23 March 2016


Today is my spicy Aaron Gabriel's birthday.   He was once called 'Little Boy Blue' online because he wasn't officially 'ours' and information in the world wide web is not as private as we would like to believe.    

Little Boy Blue is 9.    9 years old!

When we moved to Honduras, he was 3... just a baby.   He has lived 2/3 of his life in Honduras.  He has spent the last 6 years learning to speak English and Spanish at the very same time.   During these years he has played with monkeys, eaten mangoes off of the tree, swam in lagoons, taken boat trips and befriended a million geckos, crabs, frogs and snails.    

2/3 of a lifetime.   That puts things into perspective for me.

Numbers quantify time a bit.   While I haven't lived 2/3 of my life in Honduras, I have lived a distinct chunk.  6 years.

In comparison, we lived in our country dream house for exactly 5 years.   It seemed like a lifetime.

On our last US visit, we had the distinct privilege to return to our dream home.  The new owners (well, 6 years is hardly 'new') are IVA sponsors and have supported ROH for many years.   They graciously invited us over for dinner.

I imagined that I would be somehow 'homesick' or 'regretful' as I planned to visit this beautiful country house that had been our hearts' desire.    And yet, I felt nothing but happiness for these kind people who had made our house into their home.

Odd.   No regrets.  Not even 1.

As I look forward 6 more years...   my oldest will most likely have graduated from college by that time and my second will be well on her way.    Will we still be living full-time in Honduras?    Will we be spending months here and months there and months in-between - searching for a spot where we are all 'home' again?

Birthdays, anniversaries, new years, deaths...  marking time.

Truly though... the important thing is not the numbering of the years or the speculation about what the tomorrows might illustrate,  but rather the marking of each and every day.  

Are Aaron's days being filled with memories - beautiful, unique, challenging  memories - that will carry him through the next season?      Are my days, individual hours, being used to bring love to my family and students?

Only time will tell.   The same time that measures days, measures years and will tell our stories.   Lord, may my time faithfully tell Your love story.

06 March 2016


Surely you have experienced weeks like mine...  one minute celebrating a breakthrough and the very next minute turning around and required to make an excruciating decision.

This morning, I took a run.

The red dirt, entangled with sand from the lagoon, swirled around my feet as I made my way step after step.   My earphones played some beautiful worship music inspiring me to lift my hands in praise to the God of the universe.  

One moment, I am praising God and literally twirling around astounded at the varying colors of blue in the skies of La Mosquitia.   The next moment, over the beautiful praise chorus, I hear the grumbling of a military helicopter taking my friend's son, who is in critical condition, to Tegucigalpa.

Highest of highs and the lowest of lows.    Life really is a series of twists and twirls, isn't it?

We can choose to take the unexpected twirl and dance with our Maker in rhythm or we can simply turn and walk off the stage and end the dance.    God tells us that the dance will ultimately result in our good...  not our wealth, or our 'happiness', but the dance produces His good in us.

A dance of dips and spins, somber and sweet, painful and pure...  with an outcome I cannot see, but yet which promises His good in me.  

30 August 2015

Random Thoughts on a Sunday

I describe my life in seasons...

The seasons are not the simple 4 seasons that are often equated with a year: Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter.  Life seasons are much more complicated and beautiful.

My life seasons have been incredibly diverse.   4 decades plus of life allows for all kinds of failures, followed by beautiful moments of clarity and a few 'wins'.    Most of you reading know my life story, so I won't go into the gory details.    Suffice it to say, I live redeemed.

In this particular season, I work as a 'missionary' in a foreign country.   Missionary is the word people use to describe my life and work, but I really disagree with the loaded imagery that comes with the word.     I used to believe the generalizations, too, at some point in my past.  "Missionaries are spiritual heroes and somehow one level closer to God that the rest of us."  

And then, I became what the world defined as a missionary.   The crazy definition didn't fit for me, nor did it fit for any of the 'missionaries' I would come to meet.    A spiritual hero for me is the elderly lady back at my home church who prays for everyone while she cares for her husband who cannot leave the house.    The rest of us are simply in varying stages of maturity often taking two steps forward and one step back.

So, what do we do with these long-held, over-generalized perceptions of 'mission work.'    Let's just wrap them up and throw them into the fire and get on with it.

At times, people will say something like, "Your family is amazing" or "Wow!  Look at you."   And I try with all of me to point out all that is human and normal about us.   We fight, we play, we argue, we laugh, we cry hard and we keep walking.    We are not amazing or superhuman or worthy of men's praise.  BUT, our God is.   And so we keep trying to point to Him.   We know that GRACE has saved us and this work we do does nothing to change the depth of His Love for us.

