It all began with a late summer Skype call from the heart of England to the middle of Central America, almost 5,300 miles away.
The three churches that make up the united benefice of Goring, Streatley and South Stoke, on the border of Oxfordshire and Berkshire, are linked with CMS mission partner Steve Poulson, who works with street kids in the city of Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
On that day, a small group from the churches were catching up with Steve’s news, hearing about his everyday activities and challenges, discovering what they might take back to their congregations for prayer. Until they were interrupted by a small child, looking for Steve’s help with a simple task. Steve immediately responded as a parent would, speaking to the child in his own language, regardless of his audience. In that moment, the Goring onlookers had a simple, but profound insight into Steve’s work – and their understanding and emotional investment were transformed.
They were moved and inspired to share Steve’s story with their congregations. But how? How could they bring Steve and the street kids to the forefront of busy people’s minds? And it was one church priority among many. That’s when someone came up with the idea: a black-tie dinner, involving all three churches, featuring Steve as the after-dinner speaker – and Hope for Honduras was born.
They set a date around Steve being back in the UK, booked the golf club to cater, advertised the event in local newspapers. They spoke about it in each church for weeks ahead. Then they waited, and prayed. Would anyone come? Would the tickets sell?
Slowly but surely, the tickets sold. The congregations came together to support a worthwhile cause, but also to enjoy a unique celebration of mission. Indeed, the wider community caught the vision too – it was an opportunity to engage with church without being required to ‘go to’ church.
On the night, the guests listened, captivated, as Steve shared the realities of life for children living on the streets of Tegucigalpa; children forced out of home because of parental neglect, violence, or substance abuse.
He didn’t attempt to gloss over the stark facts. But he is passionate about bringing hope – and that is what God has called him to do. His work is about speaking and living the love of Jesus into places where there is little hope, and seeing young lives transformed.
For instance, he coordinates a mentoring programme, equipping adults to be a supportive, consistent, loving presence in a high-risk young person’s life, investing for the long-term in their overall well-being. As he has said himself, “Mentoring changes lives and is one way to remember these children. I don’t think it’s the answer but it’s certainly an answer with a proven high impact”.
This was the message Steve brought to the people of Goring, Streatley and Stoke on one Saturday night in November across crisp white tablecloths. They were moved, challenged and inspired. Once again, the English countryside was connected with the streets of Honduras through mission. And through their partnership with Steve, the churches are participant in this work, enabling him to cross cultures with the love of Jesus, bringing hope to one young life at a time. And transformation works both ways.
Steve says: “I felt so encouraged and humbled that someone would do this to help me fulfil my calling. To have people in a link church so committed to partnering with me, meant that it became much less of a fundraising event and totally about mission and embodied the name that they came up with.
“It was also a fantastic opportunity for the link church to engage in mission in their parish, with many non-church members attending. What better ‘advert’ can we have for the church but showing how we are impacting the world for the better?
“If you are in a link church and feel like you could organise something, don’t ask your mission partner’s permission, just do it!”