Greetings, everyone! March has come and gone already. Every month seems to go by so quickly. This is a lengthy update, but I want you, my partners in ministry, to be fully informed. After all, we are partners!
But, first, let me remind you that…
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!
March was a very busy month for us. A medical team arrived from Compassion Med International in North Carolina on March 8. I spent several days with the team. Saturday, Sunday afternoon, and Monday morning, we were at the Iglesia Misionera de Cristo, the church with whom I’m working. The team saw about 340 patients during this time. Then, on Monday afternoon, some of us made a few home visits.
I was happy we went to visit Maria Ponce first. Every time I see her now, I am surprised she’s still alive. She told us in July of 2011 that the next time she would see us would be in heaven. If I recall correctly, she was looking at John Furr when she said those words. As far as I know, John didn’t see Maria again before he died in August 2012. Maria is still very thin, but seems to be doing well for a bed-ridden person.
On Tuesday, we spent the day in Yaguacire. After the team treated about 90 patients in the morning, we visited a children’s home. Interestingly, the lady who runs the home said one of their dreams is to build a school so the kids can get a good education. That’s interesting because Moises has expressed an interest in building a bilingual Christian school in Yaguacire. Perhaps a partnership to build a school is in our future. I’m a little excited about that possibility!
Both Wednesday and Thursday were spent at the local health center in San Buenaventura. Three hundred twenty-nine patients signed in at the clinic on Wednesday and prescriptions were processed for more than 200. Most people also received vitamins, and those over 2 years old received an anti-parasite medication.
Late Thursday morning, I went with Moises, Ana, a few students and their leader, Jean Davison out to visit some elderly folks in their homes. One of the ladies was so touched by our visit that she said she will never forget our kindness for the rest of her life.
I was very impressed with the students–their knowledge, yes, but more importantly, their kindness and compassion. The team saw more than 800 people on the six clinic days.
In addition to providing medical care, the Compassion Med team also provided food packages to about 20 families spread across the three communities in which they worked.
The World Race
The evening of March 9, I went with Moises, Joseth, and two of my English students to visit a young lady from the United States who had been in the public hospital here since that Tuesday. She came here with Adventures in Missions on the 11-month World Race. She was diagnosed with Guillain Barre syndrome. Rebeka told us she had that day been able to walk for the first time since she came to the hospital. We knew this was a great sign that she will recover completely.
We spoke with Rebeka for several minutes, during which my brave students, Nancy and Fanny, practiced their English. I am very proud of them. Then, we all gathered around Rebekah while I led us in prayer for her and her teammates.
Five days later, Rebeka started her blog post with these words, “God has taken me to a new place this past week and I am so blessed.” For anyone to write those words after spending a week in a public hospital in Honduras is clear evidence of God’s hand on her life. Please join me in praying for Rebeka’s complete and speedy recovery and a successful completion of The World Race by Rebeka and her teammates.
Soccer and Pizza
On March 21, a mission team from Lipscomb University stopped by to play a little soccer with some of the teens and share a time of fellowship. Due to a threatened bus strike, they had rented a bus to bring them to Tegucigalpa from Mission Lazarus, where they had been working all week. They left about 2:30 a.m. and arrived in Tegucigalpa around 6:00 a.m.
The teens headed for the soccer field while I went with Moises, Grace, and Aaron to order pizzas for dinner after the games. I had just met Grace a few days before. She was spending spring break here, helping out at the Baxter Institute’s clinic. From previous trips here, she knew many of the children and teens. Aaron was leading the Lipscomb team. After ordering the pizzas, we went to the soccer field.
The games were fun to watch. I have no idea who won, or if anyone even kept score. Other than a few bumps, no one got hurt, and they all seemed to enjoy themselves.
During the games, I met Rocky, a man from a town near Nashville who is a specialist in prosthetics. He has two prosthetic legs himself. The reason I met him is because I heard Fanny, one of my English students, trying to talk to him in English. She is courageously trying to speak English whenever she has the chance.
Rocky told me that Aaron had been asking him for several months if he would like to come on this trip. His company had already donated a bunch of braces. He said his church then stepped up and offered to cover a large part of his expenses for the trip. Then, his employer gave him the time off and most of the remaining funds he needed. Rocky was very glad he had come because some of the people he helped could not have been helped if he hadn’t been there. Their cases required his special skills.
After the soccer games, we all went back to the church to have a little more fun and eat. Before we ate, Fanny led us in a prayer in Spanish and Aaron prayed in English. Angel Josue thanked the Lipscomb students and then read Psalm 133 in Spanish.
Angel is also one of my English students. He and Fanny are showing great leadership abilities among the teens. I am proud of them and pray that they will use their abilities for the glory of God.
How good and pleasant it is
when God’s people live together in unity!
It is like precious oil poured on the head,
running down on the beard,
running down on Aaron’s beard,
down on the collar of his robe.
It is as if the dew of Hermon
were falling on Mount Zion.
