Garden of Hope

7 Aug

Although not all dreams come from God, the Bible is full of dreams, dreamers, and dream interpreters. I think God gave me a dream a few months back More accurately, I think He gave me a further part of the dream He had when He called me to Honduras. Last December, I was working in the garden and looked through a window in the security wall that surrounds the orphanage. Nothing dramatic happened at that moment, but just like in a gardener, God planted a seed that day. Afterwards, almost every day I was drawn to think about the empty lot on the other side of the wall.


Weeks passed, but I was drawn back to that window time and again. Each time I wondered why I was so intrigued by the view of that empty and overgrown lot. Then one day, I heard a whisper, one so faint I almost missed it. It said, “I could make a great garden there. I could help feed the kids so Barry and Penny and Lauren could bring in more kids who need to be rescued.”

No, I wasn’t speaking to myself. I believe it was God speaking to my heart. I believe He was telling me what was in His heart. He was speaking out His vision and His dream for that empty lot. Since then I have quietly pursued the dream. I shared it with Mike Atkinson and Jeremy Frye, two of my pastors from the Church at Agape Outpost in Breckenridge, CO. Both caught the vision. Jeremy and I even measured the lot and sketched out plans for buildings and aquaponics systems. I later shared it with the Comptons, the founders of Open Door Ministries. They liked the idea and got us a meeting with the mayor of Tocoa. You see, we think the land is owned by the city of Tocoa, and if so, they might give us a long-term lease on the land. Possibly a 90 year lease that would cost next to nothing, or maybe nothing.

As part of my dreaming, I had made a 3D sketch in a program appropriately called “Sketchup.” I had tried to use Sketchup before, but could never figure it out. Still, I tried again. This time it worked almost without effort. So when we went to meet with the mayor, I took my computer with me to show him the plans for the property. When we got there and I opened my laptop, it would not work. I got excited and told Barry,  “My laptop won’t work. Isn’t that great?” Barry smiled, but you could tell he felt sorry for the dumb country boy sitting beside him. I continued, “Equipment breaking down before a meeting to do God’s Kingdom work means Satan is fighting us. Barry, we are on the right track.”

And it appeared we were on the right track as the mayor was acceptable to the idea. First there had to be a title search done to insure the land actually belonged to the town of Tocoa. Well, it has been over a month since we met with the mayor and we’ve heard nothing. But, things move slow in Honduras. It doesn’t mean the answer is no. I was getting a little down because I wanted to go ahead and get started, but then Barry said, “It may be that the Lord wants to provide another property that is better, maybe even bigger.”

So, I put aside my hesitation and my doubts, and decided to go for it by publicly sharing the dream for “Garden of Hope.” Here is a 2D image of the facility we want to build.


This is drawn on the lot next door, which is just more than half an acre. (I have not given up on the lot because of its proximity to the orphanage. Perhaps we will get it AND another lot. Only the Lord knows what He has planned. In this view the salmon-colored buildings are the warehouse, the group kitchen, a dining area, the shower house, watch guard’s house, the well house, and battery houses for the solar systems. The green house is the main house and the aqua colored building is housing for mission teams and interns. The purple buildings are for animals.


In this view you get a better view of the aquaponics grow beds. (the long blue structures.) There are also a few dirt garden plots to the far right. The two blue round structures are an above ground swimming pool and a kiddie pool for the orphans. The warehouse building has an open air roof for dining and meetings in the evenings.


In this final shot you get a better idea of the fish tanks under their protective roof which will double as a platform for solar panels.

I am working on a video to show this in 3D and it will give much more detail, but here is a summary of what we hope to provide orphans from the “Garden of Hope.”

70 pounds of fish per week.

20 dozen eggs per week.

30 pounds of rabbit meat per month.

Several gallons of goat milk a week.

Vegetables from hundreds of plants.

And of course fruit from Honduran fruit trees.

Of course, these amounts are averages. Not included is what we will grow to feed the staff and volunteers at the garden. Oh, the intern housing isn’t just for “Garden of Hope.” We are in this for the kids and young ladies at Village of Hope and Gates of Hope. I hope to see interns who teach and work with them staying with us. That is why I think the property next door to Village of Hope should be the location of this project. However, I know that God sees from a greater perspective and will gladly surrender to His will.

I will be in the states for most of August to share the vision with those interested. For now, please prayer for God’s will to be done in this endeavor. Don’t hesitate to forward this email to anyone you think might be interested in joining us.

Excluding travel dates I will be in the following towns on these dates:

Georgetown, Texas – August 12 to August 17

Chattanooga, Tennessee – August 19 and August 20

Summit County, Colorado – August 22 to August 25

Georgetown. Texas – August 27

Honduras – August 28

Folks, if this gets done, God will get tremendous glory, because I am entirely incapable of pulling off such a stunt as this on my own. I hope to see you while I am in the states. And this time, the words of T. D. Hall are for my benefit as well as yours,

“Don’t forget in the darkness what God told you in the light.”


PS A few kid shots lest we forget.















3 Aug

“He was born in the summer of this 27th year,

coming home to a place he’d never been before.

He left yesterday behind him,

you might say he was born again,

You might say he found a key for every door.”

Rocky Mountain High


John Denver


How about that? Ole’ John Denver wrote a song about me. Of course he got a few details wrong, I’m 62, not 27, but hey, nobody’s perfect. I thought of this song tonight when I started writing this post. My thoughts were inspired by a friend on Facebook who asked when I was coming home for a visit. After I read his question I sat back and thought, “Home? Coming home? What in the world are you talking about, man? I am home.” Stunned by my own thoughts, I thought about what I had just thought. (Think about that three times as fast as you can.)


A little perspective may be due my readers. I left Tennessee in the late 80’s and moved to Colorado trying to find “home.” I did find my first church family, the Church at the Agape Outpost, but I did not find home. Over the years I left Colorado, came back, and then repeated the cycle several times. About three years ago I hit the proverbial bottom and finally surrendered my life to Jesus Christ. Oh, I have been a believer since I was about eleven, but I was never a surrendered believer. After I surrendered, I even got baptized again. Not as a believer, but as a follower. Changing John’s song just a tad, you might say I was born again, again. (That is not a theologically sound statement folks.)


