Our Mission Statement

Saturday, June 28

potatoes, cabbage, and carrots oh my!

Today was an awesoome day here in Honduras. I am pretty sure I said "Welcome to Honduras" at least 68 times. In case you were wondering, that was not the awesome part of today. What we did today was.....

At 4:30 this morning the group from Memphis arrived at the Mission House. After a long bus ride they crashed and slept in to shake off the travel legs. Except for the long drive the trip went smoothly. Breakfast was from 7:00 till 8:00. Refried beans, scrambled eggs, fresh pineapple and toast. Tyler Gist, from SC, spoke at our morning devotional, held at the overlook. After devo our team laoded up and drove down into town to our warehouse. At the warehouse we had a huge load of food waiting for us to repack into family portions. 50 pound bags of beans, rice, flour, corn meal, along with spaghetti noodles, tomato sauce, and other goods were sorted and packed into family sized bags to await a food distribution next week.

While the team was packing food a few of our group traveled into town to the open air market. Their objective was to purchase fresh fruit and produce for today's food distribution. Fresh cabbage, carrots, onions, cucumbers, potatoes, oranges, mangos, and other food was bought for an unbelievable $500. We were able to make 150 bags of food, all fresh, to give away. We had a lot of fun shopping in the crowded market, trying to get the best prices from the vendors.

After the food was sorted and packed, we took the fresh food bags and went to the Valley of Angels for distribution. We turned off the beaten pass before we reached the city, and drove to the back of beyond, turned left, went 10 more miles and we were there. We parked our bus on the soccer field (you cannot build a village unless there is a place for a soccer field) and used pick ups to drive the bags of food down the dirt roads that lead from the soccer field. Team members followed the trucks and delievered house to house. We were able to give every house on this mountain top food. It was BEAUTIFUL up on top of the mountain looking out over the mountain ranges on either side. We played some soccer on the field and visited with many of the people who lived there.

Travelers arrived this evening from Memphis (Harding Academy) and Yale just in time for dinner. We are waiting to see if our late night travelers from Sarasota and Clarksville, TN, arrive. So far it has been like playing the Honduras lottery as to whether a flight will arrive on time, be late, cancelled, re-routed, or if we have our people on the flights. It has been pretty much crazy and Mark Connell has basically lived at the airport today.

I hope that everyone will check the blog tomorrow (Sunday), I will be posting a website you might be interested in. Starting Monday you will be able to log onto the site and watch and listen to a live broadcast of our evening devotionals. You will be able to make comments to us while the devo is going on as well. I hope you will take advantage of this awesome technology and will enjoy "being here" with us!

Tyler Steffy spoke tonight during our evening devo. Even though everyone is tired we had a good night of singing and praise. After a few minutes of visiting and meeting each other (we currently have people here from Tennessee, Alabama, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Conneticut, and Virginia) most everyone headed off to their rooms.

Sunday we plan on going to Los Pinos for worship. We helped assist in the start of this congregation about 7 years ago. After church services we will be going to the mall to eat at the food court and then will head over to Hospital Esquela to visit the patients and pass out toys and stuffed animals. At 4:00 we are taking the Sunday school class from Mololoa (about 70) to KFC for chicken and a chance to play on the GIANT playground. Most, if not all of these kids, have never been more than a mile from the home since they have been born. This will be a wonderful treat for them

Its 11:00 at night, the dogs are barking and the roosters are crowing..... its going to be a good night. Good night from Torch central. Keep us in your prayers!


Friday, June 27

Its only just begun......

The advance team has hit the ground running here in the beautiful, lush country of Honduras. 9 of us are in the country and are safe and sound in Tegucigalpa. The flight into San Pedro Sula was delayed out of Miami due to weather so we didn't have very much down time before connecting on the ever popular, E-ticket wonder ride known as the Atlantic Airlines 19 passenger prop plane. Having flown on this type of plane before I was pumped to know we were about to have a wild ride. You sort of have to look at it as a theme park roller coaster to enjoy the flight. If you don't, it will scare you to death.

