2015 International Garifuna Convention

Maximo was born in NYC, but both of his parents were from Honduras. We had wonderful time hosting him!

Maximo was born in NYC, but both of his parents were from Honduras. We had wonderful time hosting him!

Maximo was our guest during the convention. He was planning to practice his Spanish and Garifuna during the convention, so we all pretended Spanish was our first language. We were thankful to “be there” for him, though, when he got sick and just couldn’t think in any language but English. We were glad to provide a buffer zone in our house then, where he could speak English or not speak at all! We weren’t sure anyone would want to stay with a non-Garifuna family, but we think Maximo enjoyed his stay!


A New Rhythm in Life


When we first visited a Garifuna church back in April of 2014, we had never felt so “white” in all our lives! This was not simply because we were the only caucasians there, but also because we could not grasp the rhythm of the music. (Let’s face it – that stereotype came from somewhere, right?) It was clear that there WAS a rhythm to catch because everyone around us was moving in sync. THEY obviously got the rhythm! But it sure looked like their feet moved to one beat, their hips to another, and they clapped to yet another!

The worship team is mostly percussion - a keyboard player, two drummers, a turtle shell player (back left of percussion section) and a maraca player. There are usually two or three female vocalists as well.

The worship team is mostly percussion – a keyboard player, two drummers, a turtle shell player (back left of percussion section) and a maraca player. There are usually two or three female vocalists as well.

Now that we have moved to the north coast, we experience that rhythm 2-3 times a week. We began by watching the feet of someone in front of us and moving along. Some of us have progressed from there and others have not, but last night at church we all felt a difference in our comfort level and in our ability to worship God in a new environment. Feeling more comfortable at church is a big step in moving in!

We are learning a new rhythm in life, as well. There are physical challenges here (like weeks without water in the house and a lot of noise) that we did not have in Pinalejo. There are other challenges (power outages and isolation) that we do not face as often here as we did in Pinalejo. We are adjusting and finding our rhythm. Right now I’m wearing ear plugs to be able to focus on writing!

It is exciting to walk down the street and be known. People greet us by name, and we recognize their faces! It’s very hard to be new in town – and to stand out so much – when everyone else already knows each other. We have so many names to learn, and names are important here and are used more often in conversation than in the culture we came from in Pinalejo. Pray that our minds will be able to handle remembering them all and distinguishing faces!

We’re Learning!!

Our house - from the side street

Our house – from across the street

We’ve spent our first few months getting settled in and dealing with various situations that arose. We’ve observed the culture, met our neighbors, and gotten to know a few people from the church and community. We have learned how and where to shop, though when is still an enigma! Sometimes places are just closed for no reason known to us, or they are open but have nothing to sell. That’s just part of the culture. We have heard how our neighbors greet each other and how they greet us. We are figuring out what to say in different settings and at different times of day. In the church, we try to use our Garifuna greetings, but in the town we stick to Spanish for now.

Marcial works with Wes and Joel

Marcial works with Wes and Joel

Virginia works with Cindy and Abigail

Virginia works with Cindy and Abigail

We are in our third week in formal language study. A Garifuna couple comes to our house twice a week, and the men and Joel go to the porch to work, while the women and Abigail work in the livingroom. We make recordings of lessons we will continue listening to until we understand them well. Learning a new language is a tiring activity, but God is giving us the strength to keep moving forward. It also takes some organization, since the hour our language helpers can meet is when I would normally be preparing supper. We’re getting into the flow!

We don’t know what God has for us next, so we are trying to prepare in the best way possible where He has placed us. Garifuna is a very complicated language to learn because it has roots in so many other languages. According to Wikipedia, 45% of the vocabulary comes from Arawak, 25% from Carib, 15% from French, 10% from English and 5% are Spanish or English technical terms (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garifuna_language). In addition to that, there are random words from various African languages. If we could just figure out which words are from a language we know, we’d have a head start! However, the grammatical structure is like nothing we’ve ever heard of, so that will be interesting. If the Lord has placed this in our hearts for His purposes, He will equip us to learn. We remind ourselves of that as we get overwhelmed!

So how’s life different on the north coast?

