A Special Gift…

Hello and Happy Easter to all our wonderful partners and friends! Mindi here.

We pray that you all had an introspective and fulfilling Lent and a joyful Easter! John and Ella and I had a great, if short, furlough back to the States and we were able to visit the wonderful people at Trinity Episcopal Church in Hattiesburg where we got to meet, face-to-face, our new priest, the Reverend Carrie Duncan! We are really looking forward to a renewed and stronger relationship with our home church and the people in Hattiesburg.

We are writing this post today to share an incredible blessing that Teach Them To Fish has been given.  As you all know, the focus of TTTF is to support Hondurans (particularly single women and the people of Roatan) in their efforts to break the generational cycle of poverty and to become self-sufficient, understand the dignity of work and, most importantly, to come to understand their worth as a child of God and brother/sister of Jesus Christ. We have been able to help support, with varying levels of involvement, 12 different micro-industries to date. Roatan Glass Art and Tropical Wood Works have been the micros to which we have been able to give our most focused efforts and support, and they are both flourishing by God’s grace and a lot of hard work and generosity.

We are really excited to share that we now have the makings of a completely new micro-industry, thanks to the selfless posthumous generosity of one wonderful lady, Billie Davison. Before I reveal this amazingly-timed gift, please let us tell you a bit about Billie, as described by her husband, Gary Baskin.

Billie lived in Mandeville, Louisiana, near New Orleans.  In her professional life she was a veterinarian and was Board Certified in Laboratory Animal Medicine.  She spent most of her career in biomedical research and eventually had her own research program in the maternal-fetal transmission of malaria and HIV (AIDS). 

Since childhood, Billie was passionate about arts and crafts as well as everything to do with water.  She enjoyed drawing, painting, jewelry making, paper making, and numerous other crafts. Billie also loved all water.  Her husband Gary introduced her to diving and to Roatan in 2011 on a vacation trip.  She was hooked on both from the first day. Billie and Gary eventually built a house on Roatan and were spending about 4 months a year on the island.  Billie loved diving, snorkeling, underwater photography, and socializing with friends and family. Unfortunately, Billie also suffered from chronic spinal degeneration and fibromyalgia. As she was becoming progressively more debilitated, she was collecting craft materials so she could keep herself occupied in her craft room after she could no longer easily get around.  Sadly, she passed away before that time.

Here is where TTTF comes into the picture. Gary explained that years ago, they attended one of the Festivals for the Angels (a large music festival with accompanying craft booths).  While there, they met some island ladies who were selling jewelry they had made.  They explained to Billie and Gary that they were part of a program that taught island women craft skills so they could make things to sell for income.   Right then and there, Billie told Gary that when she died, she wanted her jewelry-making supplies to go to a similar program. After Billie’s passing, we were put in touch with Gary by a mutual acquaintance on the island who knew something of what our mission does. What Gary didn’t know at that time was this: The “island ladies” they met at the Festival for the Angels were, in fact, the ladies of Roatan Glass Art, the first micro-industry born of Teach Them to Fish on Roatan! So, not only did Billie get to donate her jewelry supplies to a “similar program” to one they saw on Roatan, but to the EXACT SAME program to which she was introduced at the Festival. God certainly has his hand in every situation of our lives, does He not?

Although we were touched and pleased to hear that Gary wanted TTTF to have Billie’s jewelry-making supplies, I don’t think anything prepared us for what we received once all four GIANT boxes were delivered to us. Thousands of dollars-worth of painstakingly inventoried and organized supplies arrived and we were speechless as we sorted through everything. This is literally a “micro-industry in a box” (well, boxes!). To make things even more providential, this generous donation came at a time when TTTF has a brand-new full-time missionary moving to the island. It likely won’t take you long to guess in what she has a significant background. If you guessed jewelry-making, you would be correct! Jerri Lee James will be joining the mission next week (look for a blog post about her soon!), and she is excited about delving into this amazing gift and finding some local ladies to whom she will teach the art of jewelry-making as well as business practices that will allow them to use their art and trade to become a self-sufficient micro-industry of their own.

Please be in prayer for Billie’s family which includes her husband, 2 sons, 4 grandsons, 2 brothers, and her sister. We here at TTTF are so humbled and grateful for the generosity of this whole family, and because of this, we are proud to name our newest micro-industry BILLIE’S GIFT, so that her legacy will live on in the changed lives of the people of Roatan, a place that was truly and well-loved by Billie Davison.

