DOOR Goodbyes

Lake ArrowheadAfter eleven beautiful months with four wonderful roommates, saying goodbye was naturally difficult.

I flew back from Honduras specifically to spend a final week with my DOOR roommates and friends in Los Angeles and could not have wished for a better conclusion to a fantastic year in Hollywood.  After my plane arrived at LAX two hours late (while my friends and director waited in the car for me to arrive since I had been unable to communicate my delay to them), I was tackled post-baggage claim with hugs and shouts of love.  We traveled back to Gregory Ave. swapping stories from the last month when I was in training in Hondu and they were all experiencing their final days of work.  I was greeted at home with even more friendly faces of people whom I had been missing!

ImageIt was a week of scrumptious food (remember that now I’m eating a lot of beans, rice and tortillas so everything in the States is AMAZING!), memories and forgiveness, and a mountain of hugs.  Up at Lake Arrowhead we spent hours laughing, hours eating, and even a few hours getting tattoos as a permanent symbol and covenant of our time together.  My year in Hollywood was not easy by any means, but challenged me in new ways to grow in areas of my life I wasn’t aware I needed growth.  I will never forget the year and I would never want to.  There are moments when I wish I were in LA where three of my roommates have chosen to stay, but when I stand in a prayer circle holding hands with 80+ children at the orphanage home here in Honduras, I know God has put me here for a reason.  A great part of my heart will always be in Hollywood, and maybe I’ll be there again someday soon!

Filipenses 4: 6-7 = Philippians 4: 6-7

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything with prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

I will only be updating my Honduras Blog from this point forward and would invite you to check it out:

http://www.karenagoestohonduras.wordpress.com

Dinner and a Movie

man of steel  “I haven’t felt like I was chosen for something in a long time.”

After picking up a few participants from the Center and heading for a quick breakfast, we arrived at the Grove, an outdoor shopping and dinning destination.  We purchased our tickets to see the matinee of Man of Steel and sat back in our comfy seats to enjoy the show.  Despite the demons that Alejandro* had to fight off during most of the movie, it was quite an enjoyable time.  After the theater, we strolled through the Grove and headed to Umami Burger, a DOOR favorite.  Stuffing ourselves with sweet potato fries, a burger, and ice cream sandwiches, we enjoyed each other’s company and reflected on the movie.

We hopped back on the bus and headed back to the Center and the participants each remarked that they were so thankful and honored that they had been chosen for such an event.  Alejandro commented that it’s been years since he felt like anyone’s favorite.  I hope that every person experiencing homelessness in Hollywood might have the chance to relate to this feeling, and feel like he is a part of an awesome community and is cared for as an individual. The Center has recently started a Field Trip Group where we travel to places like the Science Center, Griffith Observatory, and the Getty Center in order to create more intimate community where people belong.

Umami BurgerPeople like Alejandro express their gratitude frequently, but it is I who am really grateful to be accepted, welcomed, and loved in this community. Some participants have already begun to say that I’ll be missed when I scurry away to Honduras.  It’s difficult to face these feelings and say goodbye to these friends, but I know that new staff members at the Center will soon be blessed with new, wonderful community.

*Name changed

I appreciate all of your prayers and financial support… but I’m still about $400 short on my fundraising goal.  If you have any last minute gifts you’d like to give toward my DOOR year, please let me know!  A special thanks to the Sister Bay Moravian Men’s Fellowship who have been supporting me consistently throughout this year and to the Sister Bay Moravian Women’s Fellowship who gave me a generous donation toward classroom materials for my upcoming year in Honduras.  I’ve made my shopping wish list and will be filling up my suitcase soon!

Where I’m From

Umami BurgerGraffiti graced walls Purple porch

Here’s a poem I recently wrote at a retreat with other volunteers in Los Angeles that reflects on my time so far in Hollywood and how I might explain where I am coming from to people at my next destination.  If you have any questions or comments, send them my way!  Also, I’ve currently raised $6,025 of $6,500 – I’m so close to the goal!

