Tuesday, June 19, 2018

I am a terrible blogger.

I am a terrible blogger.  That is all.  En serio, this is my message in its entirety today.  I'm working on an update, though.  Hopefully it won't take me 6 more months to post it.  



Saturday, December 2, 2017

Risk and the Robinsons

Some stuff happened this week that prompted a few – or 40 - people who love us to ask us some very good questions about our lives in Honduras. We don’t always have the answers folks are looking for, but we love questions, and we love people who love us enough to ask the questions.  We ask ourselves questions all the time, and we hope you’ll keep asking us questions, too. 

This week has been hard.  Life in general can be hard here, but the dynamics of this week have added to that.  Here’s the skinny on the situation. There was an election last Sunday.  It’s Saturday.  The results of the election have still not been released.  There are two presidential candidates who are both proclaiming victory.  There was tension before the election, and after six days of waiting for election results that tension has escalated to crisis.

Last Sunday, Election Day, was calm, and we were thankful.  Monday was calm, too - so calm that we made the decision to continue with plans to travel to Catacamas for a training that had been on the calendar for months.  A few folks weighed in on the decision, and we talked with our people in the know about the risk involved.  We sought the face of the Father, and in the end we made the trip. In the hours leading up to our leaving, we were confident in our decision, and despite all that happened, we are still confident we made the right decision when we stepped out in faith.

About 6 hours into our trip, we made a stop in Tegucigalpa at our friend Christy’s house to drop off Olivia and Wyatt for a couple of days, planning to pick them up on Wednesday on our way back through the city.  Everything in Tegucigalpa was status quo as we made our way out of town and headed east toward Catacamas.  The highway between Tegucigalpa and Catacamas is one of the better roads in Honduras, which makes for a nice road trip.  When Dean and I are alone in the car, we can actually have a conversation without a million interruptions.  So, I ask him if he thinks we made the right decision.  “Yes,” he says. He’s steady and sure.  He doesn’t second-guess. He sees beyond the risk to the opportunity to be light and salt and to be about God’s business.  His steadfastness encourages me and points me back to Christ when I get to second-guessing.

Our dear friends and hosts welcomed us in around 9, and their embrace and the opportunity to minister to one another was a gift from God.  The training scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday went well, and Dean and I were able to enjoy the tranquility of the retreat center, a rustic lodge with cabins in the woods.  It was the perfect place to share about trauma competent care and soak up a little self-care. We know this beautiful group of caregivers well and thank God for the way they give of themselves to love and care for children who otherwise would not have families. I am grateful for the opportunity to share the training with them and the risk was definitely worth it to encourage them and equip them to do the hard work they are doing, work that isn’t going to go away because of this crisis. 

We woke up early on Wednesday morning and went out in search of internet to check on the children at home and try to resolve an issue with my computer holding hostage its documents.  It’s about 25 minutes from the retreat center back into Catacamas. When we arrived all was peaceful and calm, business as usual.  We did what needed to be done and turned around to head back to the peace and quiet of pine trees, cabins, and hammocks.  I was a little unnerved by the large group of military special forces being briefed in front of the police station, but Dean doesn’t worry and wouldn’t let me suck him into a worry-filled conversation about all that military special forces implies. 

Rallies, marches, and demonstrations concern me.  Military and police officers in riot gear and special forces units stationed around town concern me.  These sights paired up with the stories I've heard about what happened here in 2009, and a little part of me wanted to be afraid.  At the first feeling of it, the Holy Spirit pressed me to do something, so I opened my bible.  The little blue slip marked “fear” took me to the place where help comes from.

I life up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. - Psalm 121:1

It’s true.  There has never been a time that help didn’t come. Another blue slip…

The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread? - Psalm 27:1-3

We missed the mark on predicting exactly when the tension would escalate to crisis. There and back was the plan.  We’d be home before things got rowdy.  Things didn’t go as planned, though. The rowdy arrived earlier than expected.  As we arrived in Tegucigalpa we drove past parades forming and protestors gathering.  By the time we pulled in the drive at Christy’s house to pick up Olivia and Wyatt, I was preoccupied with worry about the kids at home without us.  Christy is a heart friend, and a heart friend does what heart friends do. She found me out back searching for peace on the internet.  That’s not where peace comes from, by the way.  God gave us the body of Christ to edify, encourage, and point us back to Him, and edify, encourage, and point is what Christy does well.

