Mi Casa Es su Casa

This week, I'd like to invite you to our home! Missionary homes may vary greatly, depending on the area of the country, but our home is typical for an average missionary in Central America. Welcome!

This is our house as you drive up. It's pretty standard in Honduras to have a security wall or high fence for safety reasons. Almost everyone gets broken into at some point, so we have to take every precaution possible. We live on a dirt road, even though we live in town. Only the main streets are paved in our town.

As you walk through the front gate, you will see the carport and porch area. It's very nice to have a porch in Honduras, because the house gets very hot. We often eat or visit with guests on the porch instead of inside.

This is our guard dog, who is about to have puppies!

One thing I love about Honduras is the beautiful plant life. In our yard, we have a cashew tree, two guanabana trees, an orange tree, and a mango tree.

This is a view of our side yard. We are very thankful for a large yard, a rare find in this country. We've been able to host many youth activities and large church events here.

Now let's go inside!

This is our living room/dining room area. The open floor plan has been perfect for hosting large groups. We shove all the furniture into the other rooms and the hallway, and can fit quite a few people in here! We even held Wednesday night Bible studies here before we had a church house. The windows in this area and the kitchen stay open 24/7 year-round in order to take advantage of any breeze coming off the mountain, since this part of the house is not air-conditioned.

Beyond the dining room, you can see the hallway leading to the bedrooms. And through the arched opening on the right is the kitchen. You will notice that the walls are all concrete and the floors are all tiled--no carpet in Honduras! It wouldn't last long with all the dirt and dust we have!

The kitchen is where I spend a LOT of time! Missionary wives learn to cook for a crowd! There are church events, medical brigades, youth groups...we are cooking machines!

We have a double sink that works great for the disinfection process. No, we don't have a dishwasher (and I'm not sure how well one would work, anyway, since we don't have hot water). Since we wash by hand with cold water, we place dishes into a container filled with bleach water (which I change at least once a day). They soak here for a few minutes before I place them aside to dry. We also soak fruit and vegetables here to clean them of any pesticides.

Since the water here is unsafe for drinking, we purchase water jugs from a truck that come through the neighborhood daily. We use this water for drinking, cooking, and brushing our teeth.

These are louvered windows, which are slats of glass that we can open with a knob. We have screens to help with insects and dust; we have to hose these down pretty frequently.

Heading back up the hallway, we turn to the left into Robbie's office. He will be moving out shortly when the church building is completed (we are praying to be in by September 19); I plan to convert this space into a homeschool room for Claire to begin K-4. I am very thankful to be able to have an area specifically for homeschooling!

This is our master bedroom. I've tried to make it a real haven; it's so nice to go in at night, take a shower, and run the AC! We are very thankful for our room!

This is the master bath. When we first moved in, we called it the psych ward bath--all white, white tile, and a shower with a long hose to spray cold water! Just recently, I was able to paint and redecorate it to warm it up a bit. One thing that's different about bathrooms in Honduras is that you can't flush TP; the pipes are too small and are easily clogged. We keep a lined trashcan with a lid beside the toilet and empty it frequently. Americans usually forget at some point, so the rule in our house is...you clog it, you plunge it!

Now heading to the right side of the hallway...looking through another archway, we have a wall of closets. This has been a huge blessing because most homes in Honduras have very little closet space and no attic.

The middle closet door opens to reveal...the guest bathroom! One difference from homes in the U.S. is that bathtubs here are a rare luxury. We use a small plastic tub placed in the shower to bathe Claire, but she's also gotten used to the showers. One thing I love to do when I go back to the States to visit is take a nice hot bath!

To the left of the closets, we have a guest room that serves as my office right now.

To the right of the closets is Claire's room.

This is a typical closet (we have these in the three bedrooms). You have a built-in dresser area with drawers behind one door. Behind the other two doors is room for hanging clothes. Above are three doors for storage.

Now let's head out the kitchen door to the right side of the house. Here we keep our drinking water jugs on the sidewalk that surrounds the house (another unique Honduran home feature). To the right, beyond the big palm is the clothesline, and beyond that is the bodega.

A bodega is a storage building behind Honduran homes. In front, they always have a pila. We are blessed to also have a cistern and pump.

A pila is a large holding tank for water. Our water goes out very frequently here, so we can use this water in reserve to wash clothes, bathe, and flush toilets. Notice the scrubbing area. Most of my washing I do in a washing machine, but this scrubbing board does come in handy for the mop and anything I want to wash by hand (which we must do if the water or power are out).

Beyond the pila is an open-air room that holds our freezer, washer, dryer, and cleaning supplies.

Honduran homes have a "servant's quarters" in the bodega because it's common to have a live-in maid. Since we don't, we have fixed up this area for guests and interns--missionaries have LOTS of visitors! We just had a young man finish an eight-week internship, and this room and bath was just perfect for him.

We are very thankful for the home the Lord provided for us. Above all, we pray that it is a blessing and a haven to those who stop by, whether it be for several weeks or just a few hours.

Bring on the Heat

Today's post consists of tips for missionaries in tropical areas to survive the heat. Although many of my readers do not live with such extreme weather, I hope reading about it will help you know better how to pray for missionaries on the field.

