Sunday, January 23, 2011

Increasing your odds of further success by 4600%!

One of the most staggering things we learned while in Honduras is the typical % of those finishing high school that go on to further their education at any additional level. The national average is in the 1% range, that's right, only about 1 out of every 100 students finishing high school in Honduras goes onto another level of schooling. Contrast that with the students that finish school at Plan Escalon who go onto further their education at a rate of approximately 47%, that's a 4600% increase in odds! It's no wonder the young teenagers we were fortunate to interact with stated they are privileged to be at the ministry and view it as their only opportunity to break their life cycle of doom and despair. It should also be noted these aren't students "choosing" so much to come to this ministry because they are good students looking to get a further leg up like we might expect here in the US at a private school. These are orphaned, abandoned, 1 of 13 sleeping on a dirt floor, kind of kids and they are far surpassing their counterparts across the country. Truly amazing what a loving, Christ centered, environment does for these desperate souls.

We had the opportunity to travel into the mountains with several of the students to do a ministry outreach to one of the 47 community churches Plan Escalon has planted in the past 15 years around the scattered hills and mountainside of this part of Honduras. After putting our trucks in 4 wheel drive and crawling up the mountain at about 10 mph due to the terrain (i was exhausted just riding along after all of the bumping around), we finally reached a village of about 50 people or so. Why in the world there was a village of people up there working the land and living in such isolation, I have no idea. They were mainly living off the land, only had a few horses for transportation, and lived in conditions that are nearly unfathomable. Despite these apparent obstacles, the children and adults alike were happy to see us and we had a wonderful time doing outreach with them, praying with them, and distributing clothes and supplies. Their faith was/is strong due to Plan Escalon's persistent work with their village "leader" and pastor over time.

If all goes as planned I will be blessed with the opportunity to return in March to work with their faculty on implementing sound technology strategies into their curriculum. It's hard to imagine improving their educational success more than what has been done already, but they are just scratching the surface on using technology to remediate and provide individualized instruction to their student population of 550'sh students. I love it when my work passions and knowledge intersect directly with God and His workings amongst his children. Needless to say I am extremely excited about the possibilities!

Below is a slideshow of the day spent distributing wheel chairs to many in need and spending time at this remote mountain village. Enjoy!

Monday, January 17, 2011

How many gringos does it take to repair a drive shaft?

I don't know exactly how many, but it would have for sure taken at least 1 more than we had today! It wouldn't be a trip to Honduras if you couldn't tell at least one broken down bus on the side of the road, talk to the cows and cow farmer, and get honked at by every passing car, truck, and bicycle story now would it?

I landed in San Pedro Sula this morning to hook up with a team of folks coming in from various locations to visit Lifesong for Orphan's Honduras mission located in La Entrada. We left the airport in what by all accounts is a pretty new school bus. There are technically no "real" school buses here, only public and private transportation buses, that just so happen to be yellow school buses brought in. About 2 1/2 hours into our adventure, there is a large clunk and the shrieks of metal gouging into the asphalt and the bus lurching as we swerve around a two lane road through the Copán hill side. A quick peak under the bus reveals everyone's fear, drive shaft hanging onto the road. So... while our much more industrious Honduran hosts attempt to repair said shaft, we begin making conversation with the cows and farmer who pulled up in his field to do "something" with a few of his livestock, but more likely coming to check out the gringos wandering around both sides of the road looking conspicuous. Our friends from the mission were able to call ahead and send back the "old" but reliable bus to pick us up. Old steady had holes in the floor, missing windows, and ripped seats (isn't this what we really expected to be careening around the hillsides of Honduras in?), but she got us to the compound, or Escalon as they call it. Upon arrival we were greeted by a few hundred smiling faces, making the long drive worth it.
Due to the delays in getting to the Escalon campus this evening we didn't get a tour around tonight. Instead just before dinner we were privileged to hear the stories of 4 of the newest enrollees at Escalon. I couldn't help but think of my daughter C having to stand up in front of about 10 gringos as one of these 12 year old girls did and describe how her father left after she was born and how her mother abandoned her when she was but 1 and how privileged she was to have the opportunity to come to Escalon, get a good education, a safe place to live, and Christian training. A young 15 year old boy described, to the date, how his father was murdered for not wanting to sell a piece of land and how his mother and other brothers moved to another part of the country afterward. He chose to stay behind he says because he knows Escalon is his only hope of changing his life's story. The other two children's stories were similar and just as heart breaking. What was evident though was their joy of having such a place to call "home" and a love that surrounds them in a way that is palpable as you watch the children interact, play, and talk with you.

More to come as tomorrow we head into the mountains and a village or two...

Some of the surrounding beauty of the countryside in Honduras today.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Difference between Guatemala and Inner Mongolia China

So here is E after about 30 minutes or so of playing outside in cold and "sledding" on the ice:

And here is F after nearly 2 hours I think with no intentions of going anywhere near the inside of a house:

These images contrast pretty nicely the variation in our 2 youngest. E turns 6 next month and F turned 4 on Saturday but both weigh nearly the same. Needless to say E is built like a popsicle stick and gets cold when he feels the movement of air from a ceiling fan, just like his mother, uggh!

It's been a fun day with basically everything closed in Birmingham but ok enough for us to get out and enjoy the snow/ice with some of the neighborhood kids and parents. Melissa said it felt like a holiday without all of the obligations and to do's on a holiday!

And no, Melissa is not in any of these pics as she was with everyone in spirit by the indoor fire. Truth be told, I believe some of these are single moms with big hearts making great memories for their kids.