Which leads me to Lester and Alex. 1st timers on the puddle jumper, I made sure I was sitting near them to watch and see the show. And I was not let down. After we climbed aboard the plane, we ducked down and walked sideways to get to our seats. We held our carry ons in our laps (sort of like a built in already inflated air bag)and buckled ourselves in. Then they loaded the massive amount of luggage in the back of the plane and just stacked it up into a pile. At this point the back of the plane weighed a lot more than the front. The pilot and co pilot (which I am pretty sure was the guy who issued our tickets at the counter)entered, walked through the center isle and climed into their seats. Which we could see, by the way, since it was only partly covered by a partician screen.

They started the engine on the right wing, which sputtered liquid (I say water, Tyler Steffy says fuel.... does it really matter at this point?)and noisely warmed up. The left engine just sat there minding its own business. We figured we were just going to fly around in a circle or something.... The pilot waved goodbye and rolled up the window (no, really he did)Finally the second engine was started and it sounded like we were inside a bee hive. We took off, rather slowly, gaining enough speed to make make the leap into the wild blue yonder. Well, not blue, more of a sinister gray / black. We were heading right into a storm. Oh yeah, this was going to be good.

We were about 500 feet off of the ground when we started hitting turbulance. Not bad, but enough to make you want to put your arms up into the air like you were riding The Great American Scream Machine in Atlanta. I remember Alex saying twice that we were going to die; Leslie looked like she did, and the dog (yes, the dog) in the back of the plane was not too happy. During one of the more impressive drops, the baby up front tossed her cookies. She followed that performance about 30 seconds later by dropping a load in her diaper. Where were the oxygen masks that are supposed to drop from the ceiling? Oh, that's right, there were not any...... bummer, we could have really used them. Just before passing out we landed. I think it was a really good landing but I don't know for sure because my eyes were closed from the burning sensation and I had my extra t-shirt from my carry on covering my mouth.

Mark and Lori, and Marc and Terri were there to welcome us. And so was Brett and Judy, our ever so lucky Canadians. They were at the airport looking to see if their luggage had come in from the TACA flight on Tueday. This was lucky number 9. Out of 14 trips. Judy should really not play the lottery..... And, of course, no luck. No luggage today either. But today is lucky Friday and they might just get their clothes today.

Dinner was at Camparos and then we arrived at the Mission House around 9:00. We got our luggage, felt sorry for Brett and Judy, and went to our rooms. Sleep didn't come fast enough and this will be the only night we will not have to worry about people staying up too late or making noise. It was nice and cool and we all got a badly needed night of sleep.

Today we were up and rolling at 6:30. Pancakes and watermelon for breakfast. We loaded up tools and went to the lumber yard to pick up wood for the new addition to the playground at Good Shepherd. A small group from San Diego, California, are here wrapping up their trip with Janet Hines and they tagged along to help (and to play with the kids..... I know their real motives). The group stopped in Zanmarano to eat lunch at the agricultural college. We dug 24 inch deep holes and placed the 18' tall 4x4 posts in place and mixed concrete (by hand of course) and anchored them in. We will return next week to build the platforms and put the finishing touches in place.

We have food being delivered tomorrow to pack and we are going to the open air market to shop for fresh fruits and vegetables for a food distribution. Taft's group arrives this evening and will travel by coach and should arrive sometime after midnight. Lots of fun here in Hondoland. Stay tuned for more, its only just begun (I heard that song playing at the gas station today..... inspiration comes in many different ways!)


Thursday, June 12

Welcome to Honduras... on steriods!

Whew, what a week. I guess God really does work in mysterious ways. He allowed me a couple of days to get the Brazil incident out of my system before putting me to task on the airport dilemma in Tegucigalpa. By now I am sure most everyone knows that the airport in Tegucigalpa is closed due to the TACA accident that took place several days ago. All large commercial planes are not allowed to land in the capital until a complete investigation and report is done.

