Furlough Thoughts

Back in May, we had the opportunity to travel back to California for something missionaries call “furlough.” Furlough is basically an extended visit back to the states to rest, recharge, and visit your supporters. We originally had no intentions of going back to visit so quickly, but as luck would have it, Shane’s parents decided to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary – in Hawaii! They wanted to renew their vows with all of their family present, and who could say no to that?! So on May 5th we flew back to California to spend time among friends, family, and supporters with plans to return June 5th. However, the aunts and uncles and grandparents made it clear that one month was not nearly enough time with the kids, so they would fly back June 17th with my mom and Shane’s aunt.

Looking back now, it was all a blur and it went by so fast. So many people to see, errands to run, churches to visit, vacations to go on, and taxes to do! At the beginning of May we drove down to Disneyland with my family and sister’s friend to celebrate my sister’s birthday. She wanted to run the Tinkerbell 10K so that’s what we did. My best friend and her family met us there as well. It was a super fun time! This was my first race ever and my sister’s first 10K. I had been training here in Honduras since January and was feeling a little nervous about it, but I knew that I would at least finish. Running here is not like running in Pinole, California. There are rocks, and it’s hot and humid, and there are dogs, and we’re at 2,000 ft elevation. When I’m running here I really can’t look up because the ground is so uneven. I actually fell once while training and completely skinned up my hip. Well, when the time came to run in Disneyland at 5:30am with my precious sister and 10,000 other people, I could tell things were gonna go well. We started out at a nice easy pace and I knew immediately we were going to run the whole thing. My sister warned me at mile 4 that she had never run farther than that, but we kept going. It was so much fun, and I would definitely do it again!

 

 

The last week of May was spent in Hawaii with Shane’s family. It was truly a dream vacation. We were all so blessed. Our hotel was just gorgeous, we enjoyed beautiful beaches, watched the sunset on a volcano at 10,000 feet, went snorkeling, attended a luau, and ate really delicious food. Oh, and we were all present to witness Shane’s parents’ vow renewal. It was so intimate and beautiful. Now we’re all trying to figure out how we can make this a yearly tradition (ok, maybe every 5 years ??).

In between those two trips we visited 3 churches and El Sobrante Christian School to update them on how we’re doing and just felt so loved and cared for. We had lots of coffees and lunches and dinners with various supporters, and we were so blessed because we love them all so much. There were a few we couldn’t connect with, but we’ll catch them next time. It truly was not a chore to spend time with the people who have sent us. They are absolutely lovely, and we left every meeting feeling encouraged.

We also had a few housekeeping matters to attend to. For one, we had to get our taxes done. That actually turned out to be a huge blessing because our income dropped so drastically last August. Yay for refunds! Shane also had to go out to San Francisco to apply for his second year leave of absence from the police department. He had to write a memo that would go all the way up the chain of command to the chief, and it had to be signed off by each person along the way. Now, since we’ve been gone, a lot of new people have taken these positions and there were quite a few of them that Shane did not know personally. One of whom being a recent convert to Islam. And he didn’t know the new police chief either. So we were on the edge of our seats for quite some time waiting to find out the verdict. Taking a second consecutive year of leave had only been done once before that people knew of, and really wasn’t allowed as far as HR was concerned. By the end of our week in Hawaii I realized that we were going to have neither the taxes nor the memo done by the time we flew home even though we had started the process as soon as we arrived. So I had to move our flight to June 8th as everything wrapped up. We found out that Shane’s leave was approved, and that means that he still has a job when we return next year! Very good news worth waiting for!

So as I wrap up this post I’ll leave you with a few funny thoughts that crossed my head as we were gone. Just for fun 🙂

Toilet seat covers! Automatic soap dispensers! I can flush the toilet paper…thank you Lord I can flush the toilet paper.  These roads! They’re so smooth! Driving is so relaxing…wait, maybe too relaxing…I better remember which country I’m in and obey the rules. I’m so cold. I am always cold. So many good restaurants, how am I possibly going to fit them all in before we leave? Target! (need I say more?) How did these kids end up with so many toys and clothes? How are we going to get this all home? Oh, look, that’s new! That wasn’t here before.

