Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Mark has moved blogs!!!   ... a long time ago!
Apologies to all who might have wondered.. where did Mark go? 

Well, moved countries, changed cities, migrated to a new church community, switched careers, got married, and HAD 5 CHILDREN !!!

And he's been busy blogging it all at marknbarbie.tumblr.com

And he's no longer walking that road alone.

Thanks Jesus, ..you just keep fighting for us. :)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Schools Out!

School is out for another year.. bye everyone.. anyone?? :)

Lester and me syncronise watches one last time.. one second off.. all good buddy, all good.

Well, my year of teaching in Honduras is very quickly drawing to a close. The exams are graded, the marks are in, the house is packed, the goodbye's are said. Early this morning I left the crisp fresh air of Siguatepeque to come down from the mountains into the muggy city of San Pedro.

My good friend Rob Jefferson is flying in tonight and we'll be travelling down through Central America for the next three weeks for a year end vacation. Our flight out of Panama (to New York and then Toronto) is booked, so we have three weeks to get down there and catch that plane. Here we go!

Oh, and here's a link to my June Newsletter (pdf 1 mb)

Looking forward to spending time over with all of you, talking about what we've all been up to this past year, I hope it's been a good one for all of you, it's been great for me!
And next year? Page 2 of the newsletter has some hints. :)

Be back in Canada July 7th!

Saturday, May 31, 2008


Carlos Edwardo sprint down the ice with unparalleled focus,
easily most valuable player this season...

This last partial at the school has been hilarious in gym class.. I mean I've really loved it. We've been playing the best sport ever.. it's new to the kids.. mere weeks ago they had no idea what they were doing or what these plastic sticks were for, and now they have a blast every gym class and ask me if we're playing again next class. They've all got into it and have stayed so interested we've just kept playing!

Face Off's, penalty shots, he shoots he scores! The high school kids look on in wonder, locals passing by stop and seem confused. What are this game? Eyes lock waiting for the ball to drop. Yellow and red plastic sticks flash around the court chasing an old yellow tennis ball. My friends, Hockey has arrived in Honduras!

Hockey rocks Mr. Mark!

Farra at the FaceOff

Okay this sport brings out the tomboy in Megan for sure.

Andrea shooots .. and ... and .. ? You should have been there!

Laura wins Fan of the Game

Focus.. Focus!!!

Elena waves to the home town fans! Thank for the equipment Canada!!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Suitcase #2 Arrives! Supplies for Casa Hogar Kids Home!

Hi everyone! The other thing we did besides taking the kids to the circus the weekend was bring up Suitcase #2 full of donations from all of you! Noel and I went up in the afternoon to play and hang out with the kids, but this time we also had some donations to help them out at home and school!
Suitcase #2 - Arrives! We had some more sports equipment for the school, and all these donations for the kids in need.

Just a note you won't see me posting up too many of the kids photos here or mentioning their names, just for safety. The home has 30 kids, is part of an outreach program that is based in Spain and now has Canadian ties through Melodie, a Canadian missionary who has been working there for the last 2 years. She sleeps at the home 6 nights a week.

Many of these kids are not orphans, but have been taken from their families because of abuse. The stories they have are.. well pretty bad. I work with a few of the kids who are sponsored to come to our school, and they're really great. The home has a solid reputation for care, unlike other homes in the country. 2 years ago they won a European Missions award and received money to buy the property they are currently on. This allowed them to move the whole 'family' out of a dangerous San Pedro area, and here to one of the safest places in the country.

Yes! They can always use more toothpaste!
Noel and I put the supplies in the store room without any fanfare or announcements. I've learned from Alfredo (who runs the Providence Ministries Orphanage/Hospital/School) that is better if the kids don't know how or by whom they're being supported. Many setups that require your kids to write to donors create a begging mentality in the minds of the kids. This way, all they see is the provision. They have what they need, they feel secure. Good plan? You betcha.
The stones are all multicolored! The grounds are really starting to take shape.
Casa Hogar (Translation: House Home!)

