Marathon

May 20, 2020

[ˈmerəˌTHän] “a long-lasting or difficult task or operation of a specified kind.” May well describe my first adventure into international missions. For some time, I had considered traveling abroad especially after serving on many mission teams in the continental states over the years, but this could be the coup de gras for me. Resilient yet fearful… not of the tropical heat, malaria, strange intestinal torturing cuisines or even extreme manual labor… simply put, I have a fear of flying. This journey would mark my return into an Aluminum Condor for the first time after a long, long hiatus. Experience and reason taught me that facing our fears can end in the way… curiosity cured the cat. I will not go any further into the lucid details of a near death experience, but it all ties into the story of our second journey into the land of milk and honey… I love Valium, a wonderful soother of the soul.

“From first to last
The peak is never passed
Something always fires the light
That gets in your eyes
One moment’s high
And glory rolls on by
Like a streak of lightning
That flashes and fades
In the summer sky”

Power Windows, 1985, Peart

Day 1 Year 2 began with the elusive caravan that consisted of packing the transportation units with everything needed to sustain life for the next two weeks. Along with our necessities, we also brought several cases of Federation Contraband that Jefe was duped into muleing for them… toothpaste, clothes etc… all discrete items and innocent for the most part. Passing thru Check Point Charlie there were no issues with the excessive items claimed.

We met up with a team of four people from the Primary Federation zone in Atlanta, Jeff, his daughter and her friend and Uncle Samwell the rooster. We exchanged a brief salutation and loaded up to Honduras… My valium was still in effect, no need to take another one currently. Arriving in Honduras later that morning we passed through the customs portion without issue. Their process of baggage claim was much different than in any airport. These dudes would come up asking “How many bags”? In Spanish of course… none of us could understand anything they said. But it was not the first time they had dealt with a group of Green-gos. In a timely manner they had consumed all our baggage from the belly of the beast to present to the security station at the exit of the terminal… It was about that point it all went awry!

My bag was being torn down and scrutinized like a post-race NASCAR inspection, but off to my right Jefe’s extra ‘Cases’ had drawn quite a stir among the guards. The toothpaste was the primary focal point… Apparently the officials did not take kind to him bringing ‘out of date’ gifts into the country! Through some whining and whimpering, Jefe was able to claim the crates of contraband and proceed past go, collected $200 and did not go directly to jail or the ‘Darkroom’, which will be a topic of discussion in later blog post.

Passing thru the exits a blast of super-heated humidified air hit my face causing me to gasp as if I had been sucker punched in the thorax. Catching my breath and wiping the sweat off my brow I was greeted by Daniela, Maynor and Mario for the first time (ore on that trio later). Loading all the luggage, bags and contraband into a small truck and stuffing 18 or 19 people into a small van for the trek to our accommodation for the next couple of weeks… welcome to Honduras. Settling into the Federation compound after an eventful 2-hour journey, I surmised… It was just plain hot! I tried to take a nap and recoup from the Condor flight along with the sleepless night prior… no way that will be possible while laying in a puddle of my own sweat. The starters pistol has fired, and the marathon had begun… “What a long strange trip it’s been”

On the second day the team divided up for two separate projects: Team A consisting of Jefe, Jeff, Daniela, Maynor, Samwell, Alex, Jared and Team Akien & Hurtin’ worked on a local school kitchen. Team B consisting of Marco, Mater, Stanley, Jennifer, Brad, Lorie, Dane, Aaron and Rigo worked on Gloria’s home building a new indoor bathroom. Not going to spend much time and word on recounting all the details of the work performed, (much of which was recorded On the Federation’s now defunct blog site) but in the virtual realm I want to recount some memories that shaped and affected me on that first marathon.

One of the fondest memories from that trip was the day that Lorie, B-Rad the Former Blogmaster’s sister, was working with my team on Gloria’s home and some local kids stopped by peddling funnel cakes for a little extra scratch. The deal was done, and a price agreed upon… Lorie paid them and brought her score to the rest of us to share… if we dare. “How much did you pay for that Lorie?” “16 Lamas.” The crowd went wild and the rest is history. Her Honduran team name was cast in stone for evermore… LAMA!

