A Hike, A Fire, Presentations, and New Friends

Blessings from Honduras, Family and Friends!

It has been a really nice week since we forwarded our last epistle.

photo 10The weather has moderated considerably. Evenings are comfortable and afternoons are very warm now – about 75-80. The warm weather has brought some new friends to our casita. Did you know that Honduras is home to over 20 different types of lizards? Fortunately there are only about three or four that have become our close friends. While colorful, surprisingly they are a bit noisy.

A mission team of 11 arrived last Saturday afternoon, headed up by Ira Lucia, one of the officers and directors of TLC. Ira, his wife Sara and their daughters, were living at TLC when Chris and I first came here in 2011. Ira and Joseph were roommates in college and had worked with Glen Evans of Art for Humanity to launch TLC. Ira’s team, composed mostly of Ira and Sara’s family members and friends, are working on building a new coffee processing facility. It’s great to have them here for a week. As they depart this Saturday, Jose, Sharon and Victoria will arrive and we are really excited for that!

photo 3 Last Sunday, Chris and I took a wonderful hike up the river for a couple miles. We came upon an old abandoned one room home, along a bend in the river. The roof was mostly caved in and the thatch covering was long gone. One homemade brick wall was partially collapsed, but the three and a half remaining walls were photo 1strong and well supported still. A few colorful red and purple flowering bushes partially surrounded the house. There was good evidence of the family that once lived there. A child’s shoe in the corner. A heavy wooden front door with a faded name. A rusted metal bucket under the window. An empty, but functional pila and washboard outside in the yard area, as well as a still standing wooden bano nearby. It seemed to us like a big family once lived here. Maybe 4-5 kids with their parents, because this property was large enough that it would have had to have been worked. They raised citrus and there were many lemon trees in full glory, still photo 2baring large yellow fruits, the size of grapefruits. A wooden and barbed wire fence around the large perimeter probably kept the few cows the farmer owned away from the home. About 150 yards from the house were the remains of a small wooden barn, mostly caved in; it would have held several cows and undoubtedly a number of chickens! We admired the property and walked around for 30 minutes, wondering what had happened to this family. We gathered some lemons and headed back to campus, still wondering.

On Monday we had a minor scare on campus. The workers were burning a field (to encourage regrowth and fresh grass for the cows) and the fire got swept away by the wind. It burned up two of the five coffee bean drying facilities before it was extinguished. The coffee dryers are made of PVC piping and covered with clear plastic covers – each about 60 by 30 feet. They are being rebuilt now. It could have been worse.

Junior class presentations.
Junior class presentations.

Chris’s junior class gave a presentation yesterday to all of the TLC assembly using their newly acquired PowerPoint skills. They each presented a few slides about Honduras, their home Departments (regions or states) with pictures of its history, geography, beautiful nature and foods.

Highlights for you:

  • Did you know that one of the largest and most spectacular carnivals in Central America and South America happens each May in Trujillo?
  • Did you know that Honduras has only one natural lake, Lake Yojoa?
  • The three largest export crops of Honduras are coffee, bananas and palm oil.
  • Baleadas, pupusas and orchata are favorite foods.
  • Semana Santa is Holy Week and it includes elaborate parades that process on beautiful carpets made of colored sawdust and many flowers.

The girls had fun with their Honduras presentation and it was enjoyed by all. The students are so very proud of this country and that was on full display yesterday.

My business students are in a full court press on their business plans now. We have a first draft together for each student but are now working hard to gather supplier and costing information.

One thing that has struck me in this business research – is how expensive many things are in Honduras. A good oven that many of us have in our homes in Virginia that could cost us $500-800, costs about that amount here. Even a pint or liter bottle of Coca Cola here is 20 -25 lempira – about $1 or so. Seems also similar to the States. But the disparity in earnings is huge, o things relatively (actually) cost so much, much more here. An average worker makes 160-200 lempira a day- that’s about $200 or so per month. Would you be able to buy an oven if it took 3 months worth of wages to acquire it?

A brief sharing of our devotional this morning, led by Hailey, as an encouragement for us this week: Psalm 139: 23-24 – where David asks God to search his heart and lead him forward. Something we can all do today.

Dayana writing today's message.
Dayana writing today’s message.

Dayana Romero is truly one of blessings here at TLC. She is a Trinity-sponsored student from Puerto Cortes, and about to complete her first year. I am handing her the iPad now for her to share directly with you!

