News Articles

Honduras hurricane relief efforts may result in 100 new churches

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (BP)–As many as 100 churches will be started this year because Southern Baptists responded with compassion after Hurricane Mitch devastated Honduras last fall, Southern Baptist missionaries in the Central American country say.
Three associations of Baptist churches have seen 19 congregations planted since Mitch killed more than 5,600 people and left more than 200,000 people homeless in late October and early November, reported Sam Jones and Larry Elliott, two career missionaries working in Honduras through the Southern Baptist International Mission Board.
“We are in the midst of one of the most powerful revivals I have ever experienced,” said Elliott.
Southern Baptist volunteers are helping IMB missionaries and Honduran Baptists with relief projects that range from road clearing and bridge building to house reconstruction and garden plots. The result has been hundreds of people accepting Christ as Savior and churches being started in isolated communities that previously had no access to good news of salvation in Jesus Christ.
The hurricane destroyed roads and bridges all over the country, leaving already-isolated communities completely cut off from the outside world. Relief workers had to use mules and burros to pack relief supplies into mountainous regions. Often it took two days or more to reach villages.
Yet wherever the relief supplies went, people made professions of faith in Christ, and now Honduran Baptists are working hard to train pastors to lead the new congregations that resulted, Jones said.
First Baptist Church of Lake Charles, La., is helping pay for on-field Bible training for new pastors in Upper Aguan Baptist Association, where 28 churches have been started in the past 24 months — seven of them since the hurricane, Jones said. All but one of the 28 pastors is unsalaried, and most are mentoring laymen to pastor congregations being organized in remote communities without any evangelical or even Roman Catholic presence.
In Progreso Baptist Association, an ambitious garden project will serve as a food supply for a whole community, Elliott said. Texas Baptist Men are providing plastic pipe for an irrigation project. Bulldozer time has been rented to open a road into a region four-wheel-drive vehicles couldn’t reach even before the hurricane.
“For the first time, a vast area will be exposed to vehicular transportation and the penetration of the gospel,” Elliott noted.
He recalled one pastor who crossed two chest-deep rivers to reach people who made decisions for Christ during food distribution efforts late last year.
“That pastor said 11 people have accepted Christ and continually beg him to come help them,” Elliott said. “With tears in his eyes, he told us there are just too many new Christians asking for his help for him to meet all their needs.
“When we helped him see he has already begun a new congregation in that community, he was overcome to the point that he buried his head in his hands and wept for several minutes.”
Even school children in the United States have helped with the relief efforts in Honduras.
At East Elementary School in Kings Mountain, N.C., 335 children collected change to help the Elliotts minister in the wake of the hurricane. Of the $650 they raised, more than $200 was in pennies.
And Amy Dunbar of Wheeling, W.Va., asked friends to bring $5 donations to her birthday party instead of presents, “since I really did not want anything for myself.” With additional contributions from her family, she sent a check for $70 to help with hurricane relief.
Despite the massive needs for reconstruction, Jones asserts his faith that God is able to meet those needs and that God’s people will take advantage of this opportunity to share the love of Christ with people who have never experienced it.
“We need you to pray as never before that the Lord will provide the necessary funds and volunteers to make this massive reconstruction possible,” he said. “Pray that the expressions of love in helping people put their lives back together will result in many coming to know the Lord Jesus Christ and in many more new churches in the coming year.
“We know God is able, and we believe God’s people care for their brothers and sisters in this part of the world,” he added. “That has already been expressed by the tremendous outpouring of aid from our churches.
“I believe Hurricane Mitch has given us an open door to say to the tens of thousands of unreached people on the last frontiers of Honduras that Jesus is alive in the hearts of his people.”
To contribute to relief efforts such as those in Honduras, send donations to: General Relief Fund, Office of Finance, International Mission Board, P.O. Box 6767, Richmond, VA 23230. To volunteer for a relief project, contact Barbara Epps at (804) 219-1221; e-mail, [email protected]

    About the Author

  • Mark Kelly