To be honest I don’t really know where to start. So much good stuff that we’ve been involved in that it’s a tad overwhelming at times. It was interesting, the other day my professor Kurt said that his daughter is studying abroad in Hungary and is actually running out of stuff to do and is bored, whereas we don’t have enough time for many things we want to get involved in. On a sidenote as well, I don’t really have a camera, I’m just trying to use my phone. It’s not necessarily the best and most efficient way, but it works….kind of. Today we’re going to the US embassy to watch the election results with the other workers. I’m pretty excited for that. But I guess an overview of my days now at this point is to take my hour Spanish class followed by three hour development class, and then a different activity at night. For instance, on Friday I play with the ASJ soccer team. And wow is it a workout. On Wednesdays and some Sundays I volunteer for the Gideon project, which was started by ASJ. It’s a project that provides after school programs for kids. It keeps the kids out of trouble and creates some cool opportunities for them. I’ve gotten pretty close to some of the kids and they’re real fun to hang out with, they’re about 12 or 13 years old. Other nights I play at the cancha (Which means soccer court). On Thurdays, we’re going through a book called Freedom of Simplicity and discussing a chapter per week. Jo Ann then cooks us an amazing dinner after, and I’m always stuffer after. Many of us then do what we call the “Honduran man” which consists of rolling your shirt up and rubbing your belly. I’m gonna try to bring it back to the states, but part of me feels like I’ll also get some very weird looks and then regret that I even thought it was cool in the first place. Vamos a ver (we are going to see). And other nights I’ll have a Bible study with either all the group, or one or two people in the group. God’s been doing some amazing things in my life here!!!!
But a couple weeks ago we had our Fall Break after a class trip to the county of Gracias a Dios, where we visited a World Vision project. In a lot of our studies here, we’ve been looking at different organizations and seeing what they do for different societies. World Vision, an organization I’m sure you’ve heard of, was an interesting NGO to look at. Because most of you are probably familiar with their child sponsorship program. World Vision started out as only a child sponsorship organization, and then as they progressed in the developing world, they learned that societies needed more than just child sponsorship. They started to look at why kids were impoverished in the first place and then started to develop programs to prevent impoverished children. This involves many different things, and when we went to Gracias a Dios we saw the education programs that they set up along with health and agriculture education for the mothers and fathers in the area. The whole community welcomed our class and we saw the programs in action. For instance, we sat in on a child weigh in session, to make sure that the kids were the proper and healthy weight. And World Vision helps them achieve that weight by showing them how to best utilize all of their crop and which parts provide nutrients. It was awesome, and it was something I’d love to learn more about. I’m a city boy and I have no background of agriculture, but I’m definitely interested in it. Another program we looked at was the World Visions establishing Tilapia farms for the families to grow fish and sell it. Did you know: Honduras sells more Tilapia to America than any other country in the world? Crazy stuff right?! The town we went to was gorgeous and I’m hopefully going to go back there when my dad comes and visits me. We want to go ziplining there! People said it’s the best in Central America! And it’s also cheap. Maybe I’ll show him the natural hotsprings too that we visited before.
After Gracias, some of us took off to Antigua, Guatemala and then later went to one of the Bay islands called Roatan. Both places were awesome, but were very different than what we had been experiencing. Both the places were touristy and had many Americans, so they both accepted the dollar of course. We had a great time and stayed at some cool places. There are more pictures on facebook, but what I ended up doing in a nutshell on break was: hiking up a volcano and roasting marshmallows at the top, deep sea fishing, riding on a moped all day by myself, smoking some great Honduran cigars, snorkeling a couple times, laying on the beach, going to a couple bars/clubs/restuarants (where I could listen to my favorite music…dubstep JJJ) and eating some verrry good seafood (shrimp and lobster).Shrimp is my favvve!!) When we went to some of the clubs, the Guatamalans and Hondurans always made me feel good about myself because they always want to take pictures with me. I don’t think they see blond hairissh (my hair isn’t completely blonde) and blue eyes that much, that’s why. But overall, the break was awesome and while there were times when we all got sick of eachother, we bonded really well as a group. By the end of the trip I think we all wanted to get away from the touristy places as well because our wallets were feeling thin and we were ready to come back to mainland Honduras as well. When I talk to people and tell them that I’m in Honduras they say “Oooohhh Honduras, I’ve been there before! So pretty! You’ll LOVE it!” Which then prompts me to think…yea, you’ve been to Roatan haven’t you.
