Posted by: Jim Black | July 27, 2009

Mission Work in Honduras: A Voice from the Inside

The following is a newspaper article published in the Gallatin, TN Newspaper and written by Daniel Gordon, the youth minister at the Gallatin church with whom we worked in Honduras. It is an excellent article and does a good job re-caping our trip. I thought you would enjoy reading it…

Last Thursday and Friday nights, many people slept better—not least, many of our family members. Our Honduras mission trip had ended safely, and our loved ones could rest their heads without any further worry about our condition in a politically uncertain Honduras.

Honestly, for most of our mission trip members, the most tiring part of last Thursday was the repeatedly delayed flight that would carry us home to Nashville from Miami. Our boredom-induced creativity was put to the test as we sat outside of our gate at Miami International.

But enough about getting home. There are things we’d like the community to know about our trip. First, and most important, we believe that God blessed our trip, strengthened our group’s relationships, guarded us, and enabled us to accomplish everything we had hoped to accomplish in Honduras … and then some. We attribute our safety and success to God. Period.

We left Nashville International early on Thursday morning, June 25. We arrived in Honduras by lunch time, landing in Tegucigalpa, the country’s capital. After a short trip to our hotel to unload our luggage, we headed off to our warehouse, our home base of sorts. It was time to get to work.

We packed 250 bags of food—each bag containing beans, rice, sugar, tomato paste, pasta, powdered milk, lard, cornmeal, and coffee. A simple, modest selection of food, to be sure, but a welcomed gift to the hungry and disadvantaged. Later in our trip, we would deliver these bags to be distributed to over 200 Honduran families. A small dent in the world of Honduran hunger and poverty, but, like the starfish story (if you know it), we believe that making a difference to one person is worth all the effort. And, in case you’re wondering, each food bag cost us a mere $11.05 per bag, or 208.87 Lempira, if you prefer Honduran currency.

Friday, June 26, we travelled to Santa Lucia to build a house and conduct a children’s Vacation Bible School. The house was for an adult blind man, whose patchwork house and leaky roof had meant that his 8-year-old son had not been able to live with him. A preacher in Santa Lucia had notified us of this condition, and we were thrilled to help. The jury is still out on who benefitted more from this experience—us or him. We built him a pine-wood and concrete floor house that was 16-feet wide and 12-feet deep, with one door and a couple of windows. May not sound like much, but we’ve learned not to complain about our dwelling places here in the States. And one of these houses cost us about $1,173.80.

Ishmael, the man for whom we built the house, had worked two long days and nights carrying bag-loads of sand, gravel, and cement—bag of heavy materials in one hand, walking cane in the other, downhill for some 300 meters on a muddy, rocky, washed-out path that kept those of us “gringos” tripping up time and time again—and we had our sight. Oh, and Ishmael’s voice! He sang for our group, not least with a moving rendition of “How Great Thou Art”—“Cuan Grande Es El” in Spanish. Some things never get lost in translation.

Saturday, June 27, we headed out to El Zamorano, where is located Jovenes En Camino (“Children on the Way”), an orphans home for boys, with some 83 boys in residence. Many of these came from the streets—discovered in trash cans, abandoned by parents, some required to beg for other adults, some forced into child prostitution. We spent time with them and had a Vacation Bible School for them. God is the only reason those boys are no longer on the streets, and that’s all there is to it. God moved people to act in their behalf.

Sunday, June 28, was the day to remember. About breakfast time, we learned of the military coup. It was the day for the Honduran primary elections, in preparation for the later presidential election, and allegations of illegal behavior and ill intent against current president Manuel Zelaya reached a boiling point. From our hotel dining room TV, we saw the advisory that people stay in their homes on Sunday. So, we did. The most eerie part was the sequence of the TV channel cutting out all of a sudden, and the 3 or so military planes we heard fly overhead, followed by the hotel power shutting off for a few moments. This was perhaps the most uncertain moment in our trip.

We were together at the hotel, however. We gathered in one of our rooms, sang worship songs, prayed, discussed the Bible together, discussed the events, and even shared the Lord’s Supper together. The rest of the day, we tested the patience of our thumbs as we twiddled them from mid-morning through that night.