The decision to not continue on home was made within minutes as news stories and photos poured in about burning barricades of tires and barrels that cut off access to the highway just blocks from Christy’s house.  We checked in with Ellie and the children at home, and despite our concerns felt at peace about our situation.  This is not a peace that we can rationally muster. It is Holy Spirit, and he dwells in us.  We were safe and unafraid. Our children at home were safe and unafraid.

Can I just take a moment and talk about Ellie for a second?  This is someone who doesn’t bat an eye at the thought of staying with a gaggle of little people and keeping a handful of teens and young adults in line, sometimes for several days.   We are so thankful for our Ellie, who holds down the fort and keeps everything running smoothly when Dean and I have to travel, who runs toward Jesus even when it means unplanned adventures and even when she knows I’m driving.  We are also thankful for Ellie’s parents who did their best to raise children who are wise, knowing that being wise doesn’t always mean their children end up in the safest places.  Because Ellie said “yes” when Jesus said “go”, our children are ministered to and safe when we are not able to be with them.

Dinner time rolled around at Christy’s house, and she asked what kind of pizza we liked. The pizza man made it to the house with the supreme and the pepperoni, and we watched Wyatt and Christy play Connect Four and waited.  Even before our current situation, Christy has helped us tremendously as we’ve figured out life here.  She has visited us, prayed for us, helped us solve problems, advocated for us when we were in need, and listened to our hearts when they were hurting.  She has been a valuable source of wisdom for us as we continue to forge together our thoughts and make plans for Wyatt.  Wyatt is deaf, and Christy is the hearing expert on deafness in these here parts. So here we are, stuck in Tegucigalpa with riots all around us, sheltered safe and sound with Christy and her joyful daughter Lili, unsure about when we will be able to go home.  I’m not saying I took advantage of the situation, but I might’ve asked a question or two or twenty.  We ate pizza, laughed, talked, and waited for news of the election results.  The results didn’t come, and we went to bed with a backdrop of shouting, explosions, and a peace that passes understanding. Was it worth the risk?  Absolutely.  The opportunity to minister and be ministered to was a gift from the Lord in the midst of all that was going on.

Thursday brought no news of election results, and as the delay of news lingered, the situation continued to escalate. Dean and I were able to get out to the grocery store but the main roads were blocked, so we were not able leave Tegucigalpa. Christy is crafty, so she and Dean worked with wood while I cooked.  Ellie sent us texts of the kids making salt ornaments and Christmas cookies, and we had a peaceful day in spite of the growing political unrest.  Nighttime brought no news of election results, and the protests, both peaceful and violent, got a little closer.  We ran back to the grocery store to withdraw some cash and made it in just as they were closing early and locking the gates.  Being uncertain about what the coming days would bring, we decided that if it was calm in the morning and we could get through the barricades, we would try to make it home.

Around 4:30 am on Friday morning the explosions and shouting quieted, and the helicopter stopped making circles above us.  We got up, said our goodbyes, and got in the car.  We were safe and not afraid, and we made it out of the city. It was surreal to drive through quiet streets and see the damage from the night before. We drove by a young man dressed for work dragging rocks and debris from the street, and I was overcome with emotion.  The brokenness, trauma and pain are unimaginable to me.  I have never experienced anything like this in my life, and I have never had to grieve the kind of losses involved.

We made it to Siguatepeque without issue and stopped for groceries before turning west toward La Esperanza. We thought we might see some protests or come up on a barricade but we only saw the abandoned and smoking remains of the barricades from the night before as we made our way to Gracias.  We stopped on the side of the road and bought bananas and drove on wondering when the election news would be released.  We were home, hugged, and holding babies before noon and so thankful to be together under one roof again. Praise the Lord!

