If a picture is worth a thousand words, could a thousand pictures express my gratitude to God for bringing baby Hannah out of her mother’s womb and safely into the world in the wee hours of this morning? I don’t think so.
Nevertheless, I’ll try to capture these moment and my heart that is heavy with gratitude:
This is our entry in the Family book for Hannah’s birthday.
Elizabeth holding Hannah
Lydia holding Hannah
Leaving the hospital to go up the hill to our home a few hours after Hannah was born
Thank you for your thoughts and prayers.
Keep us in your prayers as we add Hannah to our family life.
Grace and Peace to you all.
I am thankful for your loving faithfulness that gives me grace, peace, mercy and love each day anew.
I am thankful that you delayed our initial flights to Honduras, so that we canceled our visa trip – and are able to be here, in Honduras, at the mission hospital right now where I can ease into working at the hospital while we wait for Hannah to be born.
I am thankful that you expedited our Honduran Residency Status so we can stay here legally until well after Hannah is born when we receive all the documents needed to travel back to the USA with her.
I am thankful for an uneventful pregnancy thus far, that baby Hannah appears healthy, head-down, and ready to be born any day now.
I am thankful that we have plenty of food, clean water, and electricity while we wait out this country-wide quarantine.
I am thankful for a kind generous Christian community, a beautiful yard and jungle to romp about, and spacious home and that we are well.
I am thankful for Lydia’s recent confession of faith, while we were lighting our Lenten candle wreath, when, after discussing Jesus’ perfect obedience to the Father in going to the cross, she said, “I want to obey like that.”
I am thankful for the ocean breeze, for starry nights, beautiful birds, curious insects, and cute lizards.
I am thankful for donors who are supporting us despite the uncertainty they face in their own situations.
I am thankful for good coffee, great books, and hammocks.
Have you ever noticed the unusual relationship that we have with our words? It seems like our relationship with words should be a one way process: our mind forms thoughts that are turned into words then spoken. But like most natural and biologic process – it’s not so simple our straightforward. Instead, it is reciprocal- who we are and how we think shapes the words we speak (as above), but the words that we speak and think also give form and shape to our thoughts and the words that we speak shape who we are and how we think about ourselves. (If you’d like to skip my eloquent philosophizing and just read about how we’re doing – Click here – It won’t hurt my feelings that badly.)
Perhaps your mom told you, “Don’t say that!” After you spoke aloud some bad thing that seemed likely to happen but every one was hoping against (and avoiding speaking). My mother did, often. I remember trying to convince her that saying or not saying something can’t affect the outcome. I even remember trying to convince her that believing otherwise was superstitious and not compatible with Christianity. But despite my logical arguments I could not persuade my mother that our words were just simple powerless declarations. Although she couldn’t articulate why, deep down my mother, and most mothers know that all spoken words have reality bending properties that call for caution.
In my Biblical studies I have come to realize that my childish view and argument were completely wrong. The biblical world view is founded on the truth that we are made in the likeness or image of God. We are called and equipped to bear the image of the God, the same God who spoke this world into existence. Because of this our words, in lesser ways, are empowered to create and change His world. Furthermore, we Christians are called to strive towards Christ-likeness, to be like Jesus. In the gospel according to John we are introduced to Jesus as the Word made flesh. And throughout the New Testament we are called to be like the Jesus, the man who spoke with such faith and authority that the wind and waves obeyed him. And in case we wanted this to be a special divine-only type event, he said these words to his disciples when their words failed to cast our demons: “For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20 (ESV)
Clearly our mothers were right. We should take care when we speak. Our words and language are designed to have power. And as we follow Christ, our language becomes even more important. The truth is we do not simply shape our language, it in-turn shapes us and our world.
If you’ve never spent significant time trying to communicate in a language that is not your first tongue, you may not have thought about the way that languages themselves are not neutral or one-way actors. Languages develop out of a reflexive cycle with their culture. If precise time is important in a culture (The United States) than the language lends itself, more and more, to communicating precise times with ease and clarity. If flexible time frames are important (Central America), then finding out the exact time for when something will start may be difficult, the language will have lots of wiggle room in case you need extra time to talk with your neighbor or grab a coffee. Otherwise, if love, accountability, pigs, or directness are important in a culture, then the language develops many nuanced and quick ways of expressing different types and qualities of those things.
