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.
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.”