Sunday, October 12, 2014

Me perdonen (forgive me), I'm a lot lazier than I thought...

I am deeply sorry to those who have been trying to keep up with my happenings through this blog...excuses are pretty much void at this point, so please accept my apologies for making you wait so long for an update. Just keep this apology in mind for any and all proceeding posts, as I will no longer be starting off my posts with we'll make this the last one.

Since it's been so long, I will divide this post in two parts: the first will focus on what's been going on and the second will give some insight as to what's been going on personally. Thank you for your patience!

(not a personal photo)
Big news! (Not really) Apart from this being the first post in a year, I will be renaming my blog...seems appropriate seeing as how it's as if I were starting anew. It was also brought to my attention about a year ago that 'japoncito' has a meaning contrary to what I previously thought. While meeting with a leader from one of the communities we missioned in last summer, I presented myself as Jose 'el japoncito,' under the assumption that it meant 'little Japanese person.' Well, I came to find out that in various parts of Honduras, 'japoncito' refers to the hairless neck of a baby chicken...pretty much the same thing (I mean, Japanese people aren't the hairiest people in the world...), but I think the name change might be necessary now that I've shared that with you...

So, as for what's been going on since the last time I posted...I went home for Christmas and hung out with family and friends for about 3 and a half weeks. Needless to say (although I haven't said much through this blog for the past year), it was great to see and be with family for Christmas and New Year's. It was a much needed break from the craziness of the mission, but by the end of my time home, I was ready to get back to action. I didn't have to wait long for that to happen. In March, we started the mission season with a few Spring Break teams who came down from Texas A&M, Old Dominion (my alma mater), and FOCUS ministries. During the first Spring Break mission, I celebrated 1 year in Honduras...pretty hard to believe how fast it's gone, considering I'm now approaching 20 months as I write this post. But to be honest, there are times when it feels like I've been here much longer, and others when I feel like I've just arrived. I think that's just the reality of the missionary life, never knowing what to expect...and/or trying to comprehend what just happened.

Hangin' with the locals
We then traveled to La Ceiba for Holy Week to do a mission in three different places. We split up into three teams, two of which traveled to two different islands just off the northern coast of Honduras. I went to the island of Utila, which is a vacation-heavy island, especially during Holy Week. Long story short, it was a particularly difficult mission, in which we were usually met with a little bit of resistance and lots of loud music.
And there was certainly no shortage of inebriation...not on our part, of course ;) If anything, I was reminded of why I never was attracted to drinking at really any point in my for that, thank you, Utila! But apart from the time we spent on the beach trying to reach out to whoever would give us the light of day, it was a beautiful and unique experience getting to know the locals from the Catholic Christian community. They were beautiful people with a beautiful culture. Despite the difficulty of the mission, I do wish to return someday...maybe with a little musical help from my brothers...doubt it, but you never know!

Baton Rouge team
After a community retreat in La Ceiba, we started getting ready for what would be an intense, chaotic, yet very fun and fruitful summer mission season. It comprised of three different groups: the first group came from Baton Rouge, LA, the second group came from all over, and the third was a team of high school youth from Virginia Beach/Norfolk, Northern VA, New York, and North Carolina. There was also a group of seminarians from Raleigh that was squeezed in between the second and third missions.

Needless to say, we were very busy this summer. Thankfully, we had the help of 9 awesome summer-termers to help with the craziness of the summer.  It did get a little crowded in our complex (about 25 people)...but as they say, the more the merrier! We were truly blessed to have them for a couple of months, as the help was very much needed.

Nowadays, the community is adjusting to new leadership, as our beloved Carol-who has been living in Honduras for over 13 years-has gone off to study in Rome. We are very blessed to welcome and have our new leaders, Bob and Diane step in and take over the reigns for the next 3 years. They're pretty quality people...they are from VA, so I think it goes without saying ;)

Tio Osboo, myself, and Roger
Speaking of VA, just a few weeks ago my parents (who reside in VA) and my uncle Al came down to visit for a few days.
My uncle actually came down for Thanksgiving LAST year (first relative brave enough to come visit me), but neither of my parents had traveled to Central America before making the trek down to Hondo.
Mis padres y yo day of their departure :(
I was very pleased that they finally got the opportunity to come and see what goes on down here. It was a bit of a break for me to have them here, even though we still did mission-life things. I really enjoyed having them...and if they still haven't gotten dengue, maybe there's a chance they'll come back!

Apart from that, life has slowed down, but getting ready to pick back up with some retreats, missions, and the like...

Stay posted for another, more personal look into how things have been the past year!

Friday, September 6, 2013

I'm still alive! Humbled, but still alive...

