The land that freed me

kristi pineda at 18
Kristi Pineda in Honduras

“In times like these, it is good to remember that there have always been times like these”
-Paul Harvey

I did not know what to expect going to Honduras. Only eighteen and, apart from a trip to Costa Rica, barely having even explored much of my own city, much less anywhere else.

I had been told Honduras was a third world country. So naturally I expected it to be like a scene out of an old western movie with the run-down ghost towns in the middle of the desert, the hot arid air blowing the sand and the tumble weed across the dry and forsaken land, with “A fistful of Dollars” theme song from the old westerns playing in the background. Well, it was like that in no way! The airport was tiny and dangerously located in the middle of mountains with a runway that is just barely over 6000 ft. This may sound like a lot to some of you, but the abrupt drop from the sky and the mere handful of qualified pilots who can make this landing would assure it is not. upon landing the airplane abrupt in shouts, sighs of relief and applause, “Yay, we did not die!”

Beyond the walls of the airport I find an overly busy city, the sounds of people speaking in a foreign language and car horns is all I can make out. The founder of the foundation I was going to was there to pick me up. He was a sort of tough guy, very rough around the edges. He picks up my luggage and throws it into the bed of a red ford 2500 with bull horns on the grill of the truck. Without really any memorable dialog we make the thirty-minute drive into the mountains to be the foundation is located. I didn’t mind the silence, I was taking it all in. I don’t think I had ever seen so much green. The lush green mountains are every which way you look, some were virgin and untouched, while others were littered the entire way up with little tiny box houses made of what could only be described as scrap pieces of wood and tin nailed together or tied together with twine. Women making their way up the dirt path that lead up the mountain with old buckets balanced on their heads. Children are everywhere. The small children clenched onto the skirts of their mothers, most with dirt on their tan skins and in clothes too small for them, the older ones playing soccer in the streets. Not soccer like we think of it, with sports attire and brand-new tennis shoes on green fields, no, they were in old tattered t-shirts or even button-down shirts and pants, kicking around a ball that is surely not inflated well with shoeless feet. The men, some working, carrying wood up the mountain, surely for cooking; others sitting in groups trying to escape the heat of the midday sun.

After thirty minutes of driving mostly all uphill we enter a small cobblestone path in a quaint village. With the windows rolled down you can feel the difference in the temperature between the city of Tegucigalpa where the plane landed and this town of Zambrano. It is much cooler here. We pull up the gates of the foundation. It’s a two-story building made of rocks that were carved out of the mountain. Long corridors with chairs and tables. The founder, parks in front of his house and  a Honduran man with his brown skin, dark curly hair and green eyes come up to me and pointing to my bags, says something in Spanish that of course I don’t understand but I imagine he is asking if he can help me with my bags. I nod sheepishly and off he runs with my bags. The founder ushers me into his house where I meet his wife. She is busily speaking to three other ladies, she seems to be giving them some sort of instruction, then they run off and she turns to me and with the biggest and purest smile I have ever seen introduces herself to me. Her smile was the first thing I noticed, and it stays with me to today, because it was a real smile. She was happy… Happy.

After meeting her, another girl leads me to my room where I will stay for the next year. I follow her to the first room of the two-story building and in some very rough Spanglish (Spanish/English) she invites me to come in. I am starting to understand that I am going to have to quickly learn Spanish, or this is going to be bad.

There I was, where I would stay for a year. A year. Four walls, four bunk beds and eight closets with curtains for doors. And most importantly one bathroom. One bathroom for all these girls.

I don’t know if I mentioned this is a rehab center. I would come to find out it was not a traditional rehab. This was a refuge for anyone with problems; drugs, alcohol, bulimia, anorexia, depression, or just someone desperately looking for answers. The only requirement to enter is wanting to be here. There were no locks on the doors or the gates. You were here by choice. The program was free of any kind of phycological drug, or smoking. It was based off of the Word of God and occupational therapy. Every morning we would clean up after ourselves. Make our beds, clean our rooms, and then there would be projects throughout the house that would be divided between the rooms. I really liked the day we had kitchen, this was the other girls least favorite day, but I enjoyed it. I had never cooked, or boiled water for that. But here the food, different as it was, was so so good. The spices and the variety were so amazing. I enjoyed working with the cook, even though I know she did not enjoy working with me, but eventually I would  win her over.

Every morning after cleaning we would all go to the bible study room. The tables in the shape of a U and a pulpit at the front of the room where whoever was giving the devotional that day would stand. I of course did not understand much. There was a man named Leo who would translate sometimes but even then, it was hard to focus on what was being said. My mind would wonder, mostly to the thought that I had heard the word of God all my life and I did not know what they were going to say that was new and was going to help me to get out of the darkness.

I know I have not said anything about why I am here, or what my darkness was, or what caused me to go down that path, and I won’t. you see I won’t reveal what was so bad that led me to become who I had become, what had led me to think life was hopeless. Firstly, because first I don’t want to glorify a time in my life that did not have a ounce of glory in it. It was only a series of events and decisions that while unfortunate are not all that uncommon, I just couldn’t handle them. Giving a name or a title to the darkness would be to say that my struggle was greater than yours and its not. We all have our struggles, our trials, and our moments of darkness. I don’t want the pages to be about the darkness but rather the coming out of the darkness into the light.

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Kristi Pineda

Hi! I'm Kristi, welcome to my page! Within these pages you will find the storytelling’s of a daughter, a woman, a wife, and a mother of four. Its my hope that these stories will take you on a journey- my journey. The journey that let me, as a teenager from rural Alabama to become a missionary overseas, to become a wife and a mother and finally to my return to Alabama twelve years after my departure. I hope you enjoy my story; all of our journeys are different; each one special and significant. May you live yours with joy and grace and strength. so, let’s begin…

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