And lastly I will just share my experience at Target. And I knew this would happen. People warned me it would happen! I ran in to Target to just get a couple things and I headed for the self check-out. I thought, “Do you really trust yourself to do self check-out Jessica? You’ve been gone for a while…no, it’ll be fine. I only have a few things!” Well, as soon as I scanned the first item I realized there were no plastic bags to put them in. So I look around in a panic and fortunately a cashier was standing nearby with some sturdier (biodegradable?) looking plastic bags, saw my face and said, “How many will you need?” I told her 2 and went back to scanning. Then the screen told me that I had earned a $5 gift card and it said “Scan Gift Card” and I thought “What on earth? We’re scanning our own gift cards now?!” The cashier saw me again and pointed to the gift cards RIGHT IN FRONT OF MY FACE and so I grabbed one and continued on. Then the screen asked me how many bags I had used and charged 10 cents for each one. Apparently California banned free plastic bags and Target now trusts you to scan your own gift cards. Things change so quickly! And I’m sure we’ll be in for lots of other surprises the next time we visit.

Take care everyone, we love you and we’re so grateful for your support!

Love, Jess

Happy New Year!

Wow! I cannot believe it has been 3 months since my last post! Time flies when you’re transitioning to a brand new country, language, and culture. A lot has happened since October. The Cubs won the World Series! Boy, was that a crazy time. We got a puppy! “Rizzo” fits our family just perfectly and is quickly becoming the second best dog ever (Rocky will always be the BEST of course). We finished our time at language school and moved to El Ayudante over Thanksgiving weekend!

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Rizzo! The newest Herbert
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First meal in our new house!

Every year El Ayudante hosts a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner for all of its Honduran and North American staff. I’m not going to lie, we were a little worried about the food. I’ve always hosted Thanksgiving for both sides of our family so this was going to be different. Most Hondurans don’t even eat turkey! Would we have all the flavors and comfort we were hoping for? Well let me tell you, we were NOT disappointed! The food was delicious and  the fellowship was very special. We started our time in worship, both in English and Spanish, ate some yummy food, and then each of us shared what we were thankful for (in Spanish!)

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Everyone wrote their thanks on a leaf

The moving process was a lot of work but pretty entertaining. How did we have so much STUFF? The very last load from Siguatepeque looked a little bit like National Lampoon’s Vacation, but everything made it here in one piece. We made quick work of unpacking and then our dear friend Kelly came down to help us paint and finish settling in.

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The boys’ cool room
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Shasta’s room
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So sweet when friends visit!

During the middle of December I had the privilege of taking a kid-free getaway to celebrate my mama’s retirement! My sister and I had planned a surprise trip for her to Belize so I met them and my Dad in the Belize City airport. From there we took a plane to Dangriga and a shuttle to Hopkins. The resort was so nice and located right on the beach. Us girls went snorkeling, my dad went fishing, and we all went to explore some Mayan ruins. I think we all really enjoyed spending some quality time together – just the four of us. I hope my mom enjoyed the time away as she faces this new transition period in her life. I don’t know that she is “done” working, but I know she will miss her Kaiser family very much. From there we said, “Nos vemos,” because my parents are visiting in February and Amanda is coming in March!

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Yay for sister time!

As I returned from Belize it was time to hit the ground running to prepare for Christmas and VISITORS! Shane’s parents arrived on December 18th and his aunt and brother arrived on Christmas Eve. It was such a fun, busy time. I think it was almost as good as being home for Christmas. I felt completely unprepared as far as shopping goes, but God is good and come Christmas day everyone had lots of fun presents to open and I think we all felt very loved. I also cooked a turkey dinner and we had the Mohagens over to join us. One benefit to not being home for Christmas was the ability to take a trip north to the beach. We all spent a few days there after Christmas just playing, relaxing and enjoying the view.

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We wouldn’t let them get away without doing a little work 😉

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Shane’s parents and brother left on the 30th and Aunt Suzy left on January 6th. And then what? Well, to be honest we went through a little bit of the post-holiday-transitioning-to-a-new-place blues. We got really homesick for the first time since we left. Fortunately we know that it’s “normal,” but that doesn’t make it any less hard. The adrenaline has worn off, the new and exciting has lessened, the family has gone, and now begins the real work of starting our jobs here and building a new life. We are still learning the language. Funny as it seems, three months of language school doesn’t mean you’re automatically a fluent speaker. So we have a teacher coming to our house four hours a day to help us push forward. Language is just so, so important here. You’re never going to build deep relationships unless you can speak and understand with confidence.

