In March a large group of volunteers from an association of churches north of Louisville came to La Campa for their first time to serve the Lenca Indians. These churches have been a blessing to the nation of Honduras for many years in many other areas so we were very blessed by their joining us in La Campa this year. Better than that, plans are already being made for return trip(s) in 2015!! Thank you Kentucky Team!!!
In March we had two construction projects underway. First, the new church for Pastor Emilio. Pastor Emilio’s congregation has outgrown their existing church building so the Kentucky team raised money and came to help them build the new church building. The primary activity was laying blocks for the walls. By the end of the trip the walls were nearly complete. When I returned in April the walls were complete and all of the trusses were in place. Besides accommodating the growing congregation, the new building frees up the original church building to be used as a teaching and training facility for the surrounding churches and the community.
The other project is the missions house. In addition to building the walls for the church part of the Kentucky team came to help with the roof. By the time they went home all of the lumber was on the roof so the house is no longer a convertible house. Since then the metal roof covering has been installed and all of the overhead wiring has been pulled. Next up is finishing the electrical work, roughing in the plumbing and finishing the walls. It is getting built slowly but surely.
Pick Up Truck
Several of you know that we have need of a reliable, used, 4*4 pick up truck in Honduras. The Lord has been faithful to provide, through the generosity of others, almost half of the purchase price for a Mazda truck we found that suits our needs perfectly. It has relatively low miles, 4 good tires (a big deal in Honduras), cold A\C, and has been maintained very well. We’re praying that He will supply us with the balance needed to purchase this truck in June. A huge THANK YOU to all who have helped us with our future transportation!!
In March we met Jesus Larios; he is a teacher at the middle school in La Campa. Among the many topics he is responsible to teach, English is one of them. This has been quite a challenge for him since he is not fully bi-lingual. The English he speaks he speaks very well but he doesn’t know a lot yet. Needless to say he was thrilled when we explained who we were, that we were coming to live in La Campa, and that we would like to come teach his students English using Bible stories. We did our first sessions with the students in March and they are quick learners. This is something we have desired to do and now the Lord has opened this door of opportunity for us. By teaching them Bible stories in English they will not only gain a skill they can use to earn a better living, but they will also gain valuable insight about the true and living God of the Bible.
There are too many blessings to count, but we’re most thankful for good health, good medical results from recent tests, for our very lives, and for amazing friends and family who are a BIG part of what God is doing in Honduras. He is not doing it just through Jean and me, but through ALL of us!
When faced with a task the first question usually asked is “What will it take?”. I’m not sure this is the best first question. Perhaps the best question to ask first is “Who will it take?”. Some undertakings require less people than others, but at some level, people are always either required and\or affected. Therefore, people are our most important consideration regardless of the task.
But you say, I’m a computer programmer, or an architect, or an accountant, I work by myself all day. Being a former accountant there were lots of times I worked by myself-just me and the numbers. But it took many of us, laboring seemingly separately at times, but actually working together as a team to fulfill our role in the “big picture” of the corporation. It took not only the right amount of people, but the right people.
Looking at the writings of Paul in the New Testament we see that this is very true in the life and ministry of the Church. I’m defining the church as it is articulated in the New Testament, as the body of believers working together to be ambassadors for Jesus, to be His hands and feet, loving and serving our fellow men, women, and children. (see how it is always about people) In this way the church, when healthy and functioning properly, fulfills it’s role in God’s big picture.
When Paul wrote letters to Timothy and Titus instructing them how to “do church” he did not focus on the building, the chairs, the carpet color, the sound system, etc, etc. He focused on people. He gave very clear instructions for the type of people who were needed to serve in the different functions of the church. He gave characteristics that each of these people should have and how they were to interact with others.
Does all of this mean the “things” are not important? Of course not. Depending on what country and culture you live in, some things will be more prevalent and important than other things. But behind the “things” are people. Buildings don’t pop up by themselves and sound systems don’t magically appear and function on their own.