We will post pictures as soon as we can. We don’t want to go walking through the streets with a camera screaming “Look at me! I’m a tourist!” So for now we have only taken pictures at home, a sampling of which were in our recent email. Pictures around town will come!  For now… it’s a new life!

– We live on the corner of a paved street instead of a camp. Buses go by honking at 5:30 am and continue until after dark. We don’t know why they feel the need to honk outside our house… maybe they think we won’t notice the big yellow hulks passing by? On camp busses mostly came on Fridays and Sundays, as people were coming and going.  They honked at the gate for a staff member to open for them, and they didn’t not usually come and go all day – just the arrival and the departure of the group!

– As I sit in our livingroom listening to the noises of the town, I hear constant shouts of greeting.  The Garifunas are a very friendly people, and they call greetings at almost every house as they walk past.  If we are outside, we are generally greeted in Spanish, but English is not uncommon either. Often people yell, “Good-bye!” as they are passing. Those who know a little English – or a lot – want to use it! “Adios” is the most common greeting as people pass each other, unless you are planning to stop and chat, in which case you may say good morning or afternoon.  In Pinalejo, you really only greet those you know.  The greetings are the same, though not in English.

– There is a constant mix of Garifuna and Spanish going around. It makes me smile! Even in church, the pastor will be speaking in Spanish and will suddenly change to Garifuna. He often then repeats what he said in Spanish… at least we THINK that’s what he’s doing! In a few years we’ll let you know for sure!  In Pinalejo, the only language used is Spanish.

– We haven’t asked the census bureau, but our best guess is that the population is somewhere above 90% of African descent.  In Pinalejo and the neighboring towns, we saw two black men… in 10 years!  When people here call someone “white” they mean coffee with a little milk, not Joel-colored!

– One quiet night, when the wind was blowing hard, we could sit on our bed and hear the ocean! It is about 3 blocks away.  On camp, we would hear the sound of the wind in the bamboo, but it was only a cheap imitation of the sea!!

– Palm trees abound here in the north. A few years back, most of the coconut trees died in a “plague,” but new ones are being planted. We saw one pine tree on the way to the beach.  On camp, we lived in a pine forest. In fact, that’s what Pinalejo means – “distant pine forrest.” We brought a bag of pine cones along for decorating at Christmas!

– People wander the streets selling Garifuna treats like coconut bread, coconut bars, coconut oil… (Do you see a pattern here?) On camp no one came by selling anything, though in town all sorts of things are sold door to door.  Just not Garifuna treats!

– A group of little boys just passed singing a song from Sunday school at the top of their lungs! That reminds me that it is very common for someone to be walking by a house, hear their music playing and join in singing loudly.  It gets interesting when you can hear the music from 3-4 houses, but some people just go along singing and changing as they go! It’s a joyful sound!

Final Blessing

As we were getting ready to move from camp to a house nearly 6 hours away, many things seemed to be going wrong. The most challenging was that the moving truck came over 2 hours late, after telling us they were going to arrive at least an hour early! This messed up the timing of many things, including dinner at our friends’ house. They were helping us load the truck, so they didn’t get to cook!

We decided to just take them home and then go pick up fried chicken at a local restaurant. We arrived at their house noisily, just to realize we had ALL forgotten it was small group night! They are the hosts! We snuck around to the back of the house to say good-bye – hoping their kids would notice and slip out to say good-bye. They did. After we had what we expected to be our final hugs, the leader of the group invited us in for prayer.

As it turns out, the leader is the first man Wes identified as someone to pour into and develop! Ten years ago, he was a fearful man who believed in God but lived in fear. His brow was constantly furrowed with an intensity motivated by fear. We enjoyed studying the Bible with him and his family and worshiping with them weekly on camp. When he opened his mouth to pray for us, it brought tears of JOY to our eyes! His prayer was full of faith and power! The growth in him over the past 10 years is indescribable! What a BLESSING FROM GOD to be able to receive ministry from one we had ministered to over the years!
As we all left with tears streaming down our faces, our car wouldn’t start! The men – Wes and the two he had spent the most ministry time with over the years – began tinkering. By the time they got the car going, we were all laughing and enjoying the night! It was probably 8pm by the time we got to the restaurant, but we bought the last four pieces of chicken and enjoyed our time tremendously! Thank you, Lord!