Wishing God’s greatest blessings on you all,

Mindi and John and all of the TTTF Family

Billie Davison of Billie’s Gift Jewelry Micro-industry

Catching up…

Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! Happy Valentines Day! Ok, it has been too long between updates but we have stayed so busy the time has gone by so quickly. We did manage to get back to the States over Christmas for a couple of weeks and we really needed it. It’s hard to be living so far away from our family and friends there, but we all understand the need and importance of our mission here and we are committed to continuing what we believe God wants us to do.

As I sit here, thinking of how to “catch you all up” on what is happening in our Teach Them To Fish world, I realize that some of you may not know how we got to where we are today, so I thought I would share a little history of our mission.

Almost 20 years ago, a group from Trinity Episcopal Church in Hattiesburg, MS started coming to Honduras on medical missions and I fell in love with the country, the people, and the culture. I continued as a part of the medical mission team, then the advance team for a total of 4 years. The more time I spent in Honduras, the more I felt a calling to devote a larger part of my life to the needs of the beautiful people of this country. At that point, Chris Tardy (who had been involved with the medical missions as well) and I discussed it and decided to do something a little more permanent and uniquely ours. We formed a small group at Trinity and called it “Teach Them to Fish”, with the goal of sharing the love of Christ and learning various crafts in order to teach them to the people of our sister diocese in Honduras. We raised money by selling the things we were making and used that money to send people down with tools and supplies to teach the crafts we knew or learned.

Bishop Allen from Honduras came to Trinity and visited with us about our mission. He came by my glass shop and asked if I could put some stained glass windows in some of his churches. True to the ‘Teach Them To Fish’ strategy, I told him I thought it would be better if we taught the people in Honduras how to do it themselves. We’ve been working toward that goal since.

Over the years, we have gone to several churches in Omoa, Tegucigalpa, and finally, Roatan to teach stained glass, glass painting, jewelry making, and fused glass.

My ladies (and gentlemen) at Trinity Episcopal have all gotten busy with other things or retired but I will always be grateful for their love and support. Chris, Jo, Jane, Bridget, Larry, and Karl met with me every Wednesday night for many years to plan, construct, sell, laugh, and cry towards this goal. We were a family and still are. They will never know how much they mean to me.

I moved to Roatan, Honduras three years ago to have a ‘presence on the ground’ for Teach Them To Fish, and to facilitate, full-time, the development of more microindustries to help local Hondurans (mainly single women) learn how to be self-sufficient and to help break the cycle of poverty that plagues this wonderful country. It was here that I met Nelson and Kara Mejia, pastors of Emmanuel Episcopal on Roatan. They helped find a group of ladies in need and we formed “Roatan Glass Art” to make fused glass sun-catchers, jewelry, and ornaments. Kara translated instructions as I taught the ladies how to make fused glass items. They have grown by leaps and bounds and are now truly artists and make beautiful work! They have also learned about running and maintaining a business. We are so excited that we are now sponsoring 2 of the members of Roatan Glass Art as they attend university here, majoring in computer science and business.

Almost 2 years ago now, I was joined by another passionate missionary here on the island. Mindi and her daughter Ella stepped out on faith and moved here in June of 2020, and Mindi became my wife in March of 2021. Mindi is now helping facilitate two of our microindustries, including Tropical Wood Works, which makes outdoor solid wood furniture, and their production schedule is now full through April with orders to fulfill!

Another major development has been renting a retail space. The store, Microindustry Missions Market, now provides an outlet for the sale of items produced by all the microindustries we support and we have a total of 10 microindustries represented in the store. The ladies from Roatan Glass Art run the store, manage the books, and continue to make beautiful fused glass items. Roatan Glass Recycling is beginning to make hummingbird feeders out of wine bottles and putting together plans for casting and blowing recycled glass this summer, and Mindi continues to learn and improve her woodturning skills with the goal of teaching this to a group on the mainland.

It has been a wonderful journey and we are so blessed and happy to be here. Thank you all for sharing our vision but also for your love, prayers, and support. Come see us! God bless you all. We love you.

John and Mindi

Reaching out for Guanaja

Greetings to you all! I am Mindi Bennett DeLancey, and I am your OTHER full-time missionary with Teach Them To Fish Microindustries. (I also happen to be John DeLancey’s wife!)  I have been on the island now since June of 2020, and am so excited about the growth and diversity I have seen in our mission, our communities, and especially in our microindustries over the last year and a half!

