Sunday, October 1, 2017

One Year Later!

October 1st. Today. This day marks many important things. For one it means that I have lived in Honduras for exactly a year now, but more importantly it marks the feast day of Saint Therese of Lisieux or as we call her here in Honduras- Santa Teresita. Santa Teresita is the patron Saint of missionaries. Not only that but she is the saint of my house (each of our houses is named after a saint and my house- the missionary house- is accurately named after the saint of missionaries herself).  So with all that being said, I want to spend this blog-post in reflection of my life this past year- all the ways I’ve grown and been stretched, all the strange skills and experiences that I have obtained, but most importantly, how all of these things have impacted my life.

I have learned important Honduras-life skills such as speaking Spanish, and, not only that, but have taught 1st and 2nd grade for a (almost) complete school year using said Spanish. I can cook over a fire (and cook in general), and can wash my clothes by hand. I can make tortillas, cut hair (a bucket list item of mine for quite a few years now!), and am now permitted to drive a pick-up truck full of teenagers 20 minutes into town on terrible gravel roads.

I have had experiences that I probably would never have had if I had never left the United States. For example, I don’t remember the last time I didn’t have at least 10 mosquito bites somewhere on my body. I usually wash my feet multiple times a day in order to keep them somewhat resembling clean. I am regularly attacked by ants, & have to keep a bottle of Raid in my classroom to keep the ants from eating my students’ snacks and the wasps from building their nests above our heads.

I have had everything from ants, termites, cockroaches, rats, and who knows what else in my BED.  I have even felt the never-ending itch of having lice in my hair.

I have proudly watched my blisters from raking turn into calluses, meaning that I am no longer made fun of my the kids who never get blisters & think it’s hilarious that I do.

I have taken many a bucket shower by candlelight on those nights that we have neither water nor electricity. I have gotten to watch the amazing sunsets over the Caribbean ocean, and I have fallen asleep to peaceful sound of waves crashing onto the beach.

 I have learned, and am still learning how to live in community, how to apologize when I inevitably offend one of my community members, how to be ok with correction, and how to give my struggles and concerns over to the Lord. But most importantly, I learned to let myself be loved and filled up by others.

On my 24th birthday our youngest girls loved me in one of the most simple, and yet and the most special way without even thinking twice or planning it out. They sat another missionary, Melanie (who has the same birthday as me) and I down on a bench in their house, sang to us at the top of their lungs, and then preceded to pick and decorate both of our heads with every flower that they could find until you couldn’t even see either of our hair anymore. All the flowers that could not fit in our hair were given to us in bouquet form accompanied by lots of hugs and smiles. I’ve found love from the oldest girls who have spent hours happily going through my hair to pick out lice without complaining or being asked twice. I’ve seen it in the older boys whom, upon seeing me do the ever-dreaded chore of raking our giant backyard, one-by-one wordlessly and selflessly they grabbed a rake, left their house where they were enjoying a morning off from working and came over to help me. By the time the chore was done, half of the older boys house was there helping me without having to be asked- and we finished in a mere 20 minutes rather than the hour+ that it would have taken my by myself! I have found love in the oh so endearing nickname given to me by the middle school aged girls; hipopatamo (hippopotamus). Of course, they have their own animal names that I greet them with as well such as elefante (elephant), cocodrillo (crocodile), and ballena (whale). While these names sound rather rude I promise they are all said in good fun accompanied by lots of laughs and jokes.

Me & my birthday flowers from the youngest girls
In our chapel here at the Finca written beautifully in stained glass above the alter is the bible verse Mark 9:37; “El que en mi nombre receibe a este niño, a mi me recibe”, and in English; “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me”. I see this bible verse every single day at the church, but it wasn’t until this morning that I realized that by receiving and serving the sons of daughters of Christ we are not only receiving/serving the Lord, but we are letting Him receive/serve us. God calls us to love and to let ourselves be loved. In order to be filled up and truly prepared to serve Christ, I can’t just do, I have to let myself be loved so that I can in turn go out and love and serve others. As I sit here writing this today, I can’t think of a better way to be loved than by and through some of the most pure and open-hearted of God’s creation- His children.

