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A Letter from the Mission Field (November 30, 2013)

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Greetings from Honduras!  I hope you had a great Thanksgiving with your family! Here in Honduras we have a new president, Juan Orlando Hernández of the National Party (center-right). People went to the polls last Sunday, admidst fears of violence to voters.  Yet  the day passed peacefully and  without incident. However, on Tuesday, Mel Zelaya, the husband of the opposing  Freedom Party (Libre) candidate, Xiomara Castro de Zelaya (leftist),  gave a press conference refusing to concede the election.  Later in the afternoon, students sympathetic to Libre gathered at UNAH, the national university in Tegucigalpa (and just down the street from me), in a  protest that turned violent.  Heavily armed riot police quickly quelled it, dispersing the crowds with tear gas.  Whether that was just an isolated incident, we`ll have to see. While the vote has not been totally tallied, the trend is significantly in Orlando`s favor, to the point that other foreign governments, including  leftist Nicaragua, hav…

Emmanuel Church in Roatàn: Church Planting in Bay Islands

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Above is  a sketch for the new church of Emmanuel, which will be located in Coxen Hole, Roatán. It will seat 250 people on Sunday, have a multi-use room, a garden-patio and a sewing workshop for developing micro-enterprises among the women of the island.  Also, it also will be strong enough to withstand hurricanes  and provide an emergency shelter for the local people. Although the new church is located on Roatán, the Bay Islands,   known for  their luxury cruise ships, extravagant beach vacations  and  wealthy Americans retirees,  it will serve the poor, the Spanish-speaking service employees, who work in hotels and restaurants.
Fr. Nelson Mejia, the dynamic parish priest, who started  this congregation from scratch several years ago,  had been holding Sunday services in an office building. Now they meet  in the open air under a canopy on the the new property.  He serves with his wife, Kara, who also is a priest and SAMS-Canada missionary.  She is the pastor of  another church on th…

Honduras at the Crossroads: Will the New President bring New Hope?

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For the last month, at least,  the Aanglidesh lunch room has been alive with heated political discussions.  Fr. Roberto has pushed with no uncertain terms, the policies of Juan Orlando Hernandez of the National Party  and in response Doña Eufemia, our cleaning lady, has pushed back with equal force for Xiomara Castro de Zelaya of  Libre.
While other parties were in the running, these were the serious contenders, each offering differing solutions to Honduras' problems and each with it's own pitfalls.
But first, some background.

The crisis of 2009, which still greatly effects  Hondurans, was the coup de etat, which ousted   President  Manuel Zelaya, husband of Libre candidate Xiomara Castro.  He attempted  to extend his presidency another term, calling for a change to the constitution, which only allowed one term.  While he only asked for a non-binding referendum, other Hondurans (including the Supreme Court) took no chances.   They saw it as a power grab, a la Hugo Chavez of V…

A Letter from the Mission Field (Aug 16, 2013)

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Greetings from Honduras!
Summer is the time for short-term missions.   
I've had the pleasure of working with two great groups:  the Church of The Good Shepherd in Florida and a youth group from the Diocese of Maryland.  Their stories are below.
The mission group from my church, Christ the Redeemer, in Danvers, MA, was unable to come this time.   But hopefully they will be able to come later. The critics of short-term missions (STM) have suggested that, given the cost per person of a trip, sending the money directly to the field would be more effective. They have a point, if you are only looking at the money.
However, we need to understand missions are not just about bringing the Word of God to others, but also about the deepening the Word of God within our lives.  It is why God chooses to work through us, often in spite of ourselves.
In Honduras, the work is to help the poor, both materially and spiritually. The people we meet are indeed very poor and in great need of material help. Bu…

A Church for Santa Maria: A Partnership Between Two Parishes

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The Church of the Good Shepherd, from Lake Wales, Florida, is helping a new mission parish in the small town of Santa Maria, near the Nicaraguan border, build a new church (see map)
Father Tom Seitz and few members of his church visited Honduras in June to interview contractors for the project.  Three local contractors have submitted bids for a fence around the property, the first phase of the project. 
Mark Parlier AIA, an architect, also from Lake Wales,  has designed the church, pro bono, and currently is preparing the construction documents.  I have offered to be the local architect during the construction phase.
The members of Iglesia Buen Pastor ('The Good Shepherd' in English and the same name as the sponsoring church in Florida) now meet in the living room of  the senior warden's modest adobe house.  When we visited on Sunday for the Eucharist, the small house was packed, overflowing into the street.


