In an interesting new feature, Steve’s link letters will be in the form of an interview with the CMS communications team. This edition, an interview with link materials editor Jonathan Self, focuses on what Steve has been up to in the UK and his future plans back in Honduras.
Jonathan: What have you been up to in the past few weeks?
Steve: In the past month, I have done a sponsored walk to raise money for the kids and the various projects I am involved with. Since I got back to the UK, we have opened our new mentoring building in Honduras. It’s in a small town called Talanga which is about an hour north of Tegucigalpa. We’ve got 23 kids in total – 10 girls and 13 boys aged 8–14 and all of them are in school (half weren’t before the centre started). Three of those currently have a mentor and obviously the plan is for all of them to have mentors.
Jonathan: Would you like to see this replicated across the country?
Steve: Well it already is, run by other missionaries. Two locations are running mentoring schemes while a third is in the process of identifying areas of need. I was speaking at a conference recently and some American missionaries came up to me and said “we’ve been serving for a while and are established but there is something missing in our ministry and that is mentoring”.
Jonathan: Tell us a bit about the sponsored challenge.
Steve: In terms of fundraising and awareness raising, it was a great success. In terms of walking, it was a complete disaster. It was meant to be a relay with four of us but before we had even started, one of the team, Ben, had to pull out due to stomach issues. He was in no fit state to walk. The other two, Duncan and Joseph, both had knee and foot injuries before they had even started the walk. Even so, they went ridiculously far over the first four days but then both broke down. Joseph got a stress fracture in his foot and Duncan did something to his knee.
Jonathan: How far did they walk in the first four days?
Steve: They walked around 200 kilometres which is quite impressive really. I travelled down to Land’s End with Ben who was my support and I began the walk. I did about 40 or 50 kilometres a day with Ben helping me stretch (he used to be a professional footballer so knew what to do). As the days went on, I actually walked faster as my body got used to this ridiculous challenge.
Jonathan: How far did you go?
Steve: I walked over 300 miles as part of a relay team, from Land’s End to Kendall. We also raised £13,500 which we were really pleased with.
Jonathan: Looking back, what has been both the best and the hardest thing about being in Honduras?
Steve: A really interesting thing happened the other day. I was at Silverstone for the Grand Prix. And I looked behind me and saw these two security guards with what I thought were machine guns on their back. A few minutes later, I looked back again and realised that they didn’t have guns but rucksacks on and umbrellas behind their back. It highlighted how used I am now to seeing guns. And it led me to reflect on what else has changed with my thinking. Operating in such a challenging environment as Honduras is very tiring as you have to constantly be on guard and aware. You don’t really notice how on guard you are, for months on end, until you leave the country, and then you realise how exhausted you are. One of the other difficult things about being in Honduras is reminding yourself that you can’t do everything. There’s so much need and so much to do. And I am learning the difference between a good thing to do and the God thing to do.
One of the best things is definitely seeing transformation in people. One of the boys that that we work with, Cristian, is 18 and I’ve known him since he was eight years old when I first went to Honduras in 2009. His mum died when he was four and his dad totally rejected him. It’s a real privilege to see him now at the age of 18 about to finish the equivalent of his GCSEs. And it’s one of my great joys and we have quite a close relationship and I am able to speak into his life a lot. So for example, he invites me to all of the Father’s Day stuff that goes on, parents’ evenings and that sort of thing, which is a real privilege to be able to do.
It’s also really exciting to see also how the projects themselves are developing, the safeguarding policies being put in place and taking effect. And beginning a new culture of open working and accountability.
Jonathan: What are you most excited about when you go back?
Steve: I am really excited about the inauguration of our new building in Talanga on 27 August. We’ve got the British ambassador coming to cut the ribbon. I’m excited to do more training for mentoring and visit other projects. And I’ve been invited by Paul Tester to help the Anglican Church in Peru develop a safeguarding policy. Our biggest challenge, however, is to find mentors and volunteers. Lots of people are excited about these two things but the reality is very few are committed enough to actually follow through. The other challenge is to engage churches. They are are all excited about it at the beginning, love the idea, but when the rubber hits the road many don’t like doing anything outside their front door.
Jonathan: How can we pray for you?
Steve: Please pray for our different mentoring centres, that they can establish mentors. That’s a real key thing. Please also pray for my safety as I travel around in Honduras. Finally, please pray that I can see people outside of work and have a life!