Where I’m From

I am from sirens, a black cat, and talk about the weather.
I am from the purple porch, the graffiti graced walls, the green curtain (keeping out those who wouldn’t dare come in.)
I am from a stiff, black chair supporting my weight during Morning Mindset and coffee brewing in the kitchen. I am from an unpleasant odor living in the carpet, masked by incense. And the day old pastries falling apart as they make the trip to my mouth.
I am from banana-peanut-butter-oatmeal and a nalgene of purified water.
I am from La Casa de la Communidad, from community dinners and hands held around the table giving grace.
I’m from standing in line at X2, eating umami burgers and sweet potato fries. From realizing that I can hurt others. From joyful.
I am from do not be anxious about anything, and a story that each friend has to tell, about alcohol and drugs, a broken family, and anxiety about where he will sleep tonight and where his dinner might come from.
I am from Hollywood.

Community Hours

La Casa de la CommunidadAfter blessing a meal prepared by one or two of my roommates, we share
bits and pieces about our days and nourish our bodies while getting
ready for the neighborhood kids to come over.  Several begin to bounce
the ball outside before hours officially begin, but we quickly clear
the table and head out onto the court and into the community house.Graffiti Wall
It’s a Tuesday and we’ve told some of the older boys that they might
get to play basketball with some of the men from the First
Presbyterian Church.  Drew (a housemate) and I take the two boys that
showed up on time and direct them to the van after calling parents and
making sure that the field trip is ok.
Decorating Easter eggs!
We shoot for teams and I am even welcome to play with the guys for a
pick-up game.  The neighborhood boys seem to be enjoying themselves
throughly and are reluctant to leave when I tell them we have to get
back to the house but we’ll be able to return another day.

When we get back to the Community House I’m greeted by several kids
that have showed up while I was gone and one individual asks for help
with his homework. It’s math, of course, and my roommates promised him
that I would be happy and willing to help him out once I got back from
the church.  We solve some problems together, clean up the community
house with other kids and send everyone home until Thursday’s hours.

Community kids!It’s amazing to me that shooting hoops with friends and playing with
numbers is considered ministry!  I continue to receive so much joy,
honor, and purpose from our community.  Even though we only officially
open our doors 3 times a week, the hours spent with these kids are
always cherished (even if they’re running through the house, refusing
to clean up the messes they helped make, or begging to jump rope for
another hour!)

 

A Taste of Chicago

At Scoops!Minutes after arriving at LAX, Lauren (a dear friend from Chicago) and I headed to Santa Monica beach to have a lovely picnic gazing out at the Pacific Ocean.  After munching on tuna salad, squishing our toes in the sand, and enjoying the brilliant sun, we headed to my home in Hollywood to show her my neighborhood.  After a quick tour of my house, we hopped on the metro and headed to Olvera Street and Chinatown for a tasty dinner and great conversation.

The next day was filled with miles and miles of biking and hiking, exploring different parts of Los Angeles. We started at the Center where Lauren met some of my friends experiencing homelessness, headed up to Runyon Canyon to hike and picnic with Drew (another YAV volunteer), and spent some time observing tourists walking down Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.  With Trader Joe supplies in hand, we headed over to a neighbor and friend’s apartment for a grill out and relaxing evening.Lauren's in Hollywood

On our final day we started with a jaunt through the Hollywood farmer’s market before catching the subway to Grand Central Market, Angels Flight, and a lovely Mediterranean lunch.  We returned back to Hollywood in time for community hours at La Casa de la Comunidad, service and worship at Reality LA, and pupusas and frozen yogurt with a new friend from church.

Lauren was just the taste of Chicago that I needed!  It’s always encouraging and uplifting to talk with her on a regular basis, but even more so to spend quality time with her in person.  I was grateful for our meaningful conversation, shared prayer, and fun!

Runyon CanyonLauren also came at an important time of discernment during this year. I’m excited to share with you that I have committed to teaching another year in Honduras with BECA!  I would greatly appreciate your prayers that I would stay present in this year and present with my community even as I begin to prepare for Honduras.

