Ahaseurus

There is an old legend of a man from Jerusalem who lived on the route that Jesus took on the way to Golgotha. This man, named Ahaseurus, had seen many criminals pass by on their way to crucifiction, so he took no notice of Jesus as he fell for a third time on his doorstep. He nudged the prostrate Jesus who said, “ Because you have not allowed me to rest, so too you will never rest.” At that moment Ahaseurus became immortal. Jesus appeared to him in a dream and told him that he would wander the world as a witness to the miraculous events of those times. To those faithful people who recognized him, he could give an account of that first Good Friday and reassure them that miracles do happen for those who have eyes to see. Throughout the Middle Ages Christians sought for this man in the faces of strangers, travelers and pilgrims.

I mention this story because we met this man at a kindergarten we visited in the foothills outside of Siguatepeque. I can’t describe the impact that a room full of beaming, beautiful and expectant faces can have on a heart that is open and willing to receive. All that was good, true and loving in us was called to the surface. There was simply no room for mean-spiritedness, selfishness or self-absorption.

Carried away by these emotions, I moved to the back of the classroom and was approached by an older Honduran man who was not introduced to us earlier. He proceeded to tell that he had heard of us and the story of Owen’s death and our response to it. He conveyed that he sometimes prayed for Owen’s soul and that he wanted to meet Sally and I. I can’t tell you how humbled I was by this simple and profound expression of compassion. Just as mysteriously, this man left without ceremony, but I hope to remember him for the rest of my life.

His appearance proved to be prophetic because he prepared us for an afternoon visit to the special needs school in Siguatepeque. Most of these students are deaf and unable to speak. They use facial expressions, body language and gestures to convey what their words cannot. Mostly they convey joy and happiness. Did I mention that they are the world’s best huggers? Such trust and openness! Presley, Hannah, Brian, Thong, Brooke and Kaelin found it hard to tear themselves away.

I’ll end here with some pictures which will mock my attempts to convey in words what can only be experienced directly.

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Saint John of the Cross

Saint John of the Cross was a Spanish mystic who chronicled what he called the “ dark night of the soul.” I have known these nights, but I wonder if there are other stages of a soul’s journey that correspond to more pleasant times of day. When we arrived in San Pedro Sula safely and without lost bags or any delays, I felt a rush of gratitude and happiness that matched the vibrant green of the countryside. The experience reminded me of Saturday mornings when I was a child. The air itself tasted sweet and the sunlight was golden and magical. Borrowing from Saint John, can there be a bright morning of the soul? If so, then I have known these as well. I wonder too if I am effected by the childlike excitement of our latest and largest contingent of students. I trust that they are posting plenty of pictures. However evocative those images, there is some element of direct experience that cannot be captured by pictures or words. You have to see their faces and feel the force of their emotions.

We piled into a Forestry Service van and soon left the sweltering lowlands, climbing into the fantastically-forested mountains. The temperature fell, dark clouds gathered and the sky opened up. The rain was so fierce that we feared flooded roadways. After weeks of baking heat in Texas, we enjoyed the chill in the air and arrived safely.

Monday morning after breakfast at Dona Mercedes’, we left for our first school. Some of us rode in the back of a pickup, while others stayed safely in a van. I am going to try to add some pictures here. Sally has reminded me that no one wants to read my purple prose.

 

I’m going to sign off now so that I can post this.

With care,

Mark

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The Man Who Planted Computers

There is a beautiful short story by Jean Giono called, ” The Man Who Planted Trees.” In it a peasant living in Provence early in the 20th century loses an only child and is emptied out by grief. He becomes a shepherd and moves to a part of Southern France that has been deforested and desolate since Roman times. He takes on the mission of replanting trees in this high desert- one acorn at a time, one day at a time, one year at a time. After decades of patient labor and magnificent generosity, he revives the ancient forest and water returns to the streams and springs, and animals return to the trees. With Christ-like devotion this simple man changes the world.

For obvious reasons this story resonates with Sally and I. We recognize what it feels like to be emptied by grief, and also how broken hearts are fertile ground for quiet service. In Siguatepeque our principal partner Oscar Ochoa Mendoza is a forester, a man who plants trees. For the past 8 years we have also joined him and many others in planting computers in schools in the mountains around Siguatepeque. We hope that these digital seeds have spread some measure of excitement, joy and curiosity to these children- one life at a time, one class at a time, one village at a time.

Mark

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Proust in Central America

IMG_0646IMG_6383IMG_7129IMG_1461FullSizeRender3A1E300E-96AD-445F-BFF9-3CA7D2EB2556It is the time of the year to start dreaming of summer vacation, and for me this means a trip to Honduras. Six of my students, all graduating seniors, will be with us this trip. I’m including their photos above. I was particularly moved by these young people because they came to me to ask if they could join our mission before I had mentioned anything  about going to Honduras. With continuing wonder, Sally and I have become observers of a project that seems to draw loving people into its orbit.   I’ve asked them to view some of our old posts to get a sense of what it might be like in a mountain school surrounded by smiling children. Reviewing these posts myself, I felt like Marcel Proust, overcome by recollections of the past, overcome by a beguiling nostalgia, an enchantment.

It was not the taste of a petite madeleine dipped in tea that I sought in the memories evoked by those posts; it was that quiet joy, that moral clarity, that sense of ethical purpose. I remember a film entitled ” The Hurt Locker” which involved the adventures of a munitions expert in Baghdad who defuses bombs for the military. After his tour ends in Iraq, he returns home to his wife and child. He goes shopping for breakfast cereal and is overwhelmed by the bright lights. the muzak playing and the sheer number of choices offered in the cereal aisle. In the next frame he is back in Iraq risking his life. I think I understand him. In Baghdad his life is simple and full of life and death importance. Most days I feel like I’m in the cereal aisle of moral choices, confused and ill at ease. It seems quaint  and naive to try to love your neighbor as yourself here in Texas. This is never the case in Honduras . Some day I’ll bring some of that confidence back home.

A final note: I’ll identify those handsome folks who are about to find out  what I was struggling to convey earlier. In the order of their photos: Tong Vu, who will be attending Blinn College; Brian Cash, also attending Blinn College; Kaelin Casey, who will attend Concordia College ; Brooke Mueller, who will attend Texas A&M; Hannah Patek, is bound for Texas Tech University; and Presley Carter, will be at the University of Texas in Austin. I feel a father’s pride in all of them.

More later,

Mark

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