When Paul and Barnabas left for their first missionary journey they were prayed for, commissioned, and sent off to go teach and serve other people. They were going to serve people and they were supported by many people while doing so. People were their focus but they had need of things too. The same is true for us as we go further on this journey God has set for us. The Lenca people are our focus, but we too have need of people to support us and for “things” that can be provided by people.
Our needs aren’t terribly different than Paul and Barnabas’ needs were; transportation, food, clothing and shelter are the primary needs. Paul and Barnabas needed money to pay for ships to take them across the Mediterranean whereas we will purchase some airline tickets and buy a pick up truck. Paul and Barnabas stayed in various places along the way but Jean and I will have a permanent dwelling where we will stay (most of the time). Food and clothes are food and clothes. If I (Greg) eat more like Paul probably did I’ll need less food and smaller clothes-these would certainly be good developments. But I digress.
Like Paul, we are seeking gifts from people to help us go further on our journey with God to Honduras. Like Paul, we understand how God’s economy works, meaning that the giver of the gift is blessed at least as much, if not more than, the recipient of the gifts. From personal experience we know this to be true and we desire the same experience for each one who joins us in support of our ministry. Also like Paul, we will engage in business activities to help provide some of our own support. When we help the Lenca materially nothing is free for them so it seems this principle should apply to us too.
The bottom line is that we need your help. We can’t do this alone. I was reading this week about Barnabus and Paul and it really hit home with me that mission work is the easiest act of obedience to God. The hard part is asking for help. Everyone who loves the Lord can play a key role in sending missionaries like us out into the field. Praying for us is pure gold, serving on a team with us in Honduras is incredible and giving to help us live and serve is our request.
Greg & Jean
Where Exactly Will You Be?
We will be living in the department (state) of Lempira, in the town of La Campa, in the southwestern mountains of Honduras, very near to the borders of El Salvador and Guatemala. Some maps actually show La Campa, but nearly all of them show the city of Gracias (yes, the city is named thank you 🙂 and La Campa is just a little bit south of Gracias.
Who Are The Lenca?
The Lenca are an indigenous people group who live in the area described above. They have largely lost their original language so they speak Spanish. It is estimated that there are 133,000 Lenca, all residing in Honduras. They are considered an engaged but under reached people group. This means that there are less than 2% of the Lenca considered to be evangelical Christians, but that there is an evangelical church planting strategy in place. This information was obtained from http://www.peoplegroups.org, February 2014.
What Are The Lenca Like?
The Lenca people are very intelligent and resourceful people. They have learned to do a lot with a little since they don’t have much, at least as we in the U.S. define having much. Their economy is primarily agricultural; they grow a lot of corn, beans, and coffee. They are a very peaceful and friendly people. They are shy and reserved at first. They’ve been exploited by different groups over the years so they wisely watch and learn before they trust.
How Do You Get There & How Long Does It Take?
We fly into San Pedro Sula and it takes about 3.5 hours from Atlanta on a non stop Delta flight. There is one flight daily to and from San Pedro Sula and Atlanta. From San Pedro we drive 4-5 hours depending on traffic, number of stops, etc. 4 hours is the best time we’ve ever made, 5 is about average, it took us 9 hours one time. That is a story you’ll probably see in this blog sooner or later…
What’s The Weather Like?
San Pedro Sula is hot and humid; think Atlanta in August, but worse, for about 10 months out of the year. La Campa is much more temperate since the elevation is about 3,900′. During the warmer season temperatures run roughly 80s/60s, during the cooler season roughly 70s/50s. March and April are the warmest months, November-January are breezy and cool, June-September are rainy.
Is It Safe In Honduras?