Teams, such as Mark Connell and Gayle Davidson, have had to scramble to make changes and juggle flights into San Salvador and San Pedro Sula to get their teams into Honduras. It was a nightmare for them since their trips were upon them with little to no time to be flexible with the changing of plans. I have been more fortunate. Since I came home early from Brazil I was able to talk to Gayle and Tim to get a head start on what I needed to do to get our travel plans changed to adapt to the crisis in Honduras.

So, 4 days later and countless number of hours on the phone and on the Internet, it looks like we are well on our way to having all of our transportation arrangements made to accommodate our team. Many, many thanks to all of the team leaders that took the information sent to them and getting in touch with all of their people to get flights changed and re-ticketed so that we can arrive pretty much on schedule. Amazingly, all 103 team members have successfully changed over to the new flights. God is amazing, can I get an Amen on that!?

So, if you are flying TACA, your new schedule should take you directly into Tegucigalpa. If you have not sent me your updated flight information, please do so as quickly as you can. If you are flying American Airlines or Continental, welcome to Honduras. We have successfully changed our flights to San Pedro Sula, but that is as far as our friendly skies people will get us. We are on our own from here. So close, but yet so far…

So, our plan is simple. Tim Hines, who is in Tegucigalpa right now, is going to help us secure commuter flights on local airlines that have small planes to get us into Tegucigalpa. The plan is simple; getting it done might be difficult. This is going to require making reservations for all of the AA and Continental people. This 1 way ticket is probably going to cost $75 +/- per person. So, please make plans accordingly. Make sure to bring enough money with you to pay for this added expense. I will let you know how this will all work once I have talked to Tim.

Outside of this adjustment, I believe everything else is on track and ready to roll. Final payments are rolling in (thank you all very much) and I am getting word from the different groups about the amount of money they are bringing down for the work fund. I am sending off our final payments to IRC for insurance and administration fees, and hopefully I will have our bus reservations for our retreat done this week. I am mailing out t-shirts, journals, and hats this week.

Again, thank you all for being flexible, understanding, and faithful that God is going to take care of us. If He can do all of this to help us get to Honduras, imagine what He has in store for us once we get there! Wow, you know it is going to be something! Stay tuned, as last minute information will be sent out. I will also try to send out a report on the Brazil trip too before we leave. God is good all of the time.


Wednesday, June 4

the fugitive reports in

Welcome to my world. Sometimes I think about the stories I tell and think to myself, “Nobody is going to believe this.” It has happened to me so many times that one of my best friends, Lowell Haworth, one of my roommates from my Freed-Hardeman days, has told me on multiple occasions that I should write a book. Well, I haven’t written a book yet, but I am writing blogs. And this is just another day in my world.

I have been looking forward to this summer for weeks. As busy as it is going to be, I have been looking forward to the last day of school so I could launch off on my trips. First up was the trip to Recife, Brazil, to work with Danny Bratcher and Randy Short. I went there last year and loved it and have been counting down the days to go back. Unlike all of the rookies going this year for the first time, I had already purchased my visa last summer. According to the Brazilian consulate’s website, the visa was good for 5 years. So, I didn’t give my visa a second thought.

Sunday we arrived at the Miami airport around 6:00 am for check-in. Bags were checked in, 2 different COPA Airlines employees at the check-in stations saw my visa, passed though security where another 2 professionals looked at my passport and visa, and boarded our plane for Brazil. We had a connection in Panama City, Panama, where another COPA employee looked at my passport and visa, before letting me back on the plane. 6 ½ hours later we landed in Sao Paulo, Brazil. We zipped through the customs line where I encountered the shock of my life.