 I can’t say too many times how thankful I am for this past year, how blessed that I am to be able to call myself a missionary and to have the example of Santa Teresita to guide my every day. If you have read this far, first of all God bless you for making it all the way through my post, and second of all I ask that you lift up all 14 of the missionaries here serving at the Finca, especially for 4 of our current missionaries; Laura, Kassidy, Melanie, and myself as we commit to another full year (plus some) here at the Finca, and for the 6 new missionaries that arrived last night; Francesca, Christopher, Emily, Ruthie, Cat, and Cassie. I will conclude this post the same way that my missionary community concludes every prayer- SANTA TERESITA, RUEGA POR NOSOTROS. (Saint Therese, Pray for Us).

My community prior to the 6 newest missionaries arriving

Kassidy, Melanie and I on September 15th; Honduras independance day!
Allison and I celebrating the Finca's 21st birthday in May

Friday, March 17, 2017

Mi vida en photos!

Time is moving so quickly for me here in Honduras. It seems like just last week we were celebrating Christmas and New Years. It's hard to believe that was three and a half months ago. Since then we have celebrated many birthdays, welcomed many visitors, and have started the new school year (the school year here goes from February-November). Some changes in our jobs back a few months ago resulted in me being the math, science, and english teacher for 1st and 2nd grade. So far it has been a lots of fun, lots of work too, but really good. On that note, as it's been four months since my last blog post, instead of going into detail of everything we have done in the last 4 and a half months, I will give you an overview via photos and captions. So without further ado:

December 2016-

The view from my front porch

Entertaining the younger kids with some games of "pin the nose on the snowman"

                                                                                Christmas cookies of course!
                                   The nativity scene set up in our chapel by the Sores (religious sisters)

                                                           Merry Christmas from Allison and I!

Our breakfast feast Christmas morning! (I promise we ate real food before we started in on the icing covered cinnamon roles!)

January 2017-
                                                                We took the older kids to a nearby posa(waterfall)

After Mass coffee in Trujillo

February 2017-
My Classroom!
we got to go on a missionary retreat at the end of February

March 2017-
He's 7! Celebrated my classes first birthday of the year this month

my 2nd grade babies are making father's day cards for our fathers day celebration today! (and yes, this Sunday is Father's day in honduras!)
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed hearing about my life and my mission via photos. If you would like more information about the finca or would like to hear more about my life, feel free to email or write. I love hearing from you! Thank you for all of your thoughts and prayers!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Preparing for Jesus- Advent time!!

November was quite a month. A month of joy, a month of fiestas, a month of endless cooking and too many pies (jk- you can never have too many pies), a month of welcome and unwelcome visitors (see: rats), a month of endless rain, a month of goodbyes, a month of teaching and learning. A month of growing. Now as we transfer into Advent season, it is a time for us to slow down and prepare for the birth of our Lord.

Every night after dinner, my missionary community lights the candle(s) of our very homemade advent wreath and we do an advent reflection/prayer. All of these reflections have been good, but the reflection that we did last night has really stuck with me, and that is what I want to write about today, so bear with me here for a second.

I want you to think about this world from the point of view of God (to the best of your ability anyway because obviously none of us actually know His point of view!) Start by looking at the world from a very zoomed out view. You can see the entire world- all your creation. Land, oceans, sun, moon, stars, animals, nature, humans, etc. You created all of this, but because sin is also a part of your perfect world, it is not so perfect anymore. Now you look at men and women, all of whom you created, do you still recognize them? Well of course you do because you are God, but they have definitely changed, they have sinned, all of them. You see people praising you, people cursing your name, and people ignoring your existence completely. You see lots of good, but to counter that there is also bad, so much bad. What do you do? From a human perspective this is when I would shut down and start over, let my pride get the better of me. But what did the Lord do?