Is it really safe anywhere? There is risk everywhere you go, even in the U.S. The fact that Honduras has led the murders per capita statistic for at least the last couple of years draws a lot of media attention. And it is a horrible statistic in which to be a world leader. While not minimizing the tragedy and danger there are a couple of important observations to be made about this statistic. First, while not easily quantified, it is recognized that the vast majority of these murders are by and of gang murders revolving around the drug trade. Innocent people are getting caught up in this without a doubt. But it is largely rival gang members murdering each other. Second, there are areas of every large metropolitan city in the U.S. where we don’t go; the same goes for Honduras, there are places we don’t go.
How Are The Roads?
Generally they are in poor condition. However, there are at least 3 major road construction projects currently underway or recently completed we know of (as of early 2014) and these projects are being done very well. There were also some nice repairs made in late 2013 but it remains to be seen how long they will hold up. Driving in Honduras is an adventure to say the least!! The speeds are not very high because of the condition of the roads and the vehicles but it is still dangerous, and seemingly chaotic, even by Atlanta area standards. I guess you could sum it up by saying that whoever is willing to go first gets to go first. There is not an abundance of road signs or streetlights. The road signs that do exist are merely suggestions, people pass each other everywhere and go as fast as they can. Driving after dark is not recommended so we generally don’t. The closest paved road to La Campa is about 45 minutes down the mountain to Gracias. Otherwise, we are surrounded by dirt and gravel roads.
What’s The Food Like?
The Lenca diet consists mostly of corn, beans, tortillas, and queso. They make some very good tamales, and there is some pork and chicken available. Like most other places in the world, the amount of meat consumed depends on your level of wealth; but regardless of wealth, there is not as much meat consumed there as there is in the U.S.
In and around La Campa, most of the foods are natural, we would refer to them being “organic” here in the U.S. Overall, the food supply is healthier in the rural areas; there is plenty of junk food available in the major metropolitan areas. Many familiar U.S. chain restaurants are easily found in the big cities too.
We have already planted several fruit trees on the missions property, these are in addition to the already producing mango trees and pineapple bushes, and there will be more planted in the months ahead. We intend to do quite a bit of gardening and chicken raising to provide as much of our own food as possible. Of course we will grow some of our own coffee. All of this will eventually reduce our dependency on financial donations.
How About The Water?
Don’t drink from the faucet or sing in the shower!!! They are used to their parasites, we are not. They would have similar problems drinking U.S. tap water. We are expecting to have a filtration system in our home so our water will be safe for us to drink from the faucets. There are great soft drinks available there, and they are all made with REAL sugar. None of that corn syrup stuff. We’re not claiming them to be healthy drinks, but they are not quite as bad for you, and they taste so much better!!
Why Are You Going To Do There?
We believe that churches should start churches, not the missionaries, and that the nationals should lead their churches, not the missionaries. So now you are really wondering what we’re going to be doing. We will continue to work with two national pastors we’ve built relationships with for the last 4 years to help them identify and train leaders from their churches to pastor these new churches. While we are doing the training and teaching of these men, we will also be coordinating the efforts of short-term mission teams who come to help us start new churches in villages where there is no church. And once the village is ready for a church, we will help them obtain resources and work side by side with them to build the church.
We are currently aware of approximately 20 villages where there is no evangelical church. This means that the people are going a long way to hear the Word and live in fellowship with other believers, or they are missing out on this altogether. There is a small house church movement in certain parts of Honduras that we will be respectful of in our efforts. Our goal is to work where nobody else is working, not to build buildings just for the sake of it or to steal church members. Everything we do is intended to make God’s name known by making the reality of redemption known by more and more Lenca. We want do our part to contribute to every nation, tribe and tongue giving worship to God for all eternity (Revelation 7).
We will also help families meet physical needs constructively following the teach a man to fish rather than give fish principle. There are some popular books available such as Toxic Charity and When Helping Hurts that you can read to get a better idea of our methods to help families in a long-term, constructive manner. Of course, Abundant Life Coffee, www.abundantlifecoffee.com will continue to play a role in bringing economic hope and opportunity to Lenca families by helping them start their own coffee growing businesses and then doing what we can to help connect them to the profitable international coffee market.