Hi God bless you! For me, it’s a blessing to have Trinity Church and Mr. Dan and Mrs. Chris Moore as sponsors and friends. I have shared many good moments with them and I appreciate them. They are a blessing for me and my classmates. Telling you something for me being at TLC it has been one of the best things I ever had. I’m glad I have met Mr. Dan and Mrs Chris, I have spent time with them and I have laughed with them. As Mr. Dan says, “I’m little concerned,” because when the quarter ends they are going to leave TLC and I’m going to miss them a lot. They are so especial, but I know they will come back soon ☺. I’m looking forward to meeting more members of Trinity Church this weekend. Thank you all. Dayana

We thank you all for your prayers and support. We do appreciate it.

For Chris, Dayana and I,

Dios Los Bendiga!


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Tocoa and Isletas Adventure

Hello Family and Friends,

We are back from a four-day excursion with the class of 6 second year students; a visit to Moholy’s home town of Tocoa and a side trip to Isletas. A long trip with 10 people in a small van, but rewarding in so many ways.

We departed TLC at 6a.m. last Friday, a bumpy ride at dawn off campus to begin the 10-hour trek. Heading north and descending from our 5,000-foot elevation, we passed through Comayaga, and Siguatepeque and then stopped for breakfast. The girls enjoyed ordering different foods at the roadside restaurant including some fried chicken and chorizo at 9 a.m.!

Next we passed Lake Yojoa, through El Progreso, Tela and then to La Ceiba on the northern coast for lunch around 2 p.m. Fried chicken, tostadas and fast, plentiful internet made for a great lunch. A quick Face Time with family was wonderful. (I miss my grandchildren!)

We arrived in Tacoa about 4:30 in the afternoon at the home of relatives of one of our first-year students, Judy. The students settled in while we, (Dan, Joseph and myself) located neighbors who had graciously offered to house us. We then connected with Marta, (a graduate of TLC 2 years ago) and had quick dinner of baleadas and fruit smoothies, then off to church; long, loud and passionate.

Marta now works for Clean Water Missions and she is truly a TLC success story.

Tocoa is a relatively large town, about an hour from the coast line. It is busy, with many stores, gas stations, restaurants and so on. The homes surround the busy main road in small neighborhoods. The main street is paved but most of the side streets with homes on them are not.

The next morning, Dan, Joseph, Marta and Chris headed to Isletas to visit Olga and Yanetzi who many of you know from their visit to the USA in December. The hour or so long trip to Isletas was enabled by traveling through the Standard Fruit (Dole) banana plantation that surrounds the community for many miles.

Isletas is a very modest community with one main road that is not paved. The area is surrounded by water, streams that regularly overflow so many homes are elevated.

Yanetzi’s store, El Classroom is up and running and did 10,000 limpiras ($500)of business in the first week. Initial customers include students who need school supplies to attend school, workers who need copies of documents (1 Limpera each copy) and even teachers who need curriculum developed. By spending several hours in her store we can tell you she is poised and confident. Her Internet and administrative services are becoming a significant part of her business. She has been invited to the local school to discuss her products and services. She is also a leader in her church. Can you tell that we are proud of her?

We also spent time with Olga trying to determine the best way for her pharmacy or medicine store to proceed. We have several ideas now that we have spent time in Isletas and Dan is working hard on this business plan. We were at Olga’s home for several hours talking and enjoying her family and drinking coconut water from her trees. Olga’s Mom fixed lunch for us and we were able to meet many family members.

That night we attended church with Yanetzi and were the overnight guests of Nidia’s family in Isletas. The hospitality and generosity of people with very modest resources is humbling.

Isletas is a very small community located in the very center of a vast banana plantation owned by Standard Fruit Company (Dole). As such it is a company town, almost everyone works for Standard Fruit. The company controls the road in and out of town and the limited healthcare that is available. Though not “well off” by US standards, most men in Isletas are employed.

We returned to Tocoa the next morning to join the second-year students as they presented the second day of seminars to a small community just outside Tocoa. The goal of these training sessions was to inspire a group of community leaders to begin to address some of the problems facing this very poor community. The students did a wonderful job with the seminars and left with promises.

Another evangelical church service on Sunday night featured Joseph and Maholy singing Open the Eyes of My Heart Lord, and Si Senior, most inspiring! (We have a video to share later.) The service was attended by about 400 people and was loud, joyful and very long! We arrived back in our homes for the night tired and ready to sleep.