One class that I took a lot of interest in this semester was that of short term mission trips. Are they good or bad for the development world as a whole? We had a whole class on it and my professors Kurt and Joann both did studies and wrote papers on it. Very interesting! And many of us Americans have been on these mission trips and been effected by them as well, so their influence is vast. Before my development classes at Calvin, I’ve never really thought twice about the short term mission trips.
But it seems to be a common theme that the classes here have been taking what I initially knew about a certain subject and completely flipping it around and showing me how to look at the big picture. They do this with sooo many subjects, such as environment, agriculture,politics, microcredit, missions, and much much more. We’ve looked at sooo many subjects here. Our professors tend to worry that they inform us too much about the immense amount of problems happening in the developing world and Honduras, and that this will cause us to feel helpless and like we can’t do anything. Another cool aspect of the classroom setting has been when our professors (and when I say professors I’m referring to Kurt and Jo Ann) show us the problems and give us possible solutions then tell us to come up with our own solution and how we’re going to go about it. It happens every class and causes us to really think on our feet.
This thinking on our feet mentality directly relates to what we’ve been talking about as the art of development. The art of development basically implies that just because you know a lot about development doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be able to implement the policies of it. That’s part of what makes the study of it so intriguing to me. It’s really hands on and it’s a different challenge in every single situation. And it’s constantly reforming itself as people tend to experiment more and more with what works in the developing world and what doesn’t.
Another big topic that we’ve been talking about in class is the policy of mission work vs. development work. Kurt brought up that it’s very rare to find the same people in the mission club at Calvin as well as the justice club at Calvin. And I think that statement says a lot. Often times we look at the two like one versus the other, when, as Christians, they’re meant to go hand in hand. Is it tricky to do it sometimes, yes? For instance, we’ve talked about doing development work in a Muslim culture, how does that work?
In every class, we make sure to look at both sides of the argument and then more or less come up with our own policy. In this instance, it would be feeding spiritual needs vs. physical needs. One article we’re assigned to read for class looks at the physical side as more important, while the other looks at why the spiritual side is more important. And often times, we’re also assigned to read an article that is relatively in the middle. Is spreading the Gospel through our actions the only way we should be evangelizing? I personally don’t think so. I think we should be in constant pursuit of how we can best spread the love of Jesus Christ, while also being aware of the culture around us and constantly being in prayer for discretion. As Christians I feel like we’re called to go deeper in conversation, called to ask why, called to really dig into people’s lives and show that we care for them. We do this with both our actions and our words. And we do this because we’re called to love, because we were first loved.
Which brings me to a verse in scripture that’s been on my mind. It mentions this love. It’s the slogan and the verse that ASJ goes by, which is the NGO that promotes mainly jusitce that my professor started. It’s my prof Kurt’s favorite verse in the Bible. It’s 1st John 4:18, which says that: There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. In all of this study and all of this talk of development, we’ve talked about the mentality of fear. Hondurans and many poor people have this concept of fear instilled in their mind, fear of the police due to corruption, of crime, of providing for their families. And it’s this love that we reflect upon and try to implement that as Christians we must continue to pursue.
The Gospel has also been overwhelming me with how against our mindset and counter-cultural it is. I think I’ve mentioned this verse before, but it’s one of my favorite verses. And I’ll stop talking after I mention it I promise. After all, I’m pretty sure I’m the only person in the library now and better get going.
Matthew 20: 26-28: Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave, just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”