The village has long had a fence surrounding it, but as Catacamas has grown the house parents have wanted increased security. It has taken a couple of years to get the money, supplies, and labor in place, but it has all come together quite nicely. The whole village pitched in and got the perimeter of the old fence cleared so that the new work could begin. The Cullman work team helped put up new chain linked fencing around the entire perimeter. The final touch was the back gate. Noè led the charge in explaining to Carlos and Edgar how to increase the height while also maintaining the beauty of the gate. Noè cut long rods into varying lengths while Edgar ground the ends into sharp points. Carlos and Edgar drilled holes into the existing gate and Noè welded the rods into place. The final result is pretty impressive and caps off the new fence quite nicely.
The children at Por Los Ninos are growing up and as their guardians we must help them prepare for future vocations. We decided to ask local business people to visit PLN and talk about what they do. We have a bakery owner, a restaurant owner and a few other professionals lined up. The first presentation was made by local law enforcement ("policia"). They spent a lot of time talking and answering the many questions the children had about being a police officer. The presentation got even more special when the policia surprised them with candy and cokes!
Another 2013 "milestone" at Por Los Niños was the graduation of Darlin, youngest daughter of Olga and Jorge. PLN has had others graduate from high school, but Darlin is the first to have been born at PLN and lived her entire life there. She graduated Valedictorian of her class with the highest scores over all. She made the closing speech for her graduating class. Her speech was special to everyone, but especially me. Darlin's closing speech was given in English, probably the only words I truly understood that night. She used an interpreter, her English teacher, to translate her speech from English to Spanish for the rest of the graduation attendants. Now, how special was that!
Timing can be everything. I was able to experience a few major milestones at PLN in 2013. I've not lost sight that I'm very fortunate to "stand" atop the efforts of many before me. There are so many people who have labored and served this mission unselfishly for many years.
I was truly blessed when asked to attend several PLN graduations this past December, each complete with its own surprise. We had two longtime residents of PLN graduate from University, our first to complete University studies, as well as a very special high school graduation. I speak limited Spanish and the shortest of these graduations lasted four and a half hours. Needless to say, I had plenty of time to daydream and think. Some statistics kept going through my mind. These thoughts were regarding the average adult Honduran having only 4.8 years of education. The realization of what I was witnessing floored me. I was watching a level of accomplishment so rare in Honduras, as it is in most parts of the world.
I hope the following recap of these graduations fills your heart with joy because you, our supporters, have been a critical part of making these milestones possible.
We are proud to announce that Rosa received her degree in Business Engineering! Rosa has lived almost 18 years at PLN. What I didn't realize was just how much Rosa realized and appreciated the love and generosity of FLM/PLN supporters. In attendance were over four hundred graduates with thousands of family and friends and Rosa gave the closing speech. Remember, I have a limited understanding of Spanish, but I can recognize my name and Rosa was repeating it from the stage. Pushed to the stage by Jorge Gonzales, PLN Director, I walked the steps to meet with Rosa. Both God and FLM/PLN supporters were being acknowledged and honored by Rosa before this very large crowd. On behalf of FLM/PLN I received documents from Rosa expressing her love and appreciation "for their unconditional support and valuable work in achieving my professional, spiritual and personal formation." Her speech received a standing ovation and gave me a memory that will last a lifetime.
When visiting PLN the week before Christmas, I learned from the house parents that most of the children needed shoes. Even though we have lots of shoes in our pending container shipment, the need was immediate so plans were made to buy shoes. Family Life Missions has always tried to treat all the children the same when it comes to routine needs and shoes fit into that category. This meant going shopping, yes, with everyone at PLN! We divided the PLN children into two groups and, with a house parent, set out to visit a shoe store in Catacamas.
It had been many years since I'd taken anyone shopping and then it was my two daughters, but memories quickly flooded back. Surely you remember, your kids saying, "Can I have these? ... "I want those" ... "Please, please, please, not that kind, I really like those over there!" Now multiply that by 27 kids! Finally finished, it was time to start on the second group of children.
The only way I could convince my doubting wife that I had actually gone shopping with all the PLN children was with pictures! Here are some of the them ...