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Healing and Hope in Honduras

High in the mountains of Honduras towers Cristo Picacho — Christ on the Mountain. One of the largest statue of Jesus in the world, it looks out across Tegucigalpa, the nation’s capital, reaching its cold stone arms toward the city. It can be seen for miles —  white, awe-inspiring and austere.

But down in Tegucigalpa, the presence of the real Jesus is masked by personal pain and the trappings of sin. Across Honduras, in every shanty, luxury resort, nightclub and barrio, people search in vain for life’s meaning and purpose. About the size of Louisiana, this small country bears the highest murder rate in the world. In November 2014, the reigning Miss Honduras and her sister were murdered by a jealous boyfriend. Similar incidents are all too common.

 

The Gangbanger’s Girl

Milagros’* boyfriend was a murderer. She knew if he or anyone else in his gang discovered she attended a medical clinic hosted by Centro Evangelistico, a local church in Tegucigalpa, it would cost her life.

But Milagros came anyway. Seeking counsel and a way of escape from her dark world, she poured out her heart to clinic volunteers. In response, she received counsel from a team member from the United States and was assured of protection and follow-up from local believers.

Randy Bardwell, a missionary with HealthCare Ministries, served nearly 20 years in Honduras.
Randy Bardwell, a missionary with HealthCare Ministries, served nearly 20 years in Honduras.

HealthCare Ministries, one of the International Ministries of AGWM, travels regularly to locations around the world to assist churches in providing medical and dental treatment and spiritual counsel for needy communities. Missionary Randy Bardwell, leader of the HCM team in Tegucigalpa, formerly served nearly 20 years in Honduras. He feels deeply for Milagros and others like her.

 

Bringing the Helmet of Health

Though gang activity remains a problem across much of the country, a growing number of Hondurans are turning to Jesus as the answer to life’s problems.

Centro Evangelistico, pioneered by missionary Bill Strickland in the mid-1990s, has a congregation of more than 6,000 people and serves the city in numerous ways, including a school and a primary care clinic. At the church’s invitation, Randy Bardwell and a team of medical professionals came to assist clinic personnel in providing medical, dental and optical care.

On the clinic’s opening day, Randy explains that when translated into Spanish, the Biblical expression “helmet of salvation” in Ephesians 6:17 literally becomes “helmet of health.”

During the weeklong clinic, 1,200 patients visit the clinic’s three locations. Ten people prayed to accept Christ, receiving both health and salvation.

Medical personnel address both spiritual and physical needs at the clinic.
Medical personnel address both spiritual and physical needs at the clinic.

 

A House for Your Home

In the mountainous village of Talanga, Randy and his team conduct a medical and dental clinic at Casa Hogar, a children’s home directed by Asdrubal and Karla Salinas. The home is yet another outreach of Centro Evangelistico.

The medical team’s presence generates a buzz of excitement among the children. Although the enthusiasm lessens somewhat after what Randy calls “a record number of tooth extractions,” the team’s compassionate interactions with the children soon render most aches and pains forgotten.

Casa Hogar, which means “a house for your home,” has existed for six years and is currently home to 36 children.

Medical personnel address both spiritual and physical needs at the clinic.

“We call the home Casa Hogar because we want to be clear that it is not just a house for the children to stay in,” says Asdrubal with conviction. “We want them to know this place is their home. It is a house in which they are truly safe and at home.”

 

Honduras Teen Challenge

Just across a small ravine from Casa Hogar is the beautiful campus of Honduras Teen Challenge. It has come a long way from its humble beginnings — a tent and an outhouse beside a creek where a few men gathered to find deliverance from drugs, alcohol and other problems.

Pastor Delmar Enrique Garcia has led the center since its earliest days in 2003. Today 80 men, ranging in age from 14 to 40, live on the property and do their part to build up the campus, including painting, laying sidewalks and more. Four dormitory buildings, named Reuben, Judah, Levi and Benjamin, provide living space based on the men’s ages and progress in the program.

Medical personnel address both spiritual and physical needs at the clinic.

Fernando Flores remembers an evening he spent in the Reuben dorm early in his time at Teen Challenge.

“I was angry about being in this place, and I was complaining,” he says. “Then God told me to touch the floor and pray for the building. I did it, and suddenly something changed. I opened my eyes the next morning and Teen Challenge had become beautiful to me. The day before I thought it was very ugly.”

Fernando has since graduated from the program and now serves as one of its leaders. His pride in the center is evident as he strolls across the campus.

“The carpentry shop is an interesting story,” he says with a chuckle. “The equipment we use was confiscated from a door company that was hollowing out the doors and using them to traffic cocaine. The government shut them down and now their equipment is ours.”

In life after life, Fernando has seen the miraculous transformations God does through Teen Challenge.

“At Teen Challenge, we are experiencing redemption and restoration and now can enjoy life,” he says. “It is truly wonderful. Across the world and in different cultures it is the same story.”

 

The Christ of the Mountain

Unlike the Christ on the Mountain statue, the real Jesus is not standing aloof over Tegucigalpa, reaching out with unfeeling arms and unseeing eyes. He knows, feels and sees, and He is meeting Hondurans in deep and intimate ways. He is not the Christ on a mountain — He is the Christ OF the mountain — and of all Honduras. He is a protector, a healer and a Father to the fatherless.

And through an exquisite web of partnerships, missionaries, volunteers and Honduran believers are casting lifelines of His love to people of every age and station across beautiful, broken Honduras.

Medical personnel address both spiritual and physical needs at the clinic.

 

* Name has been changed.

KRISTEL ORTIZ is a staff writer with AGWM.

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