They say home is where the heart is, but during my years of searching I had a different definition of home. I believed home was a place where everything went my way. It was a place without pain. Since I didn’t really like people, it was also a place of solitude. What does home look like now? It is a three-acre, walled enclosure in Honduras where I live with 50 other people. For the last two weeks I have checked the Weather Channel on my computer daily. Consistently it lists our temperature as only 88 or 89 , but the “feels like” box says 108, 109, or 110 degrees. So… home is also hot! Really hot.


Back to the heart issue. There are some little people in my home who have invaded my heart. Their names are Brianna, Carlos, Noe, Adan, Elmer, Alexa, Santos, Eili, Saidi, Karla, Wendy, Junior, Mario… and the list goes on. And it is not just the young ones that have made their way into my heart. Freddis is 27, Gisele is 21, Sandra is 23, and Sabastian just turned 16. There are others, but I won’t mention their ages. (Yes, they are older, but still not as old as I am.) There is another Sandra, Flor, Edgardo, Nora, Roberto, Carolay, Lauren & Nillson & their son Jaydon, Barry & Penny, Sandy, Mirian, Sara, and that is still not all of them.


Strange thing about a real home and the people who live here. They are in my heart, yet I don’t even like all of them. At least not all the time. Still, if any left, I would miss them. Oh, and then there are my girls. Jasmin, Maria, Nicol, and Katerin didn’t just invade my heart, but they took up residency. I’ll give you an idea of how special they are. They have called me Papa (sounds like Popi when they say it) for 2 months now. This week that changed. Without my knowing it, they got a word in English from Nathan, my intern, and this week, they started calling me “Daddy.”  So you see, Honduras is where my heart is and therefore it is my home. I plan to live here until I go to my permanent home.


Oh, by the way, home it is not a place where everything goes my way. It is not a place without pain. However, it is full of life. Those sweet little girls I call my hijas (daughters) test me all the time to see if I love them enough to correct them and to do it without getting angry. I have found that home (and life) is good and sad, joyful and hurtful, adorable and depressing, sweet and gritty, clean and messy, refreshing and–hot! It all sounds so right now, so sensible. But four years ago, who among you would have told me that I would start a ministry to orphans, go to aquaponics school, do a six-week evaluation trip to Honduras, then move there for a year, find children in my sixties, and… well I will share the dreams for the future in another post this week. Who was prophet enough to tell me I would find home in hot Honduras. Well, I never saw it coming. All I can say is that God is good all the time and if you surrender to Him, He will prove it.


Friends, when I started this post, I had pictures I wanted to show you. I also had plans and dreams about the future I wanted to share with you. However, it seems that all I have done is tell you that thanks to Jesus Christ, my Savior, my Best Friend, and my Master, I am finally home. For all your help in getting me here and keeping me here, I thank you. My girls thank you. All the other kids and adults thank you. And the Lord thanks you. I will be in Texas, Tennessee, and Colorado in August. I will give details later this week. I hope to see you while there.


“Don’t forget in the darkness what God told you in the light.” T.D. Hall



2 Jul



Apparently Daisy thinks that our pain meter here at Village of Hope is off the scale. If she is correct, we should be coming into a whole lot of gain. Here is a list of the painful accidents we’ve had in the last couple of weeks: A teen-aged missionary was kicked in the face during a soccer game. I smashed Yasmin’s finger in the front gate. Noe has a knot on his forehead after walking into a stick wielded by a ninja orphan. (Not to be confused with an orphan ninja)


Nicol took a dive off her top bunk one night. On the way down she smacked her head onto either the floor or another bunk. Her forehead was bruised and her nose swollen, but no broken nose or even a loose tooth. Even the scape on her head has healed up, but I still made her promise to stop pretending to be an airplane when she crawled out of her bunk to go to the bathroom at night. Oh, Nicol also had a toothache and had to have a molar pulled. (Tough week!)


Nathan my intern has a beautiful sunburn, but he is still smiling. Here he is with Elmer.


Michelle, another intern, was sick for three days. Here is a shot of Michelle and her Dad, Rodney with Nicol. That was just a small list of the bumps and bruises one sees during a couple of weeks here. It could have been worse. Yasmin could have a broken finger. Nicol could have a broken neck. Noe could have been hit in the eye. The young missionary could have lost teeth. Nathan could have been sunburned really bad. Michelle could have been forced to return to the USA. So, thank you Jesus for your protection. Still, we did have some gains because of, or in spite of, the pains.


Nathan, my intern from the Church at Agape Outpost in Breckenridge Colorado is helping Freddis, our maintenance guy, build a new warehouse for the orphanage. Here is the back room of the warehouse (bodega in Spanish) that Nathan is building. I am impressed with Nathan’s choice of jobs because it is hot here in June and the work is hard, but Nathan wants to see the job finished. It is good to see young people dedicated to completing a task. Michelle is bilingual and a teacher. She has been a blessing to our school and we will miss her when she returns to Florida in July. AND, the aquaponics system is not only up, but it is RUNNING!!


Plants in the system so far are chives, okra, beans, tomatoes, mint, cucumbers, and some peppers.


Here are photos of the roots of our chives and mint. We grew these from seeds.


The water is clear enough to take pictures and count the fish. (We have 10 in the tank.) Here is Clouseau, Claude, and Claudette. Yes, I name my fish. I am looking forward to some grilled Clouseau. Next I have some Misc photos of times of gain:


Water slide day.


Village of Hope soccer team victors over Gates of Hope 12 to 1.


The twins messing with Jeremy Frye’s hair just because they can.


Luke Anthony (Lucas to the kids) from Florida discovering that I like to take pictures of people taking pictures.


Dance contest in full swing.

I think the gains of the last couple of weeks have outweighed the pains, but then I didn’t take a dive off a top bunk on the way to the bathroom, I didn’t get a tooth pulled, I didn’t get my finger caught in a steel gate, nor did I get kicked in the face. I did get to take care of several of those in pain and it has been my gain to see them smile again. Before I close, you should know that I hope to make more posts than usual this summer. I will also be back in the states in mid-August. I hope to have some exciting news about the future of Food 4 Kids to share before that time, but for now, look for God’s loving hand as he turns your pain to gain and,

Don’t forget in your pain what God told you during the times of gain.