The relationship between the two churches has been positive, but no…

Build My Church: Renovating a Building and Transforming Souls

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When St Francis heard God`s call to rebuild his church, he began with stone and mortar.  But he and the brothers soon discovered that  physical efforts were restorative spiritually as well.
In a similar fashion, when Ana Reid, SAMS missionary and also a member of my church, Christ the Redeemer in Massachusetts,  was asked by Bishop Allen to support the work of Church of San Fernando Rey in Omoa, she started with a church renovation.
The part-time, overworked priest-in-charge had neglected this church, both with regard to the people and the building.  The church held only one eight o`clock service on Sunday and nothing else during the week. The building itself leaked every time it rained, was dirty and the electricity didn`t work. Ana started her work at Omoa by bringing people together for a church clean-up.  She also invited me to do an architectural assesment of the building. We decided immediately that the priorities were to repair the roof and paint the building

When the roof replacem…

A Letter in the Fall River, MA, Herald News

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LETTER: Like father, like son for missionary familyPosted Oct 01, 2012 @ 02:24 PM



The Rev. Harold Melvin, an Episcopal priest, after being a missionary in Brazil three years, came to Fall River in 1959 as pastor of St. John’s Episcopal Church. His family consisted of wife Joan, a graduate of Brown University and three children. Rev. Hal, as many knew him, supported the downtrodden and persecuted. At that time the civil rights “battles” were being fought on southern buses, in restaurants, in courts and in the streets. The hottest spot was Selma, Ala., but other localities appealed for help. Rev. Melvin joined the protest in Williamston, N.C. There, with 11 other New Englanders (including theologian Harvey Cox), he was jailed for trying to achieve equal treatment for minorities. Upon release Rev. Hal returned to St. John’s on Middle Street almost in the shadow of St. Anne’s. But in the following years, many Episcopalians, like others, moved to the suburbs. Rev. Hal became a professor a…

'Reverse Mission' from "Gracias: A Latin American Journal" by Henri Nouwen

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" As I was trying to find an answer to the  question: "Does God call me to live and work in Latin America?   I gradually realized that the word "gracias" that came from the lips of the people contained the answer.  After many centuries of missionary work during which we, the people of the north, tried to give them , the people of the south, what we felt they needed, we have now come to realize that our very first vocation is to receive their gifts for us that live in the illusion of power and self-control.  It is the treasure of gratitude that can help us break through the walls of our individual and collective self-righteousness and prevent us from destroying ourselves  and our planet in the futile attempt to hold onto what we consider our own.   If I have any vocation in Latin America, it is the vocation to receive from the people the gifts they have to offer us and to bring these gifts back up north for our own conversion and healing.   The Maryknoll community …

Tale of Two Cities: Poverty Increases as Honduras Rebounds from Recession

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The contrast between small town Copan Ruinas and the big city of Tegucigalpa is quite stark.  After small town life, I joke that you can get anything in Tegucigalpa, because in Copan Ruinas you can get nothing.   Except maybe fresh produce. 

Tegucigalpa, located in a valley between mountains in the central part of Honduras, is upscale and trendy.   The people dress smartly, the homes are luxurious and everywhere you see expensive new  SUV's. The affluence is even more evident in the malls.  Tegucigalpa has at least six to eight malls  with high end merchandise in most of them.   They are comparable to anything in the U.S.  In fact, even middle class American would find some stores too expensive.

A look at GDP statistics (1) helps explain the abundance of wealth seen in Tegucigalpa. In 2008 GDP growth was 4.2%.  The following year 2009 Honduras was in recession with negative growth of -2.1%.   But, consistently, since then, the GDP has grown +2.8% in 2010, +3.6% in 2011 and +3.5% in …

The Work of Padre Roberto Martinez

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In the previous newsletter, I described Fr. Roberto's full time job at Aanglidesh, coordinating savings and loans cooperatives.  But after a full week of  work of at least nine hours a day, he faithfully travels to  his small mission churches each Sunday in the rugged mountains around Tegucigalpa.  Until recently, he  was in charge of five churches, which he rotated through each week, visiting one in the morning and the other in the afternoon.   The bishop, however, reduced is work load, so now he can spend more time with his two favorites, Iglesia de la Annunciación and San Isidro.
His frustration is that he cannot spend more time as a pastor with his churches.  But, unfortunately, his salary, as priest, is so low that unless he works full time at Aanglidesh, he cannot support his family. 
I've travelled with him several times over roads accessible only by a 4x4 pickup, fording rivers and crawling in low gear over steeply inclined rock to reach his remote  churches.  Along the …