We left for home very early the next day (5 a.m.) and although it was touch and go several times, the van made it home. We rented this van at a cost of $350, a significant cost for TLC. A lack of reliable vehicles continues to plague this ministry. The construction truck has been on its last legs for two years, bumper falling off, inaccessible driver’s side door, faulty electrical system and broken floor boards. The TLC van has been in the shop for over 4 weeks receiving a rebuilt engine costing $2000. The director’s vehicle is an 10-year-old SUV with more than 200,000 miles. The motorcycle’s headlight does not work. To say that this ministry needs better transportation vehicles is a leading contender for understatement of the year. Much is being accomplished here despite regular setbacks and daily frustrations.

When we reflect on how two young women who were educated here at TLC might begin to change and improve the small village of Isletas, we can really see the impact this mission might have in Honduras in the future! That is encouraging and we thank you all for being a part of this.

Classes resumed today and we are hard at work again, teaching, tutoring, leading discussion groups, sewing, reading and working on business plans. Definitely earning our salaries. 😊

image1The picture above is one of the first completed quilts! 4 done and 19 to go! The girls love this project and it is very fun.

We are looking forward to Team Jose’s visit in a few weeks. Keep us and the TLC students and leaders in your thoughts and prayers. Till next time.

Chris and Dan


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Towards Self-Sustainability

Dear Friends and Family,

One of the challenges at The Leadership Center, given its remote location and relatively limited finances, is infrastructure and self-sustainability.

All electricity is generated by solar panels and water comes from the river and is filtered for bacteria. Composting is a big operation on campus (including composting toilets) to generate nutrients for the coffee farm. More and more food is being grown on campus. We have Aquaponic “cement ponds” which raise Talapia for consumption and the fish water is purified by running it through cement troughs that grow malanga and other vegetation for human and animal consumption. Duck and other water plants are grown in other tanks to feed the chickens and the fish. The pigs eat almost all the food waste and scraps. (One of the pigs will be slaughtered in about 4 weeks.) About 40 chickens are egg layers and a new batch of 40 chicks for meat are being raised.

photo 6We are attaching some pictures of malanga growing in the aquaponics, the roots being harvested and prepared as well as the delicious result!

TLC is a long way from self-sustainability but getting closer all the time. The organization must rely on charitable donations to support the free education program it provides to these Honduran women. The coffee farm is the real hope for future self-sustainability as this mountain shade grown coffee is really very good. The 25,000 coffee plants (about 75 % produce) will soon be supplemented by another 10-20,000 seedlings that will be planted soon. (If you are interested in some TLC coffee, let us know as we hope to bring back 50 pounds for a fundraiser!)

imageDan’s business classes have had a challenging week. We had an Entrepreneurship mid-term exam and there is more work to do! On the bright side, business plan preparation is now underway. All four seniors are from small rural villages with limited kinds and numbers of businesses. Betis is working on an agricultural supply store for farmers and small land owners including fertilizers, pesticides and veterinary products. Esperanza is developing the San Jose Dairy Store which will sell products like milk, cheeses and eggs, from local farms. Gaby is planning Gaby’s Bakery and Coffee Bar which will specialize in cupcakes and locally grown coffee. Angela, who probably will teach English on graduation, is working on a business plan for a fast food restaurant (fried chicken and plantains, pizza, tacos and hamburgers!)

We had a wonderful visit yesterday with our good friends from Heart to Heart. They drove over from Puerto Cortez (about 5 hours) to see us and TLC. Oscar Serrano, Mary Frenter and 4 others joined. We toured the campus. They sat in on classes. They were really impressed with TLC and it is our hope that some of the H2H teens might apply to TLC next year.

Every Sunday morning the students at TLC celebrate a worship service together. This past Sunday’s service was notable because it was the first official function in the new multi-purpose building (The Salon) AND Dan delivered a thoughtful message entitled Not Yet. We prepared a bulletin, Trinity style, with a Call To Worship, Responsive Reading and wonderful Praise Music led by TLC musicians Maholy, Karla and Dayana. Through the story of Lazarus, Dan reminded us that prayers can be answered several ways, sometimes yes, sometimes no and sometimes NOT YET. In these instances, patience and faith are required. Jesus waited 2 days before traveling to Bethany to raise Lazarus from the dead; the prayers of Martha and Mary were answered, but the first answer was definitely, “not yet.”

image 2Later that afternoon, the ladies held a Trade Fair in the new Salon, selling goods and services to each other and the teachers and staff. Dan won the raffle, a giant Hershey bar.

We are not suffering the weather here as you will see from the breathtaking sunset picture below.

