It was Friday noon when I landed in San Pedro Sula and the temperature had already reached 94 degrees. My wife had preceded me two weeks earlier to lay the groundwork and work out the logistics of the visit and she was eagerly waiting for me at the airport. After a short welcome by her and the family, we quickly proceeded to the orphanage, fitly named “Hogar de Niño’s Senderos De Amor’, which roughly translated in English means “Home of Boys, Paths of Love.”
It would certainly live up to its name, as we found a very small but dedicated staff caring for 51 boys, who ranged in age from four to seventeen, including eleven who suffer from physical or mental illnesses. The staff of eight employees (a director, three social workers, one security guard, and three kitchen staff) oversee the entire walled and gated facility, which sprawls over four acres in the suburbs of San Pedro Sula. The grounds were in a maintained but deteriorating state of repair, as most of the money they receive from the local government barely provides three hot meals daily and affords the basic essentials for the boys. We found, in subsequent discussions with the director, that the entire staff had only received half of their monthly pay for the last 14 months due to budgetary restraints. Yet you would have never known that seeing the enthusiasm and dedication they showed in the care for the boys.
Upon our arrival, a throng of young boys greeted us, curious to see the visitors that they had been eagerly anticipating. We proceeded to tour the dormitories, kitchen, storage areas, bathrooms, and general grounds. What we found brought us back to the purpose that we had undertaken this project, and that was to improve the lives of these young men and introduce them to the love of cheerful giving, as introduced by Jesus Christ. The equipment that we replaced in this capital project either was in need of dire repair or did not work at all. The washer was pieced together from two broken units, the range was down to its last working heating element, and the beds and storage lockers were crumbling before our eyes. There were only two working showers and they had recently construct two outside toilets to handle their growing needs. It was a stark reminder of just how blessed we are in the United States and how much we take for granted the small comforts of life.
After a three-hour tour of the facility, we bid adieu to our grateful hosts that Friday afternoon and left to prepare for the Sabbath. As we looked forward to the events of the coming Monday and the delivery of the church’s donation, we could not anticipate that anticipation and excitement that was building in that tiny community of hopeful young men.
As Monday arrived, it was delivery day, and the well packed truck arrived with new beds, storage containers, bedding sheets, two washers and a large chest freezer, specially designed cribs for the special needs area, cooking utensils, a stove, and much needed medicine. It was sight to behold, to see the gleam and joy, in the eyes of those young boys. Over the next four hours, the items were unloaded, assembled, and placed into service by the dedicated staff and the watchful eyes of the young men it was intended to help.
As that process wound down, the Director had made plans for a formal acknowledgement for the donation during a shared lunch, with all the boys in attendance, and for a prerecorded message from Jay Ledbetter, our pastor in Knoxville, which would be played for them. The message was translated into Spanish so the boys would be able to understand. Much to our amazement, the attention level of the boys was mesmerizing, as they listened intently to the message of greeting and love Jay had prepared from First Thessalonians 1:1-8.
It was a very moving experience to see the young men hearing of the love, exhibited through faith and example, and it was clear that the work in Honduras, and more importantly in those children, had just begun. Jay and his daughter, along with my wife, are planning a live visit in the very near future, to further that spreading of love through the preaching of the Gospel to those young men.
Sadly, our visit had finished, and it was time to leave those young men with a farewell and a promise to return soon. The impression, this trip and the gift of love, made on all those that were involved in this endeavor, was indelible. It will forever remind us that there is much work yet to be done, in many places around the world, in order to preach the Gospel and share the love of the Father and Jesus Christ with all people, in hopeful expectation of the day, when all injustice and suffering will be taken away. Until that day, we can only comfort those in need and share the faith we have in that living Word, Jesus Christ with our talents and gifts, that are given to us for good works.