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

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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)

Pila

Pila

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.

Our Mission Trip–God’s Plan, In God’s Time!


in-gods-time

This post begins with our caregiving plans for mom and dad about two weeks out before we would leave for Comayagua, Honduras.  With our back up and stepped up plans for their caregiving during our absence, we thought we had all our bases covered. When, in fact, it was God, who from the beginning guided us through his plans and the holy spirit watched over us and helped us stay the course.

On Thursday morning, June 18th, we arrived to drive mom to her weekly hairdresser’s appointment and to do other caregiving activities.  Much to our surprise, our 87-year-old mom’s health had greatly deteriorated since we spent the day with her on Tuesday. Her blood pressure was 66/46, her face was pale, she had no body strength, and she was clammy and very shaky on her feet.  We called the ambulance and spent the next several hours in the emergency room.  After a thorough round of tests and studies, she received three units of whole blood and fluids for dehydration.  Her hemoglobin counts were extremely low–she was suffering from anemia and dehydration.  After three days in the hospital she was released for home–just a week before our scheduled departure.  Her case worker at Southern Maryland was an excellent resource.  She sped up what had been a very long and extended effort to get some temporary home nursing resources available.  And, by Monday, June 21, we met with the first of several nurses, physical and occupational therapists, and aides.  By Friday, June 26, the visits were happening, the rest of the family was on board with meal deliveries and God had intervened to strenghten us as a family unit to make sure Our mission through Him would be successful.

We cut off all cell phone and other communications while in Honduras during mission week, June 27 – July 4, 2015.  When we actually arrived back at home it was about 12:45 a.m., making it now Sunday, July 5.  Since our pastor was on vacation this weekend and a christian comedian, Johnny W., was scheduled to perform, we opted to rest up from our previous 20-hour day of various forms of transportation and pit stops to get us back home from Honduras.

Picking up on our weekly caregiving routines, I next took mom to her hematologist on Tuesday, July 7.  He remained concerned about her breathing and low hemaglobin counts.  She received an iron infusion and asked to return to him in one week. Again by Thursday, her health had further degraded.  We called the MedStar Southern Maryland visiting nurses.  One of her visiting nurses was in the neighborhood and arrived within eight minutes.  Mom’s pulsox (blood oxygen levels), were ranging between 64 and 75 percent–values under 90 percent are considered low.  The nurse also heard rattling in mom’s chest. She immediately called for an ambulance.  And, here we were again back in the ER at Southern Maryland for 7 hours before she was admitted and taken to her room. Kudos again to Southern Maryland Hospital.  Despite the ER being overloaded, they gave her a very thorough work up of blood tests, x-rays, CT scans, etc.  While still in the ER, they began nebulizer breathing treatments and a series of three intravenous antibiotics. Mom’s diagnoses: bacterial lung infection, congestive heart failure, and anemia again! Then by Friday, July 10 with several days of long personal contact with mom, various symptoms started affecting me. And on Monday, with closed and sore throat, ferocious cough, gooey stuff gluing my eyes shut, I pulled myself from caregiving and grabbed the first appointment with the doctor that I could get.  Yep, the bacterial infection caught up with me–bronchitis, sinusitis, and conjunctivitis. Six prescriptions of various steroids, antibiotics, eye drops, nose drops, and nebulizer, and my body is starting to respond.

Meanwhile, I know that through all these times that God’s divine intervention through our family members was what stepped things up to care for dad and to get him to and from the hospital each day, and to care for me, too.  I’m on the mend, although the steroids now have me wide awake at 4 a.m. in the morning writing this post; and hopefully, mom, after one week in the hospital may be coming home tomorrow or the next day.