The converse is also true. Sometimes whole concepts are missing from a language (from the viewpoint of another language), but this can be difficult to describe in the language where the thing is missing. And difficult to wrap your mind around when trying to learn or identify a concept you’ve never had or thought about. It is almost impossible to discover what concepts might be missing from your primary language without spending time trying to translate concepts to and from another language.
For instance, one concept that many Biblical scholars have lamented the lack of in English is a distinction between the singular and plural second person pronoun. Let me break that down for those of you who aren’t grammar nerds or presently mastering verb conjugations in Spanish: “I” is our first person singular pronoun, and “we” is our first person plural pronoun, but “you” is our our second person singular pronoun and “you” can also be used as our second person plural pronoun, but most of the time our context isn’t clear and people just think of themselves individually (singularly) if we say “you.” So we have several informal work-arounds: ya’ll, you all, you guys and you lot. This missing expression creates a large translation problem when the Biblical writers carefully distinguish (in their native tongue) that they are addressing the church altogether or individuals in the church. In English, both for cultural and linguistic reasons, we hear the Bible as though it were always addressing us individually. For instance, consider how you might understand and reflect on these verses differently if translated with the southern work-around:
For I know the plans I have for ya’ll, declares Yahweh, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give ya’ll a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11, ESV)
…Work out ya’ll’s salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in ya’ll, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. (Phil. 2:12-14, ESV)
Alright, let me tie all this back into the reason you all read this blog. Our family has been working hard to master a new language, learn new concepts and get to know a new group of brothers and sisters in Christ. We’ve been here almost a month and we hope we are just about to hit our stride. On some level, especially in our children, we are rewiring the ways our brain conceptualizes and process input and output (consider that most of your thinking occurs in your primary language). We are in the intensive program, so Bethany and I spend 4 hours a day one-on-one with a native Spanish speaker (and grammar nerd) plus independent homework and study time and regular community immersion as we walk to and from school, shop, worship, and explore Siguatapeque. In all of this we try to absorb as much as possible about the culture, idioms, beliefs, and language of the people we have committed to serve. Our older girls start each day with one hour of language school and then review with us throughout the day.
In this time of transition we are striving to be careful with our words (in both languages). When our children declare they do not like a staple food of Honduras, we encourage them to revise the statement from “I don’t like it!” to “It’s not my favorite.” When they have a melt down and declare they will never again play with the other, we remind them of our family’s words that we say to each other every night, “We love each other, no matter what.” We use leading questions when we know a two hour kid’s church class in Spanish was tiring and difficult for them: “That was hard but fun, wasn’t it?”
Personally, it would be easier for me to pull an example of the ways that Spanish seems deficient when translating from my English for this post (rather than the example from Greek to English above) but I want to be careful with my words. I do not want to reinforce my half-formed thoughts or frustrations with the power of written or spoken word. If a concept is not easily translated, it’s likely not to be very important to my listener so I should find a different approach rather than getting stuck on my dilemma. I want to model what I encourage my girls to do. To speak what is not only true but also noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy. To speak and pray a deep and abiding love for the people, language, and culture of Honduras into our lives.
Three powerful words have shaped our reality in the last weeks:
Elizabeth calls our apartment here, “home.”
Ruth spoke the 5th & 6th words she has ever spoken, calling out, “agua” while reaching for her water cup. And “adios” as she waved goodbye to one of our Honduran teachers.
So my brothers and sisters, take care with your words. In the words of TobyMac, “Speak Life.” Understand the reciprocal relationship you have with your words, that your language does not just express how you feel or what you want, but it also firms up, reinforces, and at times creates how and who you and those around you will be.
These are our praises:
-We have wonderful neighbors in our apartments, with wonderful neighbor kids and a great enclosed yard where the children can play.