I had no idea before visiting Central America for the first time what it was to be hot. I'm not talking about sweating a little at a Fourth of July cookout back in the States. I'm from the South, and we certainly did have some hot summers growing up. But I had never experienced real heat until we moved to Honduras. It is absolutely suffocating; the humidity makes the air so thick, you feel like you are walking sluggishly under water.

Even after five years on the field, I have to admit it: the heat still gets to me. Today was no exception. I went to clean the church and came home all sweaty and disgusting, only to find that we had no power and no water. Again. I wish I could tell you I sang, "Count Your Many Blessings" and sweetly carried on as usual. But I was irritable, my nerves were frayed, and I had absolutely no desire to begin making lunch in that hot kitchen. Today, like many days, my hardest battle took place in my own mind; the enemies were discontentment, moodiness, and a complaining spirit. All sent straight from the tropical sun!

Even though this is a area I've not fully overcome, we have learned some things as a family over the past few years to help us combat the heat.

1. Rest when you find it necessary. Visitors and new arrivals to a tropical climate have an especially difficult time with the heat. During our first six months on the field, Robbie and I found ourselves completely exhausted every afternoon. I have never been one to take naps; I can't usually sleep at night if I sleep during the day. Not to mention, both of us are extremely by-the-book, schedule-oriented people. A naptime in the middle of the day!?! But during those first few months on the field, we learned it was wise to occasionally indulge in a 20-30 minute power nap (after a cold shower); we awoke feeling refreshed and invigorated (and were able to accomplish more in the remaining hours! After awhile, our bodies adjusted and we no longer required this resttime, but it greatly helped us during those first few months of transition.

2. Stay hydrated. It's very important for those who live in a tropical climate to stop frequently to drink water. We also make fruit smoothies and frozen treats for unbearable days. The temptation is to drink sodas, but I always feel much better when I choose water. I'll never forget the baptism service we were holding one Sunday afternoon. We gathered in the small concrete church as the sun beat in the windows. We were all sweating profusely, and the small fans only blew the hot air around in circles. As Robbie stood up to preach, he looked a little woozy. I prayed he would be able to make it through the sermon; the table we had set up in the back was loaded with homemade banana bread and three-liter Pepsis. Just a few more minutes, I told myself. POP! Suddenly, there was a horribly loud explosion from the back of the room! We turned around just in time to see one of the jumbo Pepsis soaring through the air, turning end over end and spewing soda in all directions! The heat had caused it to explode! Only in Honduras! Next time you want to drink a Pepsi on a hot day, just remember what it might do to your insides!

3. Be a smart cook. Our house, like many missionaries' homes, does not have central air conditioning. Even if it were available, we could never afford it. Energy is unbelievably expensive; we pay more for our electric bill than we do for our rent. We have small AC units to cool the bedrooms and Robbie's office (but only while we are using them!). For the living room, dining room, and kitchen, we simply leave the louvered windows open and run a fan. We dry clothes on the line and run our bedroom AC units only at night, thus saving as much energy as possible. When the heat of the day kicks in, the last place I want to be is over a hot stove. I've learned to make some changes to help me get through the most sweltering days (and no, eating out doesn't count!). First, I cook our big meal for lunch instead of dinner. That way, I get the majority of my cooking done in the morning hours. We can have sandwiches or leftovers for supper. Second, I use the crockpot as much as possible. It beats standing over a hot stove any day! Third, when the days are more tolerable, I cook double portions to freeze, saving me from cooking on a hotter day. I have also learned to make more "cold meals," like wraps, chicken or egg salad sandwiches, cold bean dip, etc.

4. Mind over matter! As many little tricks and helps as I have learned, some days there is just no way around it. It's hot! But complaining does nothing but sour everyone's mood. I focus on NOT saying, "It's so hot! Can you believe how hot it is?" every few minutes. I make lame jokes about being upset I left my coat and gloves at home. I try not to think about what I look like; everyone else looks just as sweaty! And they are from here!

5. Pray, pray, pray! My attitude is a constant matter of prayer. I can feel myself slipping...I snap at Claire, glare at Robbie, and roll my eyes when the power goes out for the fourth time in 24 hours. But just a few minutes talking to the Lord, asking Him for strength, does more than a cold shower or a power nap ever will! Heat may seem like a silly little thing, but I would not be one bit surprised to find that it's caused a missionary to leave the field. The devil could definitely use such an extreme environment to discourage me and keep me from serving the Lord. I have to stay on my knees!

Shortly after moving to Honduras, I learned that the locals have a nickname for the area we've chosen to live in: La Caldera del Diablo. The Devil's Cauldron. Yep. That just about sums it up! So as you pray for the Ellis family, please ask the Lord to help us survive the heat! Because let me tell you, the devil is bringing it on!

Claire and I escaped to her treehouse for a picnic lunch today.

This is our living room area. The louvered windows stay open year round and the front door is open most of the day. The ceiling fan (a birthday present from Robbie) has been a huge help.

This is the mini-split air-conditioning unit we use to cool our bedroom at night. I have thermally insulated, lightblocking curtains on the windows to cut energy costs (and to keep the unit from blowing up!).

Be sure to check back next week, when I will post pics for a "virtual tour" of our home! It's quite a bit different from how we lived in the States, but the Lord has given us a very nice place. We'd love to have you stop by!
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