We suspect that these circumstances were Satan’s work to derail our mission trip and to rob us from enjoying the fruits of our wonderful extended family team’s efforts through God while we were at El Ayudante.  But, we stand firm in our faith and put our trust in His “plans for us to prosper, to not harm us, and plans to give us hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)

“We’re On A Mission From God” – Day 2


Here we are in tropical Aldea lo de Reina (the queen village), just 10 miles outside of the city of Comayaqua, Honduras during its so-called rainy season (April through October), where the average high temperature is 90 humid degrees.  And, where June through November is the most likely time for hurricanes to occur.  And, we’re just 23 regular people, 10 families, ages 14 to 71, 10 males, 13 females–all with our own stories and relationships with God–all being called to do God’s work here in Honduras this week for various reasons that only He knows.

Family Devotional CollageWe were allowed to sleep in following our long journey yesterday, so Sunday began officially at 7:30 a.m. with our first half-hour of daily morning devotionals.  Devotionals included reading a verse from My Outmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers and the corresponding bible verses and discussions with our family members about them.

Prayer and breakfast were at 8 o’clock and included huevos, papas (eggs and potatoes), fresh tropical fruits and cantaloupe juice.  Salsa on my huevos was the best!

Next, it was board our bus for a trip to Comayagua and church with locals at CCI (Christian Center International).  It was here that we felt another of our many divine interventions from God.  This week’s services were dedicated to the firefighters of Comayagua.  The pastor praised them and told the story of one injured firefighter.  He cast his message around rescuers or Rescate and the bible verses of John 3:16:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

and Mark 10:45:

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Then the honored firefighter guests were presented a homemade plaque and “Rescuer” T-Shirts.  Three on our team who have been or are still firefighters were especially touched by this service.  My husband, Bob, having been a firefighter for 25 years felt that God intended him to be in Honduras and at this church to hear this message on the team’s very first full day of our team’s mission.  So, at the close of services Bob went and gathered with the firefighters who then asked our team to detour back to their fire house so they could give Bob one of their firehouse T-Shirts.

An Hour with Comayagua Bomberos!

And so we did, and the Howard’s and Mohegan’s children were then given ad hoc tours; they got to see the firemen in their firefighting gear, don a helmet, and hold the nozzle of a hose with slow streaming water being released. The kids loved it–what a great unplanned by man community activity!

By the time we returned to El Ayudante, it was 1 o’clock and time for lunch where we enjoyed rice and corn, refried beans, soft tortillas, pineapple and catalope and watermelon juice.

Between 3 and 7 o’clock, we gathered to learn about our activities for Monday; Jonathan, a staff leader and translator taught us how to install water filters; and,  Mark Howard reviewed how we should share the story of the gospel as we would go throughout our day interacting with the Honduran people.

By 7 p.m., many of us were exhausted from the previous day’s long journey.  Me, personally,  was just waiting for 8:30 and an appropriate hour to retire.  Lights were officially always out by 10. And for the remainder of the week, most of us would naturally awaken at 5:30 a.m. to get ready for our daily devotionals at 6:30 and breakfast at 7.

The Krick’s-Left to right: Bailey in cap, niece Heidi leaning in, Laura, Kelly, and friend Nolan Dennes

And, there’s nothing better than waking up to a cup of fresh Honduran coffee in the early mornings or relaxing with the team after dinner and evening meetings. Just ask Kelly Krick who was our team’s coffee connoisseur. I learned that Hondurans harvest their coffee every year between November and March; that there’s over 100,000 coffee producers here, with 9 out of 10 of them being considered small producers; an, that coffee growing and harvesting generates over one million jobs and for over 12.5% of the total population of its eight million people. Hand Pickin Coffee in HondurasMany complete families work during the coffee picking season, with young kids being an important part of the workforce, providing an additional income to their families. So the Honduran schooling system has vacations from the end of November to the first week in February.

“We’re On a Mission From God” – Day 1


And, We’re Off...

