Archive | March, 2014

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.

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

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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) 

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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.

Gideon

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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.

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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.”