Speaking of relationships, we had a wedding here last week! The first team of the year helped us to make 2 couple’s dreams come true last Friday. It was so neat for Shane and I because we actually had the privilege of being here last year for EA’s first ever wedding and now we were able to attend the second. The team and all of the staff did an amazing job preparing everything for the big day. Even the kids LOVED serving food and drinks during the reception. Pictures just do not do justice to how beautiful and special it was. It was a great reminder of why we’re here and that God has indeed called us to be here for such a time as this.

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We also had some supporters of ours and the Mohagens here for the last two weeks. Janice is a dental hygienist and Paul is a realtor. We had gotten to know them because Paul and his daughter were our realtors for our last two home purchases, but they have known EA and the Mohagens for a long  time. They’ve always wanted to come serve and finally had the opportunity. It was so nice having them! Janice served in the clinic most mornings and in the office some afternoons. Paul didn’t know how he would serve but simply that he would help wherever needed. Well, when he saw that our new learning center was ready for paint he took that on as his baby. He nearly painted the whole thing himself. He also did some painting at the mission house. Someone who loves painting – what a blessing!

And now we are back to regular life for a while until the next team comes or my family comes to visit. There’s lots of planning and preparation going on for the new year of ministry here at El Ayudante. Our focus for 2017 is education. “Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.” Psalms 86:11. That is our focus for this year, that every aspect of ministry would grow from an educational standpoint, both practically and spiritually. We look forward to all that God will show us in 2017!

Thank you so much for loving us, praying for us, encouraging us, and following along!

~ Jess

Settling In

“Are you getting settled in?” “How are things going?” “How are the kids?” “Are you starting to feel at home?” “Is everyone speaking Spanish yet?!” (That last one is funny!)

These are the questions we’ve been answering lately. And honestly, we are in a fun, exciting time! We are in “the honeymoon phase.” Everything is still new and adventurous, we’re soaking up the culture and finding yummy food, meeting new people, and the little everyday annoyances haven’t really bothered us too much yet. But it’s hard to say that I feel “settled.” I thought about calling this post “(un)Settling In,” but that has a negative ring to it. We don’t feel unsettled, but we certainly have a long way to go before we will feel “comfortable.” And speaking the language fluently will help a LOT.

We’ve spent the last month or so learning a new city – Siguatepeque. It’s a fun word to say – the kids will find any excuse to say it. We know where the grocery store is and a few good restaurants, but we still have a lot of exploring to do. Our house is in a very nice neighborhood. It’s small and gated and has a little playground for the kids. We have been meeting our neighbors here and there, and everyone has been nice. One night we had to ask our rear neighbors for help with getting our wood stove started because the power was out and I was determined to finish cooking dinner!

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When all else fails, start a fire!

 

Speaking of power outages, they have been an issue. September is known here as “the month of storms.” Combine that with a recent change of electric companies and you have some major problems. Even people who have lived here for a long time say that it has never been this bad. Fortunately, we are learning to adapt and be flexible. Shasta came to Honduras with major anxiety about storms, to the point that she would make herself sick. But even she admits that it is getting better with more time and experience. Every night that we sit down to eat dinner it is so funny to hear Cash say, “Well, if the power goes out, at least we have dinner!”

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Dessert by lanternlight

Since my last post we have started language school! October 7th marked the end of our 6th week at school. Only 7 more weeks to go (not that we’re counting)! We are studying at The Spanish Institute of Honduras in Siguatepeque. If you click on that link you can watch a nice little video that will give you a good idea about what school is like for us. So far I feel that our learning is going really well. Shane goes from 8am-12pm while I stay home and homeschool the kids, we switch at lunch, and then myself, Shasta, and Cash go from 1pm-5pm. The kids study from 1pm-3pm and then play or do schoolwork while they wait for me. When we get home we have dinner and Shane does either History or P.E. with the kids. Then we all pass out from exhaustion – it is a very intense schedule! We have literally no time for anything extra Monday-Friday! But we are learning so much so fast and it is really helping us to be able to live and function here.

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Celebrating dia del niño at school

September 15th is Independence Day here in Honduras. Because we had a little break from school and El Ayudante’s directors, Beth and Tristen, were in the States, we spent a few days in ministry back in Comayagua. Shane helped lead a team of high school boys from Tegucigalpa. They were a great group of teens and they put on a basketball camp for the local school in Lo De Reina. I know Shane had a blast working with them and the older kids loved it too.

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Basketball Camp!