Team Picture - ChesapeakeThe past 10 days or so have been very exciting, hectic, happy, sad, and life-changing ones. Over the next few days, I will draw from my journal notes to share my times with you.   Starting at 2:30 a.m. on Saturday, June 27th when we got up to get ready to leave from our home for Chesapeake Church to meet up with the 2015 Honduras Family Team to head to Reagan Airport via a vanpool driven by Chesapeake volunteers to be on our way to El Ayudante, Comayagua, Lo de Reina, Honduras where God has called many regular people before us to do many extraordinary things, through their obedience to Him, to make big things happen over the course of their one week’s stay!

The El Ayudante Story

The story of El Ayudante is a testimony of how God prospers through simple acts of obedience by everyday people to bring hope and life changes to tens of thousands of people.  El Ayudante was founded and developed by generous donations of time and resources from many people when one man, Mel Cox, decided to follow the Lord’s guidance. Cox saw the need and felt the call to do something in Honduras and in 1998, two years after he first visited a youth camp there, founded El Ayudante (“the helper”), in the United States.

In 2004, Mel and a board of directors focused their efforts in the Comayagua valley, in hopes of starting a medical clinic that would serve the mountain communities of Comayagua. They found land in Lo De Reina that they bought simply by paying landowners’ back taxes.  When Mel and his team got there, the landowners asked, “where have you been all this time?”

A representative from the twelve local families witnessed the signing of the deed under a tree  just outside of what is now the back porch of the mission house. And, Saul Martinez (the community elected ‘mayor’ of this area) placed a slab of concrete rock there as a testimony for future ministries of El Ayudante. That concrete slab is said to represent a story like that of Joshua crossing the Jordan river and having the twelve tribes of Israel build an altar of rocks as a covenant (Joshua Chapters 3-4).

Throughout the following 11 years many dedicated people have helped with El Ayudante ‘s mission. With the help of Mark Harwell, the foundation was laid for the mission house. Mark Renfroe and the first mission team helped construct many of the first buildings within the campus. Louis Carrion and John Mattica were very instrumental in the beginning years as well. First United Methodist Church of Vero Beach Florida took the clinic plans and ran with them. Tristan and Beth Mohagen caught the vision in 2008; and in 2013, Chesapeake Church in Huntingtown, MD, sent Mark and Tracy Howard to Honduras with their three young sons as Chesapeake’s on site Ministry Pastor and Ministry Leader at El Ayudante.The Howard Family Serving in Honduras

Continuing our Journey to El Ayudante 

Miami to San Pedro Sula

Onboard Plane 3D Map

We arrived at Reagan about 5:30 a.m. and departed on time for Miami, FL–the second leg of our trip.  Following a 1-½ hour layover in Miami, we next departed aboard a Boeing 319 plane that would take us into San Pedro Sula Airport in Central America. Probably only a few of us knew that according to the Violence Observatory at the National Autonomous University of Honduras (NAUH), the City of San Pedro Sula has a murder rate of 173 per 100,000 residents, reportedly the highest in the world outside any war zone–this is also the city that produces New Balance T-shirts and Fruit of the Loom boxer shorts for markets abroad. Just for comparison sake, last year Honduras (primarily due to homocides in San Pedro Sula), had a murder rate of 85.5 per 100,000 residents, compared with 56 in Venezuela, 4.78 in the US and 1.2 in the UK.  But we knew we were on a mission from God!

After a lengthy time clearing immigration and customs,we loaded 29 bags of luggage atop a bus filled with 23 passengers, one driver, and Tristen Mohagen, the director of El Ayudante.  This final leg of our trip would prove to be 4 hours long and quite an adventure. We felt as though we were part of an Amazing Race TV episode.  Honduran drivers are crazy, the numbers and kinds of vehicles jockeying for position among the very narrow lanes and steep and curvy hills within the mountains was like one long game of chicken. There were buses, 18-wheelers with bald tires, barely driveable hoopties, tuk taxis (the 3-wheeled mini cars), motor scooters, bicycles, and motorcycles with multiple people and packages aboard.hondurasroad

Throughout the day in and out of airports we had 2 cups of coffee and one-half of an Ice Box Brand ham and cheese sandwich–the wheat bread was dry and the sandwich meats and cheeses bland–all for the price of $25!  We made a couple of pit stops during our 4-hour bus ride to El Ayudante.  Bailey Krick and Nolan Dennes

View From a Mountain Road

Window view of landscape below the mountainside road.