The situation here in Honduras is very serious. I know all of this might seem scary, but we are not scared. We feel sadness and concern but not fear. These are real people that we know and love that are walking through a nightmare in their country. Some were walking through nightmares even before the tension here turned to crisis. As several were asking us to get out and come home, at least one friend was searching for a plane ticket and a way in.  Turns out she was thinking about a future trip, but the very fact that Juli was even thinking about planning a trip during this crisis made my heart sing.  We are not going to try to get out. We are not haphazard.  We calculate risks. We pray for discernment. We strive to be wise. Sometimes wisdom means we have to find the safest way to do something that involves some risk. This is our home, and we are going to stay here as long as the Lord allows.

It’s almost midnight now.  The protests have quieted and the streets are quiet. There is a steady rain that just started falling that makes the most beautiful sound on the roof.  It is a gift from the Lord.  We are safe and unafraid.  We are going to bed tonight, in the words of my longtime friend and prayer warrior Laurel, “confident in God’s protection and provision.”

Behold what manner of love the Father has given to us,
that we should be called children of God. – I John 3: 1

Thank you for your prayers, encouragement, and support as we share the hope of Jesus with vulnerable children and families in Honduras.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Remember when, part 2

This is the second part to our post about our trip to Belize:  "Remember When."

Hey kids, remember when we spent three days at Camalote Camp?  Saturday morning dawned and some folks arrived from Georgia to prepare for an upcoming surgical brigade. We like it when we run into people from anywhere but for some reason we always get a little giddy when we see folks from our home state of Georgia here in Central America.   As we were introducing ourselves and talking about all God was doing, they asked about my husband.  I shared that Dean would be meeting us back in Honduras, but he was flying on a standby ticket and didn’t know exactly when he would get on the flight.  About an hour later, one of the gentlemen knocked on our door and said that he would like to use his air miles to buy Dean a ticket so that he could get back to us sooner.  I stood there in utter amazement at the unexpected blessing. We had been so focused for so long on praying and waiting on the Lord's provision, and then this gift was right there and so unexpected.  There were seriously no words I could utter other than “Gracias a Dios.” 

We took a little drive on Saturday afternoon, because 18 hours in the busito on Friday just wasn’t enough.  We were out hunting free fun and a National Park famous for its blue hole.  We found it on the Hummingbird Highway and spent a few hours exploring St. Herman’s Cave and swimming at the Blue Hole. Very cool.  Seriously, Belize is hot and swimming at the Blue Hole allowed us to cool down while having a great time. 

Our visit to St. Herman's Cave

Hey mom, remember when we went to Belize and sang that song every time we stopped?  We learned this song at the Spanish Institute and since then our family stops and sings it a lot.  If something good happens, we sing it.  If we’re arguing and we need it to stop, we sing it.  If we’re going through a scary time and need some encouragement, we sing it.  Before we eat our supper, we sing it. As we drove through Honduras, Guatemala, and Belize, we would sing it when we experienced a new milestone.  It was very cool to stand in St. Herman’s cave (where cool could not be used to describe the temperature) and hear our children singing this song. I wish I had recorded it there. That would've been awesome.  Thank you, Robinson Children, for participating in this reenactment today!

Our Visit to the Blue Hole

Later in the day, our older kids were invited to join a youth group activity on campus, and they rushed out the door and took off running.  While they were gone, a sweet new friend came by to say hello.  When I was a little girl and things happened that were obviously not a coincidence, we would always say in a weird voice, “Well, that’s a co-wink-e-dink.” A smile comes to mind even now as I’m writing this because those words in that weird voice are exactly what flowed through my mind when I met Alicia. Alicia and her family are working as in community development in the neighborhoods around Camalote Camp, and one of the areas they are helping to develop is foster and adoptive homes for children in Belize who need a safe and loving family. How good of God to give me a friend who shares His heart for the orphan to spend time with during a brief and unexpected trip to Belize! 

On Sunday we went to church and then found some things at the grocery store for lunch that we haven't seen here in Honduras.  We celebrated the Cheetos find and then Riley led the sweetest spontaneous prayer....for Cheetos.  It's the little things.  

