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.

A New Missionary and a New Hurricane? Coincidence? I Think not…

We are growing! Teach Them To Fish is proud to announce an addition to our ministry of one Natalia Walsh. Natalia has hit the ground running. She is already in the kitchen helping to cook, out on the line serving, and meeting with the local priests and pastors about program opportunities. She has been teaching and ministering on mainland Honduras in the Copan region for the last five years. Welcome Ms. Natalia!

And yes, we have hurricane Eta heading this way. Although not particularly a worry for structural damage here from wind, it will dump a tremendous amount of rain on islands and the country if it follows the predicted path and timeline. Mudslides are almost guaranteed with that kind of rain causing a multitude of problems when there is only one main road.

We have now served over 12,000 meals… Praise God! We are most certainly not going to be able to serve this week but we have steadily fed between 600 and 700 a week from your generous donations. We are hoping that we will be able to serve again next week. Statistically, it appears that 400 of the 600 being fed are children of less than 10 years old. Please keep us in your prayers and consider donating to help them. This storm is going to further strain the scarce resources we have on the island.

You’ll Have to Forgive me…

I am sorry I could not write this entry any sooner but my heart simply could not take it. We have lost one of our very own in a tragic and senseless way. Doug Geddes was one of my best friends on the island. He was central to my everyday life. He helped to start and sustain the soup kitchen. He was in my bible study group and church group. He was a dive buddy every Thursday and took the most beautiful pictures of the dives we made together. We all could relive those dives from his pictures. We talked about future projects and fishing trips. And now he is gone. It took 11 days from being healthy to leaving this Earth. If you even suspect that you have the virus, get a test, if not for your own sake, get it for those you love.

As the outpouring of love comes to his wife, Susan, and his kids, I am astounded at how many have said, ‘He was my best friend’. I have always thought that phrase engendered some kind of exclusivity. I thought if he was my best friend that I was his. It turns out he was THE best friend to many. He was just that kind of a man. He made you feel loved, significant, and somehow proud that a man like that could be your best friend. What a rare quality it is for a human to possess. I can only hope that I can learn some of how to do that before it is my time.

The soup kitchen that he helped create is doing a little better, financially, after our last appeal for donations but more is needed if we want to continue to serve. Doug was also our largest fundraiser and safety officer. We are still feeding between 600 and 700 people a week as the situation here becomes even more dire. Two other people in our group have tested positive and have been quarantined. Everyone else has tested negative so we have continued cooking and serving with even tighter safety measures.

It now makes me quite angry when someone minimizes the effects of this deadly virus. It has claimed one of mine and I will never be the same. If this sounds like I am taking this personally, I am. Please wear a mask and keep your distance. Do this for the health of other people, the ones that can’t overcome it.

Please keep Susan, Doug’s family, and all of his friends in your prayers. We are all devasted by his loss.

We could use a little help here…

To catch you up over the last couple of weeks, we did feed between 700 and 750 the week before last. Last week back to 600+. The new stove and refrigerator (used) are working out fabulously. We are experimenting with beans to see what we can stretch. We are also looking into pricing hot dog spaghetti (I am reserving judgement but my Honduran friends insist that it is delicious). We are maintaining each serving at less than 50 cents including the plates and forks.

Things are getting pretty bad here with petty crime and desperation for food. People are literally standing out in the middle of the street holding out a hand for drivers to give them money. There are people walking through the grocery store asking that we buy cereal and milk powder so they can feed their kids. There are so many people asking for money that we have started handing out uncooked rice and beans. It only helps for a couple of meals but there are so many asking, it is all we can do.

And even we are having to make difficult decisions in these difficult times. We are so grateful to those of you who have supported the mission and helped feed the hungry, but the reality is that those funds have been spent and the food has been eaten. We are at a real crossroads here and are facing the idea that we may not be able to continue helping without some financial assistance.  We have reached into our own pockets to our absolute limits.

We are almost out of money and will need to cut back unless we can get more in.  They have no jobs, money, or means of escape.  The airport is beginning to accept international travelers but it is a drop in the bucket compared to the cruise ships that won’t be back until next year.  These are the children of Christ, our brothers and sisters. Please consider helping us feed the people of Roatan.

Along Came Nana…

Thank you all for the prayers and concern for the tropical storm, Nana, that blew past us. I guess the worst thing I heard was that the hospital in Coxen Hole was flooded with about two feet of water. Otherwise, we had heavy rain and some mud slides but nothing to complain about. She moved through quickly so rain levels didn’t get too high. The mainland had it worse than we did but still it wasn’t as bad as some storms of the past. Looks like it’s going to be a record hurricane season.