They were all enamored with F and helped him roast who knows how many marsh mellows, no wonder he kept saying he didn't want to go in for lunch!

Redneck sledding!
Future Olympic luger?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

It's Fisher and Elvis' Birthday!

Today is the day Fisher's legal documents show as his birthday, although it's not at all exactly clear as to the exact day because he was left on a train in Inner Mongolia shortly after birth. The number 8 is considered a lucky number in Chinese culture so it's our understanding this birthday is given to many orphaned new born found shortly after the new year. The word for eight (八 Pinyin: bā) sounds similar to the word which means prosper or wealth. So it's a bit ironic and I suppose hopeful thinking for these children considered unlucky or cursed due to imperfections to be given birth dates associated with better fortunes in attempts to improve their chances of success in life.

I don't know about all that but I do know that our life and our family is more blessed with F in the mix. Ever since he began understanding birthday and going to other people's birthday parties he has been enamored with the thought of when his birthday is and when is HIS day. Well today was it buddy and he has been about to burst all week! Below are some images from F's first birthday as a Freeman and it's been a great one.
Looking cautiously excited about a really big box
Great to have brother to get into trouble with!
Mom putting on the finishes touches, i.e. stickers
Big brother Dutch
Fisher (eating icing off of toy from cake), Eli, and Hamilton (who is from same orphanage in China and lives a few blocks away, how cool is that?!)
Oh yeah, and it's Elvis' birthday today. This is sort of a running joke because sometime after we returned from China, upon learning F's birthday was January 8th, D nonchalantly said, hey that's cool, it's Elvis' birthday that day too. How a 9 year old even new that when we never have discussed Elvis is beyond us!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

I hate making disciples

As I reflect on this past year and look forward into a new one, I have to admit I am really challenged by other people at times. My natural tendency is to pretty much be off the grid so to speak. I could just about disappear into solitude if given the chance and be perfectly content. I'm just wired that way I guess, but it certainly doesn't coincide with the great commission and the notion of making disciples, because after all, making disciples requires interacting with other people, warts and all.

Years ago Melissa and I lived in Vail (I'm probably the only person you'll ever know that moved away from Vail to a place like Oklahoma twice. The strings attached to a wedding ring are pretty strong if you're serious about the whole vows and commitment thing). Just a few miles west of us down HY6 there were some narrow roads headed into the mountains with residential homes peppered across the landscape going into the wilderness. The paved road eventually transitioned into a hard packed gravel and dirt forest service road. Many miles into the great Rocky Mountains this forest service road hair-pinned and meandered into some of the most amazing scenery you can imagine. Remarkably there were a handful of homes way out there in the middle of nowhere! When I say homes I don't mean mountain cabins, I mean real homes, huge, beautiful, amazing, tongue wagging homes nestled into the landscape as if they had sprouted out of the ground in perfect harmony with the surroundings. Some of these folks appeared to live there year round even, which for about 8 months of the year isn't a big deal, but the other 4 months... well lets just say you'd have to REALLY want to live there. The county keeps the main residential road passable but of course stopped at the end of the pavement. If you went up to the end of the road during the dead of winter you'd see a smattering of cars and snowmobiles parked in alignment. These hearty souls would ride their snowmobiles from their picturesque homes through feet of snow down to the paved road, park, get their car and go into town.

I describe this scene as one that depicts how I would prefer to be living my life; in isolation, surrounded by God's abundant natural beauty, with a bit of adventure tossed in. Those of you that know my wife know this would be laughable in her view of how things should be and makes our partnership all the more perplexing at times. The fact that I am married to someone who would prefer to live in Manhattan, have 5 children, and have nearly 300 employees I'm responsible for, is nothing short of a miracle in an of itself. Needless to say, the Great Commission is a real struggle for me, not because it may mean following God to the ends of the earth, (that part actually appeals to me) but because it means I am supposed to be building relationships with people, to which I mostly grit my teeth, shake my head, psyche myself up, and wade into the task.

While I typically don't do new year's resolutions, after reflecting on this past year, recent events, and looking forward, I do know I need to commit to more intentional relational interactions this year. You see, I spend the majority of my day in a virtual world. As a leader of an online college most of my interactions are virtual, email, web based course delivery, and sometimes phone conversations. This habit of doing everything "behind the screen" has a tendency to spill over to my leadership of employees, my wife, and even my children at times. While it's so much easier for me to communicate and work digitally, (and a ton of my day demands it) I am recognizing this as an inhibitor to actually making disciples, which I am supposed to be doing, if I'm serious about my faith. So while I would much rather tick off email after email, twitter posts, and web based delivery of content to lead and communicate, I recognize I must get out from behind the screen more and be more intentional with my relationships, in person, as much as possible in order to truly make disciples (note I'm not referring to necessarily leading bible studies or mentoring others, but merely leading by example and through personal relationships). This especially includes my own children and I have 5 of them. This means I really need to be intentional with my time once I'm at home and not so easily drawn back into my digital comfort zone when they demand and deserve my time.

As a starting point, it's taken me nearly all day to write this as I've attempted to be in tune with each of their needs today for time in various forms. Making disciples of all nations, for me, quite often means my family and those I encounter on a daily basis and not necessarily those in far away lands, which in some ways I find more appealing to ponder at times. So while I loathe the responsibility of making disciples, I know it is these personal and relational interactions that lead to the making of disciples, and I need to work on this throughout this year. I sense some amazing things on the horizon but I don't believe they will come to fruition without me getting out of my comfort zone and actually dealing with people.

So what are your houses in the woods obstacles to making disciples in 2011?
Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.5