Copan Ruinas, Honduras
Laura and I are celebrating something of an anniversary. We just returned from our third consecutive Conference on Honduras in Copan Ruinas. The conferences always occur in the Fall, September or October, and they always bring together a wide network of non-profit organizations. In a sense these conferences mark milestones for Laura and me. We came to the first when we were investigating sites for possible volunteer placement. We met the folks from Montaña de Luz and also Susan Stone from Maestro en Casa where we are at now. Last year at the conference we initiated our volunteer experience in Honduras. This year we went again. It provided us a good space for reflection on our one year anniversary in Honduras.
Copan Ruinas is unlike any other town in Honduras relative to its comfort and attention to its tourist trade. We stayed at a hotel that had the availability of a pool a short walking distance away. We arrived the day before the conference and took advantage of this to walk down to the pool. There was hardly anyone else there and Laura and I had this luxurious comfort all to ourselves. We lounged back next to the pool and after a few minutes, Laura leaned over to me and jokingly asked, “Are we still in Honduras?” That evening we also had a nice meal at a fancy restaurant where the prices were also unlike anything in Honduras. We could have had four meals at a restaurant in La Esperanza for the price of the one there. Still, it was extremely nice that we felt thoroughly pampered for a few days.
Lest you think that our personal delight and indulgence was all we got out of our conference, the “anniversary” did inspire our reflection on what we are doing and will do in Honduras. The conference focus is on the sustainability of charity and developmental work. The conference confronts the question of whether the work of NGOs here is truly enabling and transformative. If you have ever read the book Toxic Charity by Robert Lupton then you are aware that even good will can be harmful if all it does is create dependencies. True charity comes from a place of respect and dignity. At the conference someone said something about the absolute difference between pity and compassion. Pity is the emotion that distances us from the reality of suffering. Compassion draws us in. I wondered about that in reflecting upon our year in Honduras. Our year has not so much been about what we’ve done or accomplished. We have not created a tally sheet of our good works. It has been much more about what we’ve met and encountered in people, events, and realities. We’ve been transformed in those encounters. Wanting to do something, to meet a need, to solve a problem, simply to help, always seems to be the starting point for compassion. I’m sure that is why both Laura and I have come to Honduras. But it has not been the end point. This journey of compassion is much more about relationship than it is about particular outcomes. In the poverty of Honduras, among people who many might pity, we have been abundantly enriched. It is only our hope that we might have yielded some enrichment for others.
The three conferences we’ve attended have always marked the time for our reflection on our time here in Honduras. When we came to Maestro en Casa we knew that our time in Honduras would be limited by our lack of resources. Maestro en Casa is not in a position to offer us a salary or a stipend. That has been fine with us as we believed in its mission. We have certainly found our lives transformed here, particularly with the students whom we have come to know. You will recall, however, a couple of blogs ago, I spoke about our trip to the Frontera (border of El Salvador and Honduras) and our encounter with a medical NGO, Hombro a Hombro, Shoulder to Shoulder. They have offered Laura and me a job as Communications and Development Director. Our discernment has led us to agree to accept the position. We will continue our work with Maestro en Casa through the end of the academic year here in Honduras and be present for the graduation sometime in November. Through the upcoming month of October we will take some time to travel to and from the Frontera, acquainting ourselves with the mission and work of Shoulder to Shoulder and looking for a residence. We will officially begin the new position in November. The salary will satisfy the expenses we incur here in Honduras and allow us to stay in Honduras without concern for our well-being. It is extremely difficult to make a decision between two goods, which is what we have done. It will be sad to leave. But thankfully, we will leave with gratitude. It is also exciting to move forward, knowing that new experiences of transformation await us.
I don’t know if we will return for next year’s conference. After each one we have said that it would be the last. I am sure, however, that there will yet be another time and place for us to reflect on the wonder and beauty of our lives and to discern the new paths that yield transformation.
An additional note:
Many of you who read this blog have been financially generous to Laura and me and the work we have been engaged in at Maestro en Casa. As always, we are indebted and grateful. Maestro en Casa is an excellent program that provides quality education to persons who want and need it. Laura and I intend to maintain our relationship and support of Maestro en Casa. You are welcome to do the same.