I’m just back from my church’s annual mission trip to Honduras, in which we do construction at a Christian camp for youths and perform medical care at a clinic in the city of La Entrada. Honduras is one of the poorest countries in Latin America and has one of the highest murder rates in the the world. But our group always benefits from its mission to Honduras.
Our partners in Honduras are some of the most loving and faithful people we know, and we enjoy working beside them. But they face enormous challenges.
Writing in Forbes, Devin Thorpe lists some of the problems Hondurans face, including violence, poverty, unemployment, poor health care, and drug trafficking.
In 2011, Honduras had 87 murders per 100,000 people, the highest murder rate in the world. While the rate has dropped about in half, it remains at seven times the U.S. rate of 6.2 per 100,000.
“Crime is in part an outgrowth of extreme poverty,” says Thorpe. About 60% of the country lives on less than $2 per day, the World Bank’s threshold for extreme poverty.
Unemployment is rampant. Everyone Thorpe spoke to on a recent trip complained that there are no good jobs. Any time a minimum wage job opens up, hundreds of people line up to interview.
When we do our construction work at the Christian youth camp, we contribute money to pay Hondurans to work alongside us. This may be one of the greatest gifts we give.
Hondurans also struggle with poor health care. The infant mortality rate is among the lower half of countries in the world. Iceland, Japan and Monaco have infant mortality rates that are eight times times better than Honduras. Our team is pleased to deliver medications and provide medical care at a clinic outside the city of La Entrada, serving a desperately needy population.
Drug trafficking is also a huge problem in Honduras because the country is located between narcotics producers in South America and their target markets in the United States. Even in large manufacturing cities such as San Pedro Sula, crime is rampant because of the influence of drug traffickers.
Given the level of violence, poverty, unemployment, poor health care, and drug trafficking in the country, is it any surprise that Hondurans want to move to the United States?
In my upcoming novel Windows of the Heavens, the sequel to City of Peace, pastor Harley Camden embarked on a mission trip to Honduras with a dentist named Bill Stanford, a member of his church.
Bill plopped into a chair in the pastor’s office and spread his long legs. He was a tall guy with red hair, about Harley’s age, who had played basketball at the University of Virginia in the early eighties, alongside superstar Ralph Sampson. He said, “I was driving by and realized I had some Cipro you might want to take to Honduras.”
“Cipro?” asked Harley. “Don’t know what that is.”
“It’s a powerful antibiotic,” said the dentist. “Ciprofloxacin, to be exact. Might be very helpful if you get infectious diarrhea on our trip.”
“Sounds like fun,” Harley said, smiling.
“This stuff will knock out whatever bugs you pick up,” Bill promised, tossing the plastic medicine bottle to Harley.
“So what other meds should I be taking?” asked Harley. “It’s been over thirty years since I was in Honduras.”
“Let’s see,” said the dentist. “You’ve got your hepatitis shots, right? And typhoid. I assume your tetanus is up to date.”
“Yes, I checked. It is.”
“And you’ll need to take anti-malaria meds,” said Bill. “We’re at a decent elevation, so the mosquitos aren’t too bad. But better safe than sorry.”
“Agreed. Don’t want to come back sick.” Harley remembered that his first dose of anti-malaria medication needed to be taken 10 days before the trip, so he pulled the package out of his desk drawer.
“The real dangers are elsewhere,” said the dentist. “For starters: The roads. They’re terrible. I’ve seen some horrible accidents.”
“Yes, I remember. Potholes everywhere.”
“And the gangs, Mara Salvatrucha and the Barrio 18. We won’t have any trouble where we’ll be staying, but there are neighborhoods in the big cities that are war zones.”
“Murder capital of the world,” said Harley, shaking his head.
“All driven by drugs. And I hate to say it, but North America is creating the demand that Central America is trying to fill. We’ve got blood on our hands, for sure.”
Harley had thought of Bill as a Christian do-gooder, not particularly tuned into global politics. But then he realized that the dentist had been going to Honduras for a decade, at least. You cannot spend time with the locals without getting a sense of what is going on in the barrios.
“And don’t even get me started on the corruption in Honduran politics,” Bill continued. “The president was losing the election last fall, and then suddenly the vote count was suspended. When it resumed, the president won!”
