bits from bob....

A Funny Thing Happened To Me on the Way to Where I Am Going!

by Robert J. Young
©, 2006, Robert J. Young
[permission is given to reprint with credit noted]

Where am I going? What will my life be like in the future? What is God's plan for me? Where I am going is not necessarily where I think I am going! Someone observed that the problem with strategic planning is that it usually assumes the future will be an extension of the present. The reality is that the future is almost always different from the present, usually in ways we cannot see. We look back on our lives and we see the hand of God. We do not end up where we thought we would. We thought we were going one way, but God was leading us in another. I have seen that principle at work repeatedly in my own experience.

"A funny thing happened on the way to where I am going." It began with a small seed (recall that the kingdom of heaven is like a small seed) planted in Lansing, Michigan in the early 1980s through a commitment to missions and a special mission contribution. It continued in Fort Gibson, Oklahoma where I had the privilege to minister with a church with a tremendous heart for missions. It found direction in my work in the academic world as invitations came to speak and participate in mission activities in Ecuador, Mexico, El Salvador, and Guatemala, to name a few. It accelerated through the influence of Ohio Valley students who participated in missions club and developed hearts for missions in the faraway places of the globe. I told students I would help them go wherever their God and their hearts called them to go as followers of Jesus, and that commitment led us to New Zealand, Guyana, small churches through the northeastern United States and the Atlantic seaboard, and again and again to Honduras. It surfaced full-force in the wake of the October 1998 Hurricane Mitch that dumped 36 inches of rain in one day on the second largest Central American nation. Honduras became our destination of choice as I took students on mission trips to provide support for medical missions and private primary education, to help rebuild after the hurricane, to help change the world. Wherever I thought I was going before, I now find myself going again and again to Central America, and especially to Honduras. This essay reflects that story.

I love Honduras. I thrill every time I fly into Tegucigalpa (and I am not talking about the unique approach and short runway!). Much of Honduras is mountainous. People live in mud houses and in makeshift shelters on hillsides. In recent years, over-harvesting of the forests has left many hillsides deforested. Because of this, in addition to the intense wind and flooding, Hurricane Mitch brought mudslides that swept away many homes, both on the hillsides and in the overflowing river valleys.

Today in Honduras, one can see firsthand the cultural clash in a third world country where more homes have televisions than refrigeration. Thrifty families save up and get a bicycle. You may see two and three people on one bicycle. While more and more people have personal vehicles, the preferred transportation for the masses is still walking or taxi. Raw sewage often flows through open ditches along dirt paths and streets. Yes, there is electricity. Except in the remotest mountain regions, most people have a TV. A laborer finishing new concrete to replace dirt floors, helping with home repairs, or helping remodel churches makes $5-10 a day. Honduras is one of the poorest nations of the world-per capita annual income is about $500. Many elementary schools are private. Tuition runs about $200 a year. Fewer than half of students finish the fourth grade. It's easy to help in Honduras because the need is so great. Bad health, malnutrition and homelessness are common. It is not advisable to drink the water (although more and more purified water is available) and you shouldn't go barefoot. (Going barefoot significantly increases one's chances of picking up a parasite.) We routinely put worm medicine in the health packages we distribute. Toothpaste makes a big hit.

My work in Honduras has been primarily in Tegucigalpa with the Amicus Association, which oversees the James Moody Adams Clinic and Baxter Institute and in the area around Catacamas, Olancho where we work with local churches. (Escuela Biblica Honduras [EBH], the School of the Good Samaritan, and Predisan are also in Catacamas.) EBH is a preacher training school whose three year program trains preachers and missionaries in a place where education comes at a premium. The School of the Good Samaritan is a private Christian elementary school. Predisan is a multi-faceted medical care ministry devoted to healing and preaching the good news of Jesus.

Construction sites are different in Honduras-different because there is little or no equipment. The foundation for the building is excavated by men with picks and shovels trenching five feet down into solid clay and iron ore. Roads turn to mud in the rainy season, making travel difficult at best. Even during pleasant seasons, mass transit service often requires hiking a couple of miles to catch the bus. It is often easier to walk a few blocks, or even a few kilometers, than to wait for the arranged transportation. Honduras is one of the graveyards for the world's old yellow school buses. They are everywhere.

I love Honduras; I love the Hondurans. My wife says I am enamored with Honduras. Many others are also. I know because Christians keep coming. I meet people all the time who want to know when I am going again and if they can go with me. It is never a problem to find people to sign up for the every trip. The $1,000 per person all-inclusive price tag keeps going up(now closer to $1200), but people keep going. The trip cost includes money for hundreds of health packets, including worm medicine. We can specify accommodations with hot showers-but many visitors settle for the cold shower since they don't like standing in water with electrical connections in such close proximity!

Your upcoming flight to Honduras will touch down in touristy Teguicigalpa, a city with five star motels. For church members coming to Honduras for the first time, the excitement starts the minute they exit the airport. People are everywhere. The money is strange, and it takes a wad of bills to work with the basics of life here. The bus ride to Catacamas follows a major thoroughfare, a twisting highway with breathtaking vistas which allow you to see the mountainous terrain and the piney forests as you hold your breath because of the unique driving style most Hondurans have learned. The 200+ kilometer bus ride seems long. When you finally arrive at your destination, the accommodations are pleasant, the food better than expected, the culture strange but welcoming. More people speak English than you thought would be the case. There's lots of work to be do-every day is full and tiring.

I have watched the mission work in Catacamas blossom for over two decades. In 1985 according to one estimate, there were less than 100 Christians with a background in the restoration movement in eastern Honduras. At the end of 1994, the count had risen to fifteen congregations with about 800 members. Today there are about 40 congregations in the department of Olancho with about 2000 members. Escuela Biblica Honduras (EBH) is an important part of that progress. The main purpose of EBH is to help local congregations develop their own leadership and expand personal ministry. Most EBH alumni are still preaching, and EBH continues to train preachers. Predisan helps the church grow by providing medical care with the compassion of Jesus. Predisan comes from combining two Spanish words-to preach and to heal. Local churches continue to grow. We are privileged to work in a very receptive area. What an exciting time! What an exciting future!

I'm not sure where I'm going. What God has in store as we follow him is often a surprise. I do know that my next mission trip is already scheduled. I am going back to Latin America to demonstrate the love of Jesus and help the church grow. Perhaps God is leading you to explore the possibilities too! Let me know if I can help you arrange your next trip!

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Last updated November 7, 2006