When I started going on mission trips with The Rock, our strategy was to let GCLA match us up with whatever project they felt we could help with most. From 2000 to 2005, we went to a different city every year, and had some amazing experiences. However, we were struggling to get students interested in the trips. Every year, the projects were different, the location was different, and recruiting was becoming a challenge. We want as many students as possible to have an overseas mission experience during college, so we decided to rethink our strategy.
In 2006, our pastor, John, started scouting out a possible partner church in Honduras. In 2004, a team (myself included) had gone to Choluteca. John hadn’t gone on that trip, but had heard about the way in which the church was reaching out to their community through a Day Care center and other ministries. He connected with Pastor Geovanny in Choluteca, and they both felt that it would be beneficial for them to meet in person and decide if a partnership would work out. By the end of our trip in 2006, John and Geovanny were convinced that God was giving them a green light to go ahead with a partnership. So the bond between Iglesia Gran Comisión Choluteca and The Rock was forged. Since then, we have sent four teams to Choluteca, a sponsor tour, and at least one more trip is planned for 2009.
The relationship between our two churches has been strengthened by the decisions of several Rock members deciding to take semester trips to Choluteca. In fall 2007, Melissa Molder went to Choluteca for five months. Aimee Paule just finished a four-month mission in Choluteca. Tyler Shields has recently started his stay in Choluteca for a six-month mission.
We have also had the opportunity to bring a few of our friends from Choluteca to Columbia to visit our church, and hope to be able to do that again. With the help of email, blogs, internet phone, and websites like Facebook, the distance between us and our brothers and sisters seems much smaller. We are able to communicate frequently and stay very much connected with everything that is going on in Choluteca, and our friends there are able to share in our lives as well.
Another way in which we are able to form strong bonds with the people of Choluteca is through child sponsorship. There are opportunities to financially support children in the Day Care, the Nutrition Clinic, and the Casa Hogar Vida program (for those whose families have been affected by HIV/AIDS). Many students who have visited Choluteca (and even some who haven’t) have been able to sponsor a child through these programs, and are developing special relationships with those children, even as they provide the basics of food, clothing, school supplies and medical needs. The children call their sponsors “padrinos” meaning “god-parents,” which gives you an idea of the closeness they feel to their sponsors. They exchange pictures and letters, and news travels through the blogs and emails of the missionaries serving in Choluteca.
It has been amazing how God has developed such close and intimate relationships with people so distant from each other. Our differences are many, from our culture and language, to our ages and circumstances. But we are all children of one Father. We have the Holy Spirit in common, and that is enough. The compassion He stirs in us for the lost, the vulnerable, and the outcast unites us in a single mission. We rejoice with each other and we mourn with each other. The latter is a hard lesson, but one we know we will continue learning over time.
Working with malnourished children, and families with HIV, we know very well that grief will be an unavoidable part of our lives. And because we open our hearts to those at risk, we also open our hearts to pain. This last year, Rosita, one of the little ones from the mal-nutrition recovery program passed away. Rosita was four years old.
I don’t share this to be a downer, or to make you feel bad. Your prayers and support have enabled us to do so much for so many children! The happy success stories far outnumber the sad ones. And I hope to be able to share many more wonderful stories of success with you, by mail, email or in person. But I think it’s important to understand the reality of what we are facing when we open our hearts to the poor, the sick and the broken. It’s a tough lesson for anyone to learn, and harder still for the idealistic college students that we take to Honduras every year.
So please pray for our brothers and sisters in Choluteca, the church members, the long-term missionaries, and the volunteers who share their lives constantly with those at risk. Pray for the families that are being reached, that they will overcome their suspicions, misconceptions and other barriers, to receive the love, help and support offered – especially the Gospel – and for their physical needs. Pray also for our short-term teams. It may be only one week, but the emotional and spiritual investment for these trips is intense. I want to continue to invest myself unreservedly in the people of Choluteca, even if it may cause me grief. To me, it is worth it. I want to be able to help my students to do that too.
Highlights of the trip in March 2008
• Painting Luz’s house. Luz & her children will be the first family to move onto the Casa Hogar Vida property. Luz is HIV positive. She lost her husband to suicide after he found out he was HIV positive. Luz has three children, the third was safely delivered by C-section last spring and is free of HIV.
• Painting the new classroom at the Daycare in Límon. The Daycare was started years ago to serve children whose single moms often had no choice but to leave their children unattended while they left the city for work each day. The Daycare provides lunch, educational activities, Christian education, and many other amazing benefits to children as well as mentoring to the moms. The new classroom will enable them to serve twice as many children and provide ongoing support to graduates of the malnutrition recovery program.
• Meeting the Fawcett Family. Ian & Julie Fawcett came with their two teenage children Loren & Casey, from England to help get Casa Hogar Vida off the ground. Ian grew up in the foster care system, and has strong compassion for orphans. Julie has a passion to help those affected by HIV. Together they are working to help families who are struggling with HIV and make sure that no child is abandoned. Their vision for Casa Hogar Vida is so vibrant, and it is amazing to see how God is opening doors for them in response to their willingness to give unreservedly.
About this year’s trip
As usual, the cost of the trip is $1600 per person, and we need to have most of it by February 15. Dates: March 20 – March 29. We have been asked to bring fabric and sewing supplies. To learn more about our trip, please visit http://www.rockhonduras.com
Thanks so much for your prayers and support throughout the years. I appreciate you all so much!