29 May

Pain and little girls. I have become well acquainted with both during the last two months. Although frustrating at times, I love the little girls as though they were my own daughters. Actually, in my heart, they are. I don’t enjoy the pain, but I do learn from it. Before I go on, let’s get one thing straight. I don’t believe God causes us pain. I know He can, He is God after all, but I just don’t believe He does. Besides, the human race has screwed this world up so much that God doesn’t need to send pain our way. We experience enough just living in a fallen world. You may have a different theological stance, and that is okay because I am not a theologian. However, I personally don’t believe it. I do believe that God uses pain to teach us lessons. This week one of our girls, Nicol, had a painful experience and learned a lesson. Nicol was the first of the kids at Village of Hope to call me Popi. I told her that if she called me Popi, then I got to call her hija – daughter. We’ve been family ever since.

Nicol’s painful event is one that I never wished on her and certainly wouldn’t send her way, but I am glad she went through it. Why? Because it taught her to trust me. And yes, it is important that she trusts me. Not because I have a need to be trusted or want her to think I will never fail her. I will fail her. No, it is important because my purpose in her life is to teach her to trust her Father in Heaven. The One who never has, nor never will, fail her.

Here is what happened. The older boys were playing soccer. Nicol and her twin, Katerin, were nearby. One of the boys made a hard kick. Katerin saw it coming and jumped to the side. Nicol was behind Katerin and never saw the ball until it hit her in the chest. It was purely an accident and the boy apologized immediately. I have personally been hit by a ball kicked by the same boy. It hit me in the chest too, knocked me back a step, and left me fighting for my breath. In essence, it hurt, and I weigh about a thousand times more than 10-year-old Nicol. Now remember, I didn’t send Nicol to get hurt, nor did she do anything wrong. (No sin in other words.) Yet she got hurt. What she did with the pain is the point. She had several options. There were 3 Tias (house moms) nearby. There was a husband and wife team on the property and even another Tio (Uncle). Nicol ignored them and came to my door. When I saw her outside my apartment, tears and snot covered her face. Her sobs were actually gasps for air. In her eyes, I saw that she wasn’t just hurting, she was terrified. As she sobbed, gasped, and patted her chest, her twin told me what had happened. I understood Nicol’s pain and fear. I have suffered from both lately.

You see, in mid-April and I thought I had a summer cold, but it kept getting worse. I fought to keep working in the garden, but I had no energy and would get out of breath in minutes. At night, I couldn’t sleep because I couldn’t breathe. I finally went to a missionary-run hospital and was diagnosed with pneumonia. They flooded my system with antibiotics and told me to rest. I knew that I could never rest at the orphanage with 40 kids knocking on my door all day, every day, so I returned to Texas and stayed with Bruce and Joyce Hammack. Formerly I have called their house the Hammack Hotel, but now it is the Hammack Hotel and Convalescence Center.

The worst thing about having pneumonia was the feeling of helplessness and its accompanying fear. I had no energy, no stamina, & no way to speed up recovery. All I could do was sleep. According to common sense, I should still be recovering in Texas, but I believed that God said, “Go home to Honduras. Now.” So, I came back, but I am still in a fight to recover my energy and stamina. It scares me that my lung capacity is so diminished. Sometimes I can barely walk two blocks before I am out of breath. Not tired, but out of breath. When I saw that look of terror in Nicol’s eyes, I understood what she was going through. She couldn’t breathe, felt helpless, didn’t know what to do, and couldn’t even talk about it.

As Nicol leaned against my door, she gasped for air, patted her chest, and tried to cry. Those who have had asthma know the fear and helplessness that comes with not being able to get a full breath. I stood her up straight and calmly told her it was going to be okay. I instructed her to draw in a deep breath. She did. Then another. Then several more. She got the idea, quit her shallow gasping, and went to deep breathing. Occasionally she moaned and rubbed her chest. The tears never quit streaming down her face. It took 15 minutes to get her breath back and another 30 in my lap before the fear left her eyes. Here’s Nicol on a better day. She is standing outside my door within inches of where I found her crying.


After almost an hour of Nicol sitting on my lap, my leg had gone to sleep. Now I was the one in pain. I could barely walk, but I led Nicol to Tia Sandra so she could get some more loving. I tried to leave, but she refused to let go of my hand. Finally, I stood her on a porch so she was my height and gave her a long hug. I told her I had to go back to my apartment, but Nicol pulled me back down. I thought she wanted yet another hug, but my leg hurt and I wanted to sit down without a 65 pound child in my lap. Then I felt a little kiss on my cheek before Nicol walked into her group house. I was stunned to tears by her simple gratitude. Of course, I manfully hid those tears.

I think there are many lessons we could all learn from this episode. (I know I did.) Lessons about ourselves and lessons about God. First, I praise God that the ball didn’t hit Nicol in the face. Besides a broken nose, mashed lips, and blood all over the place, it could have broken her neck. Next, when she was gasping for air, it took lots of courage, faith, and trust for her to agree with me and take that first deep breath. The fight against pain and fear took a while to win, but she won. Well, okay, we won. The three of us. Oh, didn’t you realize that the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ was present and working in us during this time. I certainly did. Remember, I am a 62-year-old guy who has never had kids. I don’t know what I am doing. BUT JESUS DOES! He took me through this step by step as I took Nicol through it the same way. Among other things, He gave me wisdom and miraculous calmness – I never shed a tear. Well, not until she kissed my cheek. My eyes still water up thinking about that. (Manfully of course.)

Like God, I didn’t need to cause Nicol pain to teach her a lesson. Life in a fallen world just happened to her. Like God, I hated to see my child in pain, but also like God, I was pleased that she came to me instead of anyone else. Like we should, Nicol went straight to her Popi with her pain. Although it wasn’t true before she got to my door, like God, or rather because of Him, I knew just what to do. Like we should, Nicol took a step of faith and did what I told her to do. And like we should, she made a simple and honest act of gratitude. Like God, I was pleased by her gratitude.

Oh friends, I know this had nothing to do with aquaponics, but you can’t believe how sick, miserable, and bored I have been the last two months. I am still weary and it has been hard to get going again. Pops knew I needed something that would bless my heart to kick me out of the doldrums. He knew that His kids are best healed by love so He led me back to Honduras in time to be here for Nicol. Then He guided us step-by-step. I wrote this to publicly thank Him for all the changes, joys, struggles, and yes, even the pains that He has led me through during the last six months. I also thank Him and praise Him that I was not lingering in Texas when Nicol needed me. Now, by faith, I trust that my public gratitude pleases Him. One other thing that I hope pleases Him is my absolute conviction and determination to guide our (His and mine) girls into knowing Him as their true Father and “Popi.”