The second memory was that one day while laying block for the new bathroom at Gloria’s home, I was standing or perched perilously high in the air on the Death trap 3000 scaffolding system that we had constructed from a 55 gallon drum, some rotten planks and a listing stack of blocks. I was sipping some cool water… like the Matrix, I imaged it was cool, more like 100 degrees from the scorching sun… I looked down as Aaron, Dane and B-Rad were mixing the ingredients for cement on the ground. I noticed that as the water was added… and the more they mixed it… it looked like a very large ‘Cow Chip’. Of course being that this is a Christian trip you could not call it what it was, ‘A Pile of **** ‘ so my inquisitive mind set to work on finding another vernacular composition that would be less derogatory to the blog vetters of Federation perspective… ‘Mook’ was born on that sweltering afternoon in Gloria’s front yard. After we returned from that trip, Jefe received several questions from the Federation command inquiring what is this word ‘Mook’ they are using in the Blog? They had researched its meaning and thought we were referring to the natives as Slaves. That it was not, nor was it ever intended to be anything other thing other than an ‘Easter Egg’ in the blog post.

Finally, one of the events that forever changed my thoughts, perspective, and heart on that first marathon was one day while we were traveling in the auto bus. I do not remember the destination, because it was meaningless then and still now… the marathon is not about where you go, but what shapes you take along the journey. That day I saw a small girl on the roadside… She may have been or looked to be only 3-4 years old. She was digging through a pile of trash… looking for something… A plastic bottle to recycle? Was it an article of clothing to wear? No, she was looking for something to eat! I saw her pull out, what looked to be a chicken bone and clean the rest of the meat from it… A cerebral moment… what could I even have to complain about in my life? Literally from that moment, a God moment! He used it to change me… that I may be a bigger instrument of change for the world in His name, even if that is only one brick, block, or nail at a time. That moment has not only driven me to return to Honduras for the past nine years, and by His will many more in the future… misty eyed now, gotta go.


Marco Francisco Valle Valle

Manhattan Project

May 19, 2020

2:04 am, the alarm from my iPhone starts blaring a menacing and dark scripted tune by Volbeat. The juggernaut of a rock steady bass drum pattern and the drop D tuned Gibson’s cracking thru overdriven Marshall Amps… the vocals seeking the return of the dark one’s crown of blood… oh the decadence that fills my ear… It is not unusual that I hear that tone at that time of morning. I generally awake and present myself quite early each day, much like a Senior Drill Sergeant Hartman prepares for his morning wake up call to the unsuspecting recruits; I too am ready to smash trash can lids together as I walk between the bunks of those nestled in their beds…yelling, “Rise and shine Sweethearts!” … but!!! Today was scheduled to be a different day… I stress different as heavy as the alarm tone coming out of my phone! I am here… getting dressed for work and preparing for the morning commute… not on my way there… as I have for the past Nine years. This May… will be a disappointing May… it will be spent in a semi quarantined home, not quite alone but distancing as needed… not in a Honduras way for sure.

At 2:04 this morning I begin to transcend to a moment that should have been… I am virtually upset, because I am late! I am never late, but in the same sense I am never too early either. Arriving 5 to 8 minutes early is enough, though my wife likes a 30-minute buffer to secure her OCD tendencies. At this time of the morning, on this day I should have been at or very near Senor Jefe’s house of Harmony. It is the day of gathering… less harmonizing in a musical prose or so it was planned so many months ago. “Gather at 2:30am, caravanning to the Big Blue Box and pick up Mater then briskly travel to Port Charlotte to board the Aluminum Condor.” All of this… in the bright hopes of traveling across Lake Evendim… to arrive in the land of milk and honeydew as we have for so many years… Agh! It is amazing how the microscopic things of life can change even the best laid plans… but that is what we have for the near and foreseeable future anyway.

