When Gracie and I moved to Honduras in July 1982 the country was considered the poorest in the Western Hemisphere. Wars raged in the region and death-squad violence created a climate of terror. Over the last 30 years we’ve witnessed the power of God’s love at work in individuals and communities, bringing visible relief through increased production, water projects, improved health, reconciliation between enemies, discovery of the good news in Scripture and healing. Right now the “not yet” of Jesus’ Kingdom has been in my face as violence increases in a climate of near anarchy. I have been accompanying one of my closest friends, Angel David, from a distance by phone as he’s walked through terrors and deep sadness in this seemingly interminable valley of the shadow of death.
The last six weeks in Honduras have been some of the darkest after a prison fire in our department capital Comayagua on February 15 burnt over 400 inmates to death. The next day Tierra Nueva’s past president Paco and his wife Gloria buried their 33-year-old son Edwin who suddenly fell sick after a flare up of aplastic anemia that had been in remission for 13 years. Back in 1999 Tierra Nueva had organized a big fund-raiser to pay for medical treatment and prayer campaign, which brought this disease into remission… until last month.
In the midst of all this pain it has become once again clear that God’s preferred way of coming close to human suffering is a mediated way—through human beings who themselves come close: Jesus, me, you—Christ’s body, the church.
I was in the UK teaching a course on missions to 50 or so graduate students at Westminster Theological Centre (WTC) in Cheltenham when I heard about the fire and our friend’s death. Paco and Gloria actually comforted me, telling me how their son had become active de corazon (from the heart) in a church in the months before his death, reading the Bible and seeking God’s presence. While clearly grieving, they told me they were at peace, glad for these last 13 years with their son.
The students interceded for Honduras, for our ministry there– and the course was a powerful time of reflection, worship and prayer. The following week I taught my missions course to two different WTC groups. I was deeply moved when an offering was taken that brought in $20,000– enough to purchase a truck for Tierra Nueva in Honduras.
Right now two of our colleagues from Tierra Nueva in Burlington, Nick and Salvio are visiting Angel David and the ministry there in Minas de Oro. I include Nick’s prayer update below, and greatly value your intercession for prayer points below.
“So much to share, but so little time before the internet cafe closes here in Minas de Oro. Here are a couple highlights with some prayer requests at the bottom:
Yesterday, Salvio, Angel David, and I were able to visit Tierra Nueva’s coffee finca in Alta Mira. It’s a bumpy 3.5 hour drive from Minas de Oro, and we took a truck that I’m pretty sure didn’t have any shocks. Right when we got to the top of the 1510 meter rise (altitude is great for growing coffee but not for climbing unpaved pot-holed roads), the truck began to hemorrhage water from the radiator and oil from the gear box below the chassis. It was an amazing lesson in campo mechanics though: they put some powder from a coke bottle into the radiator, tightened up some things under the chassis, filled the radiator with another two gallons of water, and then we were on our way again. All in all, it was great to see the finca and check in with the muchacho who is running the finca for us, but by the end of the day Salvio and I both felt like we’d been on a 7-hour carnival ride–a seemingly endless agitation cycle only slightly easier on the body than the saddle sore we would have no doubt had making the trip ten years ago.
Today we went to Mal Paso, the town where Angel David is from. It’s a town that a lot of us have been praying for through this past year. Unfortunately, it’s almost a ghost town, with almost 70% having fled for their lives after a series of homicides that has left a pall of terror on the town’s inhabitants.
Salvio and I led a Bible study on John 10, about the enemy’s desire to steal, kill, and destroy–something that he’s achieved all too successfully in Mal Paso–by sowing division, enmity, vengeance, and unforgiveness. We briefly touched on John 17–Jesus’ prayer for protection, that the disciples would be one as he and the father are one–and we prayed for everyone for healing from the trauma from this last year. It was beautiful, but it was also really sorrowful. On Sunday we hosted a gathering of a lot of the local leaders who have been participating in the house churches in Minas de Oro and the surrounding communities. Salvio and I each led a Bible study, and we also got to play some Pictionary.
Lolito came and spent the night with us (Lolito is a great friend who lived with us at Tierra Nueva for two or three years before returning to Honduras). It was a sobering evening though as he described the escalating violence around his community. About a month ago, there was a gruesome homicide in a small village called Paradise just below where Lolito lives. Unfortunately the details are too graphic for me to relate, but suffice to say that an older woman was chopped to death by three young men just outside her house. The young men killed her because she had reported them when they slaughtered a cow illegally on her land. Two weeks later, each of the boys was shot and killed at midnight in his bed. Relatives of the woman who was killed have even been promising retribution on the families of the young men.
Which brings me to the sad news: although I reported earlier that things here in Honduras are a lot calmer than we initially feared in coming down here, we’ve been realizing that there is an undercurrent of violence and fear that pervades this community. Last week, we visited a woman who has lost two sons to hired hit men (sicarios in the local language); you could still see the shotgun holes in the door of her adobe home. If you ask people in Minas de Oro, most report that things are more calmado (calmer). But that calm has come at a price.
We’ve learned that Minas de Oro has a covert network of citizens who collect money from local resident collaborators to put into a special account in the local bank. When some of the local youth get out of hand, they pay someone to kill that person, which has resulted in the death of 60 youths in the past 5 years. So yes, things are calmer here in Minas de Oro, but it’s an artificially wrought and superficial peace enforced by the threat of violence.
Please pray for the following:
- A restoration of appropriate social order. There is very little justice here in Honduras, which is why civilians have had to resort to hiring hit men to carry out reprisals for petty thefts and delinquency. As many of you are already aware, the prisons and justice system are a wreck here, not only because of over crowding, the horrific fire three weeks ago, but also from the intrusion of gangs (today, from what I understood on the news, 17 were killed in one of the San Pedro Sula prisons). While I believe whole-heartedly in God’s kingdom that goes beyond justice (loving enemies, generosity, and Calvary-like sacrifice), I am also appreciating how important justice is in a context like Honduras. I don’t even know what to ask you to pray for without seeming trite, but hopefully you know what I’m getting at.
- Salvio and I leave Sunday morning for Tegucigalpa to visit the clinic before leaving Monday morning. Please pray for safe travels and getting around Tegucigalpa without trouble.
- Please pray for discernment and a smooth and honoring transition for the old guard of Tierra Nueva in Honduras as we try to invite more young leaders to participate in the new work of Tierra Nueva in Honduras.
Please pray for us as we work with Angel David to upgrade our accountability system for the administration of the coffee finca, the water project, and the pastoral fund so it can handle future growth.”
Please pray for the following additional requests, and consider if there are other ways the Spirit may be leading you to bring relief to Honduras.
- Pray for Angel David as he leads Tierra Nueva in Honduras—for lots of wisdom, grace and for the power of the Holy Spirit as he leads Bible studies and prays for people in their homes, reaches out to at-risk young people on the margins and identifies and raises up leaders.
- For collaboration and unity between the churches in Minas de Oro. For a true movement of renewal to sweep through Honduras that includes turning away from violence, forgiving enemies and pursuing all the is required for peace.
- For comfort for Paco and Gloria and their family, and for the many others who have lost family members to the violence.
Finally, plans are in the works to upgrade the coffee farm through replanting, pouring cement drying patios, and building solar coffee bean dryers ($3,000). Tierra Nueva Honduras also is hoping to remodel their water purification plant building to include a home for Angel David and his wife Esperanza, guest rooms and a meeting room ($8,000). If you would like to designate support to these projects, please send your contribution earmarked for TN Honduras to:
PO Box 161