using Tristan Mohegan’s meticulously drawn and color-coded schematic. Steve and Kim handily used the miter saw to cut the pieces needed from scrap wood from other projects. Bob and Joanne Computer DeskThis was the first time since last summer when Bob and I replaced our 16 x 25 deck that we got to use our relatively newly developed skills with power tools and wood construction to cut the raw plywood for table tops; and, to drill pilot and pocket holes in the frame, legs and brace pieces. We, then, in assembly line fashion, screwed them together to make the base of the desks. Meanwhile, Mark, who like a maestro conducting his orchestra used a router to remove and round the hard corners and edges of the tabletop pieces. And Miss Kim showed off her “guns” as she hand-sanded the tabletops in anticipation of tomorrow’s planned staining. Yep–three computer desks in three hours–we were all filled with joy and excitement.

EA Vision Night TablesWhen we returned to the mission house, Zaida, our cook extraordinaire, and her helpers, had already festively set the table for dinner at 6 o’clock. Tristan walked us through his story and that of El Ayudante, as well as the vision for now and into the future. All the while we were munching our homemade tortillas and dipping them into earthen pottery crocks that were kept heated by miniature sticks burning below the vessels. (Yum…)

To close out today, we had our team meeting and then broke up into small groups to learn how to play the games that we would introduce to community families as El Ayudante hosts its first ever “Family Game Night.” Expectations were mixed, as we had no way of knowing how many from the community might show up–but the word was passed and we were going to be prepared.

This event, too, would bring about the official opening of the clinic’s refreshment pagoda where visitors would now be able to buy snacks during their visits to the clinic. And the opening of the pagoda also brought new employment opportunities for women in the community to cook and serve the food. In fact, Zaida, was the culinary instructor to get the women ready for yet another life-changing event in Lo de Reina.  It will be down to the wire tomorrow to put the finishing touches on the pagoda and set the refreshment tables and decorations in place.

Before Lights Out–A Couple of Other Very Spectacular Connections 

Venus and Jupiter ConjunctionBut, before we turn in, I must point out yet two other very spectacular connections that many of us enjoyed.  As we gazed into the skies of Honduras from the front porch of El Ayudante, before our eyes, big and very bright, were shining Venus and Jupiter–the queen and king of planets–having their moment. We at first thought space station, then several of the young men went to google for our answer.  We weren’t too far off, it seems that on July 28,  according to NASA that the people of Honduras will be able to see the space station in the sky, but only for a minute.

Tue Jul 28, 8:20 PM < 1 min 12° 10 above WSW 12 above WSW

At that time–especially on the nights of June 30 and July 1 after an absence of roughly 2000 years the Star of Bethlehem was making a return to our night skies on June 30, 2015 — to be more specific Venus and Jupiter had their tightest highly visible conjunction in nearly two millennia.

The reference to the Star of Bethlehem is with regard to the fact that there was a very similar ultratight conjunction between the two — and close by the star Regulus, and high up in the sky in 3-2 BC. Some astronomers have in the past speculated that this earlier conjunction is what the “Star of Bethlehem” referred to.Read Full Story:http://www.cosmostv.org/2015/06/video…

The Howard Boys in Soccer UniformsWe also quickly learned from the Howard family  boys who were dressed in soccer gear that just like the millions of sports fans around the world, soccer is also near and dear to the hearts and souls of the people of Honduras. Even in extremely “down” times, Hondurans will stop what they are doing and watch live on TV, listen to soccer live on the radio and forget all the daily pressures. The country of Honduras actually has decrees presented in Congress to declare “work holiday” during international soccer matches that occur during business hours. The Honduran government, all the way up to the President of the country publicly plea with business to give their valued employees time off for soccer games.  And, after dinner last night, many of our team went to the Howard’s house to enjoy the USA’s second FIFA Women’s World Cup semi-final game as the Americans won over Germany 2-0.  And, on July 5, 2015, our first day back in the states, the Women’s team went on to roust Japan with a 5-2 win, ending their 16-year FIFA Women’s World Cup™ drought.


