Ideas for Long Distance Families, Part II

Continued from last week's Ideas for Long Distance Families, Part I (Note: All pictures in these posts are of Team Honduras kids with their grandparents).

6. Frequently send fridge art. Now that Claire is doing preschool work, I send the grandparents papers to decorate their refrigerator or office space. The mail from Honduras is slow, so sometimes I scan the artwork and email it. Scanned art makes a great desktop background for a proud grandparent.

5. Make a “Good Night Wall.” The hallway in our home (like many homes) is lined with photos of family members. When Claire was small, we made the “Good Night Wall” part of our bedtime routine: “‘Nite, Uncle Jonathan!” “’Nite, Aunt Kathleen!” This habit helps little ones match faces with names.

4. Pray daily for family members. Nothing brings two people closer than prayer. Children should pray for their family members by name, rotating nights to be sure everyone is mentioned. Show young children the “Special People Book” pictures so they’ll know exactly whom they are praying for.

Although Claire was rarely ill as a toddler, she was plagued by constant constipation; we made it a matter of prayer. After the problem was solved each time, we would thank God profusely! Around the time she was struggling with this problem, we found out my dad had cancer. We added him to our nightly prayer list, explaining that Papa was very sick and we needed to pray that he would get better. She solemnly agreed and launched into a prayer, “God, please help my Papa push out the poo-poo. Amen.” Thank goodness the Lord understood what “sickness” was to her little mind; He DID translate and answer that prayer, despite the stifled laughter from Momma and Daddy!

3. Tell stories about family members. Claire never tires of hearing how Grandma (as a teenager) drove a tobacco harvester into her uncle’s new barn or how Tia (Aunt Kathleen) had to eat green beans out of the trashcan when they were discovered hidden in her napkin. Stories about loved ones back home provide an instant connection for little minds.

2. Visits work both ways. It’s almost always more convenient for one family to travel to the other’s home. Many times, visits end up being very one-sided because of cost or practicality. However, a reasonable effort should be made for both families to make visits. If Grandpa never goes to visit Claire in Honduras, he won’t know her world. He needs to know her friends at church, where her backyard swing is, and which pet is her favorite. Just one short visit will reap rewards for months; now when they talk on the phone and Claire tells him, “I got to fingerpaint out on the porch today,” he can picture exactly where she was. It works both ways. If Grandpa tells Claire he raked leaves this afternoon, she needs to be able to picture him working under the tree where they played together one day last year.

1. Hold a “Cousins’ Camp.” I can’t claim this idea; my mom recently heard about “Cousins’ Camp” from her own cousin and said she would like to incorporate this idea one day (as soon as Claire gets some cousins!). Here’s how it works: Grandma and Grandpa set aside a week each summer to have all the grandchildren for a visit. No mommies and daddies allowed! They plan activities for the week and spend time getting to know each other. This idea works best for potty-trained children who are old enough to be away from their parents for a week. What an opportunity to create lasting memories!

Do you have some creative ideas for staying in touch? Be sure to post a comment!

Ideas for Long-Distance Families, Part I

One of the most difficult aspects of life on the mission field is the separation from close family and friends back home. A lot of determination and a little creativity, however, can help. Team Honduras families have found a twelve ideas to maintain those family ties:

12. Create a “Special People Book.” When Claire was very small, I kept a photo album called her “Special People Book” in the diaper bag. As she flipped through the pages and pointed to family members I recited their names. This year, I plan to expand that idea and make Claire a “My Heroes Book,” with pictures of her parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, sending church pastor and wife, etc. Each page will include a brief testimony of how that person was saved and served God).

11. Write personal notes in front of books. Our family loves to read! Even before Claire was born, I invested in quality children’s books so that she’d have a great collection of stories. Since then, family members have contributed to her library. I always ask them to write a short note in the front of a book when they give it. Every time I read the book to Claire, I also read their note; that way she will remember who gave her the book and will connect that person to something familiar. I try to include details like “This was Papa’s favorite book when he was little, because he loved trains.” I also add notes along the way, even when the book is not new anymore: “Claire, age 2 ½: Grandma read you this book so many times you memorized it! The picture on the third page always makes you giggle.”

10. Send pictures and videos of your kids frequently. The Lord answered a fervent prayer of mine just 7 months after Claire’s birth: we finally got internet access in our home! Suddenly, we were connected in a new way and were able to send pictures (almost daily when she was very small) to grandparents. I would also include bits and pieces of our day. A short note mentioning your child’s latest milestones or funny statements is a wonderful way to make grandparents feel connected.

9. Grandparents, return the favor! Sure, you want pictures of your grandkids, but have YOU sent them any pictures or video? Papa recently made Claire's day by sending her a picture of himself shoveling snow from the sidewalk. And one of Claire’s favorite videos is a homemade one from Papa and Grandma reading to her. They sent the video in a package along with four books; I turn on the video and she follows along as Papa and Grandma read to her. Instant connection! My aunt and uncle, who have musical ability, made a video that included not only reading but also sing-along-songs; it was a favorite video for their grandchildren for many years.