-We love our teachers and the language school, and we feel like we’re learning and improving our Spanish at a good pace.
-We’ve been healthy and well.
-Little Hannah (our fourth girl who is due March 26th) is still growing and kicking.
-The coffee is wonderful and plentiful.
-Their is an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables.
These are our prayer request:
-That we would continue to make our home in Honduras and among its people.
-That we draw together as a family and love one another deeply through this transition and the emotional upheavals and stressors that go along with creating our home in another culture and striving to embrace different norms and routines.
-That Elizabeth and Lydia would find opportunities and age-mates to engage with local Honduran culture and language (our neighbors are also in language school and speak primarily English)
-That Bethany and I would have wisdom as we push our children to learn Spanish and give them space to struggle and relax from this process as appropriate.
-That we would know God’s will and have his guidance regarding the purchase of a vehicle
The views and opinions expressed in this blog are not the views of Samaritan’s Purse or World Medical Mission.
I will skip the dramatic build up and simply say: by the grace of God we have arrived safely in Honduras, all the way to our language school apartment, with all our children and all our bags.
God is Good.
Our week has been a busy, thank you for your prayers. Things have gone a smooth as we dared to imagine.
God allowed us to reschedule our flights with minimal cost, immediately after the embargo ended. He allowed two family members to be available on very short notice to travel with us to juggle luggage, children, and it first week in Honduras.
Here is a run down of our week:
Monday: We loaded our minivan with 12 plastic totes, 5 full size suitcases, 5 carry on bags, 4 carseats, 1 stroller, 1 violin, ( and a partridge in a pear tree). All of our checked bags were carefully packed by my wife, weighed, repacked, and weighed again till each came in between 48 and 49.5lbs.
Tuesday: 2am wake up, 2:30am left the house, 3am checked-in and checked bags, 4am prayers and send off, 5:45am departed Nashville for Miami, 9:45 departed Miami for Honduras. 12pm touch down in San Pedro Sula airport. 1am Visas, Claimed luggage (every single piece with everything inside unbroken and present) and transported all that through customs (with the help of 4 Honduran airport workers). 3pm Pick-up truck loaded with bags and we began the drive from San Pedro Sula to Siguatapeque. 5pm arrived in the apartment where will live for most of the next 6-7 months.
Wednesday: Awoken early by Ruthy who enjoyed many naps in Tuesday and believes that roosters’s crowing should not go unheeded. Deep clean of kitchen, Began unpacking, Grocery run (it’s hard stocking a kitchen from scratch in Honduras), Discussed and signed language school contracts.
Thursday: Language school began. 4 hours of class time for Bethany and I (staggered to allow us to keep the kids). The classes are one-on-one with teachers in and around a beautiful home. 1 hour of class for the girls. Still unpacking.
Friday: Language school: class time, plus homework, plus immersion time. Still unpacking, Beginning to find routine.
As I hope you can see, between the above tasks, and simply keeping or children fed, watered, and rested – we’ve barely had a moment to spare. I apologized for the cliffhanger that my last post may have been for some of you. And thank you for the prayers that worked to smooth out the problems and obstacles we did not even see.
-Safe return travel for the 2 family members that came down with us.
-That our family would embrace, with all our hearts, the language, culture, and people of Honduras.
-That we would work with excellence, perseverance, and joy to become Spanish speakers (especially pray for my girls attitudes towards the overwhelming task of learning a new language)
-That we would transition well and gracefully (especially in our attitudes towards each other in our family) through changes in culture, church, school, language, friends, neighbors, security, and life itself in these next months.
As always, thank you for your prayers, words of encouragement and support.
The last weeks have been a rich outpouring of love, goodbyes, encouragement, blessing, and gifts. We know that the church universal and through them, almighty God, loves us. Thank you for the letters, donations, carbon-composite violin, blessings, prayers, hugs, and tears.
I know that many of you have been praying for us today, thank you. Please continue to pray for us as we keep you posted.