Before I answer that question I want to compare this (on a much smaller scale) to my own life. As a teacher teaching in a language that I am not yet fluent in, there are days when I look at my class of kids and feel completely overwhelmed. They were all just taught the same lesson and now they are all supposed to be doing the same activity. These two children are doing the activity correctly, but then this one is coloring in their notebook, this one over here refuses to pick up their pencil, this one is running around trying to find paper to give to their neighbor who was picking at a scab during the lesson and is now bleeding everywhere, and a few others are trying to decode and make sense of my spanish. Chaos. I look at my small handful of students and wonder how there can be so many different reactions and behaviors in one moment. I want to get frustrated and walk out, give up. I don’t of course, but that doesn’t change the fact that my reactions are normal, human, sinful. But not the Lord’s. He knows that we are sinners and because we live in a sinful world, we will sin again. His reaction to the chaos of the world was not to get frustrated and walk out, His reaction was to sacrifice His only son to die for our sins. Wow. We sin and sin and sin, and His response is still love.

This Christmas season I encourage you to look for reasons to love, whatever that looks like in your life. For me that means that when I am reading a really good part of my book and I am interrupted to last minute babysit the youngest boy’s house, instead of getting frustrated and letting my negative attitude get the best of me, letting that go and enjoying my time playing legos and reading stories with them. Or when it’s 2:30 am and a rat falls out of the rafters of my room while I’m sleeping, landing on my head and in my hair (yes, this really happened). I could choose to get annoyed because now my roommate Kassidy and I just lost 3 hours of sleep trying to catch and kill the rat that is now running around our room. Or I can choose to laugh and the ridiculousness of the situation and put up my mosquito net so that I no longer get hit in the head by falling rats.

I have so many reasons to love. Whether it be the internet working long enough to facetime my family and actually hear them clearly, or the youngest little girl running up behind me, yelling my name and giving me the biggest soaking wet hug. I get to check out books from the school library to kids who are super excited to read and find me frequently so that I can take them to exchange their book for a new one because they finished so quickly. I have had the privilege of watching the kids decorate their houses for Christmas and get excited for the holidays. According to the nativity set set up at the oldest boys house, in addition to Mary, Joseph, and the wise men, even pikachu, a robot, and various plastic animals showed up at Jesus' birth. I have an amazing community here in Honduras as well as all of you who support me in various ways from various places.

Please continue to keep my and La Finca Del Niño in your prayers. Of course if you have any questions or prayer intentions of your own, feel free to contact me, my community and I would love to pray for you. Merry Christmas to all!

We will miss you Bobby! Bobby just finished serving 2 1/2 years at the Finca earlier this week. I am taking over all of his english classes as well as his job as the librarian.

A selfie from our day of making 27 pies as well as one giant pie (pictured here) for Thanksgiving with our entire Finca community

A slightly blurry photo of my community sin Bobby and Marie who is on vacation right now

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

One Month in

One month in. 31 days I have been living in Honduras. 31 days I have spent shadowing and learning about my future job. 31 days I have been hand-washing my clothes and learning to cook meals from scratch. 31 days I have been woken up at 5:25 am by roosters. 31 days I have began my day in prayer with my entire Finca community. 31 days I have walked out my front door to the most beautiful view of the Caribbean ocean. 31 days I have been a missionary in Honduras. But where am I exactly? What am I dong?

I am at a children’s home along the Northern coast of Honduras called The Finca Del Niño. The best way to describe this place is to use the four pillars that The Finca is built on- service, spirituality, community, and simplicity:

The view of the ocean from standing right inside my front door

Service- I am here to serve the kids! There are 32 beautiful children living here at the Finca. I get to spend each day praying with them, teaching them, helping them with homework, and playing/hanging out with them in our free time. Each of us missionaries also has our own specific job, mine being that I am going to be a teacher! (And yes, originally I was supposed to be a social worker, but this is an exciting change for me as I studied to be a teacher in college). Right now I am shadowing one of the current missionaries, Bobby since he will be leaving in December and I will be taking over all of his jobs. The school year here goes from February- November (pray for the kids as they take their final exams this week!!!) so I have some time to prepare for being the English teacher for the 5th, 6th, 8th, and 9th grades as well as being in charge of the library. I am a little nervous as I have never taught middle school aged kids before, but here is to stretching myself and being challenged in more ways than I can count!