Riley: Dear God. Thank you for our ham sandwiches and cheesy puffs that we can't get in Honduras
After lunch we loaded up the busito for another free adventure. This time we went looking for a watering hole at the river called Mennonite Beach.  Lots of other folks had the same plans for an afternoon reprieve from the heat.  Families had grills and picnic spots all set up, and mamas were cooling their feet off in the river while they lounged in lawn chairs on the riverbank.  A church sang songs, prayed, and baptized, and it was just about the most perfect Sunday afternoon in Belize ever.  

Afterwards, I went for a stroll around the neighborhood with another new friend named Alicia who works with Camalote Camp.  It wasn’t just a Sunday stroll, though.  We were actually headed to a house a few blocks away to purchase pupusas, one of our favorite foods here in Honduras.  She didn’t bat an eye when I said, “I would like 30 pupusas.  Pretty please.”  Team Robinson can down 30 pupusas in about 3 minutes, so we let the adults eat first.  By the time the kids finished eating, there wasn’t a morsel left.  I heard someone singing the song again as he climbed up in the bunk to go to bed.  “Oh, the Lord is good to me….”

Monday came early. Our driver Don Jorge told us that the Honduran Frontera closed at 6:00 pm, so we needed to hit the road early to make sure we could enter Honduras on Monday.  Leaving Belize was easier than entering.  They did charge me more than I thought they would.  We had to pay an exit fee for each person, and I thought they would only charge the adults.  I really didn't think we had enough cash, and I wasn't able to find a functioning ATM machine.  God had it covered, though.  We pooled our money and ended up with basically 50 cents left over after paying our fees.  Perfect provision!

We exited Belize and entered Guatemala in a quick minute, though I did make a fool of myself at the Guatemalan Frontera.  I didn’t have any Guatemalan currency, and I was certain the currency exchange hombre wasn’t being fair.  It was at this moment I decided to stand up for myself and not be taken for a ride.  It turns out I had my math wrong.  Social Worker.  Did you know that statistically social workers have the lowest GRE math scores?  No?  Now you do.  After satisfactorily embarrassing Ellie, Marta, Don Jorge, and all my children with my emotional diatribe, and giving the guards at the Guatemalan Frontera their Monday crazy-lady story, we were on our way again.  I apologized to the kind people at the Frontera and the inhabitants of our busito and then turned around to reflect quietly on what scriptures say about the tongue and being all emotional. 

The trip was hot, windy, and rainy, but we made good time as we moved through Guatemala.10 hours is a long time in a busito, but besides the occasional complaint about somebody breathing somebody else's air, peace reigned as we buzzed by the banana fields and sweet villages.

Everyone managed to sleep but me, and I got a little bored.  I was following our path on a popular navigation app and about an hour into Guatemala I noticed that I could “update” the app with important information.  Well now, there’s a pothole.  Update.  That up there looks hazardous.  Update.  Cattle.  Update.  Man on bike piled high with firewood.  Update. Pothole. Pothole.  Pothole. Pothole.  Update. Update. Update. Update.  Yeah, I got flagged.  I know the people over at that app must’ve thought I was spamming, but the hazards are real, y’all.  Potholes e’rywhere!

We arrived in Honduras before the Frontera closed and celebrated with photos and another round of our song.  

We celebrated with a quick stop at a restaurant on the bay for supper.  We all donned bathing suits and went for a quick swim while the restaurant cooked the food.  I was starting to get irritated with a few kids who were complaining about mosquito biting them, when I heard Lauren say, " You know what, Mom?  We were packed in a hot and crowded car all day long, but God gave us a beautiful sunset that we get to watch while we eat our supper." Swoon....for 5 seconds.  All of a sudden, we were under attack.  Hundreds of mosquitos biting like warriors.  There was blood, sweat, and tears, and we took off running for the car. Note for future travels:  insect repellent of the warrior kind needed for sunset on the bay suppers.  

We made it home safe and sound before midnight, thankful for safe travels, stamps in our passports, and amazing memories of God’s faithfulness that we can pull out the next time we remember when…. 