The Brazilian customs agent informed me that my visa was not valid. The stamps in my passport were expired and I could not enter the country. In my wildest dreams I never experienced anything like this. How could a visa, good for 5 years according to the Brazilian consulate’s website, be expired in less than 1 year? I met with not 1, nor, 2, but nearly half dozen customs agents to discuss the problem. Every one of them admitted that they understood the problem, sympathized with me, but told me that they had strict policies put in place by the government that could not be altered. As my traveling buddies went through the door to get their luggage I was taken to a holding room on the third floor of the airport to await the first plane to take me back to America.
I was being deported.

Now, this is a humbling experience. To be in a situation where you literally have no control over what is going on. I was mad, upset, puzzled, and scared. When you are the team leader of a mission trip and you are being sent home, all kinds of things go though your mind. But I did get to talk to Danny and Randy on the phone and Randy offered me some information that really put things in perspective. He had called a friend who worked in the police force of Brazil to see if there were any strings that could be pulled. He told me he had both bad news and good news.
The bad news was that nothing could be done to keep me in the country; the good news was that God was in control.

So, at 3:00 in the morning, after 6 hours of sitting in a holding room (Sao Paulo is in southern Brazil. It is winter down there and it was actually very cold. Not a good thing for a guy dressed in a t-shirt and shorts) I was taken to the plane by security and placed in my seat. After a LONG 12 hour flight to Brazil I was about to repeat the flight back to the states. In the course of 32 hours I flew 24 hours in a plane. Jet lag has a brand new meaning to me now.

I have to admit that the people escorting me from gate to plane at all of the stops were quite friendly. They all new my story and in their own ways told me that they were sorry. I got great seats on the plane too. Even though the planes were completely full, they were able to give me window seats right up front. I can’t do that when I book tickets! I even had the exact same meals going back too.

Upon arrival in the US, a customs agent met me at the airplane door. He addressed me by name as if we were close friends. He informed me that I was now back in the United States and that all was well. I asked him if he knew what happened and he informed me that he did. I asked him if he knew why this all happened and he simply said, “You are a victim of politics.”

It seems that the president of Brazil has a beef with America over our visa policies with foreigners coming into our country. We charge a costly price for a visa, limit the number of days a foreigner can stay, and deport those who do not have proper paperwork. So, the Brazilian president has decided to repay the favors. He has implemented rules that state Brazil will charge Americans the same amount to enter Brazil that America charges Brazilians to enter the US. If anything is out of order with paperwork, they are sent back just like the US would do. Of course, my thoughts are obvious: unless Brazil is trying to keep people from coming into their country to blow up buildings and kill innocent civilians or to vanish into the country and violate their travel visa to remain in the country to work illegally, he needs to take a chill pill.

The only thing he accomplished with me is the fact that he kept a Christian from entering his country with the purpose to help those in need. His political agenda will go unnoticed in his circle of influence since I am just an ordinary American who was sent back to the states to prove his point. But his actions will be seen and heard by many in the Christian community. President Luiz da Silva, you made your point. Hopefully others will learn from my mistake. Make sure you check your visa (and know what to check for!); don’t assume that the information on the Brazilian consulate’s website is accurate (don’t assume that your visa is good for 5 years); and don’t trust that numerous COPA Airline employees know what they are doing when they check your passport. You might end up in Brazil with a 1-way ticket waiting for you when you get there.

Good luck to the Recife team that is working there now. I wish I could be there with you to help build that playground for the children’s home. I wish I could be there for the VBS and the hospital visitations. But God is in control and I have a feeling that everything will turn out just fine. After all, God has been doing this kind of stuff for a long time. My prayers are with you!

So, there it is. The record set straight. When you hear about me being kicked out of Brazil, at least now you will know the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey would put it. I guess I will just put this on my long list of “accomplishments.” Graduated from high school; Graduated from college; Outstanding Young Men of America; Who’s Who of America’s High School Teachers; TSSAA District 8 Soccer Coach of the Year; Kicked out of Brazil… yeah, fits right in… welcome to my world.

Your humbled servant,