Or “Beautiful landscape,” the chunk of property set in savage hills of Suyatal, Honduras. It’s the home of a mission called VIDA International, run by some crazy young friends, and I go there when the urge hits me; like my trip last month.
Let me tell you what I love about it all.
I love bumpy roads. Driving in Honduras renders amusement parks unnecessary. Why spend money for Space Mountain at Disneyland when you’ll receive an equal wallop while simply driving home from the Tegucigalpa airport? Our skilled and trusty driver Olvine (Ol-veen) nonchalantly tiptoed the truck over gashes in the road, simultaneously chatting Spanish with my friend Naomi. Talk about multi tasking. I hung on for dear life.
I love Spanish, even though I don’t know Spanish. While Naomi and Olvine chatted, my mind frog-tongued snapped at Spanish words that sounded a little English. Other than these, I could understand their smiles and Olvine’s friendly, playful manner. Once I told Naomi he had a mischievous look on his face. She immediately translated, throwing Olvine into fit of laughter and shouting more Spanish words I couldn’t understand.
I love burros laden with sticks, usually driven by a man in a cowboy hat. The countryside seems full of these lean, blue-jeaned, plaid-shirted men. Sustenance farming keeps them from ballooning out the way we do in the modern world. Ballooning is reserved for people with too many calories, who pretend to run from them on treadmills. Honduras Cowboys don’t have calories to spare. They run to them in the form of sticks to burn. Thus the stick-laden burros.
I love Buena Vista. It’s a burgeoning ministry powered by a bunch of enthusiastic young people. The outpost grows by a building or two every year, thanks to the well-loved “mission groups.” The marriage of VIDA and these groups (why not your church?) form a perfect win-win. The groups receive a wilderness adventure, replete with cold showers, strange insects, heavenly guacamole, and gorgeous mountains; the ministry gets buildings, or programs, or whatever the group wishes to offer.
I love Jose Mario Suazo Franco (it’s fun to say that to a Mariachi-type tune, while dancing around a large hat), the director. Jose has begun to build a cabin (my term: man-cave) overlooking the largest field in the property. Jose sings a little like Luis Miguel, so if while visiting, you hear a sonorous tenor floating over the field, it’s probably Jose in his cave. Unless Luis Miguel is visiting. Which he should.
I love Naomi Jackson. She’s the VIDA International PR girl and the beautiful contralto on their music *CD. And I got to sing with her! Our first Sabbath found us piling back into the truck to bump and tiptoe our way back to Tegucigalpa to perform a concert at my friend Pastor Zaldana’s Rio Grande Church. For the past year, I had been using time in my car to listen to the CD, secretly dreaming of singing with THE Naomi Jackson. Dreams really do come true over the Honduran rainbow.
I love the young adult students at VIDA. They sat patiently through my translated, four-hour classes, pin-neat, obedient, and quiet. Just when I’d begin to wonder how bored they were, they’d noddingly whisper a reverent-sounding “A-meng.” Their deep, serious spirituality didn’t go unnoticed by me.
I love bumpy roads. Oh, I already said that. Well, I guess what I really love is the adventure they provide. For instance, Naomi charged me to fasten my seatbelt at all times, lest we receive a ticket from the ubiquitous traffic cops. Yet five human beings, all tender flesh and blood, could, with full approval of the law, bounce along in the back of the truck. Over bumps. Go figure, but figure in Honduran.
I love cold showers; they force me to get clean and get out. I love no electricity; it forces me to bed by nine. I love scorpions in the bathrooms because women screaming in Spanish sound a little like Italian opera. And I love how Naomi laughs when the big cows walk straight at me. I love fresh tortillas, baked over an outdoor wood stove. I love tamarind drink frozen in plastic bags to be poked open and sucked. I love the seductive perfume of guavas in the air, the songs sung in the dark, the prayers I can’t translate but somehow understand.
Most of all I love this experience: I look in the eyes of someone whose language I can’t speak or understand. They look back, equally language-locked. But then the Holy Spirit starts to translate with groanings too deep for words. Our spirits begin to converse through our heavenly Translator. And suddenly we know that in Christ, we are one. And that if we’ll prepare for His soon return, we’re headed to a place where we will all worship together in one new language; a place where scorpions don’t sting and women sing soaring high notes and all God’s children eat tortillas and guacamole forever, a-meng.
*Send me a donation of any size and I’ll send you their CD. It’s gorgeous, really. And if you wish to visit VIDA or send a mission group, I can arrange that too.
Oct. 5-6- Halifax, PA GYC Atlantic
Oct. 19-20- Rogers, AR
Oct. 25-27- Sacramento, CA AMEN conference and taping
Nov. 2-12- Ontario, Canada seminar and concert with Naomi Striemer