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Even after Hurricane Mitch’s toll, church believes ‘All Is Possible’

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (BP)–For the past two years, Iglesia Bautista Central in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, basked in the sun of growth and blessing. The church, located in one of the poorest sections of the nation’s capital and ministering to the poorest of the poor, had become the largest church and the primary giver to missions concerns in the Honduras National Convention.
Rallying behind the slogan, “Together All Is Possible,” the church’s 450 members had launched an array of ministries to impact their community: a Christian school that offered low-cost quality education; a full-service clinic staffed by full-time medical personnel paid by the church; a ministry to the blind; free breakfast and lunch for malnourished children; a cooperative that provided food to church members at subsidized and bulk prices, and an extensive network of Bible study groups in homes.
At much sacrifice over the years, the church also had developed a multi-building facility that was the center of its ministry in the community.
On Oct. 31, all was destroyed by Hurricane Mitch.
The colonia Soto, the neighborhood where the church was located, was hit with a double whammy — a mountainside collapsed, bringing down hundreds of houses and tons of mud, and the Comayaguela River was flooded three blocks beyond its limits on both sides. The church building stood at the bottom of the hill and was impacted by both. In fact, the back side of the buildings served as the stop barrier for the mudslide. The building structure was severely damaged by the pressure of the avalanche and the inside furnishings were all destroyed by flooding.
As if that weren’t enough, vandals came soon after the disaster and looted everything that was left that had any value.
The scene of total loss and desolation was heightened by the presence of dozens of large vultures and the unbearable stench of rot and decay.
Yet the church stands stronger than ever, said Juan Ramon Rivera, the young pastor of the congregation, who emphasized that “the church is not made up of buildings but of people with a vision. The buildings are destroyed but the people are here, the vision is here and God is here.”
Rivera acknowledged at first he was depressed at the loss but was encouraged by the message of 2 Corinthians 5:17: “… the old things have passed away; behold the new.”
God began to open doors soon after the disaster, when a layman in the church allowed the church to use a nearby uncompleted parking garage for its services. Church members have appointed a commission to seek a new building site since the community where the old one was located has been condemned. A new building fund was established and people already have begun contributing the “first fruits” for this offering.
On the first Sunday after the disaster, hundreds came to the service at the parking garage, Rivera said. Many shared testimonies of how the Lord had delivered them from imminent death. Others gave testimonies of their faithfulness to God by bringing their tithes and offerings, even though the money was needed to buy food.
Central Baptist Church had no insurance on its buildings and has no viable source of income at this time. Of the nine full-time staff members, six have been laid off due to lack of funds for their positions. What little savings the church had is being invested in helping needy people. Many of the church members were street vendors and suppliers, and they have lost all the equipment of their trade.
Rivera asked Baptists to pray for the restoring of lives in the community, as well as for wisdom for church leaders as they face the challenges of ministry and rebuilding, and for the congregation’s need to find a temporary facility.

    About the Author

  • David R. Lema Jr.