The morning was interesting. We set off to the Nashville airport with all of our children and luggage, ready to depart for Honduras. In the airport we found ourselves surrounded by family, friends, and our pastor. But at the ticketing counter we encountered an obstacle.
“A travel embargo is currently in effect for all luggage going to Honduras,” The lady behind the ticketing counter said, with no small amount of concern as she looked at our luggage.
But we had already read about the embargo in the fine print and having reviewed the criteria with our travel agent we confidently explained, “We understand, but we only have two checked bags per person, all less than 50 pounds, all less than 62 linear inches.” Knowing the embargo was in effect for the duration holiday travel, we had planned to only move with our family’s essential luggage in this first trip. With great care, my wife had packed every square inch of 7 action-packer totes and each one weighed approximately 49.5 pounds (literally, and that requires a lot of repacking and weighing).
But apparently, the awesome rugged totes into which we packed our most essential earthly possessions, fell in the category of box rather than typical luggage, and the ticketing agent as well as her co-workers and supervisor could not allow us to check our totes. We called Samaritan’s Purse and our travel agent and began working our options:
No fee or fine could be paid to wave the restriction. No other luggage, of even half the size, could be purchased for us to transfer and repack. We had friends and family check in every direction: No at every other airline desks, no at the gift shop, no at the unclaimed luggage area downstairs, and finally our pastor even made a Walmart run to see if he could get to and from Walmart with enough luggage and spare time for us to repack and board. (Apparently a group of about 20 short term missionaries had bought out all the luggage they could purchase in the airport to get around the same problem.)
In this scramble, the peace of God transcended our group, and we began to step back and realize that we were not going to make our flights with our luggage, and that was okay. With a baby on the way, a 1 year old, 3 year old, and 5 year old – going without our luggage was not an option (there are no quick or straight-forward shipping options to Honduras either).
In that moment I quietly quoted Jeremiah 29:11 aloud to my Father-in-law and children, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'”
Its odd, is it not? The paradox of our faith. Moments like today are polarizing, they force you to either lean in and trust God, or pull away and distrust God. We chose trust. Over and over God has shown me that he does have a plan, and a much more comprehensive planning and purposing strategy than I could ever imagine. I do not understand why I’m writing from Tennessee instead of Honduras tonight, but I trust that He has His reasons.
So we wait. We came home to Mimi and Poppy’s and we are resting and beginning another round of logistical considerations to determine when we will take our next steps of faith, be it tomorrow or next week. We’ll keep you posted.
As we were leaving the airport Lydia said, “I don’t want to go back, I want to go to Honduras.”
The Peace of Jesus Christ be with you.
The views and opinions expressed in this blog are not the views of Samaritan’s Purse or World Medical Mission.
Advent is upon us. The first season of the Christian year. A season of preparation to make ourselves ready for the dawning of a light in our darkness – the birth of Jesus celebrated at Christmas. The call of preparation for my family this season is to pack up our things, say our good byes, and board a plane for Honduras in about thirty days.
Thank you for equipping us and helping us get set. With your donations we have been able to fully pay for our first flights and all of our travel vaccines – that’s around $6,000. To all of you who gave cash gifts, paid far too much for a t-shirt, or went online to give- May the Lord bless you (and if you’ll read this blog to the bottom – Elizabeth will bless you too!)
Lately I have been reading and studying Isaiah 58. It is a prophecy of rebuke with a promise of blessing. I hope you will hear the context and then receive its blessing. In this section Isaiah is prophesying to Israel’s uppermost class. They had been carefully doing all the religious motions of sacrifice and fasting while at the same time neglecting and abusing pretty much everyone else. Yet they were confused by the way God seemed distant, even angry. They thought doing all the right worship ceremonies, prayers, and fasts was supposed to automatically equal God blessing them – no matter how they acted toward their neighbor. So God rebukes them through the prophet:
Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday…
This Advent and always, may we spend ourselves on behalf of the hungry and the oppressed, may we loose the chains of injustice, and may the Lord Almighty bless us with a light dawning in this darkness to heal us. May you know the ultimate joy of loving God and neighbor: of being with and for the wanderers and outcasts among us, so when the glory of the Lord comes among them (even as He came forth many years ago – an infant that was naked, bloody, and crying – God almighty saying, “Here am I”) may you be in the right place at the right time to behold His glory, bow before Him and say, “My Lord and my God.”