Monday, June 29, the empty streets gave way to life as (almost) normal. We headed out to La Valle de Angeles to build our second house, this one a 16-ft by 16-ft. If we had had enough sand and cement, we would have completed the house in one day. The three teens that went, Abby, Kaitlin, and Wilson, are now experts in mixing concrete! We conducted another VBS that day as well, at a neighboring house in La Valle, in a house with a nearby outhouse, which we were fortunate to have.

That afternoon, we headed back to Tegucigalpa and carried cots and some hot food to the waiting area of one of the hospitals there. It was bittersweet, to say the least. There were at least two young women who had just given birth and had their newborns nursing and resting beside them on their cots. There was the lady who arrived after the food was gone and begged for money for food. There was the young man asking me if there was any way I could get him to the States so he could find work. And the list could go on. We were emotionally drained.

I think it important to note that, there, in that hospital foyer of sorts, we gathered the people in a huge circle, talked to them, prayed with them, and sang praise songs together.

Tuesday, June 30, we returned to finish the house in Valle de Angeles. Others from our group conducted yet another VBS for some 90-plus children in Retiro, a town near La Valle. And, Valle de Angeles being a tourist town, we did support the economy there with a little shopping and local food. I’ll say “pupusas” and “Pepe,” and leave it at that. LOL. That night, we celebrated the 35th birthday of Walter Goodwin, our Honduran brother in Christ who runs “Ambassadors for Christ,” the name given to the work in which we share.

Wednesday, July 1, we carried “furniture”—a plastic table, four plastic chairs, and mattresses—to the houses we had built in Santa Lucia and Valle de Angeles. We left 35 food bags at an adult blind school in Santa Lucia and toured the school there. We left 65 food bags with a preacher of a church there in Santa Lucia, for him to distribute to families in that area. We later went to Maquelizo to hand out 70 food bags to those living in the mountains there, carrying the food bags from house to house. As always, there are more houses and people than we have food bags, but we pray that God bless what we did do, and we pray that we (and you) will do more in the future.

That night, we did enjoy a little diversion, playing soccer at a caged-in, carpeted soccer field there in Tegucigalpa. Walter, our 35-year-old Honduran brother, schooled us in “futbol” Honduran style. We gringos enjoyed trying to compete.

Thursday, July 2, God provided yet again. The anticipated re-entry of ousted president Manuel Zelaya was postponed until Saturday, and so any anxieties about our ability to return as scheduled were relieved. Bag checking, boarding passes, passports, exit fees (you have to pay to leave!), and some security checks later, we were outside of our gate awaiting departure. Four of our team members flew Continental and were back in their homes by 9:00 or so that night. The rest of us? Yeah, I think my head hit the pillow on my bed by 3:15 a.m. Friday morning!

A lengthy article, to be sure. But I want you to know a few things in closing. First, our team members. From Gallatin Church of Christ: Charlene Cigler, Daniel Gordon, Abby Hale, Joel Harrison, LeRoy Irons, Linda Vaughn, Kaitlin Walters, Kathy Walters, Linda Webster, and Wilson Webster. From Washington Street Church of Christ (Fayetteville, TN): Jim Black, Ray Hillis, Dale Pierce, Ricky Pierce, and Keith White. And from Manchester Church of Christ (Connecticut): Mike, Emma, Natalie, and Amy St. Germain.

Second, pray for the Hondurans. I think I speak for my group members when I say that I did not ever feel my safety threatened. Were there uncertainties? For sure. But the real concern is for the Hondurans in these politically charged and uncertain times. Some protests were peaceful. Some involved vandalism. We had 2 military police guards with our group at all times, as we do every year, not because of the current political situation.

Third, if you would like to assist with our mission work in Honduras, there are always needs. Money goes a long way toward a house, food bags, cots, and other supplies that assist the people there. Contact Linda Webster of our church’s Mission Team. We are Gallatin Church of Christ, 150 E. Main St., 452-0271, info@gallatinchurchofchrist.com.

Fourth, and finally, never take for granted what you have. Are you blessed? Fine. You are blessed to be a blessing to others. Everything we have belongs to God. Why not share it with others who struggle with some of the most basic needs of human existence? It is in giving to others that we learn the true meaning of being God’s child and of being fully human.

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