There is nothing I do on a daily basis that makes me more spiritual than ANY of my friends in the US.    You need to know that we are completely UNQUALIFIED for the jobs we are doing in Honduras.    There is not one school district in the US who would hire a former lawyer to be a school principal.    THIS is what makes it easy to praise God and point to Him when the crazy things that happen here are suddenly ironed straight and resolved.

I remember my dad saying when I was young, "do not read your own press clippings."  In other words, do not believe all of the praise, nor the criticism, that people heap on you.    He knew and I know that people are fickle - here today and gone tomorrow.     I also know that I do not live for the praise of people.    I LOVE people, I really, genuinely do, but I don't live for their praise or approval.

My love language is words of affirmation, so SINCERE encouragement is a balm to my soul.  False flattery or over-the-top superlatives do not fill my love cup.    All workers in any setting want to be recognized for a job well-done.   There is a difference between honoring one for the work and putting the person on a pedestal they never wanted in the first place.

Constructive criticism is also a gift.   People earn the right to offer constructive criticism by seeking to understand the organization, the individual people and the mission.    Trust is built over time, with heart-felt questions and true interest.  

This summer we asked visiting mission teams to be very open about ways that we can improve the work of Reach Out Honduras and Instituto Vida Abundante.     These groups spent time pouring into the work of IVA, they asked a million questions about the purpose behind certain areas and they invested with their words and time into the lives of our family and the mission.   There were no harsh statements of  'you should be doing this differently' but rather, 'have you ever though about this?'  or 'how would this work in the cultural setting?'   There was honor and reflection and mutual respect...

I hope this sounds a lot like your job...     Sincere evaluation, heart-felt encouragement and constructive criticism...  from a work-at-home mama to a business executive to a untrained school principal in a hot place... our lives and work are more similar than different.

This is my season here in this hot, dusty, beautiful place.   I have no idea or expectation what God will do next year or the year after that.   The ministry of ROH is not ours to hold tightly in a death grip (although it does feel like we have birthed a brood in the last 3 years.)    God willing, the ministry and the work will go on long after our names have been forgotten.  

We believe this is what God wants from us today and we leave tomorrow firmly planted in His hands.

01 June 2015

Investment: Taking the Long View

“Today is mine. Tomorrow is none of my business. If I peer anxiously into the fog of the future, I will strain my spiritual eyes so that I will not see clearly what is required of me now.” Elisabeth Elliot ...


When you hear that word, do you think of the financial world?   Do you think of money saved and interest earned?    Do you accept the idea of delayed gratification - sacrificing the use of your money today for a great future return?

Spiritual investment has been large on our radar as we approach our 5th anniversary in Honduras.  We have been in a season full of questions, seeking to follow God's will for the future of ROH and IVA.    It is a fine balance to plan for the future while still faithfully continuing today's work.

One Thursday in early May, I (Laura) was sitting on a wooden bench at IVA in the heat of a tropical Honduran afternoon.    Rambunctious IVA students were screaming, dancing and trying to practice their routines for the then-upcoming Mother's Day event.     I was looking for some music on my computer to get the next group going while sighing at the chaos around me.  In an instant, it was as if my spiritual eyes opened.    A group of boys were out playing soccer on the IVA field,  the kitchen work was being wrapped up for the day and chores were happening inside my classroom.    In the space of the moment, God whispered to me... "these kids are more than worth the investment, Laura."

Wow... so this is what investment really means.      These faces, these stories, these challenges that seem so insurmountable... these very ones are worth the investment of my time, my treasure and my life.   And, if you are reading this, yours.   It is the day-after-day, month-after-month investment.

Here's the rub.   Investment sounds so pretty and successful, doesn't it?   Investment sounds as if there is somehow a guaranteed windfall at the end.
Is that how we are to view the work of Reach Out Honduras?   An automatic win?   A guaranteed slam dunk in the eyes of the world?

Our students come from very hard places, some with stories that would make you shiver.  Their culture pulls hard, terribly hard.   And we lose some...  we lose students to teen pregnancy, to the lure of an easier way, to apathy and to relocation because their family has no ability to earn money here..        

Do these 'endings' mean our investment is a bad one?

Thankfully, we have come to see investment as so much more.   It is a risk and we do not know the outcome.   However, investing in the Lord's economy means that we put the "return on investment" entirely in His hands.    What looks like a failure to our human eyes may just be the beginning of His beautiful work.