Well, at this point I wouldn't be surprised or offended if this blog post finds you almost beyond hope of reading it. Let's just say it's been a while…but it certainly isn't for lack of activity--that's for sure. I've gotten accustomed to telling everyone that I've been "busy but blessed," which definitely holds true, in addition to being humbled. 

Summer Team 2 in El Transito
So now that you know I'm still breathing Honduran air, here's a little bit about what's happened over the past few months…the North American summer months (June-August) are by far the busiest months of the year, without question. The reason being, of course, that gringos (the endearing and rightful term Hondurans use for those from the U.S.) are on vacation and ready to do mission work. So starting in mid-June up until early August, we had three different teams come and spend 12 days with us doing various missions and ministries. The participants from the first two groups were between the ages of 18-25, and the third was a group of high school youth. The groups came from all over- Louisiana, Virginia, North Carolina…one of the teams was actually a group of missionaries that do ministry on various college campuses throughout the U.S. They're called FOCUS (Fellowship Of Catholic University Students) missionaries, if you were at all curious. Everyone I met over the past few months, gringos and Hondurans alike, were incredible witnesses of joy, passion, and humility. I was blessed to have had the opportunity to serve alongside them.  

Hanging out with kids at the Missioners of Charity
All in all, it was a beautiful summer of missions, ministries (usually with children and/or elderly), and mountains…lots of mountains.  In the midst of the craziness that was the past three months, there were certainly times I was wondering, "what am I actually doing?" And why am I doing it?  Has the 'awe', so to speak, of my missionary endeavor already worn off? Well, no. Do I lose sight of the big picture sometimes? Most definitely. But God, in His gentle and subtle way, whether in spiritual direction, holy hour, mass, or daily activities, beckons me forward, leading me slowly but surely closer to His Holy will. Sometimes it's easy to lose eternal perspective and settle for the temporal…what's gonna get me through today rather than recognize the gift of the day God has given you and the opportunity you have to grow. I need look no further than those we serve locally to remember why I'm here. Noe, who's in his early 20's and lives right down the street, was shot randomly a few years back and no longer has use of his legs. It would be really easy for him to be bitter and resentful towards God and feel sorry for himself, but he has chosen to be grateful for what he is able to do, for the life he still has to live. He's one of the most joyful people I've ever met…despite his circumstances, he simply chooses to see the good in everything, a grace which I know is divine. 

On another not-so-related note, I've also had ample opportunity this summer to improve my stick-shift driving skills, as manual is the recommended vehicle of choice in hilly Honduras…and it's all we have. What makes driving in Honduras (really anywhere in Central America) more interesting is that there really are no laws on the roads…two solid yellow lines means nothing except 'pass at your own risk.'  Mountain driving is a little different and always an adventure, but people do drive with a little bit more caution in the mountains, especially this guy. I actually like to drive, but a few of the disadvantages of driving is not being able to marvel at the natural beauty this country has to offer…AND everyone asks you for rides. The latter doesn't bother me as much, but sometimes I do miss sitting in the back of the truck and just witnessing the vastness and beauty of God's creation.  
Princess Party at Mercy House-
home for intellectually disabled girls

And if for whatever reason you were thinking, "Man, I'd really like to support you, Joe…how can I do that? Well, you can put your worry to rest. Besides praying (if that's your style), you can also help support me financially by clicking the link on the bottom of the page. Shameless but necessary plug :)

More to come soon…I hope! Now that the summer mission season has officially ended, I'm hoping to give more frequent updates of my happenings. Thanks for your patience and thanks for reading!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Guatemalan Growth

Adios Honduras…and hello again! It was a quick 3 weeks, but after years of scraping by with sub-par (at best) Spanish, I was blessed with the opportunity to spend some time in Antigua, Guatemala purging poor speaking habits, developing some sense of grammatical consistency/correctness, and expanding my limited vocabulary…it's still limited, just not AS limited (shouldn't have tried reading my Spanish/English dictionary :/ ). Anyways, needless to say, I am extremely grateful for the time I had to study in the beautiful Antigua.