Blessings To All,

Chris and Dan

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Our Trip to Comayagua

Hola Family and Friends,

image1We have a lot to share with you about our trip to Comayagua with the 4 students from the senior class.

After a very bumpy ride off campus to Zambrano mid day Thursday we then got the opportunity to learn first hand about the Honduras bus system. As best as I can figure, there are basically three categories of bus service (all commercial); medium sized buses with no working air conditioning and few available seats, small buses with no air conditioning and even fewer seats and large yellow school buses (chicken buses) with no air conditioning, windows that don’t open and very crowded seats. Buses pull up to sort of designated bus stop areas and a guy (handler or conductor) leaps off and shouts to get on quickly as the bus slows down. He says there are plenty of seats. There are not. Of the six of us, 4 stood in the aisles on the hour or so ride (on a larger/medium sized bus) to Comayagua. It really was not that bad (the girls made us sit) and the mountainous countryside is beautiful. The conductor eventually comes down the aisle and collects 360 lempira from us (about $ 3 each).

Comayagua is in a beautiful farming valley. Comayagua means “abundance of food” in Mayan. This pre-colonial city was the capital of Honduras until 1880. As the bus driver rolled past our Comayagua bus stop (the bus we were on was going to Siguatepeque), one of the students, Betis, yelled at the conductor. The bus stopped about a mile further than we wanted, but we “de-bussed.” Within 30 seconds a white taxi pulled up. The taxi driver of this small beat up very old white Nissan 4 door, said 20 lempira each to take us downtown to a hotel. That was fine, except 6 of us and 6 backpacks and a couple bags seemed like a lot to fit in. But our driver said, “no problemo.” Bags in the trunk (no spare tire-so plenty of room ) and me jammed in the front seat and 5 ladies in the back, on each others’ laps; in 10 short minutes we pulled up in front of Hotel America in downtown.

The hotel was very modest (old) but seemed clean. Next we began to negotiate the price for our rooms. Betis had called ahead to make sure that space was available. As far as we could determine only 7 or 8 of the 55 rooms were occupied. So for L 1000 ($50) per night for our room (including breakfast typico) and the same for a double room for the ladies agreed upon, Dan pulled out his AMEX card. Well, the quoted price was for cash and to use a credit card would be 20 % more. We did not want to pay 20 % more but did not want to use that much cash right away so we asked if we could go to a bank. Yes, but now the banks were closed. “No problemo, we could pay mañana.” Fine with us. Equipped with a Wi-Fi password and two remote controllers per room, the six of us crammed into a 3×4 food elevator with backpacks and bags.

photo 5The Wi-Fi proved to have very limited bandwidth on the 4th floor (the location of our room #326), so we moved to room #236, yes, located on the third floor. Since we were coming from very occasional bandwidth at TLC, the connectivity was wonderful and we soon were updating our PC and even FaceTimed with the grandkids.

That evening we walked about 1/4 mile to the town plaza were we found a very nice restaurant. We enjoyed horchata, queso & chips, pollo and brassero. The owner of the restaurant, Ricardo talked with us about his business and encouraged our young would-be entrepreneurs.

We slept well that night and enjoyed the simple clean room and a bed without a mosquito net for the first night in a month!

photo 7The next day we toured ourselves around Comayagua. We visited bakeries, agricultural supply stores, dairy products businesses and restaurants – the four businesses that the students are most interested in. We had a number of good conversations and the students learned a lot. One of the bakeries offered one of the girls the opportunity for a couple-days internship, after we all enjoyed pieces of cake and coffee.

Comayagua is a busy city of about 50,000 people. The streets are crowded and it’s remarkable how so many people are selling so many different things- not just in stores but all along the streets. People are clearly working hard to make ends meet. There are few signs of any affluence.

photo 9We visited the Cathedral de Santa Maria, built around 1600, a beautiful church that includes a clock tower holding one of the oldest known clocks in the world made in Spain about 1100 AD. Imagine that an almost 1000-year-old clock that rings terrifically.

All in all, a great visit for a couple days. Good food, hot showers, internet, business research and fun company with the chicas.

It felt good to get back “home” to TLC Saturday evening. We celebrated January birthdays on campus with a special meal of baleadas and cake.

Our classes are going well and we are working hard with the students both in class and out of class. They are eager learners but in some respects they are behind what we would like on fundamentals like math and reading comprehension, which slows them down.

Let us close with this encouragement for us all. Lenis, one of Chris’ students, led a devotional this morning in which she said that today was the day to witness to one another God’s love for us all.

Blessings from Honduras,

Dan and Chris

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