Recently, I had the privilege to sit across the table from a friend who spent years in education administration.   We talked and together  uncovered a new meaning of 'success' for Instituto Vida Abundante and ROH.    Instead of counting the losses and mourning those who won't 'graduate' with us, how about we look at the days and months and maybe even years that we were able to pour love into their lives?    What if we define success as more than a diploma?     

Yes, success CAN be a diploma or a college scholarship.    But, what if success in God's eyes also looks like a student who can look an adult in the eye and communicate well?   What if a good investment results in one who can write legibly?   More importantly, what if the ultimate success is a student who can read and understand a page of the Bible for herself?     What if His success looks like hungry bellies who do not have to worry about today's bread?   And most importantly of all, what if His success truly is a student who feels loved day after day and finally realizes that this very love comes straight from the heart of a Heavenly Father who waits patiently to forgive and enter in?

We choose to take the long view.    We choose to believe that God has begun a good work in each of the students He brings our way.     We believe that He has allowed all of us to be a small part of their journey without being able to control any outcomes.     This investment requires every bit of our effort.  We won't give up on a student because the return today doesn't seem so bright.      

As sponsors, donors and prayer warriors for Reach Out Honduras and Instituto Vida Abundante, we urge you to prayerfully do the same.   Your investment is different than ours, but equally critical.   Know that each dollar, each note and each visit is depositing seeds of hope into the lives of your 'neighbors.'    You may never witness the return on your investment or, perhaps, the return may be much less than what you had imagined when you originally signed up to sponsor the education of a child in a third-world country.     

We ask for your prayers to keep our hearts focused with eyes to see that His idea of investment does indeed bring a rich return, even when it looks much different than we ever imagined. 


With love and continued hope,
Alex and Laura Waits and family

19 April 2015

A Thin Line ...

I lived a day of extremes...

A friend sent me a text early to say that a mutual friend of ours had suddenly become unconscious. She was still breathing, but completely unable to move or open her eyes.    She called a few hours later to say that the doctor couldn't find any evidence of brain activity.   A few hours later, she died.   The line between life and death is thin.

Alex and I went to the hospital.

This hospital would scare the daylights out of most of my US friends.  It is a dirty place with lots of sweaty people coming in and out.  There is very little privacy, not enough beds and fewer medical supplies.

Last fall, the young mother of one of our students died in childbirth because there were no bags to take blood donations.  Literally, there were people ready to donate blood, but nothing to put the blood in.    I saw her sister last Saturday, working herself to death to provide for her deceased sister's 4 orphaned children.    The line between death and life is thin.

For some odd reason, there is something about being in that very hospital that makes me feel closer to God.

I stand there, watching people grieving in one corner and celebrating right around the other corner... and the veil between Heaven and Earth is stretched.    Strangely, I feel alive in the hospital.

From the first day I stepped foot in this town, I felt this sense of being very close to the heartbeat of God.   This area is simultaneously the most difficult place I have ever experienced and the most authentic.

How is such a dichotomy even possible?

Horribly difficult in terms of poverty, survival, comfort.   Authentic in terms of the way it is literally impossible to pretend to be something that you are not.   Authentic in the way that life is lived on an hourly basis... literally, meal to meal.  

Death once again touches someone we know.   We were not a daily part of this lady's life, but we love her family.   We wanted to be fully present to love our surviving friends.    I watched the gallon of formaldehyde being brought in by the friends.   I stood aside watching my husband help load and unload the body.     I listened as friends sang beautiful songs of comfort to one another.  Authentic.

There is no undertaker or funeral home.   There is no funeral plan or insurance to pay for the burial.   The family comes together, buys the wood, makes the casket, digs the grave themselves and buries the body.   Authentic.

Oddly enough, we left the bedside of death and entered into the thick of life.

Instituto Vida Abundante girls had a soccer game this afternoon.   Since Arlee is part of the team, we planned a Waits family outing to the game.   Our excursions as a complete family are rare due to the need for someone to be home and prevent thievery.

Giggling girls.

Smiles and nervous energy.

Life pulsing.

And so it is.   Ends, beginnings, somewhere-in-betweens.

There is a thin line between death and life.

03 April 2015

When Easter Seems Far, Far Away...

Religious holidays always creep up on me somehow.

Day after day passes.   Suddenly, it is Palm Sunday.   I am taken back in my mind to palm branches, Hosannas and air-conditioned churches.