Up but not running. Yet!

11 Apr

The seasons do change here in Tocoa, Honduras. Now that the rainy season is over, we’re having … the dry season. Hasn’t rained more than 3 or 4 times in the last 30 days. However, no matter the season, it is still hot. I know some of you think it is all fun and games for me down here loving on these kids, but here are a few pictures from my labors. First are some vegetables and then there are some pictures of our first aquaponics system. This system is built with IBC’s (Intermediate Bulk Containers). It should hold 50 tilapia and over 100 plants when it reaches full capacity. Jeremy Frye, missions pastor extraordinaire from the Church at Agape Outpost in Breckenridge CO, helped me cut the tanks into two parts last month. We then painted them black to reduce light and inhibit algae growth. Next we painted them with a coat of white to reflect sunlight in an attempt to keep the water as cool as possible for the fish. It seemed to work in Texas at with Bruce Hammack’s system.

After Jeremy left, I cut the PVC tubes and glued them into U-shapes. Water travels from tank to tank through the tubes. The pump is in as well as the Styrofoam boards that will hold the plants. I cut holes in the Styrofoam and even transplanted a few chive plants and one okra seedling into the system. The chives are doing great. They seem to be indestructible. Oh, we also had a leak in one of the tanks and I have to patch it tomorrow. Then we go catch tilapia from the big tank at the other facility.

All this took more time than I wanted it to due to several reasons. One. I had to work in the dirt gardens. Two. The pump for our well stopped working for a few days, but Rodney Jackson, a volunteer living in Trujillo fixed it in with day’s work. And three, I have had the mother of all summer colds. Coughing, fever, gagging, spitting, oops! TMI? Well, let’s just say the last few days haven’t been fun. Here are the photos.


The cherry tomatoes I planted back in the rainy season are finally producing fruit. Now, if I can just get the kids to stop eating them until before they turn red.


 I love hot peppers, but these are almost too hot for even me. The plant was here when I arrived in November so I don’t know what it is, but I am saving some seeds for you fire eaters who come on a mission trip. I’ve named this pepper “the attitude changer.”


 Anyone for sunflower seeds?


Here is the system. The fish tank is the back one with a raised lid. The poo-collector and the plastic lids collected by the Church at the Agape Outpost are both in the first short tank. If the water looks low, it is. Still need to do more work before filling it to full capacity.


 Here are the chives and a couple of other replants from the dirt gardens. Next week I should have photos of happy fish and happier plants. (Meaning they are well-fed) And that is all for this Food 4 Kids update. Hmm. Okay. Here are a few of my favorite kind of photos.


This is Maria. She is 11 years old and is the caretaker of six siblings that arrived last month.


This is Norma, one of Maria’s three sisters and two brothers.


It’s skooter day at Village of Hope! Yes, Esther is probably too big for that little scooter, but she said it was pink and she just had to ride it. So I had to take a picture.


I told you it was hot in that garden. See, it is not all fun and games down here just playing with the kids. Well, actually, it may be.


Yasmin, ready for school.


Nicol, never shy when a camera is in sight.

Be blessed my friends and family in the Lord. We are growing plants and getting ready to raise fish, but I for one will never forget why we are really here. 


Pops & Papa

20 Mar

Much has happened since I returned to Honduras one month ago. The rainy season continued. The rainy season ended. Migraine headaches came and thankfully departed. I purchased 3 IBC’s (Intermediate Bulk Containers) for our first aquaponics system. Here I am with the first two.


Jeremy Frye and I cut them apart and set them in place. That is Katerin beside me. She is dressed for school.


And then Nicole gave me a new name. I have spoken of Yasmin and the special relationship she and I have, but God has given me two other little girls to love. Like Yasmin, Katerin and Nicol are nine. (Nicol is on the right) 


They are twins. No! That is not correct. They are “The Twins,” a term to be said with equal parts exasperation, foreboding, and helplessness. For me, there is always a smile too. Tuesday, March 18, Nicol gave me a heart made of paper. Another child tore it up, so Nicol made another. On this one, she wrote: “From Nicol, To Tio Papa.” (She didn’t know how to spell Gideon.) After I read it, I asked, “Tio Papa?” Nicol hesitated, but nodded. As she waited for my reaction, her face was full of the fear of rejection. I instantly gave her a hug and said, “Thank you, but if you call me Papa, then I get to call you daughter.” She nodded again and kissed my cheek. Her grin was brighter than the sun. I’m pretty sure mine was too.

Now, that was definitely a Kodak moment, but the next day, March 19, equaled it. March 19 is Father’s Day in Honduras. At the orphanage school, many of the kids made Father’s Day cards for “Papa Barry” Compton, the founder of Open Door Ministries. But not Nicol. No, Nicol made a Father’s Day card for me! On it she wrote, “Te amo mucho papa.” It means, “I love you lots, papa.”

Folks, I am 62 years old and Wednesday was the first time in my life I’ve ever been given a Father’s Day card. This past week, Mike Atkinson, my pastor, visited Honduras. When he left on Sunday, he hugged me and called me Big Brother. I am 62 years old and yes, that was the first time I have ever been called Big Brother. (I am the youngest of three boys.) I love Mike Atkinson. We have known each other for more than 25 years. It brought me to tears when he called me “Big Brother.” However, I don’t think Mike will be offended to learn that the highlight of my week was Nicol calling me Papa. I realize now that I was receiving a lesson about the names of God.

Names identify a person, but they do so much more. Names can define character, be used as terms of endearment, or even be used as weapons. As a child, I had a hard time with my Father. Looking back, I take equal blame for our rocky relationship, but I take full blame for using his name as a weapon. Instead of calling him Father or Daddy, I called him by his first name, Levi. It was meant to hurt him, and it did. One day he asked me why I didn’t call him Daddy. I refused to answer and I refused to call him Daddy. I know I am forgiven now, but I look forward to the day in Heaven when I can apologize and call Levi by his real name, “Daddy.”

