We’re always asked questions about what it is like living here in Honduras. For most of our friends and family it is an experience they can’t imagine. But for Trina and I the transition, while it had plenty of challenges, hasn’t been that difficult. I think having visited Honduras many times before moving here prepared us for a transition without major culture shock. However, no matter your preparation, I don’t know if it is possible to make such a drastic change and not go through some form of culture shock. Our culture shock has been more of a slow progression. As we have settled in the differences in the culture from what I’m used to began to really stand out.
These changes test a person’s flexibility. As you are bent, who you really are starts to seep out of the cracks. For me, I was surprised at some of what seeped out. And honestly, I’m not entirely proud of what I have seen. On the one hand, I’ve been surprised by my own internal strength and ability adapt. On the other hand I’ve found I lack grace. One place this became glaringly obvious is in driving.
If you have visited a third world country you probably know what I’m talking about when I mention the driving. Honduras is no different. The people here are terrible drivers. And when I say terrible, I don’t mean bad, they are absolutely horrendous drivers. There are many humorous sayings about Honduras driving. Here are a few I know off the top of my head:
- A horn is more valuable than brakes. At least if my brakes fail I’ll be able to let you know to get out-of-the-way.
- A red light is just a suggestion.
- A green light is the start of the race.
- A corner on a hill is a good place to pass.
- It is only close if your cars actually touch.
- You can usually fit 4 cars side by side on a two lane road.
There are more but that’s all I can think of. The fun thing about driving here is you can drive however you want. If you don’t feel like using your blinker, don’t. If you want to pass a car, go ahead, even if there is oncoming traffic. Driving is often like a game of chicken where you bet the other person is going to move first. I’ve found out I’m pretty good at playing chicken. But what I’ve also found is that I can be very judgmental and lack forgiveness or grace. I find myself calling the other drivers idiots a lot. I’m often frustrated and ticked off by they way they drive – always cutting me off and never letting me in.
Instead of embracing the culture I found that driving was causing me to look down on the culture. I was shocked to see this in myself. I know others who know me well are probably laughing because it is no surprise to them. But I always thought of myself as more accepting and filled with grace. God has used this to break away this ugly side of me, and he isn’t finished yet. What I’ve had to remind myself of is that I cannot compare Honduras to the United States. It is easy to say, “If only they would do it like us things would be so much better.” Thinking like that gets you nowhere when trying to reach a culture. I am a visitor in their country and so I must accept the culture for what it is and do all I can to become part of it. This is all stuff I knew in my head but putting it into practice has been a learning experience.
Another area where we have experienced culture shock is in our own personal safety. I know my safety does not come from anything in this world or any convention of man but only comes from God. That is easy to say when living in the sleepy little town of Lynden. It is quite another when living in a country like Honduras. I’ve heard it said that Honduras is the modern-day wild west. And I would agree with that.
I don’t want to worry any of our family and friends or scare off any potential visitors. The reality is we are quite safe. Yes there is violence and crime but for the most part this is between the various gangs. Our ministry is respected among the gangs and is full of ex-gang members. That said, there are 1.8 million people in this city – a lot different from the 10,000 or so in Lynden. And of that 1.8 million most are very poor and some are starving. Their poverty will lead them to do desperate things some times. So we take certain precautions and we don’t go certain places. In the 14 years our ministry has served in Tegucigalpa there has never been a major incident.
However, as a male, there is a natural instinct in me to protect my family. When we first moved in to our home I didn’t want Trina or Asher to leave it. I would have been happy to just have them home all the time. But that isn’t realistic. So when they would go out I was always with them. But that isn’t realistic either. There grew in me a real battle between where my faith lies. Do I really only have faith in myself and my ability to protect my family? Or does my faith ultimately lie with God? Does God hold the same place in my life as he does in the entire universe? I never had to wrestle with this question in the states.
I still wrestle with my faith. I think that is how God intends us to live. If we are comfortable in our faith then we probably aren’t living out God’s calling. He wants us to always be growing, always stretching, always expanding in the process of this life which prepares us for the next. It hasn’t been an easy process for me but it has been an incredible one. I love seeing how God stretches me and expands my faith more and more each day. Today I’m much more comfortable with Trina getting in the car and going to the store. In fact, I encourage her to. I still go with her many times but not so much to protect here as much as I just enjoy spending time with my family.
I’ve been working on writing this post for a long time. It has been a while since our last post. We try to post a couple times a week but that doesn’t always happen. We have been quite busy lately in the ministry. I have many stories to tell. However, these next couple weeks are going to be very busy with our Christmas outreach and other events we have planned so we may not be regular for a couple weeks. I will try to post pictures and updates throughout the day to my facebook and twitter so if you are interested you can follow us there.
Praying that God richly blesses you during this Christmas season. To God be the glory! Dios le bendiga.