“We’re On A Mission From God” – Day 4

Sharing a Profound Moment

Matt with sons Jake and Zach

Jake, Zach, and Matt Rugh during our team meeting

Carpenter's Pencil and Nails

I must begin today’s post by first taking a step backwards for just a second–back to the close of our team meeting last night to tell you of yet another very profound moment we all shared. We had just started walking away from the meeting when up until this point, mild mannered Matt Rugh, father of Zach and Jake Rugh, asked us to hang back for just one more minute. Matt then proceeded to tell us that when he showered up before our meeting he went through the pockets of his dirty pants before casting them aside–just as he would do on any other day in his life. Matt then moved to center of the mission house floor and put his hand into his pants pockets again.  Next, he withdrew some things from his pocket while saying “and this is what I found,” and opening his fist, he gingerly tossed out the items onto the tiled floor. You see, Matt had worked alongside Christian another young El Ayudante worker and interpreter building a new roof on a village house.  This young coworker whose name happened to be Christian had at some point loaned Matt a pencil–and just like that we all saw the carpenter’s pencil and three large nails laying out on the tile where the grouting formed the shape of a cross.–yet another poignant message from God, and we all felt the “Ah-ha, we know you’re here with us God,” moment.

Onward to Tuesday, June 30th – Day 4

Aerial View of El Ayudante - Feb 2015

Google Maps 2/15 Satellite View of the El Ayudante Campus including its trapezoidal shaped property and fencing.

Today would be yet another very busy day.  Daily work in and among the community, back to vacation bible school at Lo de Reina in the early afternoon, then back to the mission house for a quick dinner and clean up for a special church service at the Lo de Reina Church.

As you might have gleaned from earlier passages in this series of posts, family devotionals are important starts to our days with God and all His children at El Ayudante and help us keep our focus on doing His work. This morning ritual has started to set in on me and Bob.  We already are finding that discussing the devotionals and associated bible verses brings out reflections, thoughts, and open conversations about our daily lives, our true selves and true desires, concerns for our larger family’s future, and keeping God at the center of all our lives’ activities.

Worktruck CommuteAgain after breakfast, our 2015 El Ayudante Family Mission Team split up into smaller teams to continue projects we started on Monday.  Some stayed in Lo De Reina with the roof building project, but most of us traveled in the back of the work truck just like the locals do and got involved with activities this time 2.5 km NNE (about 1.5 miles) of Lo De Reina in Cascabeles.  This time, Bob and I went with the Thomas Family to install water filters.  Home Water filter systemBob and I volunteered to chat with family members while the Thomas’s installed their first-ever water filter system.  The Thomas family, David, Alexandra, and Amara cleaned large and small gravel and twice washed sediment from about 75 pounds of sand to be used in the filtering system. They first identified the place where the family chose for the plastic trash-can-type receptacle to stand.  They used a leveling tool and tongue depressors where necessary to ensure that the water to be put in the container would remain level.  They next tested their leveled container by adding a small amount of water and to confirm for a final time that the container had no leaks.  Next they carefully distributed the large gravel, followed by the small pebbles, and finally, the cleaned sand.  Then, they filled the trash can to a marked fill line inside and attached a clear plastic fish tank filter like tubing to the spout made of PVC. At the finish, the water in the can would filter through the sand, through the pebbles and through the gravel, and clean, filtered water would run down the plastic tubing into a plastic water-cooler bottle.  And, the final one minute test of the water flowing through the tubing measured it for proper flow.  We also installed a picture poster with care instructions in Spanish on the stucco wall above the filter.  The poster includes a contact number for the family to call should any problems arise that they cannot handle.

Preparation and installation takes about one hour. And the family, usually of 8 to 10, has clean, filtered water inside, and for up to 10 years.

Pila (pronounced, Pee-la)



For a majority of Honduran families, plumbing is an uncommon luxury. Families only other sources of water on their property, if they are lucky enough to have one, is a government controlled pouring of water just once or twice a week for about one hour into an outside rainwater catcher and basin known as a “pila.”