The word God seems so impersonal. Almighty God, while one of my current favorites, makes God seem a little distant. Then there are the names for Jesus: Savior, Master, and Lamb of God. All of these are dear to me, but after reviewing God’s names, I decided “Father” is my second favorite name for God and my favorite name is “Pops.” It has been my secret name for God for years now. Until now, I was too shy, scared, and doubtful to tell anyone. To you, “Pops” may seem too familiar. It may even border on disrespect. Well, if I was using it in a disrespectful manner, then it would be plain wrong. But, I want to be God’s son as much as Nicol wants to be my daughter. I want to please Him as much as Nicol wants to please me. Now, I know this nine-year old orphan is desperate for a father, but that is the point. She is desperate and “Pops” put me in her life for a reason. (It turned out that I was pretty desperate to be called Papa.) It is an amazing miracle that “Pops” put us together. And you, the supporters of Food 4 Kids, had a large part in making the miracle come true.

So, what is your favorite name for God? Jesus called His Heavenly Father, “Abba.” (He told us to do it too.) In ancient Hebrew, Abba means Daddy. (I suspect it also means “Pops.”) Do you need someone to call Father, Daddy, or Pops? Do you fear that if you do, He might reject you? Friends, it is not going to happen. In Hebrews 4:16, “Pops” commands His kids to boldly enter His throne room when we need His mercy or grace.

I have been a Dad for only a few days now, yet if Nicol (or Yasmin or Katerin) ever needed me… well, it happened on Father’s Day. Of all things, Nicol needed me to discipline her. Do you remember Esther? I once described her as a “Daughter of Thunder.” Like Esther, Nicol’s temper runs as deep as her love and her desperation. She has been in lots of trouble lately. Wednesday I saw her smack another orphan. Not hard, but hard enough to warrant discipline. I usually don’t handle discipline for the girls. I just take them to their Tia (House Mom), but Tia Flor was out of town that day. So, on my first Father’s Day I had to decide if I loved this little girl enough to discipline her. I did. As I headed toward her, she saw me coming and ran away rather than face me. You know what I did? I took a lesson from my “Pops” and I followed her until she stopped running. We got to the far side of the orphanage before that happened. I explained that I saw what she did and I ordered her up to her room for a time out. She didn’t want to go, but she did. Later, when her time was up, I called Nicol downstairs from her bunkroom. She came down slowly, cautiously, and yes, fearfully. If she could have seen into my heart, she would have known she didn’t have any reason to worry. All I wanted to do was to give her a bear hug. Which I did. Her smile lit the room…and my heart.

I know many of you have children and have learned much about the love of our Heavenly “Pops” through your love for your kids. However, it is all new to me. I just had to tell someone, well, actually, I guess I just told everyone. At 62 years of age, I am a Papa, but more importantly, God is my “Pops.”

One more point. Nicol did not earn my love or acceptance. As a matter of fact, when I first met she and Katerin, they scared me because they were so rough and wild. They were not the girls I would have picked. Being Nicol’s friend, then her Tio, and now her Papa has been and will be a difficult task. She is wounded inside and desperate for love, but that is part of the reason I love these three girls. I see their wounds, their loneliness, and their fears. However, I also see the beautiful women of God they could become if they only had an earthly Papa to introduce them to their Heavenly “Pops.” Oh, wait, that is why I am here. And why you sent me. Or were you like me and really thought “Pops” sent me this far from home just to grow a few fish? No, He had you send me for much more. Yasmin, Katerin, Nicol, and “Pops” thank you for making His miracle come true. As do I.


Addition by Subtraction

3 Mar

Here at the Village of Hope, the kids call me “Tio Gideon.” Tio is Spanish for uncle. They use it as both a term of respect (sort of like calling me “Sir”) and a term of endearment. They call me “Tio Gideon” whether they are laughing, crying, eating, playing, and or even when I am correcting them. Now, let there be no doubt, as a 62-year old guy with no kids of my own, I am thrilled to hear children call me, “Uncle Gideon.” But sometimes, one of them will just call me “Tio.” Ahh, now that is truly special. I’ll try to explain why.

I have two cousins that I often heard say “Yes Sir” to my Dad, but it was never the same as when they said it to their own father. To be sure, when they said “Sir” (whether to my Dad or their own) it was a term of respect. However, no one else received the unique blend of respect, affection, and trust that their own Dad received. “Sir “ was more than a title for their Dad, it was also his name. My guess is, that to my cousins, “Sir” meant “Father.”

I have been back in Honduras for just over two weeks. Physically, it has been a tough two weeks. After the cold of Texas and Colorado, it took a several days to adapt to the heat. I worked in the hot sun for eight hours one day and ached for two more days. Then came the migraine. It lasted three days. Next, I set a concrete block on its end, stood up straight to stretch, and didn’t notice it toppling over until it hit the back of my leg just above the Achilles tendon. The resulting scrape was ugly, but minor. What still hurts is the Achilles tendon. All this whining is to say that I have been very unproductive in the garden. However I have had a lot of time to spend with God.

You may know that there are three little girls down here who have captured my heart. Jasmin, Nicole, and Katerina are their names. At the risk of being overly sentimental (who me?) I want to tell a couple of stories. During the migraine episode, the sounds of 50 kids playing was not a pleasant noise to my ears, but I stepped outside for some fresh air. Katerina walked by. I tapped her on the shoulder and offered her a hug. Instead, she crawled up into my lap, laid her head on my shoulder, and sat there for a long time. Now Katerina is not the toughest kid in the orphanage. She may not even be the meanest, but she does test me more than any of the others. It absolutely took me by surprise that when she got down, she kissed me on the cheek, and said, “Gracious, Tio.”

At that moment, I knew “Tio” was my name. It meant she trusted me, loved me, and also respected me. It meant we were family. Wow! You may ask, “What does this have to do with aquaponics farming?” Just hang on, I will get there in a moment.

I had a special moment with Jasmin this weekend too. I took her to the local Wendy’s restaurant for lunch. (Yes, we have a Wendy’s in Tocoa) We had a great time with lots of laughs. She ate fried chicken. Seems she is not too wild about hamburgers. Jasmin held my hand all the way there and all the way back. When we got back she hugged my neck and said, “Gracious, Tio.” Yep. Another one of those special “Tio-only” moments. I could get used to that.


That is me with Jasmin and Katerina at last Friday night’s pizza party. Tio is happy.