Melodie's brother just came down from Canada the last few weeks and built a playground for the kids! They're hoping to purchase a swing set and jungle gym too!

Tires are fun! :)

These guys are awesome.. climbing and playing.. climbing and playing..

Inside the house, very clean, well built..
Tired after a long day of running around.. and the Circus last night!

Okay! So want to help!!!!???
Suitcase #3 is getting ready to come down!!! It'll leave Toronto early June. AND we're actually hoping to bring 2 suitcases down at that time!

The Orphanage also supports over a hundred other kids in the community by distributing school supplies to specific families in need. Basically they put their kids through school with uniforms and everything they need.. so everything will go to good use.

So, here's some things we can certainly use more of..

Pencils! Brushes!!

Soap! Hey I know that name :)

Just like last time, drop off points will be:
2586 Robin Dr, Mississauga Ontario Call my Dad : (Ted) 905-823-7622

This time there will also be a Toronto drop off location. To be announced!

Exciting!! The kids all really appreciate your efforts guys. Keep the generosity coming!

Circus with the Kids and a trip to Casa Hogar Kids Home

Hey hey! So it's been a good weekend getting out and about let's take a look at what went down..

This past Friday the teachers and I got together and took the all the kids from Casa Hogar group home to the circus! We all (30+) packed into a teeny tiny little van and headed out! It was a great time.. I have a picture of Noel buying everyone Candy Floss around here somewhere... Here are some of the pictures!!!

Group shot in the half time, see the Lion Cub bottom left?
In the van on the way...
Okay this van is packed! Hi Meg!
A hush falls over the van as we approach the circus tent...
Melodie! The French Canadian who's been working at the home for 2 years, watches over her flock.. Make a silly face.. and go!
The entrance, handily carved out of a the side of a truck. Use everything you bring when you're a traveling Central American circus!
Under the Big Top.. Any minute now..
Can't wait can't wait!!
Mmm Candy Floss..
A couple of our kids got up with the clowns.. the slapstick gags were the only ones I understood, but everyone else seemed to love 'em.

And the group of us again with the lion cub! (bottom left)

Quiere mas? I have all the pictures in an album on Facebook "Honduran Circus with the Kids":

Okay! Oh and saturday w

Friday, April 4, 2008

Archives: Lost at Sea, three years past.


Hi everyone, apologies for not keeping up with this blog in a while, I hope reading Noel's and Katharine's and Amanda's blog's have kept you up to date (<-- see links on the side) on some of the more daily events in our life down here.. Katharine is especially diligent for which I am thankful.

So I've had somewhat of a writer's block due of late, and I just haven't made the time like I should. There are a couple reasons.. things have been busy down here! I hope to post on what been happening at the school in a few days. Also, unlike my roommates in our house of technology, I have fairly poor internet reception on my beat-up used Mac laptop and have to wander into the school field if I want to get any signal! Next time I'm getting a new PC one... mmm maybe. Katharine's been online to India tech support with her's today...

There's also a post I wrote a while ago and never put up. I had convinced myself that it was just an old story that everyone already new about and I didn't actually need to post it, but I'm stuck at that point, and I now realise it's part of the larger story I've been given, and it is worth looking backwards sometimes...

------- April 5th, 2008

This month I've been aware of the past more than usual. For me March is a month that seems to stretch backwards through time. March is a part of me.

It's my birthday month for one thing, and as of the 21st I'm a nice round (actually more tall and lanky) 32 years. My 'Bio-Mum' Karen has her birthday in March too, then there's Lent and this year Easter, so maybe it's a natural time of reflection. Or it's simply that the heart has some kind of internal cycle and it's time for me to look back..

It's my first March away from Canada since living in Australia, and this past weekend I was making the call to go to take a friend to the hospital for dehydration. She got a stomach virus while we were exploring the Honduran mountains by zip line. It turned out alright, but it was all too familiar. I must be back here for a reason, there must be something more to learn.

All of this has combined this month to turn my mind backwards, to remember rocky Australian seas and easter spent lost on a boat. I've been coming across Psalms all week that have been talking about God calming the wind and the waves, but it was a sentence in a book this morning that finally knocked me out of my complacency and made me pick up my computer. It didn't take long to find the email I sent out to everyone 3 years ago.