Living in the midst of a different culture requires the temporarily setting aside of some traditions while intentionally looking for others to pick up.    I have grossly failed in the "picking up" area.

The past 5 Easters in Honduras, I have felt disconnected from Easter.   I don't mean the eggs, or peeps, or chocolate.  I've felt disconnected from the cross, the waiting, the risen Christ.

My personal relationship with God in Christ has grown and blossomed and expanded.   But, these holy days... why do they feel so hollow for me?

It happened again this year.    I wanted to read a Lenten study, then didn't.    I wanted to be intentional about preparing for Holy Week, then wasn't.  

One Friday, we were sitting in our missionary women's Bible study (which is also a place where we can bring our real selves and set them out to be accepted).    We were all homesick for the traditions of an English-speaking church.   It appeared that I was not the only one who desperately wanted to connect with the Holy day instead of letting myself pass by as merely a tired spectator.

Our friend, Dr. Marianne, worships in the Catholic church here in Puerto Lempira.  She brings a completely different perspective to our Bible study.   We openly discuss and at times ask serious questions of one another.    There is a respect and a love that has grown.     This love gives room to seriously focus on the things we believe in common, rather than making assumptions that may or may not have a foundation.

In response to all of our 'homesickness' for something Easter, Marianne shared the tradition of the Stations of the Cross.    I dug deep in the recesses of my mind to look for a shred of meaning in that phrase 'Stations of the Cross.'     I came up with nothing.

The next week, Marianne brought a devotional on the Stations of the Cross and shared the history of how the tradition began.   We walked through the events of Good Friday with Scripture, reflection, questions and prayer.    Surprisingly, I found myself connecting.

Today, Marianne invited us to an actual dramatization of the Stations of the Cross.   Nervously, I read through all of the material in advance, in Spanish.   Unsure as to what would transpire and how I would feel,  I picked up my friend, Linda, and headed to a church I had never stepped foot in.

Almost immediately, I saw one of our students dressed as a soldier and acting out the first station, "Jesus is condemned to death."     Truly, I began to get teary-eyed as I was transported back to the years of dramatization in my church.   My dad was Caiaphas one year, if I remember correctly.

Each station included a dramatization followed by Scripture reading, a reflection, a moment of prayer and song.    The crowed would then walk to the next station... 14 in total.    We covered 2 miles or so. Each station was beautifully acted out by the youth of the church.   They were serious, respectful and honoring in every moment.     I found myself connecting.

When Jesus was taken down from the cross, I looked across the crowd and saw a mother of a young man we know very well.   She was weeping.    I knew that she spoke very, very little Spanish... and yet she was present, witnessing the drama, experiencing the Gospel with her entire being.

Such an awareness arose in me of my smallness and God's grandeur.   His power, His work... and all this time, I have just existed in my little box, just sure that God was only working where my little eyes could see.   Forgive me, Lord.

The procession ended at the large catholic church in town.    The one and only time I had been in that church was for the funeral of a dear friend.     When all was said and done, I could only sit and reflect on all that I had seen and felt.    I went outside, under a huge mango tree, and let myself think.

Easter doesn't feel far from me this year.   Good Friday was real, as tangible as it has ever been before.   Yes, I look with anticipation on Sunday... I eagerly await the resurrection, where the death of Good Friday loses its sting.     My Jesus rose again, yes, but I cannot quickly gloss over the reality of Friday... He suffered horribly, was treated like an animal, and endured it all for the small people like me and my neighbors.    What kind of love is this?

Thank you, Lord, for the surprise of this Good Friday and for Your incredible love that simultaneously whispers and shouts.

29 March 2015


This school year, we have 118 students at Instituto Vida Abundante.   Our students come from very difficult family backgrounds.   20-30% of our students have lost one or both of their parents.   The majority of the remainder live in a single-parent home.  

Our students range in age from 11-19.   Each student has a very special life story.  

Within our own home, we have 5 children.   Our children come from various family backgrounds.   All 5 now live in a two-parent home.    Our children range in age from 3-almost 15.   Each child has a very special life story.

Life stories.

The work of God in one life.  

I love to hear their stories.   I hate to hear their stories.   

People ask me how I handle the weight of their stories.   

I don't handle it.    I grieve.

I weep with them while simultaneously reminding myself that God is not done.

Alex and I feel like the students at IVA are our second family.   We treat their stories and their lives in the same way we treat the stories and lives of our own children.

We listen, we hug, we love, we give it to God.

