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Response to gospel in Honduras unprecedented, missionary says

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (BP)–“In 32 years of missionary service, this is the most unprecedented thing I have ever seen. We have people coming not asking for food or a building but asking us to bring the Word of God to them,” says Max Furr.
Furr, a North Carolina native appointed to missionary service in 1967, coordinates field strategy in Honduras for the International Mission Board.
He and his fellow Southern Baptist missionaries, along with Honduran Baptist partners, have worked tirelessly to witness and minister in the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch, which struck Honduras on Halloween night 1998. Scores of Southern Baptist volunteers have come to help.
As a result, Honduras Baptist churches are reporting decisions for Christ, baptisms and new mission points in larger numbers than ever before. Many even are reporting surprising numbers of church members getting their lives straightened out.
Mitch killed more than 5,600 people, and 40 percent of the population lost homes, jobs or family members. Furr said 70 percent of the nation’s infrastructure was destroyed. Mitch wiped out most of the nation’s banana crop, a major source of employment in Honduras. There will be no bananas produced for 30 months.
“I think people got scared and realized you don’t mess with Mother Nature and you cannot predict what will happen,” Furr said.
Hondurans heard the gospel during relief efforts in the country, and as people began to accept Christ, Honduran Baptists and Southern Baptist missionaries set a goal of establishing 100 churches in 1999. Already, 60 congregations have been started and some 1,250 people are awaiting baptism.
One three-association area in northern Honduras has had 29 new church starts, with more than 1,100 new believers awaiting baptism. In San Pedro Sula, three churches have six new mission points.
In Choluteca, near the Pacific Ocean on Honduras’ southern coast, one of the hardest-hit areas, pastors reported not only conversions but said members who had left the churches are returning. Unmarried couples have sought to straighten out their lives by being legally married. One pastor reported performing a ceremony for six couples at once.
Messiah Baptist Church in Tierra Blanca — a 60-member congregation before Mitch — has seen 80 people saved, 15 baptized, five weddings and 30 people reconciled, said pastor Francisco Martinez.
“One pastor cried and said, ‘I don’t really like to do missions, I want to stay with my church and build it up,'” Furr said. “But as a result of Mitch he has had two new missions started in two months and people are asking for a third.”
Furr has asked the Spanish Baptist Publishing House in El Paso, Texas, to send 25,000 versions of a New Testament that has Bible lessons printed in the back. The version is widely used in Baptist work in Latin America for church starts.
Relief work and workers will be needed in Honduras for years to come, Furr said. Baptists have undertaken, with the help of volunteers from North Carolina, Texas, Mississippi and other states, to build 595 houses for families whose homes were destroyed in the hurricane. Normally a crew can build a house in one week.
“That means about 595 teams. Divided by three states, that’s about 200 weeks, which is nearly three years,” he noted.
As a new home is built, the nearest Baptist church is responsible for starting a Bible study there.
“Thankfully we have Honduran Baptists trained to help us in this. It’s not all on the shoulders of missionaries,” Furr said. However, more missionaries have been requested.
“We have some people nibbling at our requests,” he said. “We hope they’ll take a good bite and come on down and work with us.”

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  • Wally Poor