Filling in the Gaps 3 – Getting to know Trujillo

I kept a journal for the next piece of our journey. It’s a good thing, because events happened so fast and in such apparent confusion that there is no way I could reproduce it now! For those who don’t have time to read the long story, here is a nutshell – with pictures!

In the midst of a nightmare of paperwork to convert our missionary visa to a permanent visa (required by law for us at this time), we planned a trip to Trujillo, on the north coast of Honduras, where a missionary pastor from our church in San Pedro Sula serves. Pastor Daniel, the head pastor of the church, was taking us, so we had to go when he was able. The trip was almost cancelled due to issues with our passports and coinciding with Pastor Daniel’s schedule!

After visiting two pastoral families on the way, we arrived in Trujillo in time for the evening service. We then went to Juan Pablo’s house for dinner and to a hotel for the night.

 There’s usually power and running water at his home, but we had severe problems with both in our short visit!

There’s usually power and running water at his home, but we had severe problems with both in our short visit!

The goal was to have a quiet morning after a long day of travel. There was a beautiful hotel on the beach.


The Christopher Columbus (Trujillo is where he first set foot on the mainland of the Americas!)


But we stayed there … across the runway! 


It was really a cute little place. It’s just funny to show the contrast!

We ate breakfast at the Christopher Columbus Beach Resort to “buy” a little time on their beach that first morning. We’d actually left home a few days before because of the work we needed to do at the immigration office, so we were worn out already! Cindy had an upper respiratory infection on top of that, so the beach time was helpful!

The goal of our trip was to meet Garifuna pastors leading Garifuna churches to find out what the needs of their people are. We enjoyed a visit with a pastoral couple in Santa Fe and a woman leading a church in Guadalupe, a few minutes’ drive from there. One thing became clear: The pastors feel isolated from each other and would love the opportunity to see and encourage each other more often! They loved the little time we had together!

Pastor Lazaro, Cindy, Hermana Antonia, Wes, Juan Pablo, Steven in Antonia's house.

Pastor Lazaro, Cindy, Hermana Antonia, Wes, Juan Pablo, Steven in Antonia’s house.

We rushed back to the city of Trujillo to an unexpected radio program! We had said we were not up for that right away, since we were just getting to know the Garifuna people, and they wanted us to preach on the radio. In the end, we thought we could answer questions – interview style – but the questions we were asked were, “Wes, what do you have to say to the people?” and “Cindy would like to add something.  What would you like to add, Cindy?”  I’m afraid we were less than impressive speakers, but we shared our hearts and a few scriptures!

Sharing on a local radio show Pastor Juan Pablo does several times a week.

Sharing on a local radio show Pastor Juan Pablo does several times a week.

Filling in the Gaps 2 – Back in Pinalejo

We have been blessed with far more time for closure in Pinalejo than we expected. Our kids had so many hopes and expectations about our return from the US, and many of them have happened!

We celebrated Alex’s 15th birthday in much the same way we’d always celebrated birthdays on camp. It was a spur of the moment dinner and some who weren’t invited, but would have been had we had time to plan it, just “happened” to stop by!

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But this time we added the fun of teaching our friends to play games on our wii!

Becca and Lisbeth race wave runners while everyone else looks on!

Becca and Lisbeth wakeboard while everyone else looks on. Everyone got in on the action!

In May, Ellie came home from college for a two-month visit. She joined us for an activity in the local school and most of our summer adventures.

With Ellie in the airport!

With Ellie in the airport!

At this point we wondered if we’d be moving in a few weeks, a month or a little more, but our goal was to discern God’s plan and get started as soon as possible. We hoped Ellie would at least meet the people we’d be working with in the future.

During her first weekend back, we were able to participate in the  local high school’s “farm fair” centered on what Honduras produces. Last year we were asked to be judges. This year we successfully avoided that pressure! Too many kids we love were involved!

Fernando, Becca, Abigail and Joel at the agroferia in Pinalejo.

Fernando, Becca, Abigail and Joel at the agroferia in Pinalejo.

Little did we know how MANY summer adventures we would have!