In almost every way, as I type, I can’t be much further away from where I was sat when I wrote my last link letter. Then, I was sitting in the sun overlooking a magnificent volcano and listening to the sounds of the hustle and bustle of Antigua in Guatemala. I am now enjoying the peaceful serenity of the Crowther Library in Oxford. I can only see one metre in front of me because of the shelves but I love that smell of books and feel of intelligence that you only get in libraries.
Over in Guatemala, everything was a new experience, a practical exploration in culture, being thousands of miles away from friends and family and getting used to not being a parish youth worker anymore. Now I spend my days in CMS House, a building I know very well as I did my undergraduate studies here; I can eat Marmite to my heart’s content and I’m surrounded by a hugely supportive and encouraging community doing the same thing.
I feel my time in Guatemala was the stripping back of many home comforts, ideas and habits. This time in Oxford is one of building up, preparation and encouragement. For example, when I’ve visited my link churches to speak about the work of Street Kids Direct, I’ve left full of encouragement and excitement.
In our lectures here I’ve often arrived worn out but left with a new energy to get on with things. I’ve found the CMS staff in the office to be highly committed and passionate about what we are doing as a community.
Two questions still beg to be answered – what will I be doing and where will I really be going? Well, without insulting your intelligence and not assuming prior knowledge, here’s a brief guide to Honduras:
• It’s between Guatemala and Nicaragua in Central America and is the second poorest country in the region.
• The official language is Latin American Spanish, with several Amerindian dialects spoken mainly in the north.
• It has a population of 8.8 million people with approximately half the landmass of the UK, which has a population of 64 million.
• The capital is Tegucigalpa which has approximately one million people living there (soon to be one million and one!).
• The currency is the Lempira, which is worth around 28 to the Pound.
• The population is 52 per cent Catholic, 36 per cent Evangelical protestant, 1 per cent other and 11 per cent no religion.
• 60 per cent of the population are living under the poverty line.
• 16 per cent of children (aged 5-14) work full time.
• 20 per cent of the population use the internet.
• Honduras has one of the highest murder rates in the world due to gang activity and drugs trafficking.
I will learn more and more about Latin culture as time goes on, but a quick way to describe it is as “warm” and “high”. Warm in the sense that people are welcoming and hospitable and high in the sense that cultural rules and expectations should be adhered to.
Interestingly the temperature where I’ll be living will also be warm (between 25-35°C all year round) and the location is high in the mountains, up to 1,400 metres.
My role is still evolving but I know for certain that I’ll be focussed on a few things. In no particular order, I will be working with:
• Manuelito Children’s Home – developing/creating a discipleship programme for the children and young people who live there.
• AFE School – working with staff to better facilitate visiting mission teams amongst many other things.
• Prison project – developing the link with this project which provides support for the children and young people in the boy’s prison in the city.
• Mentoring programme – developing and implementing a vision of how to use the “one hour a week” mentoring programme in Honduras. This programme focusses on the most at risk children and young people with a view to seeing them transformed into leaders and culture changers.
• Networking – be involved with the wider networks in Honduras that work around children and young people living on the streets.
As I said, these things are likely to change and develop as needs and time become more apparent. However, I know that this work will be focussed around proclaiming the Kingdom of Heaven through nurturing believers, loving service, challenging unjust structures of society and encouraging sustainability.
With so few days left before I go I am excited and impatient, as ready as I ever will be and looking forward to discovering exactly what it is like to live on the other side of the world. I am aware of the privilege that it will be to serve and learn from all those I come across. I know that I will come across many challenges, from missing friends and family to coming across situations that appear to be hopeless.
How often do we come across such difficulties? Probably more than we are aware of! We are called as both a community and as individuals to live out God’s Kingdom wherever we are. That might mean getting involved with the local food bank, or helping out with our church youth group, or even treating our family in the way God wants us to. Mission starts at home. Maybe you could pray more? I certainly need it!
These few months since being in Guatemala have been amazing. From the huge success of Radio Christmas where we saw the Kingdom in action, money and awareness raised of Street Kids Direct to the challenges and struggles that come with studying theology.
I don’t know exactly what the next few years will look like but especially from this library full of testimony and thinking about mission, I know it will be an adventure.
It has been identified that I will need a car to be able to carry out my duties whilst in Honduras. A car fund, that is separate to my existing personal fund, has been setup.
If you are willing and able to give a gift specifically for that, please contact Paul Read, CMS’s people in mission funding manager, on paul.read@ churchmissionsociety.org Thank you!