 

We’ve even been able to take our first vacation now! Two weeks ago we had a week off from school and took the opportunity to drive about 3 hours north to the Caribbean coast. We stayed at a great hotel on the beach in the city of Tela. It was so nice and easy to just walk from our room right onto the beach. The kids had never experienced being able to swim in the ocean. The waves were the perfect size for them and the water was clear and warm. It was such a nice relaxing time after all the busyness and change we’ve been through.

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The view from our balcony – amazing!

Another treat that helped with the settling process was having our first visitors last week. Shane’s mom Stacy and his aunt Suzy came down for 5 days. We didn’t tell the kids they were coming and they were SHOCKED to see them at the airport. It was so nice for all of us to have a piece of home and we are thankful that they could come and see that we’re ok 😉

Well, I think that’s all for now. Thanks for keeping up with us and encouraging us!

We love ya!

~Jess

We Have Arrived

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Redeye Sunrise

We arrived safely in Honduras yesterday morning! Our flight got in about 9:30am and Tristan and Beth picked us up from the airport in Tegucigalpa.

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One Last BIG Family Dinner

At about 9pm on Thursday night we headed to SFO with most of our extended family and two pickup trucks full of luggage, five backpacks, five carryons, and five pillows. I don’t know how we would have checked all of our bags without the help of our family (and one of Shane’s former coworkers)! It was a circus, but you had to just laugh. What can you do? The first Avianca attendant we saw said “Are you moving in?” Yes sir, how could you tell? Praise the Lord we got the sweetest lady to check us in for our flight. She said, “Don’t worry, I’m going to make this as easy for both of us as possible.” Whew! Even still, it took about an hour to check in.

Grandparents, aunts, and uncles came with us all the way to security. Veronica (Shane’s brother Lake’s girlfriend) had the sweetest idea to make us a box with cards that our family wrote to us so that we can read them when we get homesick. Lots of tears and lots of hugs were shared as we said “See you later” to our biggest support system. We will all miss each other so much!

The flight went as well as it could with 3 small children in tow. Cole slept the whole 5 hours from SFO to San Salvador (which is all that matters, right?). Shasta had some tummy issues, but overall it was fine. We were late landing in San Salvador with what should have been a 30 minute layover. Fortunately one of the nice staff took us on a golf cart to our gate which was at the opposite end of the airport. I think they were waiting for us because as soon as we sat down the plane took off! I looked at Shane and said “There’s no way any of our luggage made it with us!” Well they must have had some luggage ninjas because we landed in Teguc and 8 pieces made it as well. Customs was no problem, and the lady at Avianca’s “lost luggage” counter was optimistic that our 13 other bags would arrive on the 3 pm flight. Yes, you did the math correctly. We ended up with 21 checked bags.

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Since we were in the capital and the day was young, Shane and Tristan stayed in town to shop for a vehicle. Beth and I took the kids to El Ayudante to start getting settled. It was so nice to finally be “home” as we were greeted by all of our friends and fellow staff. Zaida made us a yummy lunch and the kids got some rest. It was a rough afternoon for them. Lots of change mixed with emotions and exhaustion produced a lot of tears. “I want to go back.” “I don’t want to live here for two years.” Those were a few of the phrases I heard on repeat. It was sad. I want to paint the picture that everything was great, but I have to be honest too. I know there will be many rough days ahead, and that was just a glimpse. Fortunately, they have had a much better day today after a full night’s sleep and lots of playtime with the Mohagen girls, Maddy and Ali.

Shane and Tristan got a ton of stuff accomplished yesterday – Shane bought us a car! It’s unheard of to fly in and buy a car on the same day – it’s a long process! He bought an ’09 Nissan Pathfinder and we love it. It is the first car that we have ever bought outright (thanks of course to our AMAZING support team). Pretty awesome feeling, and also the weight of a lot of responsibility to spend wisely and get a good deal. They also got us new sim cards with Honduran numbers for our cell phones. After all of that they went back to the airport and by an absolute miracle they were able to pick up the rest of our luggage! 21 suitcases all arrived in the same day. What are the odds?! We are feeling incredibly blessed and fortunate to have everything here.

I think that just about covers it! Long day of travel, but well worth the effort. Thank you so so much to all of you who sent encouraging texts, messages, FB, and IG posts right before we left! We felt so incredibly loved and supported because you thought of us and were praying for us. It was the best, seriously. We love you all so much!

Please check our Contact Us page if you need our new phone numbers.

