My wife decided to write another newsletter to inform those who generously support our work in La Mosquitia of all the wonderful activities we have been involving ourselves with. I thought I’d post it here too, so those of you who read my blog can enjoy it. For the record, there actually ARE two ways to spell La Mosquitia. Is it any wonder my wife doesn’t use the same spelling I do?
Greetings once again from La Moskitia! It has been a long time since I have written you. So much is happening here and I find it hard to do justice in such a short format. Our ministry here is nothing short of miraculous, in my opinion, because I know what God had to work with, (and believe me when I say it was not much). The longer I serve here as a missionary, and see Christ’s mercy in my life, and the lives of those around me the more I am amazed at what he has done.
As a little girl of about eight or so, I would have dreams of children coming to my great-granny’s door at night, and me opening it up, and letting them in. These children were dirty, and hungry, and very poor. I would bathe them in these dreams and feed them and care for them. Little did I know that God was putting His desires in my heart, and it wouldn’t be until I was in my twenties that these desires would come to pass.
I have always been the type of person who likes to live life outside the box. After my year in Teen Challenge I came out with a new found knowledge of who Jesus Christ is, what He did for me, and what He expects of me. To whom much is given, much is required. I had a deep burden to share the love of Christ with others who perhaps have never known, like I had discovered, what God’s purpose was for them.
I first came to Honduras on a short term mission trip, for a couple of weeks, and knew with all my heart that I wanted to come back. I found it hard to believe the contrast a couple of hours in an airplane could make. It quickly became very apparent to me all that I had taken for granted, food, clean water, medicine, clothes and shoes, once I had seen children who were starving, and sick, naked, and dirty. It started with just one child at a time; one bath, one bottle, one teaspoon of medicine. I did not think that what I was doing was making much of a difference, but that one smile, seeing that one child gain weight and laugh, and run and play made all the difference for me.
I tried to go back to the states and live and be content. I was now married, with two small boys. All reason told me to stay and work in the states and forget about going back to a remote place in Honduras. Forget about the children starving, the disease, and the hopelessness. I would have a hard time forgetting when we went to functions where the leftovers were thrown away, or when I saw the amount of money people would spend to get a little pleasure in life, knowing how much that same amount of money could have done to change a small child’s world. I had a hard time going to Wal-Mart and seeing people so obese that they could no longer walk down the aisles and had to use electric carts to shop while remembering that there were three year old children who had never walked because their skinny, malnourished little legs couldn’t support their weight. I had a hard time deciphering whether we were blessed in the USA or just selfish, or both?
My life felt so small, and meaningless when I was back home, and i began to ask myself “is this what life is all about?” Roger and I were given the opportunity to go back to Honduras and live as a family in 1997, and serve on the mission field. Bubu was two years old, and Christian was five months old. Looking back at how we started out I am amazed that we survived! I see pictures of our old home, and read old letters, and you could say, starting out, we did not have a pot to piss in, literally! It was a few months before Roger could get our bathroom working as he had to hand dig the septic, and build us a bathroom! However I remember lying on the floor, praying and weeping because of how blessed we were!
I would visit the villagers in their homes seeing how they were surviving one day to the next and realize that we were actually rich in comparison, knowing our faith was paltry when measured by the faith it took these people to survive one day to the next. It amazed me that they could be happy, and laugh and sing when they had nothing; NOTHING!
Later, after moving to Puerto Lempira, we rented our hot little cement gray house for the first five years, me volunteering in the local government hospital the only one in this entire state. Support started to come in, and we were able to feed more children, and send them out for medical care, and provide education to them. We were attending a local church that supported our ministry with their prayers and encouragement.
Our daughter was born here, Victoria Jo Engle, who has dual citizenship. We watched her grow along with other babies we took in to our home. She was not always pleased with these other babies who fought for our attention. One day right after she learned to walk she put one little girl in a yellow Tonka truck, and walked her in the rain down the road and left her there. When we realized the baby was missing we asked Victoria where she was, and she looked at us knowingly and said “baby apu” which is Miskito for ‘no more baby’!
I was happy with what we were doing, but it felt so small in comparison to the need around us. We were given the opportunity to merge with Tom Brian, a dentist from Allen, Texas and his ministry, Send Hope. Our vision was to build a home for children who were handicapped or facing other medical difficulties and give them treatment and education while discipling them.
House of Hope opened in 2005 and boy did it change our lives! Since then I am no longer called by my name, but the people refer to me as Mama-Miriki (American Mother). What a privilege it is to be called somebody’s mother when you’re not really their mother, much less a whole town! It is very humbling to have people twice your age call you their mother. So many people here have so many needs, and when you do the littlest thing to try and help them, be it food, or medical care, that is how they show you their gratitude.
The home quickly filled up, not only with handicapped children, but with children who were orphaned, abused, neglected, and abandoned. We offered housing to malnourished children who were literally dying of hunger, and when they had recuperated we sent them home and kept them in our outpatient care where the parents who were able, volunteered a few hours to receive food to feed their children. We have 162 children in that program to date.