Hondurans treasure their pilas because they meet a number of purposes for the family:

    1. Collects Water: Whether or not the family has access to a water system, a pila is a sufficient way to for them to collect and retain water. When a water system is not available, rain water collects in the basin. The size of the concrete basin allows for a substantial amount of water.
    2. Washing Clothes: The ribbed, scrub board at the side of the pila allows people to wash their clothes, and use water collected from the basin to rinse them. For a family without a pila, a rock takes the place of the scrub board and a bucket or barrel substitutes as a water basin.
    3. Washing Dishes: Water collected in the basin is also used to clean dishes.
    4. Bathing: Most households lack an actual bathing area. Children wash in the same area as the scrub board and adults rinse off with the water collected in the basin.
    5. Flushing a Toilet: In circumstances where a family has a toilet, (this is part of why we also install latrines and build corrugated aluminum outhouses with toilets inside them for shelter and privacy), people can pour water from the pila into the toilet for a “self-flush.”Latrine outhouse

Meanwhile just inside with the family, Bob and I talked with the father, Manuel, the mother, their two grown daughters and their children, and his other children who were not out working or at school.  Dad was proud.  He pointed out his children’s school graduation certificates that he had framed and hung across the top of the room’s otherwise plain and empty stucco and block wall.  He went on to tell us two of his children had gone off to college.  But, he truly didn’t have to tell us how proud he was because we clearly saw it from his wall display in his otherwise austere home atop a mountain where 50 percent or more of school aged children drop out and when all schooling is over for children at age 14.  But still, his college educated children returned home because they missed their families and there was no employment in Honduras where they could use their college degrees.

He also said that he left religious choices up to his family members and that his wife and children were the church goers even though he feels he has a strong spiritual connection with Jesus Christ.

Honduran Bee Project to Initiate Honey Production and Commercialization. Pictured is: Rafael Morales; 10; especially likes all that honey!

Before closing our conversation in prayer, Manuel told us that he earned his money by growing coffee and selling raw bee honey.  He gave us a sample of his ambrosial freshly collected raw honey and we instantly bought a bottle to take home with us. (We should have bought several.)  Jonathan, our interpreter, also bought a bottle.  I was left feeling that this man was giving his children opportunities and choices in education and religion that he had never had for himself and these things were the most important of any gifts he could give his children.

bob preparing filtering materialsNext we walked only a few steps further to one of Manuel’s relative’s houses.  This time Bob and I prepared and installed the water filter while the Thomas family talked with the household about their lives in Honduras, their needs,  and their relationships with Christ.

It was just before dinner and during clean up to get ready for church that Mark Howard came to assemble us all for an impromptu meeting.  It appears that one of the local women, who came to the clinic in the morning suffering through the final stages of cancer, had succumbed to her disease just an hour or so ago at the Comayagua hospital. Mark described this octogenarian woman as a leader in her community–wife of the local mayor Saul Martinez–she had helped spread the vision and support for El Ayudante for 11 years and its new Clinic that was just within a few days of celebrating the opening of its doors one short year ago.  So to honor this woman and the Honduran people’s culture, we would not be attending a church service. Rather, her body was already placed in a casket and taken to her home where close family and friends would gather with food and refreshments and would likely stay the night until her funeral the following day at the same time as she had passed the day before.  I wish I knew more of her story to tell you, but I only recall Mark referring to her as a dear friend to El Ayudante and held in high esteem among her community.

After a brief regrouping, we decided that we all could best use this time to further plan and prepare for yet another first ever event at El Ayudante–Family Game Night– and, to also close with four team member’s stories about their walks with Jesus that they had intended to share at the canceled local church service.

But before I close my journal on this day, there is one more friend that I came to know and to get too close to each night from within our dorm in my bunk.  I just knew from within the walls and ceilings that surrounded me that at some point I would discover this busily scurrying, chirping little bunk buddy under the sheets with me–and yet another reason once again to trust in the Lord that I would not be harmed!