We were not able to feed people last week due to the storm but will resume this week. Our goal this week is 750. We are adding a group of about 150 out in Oak Ridge. This is the community that donated the rice cooker so it only seems fair that they can be fed from it. We were also able to buy a stove and larger, used refrigerator from donations originating in Father Bob’s church in New Jersey. We are very grateful.

We will soon be adding another option to the website to highlight other ministries on the island that are working as hard as we are to help the people here. There is so much need on so many levels that I thought some lovely people out there would be particularly touched by what these other ministries are doing. I meet with them weekly and can vouch for their commitment, honestly, and sincerity.

Please keep us in your prayers.  We appreciate any financial support you can provide. God bless you all.

A special Shout out…

Our hearts are broken that one of our own has passed: Ben Exner. Expats on the island are few in number so we either know each other directly or just one friend away. Ben was the owner of two of our favorite restaurants, Bambu(sushi} and Casa(Mexican). He left us too young.

His mother, Linda Rotz and sister, Heather Loveday, decided to close his restaurants. In doing so, she sent over $2000 worth of food, forks, plates, and other supplies to us to share with the people of Roatan. It will help literally hundreds of people eat that otherwise could not.

Thank you Miss Linda and Miss Heather. We are so very grateful to have known Ben and thankful for your gifts. May the Peace of our Lord be with you and your family always.

You win some… You lose some…

It’s the story of life… 🙂 Some weeks ago we had a lovely, massive, commercial rice cooker and a standard home range/oven donated. The oven worked straight away and we put it to work. The rice cooker, however, had some internal issue that prevented it from working. We called the electrician to fix it but it needed some part he couldn’t find. Fast forward to last week and, praise the Lord, someone found a part and repaired the rice cooker. If you haven’t guessed already, the oven died the same week. Called the electrician, a gecko got somewhere it wasn’t supposed to and fried some really important circuit. The repair cost is roughly equivalent to the cost of a new stove. Living here requires a bit of patience and a heavy reliance on religion…

Honestly, I feel so blessed by all of this that I am hard-pressed to get to angry or even annoyed. To actively serve God is such a joy that it is hard to describe. Seeing hungry children fed digs deeply into the heart and soul. I heard one child say to another, ‘what wonderful food!’. Sounds simple but I promise you, everyone that heard her just melted.

Please keep us in your prayers. People are getting desperate down here. $50 feeds over 100 people. Please consider donating to help feed the people of Roatan. May the Peace of our Lord be with you always.

Over 5000 served…

I hope that doesn’t sound like a McDonald’s billboard. It has been a labor of love. We have been locked down over 150 days now. It appears that we may, finally, be getting to the end of this ordeal at least in terms of movement. Flights are getting in and the ferry will soon be going again. It is a mostly internal, domestic openings but it is a welcomed beginning. Some businesses are beginning to open and we are hoping this dreaded, once-out-every-two-weeks digit system will go away next week. Keep your fingers crossed for us (we are certainly keeping ours).

We are changing the menu a tiny bit this week. We are substituting couscous for the rice (a shout out to our Louisiana contingent). The price is about the same and varies the meal preparation a bit but gets a little variety in the meal. We have also been asked to make spaghetti with hot dogs (who knew?) as another option. Oddly, our soup kitchen hasn’t actually served soup… 🙂

We are still serving 600 meals a week and hoping to get enough in donations to increase that to 1000. I know money is tight for everyone and we are very grateful for the support you have shown. We are still months away from tourism returning in sufficient levels to change the economic conditions here. Petty crime is on the rise as people become desperate to feed their families. Please consider helping the people of Roatan get a meal.

A little more on that story…

Once again, because of your generous donations, we were blessed to be able to feed over 600 last week. We also wanted to share a few more details regarding a specific community and their donor. We had a lovely donor by the name of Charlotte who donated for a specific community close to her heart. She also suggested using a donation as a way to tithe. This story, however, is about the impact of this one donation.

Charlotte asked if we could feed the diving community at Turquoise Bay and also provide them with food bags. Her gift was generous enough that we could do this AND have enough left over to feed about 800 more. (Food bags were $10 each and we have the cost per plate down to about 50 cents). Beans, rice, sugar, flour, milk, lard, TP, and salt were put into plastic bags by one of the members of Emmanuel and distributed with the meal. It was enough for a family of four for a week. You would not believe the looks of joy and relief on the faces of all who received them. It is truly a blessing and an honor to serve God’s people, and we are humbled and so grateful for your support, prayers, and your generous donations. You are making a tremendous difference here!!!
Blessings to you all!