Now we finally get to aquaponics,  or at least to missionary work, which is why I am in Honduras. Isn’t it? This morning I was whining because I couldn’t walk around. I couldn’t squat in the garden or use my leg to dig with a shovel. I felt useless. I didn’t complain to God, but I did apologize, because along with uselessness, I felt like a failure.

At that moment Father God whispered into my heart, “Who are you?” I gave a Biblical answer, “Your redeemed son?” “No,” came the gentle response. I was puzzled at first, but then it came to me in a flash. To at least two little girls, I was Tio. That made me think of how Katerina had disobeyed me in the garden this morning. My leg hurt, but I had to water the newly-planted seeds. (It seems the rainy season is finally over) Katerina kept turning it into a water fight with ten other kids. True, they relished it too, but she was the ringleader. Finally, I expelled her from the garden.

Was I still her Tio? You would have to ask her that, but was she still the little girl who had captured my heart? You bet. Did I still love her. You bet. When she returns for a hug, will I still hug her. You bet. Will I hunt her down and offer her a hug. That would be a winner too. Why? Because that is love. After the water wars, I limped back to my room. Later, Jasmin came by my apartment and waved  through my open door. I got to my feet and stepped outside to take a picture of her. I got another hug and she left with “See you later, Uncle.” Now, don’t think that Jasmin was all that good during the water wars. She was an instigator too, but she was wise enough to stop when she saw Katerina expelled from the garden.

Here is the point. I don’t have much progress to report concerning aquaponics or gardening this week. My leg hurts, the  power just went out, and my fan is not working. Did I mention that it is hot in Honduras. Especially without a fan. But it has been a great week. One of my best.

My God, the one that tells us to call Him Father, just showed me how much He loves us. His love is greater than that of a Tio. Even when we act like brats and get consequences. (like Katerina) Even when we act like brats, but somehow avoid consequences. (like Jasmin) Even when we are unproductive concerning our tasks. (like me) Even in all those times, and many others, He still loves us. Like a human Tio, He is always thrilled just to hear us call Him “Father.”

Would God send me to Honduras just to help me understand His love? Yes and no. To understand our Father’s love means you must give it away. If you aren’t giving it away, you don’t truly understand it. So while he reveals to me and teaches me about his love, I am (and have been) giving it away to others. Finally, I can agree with that great philosopher, Forrest Gump, and say, “I know what love is.” Well, I am at least starting to get an idea. I do understand this: Aquaponics is not the mission. It is the excuse for the mission. I am the mission. Katerina is the mission. Jasmin is the mission. Nicole is the mission. Adan, Junior, Tia Sandra, Tia Flor, Tio Roberto, Tio Edgardo, and all the other children are the mission. If you are reading this, then you are the mission too.

Some may fear that this post is about abandoning aquaponics. Nothing could be further from the truth. As God heals my heart and is free to operate through it, I will be more successful with aquaponics than ever before. I want to be the best farmer I can be so Open Door Ministries can feed more kids. That means they can rescue more kids. Oh, and one other thing, I want him to heal my heart because I want to be the best Tio I can be. Since God put that desire in my heart, he is sure to fulfill it and I want to say, “Thanks Father God.” Or, I could subtract a word and say more with: “Thanks, Pops.”

Helloes, Whys, Blessings, and See Ya Soons.

19 Feb


Hello all! It is February 18 and I am back online. I arrived on Feb. 13 and I confess it is my fault it took this long to get back online. I took a couple of days off to settle back in to life here at Village of Hope. The time I spent in the USA was marvelous and much more than I expected, but it wasn’t a relaxing time. So, I haven’t done much since I returned except watch it rain. Oh yeah. It is still the rainy season here in Tocoa, Honduras.

While in the states I realized that I have failed in my duty to inform you, the supporters of Food 4 Kids, on how and why you can help. I’m sure you noticed that I have begged, pleaded, and threatened you in the effort to sign everyone up on the Food 4 Kids blog. However, I never explained WHY it matters or HOW it can help. To be honest, in the beginning, getting everyone to sign up for the blog was a matter of convenience, but not now. Now it is a matter of economics. Okay, economics and convenience.

When I purchase a month of internet service in Honduras, I am paying for the right to use a certain amount of data within that month. When either the data or the month runs out, I must purchase a new month and a new block of data. If I send updates to the 105 people on my email update list, then I use 105 amounts of that much data. Admittedly, if it is a text-only email, that is not much. However, I want to send pictures and videos too. If I send 105 emails with pictures or videos, it would use up my data quickly. So, if everyone signs up for the blog, I only have to make one post to the blog and it sends out 105 emails for me. (That is assuming that all of you sign up to follow the blog) So, now that you understand how and why it will help Food 4 Kids, you will all go to the blog and click on the “follow” button and put in your emails. Right? Thank you.

With Helloes and Whys out of the way, here is the Blessing part. When I made this trip to the USA at the end of January I thought of it as a recruiting trip. I hoped to have a team-building meeting for those interested in short term trips or even a longer stay in Honduras. I prayed for 10 or 12 folks to show up, but I was determined to stay thankful if only 5 or 6 showed up. Imagine my elation when 22 folks came to the meeting while another 12 told me they were interested but for various reasons couldn’t come to the meeting. Wow. I am so humbled by my God and His people.

Mike Atkinson and Jeremy Frye are planning a trip to Honduras in March to evaluate the opportunities for short term teams as well as longer term individual stays. While here, they will meet with Lauren, the director of Open Door Ministries. Many details are yet to be worked out, but soon we will have a trip planned with tasks, dates, costs, and other pertinent info. Yes, this was a very successful recruiting trip, but while in Colorado, we received several financial gifts to Food 4 Kids, including the largest single gift we have had – so far.

 A few reports from Honduras:

The kids said, “Kidy.” Umm. That is as close as they get to “Howdy.”

The gardens are in poor shape after I was in the states for three weeks. Lots of work to do.

It is still raining several times a day.

I gave out hugs with your names on them. I received hugs meant for you.

To those coming on a mission trip, I will see you in Honduras. To those not coming to Honduras, I hope to see you on my next trip to the USA in May. Be blessed and See Ya Soon!!