Thank you to our friends at A Better Belize and Camalote Camp, and for all of you who are reading along, praying for us and supporting us to be here in Honduras.  If you’ve thought about becoming a part of our support team, now is a great time to say "yes!" Please partner with us. We really need the help.  Your prayers and financial support will have an immediate impact on the lives of orphaned, abandoned, and vulnerable children in Honduras.  

Friday, June 30, 2017

Remember when?

At 5:00 am on the day we had to leave Honduras, the kids and I and two precious friends piled into a busito and headed north toward the coast.  As we whizzed by small towns, banana trees, and men on bicycles carrying truckloads of wood, someone kick-started our storytelling tradition with the words, “Remember when…” Long car rides are great for remembering when, even if you’re all smooshed into a busito carrying 15 people across Central America. I loved hearing from my people all about their memories of Silver Dollar City, the beach, what they loved about our house in Georgia, and the funny things they did that they never told me about. The heat, the road noise, the wind from the open windows, and the chitter chatter from the back all add character to a new story the Lord is weaving into the one’s he’s been writing with us, a new story that someone will kickstart one day with the words “remember when…”
Remember when we had to leave Honduras in a hurry and so we smooshed into a busito and drove to Belize? 
We arrived in Honduras on January 19th and entered the country on 90-day visitor’s visas, with the intension of applying for residency during our first 90 days. We weren’t able to file as planned, though.  We just didn’t have enough money. In the months before our move to Honduras, we had created a budget and raised funds, but it didn’t take us long to figure out that we were underfunded. It was a rookie mistake, a first time missionary miscalculation.  At times Dean and I lay next to each other late at night and wondered if our rookie mistake was really a misstep, but then something like this trip to Belize is woven into the storyline and we are certain we’re abiding in the shadow of the Almighty.   
Before we had to go to Belize, we were able to get a 30-day extension on our visas in April.  Dean and I made the trip to San Pedro Sula to make the application to immigration. We left before sunup, and I’m glad because it was a long day filled with copy-making, lines, and waiting. Praise God, we walked out of the immigration office that day with 30 more days to pray and ask for guidance about what to do next. 
When May 14th rolled around and we were still short on funds, we knew that plans had to be made for a trip out of the country.  I spent a quick minute teetering on the edge of panic, in part because we were so confident that this trip would be unnecessary that Dean was in the States attending to some business. I was certain I was going to end up carrying 11 children by myself across the ocean in a banana boat headed for Belize.  I had heard rumors that the boat is nicknamed the Vomit Rocket. Dread began to envelop me as the hours of that Sunday night ticked by. Here’s the thing, I really want to be that girl that was praying and telling the Lord, “I trust you, Lord, Your promises and Your plans, whatever they are,” but there was a moment in the night on May 14th when I was that girl praying, “Please, Lord, no.”  
I woke up on Monday praying.  I was done asking why and peace had replaced the dread from the night before.  That’s one good thing about being awakened by prayer.  When my eyes opened, my friend Lisa immediately came to mind. It was a little odd, actually, because we hadn’t chatted in long while.  There with my head still on my pillow and Lisa’s family floating around up there in my mind, I remembered that she was involved in some mission work in Belize, and since I was thinking about a little boat trip to Belize anyway, it made sense that we should connect.  I shot her a FaceBook message that went a little something like this: “I know this is going to sound like a strange request but I’m needing a little help in Belize.”

When I told Lisa what was going on, she put me in touch with some friends of hers who flung open their doors, set the dinner table, made up the spare beds, and said, “Come on over”, all for some strangers from Honduras. So we did. 

A well-timed, seriously divine, post on social media gave me the idea to try to rent a van instead of taking the boat.  Dean had rented a van before from a lady who lived right around the corner, so I gave her a ring.  I got to thinking about what it would be like to drive across Central America by myself with the kids, so I asked the owner of the van if she had a driver available, and she did!  All the details quickly fell into place, and soon the van and motorista Don Jorge were confirmed. The more the merrier is how we roll, so we asked our friends Ellie and Marta to come along with us, too.  They said, “yes”, of course, because going on an 18-hour car ride across Central America with 11 kids smooshed into a busito sounded like the most fun ever.  By the time we crossed the border and entered Belize, I was certain that God had something important for us there.  If we had been able to apply for our residency, we would’ve missed it since we wouldn’t have needed to go to Belize in the first place.