If you took time to read my prelude, then you know why I am writing in a virtual sense of space and time, It keeps me focused and in continued thoughts of our friends in Honduras even though we, the good ole USA are struggling in a way that is unprecedented in our lives and have been effectively locked out of the condor nest in San Pedro Sula … rumors have the Ramon Viljeda Morales tarmac, as Facebook post suggest… is secured by a couple of early 40’s model Willys Jeeps outfitted with a maul duce and multiple boxes of .50 cal ammo affixed to the rear portion of the bed… conjecture and oppression to some… reality to others. As one of my Old Testament professors would say, “You pays your money, you makes your choice.” No time to dilly dally around… on to our entertainment for the evening.

“Imagine a place
Where it all began
They gathered together from across the land
To work in secrecy of the desert sand
All of the brightest boys
To play with the biggest toys
More than they bargained for…”

Hold Your Fire, 1987, Peart

A first-year team from Wilkesboro traveled to Honduras; to Visit, to Play, to Work and introduce Shade Squatting to the Honduran locals … or so the rumors went. No confidential informant survived the trek according to the US Customs and Border Patrol register and therefore is considered conjecture and contempt in the high courts of the land. The team consisted primarily of a group that was stranded in Guatemala for a few extra days due to minor volcanic activity from the preceding year. I was not part of the initial laceration of the grounds in Honduras due to personal conflicts and commitments here locally, but thru the stories (some true, but most were embellished) and photographic evidence of that adventure I would like to travel back to a time to a place where lives were interrupted… in a truly meaningful way while… along the way they were changed at the same time.

The primary target was a remote village in the northwest territory of Honduras; affectionately known as New Hope, or in Spanish, Nueva Esperanza. There the group descended, literally from and above thru the twisting and turning route of Seven Creek road. The passage or route was named by yours truly in subsequent trips that would follow in the years to come. You would literally cross seven streams and creeks before landing upon this timid quaint mountain village. In Honduran time… they say, it would take about an hour to reach the destination… Gringo time said it takes almost double that. Our first lesson in, “Don’t rush through life”, I suppose… only you find out why in a later episode.

The team was greeted by, “The Teacher” upon their arrival. A buxom brunette, but a darker shade of black. She was equipped with a bubbly personality… a huge, inviting and friendly smile in tow… Her presence was so dramatic and vivid… that some if not most of the team said that her radiance was so powerful… it must have been inspiration to Van Halen’s odd timed primal jungle beat intro for the 1984 hit, “Hot for Teacher.”

The team was led by a rookie captain only known as Chris at the time, (due to the team’s lack of Spanish vernacular aptitude and my personal presence and sarcasm on this trip), He later earned the title of Senor Jefe Scorpion King Rey in and thru his subsequent years of leadership, but primarily it was the squealing like a brownie scout at the afore mentioned high tailed crustacean he found in his room… He is the leader of this team of Rastafarian misfits both fore and aft has kept the dream alive. Mater, the second half of the brain trust by all accounts equals a third of a brain cell (Chris 1/3 and myself the other) according to most… his youngest son Joseph, aka “Muscle Tec” was always ready and willing for a photo op… his goal was to look like the hardest working member of the crew and yet, he would always be in a position of flexing his traps at the appropriate moments when the shutter flashed… they along with Blogmaster B-Rad, Aaron, Jim, Alex AKA Ajax, Jarred AKA Hans, Dane AKA Frans… a tight knit yet multifaceted group that combined with others from the satellite villages near the Federation stronghold in southwest South Carolina. Together they attacked and completed the re-roofing project at the Nueva Esperanza School, providing a day worship and Vacation Bible School for the children in the community. In the end it was a job well done that had earned the new gringos respect among the community leaders… The Teacher… and those associated with the ‘In country’ proliferation of Federation influence.

10 days complete… 10 Years ago… the decadence began in a remote village of Honduras. Lives changed and seeds planted… announcing to the Federation as Karen Carpentered once belted those hallowed lyrics from days gone past, “It has only just begun.” Until our next gathering on the Federation Portal, good night and see you on the Dark Side of the Moon.