“And we think we’ve got problems,” Harley said.
“No comparison,” Bill concluded. “But the people of La Entrada need dental care, so I’ll continue to go down there.”
Rising out of his chair, he said, “I’m going to head out. Glad you’ll be part of the trip, Harley.”
Picking up a glass that had an inch of water in the bottom, Harley popped an anti-malaria tablet in his mouth and washed it down. Although he had been telling himself that he was an experienced traveler, he had no idea what he was getting himself into on this mission to Honduras.
What has been your experience with short-term mission trips, in the United States or abroad? What insights have you gained about the struggles of the people you have served? Join the conversation through a comment below.
My mission field has been in the United States,although I have traveled all over the world with Monte on business.In doing so,I quickly learned I am not just a citizen of the USA,but the world.These people I met where well educated,and Christian. My mission with them was too show love,and hug a lot of people.I love when Europeans greeted me they kissed me on both cheeks.i brought this tradition home with me,and practice it when I greet people here I’ve have not seen in a long time,usually saying this is a European tradition I love.
My mission here is to be aware of the needs of people around me where ever I go.If the timing is right,I talk with many strangers waiting in lines with me.I have occasionally seen someone very upset,and ask them if I may give them a hug.There was a time at the Fairfax post office I was waiting in line to speak with the manager when a lady in front of me was exasperated about her mail not being forwarded.When she finish,I asked if might give her a hug,and I did. We finished our business,and ended up in the parking lot where we met again finding we were parked by each other. I had the opportunity to listen to her story.I was moved to ask her if I could pray for her,and would she mind if I hugged her while I was praying ? Her answer was yes,and it was a glorious moment. I never remember what I pray except Hevenly Father,an in Jesus Name.It is like The Holy Spirit takes over in between.I have had this wonderful experience of visiting people when I was a serving Deacon. There was where I got the experience of speaking with strangers, and praying with them. I have however,never had a problem of speaking with strangers.Just last week while visiting my mother in law in Alabama, she needed a frozen pie crust to make me a pecan pie.We had been to lunch with my sister in law,and mother in law and stopped to pick up some plants for her new home as she left hers behind during the move.When I saw Publix, I was reminded she needed a pie crust.I said to Monte if you drive up in front,and let me off I will go in quickly while you drive around and get the pie crust. When I got it,and looked to check out,it looked like half of Anniston was getting their groceries,and even the express lane was long and moving slowly. I got in line,and I said ok,let’s spress it up. The lady in front of me turned and smiled. She had a beautiful coconut cake in her basket,and I said it looks delicious. We started to talk. Seeing I had only the pie crust,she said go ahead of me.I replied you are very kind.I have people waiting in the car for me.As my turn came,I was aleady thinking as I finish up, I will turn and say God Bless You.I looked and she had let several people go ahead of her.She had run into someone she she knew,and they were talking. So, I said to the cashier, when the lady with the jeans jacket comes up,please tell her a lady said God Bless You.I didn’t think fast enough to tell her God Bless you,so I breathed a silent prayer as I walked away. It was a special encounter I often have have,and an extra joy for my day in spreading kindness.
I did have a special joy of meeting a homeless young lady this summer,and speaking on her behalf to get her under a roof for two weeks,and praying with her to find a room to rent.I did find out she had issues of her choosing that led to her homelessness.I discovered this also with the lady I met at the post office.I usually have grocery money in my handbag,and sometimes God will move me to ask someone if I may give them a 20. I am sometimes behind a person at the grocery store who doesn’t quite have enough money,and I can step up say to the cashier how much is needed ? I have learned to say when change is due,give it to the person who needed extra money. I had the huge joy of being behind a women with baby in stroller while picking up some decorations for our Gathering Room who was taking things out of her purchase to be able to pay for some of it. I step up and said to the cashier how much is needed ? She said these things she has taken out.Please ring them up for her to the amazement and surprise of both of them.I also asked her if I could give her a hug, And,we hugged several times.I would have taken her home,but mu car was going to be loaded with the decorations for church. I asked how will you get home ? Uber.Do you have enough money ? Yes. She was a young lady who was not from our country and with broken English.My thoughts were,God had given me extra money at these times. These opportunities were not chance. God had put me in these places where I could receive his blessings while blessing someone else.❤️❤️❤️