25 Jan

Somewhere in every great book, the story takes a tragic turn. My favorite authors seem to delight in making tragic turns occur just when everything seems wonderful and peaceful. The first such story happened in the Garden of Eden. Sometimes I absolutely hate what authors put their characters through. My favorite writers do it consistently, yet I love their books. Why? Because an adventure requires more than good guys, true love, and good times. It also requires villains, betrayals, and tragic turns. Why? Well, it sells books is one reason, but another reason is that it resembles real life. 

There is an unwritten contract between writers and readers. It states that each tragic turn must serve a purpose. The hero must either grow from the experience or learn from it. Often they will go through a similar (and usually worse) event in the future. We readers will endure tragic, even evil, turns in the story if we see good come from it. Why? Because that is what we want real life to be like. We want to believe that there is a purpose for the tragedies we experience. Most of us don’t want to read books that follow the philosophy of Elbert Hubbard who said, “Life is just one damn thing after another.”

So, with that intro, do you feel a story with a tragic turn coming on? Here it is. In my last post, I wrote about becoming a Tio, or house dad, to three teenage girls. It was with joy, hope, and honor that I wrote that post. I was exhilarated at the thought of helping those young ladies. However, within days, life took an unforeseen turn. While not really a tragic turn, it felt that way at the time. One girl got angry with a government official and left the program. One failed to take care of her child and was placed in another house with a Tia who would train and guide her to be a better mother. The third girl couldn’t stay in their apartment by herself so she was moved to yet another house. In twelve hours, we went from working together as a team and growing as a family unit to me sitting on the floor of their apartment watching all three cry. I tried to offer words of comfort, but I didn’t  know the language well enough to do so.

So life took an unexpected, sad, and disappointing turn. In the past, this is where I would usually say, “I won’t do that again. It hurt too much. No. Not me.” That was me in the past, but what about now? Do I still like the adventure God has placed me in? Heavens yes! Two reasons come to mind. The first reason is that in the days since then, I have lived through the next several chapters of the story. I can already see good things happening. Things that might not have happened in our previous arrangement.

Under the tutelage of a woman she likes and loves, the young mom is learning how to take care of her child. Three days ago she hid her head in a pillow and cried. Today, she is smiling and happy. The girl who got angry and left won’t be back, but she understands that she let her temper put her where she is now. The third girl has started cooking for the boys in one of the houses. I got to eat her fried chicken the other day. Sorry Mom, but Eili’s fried chicken may be the best I’ve ever had. I am not exaggerating. So see, all is different, yet all is well. The Author of this story really does know what He is doing.

And that is the second reason, and perhaps the main one, that I still like the adventure. I personally know the author and trust that He will succeed in writing the story He wants to write. He will end this story with, “And they lived happily ever after.”

Do I have questions about what happened and why it happened? Yes. But here is the real question. Would I do it again? YES! (All caps equal a shout) Now, I know that this turn of events wasn’t truly tragic, but what if it had been. A death could have been the cause of the breakup of our farming team. Or the two girls that stayed could have run away later and ended up in who knows what kind of horrid situation. So would I do it again even if it had been tragic? You can bet the farm on it. Oh, don’t misunderstand me. Watching my girls cry hurt so badly that I went back to my apartment and cried too. It hurt especially bad to know that one was leaving the group for good. But I absolutely trust the author of this story. He has proven His qualities to me time and again. I trust that He is in control, and most of all, I trust that His heart is good. You see, every story He writes is History. (His Story – get it?) And His Story is always good.

As an author, He does have a unique problem. His Story is an interactive story. He lets us participate and our choices determine much of our part in His Story. Don’t jump on me for heresy. I believe God is sovereign and absolutely in control, but I also believe that within His sovereign will, He gave us free will. He chooses us, but we choose whether or not we accept His choosing of us. (You may need to read that line again. I did.)

Life is supposed to be an adventure. Yet, I lived most of my life paralyzed by the constant fear of pain. I did almost anything to avoid even the potential of pain. So, am I having fun right now? Yes, and it hurts. Relationships hurt. Disappointment hurts. Broken relationships hurt. But, I know the end of the story, and friends, we win. Those of us who choose to listen to His call “live happily ever after.” The story doesn’t end with this turn of events. This isn’t the final chapter. Heck, it isn’t even the main storyline. Life truly begins when we enter into the presence of the Author.

Yes this turn of events hurt, but this is the storyline that the Author wrote specifically for me – and my girls. I go through these hurts because I now know that my life has purpose. Plus, even with the hurts, the life I am living now is just plain fun. Other than my salvation, I may be walking through the greatest miracle of my lifetime. God has changed me from a guy who avoided all risks of pain into a man who doesn’t want pain, but sees it as part of this life and is willing to go through it. I know that what I face will make me better and that it will help me face problems in the future that are similar – and maybe worse. Besides, this is History, not my story. My part is just a small part, although to the Author, I am as important as any other character, except His Son.

This poem has been one of my favorites for years. It is just now that I am actually understanding and living this mindset.

My Orders by Ethelwyn Wetherald

My orders are to fight; 

  Then if I bleed, or fail, 
Or strongly win, what matters it?
  God only doth prevail.

The servant craveth naught
  Except to serve with might.
I was not told to win or lose,–
  My orders are to fight.

To have this mindset requires trust. To have trust requires asking the Author to write you into a chapter on trust. It will be a grand adventure, but there will be tragic turns. And it will hurt. But friends, it is worth it. I promise. How do I know? Because we win. What does victory look like? It looks like a celebration of champions. I see one day when you, I, my three girls, and all the other champions will gather in the Author’s house for a party to celebrate the wedding of the His Son. It will be a grand event, but it will be absent one thing. A tragic turn.

“And they lived happily ever after.”

God’s gentle sense of humor.