As you might have gathered from the title of this post, besides the possibility of me having spent some time in Guatemala, is that I've leaned a few things about growing. Physical growth? Not quite (although I'm still holding out hope for one more growth spurt--still trying to dunk some day, but don't quite have the vertical leap of my older brother…but that might be a good thing seeing as how I don't need more reason to stick out in Central America…half Japanese and already taller than most...I digress…) Human person growth is what I'm referring to. And I know it seems like a pretty general, boring, cliche topic, but for me it's been somewhat of a revelation, or more simply a realization and/or recognition of the reality that rests before me--real, authentic growth is gradual and gruesome, persistent and persevering, boring and well…really boring (alliteration not necessary, but just trying to keep you interested). Has it become an actuality for me? Do I practice what I preach? Quite honestly, no. But am I trying? I sure as hell hope so…I wasn't planning on being here for 2 years just to have an 'experience' or to feel good about myself…I've come to learn, to serve, to grow…

All of this became evident through my studies. After just 3 weeks I am certainly no maestro de espanol, but I do find comfort in the fact that it can only get better--don't have much of a choice in that regard. My spanish will not grow overnight,  but I do have to use it and not be ashamed of it, which can be really difficult. It's going to require active participation on my part. There's still a lot I don't understand, but if I persevere and do what I need to do, then in time I will have a greater comfort with the language. This has easily been the hardest lesson to learn thus far…I want to run before I can crawl, I want to reach for something that's not quite there…yet.

The funny thing about faith is that the more one grows in it, the smaller one becomes. At least I'm pretty sure that's the idea…the more faith we have in Him, the more we come to rely upon Him, all the more He is glorified…more of Him, less of me. Why is this so hard to learn? Will that actually bring us any joy or fulfillment? Well, I don't have the answers, but I can say, in my experience as a human, that my tendency is to find my niche and then settle. Once I find a place where I feel I'm useful, where I'm a productive, contributing member of society, I get lazy. I then forget that I'm still capable of growth. I get so comfortable that I can't, or rather don't want to recognize that something greater still exists. What's even more difficult for me, is even when I have the desire to grow, I often forget that that desire alone does not eliminate growing pains...I'd much prefer (like most I believe) to skip the part where I know everything I need to know so I can further fulfill my purpose and God's plan for my life. That's just not how it works, at least not in most cases. But regardless of where we're at-spiritually, mentally, emotionally, physically-God meets us where we're at and wants us to for me being here in a third world country, it's easy for me to think that I'm doing something good, that I'm 'growing' without having to think about it much. But that's the thing, if that's what I settle for, then this will just be 2 years of "good experience." 

It's getting late and I really wanted to get something out today, so more on this in the next post (and maybe some pics)...thanks for reading and following! Dios les Bendiga!

Monday, April 1, 2013

St. Joseph, Beach mission, and Easter!

Just hangin' with Bishop Michael before the Palm Sunday procession
Although I still find the concept of me doing a blog somewhat strange, I'm reminded daily that this missionary endeavor isn't really about's about how God expresses and exercises His Divinity through the people I've been called to serve, as well as those He has surrounded me with tasked to challenge and encourage me in the faith. Although that may seem like a foreign concept to some, it's what I hope makes perfect sense to me. If I am somehow able to cooperate and remain faithful to His Grace to at least some degree, then I know that any fruit born from my labor will be much sweeter and more plentiful. A few weeks ago, the Church celebrated the Feast of St. Joseph. It couldn't be more appropriate to speak about faithfulness to grace...Joseph is one of the greatest examples in the Church of simple, profound obedience. In the Bible, Joseph is mentioned, but he doesn't actually say anything...nothing, nada. You wanna talk about grace, then let's talk about St. Joe...the Holy Spirit speaks to him in a dream and he listens to God's will WITHOUT complaining. I imagine he had some degree of anxiety, but simply chose not to express it in a way that could have negatively effected those he loved. I'd like to say that I could identify with Joseph in this manner, but I can only really do so by name. I complain a lot. I might not always express overtly, but regardless of how it surfaces, it doesn't do the soul any good. I think it's almost natural to complain, and it's not always necessarily a bad thing...but it also depends on how one expresses their complaint, be it concern or frustration. For example, children like to whine, so it seems, particularly with my nephews (big ups to sis and bro-in-law)...prayers for them are much appreciated. In contrast-in my experience with the majority of the people of Honduras- there are those who don't complain when they might have every right to do so. I mean...when we do mountain missions, the people who feed and shelter us are almost always giving out of their own need, and if/when more problems surface, they adjust accordingly so that we're more comfortable. It may not seem like much, compared to what we might be used to in the States, but they are giving us everything they have like it's ours. I know that to compare children to the mountain folk of Honduras might be unfair, but I do think it gives us a better sense of just how much we might complain, as well as how childish (not child-like) we can be sometimes...and this was made very clear to me over the last week in which our community ventured to a beach diocese called La Ceiba. It was first our first time doing any kind of mission in this diocese, so it was all very fresh and new to us. The week was tagged as 'Jesus en la Playa (Jesus on the Beach).'
Jesus en la Playa!
Beach skit on the sidewalk

