Thursday, October 30, 2008

Cold nights and changed lives

Above: Hector hangs out with Mocha on a recent Micah outing. Below:
Michael spends some time with Hector during a recent street outreach in
the market district of Tegucigalpa.

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As I write this, I have a little street boy named Hector looking over my shoulder. He can’t read or write, and when I asked him for his birthday, he didn’t know. He thinks that he is thirteen, although to look at him, you’d think that he is eight or nine. He just had breakfast with the other Micah boys, and came in to ask me something before our devotional time in a few minutes.

“Michael, can I stay here forever?”

Honestly, I wasn’t too surprised by the question, since he asked me the same question last night before bed. Even so, the question stopped me in my tracks. One answer, yes or no, could determine the future course of this young life. So…what do I say?

We have gotten to know Hector well through our street ministry over the last year. He occasionally lives with his dad, who sells fruit out of a wheelbarrow in the market area of Tegucigalpa, but most of the time, his addiction to yellow glue keeps him on the streets.

As we have gotten to know Hector, both on the streets and through the Saturday outings that he occasionally joins us on, we have found a sweet kid with a pleasant personality. Even so, whenever we have talked to him about joining the Micah Project, he can never see clearly enough through the fog of his addiction to accept our offer. .

Lately, though, his defenses have been lowering little by little as he has come to trust us more. Last night, a “cold front” came through Honduras, with temperatures in the 50s (okay, I know that’s nothing to cry about, but for Hondurans, it’s considered a deep freeze!). Hector came up to the Micah House looking for food in an old battered coat that was about three times his size. After feeding him, we decided to let him sleep in the house so that he wouldn’t have to spend a cold night on the streets.

So put yourself in my shoes. The kid spent a peaceful night of sleep in the Micah House. Now, he has his arm around you, shivering from the cold air, asking if you will take him in. You know that if you say no, or not right now, or we will talk about it as a staff and get back to you, you are sending him back to the streets, and closing this window of opportunity that the cold air has shaken open. So…Can Hector stay with us forever? My answer is: I sure hope so!

Now we are praying that one cold night might be the turning point in Hector’s life. The glue addiction is strong; both Wilmer and little Marvin, who joined us in June of 2007, are still struggling to overcome theirs. To truly overcome the addiction to glue and to street life in general, the following things are indispensable: personal determination, a unified group of people at Micah that are willing to help every step of the way, and a constant sense that there is something better waiting for them in the future. And…of course…lots and lots of people praying.

We’ll let you know how it goes!

I also wanted to update you on the flooding here in Honduras as well. I was just up at the public school two blocks from the Micah House. There are almost forty families in the school that have either lost their homes or have been forcibly evacuated from them because of fear of landslides. Though the rain has pretty much stopped, at least in Tegucigalpa, the ground is incredibly saturated, and anyone who lives in wooden shacks clinging to hillsides, which is a common site in Tegucigalpa, is at risk of a landslide.

We continue to help out the families in the shelter when we can. We have provided dinner at the shelter and continue to provide supplies when they run out. I have talked to several of the families in the shelter, and they are not sure how long they will be there or if they will be allowed to return to their homes once things dry out. Additionally, we have helped two families rent small rooms in order to get them out of dangerous situations. One of the families is Maycol’s mom, whose shack is beginning to tilt dangerously downhill. A few of our guys helped her and her family move to safer ground yesterday. We will see what happens to these families once this time of crisis passes.

This week is the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Mitch’s destructive passage through Honduras. The BBC has written a good report on Honduras ten years after Mitch. You can link to it here: .

I appreciate your prayers for Hector and for the victims of the recent flooding!

Muchas gracias,

Michael Miller

Friday, October 24, 2008

Flooding leaves thousands homeless in Honduras

Photos: The Micah boys take donations into the school in our community for the families that have lost their homes. The hill in the background is one of the at-risk areas for landslides.

This month is the ten year anniversary of hurricane Mitch, a category five storm that left Honduras in tatters, which blew through Honduras in the last week of October, 1998. Like some kind of nightmarish déjà vu , three weeks of solid rains this month have left people describing it as "hurricane Mitch in slow motion." According to the Honduran newspaper El Heraldo, 29 people have died and 670,000 have been affected by the flooding or landslides. And according to a report on Reuters, "more than 800mm (almost three feet) of rain has fallen over the past several days in some areas - more than the total rainfall unleashed by the devastating Hurricane Mitch 10 years ago." ( The President has declared a national emergency, and relief agencies are gearing up to help.

Just two blocks from the Micah House, 35 families have been moved into the public elementary school after losing their homes in mudslides. This morning, some of the Micah boys and I bought food, water and diapers for the families in the makeshift shelter (see photos above). The families are divided into the different classrooms of the school, and school officials and neighbors are coordinating the distribution of aide.

When we talked to the woman in charge of the shelter at our neighborhood school, she said that certain areas of our neighborhood and surrounding neighborhoods are at risk of greater damage in the days to come. Because many houses are built with sub-standard practices and are literally clinging to the side of hills, the rain is saturating the foundations to the point that they give way.

One of our boy's families, that of little Maycol, is living in one of these at risk areas. Their home...a shack built on three rotting stilts, which hold up the wooden floor. Even three weeks ago, the downhill side of the house started to sink. Today, we may move the family temporarily in order to avoid the danger of a landslide. For now, we may put them in a spare room at our Leadership House until we can find a more permanent solution.

I will keep you apprised of the situation here in our neighborhood and in Honduras.

Muchas gracias,

Michael Miller