Marco Francisco Valle Valle

Home Bound… Prelude to Decadence

5/18/20

I, like most of you, the readers of this Federation blogosphere have been bound by restrictions that are unheralded in our lifetime and yet we, individually and collectively yearn to reach out into the forbidden realm that is now considered the norm… a time of unknown and uncertainty has replaced something that was once considered common. That life… which seemed normal a few months ago… now only seems long passed… at least for a foreseeable time. Therefore, I, Marco Francisco Valle Valle with the assistance of my trusty sidekick B-Rad the former Blog Master have taken the task upon ourselves to blog our team events, both in a virtual and contextual sense as I have self-proclaimed myself as the blog master of record and will record those events in a virtual realm of the Federation Portal.

Having concurred that during this time of self-isolation, I should commit myself over the next few days and weeks… I can and should write a virtual blog based upon the memories and events that would have taken place in Honduras in 2020. It is thru those thoughts, incidents, riots, and memories that have inspired me to reveal a different side to my existence… all of this along with the ever-present gringo counterparts of the Carolina del Norte clan that draw forth a sarcastic side of me that must be kept intact on this side of the boarder.

Over the years, Blog Master B-Rad and I have tried to put together an electronic footprint within the Federation Blogosphere scratching deeper that Sasquatch’s footprint on the backside of the poor soul that stole his Slim-Jim… These virtual blogs are in honor of my brothers and sisters who have served in missions from Carolina del Norte and abroad, while considering all of the servants of Christ, together we collectively and willing to put our lives on hold… even at risk of personal safety sometimes… if only for a couple of weeks a year. Viva Honduras! We are ready! We are willing! Together we able to help our brothers and sisters of Honduras!

Three things have affected me since our last gathering in May of 2019. First I lost my true musical and literary inspiration in January of this year, Neal Peart. It was by his melody, beat and word that inspired me to reach beyond my perceived and expressive limits. My thoughts and rhythms… as mystical as they are… dedicated to his memory. Through His works of literature and music over the past few decades, He has been a tremendous breakthrough for an introverted and self-conscience hermit such as me. Often time I have quoted his lyrics and used the music of those to inspire me for blogging in the Federation Blogosphere while serving as a foundation to my experiences in Honduras.

My second inspiration was found in a couple of books that I have wanted to read… and now have time to read during this time of mandated quarantine and government shutdown. It has inspired me to write a “Virtual Blog” of our canceled/postponed spring mission trip to the beautiful county of Honduras and the adventures that always consume us for two weeks. One being a classic among the anarchist culture to rebel against the perceived norm of society and be yourself and the other is a journey of pain that a man endured while grieving with tremendous loss and how he found recovery in travel and writing on what he described as the ‘Healing Road’… coincidence? I think not.

Thirdly, I recently binge watched the Matrix trilogy (again) during a self-imposed quarantine period. I was remined of a scene, when Cypher, one of the crew members of the Nebuchadnezzar, who has now turned into a Judas… he has given up the location of Zion so that he may ‘Plug In’ the Matrix once again… He is sitting at a table eating a juicy T-Bone steak and explaining to Agent Smith why He wants to ‘Plug back in’, saying, “It looks like steak… it taste like steak, but when you are unplugged from the Matrix you suddenly realize it is just a bowl of protein slop. I want to plug back into the Matrix and taste this goodness and feel like it is real.” The Matrix as described in the move is a virtual reality for those who flow through life like sheep heading to the slaughter… nothing is real only virtual in a sense. I feel as though I am stuck in the Matrix of the Corona Virus and in need of some serious unplugging from the madness around me, maybe one of the purposes for writing a blog post this evening.

Together, B-Rad and I had concluded that this year’s trip was special as we would celebrate a decade of presence and decadence in the Central American region of Honduras. Alas not currently and unfortunately, but there is a hope for a reunion this fall…

“We are planets to each other
Drifting in our orbits
To a brief eclipse
Each of us a world apart
Alone and yet together
Like two passing ships”
Permanent Waves, 1980, Peart

Yes, when the world rights itself… the world of journalism sinks its teeth into a juicier and more mystical ‘World Issue’ to distract us on a different plane… the stars and planets align in perfect union with each other… restrictions that bind us now will be lifted and our orbits will cross paths once again at a very unsocial distance… aka a Honduran van ride. Stay tuned for the next episode of the Virtual Blog from the Federation Portal blogosphere.