For there the Lord bestows his blessing,
even life forevermore. -Psalm 133 (NIV)
We didn’t have classes during the week the Compassion Med team was here, but they resumed the next week. As I suspected, the Saturday morning class time for some of the teens didn’t work out well. However, they have now completed their conflicting high school activities and should be prepared to work hard to catch up on the lessons on which they are now behind. I expect they will catch up and complete the coursework for this trimester on time. The other classes are going well. The classes only meet two hours a week now, so we are not progressing as quickly as we did during the second trimester, but we are still making noticeable progress.
A New Challenge
This month, Moises asked me to consider leading a bilingual small group that would be composed of some college-age young people who are not currently participating in a small group. I agreed to do this. Now, I need your prayers. I have led Bible study sessions in small groups of adults, but they were all over 40 years old. Working with “eighteen to twenty-somethings” will be different. So, please pray that God will give me all the guidance, wisdom, and understanding I will need to lead this group. Planning has just begun (who, when, where, what to study first). I want to start with a series of about four lessons on how to study the Bible. We’ll discuss where to go from there, but the over-riding goal will be for us to increase our understanding of what it means to be a follower of Jesus, not a fan or an admirer, but a 100% committed follower of Jesus, and then to hold each other accountable for doing just that. This will get at the heart of the vision of Acts 2:42 Ministries International. I know this is a God-directed activity for me and I am looking forward to the challenge!
God is With Me
On another note, periodically, people in the U.S. have asked me if I’m afraid down here. I have always said “no,” and that is still my answer. That doesn’t mean there is no danger, but there is danger in every country. It’s more publicized here and more widespread. Are the risks greater here? Probably. But, as I’ve said before, I don’t find anywhere in the Bible that says I must stay alive. I believe that in any given situation, I must do what I believe to be right and prudent. With that in mind, I talked with Moises about my safety while walking to and from the church to teach my classes. After that conversation, it was clear to me that I needed to start taking a taxi to and from my classes. This was not the conclusion I wanted to reach, but I couldn’t argue with the facts. Not having the money to pay for the taxi is a problem I trust God will help me with.
This conversation took place on a Thursday. The next morning, during my prayer time, an interesting thing happened. I was participating in a 40-day prayer challenge with CCI Fellowship, my English-speaking church, and was using the book The Heart of God as a guide for my prayer time on most days. However, since, I had not used it every day, I was only on day 22, instead of 26 or so, on this Friday. In the Personal Concerns section of the day’s guide, I read this modification of Joshua 1:9:
“May I be strong and courageous! May I not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord my God is with me wherever I go.” (adapted from the NLT)
Isn’t that just like God to give me a verse to remind me that He will always be with me and that my prayer should be for strength and courage and to not be afraid or discouraged? But, He wasn’t through with His encouragement. On Sunday afternoon, at CCI Fellowship, we sang “Your Great Name” and “It Is Well With My Soul.”
The second slide for “Your Great Name” had these lyrics:
Every fear; has no place; at the sound of your great name
The enemy; he has to leave; at the sound of your great name .
Then, we sang these words from “It Is Well With My Soul:”
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
I have never been a fearful person, but I appreciated hearing these reminders that God is with me; that because of Jesus, fear has no place in my life; and that no matter what trials may come, I know that Christ shed His blood for my soul. Therefore, it is well with my soul!
I always find it amazing that the God of the Universe cares enough about each human being that He would orchestrate the events of our lives in such a way that we get these little bits of encouragement right when we need them. Thank You, God!!
1 Nation 1 Day
Planning and organizing for the 1 Nation 1 Day initiative continues. The last report I saw said that more than 1500 short-term missionaries in the U.S. had already signed up to come and they are busily recruiting the last 500.
One Sunday, I was talking with one of the younger women in the congregation who knows quite a bit of English. I was telling her about 1 Nation 1 Day (my bracelet easily opens the door to that conversation). As I told her about what was planned, I could see the emotion in her face. I felt the thanksgiving in her heart as she thanked me when I said the hope and prayer is that God will bring the entire nation to repentance like He did the city of Nineveh. I pray that many in the congregation will be involved in this nationwide campaign to bring the Gospel to every person in Honduras.
Life always brings us challenges. Many of the same challenges are experienced by people all over the world. In my case, this month I had to cancel a credit card because someone used my number online to make a purchase. Fortunately, I had listened to some advice I read months before I moved here. That advice was to keep all of your credit cards when you move to another country because, regardless of what your bank or the credit card company tells you, the day will come when your account is frozen because someone decided your card must have been stolen. Because I listened to that advice, not being able to use the new card was not a big problem. The only real issue was not being able to change the one automatic charge I had on the original card. Fortunately, I was able to contact someone by email who was able to correct the issue.
Thanks to modern technology, I was able to activate my new card online so that I can now use it for online purchases. Due to the foreign transaction fee for using that card here, I only need it here for an emergency and only if my card that has no foreign transaction fee can’t be used for some reason. “Some reason” almost occurred just a couple of days before the cancellation of this card. My credit union’s fraud protection people questioned some purchases I made online. If they had frozen my account, I knew it would take a day or two to get it unfrozen, but I was able to confirm the purchases without even waiting “on hold” to talk to anyone (thanks to modern technology again).