Our Chapel!
The stain glass mosaic on the inside of our chapel

Spirituality- Our spirituality is what brings us together at 5:45 in the mornings and 5 in the evenings. We are so lucky to have 3 Franciscan sisters as a part of our community because our spirituality can never be put on hold, and them being here means we get to have Communion services two times a week. So yay for being able to consume Jesus! But really, the spirituality here is such a beautiful thing. Not many children do morning prayer almost every day and can sing along (see: scream) to every hymn ever, but these kids can. I am so blessed to live here and be challenged by such a strong, faith-filled community every day.

Community- Where do I even begin?! I’ll start with my smallest community and expand from there. My smallest community would be with Kassidy, my fellow missionary, teacher, and current roommate. We live in the missionary house with 7 other people- Anne, Cecilia, and Laura (the other girls in our missionary class), Melanie, Marie, Allison, and Bobby (who are the current missionaries orientating us through life at the Finca). The nine of us take turns cooking dinner every night, rotating weekly chores, and so many other things that allow us to grow together as a community. Also, they are the only other people that speak fluent English here, so we have gotten pretty close! Even bigger than this is the entire Finca community. In total there are 9 missionaries, 31 kids, 3 Franciscan sisters, and 10 house parents/tias all living here. I get to see all of these people every day. We pray together, eat many meals together, attend bible studies, celebrate birthdays, feast days, and holidays together, and so many more things. These are my people. I might not always be able to communicate with them as well as I wish to, but in time my Spanish will get better and my relationship with my communities will continue to grow!
The view of our house from standing in the kitchen. (There is a door on the left that leads to all of our rooms)

Simplicity- Oh simplicity. Out of all of the pillars, this is the one that most distinguishes this life-style from my life back home. In my life, I have had many opportunities for service, my spirituality has always been important to me, and I have had many communities in family and friend groups. But simplicity in the States, in my opinion, is hard to find. At any given moment I could access the internet with my smart phone, call/text a family member or friend, watch TV, take a hot shower, or even cook something in the oven whenever I wanted. Having electricity was something that I did not have to think twice about, and I could wash and dry my clothes without worrying about them never drying and growing mold because of the rain (my current dilemma!) The funny thing is, despite how different my life is now, I think that this is the pillar that I have grown to like the most. Life here is slower, with more time spent visiting with others (in person!) and spent doing necessary daily activities like chores and cooking. Spending 5 hours cooking beans over an open fire that won’t stay lit because of the storm can be frustrating, buttt, that means I have 5 more hours to spend getting to know the person struggling through it with me or the child who laughs at our inability to keep a fire going and then eventually offers to help. There is so much beauty that comes from this life.

So yeah, that is how my life has been going! It’s been 31 days, 31 great days, but I have so much more to look forward to. This coming month I will get to celebrate my first Quinceñera, celebrate a handful of confirmations and baptisms of the kids, we have former missionary visitors from the States coming down at the end of the month, and I will celebrate my first Thanksgiving away from home, but with a community of people that I have grown to care for and love. What I life I have!

If you are interested in hearing more about my life or donating to the Finca, feel free to e-mail me and/or visit the Finca’s website; We are currently raising money for the kid’s school uniforms and school supplies for this upcoming year. Thank you to all of those who have kept me and the Finca in your prayers, you are so so appreciated!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Wrapping up my time in Guatemala- Honduras here I come!!

 Wow- so officially counting down the days until we arrive at the Finca Del Niño! The five of us are so excited and ready to get there, but we are going to miss the beautiful city of Antigua as well as all of the friends that we have made.