18 Jan

Last week I was thrilled when Tio Edgardo finally arrived back from his vacation. Tio is the Spanish word for uncle and Tia is the word for aunt. At Open Door Ministries, the titles of Tia & Tio are equal to a house-parent at orphanages in the USA. Back to Edgardo. It wasn’t his fault that he was three days late. Floods washed the roads away. He got back as soon as he could. The reason I was thrilled with Edgardo’s arrival was that while he was on vacation, I took his place as a Tio. I lived in a small house with 6 young boys for two weeks. With his return, I was looking forward to what I considered a well-deserved rest. I won’t take the time to explain the circumstances, but within a day of Tio Edgardo’s return, I volunteered to be a house parent again. This time it is a little more complicated. I am back in my apartment here at the orphanage, but living in the apartment above me are . . . drumroll please . . . three, beautiful, wonderful, but troubled, teenage girls. (Emphasis on wonderful and troubled)

Now, let’s clarify my status. I am a 62-year-old guy who came to Honduras to farm at an orphanage for a year. I am single, never had children, and I am a loner. Yep, put me in a room with a Bible, a book, a praise CD, and plenty of food and I don’t need other people at all. People wear me out. I can make it on my own quiet well without others thank you. I’m not saying that is the way that I (or anyone else) should live, it’s just the way I have lived for many years now. However, sometimes, in the quiet of those quiet days, I would pray for something else, something more. Sometimes I admitted to myself and to God that I wanted to be part of a team, to be part of something that mattered. Almost as soon as the words would leave my mouth, I would slam shut the door to my heart again and forget them. Guess who didn’t forget my words or prayers?

Yeah, that’s right. My Abba Daddy didn’t forget. So, here is where God’s sense of humor comes into the story. To answer my secret prayers for companionship and purpose, God sent me down to Honduras to be a farmer. Huh? Does that make sense to you? Me either, but let’s face it, if He had told me to do what I am doing now, I would have never believed it was from God. It is just too crazy! Not only does it not make sense, there was a greater problem. I didn’t have enough love in my heart to take on caring for three teenage girls. So do you see why God put me in an orphanage for 3 months? He knew I would fall in love with the little kids and He was softening my heart so He could do His job through me to the big kids. He wanted me to love the lonely, help the helpless, and defend the fatherless. Sound familiar? From his own mouth, here is Jesus’ job description.

“The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me,

Because He has anointed Me

To preach the gospel to the poor;

He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,

To proclaim liberty to the captives

And recovery of sight to the blind,

To set at liberty those who are oppressed;

To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.” Luke 4:18 NKJV

Monday, my girls and I worked in the garden together. What a hoot seeing these 14 and 15 year-old girls with their hands in slime and mud separating dirt from sod. Farming will be part of their chores each day. Did you get that? God has given this ex-loner a team of farmers!

Tuesday, we piled into a taxi and I took them for a class in shopping at a local grocery store. Each girl had a list of 20 items and a certain amount of cash. I had them get a shopping cart and turned them loose with no help or instructions other than “buy the stuff on this list.” I haven’t laughed that hard for a long time. Imagine three cute teenage girls, each with a shopping cart and each looking at a shopping list. It was like an episode of keystone cops. If one went across an aisle, the others followed. If the first one realized she was in the wrong aisle and turned around, the others followed. I stopped laughing long enough to stop that behavior and then noticed another problem. Each had loaded her cart with her three loafs of bread first, and then piled other stuff on top of the bread. I went to each cart and put the bread in the section for fragile items. Somehow, the girls had formed a line again. I noticed that if the first one in line took an item off the shelf, the others took the same item. If she put the item back, the others stared at her, grumbled among themselves, and then put the item back. By this time, I was laughing so hard I had tears streaming down my cheeks. I’m not sure if the girls learned anything, but I had a blast.

There are two passages the Lord has given me for working with these young ladies.

The first is something King David says to the Lord.  

“Your gentleness has made me great.” Psalm  18:35

Wow! We spend so much time talking about God’s power and holiness (and rightly so) yet David said that it was God’s gentleness that made Him great. I know my girls need discipline and tough love, but even tough love can be done in a gentle way.

The other passage is a familiar one to many of us.

“Mercy triumphs over judgment.” James 2:13

This quote is from the New King James Version, but I looked it up in the “old” King James Version too. Check this out!“mercy rejoiceth against judgment.”

Sometimes we forget (at least I do) that triumph (victory) brings joy. And if we are truly filled with joy, we can’t help but laugh. Somehow, God’s sense of humor is wrapped up in His joy and His joy is wrapped up in His triumphant victories in our lives. He thinks it is funny to send an old, single farmer to care for teenage girls.

My time with my girls (I can’t help but call them mine even though they are His) may only last for the rest of my year in Honduras. Or . . . it may last for a second year. Or a third year. Or it may last for the rest of my life. I truly don’t know, nor do I care—as long as I am obeying my Jesus and He does His job through me.

Do you see what a mission trip has done to my heart? In less than 3 months, I have learned not to plan the adventure, but to live it. Life without a plan is finally fun for me. But here is something equally amazing, life in the midst of fifty kids is actually fun. I do truly love my girls, but I know that they will make mistakes. Most of them already have. However, the real tragedy is that God had to send a 62-year-old guy who doesn’t even speak their language to be their Tio and His example of His love for them. It is a tragedy for those who were supposed to do this and missed out, but a tremendous privilege, blessing, and adventure for me.

Once again, I want to thank Barry and Penny Compton, the founders of Open Door Ministries and also Lauren Compton, their daughter who manages the day-to-day operations of the orphanage and the girls’ home. They are trusting me with their kids and allowing me time to change into whatever God wants me to be. Thank you Barry,  Penny, and Lauren, I am humbled and grateful to be part of your ministry team.

I thank you, friends and supporters of Food 4 Kids. Please know that our original mission is intact. We will finish the gardening school. We will install aquaponics systems. But we will do all this in God’s timing. Our Father is at work in many hearts and I for one want to live the adventure. Who knows, someone reading this may be the next one to sleep in a house with six boys for a week . . . or longer. Know this, your prayers and financial gifts are making a difference in the lives of the children down here. Go look in the mirror. You will see a Tio or Tia in the reflection, Listen close and you will hear God say, “Good job.”

Last, but most, I thank You, Jesus Christ, Lord of lords, King of kings, and lover of my soul. I thank You for the love that now flows through my heart. It seems like every couple of weeks You have me fall in love all over again. First it was with my little buddy Manuel. After he went back to his mom, you increased my love for Esther and Jasmin. Then I learned to love the boys in Tio Edgardo’s house. Now, You have added Jocelyn and Eili to the list of those that have captured my heart. What is neat is that I don’t have to stop loving one person to love the next one that Jesus puts in my path. He expands my heart’s capacity so I can love them all. Lord Jesus, I hope that You enjoy Your sense of humor as much as I do. And Lord, I don’t know if I am great, but I know this; Your gentleness has made my life great. Thank You.

Tio Gideon,  

January 18, 2014, Tocoa, Colon, Hondura