With that saga ended, I turned to my new challenge–income tax filing. Knowing that I would be missing a little bit of data for my return, I filed for an extension in January. However, I still have to pay what I owe by April 15. The extension just gives me more time to complete and file the forms, not more time to pay anything I owe. As I was entering data into the online tax program I use, I discovered that a form 1099 that I received for my pension fund withdrawal indicated that no exception applied to the tax penalty for early withdrawal. That came as a complete surprise to me. So, I went searching on the Internet for the documentation that would prove that an exception does apply. I was able to get that done in time to send a request for a corrected form 1099 with one of the folks from the Compassion Med team to mail in the U.S. I am hoping to receive a corrected form before April 15. Without that, the refund I was expecting will not materialize.
One challenge here that is seen in many poor countries, but seldom to this extent in the U.S., is water rationing. The tap water here is not safe to drink, so people either chlorinate it, filter it, or buy purified water. The water that comes from the government-owned water company can be used for washing dishes, laundry, flushing toilets, household cleaning, and bathing. However, there isn’t enough water to keep it flowing every day, so the water is rationed. During the rainy season, it’s on for about 12 hours on most days. This is the dry season now, so the water is only on every other day. Many people have installed plastic water tanks to store water for use on the days the water doesn’t come from the water company. Moises has such a tank on the roof of his house, so we have running water every day. Of course, we can’t use the washing machine when the city water isn’t on because we would quickly drain the storage tank and then there wouldn’t be water for anything. This is my tenth consecutive month in Honduras and, so far, this has only been a minor inconvenience. If the rationing gets more strict and we start running out of water, Moises has a back-up plan. I am very fortunate to be living in this apartment now because many people don’t have a water tank and most do not have a back-up plan. God has graciously provided for me.
If you’ve traveled in third-world countries, you know that electrical power, if available, is often unreliable. The situation has improved considerably since my first trip here in 2003, but the power still does go out occasionally. Sometimes, it’s for just a few minutes, but other times, it’s for several hours. Recently, I found out, thanks to the Honduran Fellowship of Missionaries and Ministries, that there is a Facebook page where the government-owned electric company posts its planned power outages. So, although the outages can be serious nuisances, we can now plan activities around the scheduled outages.
Credit card fraud, tax issues, poor quality or no water, and power outages are not unique to life in Honduras. Dealing with them may be a little more difficult than in the U.S., but they can be dealt with. During my military career, I learned to be flexible and adaptable. I learned to look for options. Those skills are quite useful here. For someone like me, who is also a planner, I think the ability to be flexible and adaptable are the most important skills for long-term survival on the mission field in a third-world country. Without that, I would be (apart from the hand of God) totally stressed out and ready to leave the field. But, because God orchestrated my past life experiences to prepare me for His great adventure, I am quite content here.
My plans seldom work out exactly as I planned, but that’s OK. It’s not successfully implementing the plan that counts. What counts is that we do what God wants, when and how He wants it done. If that means throwing my plan out the window, so be it!
My biggest personal challenge now used to be just a small challenge, but as a result of my need to take a taxi to and from my classes, I need to raise more funds beyond what I already knew I needed. Now, I need to raise a total of $500 a month. Some of my previous donors have slacked off in their giving, plus I need almost $1100 a year for my increased taxi expense and increases in food and water prices. All prices will continue to increase here, just as they will in the U.S.
This is not a unique challenge for missionaries. Jim Keena, the guest speaker during my second Spiritual Emphasis Week at The Spanish Language Institute, told us that the reason most missionaries are under-supported is because they don’t ask. I am at a point now where I recognize the need to start asking. So, will you become one of my financial partners? Will you commit to a monthly gift of $25, $50, or $100?
If you would like to partner with me financially, you can make a tax-deductible contribution through The Foundation at www.tfofsp.org. The Foundation will pass on 100% of your contributions to me. Please select “Missionary Support” under Description of Donation and then type “Star Ferdinand” in the Comments box.
In just a few more weeks I will be in the U.S. The dates are May 20 until June 24. I am really looking forward to this trip. As I mentioned last month, I will be doing a presentation for a small group in Florida in June. I also just accepted an invitation to speak to one of Westside Fellowship’s small groups in May.
If you are in the San Antonio, Spring Branch, or Minot areas and want me to talk to your small group about my work or missionary life in general, please let me know so I can get your group on my schedule.
1. That my students will see Jesus working through me.
2. For guidance, wisdom, and understanding to lead the small group
3. For God’s continuing protection.
4. For God’s provision of additional financial partners.
I thank you all for your support–for emails, Facebook messages, financial contributions, and prayers. Thank you for continuing to hold the rope as you partner with me in this ministry. I hope to see many of you during my upcoming trip. May God bless you always!
With love from Honduras,
I am in need of additional monthly financial partners. If you would like to partner with me financially, you can make a tax-deductible contribution through The Foundation at www.tfofsp.org. The Foundation will pass on 100% of your contributions to me. Please enter “Star Ferdinand” in the Comments box.