Before I get into what has been going on in my life the past month, I want to start by reposting my Finca address. I can receive snail-mail and packages to:

Finca Del Niño- Emily Cook
Apartado Postal #110
Trujillo, Colón
Honduras, Central America

As I won’t be able to text, facebook messenger and e-mail- will be the best ways to get ahold of me. I have facetime on my computer and will be able to use that when connected to the internet, e-mail or message me a time and I would love to schedule a facetime date with you!!! For real, updates on your life, prayer requests, and current music and sports updates are always welcomed.

Anyway, one of the most popular questions that I have gotten since being here from my friends and family back home is “what have you been up to?” or “what’s new?” Well, in short, everything. Everything is new. It seems like almost every day we are exposed to another cultural experience. I don’t know where to begin, but I’ll try to hit the highlights since my last blog.

Back at the beginning of September I received a surprise 23rd birthday party from the other missionaries with all of our teachers and the other La Union (our school) staff. We learned in the moment that when in Central America, if you host or receive any type of party, you are expected to give a speech, in front of everybody, in spanish. Everyone is so friendly and welcoming here though, so it was not bad at all.

Most of everyone at my birthday party. And yes it was princess themed and yes everyone is wearing princess party hats.

The other girls giving their speeches at my birthday party

Recently we got to experience Guatemalan Independence day (which actually lasts three days). The first day is for the youngest kids. Basically every child ages 3-7 walked in the parade with their schools. Each school had their own theme (and their are a TON of schools here) so all of the kids looked super cute. The next day is for the older kids and is also the day of the Antorcha. That means that everyone travels to a nearby town spends some time there and then runs back to their own town in giant groups blowing whistles and carrying a torch. We ran with the staff and other students of our school and ran (and walked) a total of about 6.5 miles. As we were running we passed tons of other groups doing the same thing. Pretty much all day long you see random groups of people running from one town to another and of course if you can you stop and cheer them on. The last day of the Independence day was for everybody. We went with our teachers to the parade (the third one that week), which lasted over three hours! They really go all out here!

Some pictures from the Children's parade the first day

                        posing with our school flag and some of the interns after running 6.5 miles in the Antorcha 

                                                                The five of us at the parade on the last day

Another cultural activity that we were so excited to experience was to try on and wear traditional Mayan dress. Many people hear still dress this way on a regular basis. The reason that we did this is because our school helps put out a magazine called Wow Antigua. The particular article that is going out this month promotes the small traditional towns around this area for tourism purposes so that the towns can make more money. The five of us along with the female student interns at school all wore traditional Mayan clothes and had a photoshoot for the magazine. They had us pose by the pilas, which are where people wash their clothes. Now most families here either have one at their home or have a washing machine, but some people, especially in the poorer areas still use the public one (and we will be using one in Honduras to wash our clothes).

One of the shots of all of the girls in traditional dress

The five of hanging out at school prior to the photoshoot

Besides all of that, in the afternoons we keep busy exploring the town and of course studying Spanish as much as possible. I only am able to get phone service and internet when I have wifi, which is pretty much only at school in the mornings or if I go to a coffee shop with wifi in the afternoons. I do not get wifi at home which has been a good transition experience for me. I have gotten used to not having any access to internet once I go home for dinner at 7. It was weird at first because I all of a sudden had nothing to do, but now it is pretty nice to not have internet as a distraction. I spend most evenings either studying my Spanish or playing dolls with my host sister Camilla. It is hard to say no when the cutest three year old greets you at your bedroom door with a smile on her face and doll-house in hand.

She has also been my afternoon study buddy

Again thank you for reading and of course for all the prayers and kind words that I have been receiving! God has been so great so far, but I would appreciate if you could continue to pray for my Spanish speaking ability, the ear infection that I currently have, and for safety during our 16 hour trip to Honduras this Thursday (beginning at 3 AM). Please please let me know of any prayer requests that I can pray for. I am attaching some additional pictures from other various activities the past month, enjoy!

We had the opportunity to take a cooking class in preparation for cooking our own meals in Honduras

We went on an afternoon hike with other staff and students to the beautiful Cerro De La Cruz which looks over the city of Antigua