"Human beings do not readily admit desperation. When they do, the kingdom of heaven draws near."
- Phillip Yancey, The Jesus I never knew

A photo taken of our boat during the rescue. We never saw it again.

April 2, 2005

I have only been in serious danger three times in my life. The first was while skiing alone in the Canadian Rockies, the second a year and a half ago; with meningitis in a Toronto Hospital, and the third time was this past Wednesday, here in Australia.

This time the hospital was the back deck of a huge Navy/Customs super-boat, racing back from the middle of the Gulf of Carpentaria; in the seas somewhere north of Australia. I was suffering from fever, exhaustion and advanced dehydration.

For two days this week I was lost at sea with my friend David on a 22 foot yacht, with no land in sight.

On our way back from what was supposed to be an overnight trip out to a small outer Island in the north Australian oceans, we were caught by a sudden change in the wind patterns: the beginning of the southeast tradewinds which blow all day and all night at high speeds, for months. Overnight the calm winds that carried us out to the Island swung around and built up steam. We tried to set out eastward but had to turn back. We decided to wait a day and set out early Tuesday morning when we saw the winds had calmed down slightly. An hour into that trip the winds picked up again and quickly got worse, and very quickly we were blown away from the Islands into the open waters of the Gulf of Carpentaria. After 6 hours the haze of the Prince of Wales Island shoreline disappeared, and we were in open ocean.

We continued heading south, hoping to hit the tip of Australian coast (Weipa), but both the current and winds were against us, and we missed it by 40 miles. Our only other option to get to land was to head directly West and cross the Gulf of Carpentaria to Gove, if we could only get some sleep that night. But by midnight the winds had only increased further and the boat was now surfing down 3 meter whitewater swells. We braced ourselves against the pitch and had to tie ourselves to the boat while trying to steer. I had been throwing up for more than 12 hours and had started to become feverish as green bile began to turn red. Neither Dave nor myself could keep down food or water. We soon calculated that at our current speed it would take 3 days to cross the 200 miles and reach Gove, if the currents didn't sweep us north into the Arafura Sea. With no compass, no radio, no stars above to guide us, we sat below deck looking over the map, guessing at our bearing. I had effectively not had water or food in 36 hours, and realised that I didn't stand a good chance of surviving more than another day or so.

It was 4 am Wednesday when we made the decision to take down the sails, hit the emergency satellite beacon (EPIRB) and hope for rescue. I watched the boat rock in the darkness as David strapped the beacon to the boat; willing it to work. It gave off a small red glow and beep that echoed into the night. As morning came, and we saw the first reddish yellows of the sun, a search helicopter appeared in the distance. We lit off flares and made contact with the emergency crew. At 9 am a plane air-dropped an emergency kit with two-way radio, and water.. but because of my advanced seasickness I still could not keep it down. A rescue boat manned by some of our Islander friends had set out in the night but had to turn back because of distance and severity of the conditions, so while they were regrouping, at 10am the main navy/customs boat was launched from Thursday Island, where by chance it was docked. It took 6 hours for it to reach us at top speed as we had been blown 80 miles west off the coast. At 3pm we were taken onto the rescue boat, and abandoned the Yacht. At 9pm that night we finally set foot on dry land once again.

It is Saturday evening now as I write this.. I have spent the last few days quietly considering what happened, and recovering physically. I still wake up with the room spinning and I have been finding it hard to do much more sit, and spend time with friends.. which is a good way to spend the last part of easter holiday-week I'd say. I was down by the water tonight, but the usually calm waters have grown even more rough this week. Now every wave is a white cap and the anchored boats are being tossed around like toys. I am surprised to find that it is difficult to look at the ocean, but I make sure I hold my gaze.

One thing that keeps coming to mind is the discussions with God that never stopped through the whole trip. I think the clearest of everything that that I heard was the quiet repetition, 'leave it behind'. I heard him say it through the darkness at 4am when we were most desperate. Until then we weren't even considering abandoning the boat. After that we finally realized we had to, that for hours it had been the only option. Why did we waste so much time? It's a leap to realize you are actually in as much danger as you are, we were fooling ourselves for a long time.