“We’re On A Mission From God” – Day 3

If you are unfamiliar with my title phrase for this series of posts, I thought I would fess up now and tell you this was a famous line spoken by Dan Akroyd in the 1980 classic movie “The Blues Brothers.”  However catchy the quote, or silly, the movie, I sincerely believe that our 2015 Honduras Team and the many teams over the past four years that preceded us–have all been missions from God to be “helpers” (El Ayudante) to the second poorest people in the Western hemisphere–the people of Honduras.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Our First Interactions With the Beautiful People of Honduras

So, we are now up to Monday–day three in this beautiful country that’s about the size of Tennessee and has a population of nearly 8.5 million people as of 2015.  It was our first day of genuinely interacting with the Honduran people.

Day 3 Morning Activities

Day 3 Morning Activities

Some of us started replacing a roof on a village house, some built latrines, others installed water filters to give local families their first ever clean water, and a few of us, including my husband, Bob, Laura Miller, and me served in Clinic El Ayudante–all of us learning about these beautiful people’s stories–their trials and tribulations, their sadness and sometimes their joys, and especially about their relationships or lack thereof with God, our father, our King.

Laura and I talked with clinic visitors one-on-one through our local interpreter, Anna, after they had finished their visits with the doctor or dentist.  Anna was a fabulous interpretor and the daughter of a pastor in Comayagua.  She is about 20 and in college studying pre-med.  In all, the three of us met with about nine clinic patients during the morning hours.  It’s important to note that many of these people traveled on foot from their homes often from the mountains above, down rocky, narrow, and unpaved roads from their homes sometimes over one or more hours away.  And, they began their journeys many hours before the clinic opened at 7 a.m.,  all the while suffering in pain or with debilitating illnesses and diseases.  Often 20-40 people line up at the El Ayudante gates as early as 4 a.m.

As hard as I try to remember all the people’s names, faces, and stories a few may have fallen through the cracks because of the intense emotions shared with us over the few hours we were there. And, to protect their privacy, I have used anonymous Latino names in place of any real names–but their stories are all too real!  The important points I wanted to share with you were just some of the hardships these families endure without a whimper and the value of the El Ayudante Clinic to the some 15,000 local people in the communities it serves.

Spiritual Care Giving

The first I visitor I recall–we will call her Juanita.  She was an elderly octogenarian woman in a wheelchair. Juanita suffers from hypertension and diabetes as we soon found out do many of the clinic’s other patients.  She visits monthly to get her blood pressure and glucose levels read and to get her monthly supply of medicines.  Juanita lives with one of her many sons, who she said is an alcoholic and falling down drunk most of the time at home.  When we asked if we could pray with her, she asked us to pray for the alcoholism to be driven out of her son’s body and spirit.

Next, we talked with Diego, who was an elderly gentlemen dressed in his Sunday best and wore a Texas-like straw cowboy hat.  He, too, suffers from hypertension and diabetes.  He asked that we pray for the health of his family.  Despite Diego’s talkative nature, he received a call on his cell phone and had to leave to catch a ride home with a friend.

Young Maria followed Diego.  She was five months pregnant and was receiving prenatal care.

Then there was Alejandro.  He was about 30 and had his young son with him.  Alejandro had just received a root canal.  I was taken aback by Alejandro.  When talking with him, I felt like I could see through his eyes right into his tender heart and soul.  Yet I knew from his exterior that he had to be hardy and tough to survive his life in Honduras.  In comparison, from the mountainous and rocky terrain, amidst the heat, humidity, and dry spells comes forth beautiful flora and fauna, delicious tropical fruits and flavorful coffees much like Alejandro and his countrymen–the physically toughened yet kind, neighborly, and gracious Honduran people who have endured and survived generation after generation on the same small plots of land that their parents and grandparents had also lived on with their families.

Valentina, about 25, came to the clinic because she had a urinary tract infection or worse. Valentina lived six years with her boyfriend who suddenly up and left her because she did not bear him children.  She remains very, very sad about the loss of her lover and her apparent infertility.  Valentina wants the clinic to diagnose and treat her problem so she can hopefully have children–and for these things we prayed with her.

