Merry Christmas, everyone! (I won’t say “belated Christmas,” because we are still in the Liturgical Season of Christmas, and the Finca is nothing if not liturgically accurate.) I hope you are all experiencing the light, joy, and hope of this season!
I apologize for the long interval between blog posts. Our days in Honduras are hectic and full, making it hard to carve out time to write. I am typing this particular post on a Friday afternoon. Eric, who was recently certified to drive on behalf of the Finca, has gone with one of the Franciscan sisters to pick up a large donation of bananas. [Post note: the “donation” ended up being a huge cargo load of Dole bananas bound for the U.S. which were rejected at the port down the road. Eric had a blast driving the Finca’s Land Cruiser through jungle roads to deliver crates of bananas to villages up in the mountains around us. According to him, it was like driving in a live-action 90’s video game. I, for one, am glad I wasn’t there, as the regular roads in Honduras stress me out enough!]
As I write, Kiara and Adelina are reading together on our “couch” (handmade wooden bench with a couple of pillows on top), and I am hoping they can keep one another occupied for at least half an hour. Outside, I hear the sound of waves crashing on the shore while a few Finca kids splash in the water; our backyard Caribbean beach still amazes me. Later today, we missionaries will gather together to cook as a community, as is our Friday afternoon tradition. While cooking is not something that generally brings me joy, I look forward to community cooking every week; it is such a beautiful time to share friendship, laughter, and purpose.
Speaking of our community, we have just gone through several weeks of special holiday events and celebrations, which I’d love to share with you all!
Here at the Finca, we celebrated the season of Advent through Las Posadas, a beautiful Latin American tradition recounting Mary and Joseph’s search for lodging just before Jesus’s birth. Although I’d heard of Posadas (it is celebrated in many Catholic churches around the U.S.), I’d never participated. My loss!
During the Posadas processions, two children dressed –adorably—as Mary and Joseph lead the Finca community to three houses, seeking posada (an inn/shelter). Through a call-and-response song, they, along with the rest of us peregrinos (pilgrims), are sent away from two houses and finally welcomed into the third. Inside, we read the daily Gospel, have a prayer reflection and/or activity, sing a few Advent hymns, and finally share some food. Both Kiara and Adelina had the opportunity to represent Mary for an evening of Posadas, which was so special!
The Posadas occur every evening for nine evenings leading up to Christmas Eve. Our family led and hosted the 8th Posada at our house. The prospect of hosting the entire Finca community (about 50 people) was somewhat daunting, but it was so worthwhile. We baked six loaves of bread, rearranged our main room to provide space for everybody, and prepared an activity to demonstrate how we can help reflect Jesus’ light in the world. It was an exhausting but beautiful night. I will carry the Posadas memories with me forever… not least because I think the pilgrims’ call-and-response song will be stuck in my head forever. Ha!
Noche Buena, or Christmas Eve, is the focal point of the Christmas holiday at the Finca. The children here woke up on Christmas Eve to a new outfit under their Christmas tree (which we missionary “elves” distributed at midnight, after putting together a large gift bag for each child). Most of Christmas Eve was spent in preparation for the evening festivities – cooking endless food (including chickens that we helped to catch, kill, and pluck the weekend before) and decorating the middle school classrooms which double as our party hall.
The Noche Buena celebration began with a Vigil Mass and then a long, long party (we’re talking seven hours). There was a huge feast, Santa arrived to distribute the gift bags we had assembled, and the kids danced the night away.
Sadly, I am relaying all of these party details second-hand, as I woke up on Christmas Eve to some very…. dramatic gastrointestinal symptoms. Thankfully, the Finca health clinic happened to be open that morning and our doctor quickly diagnosed me with dysentery. (Yes, dysentery, of eternal Oregon Trail fame!) By the time the worst of the illness hit me that night, I was grateful to know I was already being treated; nonetheless, I will always consider this Noche Buena to be more of a Noche Mala for me!
On a lighter note, we did a Secret Santa exchange within our missionary community, giving our person something that smells good, something that tastes good, and something homemade. Due to the dysentery, I was unable to participate, but I assured my Secret Santa recipient that her gifts would get to her eventually – and perhaps make Christmas last a little longer. This quickly turned into a recurring missionary joke: Dysentery: The gift that keeps on giving!
New Year’s Eve
Fresh on the heels of our seven-hour Noche Buena party, it was time to celebrate New Year’s Eve with… another seven-hour party! (You see why it’s hard to find time to blog, right?) In addition to ringing in 2019, this party served as a despedida (goodbye) for four missionaries who have completed their service at the Finca and for our five oldest girls, who just graduated from high school. It was an especially jubilant goodbye for the five high school graduates, as all of them earned a full-ride scholarship to attend university in the capital of Honduras. We are so proud of them and excited for their future!
After much feasting, dancing, reminiscing, and laughing, we welcomed the New Year with a midnight candlelit service in the church. With our candles ablaze and our focus on one another, we didn’t even notice that the power had gone out (again) in the middle of the service, and as I walked home from the church, I felt a combination of exhaustion, gratitude, and hope….
Which pretty much sums up how Eric and I have been feeling since arriving at the Finca. We are exhausted by the erratic schedule and workload here; we are grateful for all that this beautiful place has already given us and for the support of all of you who helped make our family’s mission a reality; and we are hopeful… that we will continue to be changed and formed by our experience here, that we will be able to have a positive impact on this community, and that each and every one of these fabulous Finca kids has a bright and fulfilling future ahead.
Sending you love and hugs from Honduras!