Have you ever been to Belize?  It’s cooler than a pack of peppermints. Your car will be freshly fumigated for diseases as you exit Guatemala and enter Belize, but don’t scratch your head too long about that strange happening or you’ll miss the tailgate, complete with pickup trucks, coolers, lawn chairs and cases of beer, all going on in the parking lot of Belize’s Border Control.  It was quite the sight, especially after spending all day long in the busito watching banana fields and sweet Guatemalan villages pass by. 

Heads up, it seems a tad unusual for a woman to travel with 11 children across Central America without her husband. God’s hand was upon us, and it all worked out for His glory, but we were detained at border control and customs for a minute or two or 120.  I don’t know what they thought we were up to, but they kept saying, “We’ve just never seen anything like this before.”  I am truly glad they are careful when it comes to the safety of children, especially given that there are some horrible things happening to children in this world.  Eventually they determined we were on the up and up, gave us the entry stamp on our passports, and let us in.  Make sure you have a little money on hand in case you need to tinkle.  It’s about $0.50 a person, which adds up when you have a big group.  Ellie was guarding the little ones while I was detained, and she didn’t have any cash on her.  Thankfully a nice gentleman paid the $5.50 so our people could “go”, because the potty guard wasn’t letting anyone through with no money, no matter what.   

We hit another little snafu as we exited border control.  It seems you cannot drive in Belize without purchasing their insurance policy, even if it’s after 9 pm and there is nothing open.  We had to drive around town looking for someone to sell us insurance before we could head to our destination.  I met a guy in line at the liquor store who knew this guy who sells the insurance.  I know it sounds odd – that I was in line at a liquor store. It’s uncharacteristic of me, I know, but that’s what was open, and I needed to ask for help.  I still can’t believe we did this, but when the guy I met in line at the liquor store told me he knew a guy who sold insurance, I thanked him so much, got back in the van, and we followed him down the dark streets of Belize to a stranger’s house. The stranger wasn’t home but there was this other guy who said could meet us back at the liquor store, so we were able to buy the insurance.  I filled out the forms, paid the guy about $20, and we were on our way again.  I recommend learning the words to the Fruits of the Spirit song before your busito adventure.  Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are all needed in abundance, my friends. 

We arrived in Camalote around 11:00 pm. Our phones no longer worked once we crossed into Belize, and there was no where to find WIFI, so we couldn’t call for directions when we couldn’t find our way. No worries though, we pulled into the only place we saw that was open to ask for directions, and they unstacked the chairs and invited us to sit a spell while they called the camp director.  I kept looking at Ellie and thinking, “Oh my, her parents entrusted her to us and within just a few months we’re hanging out in front of the One Barrel Bar.”  The owners were the sweetest and in no time the director of Camalote Camp was there to show us the way. Even though it was almost midnight when we rolled into camp, the staff met us and fed us and made us feel welcome. The beds were made, the AC was hopping, and I fell asleep in utter amazement of what the Lord had for us there.  The body of Christ is the only way to describe our experience.  We met so many Jesus loving people and experienced God’s lovingkindness is so many unexpected ways during the three short days we spent in Belize.

There’s much more to share but this post is already long, so you’ll have to come back for part two.  I always hate it when bloggers do that, but now I get you long-winded bloggers and your two parted posts. Sometimes the story is just too good to skip parts to make it fit in one post.  Glory be to God for getting us to Camalote Camp. 

Thank you for reading along, praying for us and supporting us to be here in Honduras.  If you’d like to become a part of our support team and a make a difference for orphaned, abandoned, and vulnerable children in Honduras, check out our "Partner with Team Robinson" page or make a donation to the Robinson Family at www.bethesdafund.org.  We could really use the help – right now especially because as much as we loved Belize, we hope not to have to go back there in August.