We stopped at a local fruit stand and sampled fresh coconuts, pineapples, guavas and bananas–tropical fruit is the one thing in abundance in Honduras.  These snacks barely held us over until we arrived just before 7 p.m. at the El Ayudante Campus that is nestled in a valley below the mountains that surrounded it.

In all, our transportation activities took about 17 hours from start to finish.Mission House-El Ayudante

Bob and Jonathan GameAfter a quick dinner of tacos, refried beans, pico de gallo and more fresh fruit and watermelon juice, it was time for an ice breaker game hosted by our translator and El Ayudante leader, Jonathan Carlos Zelaya–a thirty-something lively and fun-loving young man.  The Honduran Family Team was divided into two for the purposes of the Honduran Trivia game.  Jonathan asked us questions about Honduras and we raced the front of the room to answer the question–the fastest person from among the two teams would don a very colorful and tall crêpe papered hat.  Then they would dance a few steps before being allowed to answer.  The team with the most correct answers out of a possible 10 was declared the winning team and only one person from the team would be awarded a coveted candy bar.  My husband, Bob, was on the winning team, but the score keeping was debatable as was the winner within the winning team (between Bob and another father named, David Thomas–the two quickly became fast friends).  David told us yesterday (July 4th) that he never got his candy bar!

Before retiring to our bunk beds in separate male and female dorms, we needed to collect our linens and make up our beds.  Although we had electricity, the mission house was not air-conditioned, and we used a few small standing fans to move around the hot and humid air.  While we were fortunate to have indoor plumbing and water (unlike the locals), there were some house rules on uses of water, showers, toilets, and washing of dishes–all intended to protect our health and conserve the limited water supplies of Honduras and the El Ayudante campus.

Of note, too, Honduras time is two hours earlier than in the states, so our day ended with bed at 10:30 U.S. daylight savings time–to make day one a very long 20 hours!

Understanding Luxury


Joanne Dickinson:

We all could use more than a few moments to occasionally ponder what luxury is and is not in our lives and how we can help others in need… The Howard Family (Mark and Tracy and their three young children, Kai, Riley and Jordan), are beautiful examples of people living their lives to help glofiy God through their intentional relationships and services to the poverty-stricken people who live in Comayagua, Honduras. Mark and Tracy, while working with the El Ayudante Missions are Chesapeake Church’s staffing extension there. Regularly throughout the year, Chesapeake Church members visit the Howard Family and support El Ayudante’s efforts. This year, it’s our turn, and I am so looking forward to my eminent few moments to lend a hand painting, digging latrines, setting up water filters, providing vacation bible school for the children, attending their local church services, and most of all sharing loving experiences in a culture who’s luxury is so very different from ours. Thank you, El Ayudante, The Howards, Chesapeake Church, and the people of Comayagua, Honduras.

Originally posted on howardsinhonduras:

I am doing research for a class the doctor at Clinica El Ayudante is doing for parents of malnourished kids in our area.  I am sitting here reading about what it is like to try and eat healthy when you don’t have many resources.  I pause, and realize I am hungry.  I had a good workout with a friend this morning, and apparently I didn’t eat enough breakfast.  Something to do with three little guys wanting to play soccer, and trying to take a shower within the small window where they are happily playing together.  I go to my kitchen and open the cupboard, which is full of healthy and yummy choices.  Maybe I’m not hungry, I’m thirsty. So I go to my water cooler and fill my clean bottle with crystal clear, filtered, cold water.  All this time, my mind is processing what I have been reading.

I have…

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