Getting to know the locals
 It was definitely exciting and a nice change of pace in regards to mission work. Although my city of origin might indicate otherwise, I was never much of a beach person, but it did certainly remind of home and family, which is always a nice thought to have in the midst of uncertainty and chaos. So anyways, in regards to my childish ways, I was presented with many opportunities to complain throughout the week. Whether it was the heat rash I inherited on the 6 hour drive to La Ceiba, the standard stomach issues that accompany foreign travel (that held me inactive for a day), the absolute downpour one day that prompted us to plan D, or the nice sunburn I received on the way back (which was mostly my fault), I realized that I did have a choice in the matter of how to respond. I'm definitely not saying I always made the right choice, but I was at least aware that I was given one. In most cases, I could have either accepted what was before me and prayed for the grace to respond in a vigilant manner, or I could have whined and pouted about how nothing was going my way. When things don't go the way we had hoped, we tend to lose heart, or even worse, just give up. We think if things don't go the way WE want, then they don't have any value. As Mother Teresa once said, "I do not pray for success, I ask for faithfulness." We're not called to be successful...we're gently encouraged to have faith, faith like a that one day we might rest with Him in Paradise...Happy Easter!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

A journey begins...

I'm not really a fan of blogs. But since it's also apparent that I'm not a fan of sharing valuable and life-changing experiences in a timely manner, if at all, with friends and family, I was left with no other choice...hello blog world!

Before we get into the motivation behind this blog, here's a little bit about your name is Joe Kauflin. I was born and raised in Virginia Beach, VA, a proud member of the 757.  I'm caucASIAN (half Japanese). I still find it ironic that I'm starting a blog because I've always been fond of keeping a low profile, which is exactly what I did through my studies at Salem High School and Old Dominion University. 

I come from a solid family of 5 relatively normal children and 2 persevering parents. I absolutely love my family. I also love life and all the people my Maker has allowed me to share it with. I'm also about as human as they get...meaning I'm not short on deficiencies. However, I know my true identity rests firmly in the grips of a redemptive God, one in which I draw my strength, purpose, and peace...and I do so through of the Roman Catholic faith. It is through faith that I've discerned to spend the next 2 years or so of my life doing mission work in Central America.

If my faith bothers you, please don't let that keep you from reading. You might actually get some benefit out of this blog. We are, after all, human...which means we share many of the same joys, sorrows, challenges, and struggles... 

The following is a revised version of the letter I am sending out to potential prayer partners and donors for my long-term mission to Honduras...

Greetings friends!

I hope all is well with life!

I am blessed and excited to share with you what I’ll be doing in the next chapter of my life…after finally completing my undergraduate studies in Human Services and Counseling at Old Dominion University, I’ve discerned that I will be spending the next 2 years doing mission work in Comayagua, Honduras with the Missioners of Christ, a Catholic lay missionary community based out of Virginia Beach. 

     Believe it or not, this will be my 7th trip down to Honduras!  There will certainly be an adjustment period to actually living in another country for more than 10 weeks. But this is an adjustment I will gladly welcome. I will start with a 2-3 week trip to Guatemala for language school, honing my Spanish-speaking skills. After which I will be diving into local ministry, which consists of home visits, serving at a boys’ orphanage, bringing food to those in need of it, spending time with children from the neighborhood, all in addition to fulfilling my communal obligations.  When not participating in local ministry, I will be preparing and helping lead mission teams to mountain villages where we spend 5 days or so doing evangelical and relational ministry. On these particular missions, we do home visits in the mornings, and then offer ministry-based programs for the children, youth, and adults in the afternoons. What is truly amazing about the home visits is the incredible hospitality and generosity of the Honduran people. It seems normal in Honduras to welcome strange missionaries into your home! 

    And speaking of missionaries, I could not be more excited to start my life as one in Honduras. So I hope you can join me in my efforts to be who God has made me to be. I ask first and foremost that you PRAY with me…in all that we do, we do for the glory of God, and  not ourselves. But if you’re not the praying type, please just keep me in your thoughts, do something for someone else when you don’t want to, or check-in with my mom to see if I’m still alive…whatever it is you do, remember that you are an active participant in something bigger. It will all be welcomed and appreciated by me and most especially, my mom.
     If you’d like to support me financially, you can email me at with the subject title 'Mission donation,' and I will get back to you ASAP with directions on how to proceed.

I will be leaving March 9, 2013 and be back for a three week Christmas break in December and then be returning to finish out my 2-year term...

Now I ask that you please join me in heeding the words of St. Padre Pio (even those who don't pray can still participate)...pray, hope, and don't worry!

Thanks for reading!


Once I figure out how to format pictures, I'll be glad to post them! And if you'd like a copy of the letter sent to you, let me know!