We pray, we cry, we laugh, we give it to God again.

We sigh, we grasp, we smile, we give it to God yet again.

If we took every heartache completely upon our own shoulders, we would fall under the weight. Instead, we see each one as a distinct child of God.   We honor the work that God is already doing in their lives.   We help bear burdens where we are able, we listen with every ounce of care that we have and we cast the rest on Jesus.

My children and the IVA students are not extensions of me... they are separate, unique, individual.   My mistakes will not be their mistakes and I have very little fear for their future decisions... because those decisions are theirs.  I am not reliving my life through them, nor do I wish I were their age again.    The lives they will live are theirs.   My job is not to shield them from difficulty, but to walk right through it by their side.    My job is not to sugar coat the ugly, but to point them to the Beautiful One who makes the ugly into something worthy.    

This week in our missionary women's Bible study, I was promptly reminded of how Holy Week speaks directly into the stories of our children, students and my very own story.

Jesus suffered.  His story included the very ugly. 

People walked beside them as far as they were humanly able.  And then, He was alone to live His story... the greatest story.    He gave it all into His Father's hands. He did exactly what He had been sent to do.

And then Sunday came.

Life came forth from death.   Jesus lives.

Jesus brings light from darkness.   His resurrection gives us hope that our stories are not in vain.  He makes beautiful things from our dust and dirt.    

Because of this Hope and my absolute certainty in it, I can continue to walk beside our children and students, hear their stories and not get lost in the suffering.     

Hope lives.

Jesus lives.

17 March 2015


My life before Honduras included adoption... two of our children are adopted and one of our children is still in the adoption process.    My life before Honduras had room for me to ponder all of the intricacies of adoption... the tragedy of one mother losing a child, the blessing of another mother receiving a child,   the complicated feelings that an adopted child might have, whether birth order/adoption order impacts a child and so on.

I wish I had more time to think through these things now.    

Today is Adam's Gotcha Day... the day that he officially and legally became a member of our family.  If I give myself the space I need to think, I can remember vividly the way we all got dressed up in our best, the wee little man that sat up on the judge's desk and played with toys she had stowed away just for that moment.     I remember our lawyer and his kind, soft manner.   I remember the hard marble tile that clicked as my Sunday shoes took their next step.  

Adam is at a very curious age.   He asks many questions about his birth family.   He is enamored by the fact that he had another name.    He wants to hear his story over and over.  He imagines his birth mama.

His adoption is not a 'family secret' that needs to be hidden in darkness.   There are parts of his story his ears aren't ready to hear.  But he receives the pieces as he is able.

And this mommy heart wonders.   Am I doing enough for him to know he is loved?   As the middle of 5 children, does he feel isolated, left out or does he feel right in the middle of it.     Does my work at the school make him proud or resentful?   Honest questions.

I know for certain I will never be 'enough' for him, even on my best day.    But recently, my son has asked me more and more about Jesus.  He has expressed an interest in putting his little faith in the hands of Jesus.  

Jesus is enough.    This I know.

14 March 2015

Mirrors & Windows

In our house, we have two mirrors and quite a few open windows.   Our windows are wood slats that never fully close.    Oddly enough, when I am in Honduras, I rarely look in the mirror and spend a lot of time looking out of the windows.

In our house, the light hides my gray hair, my wrinkles, and every stray eyebrow that might need plucking.   I live without the knowledge that my years are quickly passing.   My body and brain feel 30 most days.

In the US, there are mirrors everywhere and very few open windows.   The minute I begin to head toward the US, I am keenly aware of the ways I need to 'fix' me.    When we left Puerto Lempira last November, one of my missionary friends suggested I go to a salon in La Ceiba to get my hair done before going to the US.  :)   I had no idea what she was talking about until I found a mirror with good lighting.   My hair was 3 different colors...  gray at the roots, darker about 1/3 of the way down and blonde highlights that had grown out that were on the bottom 1/3.   Hmmmm... interesting look, gringa.

In the US, I wear make-up.  I always say that I am going to keep wearing it when I come back to Honduras.  But somewhere around 2 weeks in, I give up and just put on the every-now-and-then mascara and lip gloss.

I wish I could make some deep spiritual analogy here... really, it is just an awareness and possibly a deeper wondering of why.    Probing the interesting and odd is just my happy place, so I share my own with you today and we can ponder together.

I miss writing so much.   So much in my head rattles around and bounces off only me... this cannot be healthy (haha).    I pray for minutes to write and process.

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