Marco Francisco Valle Valle

Friday, March 13, 2020

The team and children from Arena Blanca gathered in the schoolyard after the hygiene stations were completed.
The First Presbyterian Church of Aiken provided funding for construction of the clinic at Arena Blanca. Members of the congregation, Mary and Steve, got to see the completed building first hand.
The gauntlet of clapping children greeted the team as we proceeded to the school.
Steve helps give the children fluoride treatment, while Cindy and Chuck provide support.
The piñata was a big hit, and when it was hit …
… the kids had a free-for-all for the sweet treats.
Members of our Honduran support team included Germaine, David, Carlos, Pablo, Lucia. Maynor, rear, of course, was in charge of the projects for the team. Joselyn and Marcos, not pictured, were also instrumental in our week.
Suyapa and Lupe kept the team well fed throughout the week. Allison, Suyapa’s daughter, kept everyone smiling.

The Parable of the Sower was an integral part in what we brought to the children through our VBS presentation. We certainly feel like we planted seeds, as seeds were planted in us.

Thursday, March 12 2020

The kids of Tejeras enjoy receiving their weekly rice and beans.
The team helps stain tables for the school in Tejeras.
Young boys work all day for 2 dollars forming bricks out of “special” dirt.
Before the bricks are formed, the “special” dirt is mixed to the proper consistency. The boys work all day and give earnings to their family, instead of attending school.
The owner shows the team how he prepares bricks before they finish in the kiln.
Chuck, along with the rest of the team, hands out beans and rice to the local residents of Tejeras.
Mary Maddrey helps sand the tables before staining. She is the director of the preschool at First Presbyterian Church in Aiken and a member of the congregation. This is her first trip to Honduras.
Steve Salzman wasn’t always lying down on the job during the week. Steve is retired financial accountant from AGY. He attends First Presbyterian Church of Aiken.

We started the morning off singing, “Jesus Loves Me” during our early devotion time. This song carried us through the day.

“Little ones to Him belong … .” In the boys and girls of Tejeras we saw His children.

We big ones are also His children. “For the Bible tells me so.”\

Wednesday March 11, 2020

Dom Martorana hands out a deworming pill to one of the children.

After early morning devotion and a scrumptious breakfast, we headed up the mountain road to the school at Los Panales. Our first activity was a four part hygiene clinic: hand washing, deworming pill, learning to properly brush your teeth, and a fluoride treatment.

Jeff Wallace puts toothpaste on each brush before the brushing demonstration begins.
The boys favorite part of the hygiene clinic is “escupir.” The best translation for the word “escupir” is A GOOD SPIT.

After over 50 children participated in the VBS Parable of the Sower, it was time to have some outdoor fun.

Kids enjoyed playing with the parachute. They had lots of fun tossing the tennis ball up and down.
Jeff Wallace, using his iPhone, gives a history lesson to the Honduran children about sites in South Carolina.

Jeff Wallace and Dominic Martorana are both on their first Honduras mission trip. Jeff has lived most of his life in Aiken and is a retired editor of the Aiken Standard. He attends St. John’s United Methodist Church. Dom (pictured below) was raised in New York City and was a career carpenter. He is a member of St. Mary Help of Christians Catholic Church in Aiken.

Dom Martorana used his carpentry skills to help build bookshelves.
Team members put together and finish bookshelves for the school.

Los Panales request from the team was to help construct three badly needed bookshelves. The principal and teachers thanked us many times for all the work that has been done at the school, including today’s shelves.

