Friday, May 19, 2017

Good Pastor

This morning, once again, the caravan carrying medications and volunteers - both Honduran and American - headed back across the vast sugar cane and banana plantations.  As always, our driver Gustavo, chuckled as we approached the highway toll.  He explained that the government set up the toll to pay for the road repairs, but the people feel that its the responsibility of the government to take care of the roads, so the people have decided just, well, not to pay.  So, it's been the same each time we approach.  The toll arm is down, we drive up, Gustavo greets the attendant, then a few seconds later, the arm goes up, and driving away, Gustavo says with a laugh "No pago" ("I don't pay."). This dispute between the people and the authorities has been going on for quite awhile - and in this one, the people seem to be winning the day.  As I look out of the window of our van at all of this bounty, I wonder - what will it take for the people to have more influence on how these tremendous natural resources are shared?  If only they had the collective power to create the more equitable systems and safety nets for the most vulnerable to obtain basic nutrition, medical care and education...

We were welcomed today by the people of the village called "Buen Pastor" which means "Good Pastor."  The team has come to this community in past years - to help with various construction projects at the school and to help work on the community water tower.  The nutritional status of this village was poor, with many reporting that they have no access to fruits and vegetables, and are eating just their rice and beans.  We were alarmed by the amount of anemia in the community.  Out of the 185 people we saw at the clinic, 59 of them had a hemoglobin level between 8-10, with one women with a level of 6.  Their symptoms include being tired and short of breath.  We were happy to be able to assist them, and are happy that the Project will continue to assist this community with various needs.

Throughout this week, we have been hearing from our Honduran partners about the gangs that have been terrorizing the region.  The people are on edge, since neither the police nor the military have been effective in protecting them from extortion and rampant violence.  The situation here is fertile ground for gangs to thrive.  This afternoon, the group met with a local Pastor who works to try to help get young men out of the gangs.  He explained that young men, who have often been abandoned or abused, have a bleak future.  Without the support of a family with resources to help them get established, the gangs offer these boys a source of income, and a sense of identity to fill their void of belonging.  The drug trafficking networks through this area are well developed, and the groups lure them in.  The Pastor described his work with local youth who have fallen into this world of darkness and culture of death.  The gang members must make a "pledge to the morgue."  Yet at great personal peril, the Pastor told us of how he has been able to develop relationships with many young men, who have responded to his weapon of choice - unconditional love and acceptance.  With God's help, he has many encouraging examples of young men who have left "la vida loca" of the gangs.  He shared a book that includes his work written by Robert Brenneman, "Homies & Hermanos - God & Gangs in Central America."  It's a compelling story of the power of love amidst utter darkness.  After hearing of his daring ministry, the group gathered around this good Pastor to pray for safety and that God would go before him to open doors and hearts.

We ended our day with a sweet time of fellowship at the Central Mennonite Church, where we got to meet some of the students (and their families) who receive scholarships.  Some of the church members were there as well to share a meal.  It was beautiful to sing together a few songs including, "How Great Thou Art." The Hondurans and Americans took turns singing to each other - the same tune with a different language - but united in faith.

Thank you for continued prayer,

Ruth, for the team


Anonymous Karen B said...

Thank you for this powerful update. Our prayers continue for you all! ~Karen

Friday, May 19, 2017 7:15:00 AM  
Blogger Johanna Banks said...

Thank you for providing such a vivid account and for sharing this very poignant message. Sending prayers for all of you!

Friday, May 19, 2017 8:33:00 AM  

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