8. Make a “My Day Storybook.” Moms, I know exactly how busy you are, but try this one day: keep a camera in your pocket and snap a few pictures throughout your typical routine. At the end of the day, print them out, add a few quick captions with the time, and you will have a “My Day Storybook.” Grandma will be thrilled to know exactly when your little one eats her morning snack of Cheerios, splashes happily in her bathtub, or snuggles up on the couch for a story. Once she knows your schedule, she can glance at the clock throughout the day and know what her grandbaby is doing miles away.

7. Use Skype and a webcam. Skype is an affordable program that allows you to call your family over the internet for pennies, even if they live in another country. By calling through the internet, we save money and can call more frequently. We also like leaving voice mail messages when we know Papa and Grandma aren’t in. My dad will probably never erase the one he got at work that said, “Papa, you’re my best friend! Call me!”

You can add a new dimension to your internet calls by hooking up a webcam on each end. It’s almost as if you were sitting across the table from each other! What a treat for everyone! It’s also great for special occasions; we open Christmas and birthday presents using webcams. Nothing does Grandma’s heart good like hearing squeals of delight and seeing the glee as her carefully chosen gifts are opened.

There are more ways to keep touch from miles away! Be sure to read "Ideas for Long-Distance Families, Part II"!

Five Year Anniversary of IBF

Today was a very special occasion for our church--we celebrated five years since we met for the first time, a small Bible study on a neighborhood porch down the road. We had only eight people with us that day; they had come after trusting Christ as their Savior on our door-to-door soulwinning efforts. We set up a few plastic chairs and a small keyboard. They seemed to like the cake I had baked; having refreshments helped break the ice. As we prepared to begin, Robbie passed out song sheets with the words to a few simple hymns. Singing them didn't go very smoothly; my piano skills were rusty, and our "congregation" didn't know any hymns yet. We would have to learn together!

Just before Robbie began his lesson, I quietly escorted the three children to the living room to hear a Bible story and color a picture. This would be our first children's class. There was no nursery yet, so I had to get pretty good at maneuvering the ABeka Book Flash-a-Cards while holding a baby on my hip.

Afterwards, we loaded everything up in our pick-up and headed home. We were so excited! Our first service! Little did we know how the Lord would continue to work...

On this April morning, five years later, we watched 252 men, women, boys, and girls file into the churchhouse, many of them arriving from our two bus routes. They came from all walks of life: a cobbler, a school counselor, a foreman, a vice-mayor, a city engineer, a seller of chickens. There are different races and different social classes. But they have one thing in common; a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

So much has happened in five years. Yes, the church has grown, but even better, the people have grown. Some of them are even burdened about becoming missionaries or pastors themselves.

When men's chorus sang, "Bueno Es El" ["He is Good"] just before the message, our hearts all sang with them. He has been so good to us. And He's not done yet. If He can do this much in five years, what can He do in ten? We can't wait to find out.

"Vision without action is merely a dream.
Action without vision just passes the time.
Vision WITH action can change the world."

To see a video of photos from Iglesia Bautista El Faro's five years of ministry, scroll to the bottom of the page.

Just for Fun: How to Get a Honduran Missionary to Roll His Eyes at You

Part of being a missionary is hosting mission groups who come down to visit. Team Honduras averages somewhere around 6 or 7 groups a year. The week a group is here, it’s an exhilarating, exhausting, and enjoyable experience. But you should know, we might be rolling our eyes at you if you say…

1. “Do people take a bath here every day?” Oh yes. In fact, since most days the temperature is above 100 degrees and we don’t have central air-conditioning, I’ll bet we take a lot more baths than you do.

2. “Where can I plug in my curling iron?” You go right ahead and curl that hair. Let’s see what it looks like in ten minutes.

3. “Well, I know crime is bad here, but it’s really getting to be this bad in the States.” Until you personally know five people who have been kidnapped for ransom, have a friend gunned down for his Toyota, live behind a wall topped with razor wire, see a stranger gunned down in the street, and pretty much everyone you know has been robbed at gun or knifepoint for a cell phone and some pocket change, sorry, this is not even a discussion.

4. “I don’t know if I could live without Walmart.” I don’t even think about missing Walmart anymore. You’d soon forget about it, too. Now missing momma and daddy…that’s the tough one.

What do ya know!?! We DO have a Walmart! Does this count?

5. “Oh, it’s this hot in Florida!” I’ve lived in Florida. Spent four years of college there. There is no way this is true; and even if it were, they have central air in Florida.

6. “Does everyone here speak just Mexican, or do some people speak American, too?” You’ve got to be kidding me.

7. “I’m so glad you are willing to take the gospel to the 10-40 window!” Contrary to popular belief, Honduras is in Central America, not Africa. We aren’t in the 10-40 window, but we do have a great need here as well.

8. “I’m going to try some of that food they cook at the roadside stands because I really want the ‘full experience.’” Well, you go ahead and do that. But let me know as soon as the “full experience” hits, and I’ll bring you some Immodium.

9. “Wow, our church sent you a lot of stuff! Can I have one of those Little Debbie snacks?” This is the first time I’ve held a Little Debbie peanut butter bar in my hand for two years. We’re having a moment. Go away.

10. “Thanks so much for hosting us this week. It’s been so great to see your ministry.” Are you kidding? The privilege is all ours—anytime our supporters can see our work here first hand, it’s a great blessing to us. We really do love you and appreciate what you’ve done for us.

Team Honduras is so thankful for the many groups who’ve come down to help us during our five years of ministry!
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