Want to read more about my previous year in Honduras?  Check out last year’s blog: http://karenagoestohonduras.wordpress.com/

A Visit to Honduras

IMG_0872I’d been planning a trip to Cofradia, Cortez Honduras since last November after visiting Nogales, Mexico and missing my home from last year.  Britney, a friend from Los Angeles who completed the DOOR volunteer year last August, got on board in January and we started anticipating the culture experience we would have together!  I warned her about the basics of cold showers and not flushing toilet paper and we hopped on the plane together.Lunch in Copan

Although we started our visit with a trip to Wendy’s on the way to Cofradia (since all of the local places were closed), our bellies were filled the rest of the week with fresh guacamole scooped with plantain chips, pupusas topped with incurtido, baleadas filled with beans and queso seco, fried chicken and tajadas, and refreshing licuados (a milk-based icy beverage).  We spent a lot of time chowing on typical Honduran food and swinging on the hammocks on the back porch but we also had time to catch up with current and past teachers, hang out with some local Hondurans, visit my evangelical church, and witness how the first graders I once claimed as my students have developed into beautiful, better behaved second graders. WIth the second graders!

In addition to hanging out on my old stomping grounds, we also took a trip to Copan, a quaint, cobble-stone tourist destination overflowing with souvenir shops, corner coffee shops, and locals selling everything from a half an hour of mariachi (a great bargain!) to mangos in a bag.  We arrived into the pitch-black city realizing that the power had gone out, but minutes after checking in, the lights turned on!  We wandered down the cobble-stone, purchasing some street food and listening to the mariachi then headed back to the hotel room for a good night’s sleep uninterrupted by the roosters that make noise at all hours of the day and night in Cofradia.  The next morning, we were determined to find some horses to ride and after asking several people selling in the central park, we found a gentleman willing to get a guide to bring us on a tour alongside a river and up a mountain.  After a trot and some beautiful sights, we had a lovely lunch outdoors and hopped back on a bus to Cofradia to finish off the weekend with more friends and food.

After riding Chula!Being back in the classroom reminded me of how much I missed being there.  The time we spend with the kids in the neighborhood in Hollywood has been very rewarding and reminds me of my days in the classroom.  Weekly I help Andy with his math homework and spelling words and I often get the chance to read with Andrea or Eliu.  Last month I even got to revisit algebra with one of our high school neighbors! At the Airport

I’m glad to be back in Hollywood with my family in the Gregory Ave. neighborhood, but a part of my heart belongs in Honduras.  After returning back to the States I was presented with the opportunity to return to Honduras with BECA once again at a new school located about an hour from Cofradia on the grounds of an orphanage primarily serving children at the home.  As I enter a time of discernment about what to do next year, I ask for your prayers!  As always, thanks so much for your support.

Silence

St. Andrew's

Silence.  Leaves rustle above, wet sand mashes below, a breeze gushes, quacks come from the pond, chirps come from the trees. We’re on a retreat of silence at a nearby monastery enjoying a chilly day away from noisy Hollywood. While I can silence my audible voice, I cannot silence the sounds around me and I certainly can’t silence my inner thoughts no matter how hard I try. In the moments when I attempted to clear my mind and simply count my breaths, I ended up taking a nap on the chair at about “62.”

During this retreat I have been reminded in the silence of the beauty of God’s creation – the hills, St. Andrew'strees, stones, sand, and setting sun. Hollywood has a beautiful view of the mountains, but has also been filled with streets, billboards, and people. I am reminded that a smile has the power of many words and that facial expressions and body language can speak volumes, but can’t always articulate exactly what you might want to say. I’m reminded during our silent lunch that I enjoy eating primarily because of the conversation and communion that happens around the table and without words, this space can feel somewhat awkward. I am reminded that although I often feel uncomfortable in silence, it is a necessary and wonderful thing.

St. Andrew'sHere I am reminded of the sacredness of silence and how you really can’t listen unless you are silent, even if only for brief moments. I have this challenge when talking to strangers, acquaintances, friends, family, and even God. To really be in relationship with anyone or anything, you have to be silent. I am guilty, at times, of waiting to interrupt during a conversation, of formulating a response after a few words rather than waiting to hear the complete thought. At the Center I’m surrounded by people who want to be heard (who doesn’t?) and who aren’t listened to very frequently. It is with pleasure that I ask about their stories, their lives before and while experiencing homelessness, and their beliefs. I try to really listen, to ask more questions, to let their story be heard, because it’s what everyone deserves. Sometimes they ask about my story, and sometimes they don’t – I’d rather just listen here anyway.  I’m already being heard; thank you for listening and encouraging.

 

Fundraising Update: $5500 (goal $6500)

If you’d like to hear more about supporting me this year, please send me an email at renamalmgren@gmail.com.