Praise God, Roatan seems to be out of the worst part of the pandemic, and many islanders and ex-pats are already fully vaccinated. Tourism is slowly starting to return, and we are excited to have 4-5 cruise ships arriving weekly. This doesn’t compare to pre-pandemic numbers, but it is a nice beginning of economic improvement for many here on the island.

Unfortunately, the reason for today’s blog post is not quite as uplifting as the improvements on Roatan. I am writing to let you know of a tragedy that occurred recently on our sister island, Guanaja. Utila, Roatan, and Guanaja make up the three Bay Islands of Honduras. Guanaja is arguably the most poverty-stricken of the three islands. Last week, a terrible fire broke out and completely destroyed over 100 homes and damaged hundreds more homes and businesses. There are hundreds of people without homes or any belongings. The good news is there are many ongoing humanitarian efforts focused on getting immediate needs met; food, shelter, clothing, medicine, etc.  We are asking for your prayers for all those affected. Additionally, we are working to find out how our missions can contribute the best way possible.

In our last blog post, we introduced you to Rolando and his family as well as Tropical Wood Works, our outdoor furniture-making microindustry. After prayerful consideration, we are asking our supporters to consider donating towards efforts to build simple wooden tables and chairs for the families who have lost everything. The rebuilding effort is going to monumental, but once homes are rebuilt, families are still going to be left without any furniture, and we feel this is something with which we can help.

We would like to set an initial goal of building 10 table and chair sets that will be ready to be shipped to Guanaja and donated to a family in need. Because the cost of wood has become so high here, we are asking for donations toward this endeavor. We can build a chair for $35 and a solid wood table for $75. This means for just over $200, we can purchase the wood, materials, and labor for a whole set for a family four who has lost everything. This continues also to help support Rolando and his family! Would you consider a table, chair, or even a whole set for a family that truly needs it?

We know that everyone has struggled over the last year and a half, and many people are “donated out”, and we understand that completely. If, however, you would like to contribute toward helping a family in Guanaja, they would be incredibly grateful for your help.  Rest assured that your tax-deductible donations will go directly toward the table and chair-building effort, and will result in families in Guanaja receiving, free-of-charge, beautiful and necessary furniture to aid in the rebuilding of their homes and lives. As always, we covet your prayers for all the people of the Bay Islands, and our continuing efforts to help the people of Roatan become self-sustaining. God bless you all! 

an amazing family

It’s been a great summer of growth and organization! The island is finally coming back to life. The ships and tourists are coming and our micro family is breathing a little easier. The greatest growth in our micros is Tropical Wood Works lead by Mindi and managed by Rolando. It is about Rolando and his amazing family that I want brag. Rolando is a 58-year-old master carpenter, our shop manager, our friend, and now, our family. He has a lovely wife Paula(who cooks the best pastelitos and coconut bread on the island) and four beautiful children, Andrea, Mariel, Icar, and Saray.

I met Rolando three years ago when I first came to the island. He is a quiet, unassuming, bilingual man that I instantly liked. Over the years he has built and added onto our shop, made repairs to any number of broken things, translated for us, drove the van, collected bottles for recycling, and the list goes on. He has always done everything asked of him with a quiet pleasantness and small, ever-present smile.

I could not be happier that he now heads the outdoor furniture portion of Tropical Wood Works. Once he started building Adirondack chairs, things really starting moving. People began to see what he could do with a miter saw and suddenly, all kinds of custom requests started coming in. Nearly all of his work has been for island people but we believe we have figured out a way to break down the chairs so they can be taken back to the cruise ship with visiting tourists.

I just wanted to give a shout-out to this lovely man and his amazing family. They have blessed our lives in more ways than I can count. God is good!

We’ve got two going to university!

Hello, friends! As Honduras, along with the rest of the world, begins to slowly open up again and we start to remember what it is like to have a life outside of a global pandemic, we have some very promising and exciting things to share with you! There has been a small uptick in tourism now that flights are regularly scheduled into and out of Roatan, and we are seeing activity in the larger resorts and restaurants. This has eased some of the sheer desperation of many islanders and has provided some jobs again. There are rumors that one cruise line is coming next month. What a blessing!

