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6/4/97 Association’s churches boosted by missions work in Honduras

YULEE, Fla. (BP)–Pastor Lucendo and his wife knelt in the dark, in the dirt yard of their home. There had been a drought that summer and they had no corn. Lucendo had just returned from a preaching trip — a three-hour walk to a deacon’s home, and then on to the preaching point – – to find there was no food left in the house. The couple’s children had eaten the last of the family’s tortillas and gone to bed hungry.
Still, pastor Lucendo and his wife prayed, thanking God for his care and affirming, “We want to give our lives to you.
“If you choose to take our lives,” they prayed, acknowledging the seriousness of their situation, “you know what is best.”
While they were still praying, they heard a sound. They wondered, could it be the angels calling? No, it was the man who lived on a nearby mountain. Impressed by God not to delay an act of generosity any longer, he had walked down the mountain in the dark with a bag of corn.
When the Honduran pastor shared that testimony with guests from the Northeast Florida Baptist Association, they were deeply moved. It’s not hard to understand why participants in the association’s partnership trips to the impoverished Central American country come back with a different perspective.
“Our people come back changed,” said director of missions James Hamrick.
Numerically, Northeast Florida association is small. Only two of its 28 churches have a resident membership of more than 1,000 members; most report a resident membership of 500 or less. About one-fourth of the churches are small congregations served by bivocational pastors, Hamrick said.
But the association’s churches realize their world extends far beyond the northeast corner of the Sunshine State.
“Our association has figured out what matters, and what matters is taking the gospel to the world,” said Bill Touchton, pastor of Wingate Road Baptist Church in Jacksonville.
Wingate Road has taken an active part in the association’s partnership with Honduras. The church has paid the expenses for eight people to go on partnership trips to the country, and plans to send at least three more, Touchton said.
The church is involved in mission projects in Romania and Ukraine as well, the pastor said.
Touchton noted the church is hoping to acquire additional property and build a new worship center, “but not at the cost of missions.” He added since the congregation decided to make missions support and involvement a high priority, God has blessed the church numerically, financially and spiritually.
Wingate Road’s priorities reflect those of the association as a whole. So far this year, the association has sponsored three trips to Honduras, sending nine teams to work in a remote area of the country.
In cooperation with the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board, the association is assisting in an area where there are no paid FMB missionaries, but where a Southern Baptist couple, Leslie and Brenda Shaw, are working and raising their own support.
The association has agreed to provide assistance in three areas: evangelism, construction of a hospital and medical/dental ministry.
The work is based in Gualcince, not far from the border that separates Honduras from El Salvador. There is no electricity and no running water except for about three hours a day when a generator is in operation. The volunteers have slept on grass mats and church pews and have shared their sleeping quarters with crickets and at least one rat. But many, if not most, want to go back.
“For the first time in my life, I have seen genuine revival,” said Hamrick, as he related experiences of the evangelism team that returned from Honduras May 11.
Hamrick was especially impressed with the access the teams were given to the area’s schools, where they visited, provided supplies, answered students’ questions about the United States and presented the gospel.
In every school, teachers accepted Christ and teachers who were already Christians rededicated their lives, Hamrick said.
He added he believes God is planning to use those teachers to share the gospel with their students.
As they plan for trips, Hamrick urges the mission volunteers to be flexible. “Everything we say can turn out the opposite,” he has learned.
One of the association’s construction teams went to Gualcince expecting to place concrete blocks for a desperately needed new hospital, which will serve 35,000 people in the surrounding area. The foundation, they were told, would already be in place.
When they arrived on Saturday to begin their week’s work, that was not the case, recalled volunteer Bruce Hill, a member of Wingate Road church. So they dug the trenches for the foundation by hand using pickaxes and other crude tools — the only ones available — and poured the foundation.
By Thursday evening, they were ready to begin laying blocks. But the blocks, which had been ordered, had not arrived, Hill said.
Shaw assured the workers, “They’ll be here.”
Sure enough, while they were attending a church service that evening, they heard a horn blowing. It was the truck delivering the blocks.
“God provided them just when we needed them,” Hill said.
“The most amazing thing to me,” Hill said, “was to take 17 people who’ve never met before, throw them together in primitive conditions, and they can work together so well. Only God can do that, can make that work out.”

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  • Shari Schubert