“We know that for those who love God, that is, for those who are called according to His purpose, all things are working together for good.” Romans 8:28

Tuesday March 10, 2020

The team went to the school high in the mountains at La Montarita where we conducted a hygiene clinic for the students. Chuck teaches a student proper hand washing techniques.
The students were given a deworming pill, learned about brushing their teeth and received a fluoride treatment.
New desks and benches were built and painted for the classrooms. Mary enjoyed painting the desk and herself. Fortunately, there was enough paint for all the furniture.
The new desk to the left (before painting) replaces the deteriorating old desk to the right.
The teacher and head of the parent association were enthusiastic about the gift from HAF.
Kindergarten donations from First Presbyterian Church in Aiken helped provide funds for the swing set that was delivered today. Mary Maddrey, director of preschool at the church, stands in the back row.
The mission team had a father and daughter duo, Pop Buice and Kelli Roof. This is Pop’s second mission trip to Honduras, and he is a retired accountant who attends Williston United Methodist Church. Kelli lives in Columbia, SC, and attends Shandon United Methodist Church. She has two precious kids and enjoys outdoor adventures with them.
Kelli’s AP student, Angie, left, and her parents had dinner with the team. They enjoyed meeting for the first time and getting to know one another.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” Galatians 6: 9-10.

Monday March 9, 2020

The road to Arena Blanca was slippery and treacherous, and Cindy Fuller made the decision to turn back for the safety of all.

Sometimes God’s plan trumps ours. The plan to drive up the mountain on a rain-slicked paved road to a school at Arena Blanca was quashed by unsafe conditions.

The team’s schedule for the day was altered.

A Tejeras child smiles as she learns about the Parable of the Sower.

A quick decision was made to visit the school in Tejeras where we presented a skit on the Parable of the Sower to eighteen precious children.

Coloring sheets and crayons were handed out, and the children used their creativity to bring the picture to life.

The time concluded blowing and popping bubbles to delighted laughter.

The 3rd and 5th grade children learned the Parable of the Sower and enjoyed coloring the booklets.

Before lunch we traveled to the community of Milpa Arada and visited Jose Santos Guardiola school to deliver fans.

While there the team presented the skit to a class of 3rd and 5th graders. They were then given a booklet and coloring pencils to illustrate the message. The class was given school supplies and a Frisbee to enjoy for the rest of the year.

Team member Chuck tries out the dentist chair in Dr. Laura Garcia’s new office. She was one of AP’s first students.

Everyone loves a success story and Dr. Laura’s is a remarkable one. She was one of AP’s first students and completed her dentistry education in Honduras. Last year she opened her first office in Quimistan in a recently built structure with new equipment. If you need to schedule a cleaning, call 8823-3608.

Roxanne Turnipseed stands in front of the orphanage that she and her late husband Sam started Quimistan.

Tranquilidad Foundation sprang out of HAF and serves abandoned children in the Quimistan area. The team got a brief tour from founder Roxanne Turnipseed and learned of its proposed mission to place children in homes with loving families.

Chuck Scarton and team leader Cindy Fuller help a Tejeras child color.

Team leader Cindy Fuller is in her fourth mission trip to Honduras. She is a retired United Methodist preacher and lives in Aiken, South Carolina.

Chuck Scarton is on his second Honduras mission trip and is a member of Saint Mary Help of Christians Catholic Church in Aiken. He is a retired engineer.

A team leader does whatever it takes to get the mission accomplished. Cindy Fuller and a Guardiola student peck at the seeds along the barren path, illustrating the Parable of the Sower.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Tejeras children learned about Moses and the burning bush from their Sunday school teacher, Sandra Rojas
More than 80 children sang songs of worship to praise God during the Sunday school hour.

With the birds calling in the distance, the team met on the front porch for a devotion about feeding the hungry and taking care of the needy. And thats what we did.

The squatter village of Tejeras is located along a busy highway with the church just yards from the semis roaring path. That does nothing to dissuade more than 80 children from learning about God’s love for them.

Kelli Roof and Mary Maddrey feeding the hungry children of Tejeras.

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink …” Matthew 25;35.

The Sunday School children were fed and served drink by our team. The children receive a similar meal by Honduras Agape Foundation (HAF) three more times a week.

During the Agape Promise (AP) middle schoolers Sunday bible study they performed a praise dance and skit for the members of the South Carolina team.
AP high schoolers discussed concerns in their lives and futures.

AP students in the middle school and high school meet in their own groups and at separate locations where they worship and share with their leaders and one another.

We enjoyed fellowship and food with both groups bringing us back to the Bible verse that started our day.

The team realizes the impact HAF has on these students and their religious and educational growth. Our team is humbled to play a small part in God’s plan for them.