Please read the blog post titled Why Go? for even more information about why we do what we do.
How Long Will You Be There?
Good question, we don’t know. We estimate that it will take at least 5 years to help start the 20 new churches we are already aware of at this time. We think there are plenty more opportunities that we do not yet know about. The better answer, we suppose, is that we have not signed up for a short-term assignment so there are no plans to move back to the U.S. soon; and since our ministry philosophy is that we should be trying to work ourselves out of a job we also can’t say with certainty that we’ll spend the rest of our lives in La Campa. How long we are there is completely up to the Lord.
From a practical standpoint, we will help train and support leaders for as long as they want, we will help start new churches and be involved with the new churches for as long or short as they want, and then we will move on. First and foremost, the churches are God’s churches, but after that, they are Lenca churches, not the American missionaries churches.
Are You Going There Independently?
Absolutely not! We are missionaries serving with Frontline Missions, a small missions agency based in Fairburn, GA. While most of us come from a Southern Baptist background, we are a non-denominational agency working with many different evangelical churches. Please visit www.fmusa.org for more information.
We are members of Kennesaw First Baptist Church who has been a strong partner with us in Honduras since 2011, please visit www.kfbc.org for more information.
What Will You Do For Money?
All of the Frontline missionaries are a combination of faith supported and tent making missionaries. By faith supported we mean that we depend largely on the generosity of others who believe in financially supporting Christian missionary work around the world. The Apostle Paul was a tent-maker by trade so in addition to receiving donations, he made tents to earn money to help meet his needs.
As already stated, we will rely, more heavily at first, on donations from other people and churches. We also already mentioned that we will do as much of our own food production as possible to meet our needs, and we think there will be some other opportunities for us to combine work with donations to support us and our ministry.
One last comment about finances; we receive 100% of your donations made by check, no money is taken off the top for any reason. The only time we receive less than 100% of a donation is when you make donations on-line because the PayPal credit card processing fees have to be paid out of the on-line donation.
There is so much in the Bible about prayer and there are many different ways and reasons to pray. And many of you, no doubt, already have a pretty full prayer life. So on the one hand, we are hesitant to ask, but on the other hand, prayer is the fuel for life, so we do humbly ask you to join us in prayer. And as we join together in prayer, let’s start out remembering the main reason for prayer-it is the primary communication channel between us and the heavenly Father. It is also the way we join together as the body of Christ while we are scattered across the globe.
There are many “things” we will list below that we will ask you to pray for. These “things” will be provided, or the Lord will show us better “things” that He wants us to ask Him about. But there are a few prayer requests that will never cease, and we would like to start with these first:
Now the “things”:
There is much more that we could list but this is a good start. In addition to these requests we know the Lord will lead and guide each of us in our prayers. Many of these prayer requests can be prayed for you too! And please know that we will pray these for you. Please share that you are praying for us. There is no better way to be encouraged in life than knowing your friends and family are praying for you.
A common question we have heard over the years goes something like this, “Why are you going over there? There are plenty of people here in the United States who need to hear the gospel.” That is an honest question deserving of a well thought out and honest answer. In an attempt to provide such an answer, we will turn to our authoritative source, the Bible. There are many Scriptures that could be referenced explaining why anybody goes to a different land and\or people group, but here are the foundational Scriptures for us.
In Genesis chapter 12 we meet Abram, later to change his name to Abraham. God speaks to Abraham and tells him to leave his country and go to another land that God will reveal to him when he gets there. In a sense we’re already ahead of the game since we at least know where we are going. In the first three verses God makes a covenant agreement with Abraham in the form of promises. God promises to make Abraham the father of a great nation with multitudes of descendants, in addition to giving him the land. But there is a purpose statement, God didn’t do this just because He could-God promises to do all of this for Abraham so that Abraham would then be a blessing to the other nations. Being a blessing meant that Abraham would help the other nations, and more importantly, that Abraham and the nation of Israel would draw the other nations to the Living God. That was always the purpose for the nation of Israel, to show others what it meant to have a covenant relationship with God so that they would desire to then have the same covenant relationship. God’s plan from the very beginning was to include all the nations. This is our purpose too. In Galatians 3:6-9 Paul explains that Christians, by faith, are included in this Old Testament covenant.
“Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to Him as righteousness. Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham, the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘All the nations will be blessed in you.’ So then, those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.”
The Great Commission In Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus commissioned all believers to communicate the gospel every person everywhere in the world. There are many more in-depth applications than we can’t go into here but here is a short analysis. First, Jesus has been given all authority on the basis of His death and resurrection. On His authority we are to go. And it is to be understood as going to a location different from the one in which we have lived. Then He gives us specifics of what we are to do when we get there; we are to make disciples of all the nations by baptizing them and teaching them to observe Jesus’ commands. This process is much more than imparting factual knowledge. We must live with and demonstrate the kind of life Jesus lived. This is what will draw people to Him. It requires time, it requires relationships. It is more than a classroom experience. This leads us to the Great Commandment.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:37-40
Steven Hawthorne summarizes how these work together, “We cannot evangelize the peoples without excelling in love. And we cannot consider our evangelization complete unless people are growing in love for God and obeying Him by loving their neighbors.”
The Covenant, the Great Commission, and the Great Commandment; by faith, through Christ we are in a covenant relationship with God; based on Jesus’ full authority we have a mandate to go, teach and baptize, making disciples of the nations, and we are commanded to do it simply by loving God and loving others. Why? To bring God the glory and worship He deserves as the Sovereign Creator of the universe.
Everybody has a story. Our story has similarities to the stories of those who have gone before us into world missions, but it is personal and unique because our God is a personal, and most unique God. We both pursued and achieved a certain amount of success in our careers with accounting\business administration, and management (Greg) and sales, marketing, and management (Jean) backgrounds. Then in 2000, there was a conversion (Greg) and a re-dedication (Jean) that ushered in the next chapter of our story. Of course, we didn’t realize just how different the next chapters of our story were going to be at that time. It wasn’t until we started looking back several years later that we began to see. And that’s the way it is, only in hindsight could we see where we started from and compare that to where we were currently. Everything that took place in between those two points is our story.
In 2005 we took our first short-term mission trip. Two more followed in 2007 and 2008. Then in 2009 we went to Honduras to help Frontline Missions begin a new ministry to the Lenca Indians, an under reached indigenous people group in the southwestern mountains of the country. We bonded with many families in the community where we served. We returned in 2010 and by then we started thinking that God was preparing us for a new chapter in His\our story. In 2011 there was a career change, and then a new business started in 2012 with the goal ofproviding economic opportunity and hope to Lenca families. The Lord showed us how we could do this in a constructive manner using coffee, and how we could combine that with our desire to see new Lenca pastors leading new churches in Lenca villages where there is no church.
Between 2010 and 2011 we got to spend more time in Honduras and discovered that we really wanted to be there more, and that we wanted to be with the Lenca people more. It was becoming more and more obvious to us that God was making the way for us to enter into His story in La Campa, Honduras.
Everybody has a story. We’ve told you a little bit about our story. What is your story? What might God’s next chapter in your story be? Perhaps God is making the way for you to enter into His story in Honduras with us. There are many ways to do this. Would you be willing to commit to praying for us and the Lenca regularly? Maybe you’ve heard the still small voice prompting you to take a short term mission trip-if so we can help you. Do you believe as we do, that we are to live generously? Perhaps you’d like to prayerfully consider supporting our ministry to the Lenca. Are you a networker? We have a tremendous need for advocates to help us mobilize people and resources in the U.S.
As you can see, there are many ways for you to enter into God’s story. Please pray for the Lord to clearly reveal how He wants you to enter into His story.