Even as the rescue boat was an hour away I had pockets stuffed full of personal things. But in my delirious state I felt the pocket weigh me down, and envisioned falling off the boat with my pockets weighed down, sinking and unable to swim. So we left everything. We got off with bare feet and shorts. Dave managed a zip lock bag with our wallets & phone. And it turns out that when the time came, it took everything I had to leap across to the rescue boat.

So the week is over, and in somber moments I quietly thank God I am alive. It's amazing how quickly a fun trip turned to disaster, but even when it did it never seemed too much to bear. There's an old saying I grew up with; that God won't let us bear more than we can handle. Knowing that is freeing and powerful when you feel like you can't bear any more. I actually think doing calculations on which actions would not lead to my death is a bit beyond me.. and yet in those moments Christ is there. Not like a philosophical idea or a historical character from the past. But really there, like he was the third guy on the boat. Grasping at the rigging with us.

I kept thinking, 'this sucks', as little wells of panic started to rise, but the third guy seemed confident and so it calmed me. 'What do I do next?' is the only question He let me ask. Even now as I try to communicating how close things came, I'm actually doing pretty good. Four days later I'm still tired and a bit quieter than usual. Being shaken around for a couple days has left me weaker and stronger at the same time. Maybe the more you realize you are not in control, the stronger God moves in each step you take. Maybe it is to the desperate that heaven draws closest. He certainly showed up when I was weakest.

There's lots more to tell, but I've said enough for now. Love you guys lots, I'll be home sooner than you think. And if you have a spare moment this week, pause and step back for a second and really look around you. I seem be seeing things with different eyes this week. See if you can.

Love always.



So there it is.. some day I'll write all the details from that day that make my hair stand up. But how do you write down on paper the sense of God in the shadows, gently nudging your actions along? Wanting you to walk on your own but waiting to catch you, like any good father. I still remember standing at the front of that boat the first sun-filled day, feeling like the king of the world. I still remember 3 am wednesday night; grasping that same rigging, staring into darkness, calling out and hearing Him Answer.

When I'm in Toronto I go out to the beachheads and just stare across the water into the dark, the waves drowning out the city, listening. When I'm in Costa Rica I climb high peaks in the nights to see the sun Rise. I do a lot of that, whenever I can.. but don't think I do it to feel strong... I think I do it to feel weak. Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.... they will see God. Who said a comfortable and happy life is actually a good thing? Maybe all it does is put you to sleep, like we're fooling ourselves. Maybe God's just patiently waiting for each of us to be desperate enough to wake up and realize we need Him.

Does all this affect my life? Only on days that I let it. At least for today I remember that the One who made Everything is calmly and quietly walking beside me. I should be scared out of my wits at that idea. I should let that knowledge and that friendship change me.

If I could wake up every day and remember that, I should be ready to leap towards anything with my whole heart.

Maybe I am.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Suitcase #1 Arrives! Full of gym Equipment!

Hey look! Suitcase # 1 is here! Thanks everyone! Suitcase #2 is leaving Mississauga March 5th and is currently 1/2 full with all the other stuff.. Call Mark's friendly Dad Ted at (905) 823-7622. HUGE thanks goes out to Grant who donated... well basically all the gym equipment. Amazing man. The kids were very thankful and excited for the new games we're going to play!

Thanks also to Jeff & the Havenwood staff! The soap and toothbrushes and eveything will be much appreciated by the kids at the orphanage!

This is Carlos Edwardo, he's everybody's hero :)

This is Ibon, she's at the kids home CASA Hogar, she's in my grade 3 class, and she wearing a very large first basemen's mit! Grant gave us 4 other mits in kids sizes.. a good start for the baseball program!

Jen grinning as per usual! We got 30 hockey sticks!Javier!Karolyn with the new left handed glove :)

Thanks for filling suitcase #1 Grant and Havenwood!!