Kevin Lopez Mader lived and served at the Finca del Niño (Farm of the Child) from 2012 – 14 and 2015 – 16. The Finca, a Catholic children’s home along the north coast of Honduras, is home to 30 wonderful and crazy kids. It also provides medical care and education to residents of the surrounding communities. Though life at the Finca inevitably requires the flexibility of a jack-of-all-trades, Kevin’s favorite role was as “Profe Kevin,” a role in which he taught middle school math, kept the computers running, and was once taken down by the third graders.
At the Finca del Niño, our mission manifests itself primarily in the lives of our kids. As the Honduran staff, Franciscan Sisters, and volunteers spend our days focused on the health, education, faith, and development of the kids under our care, we’re constantly striving to live out that mission. But sometimes things will drive you nuts. Sometimes there will be struggle and pain and failure. And sometimes we’ll lose track of the successes in the midst of that hurt.
Those are the times when we need to take a step back, to have a moment away from the normal schedule. We need to live life without a plan, to find time to rethink and replenish. Sometimes, we just need to hear God in the darkness and continue a forgotten conversation. Or we need to teach less math and English and more chess and bowling.
For that, we have the rainy season. It’s our annual return to a simpler life.
One rainy season, I filled some coke bottles with sand and took them down to meet the boys at the good ol’ Casa Cuatro. We were a month into the school break, it hadn’t rained in a day or two, and they were bored enough to indulge my insanity. Diego kept score in a notebook while the rest of the boys tried rolling a bocce ball through the dirt, past the turkeys, and into our newly fashioned “pins.” After a few games and a vague explanation of the scoring, I split (haha) and left them to their own devices. I returned the following day to find that they were now setting all the coke bottles up in a single line. The game had taken a decidedly domino-like turn, but at least they were still entertained enough to argue loudly about scoring. The next day they tricked their tia into trying to pass them the bocce ball as if it were a soccer ball. She placed a bowling-specific interdict on the house, and we were left to find alternate entertainment.
This season can be tough and can sometimes feel long. Carefully manicured plans can get canceled at a moment’s notice, and since the Finca is surrounded by rivers, some days we simply can’t leave. Your clothes are never dry, your feet never quite feel clean, and mold spreads like warm butter. The electricity comes and goes, too. If it chooses to leave in the evening, we’re left in darkness fumbling for candles.
Speaking of electricity, I once drove my whole community nuts by thinking about the Finca’s simple living pillar entirely in terms of technology. I know this is a digression, but bear with me. I mean it can be hard to figure out exactly what simple living is supposed to mean and it’s tempting to go to the other extreme of forgetting the pillar entirely. Simple living is something you grapple with over time.
Ultimately the definition I’ve liked most is “a oneness of purpose.” Imagining simple living in this way calls to mind a purity of heart that wills one thing.#1 Simple living calls us to be Christ’s hands and feet in the world, to live out our on-going participation in that great story of salvation history. Understood as such, it encourages us to partake in our mission as a community of faith and asks us to leave all else behind to follow Christ’s invitation.
This invitation extends in every season – for me, I find it especially in the rainy season. Because, in the midst of the frustrations and complications about everything that “needs” to get done to help the mission, there’s a gentle reminder in the sound of rain on a tin roof. It carries the knowledge that things will move slower today, that plans might get canceled. It helps us to recall that Christ didn’t always teach or heal, he often simply accompanied. And he sometimes found a quiet place to chat with God.
There’s another gentle reminder when the electricity goes out. The darkness helps us to stop and consider the stars. While we recall the magnitude of creation, we also notice that despite their individual frailty, the stars can often combine to produce enough light to illuminate the way. And if they’re obscured by the clouds, we’ll fumble for our candles. Because you know what? A single candle creates a whole lot of light – which all the darkness in the world cannot extinguish.
Reflection by Kevin Mader, Former Volunteer with Farm of the Child