Blessing, Jess

Caught in a Whirlwind

The last couple of months have been a complete whirlwind. Of activity, emotions, everything. In May we reached 100% of our monthly support just about at the 100 day mark. Then we had the task of raising 100% of our moving costs ($30,000). Since we began our fundraising in February we were only focused on monthly support, but inevitably we were given one-time gifts as well. Without even really trying we had raised $22,000 by the end of May. We weren’t sure at first where the rest of the money would come from, so we waited and prayed. Small amounts trickled in here and there (which really do add up!). Shane’s last day of work was July 10th and a few days before he learned that his coworkers had secretly raised about $7,000!! And just like that we were done. Done worrying. Done stressing. It wasn’t that we didn’t believe that God would provide. We just wanted to know HOW and WHEN! And his timing is perfect. It has been absolutely incredible to see the way that He provides. Always MORE than enough. 

July was spent packing and moving out of our house. We donated A LOT of our belongings. We threw A LOT of stuff away. It was overwhelming and liberating. Once you get rid of the “stuff” you really don’t give it a second thought. It’s just hard letting go. Anything that isn’t coming with us is stored in the rafters of our garage, and we currently have 15 pieces of luggage I believe. I still have more sorting and organizing to do with the luggage. As the time came closer to move out I just started throwing items in suitcases that I’m sure could be packed better. Here are a few pictures of the process.


We also had to re-home our animals. 

Our sweet Bowser Boy went to the family of a friend.


Scooby was fortunate enough that our renters are allowing him to stay. He’s learning to get along with their two dogs, but I’m hopeful that it will work out!


Rocky is living with Shane’s aunt Suzy. I think I will miss him terribly. I never imagined that we wouldn’t have him for his entire life. At first we contemplated taking him with us, but he is getting older and we weren’t sure how he would handle the flight. And from what we’ve heard veterinary care is not easy to come by in Honduras. I have comfort in knowing that Rocky will live like a king at Suzy’s house. He will be loved and spoiled, but we will all miss him so so much. 

The day after we moved out we went on a weeklong camping trip with our family and friends. More on that coming soon!

Thanks for reading! We appreciate you! Love, Shane & Jess 💗

New Address!

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Just a quick note to let you all know that El Ayudante’s P.O. Box has changed. It is now:

P.O. Box 154, Rodeo, CA 94572

If you are giving through your banking online or mailing checks, please edit the address.

Thank You!!

Love, Shane and Jess

 

Touring the Golden State

I’m well overdue for an update here, I know. We have just had a crazy past 3 months since this support-raising journey began. God has been doing incredible things, and it feels like we have been traveling all over California! We’ve been everywhere from San Bruno to Rohnert Park to Brentwood, all the way up to Auburn and Yuba City. It’s been really nice to get out of our little 10-20 mile radius and see more of California. It’s also been amazing to experience the unity that there is in the family of God no matter where you are. Because of our common faith we can come together in fellowship and just encourage one another. We have truly enjoyed all of our travels. It’s also been a great excuse to see wonderful friends that we haven’t seen in a long time.

One of the highlights of this past month was traveling to Yuba City to visit Adventure Church of Yuba City. Shane met their pastor, Greg Mansur, through a mutual friend while doing Men’s Ministry last year. Since then, they have continued to keep in touch and Greg has been so supportive and encouraging throughout our recent happenings. Greg so wanted to help and also encourage his congregation that he asked Shane to come speak for both services on May 1st! It was a great experience, and we received so much love and support from everyone. We look forward to a continued relationship with Adventure Church and hope to see them with a team in Honduras soon!

As you may know, we are rapidly approaching the end of our 100 Days (May 24th)!! We have been blown away with how God has blessed our journey and the family he has called to come alongside us. We are currently at 95% of committed monthly support! That’s incredible! That means we are only $200 per month away from being fully supported missionaries. In some of our research going into this process, we’ve read that the average missionary can take anywhere from 18-24 months to raise full support. Crazy! It’s become pretty clear to us with how God has provided that we are headed in the right direction in regard to his will for our lives. We also have just about half of our moving costs raised as well, and we weren’t even really focusing on that until this point. God is good and he knows all that we need, exactly when we need it.

As we near our 100th Day, I am reminded of this verse, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen” Phil. 4:19-20 (ESV)

We are resting in the fact that God has done so many bigger things than what we need right now. He has it all planned out already!

Thanks for checking in,  Jess

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Shane speaking at Adventure Church of Yuba City

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Visiting good friends in Auburn! (and how to fit 11 people in a selfie 🙂

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