Pedro, about 30, had a root canal, and he brought his young son with him.  Pedro had devoted himself to a local church and served conscientiously until he said two clergy had wronged him.  This incident caused Pedro to turn away from God.  We explained to him that humans are imperfect and not all biblical communities will hurt or cross your faith.  We prayed together expressing that God, Our Father, is perfect and that he listens to his children’s prayers.  Pedro thanked us for visiting with him and we explained that it was God’s doing that we were together on this day. And he graciously accepted a bible as a gift from God.

One of the most heart-wrenching stories came to us through Nina when we asked her to tell us about her life and her relationship with Jesus Christ.  She was visibly shaking and started to weep as she spoke in her small soft voice.  Nina was mother to 14 children, including one set of twins.  Only nine of her children are still living and 13 years ago one her sons was murdered.  And, just recently, a second son was murdered.  Both sons were security guards.  The second son trusted and befriended a colleague who he soon discovered was doing wrongful things.  When he confronted his friend, the friend shot him dead.  And with the pain and sorrow of her second son’s death, all the raw emotions of the first son’s death surged back over her.  Nina asked that we pray for her to Jesus and ask that he take away the pain and sorrow that she feels in her spirit and her body and she can enjoy her life with her remaining children and family.  Afterward, Anna, who quite effected by Nina’s story told us that Nina attends her church and she, too, was quite saddened by this particular visit and visitor.

Vacation Bible School (VBS)

Vacation Bible School Day One

Vacation Bible School Day One

Lunch time was at noon, and in short time, we were packing up supplies for vacation bible school (VBS) at the Lo de Reina School a short distance away.  We could see the children’s bodies and spirits filled with excitement and anticipation to see us and to find out what fun times we had in store for them–quite a welcomed contrast to our morning activities.  We started with a group opening then we split off into smaller groups of children (about 20 in each group); some of us teaching bible stories and verses, others of us playing games outdoors, and my group was making crafts and balloon animals (always a big hit we discovered) with them.  And after craft making, we provided the children with snacks of apples, chips, and fruit juice.

And then it was Evening

Day 1 of VBS ended at 4.  We packed up and said our goodbyes until tomorrow when we would return.  As much fun and enjoyment as we had with the children, our biggest challenge thus far in our trip was those pesky little gnats. Nothing can ruin a get-together more quickly than the nuisance of gnats swarming around everyone. While intrinsically harmless, these tiny, pesky fungus gnats hung in there with us all afternoon. Technically flies, these guys look more like mosquitoes, yet they are merely one-eight of an inch long pesky creatures who continuously got up in our eyes, noses, and everywhere else imaginable.  Thank goodness our water bottles that we brought with us included sprayers as well as drinking spouts.  We shared our sprays liberally with all around.  David and Jonathan especially took a liking to our small surprise showers when we sprayed them. Despite our pest repel sprays these water sprayers were the only way for us to find temporary relief. I liken it much to The Plague of Gnats:

16 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron, ‘Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the ground,’ and throughout the land of Egypt the dust will become gnats.” 17 They did this, and when Aaron stretched out his hand with the staff and struck the dust of the ground, gnats came on people and animals. All the dust throughout the land of Egypt became gnats.

I don’t know how the Honduran animals whose eyes are always covered with gnats and the school children who live and play a lot outdoors have learned to cope with and even ignore them.

We had a brief hour to clean up and rest up between VBS and dinner,then after dinner we had our team meeting where we chatted about the day’s experiences and plans for the next day’s activities.  If our emotional morning in the clinic wasn’t enough, we had high emotions in the afternoon, and put these together with hearing others who had just as high and low emotional experiences as we did, plus, dealing with fillings of guilt because we Americans have so much in comparison; that we squander so much; and yet, we still are not happy with all we have and still want more materialistically. Going to bed with these thoughts fresh in our heads made for interesting sleep. And then, it came to me:

1 Corinthians 15:57-58 New International Version (NIV)

57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

And, I’m moving on in great anticipation to yet another day here with this biblical community at El Ayudante in Lo de Reina, Comayagua, Honduras.