In addition to opening a retail store for our microindustries, we are very happy to announce a new program to further the education of some of our participants. Full tuition is awarded to attend a local university in an approved major(one that supports the microindustry in which they are working). To qualify, you have to be participating in one of the microindustries we manage for at least a year. To continue to be in the program, you have to maintain an average of 3.0 (B average) and continue to work in the microindusry during degree completion. These are four-year degrees that can truly change the course of the participant’s lives and that of their families and community

Currently, Carmen, the manager for Roatan Glass Art, is taking courses toward a degree in business administration. In addition to keeping RGA running, she has a beautiful seven-year-old daughter named Nahomy. She has been with us for two years and continues to be a strong, unifying presence. She was the right person to have in charge through this very difficult year.

Jessy, the bookkeeper for RGA, Roatan Glass Recycling, and Microindustry Missions Market, is our second participant in this new program. Her degree will be in computer technology. She is the mother of two adorable boys, a twelve-year-old named Jafete and a five-year-old named Isaac. She has been with us from the beginning. Not only is she a reliable bookkeeper but she makes truly beautiful earrings and necklaces with Roatan Glass Art.

We are looking for sponsors to help support these women so they can continue their education for the next four years. We are also establishing a fund to support other hardworking Hondurans to get their degrees as well. The total for four courses being offered to participants cost an average of $125 a month. That amount includes tuition, annual registration, and books. Please help these ladies and others reach their goals of self-sufficiency and higher education.

We continue to Grow…

We are growing! We have already moved to a larger store than we had originally planned – all the way up to 130 sq ft! Woo hoo! Actually, it is exactly the right amount of space to showcase the different microindustries with whom we are currently working. The largest area will be for Roatan Glass Art with their fused creations but we will also have a quill art from one lady, seashell mobiles from another, and lathed woodwork from a third.

In the process of preparing the shell of a store for operation, we discovered the sexton at Emmanuel Episcopal, Rolando, has mad skills as a carpenter (pictured below). This man can build anything. He was the one responsible for building the glass shop itself. In the course of only a few days, he has built rounded shelves and cabinets, painted, and installed them. Guess what? Another microindustry is spinning up. We’ll keep you up to date on his development.

We are also developing a glass recycling program as a pilot at Emmanuel Episcopal. We will initially make scented candles from collected bottles. Next we will get a kiln to firepolish cut bottles for glassware, flatten bottles for cheese trays, and cast crushed glass for wall hangings. Ultimately, we will blow the glass into plates, bowls, glasses, and more. Recycling glass is very much needed on the island now since they are moving about from plastic products. Very exciting stuff.

The Page Turns…

We are happy to report that the government of Honduras didn’t close the borders or reinstitute the lockdown. As the island slowly recovers, the need for providing meals to so many has, thanks be to God, lessened. There is still need but it has been significantly reduced. Because of this, we are, indeed, moving the soup kitchen and its responsibilities over to Emmanuel Episcopal as they complete building a room to act as a community kitchen. We thank everyone from the bottom of our hearts for the donations that helped us prepare over 16,800 meals for those that truly needed it. Now we can return to our original mission – self sustenance.

We are very excited about opening a store in the Macaw Market to sell the products being produced by the microindustries here. Most of the original inventory will be provided by Roatan Glass Art. As you may know, it was started over two years ago and is still hanging in there despite two hurricanes, the pandemic, and the loss of tourism. These are very special ladies that continue to work hard to support their families. Our store, in the pictures below, is a whopping 80 square feet! Yep, most likely your bathroom is larger than this store but it is a place to start. It is in a ‘mall’ of sorts made entirely out of shipping containers. We are one of 28 stores that will market to the locals until tourism returns.

We are also very excited to send two of the ladies that have worked with us for a long time in Roatan Glass Art to the local university. Our manager, Carmen, is going for a degree in business administration and Jessy, our accountant, is going for a degree in computer science. We will be looking for sponsors for these and other members in our microindustries soon. Amazingly, it is only $100 a month for each lady to pursue their educational dream. I am hoping there will be some out there that will help.

We will be changing the website a bit to break out the programs we are supporting. We will describe these programs in detail so you will know where your money is going and what it is doing. Right now we are looking at two fused glass microindustry missions, a wood lathe microindustry, a soap making microindustry, an acrylic painting microindustry, a wind chime microindustry, and a glass recycling microindustry. We are also looking into a tuition program to send members of these groups to specialized education to better their chances at success.