We pray and believe that God will make us an instrument of his light and healing as we go. As you give and have given, you are spending yourselves on behalf of the poor, injured, and hungry – to bring light and healing through Jesus Christ.
To the elderly couple nearing the end of their sojourn, giving 100 dollars a month out of their modest retirement- thank you for spending yourself on behalf of the hungry.
To the young doctors still under the weight of massive educational debt giving regularly – thank you for spending yourself on behalf of the hurting.
To the children who gave up half of their hard earned lawn mowing wages – thank you for spending yourselves on behalf of the less fortunate children.
May the Lord bless you, draw near to you, and may the light of his face shine upon you.
If want an opportunity to receive this blessing – good news! We still have opportunities for partnership. The majority of what we have been given so far has been one-time gifts. Thank you for getting us off the launch pad, now we need regular gifts. We estimate we’ll need about $3,000 dollars a month and we have about $1,000 dollars committed (If you’d like more details click here or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org).
Giving online is easy – you should go ahead and do it right now by following the instructions below (if you prefer to give by phone or mail learn how by going here).
Find the ‘Support a Missionary Doctor’ and type ‘Gilley’ in the blank. Choose one time or monthly gift.
We are so grateful for those of you who are already supporting us.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):
When are you leaving? We are leaving in early January. For security reasons we’re not posting the specific date publicly online, but if you’d like to know so you can better pray for us or make plans just send us an email or text and we’d be happy to give you specifics as needed. Email: email@example.com, Cell: 423-785-7626
Are you ready? Physically: Not yet, we are just moving into the actual packing stage. Nathan is moving to a more part-time schedule of urgent care shifts. And we are finishing up our fundraising visits. And the holidays are upon us with our departure immediately thereafter. Pray for us to make time for the important things and work quickly and wisely with the time we have left. Mentally: Our family is struggling with the process of simplifying and the upheaval of our rhythms and norms in this time of transition. But we are looking forward to creating a new more simple rhythm in language school and beyond.
How are you feeling? Mostly excited and a little scared! A little overwhelmed with all the details to be juggled and remembered.
How are you doing with the fundraising? We only get updates once a month to tell us how many people have given one time donations or started/continued monthly giving to the Samaritan’s Purse Project Account. And as of last month we had about 1/5 of our monthly goal ($3,000/m) coming in to the fund as recurring gifts. With our recent vaccines and paying for our family’s 2-way flight we have used up all the money in the fund and most of the one-time gifts that we have been given. So that’s a little scary. But since receiving that statement we’ve had several fundraising pushes and many pledges, so we hope and pray that we are a lot closer to our goal. We know that God is faithful, and we have been encouraging our children to pray for his provision.
Where are you going again? Central America, The country of Honduras. Ultimately to a rural area on the northern coast, the closest large city is La Ceiba. The Hospital we will live near and serve at is called Hospital Loma de Luz. But for the first 6 months we will be in language school in the middle of Honduras.
What kind of medical practice will you have? As a family medicine doctor Nathan will be doing full-time clinic work, inpatient hospital work, emergency visits (for all ages), and limited obstetrics (I’m not ready to do C-sections independently). At Loma de Luz we will see everything from acute trauma to chronic conditions, and newborns through end-of-life care. Bethany is not committed to doing clinical work as a Physician Assistant at this time. For now she feels called to first oversee our home and the girls’s upbringing and formation. Once we have had our next baby, completed language school, and settled in to life at Loma de Luz, we will be praying for God’s direction in how to be faithful ministers in our home, in our hospital, and beyond.
What will you be doing for the girl’s schooling? Bethany and I are excited to home school our girls. If other opportunities arise or we feel God calling us to supplement or change that plan, we will do our best to obey.