One family of nine already had two children die from starvation, and three more were dying. We housed the three, and brought them back up to their normal weight, (the little boy, Nicolas, is actually overweight now), and we were able to send two of the three home, with the hopes of sending the last little girl home soon. They are all doing very well.
We have provided hundreds of surgeries, both orthopedic and plastic, to children who otherwise would have had to live life with severe deformities. We have also sent other children to hospitals for surgeries that have saved their lives.
Young American volunteers come to work for us, and help us run House of Hope, and help with the care of the children. They are hard workers who are very unselfish, and I am so blessed to be able to share the vision with them and also by their contributions. Teams of Americans also come on shorter trips to work with us and bring us supplies for the children and the ministry. They contribute in many ways. Some teach, others do housework, maintenance, baby-sit, etc. These groups bring us encouragement as well as support.
As the ministry grew, I began to get more engaged with the handicapped lobster divers that are in wheelchairs. Send Hope ships wheelchairs, crutches, adult diapers, and carts that they can use their hands to propel forward. Getting to know some of these men who have families they cannot support and even some whose families have abandoned them saddened me. I started visiting more with them and noticed that they do work with their hands repairing shoes, sewing, and making jewelry.
So with a little patience, and God touching the Mayor’s heart to give us our little storefront rent-free, we now have Artesanias Esperanza which means Hope Arts and Crafts in Spanish. After almost two years, it is still the only arts and crafts store in this state and it is the only place artists can sell their wares on consignment. I will never forget the night when a group of American visitors bought about $250.00 worth of rolled paper bead necklaces after we first started making them. I drove at night because i was so excited to give the divers their first profit and when I arrived, there they were bent over a table in the candlelight in their wheelchairs rolling more beads. They were so happy to get that money.
Maybe a year and a half ago a neighbor of mine stopped me to ask me for her help in fixing her house up. She complained that the rain was coming in, and wetting the children, and that the thieves kept breaking in to steal what little she did have while they were sleeping. I felt so badly for her, but I really did not have finances to help her fix that house up. It was nothing more than a little shack with cardboard, plastic and misshapen pieces of wood for walls.
Roger and I were trying to finish our own house, which was taking longer than we had counted on, and we did not have any spare money to be able to put toward even a need as great as hers. I prayed and thought to myself “why does God let me see these needs if I am not going to be able to meet them?” I didn’t realize that all He wanted me to do was ask Him and wait patiently to see how He was going to work. Now I know as sad as I was at this family’s plight, God was letting me feel just a taste of what he must feel all the time when he looks down, and he sees his children suffering.
Later that year Habitat for Humanity decided to come to La Moskitia and work with Send Hope. I became involved in that project too. Now my job is to look for poor families who qualify for homes and help them prepare the necessary documents so they can receive a safe, sturdy home. Guess who got a new home; my little neighbor friend, and her twelve children! I was a little dismayed at how little the houses were. To me they were no bigger than a large room, but when one family saw it finished they remarked how big it was! It truly is all in your point of view!
God continues to stretch me, and open my eyes to the raw human need here. Sometimes I do not know how He plans on ever using me to meet such needs, but He has a plan even when i do not. I started visiting the prison here years ago when I was in nursing school. I befriended some of the prisoners, and continued to go back. Sometimes I will do a bible lesson, or share a testimony but most of the time I just go to visit and bring them things they can use. Twelve to fourteen men are locked in a room that can’t be more than 10’x12’ (a normal bedroom in an American house) from 4:00 PM until dawn. It is hot with no air conditioning; and two to four men have to sleep on the cold concrete floor with no mattress. Needless to say, it is over-packed. The kitchen consists of a black, smoke-charred room with an open fire, a few large pots and large hand-carved wooden spoons to cook with.
I have a burden for these men who have been imprisoned both in body and in spirit because of sin. I imagine my own brothers or sons there, and it would break my heart. Their crime has already received its punishment so I try to bring them some good news, that God loves them and has not forgotten about them. Several years ago we were able to provide a new well that they can drink from and we have also been able to help with new mattresses. We are shortly going to be receiving some nylon twine they can use to make fishing nets that can be sold for a nice profit. Among other things, we plan on using this profit to help the prison improve its conditions so that the men have more of their basic needs met. In our minds we have already begun calling the project Fishers of Men and those who are given the privilege to work will also need to attend a weekly bible study Roger is starting this month. Please keep this in your prayers; they will be needed, trust me!
Roger and I want to say thank you for your financial support as well as your prayers. None of this could ever have happened for us or the people we are here serving if it were not for your support. Truly you are our partners, and we pray you will share in our rewards as well. An additional word of gratitude goes out to those who have given so generously toward the finishing of our house. It isn’t quite finished yet, but we are living in it and we thank you from the bottoms of our hearts.
Blessings to you all,
Roger and Katrina Engle (and the Engle kids!)