As we begin our new journey in developing the glass recycling shop, soap making, and other crafts and our continued journey in current missions, we hope you will join us in these life-changing projects. We invite you all to come see the difference your prayers and support have made. These are loving, hard working people that only need a little help to make their lives and that of their church and communities better. Join us in the love that Christ shows to all of His children.

Reflecting on the year…

It has certainly been a wild ride this year but things are a little better here. Since we are no longer locked down (at the moment – more on that), islanders are finding ways to make ends meet until tourism returns. There are still a lot of families in need but it is not quite as desperate. If the trend continues, we will scale back on the meals we are serving and move the soup kitchen to another building on the church grounds. We can then refocus our efforts on growing microindustries.

We are very excited to have a new microindustry, Precious Little Things, join us. Stephanie is an islander that makes wind chimes and gift cards from driftwood and shells she finds on the iron shore on the south side of the island. She needed no tools or instruction on how to do what she does but is working with us on marketing and running a retail business. We are very happy for her to join us.

The recycling shop will soon be spinning up as well. All through the pandemic, we have been collecting and cleaning bottles in preparation for the day that we could actually get back to recycling. We will first be cutting the bottles to make glassware, wind chimes, chandeliers, and scented candles. Next, we will blow the recycled glass into plates, bowls, and vases. Finally, we will combine crushed, recycled glass with concrete as an aggregate for pavers and roads. Very exciting stuff.

We are hoping the recovery trend to continue but as of today, the country of Honduras is considering closing the borders once again. The new strain of COVID in the UK has many in the Health Department concerned. They are already restricting travelers coming from the UK and South Africa. They are floating the idea of closing the borders again in January. We were thinking that we could transfer the soup kitchen to the church at the end of the December but if they close the borders, we will be right back having a dire need to feed people. Please pray with us that they do not close them. Thank you for your continued support.

thanksgiving… truly

Thanksgiving is just behind us but the gratitude for the support being shown for us remains. First, I’d like to thank the United Thank Offering (UTO), the Episcopal Diocese of Honduras, the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi, and Trinity Episcopal Church of Hattiesburg for getting me here. With a combined effort of all of these, I was able to move here and get established as an ‘on the ground’ missionary to develop microindustries so that people here could support themselves. What that became was a life-saving mission to feed starving people in the wake of a pandemic and two hurricanes. This was truly a ‘God thing’.

Second, I like to thank those that continue to step up when we run low on money in the soup kitchen. We had a few large donations and many smaller. We had several that were made in celebration of the life of one the of soup kitchen founders, Doug Geddes. We had a large donation made because of the number of children we are feeding. Other donations were made by lovers of Roatan and the Honduran people and still others friends supporting friends doing God’s work. I love you all.

Third, I’d like to thank the whole team down here.  Emmanuel Episcopal with Father Nelson, Revda Kara, and Father Bob are our hosts on the island.  It is on that property that we built the recycling-shop-turned-soup-kitchen.  They have supported the microindustry mission from the beginning and now this soup kitchen.  I am also thankful for the community volunteers that come to cook, work, and serve as well as the expats that do the same.  I am also very thankful for the addition of two more missionaries, Mindi and Natalia.  The fact that we have actually grown during all this is nothing short of a miracle.

Last, I thank God every single day for this life. I feel like I am where He wants me to be doing what He wants me to do. I have so much love and purpose in my life that it humbles me. I never dared dream that life could be so good. God bless and thank you all.

Like we didn’t already have enough problems…

As I am writing this, we are in the middle of our second hurricane in as many weeks. This one is twice the size of the last one. We were already in pretty poor shape but this is catastrophic. Homes and bridges on the mainland are being washed away, food supplies are being wiped out, and people are dying.

We won’t be able to safely cook and distribute the food this week and we are running very short on funds. Food prices are rising because the infrastructure of the mainland is compromised and the weather is hindering ships delivering scarely available supplies to the islands. Our vegetable supplies were 30% more expensive last week than they were the week before the first hurricane. No idea how much higher prices will be after this week. We may have to switch to canned meats and vegetables.

There have already been a few lovely people donating to help us out in the last few days but we are nearly out of funds to feed people that may not even have a dry floor on which to sleep for weeks to come. People already battling COVID-19 and the devastation of the last hurricane are going to be getting sick from the foul, standing water, lack of decent food, and insufficient medical care. Our brothers and sisters are in a desperate and life threatening situation. Please help however you can. God bless you all.