Some Reflections on the Work in Honduras

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Twenty years ago on February 7, 2000, a teary-eyed group was gathered in Florida around a big yellow school bus. The time had come for the Philip Ebersole family to leave for Honduras, and the church family had come to see them off. I—the oldest son of the family—still remember quite distinctly the mixture of emotion I felt. On the one hand, I was very sad to leave so much behind. No longer would I be able to go next door every Thursday evening to play chess with my Grandmother. I would be leaving behind the times of singing with a men’s group. We were leaving behind very special cousins, a close-knit church family, and a wonderful school. In fact, part of me stayed in Pensacola, and if I had known the extent of what we were losing that day, the parting would have been much more difficult for me.
But part of me was excited. We were going to Honduras! Just the name sounded exotic. I was sure it was going to be a grand adventure, and by the time we were several hours down the interstate, all woes had been forgotten—for me, at least.
I believe my parents had different feelings. Taking a family of eight children—ages fifteen and under—to a foreign country in support of a mission effort was no small undertaking. The risks were many. I still admire my parents’ willingness to take that step of faith that was destined to alter many people, including ourselves.
As I reflect on the effort that was made to extend the gospel, I ask the question: What have we done in Honduras? Very little. We face hurdles that are greater than our strength.
We face our own limitations. On the exterior, the typical American missionary seems to have everything. After all, he comes from the United States. A truck in the driveway can provide transportation to the hospital when a medical emergency happens in the community. A few dollars out of his pocket has the potential of pulling a neighbor out of a serious bind. He is bilingual. His expertise and education in many areas and his exposure to more technology make him a valuable man indeed. He has many answers and, in many cases, is treated with much deference on the street. Everyone wants to be his friend. This man is a gold mine!
But a man who is thought to be a gold mine is in a very dangerous position. How can we truly be humble servants when others would want to put us on a pedestal? Is not every follower of Jesus called to be a servant? Besides that, we have serious limitations. We are very soft. Somehow, we now expect a lifestyle that surpasses what our ancestors would have considered to be luxurious, and we think we still could use more things. In many ways, our limitations exceed those of the people we have come to share the gospel with.
A very blatantly immoral culture surrounds us. While it is true that immorality is a worldwide problem, we face it in a very real way here. When I was a boy in Pensacola, we had very little contact with our neighbors. Almost everywhere we went, we traveled by vehicle, which limited what we were exposed to. It was a rare occasion that we had visitors at church. Our interaction with other people was limited.
Here in Honduras, the dynamics of life are completely different. We have a lot more contact with our neighbors as we are forced to rub shoulders with them regularly. You would cringe if I told you of some of the things I have seen on the streets of our village. God has called us to live in Sodom, but we endeavor to construct an ark for our families. For those of our brethren who have family ties here, it becomes incredibly difficult to protect childhood innocence and maintain a Christian family atmosphere. It is very counterculture to rebuke the works of darkness when they show the evil head within the home, but that is what we are called to do. We pray that even while we are more exposed to more raw wickedness, we could become stronger and more on the offensive against the works of darkness.
We face a very materialistic culture. Yes, we live in the Americas, and the drive to make money and enjoy life are very strong. Many people go to the United States and many of those who haven´t, want to. What do we communicate as we drive around expensive mission vehicles? We want to use what we have as a blessing—not as a hindrance to the message we carry. Another very real twist we face is on a personal level. How can we be sure that we, the message-bearers, are totally free from the love of this world´s things? It seems that some people come to church to find an easy life, but then, it was pointed out recently that if a vein of gold would be discovered in Siguatepeque, there would probably be a great influx of people from the north. What does that say about us?
We face perplexing cultural differences. The way we as a cold-culture people interact and relate can become a stumbling block for our warm-culture brethren. We forget the formalities of greetings and are more preoccupied with checking off the to-do list than with the other person´s feelings. As we focus on efficiency and economy, we forget that the other person exists. Does a life like this communicate the love of Jesus?
As we strive to fulfill the great commission Jesus gave us, we face many hindrances—the greatest of them being none other than ourselves. Pray for us as we search to follow God´s path in Honduras. Pray that we would be faithful in the demands and stresses of life. Pray that we would follow wisdom as we build the church and leave an example for those coming behind. Pray that even as we face difficulties, we would always come back to the Master for grace and strength. Pray that we would not focus on the poor economy and low security, but on the open door of opportunity, we are invited to enter. Pray that in all things, we would seek to exalt our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.