I’d never been on a short-term mission trip. After living abroad in the Middle East and North Africa for 11 years, our family returned to the United States. Soon after, while teaching at Liberty University, I was invited by my friend Mel Cox to go on a short-term mission trip. I had no idea what this even meant. We were going to Honduras. Where was that? I only knew that Larry and Jean Elliott had served there with the IMB before giving their lives in Northern Iraq. What would we do? I couldn’t speak Spanish! These people had already heard the gospel and they were “reached,” right? At least all the maps on world evangelization told me that. I went, and now, almost 20 years later, I’ll be going back to Honduras for the 15th time. This time I’ll have some Gateway students with me.
El Ayudante (the Helper) was founded in Honduras and Nicaragua about 25 years ago. Two Baptist laymen, who were brothers from West Tennessee, discovered that their great, great uncle, John Alexander Downing, had gone to Central America with Mark Twain and never came back. They also discovered he’d started a family there and they had Central American cousins. Mel Cox, a pharmacist, and his postal worker brother, Bill, headed down to meet their extended family. Besides finding family members, they were both taken by the needs and opportunities for work in the region. The people did indeed need the eternal hope of the gospel along with other pressing temporal needs including orphan care, clean water and proper sanitation.
People stopped, listened and responded.
During my initial short-term trip in 2004, I was able to be a part of the founding of, what us former IMB folk would call, a “mission compound.” A parcel of land was given to the ministry through an agreement with the community elders seeking help. The compound would eventually contain a medical clinic, a dental clinic, an educational/ tutoring center, a soccer field (mandated in the agreement as accessible to the community for play), outdoor lighted basketball/soccer court and housing for teams and some workers. I got to preach in the front yard of a village home. People stopped, listened and responded. This was quite the contrast to what I had and had not been able to do in the Middle East.
This year, one of our spring break Beyond Trips is to Honduras. I want our students to go to Honduras and El Ayduante for a number of reasons.
First, Honduras is a great cross-cultural experience. Honduras is filled with friendly people and the best of central American culture. The people work hard; often in coffee fields or farms. They care for their families. They appreciate and welcome guests.
Honduras is an “open” country in that you can share the gospel freely. You can have conversations about Jesus in homes as you install water filters or deliver and help install latrines. Further, you can actually have VBS in public schools. They welcome it.
The founders of El Ayudante and many of its supporters are Baptists who have taken groups from their churches down for years. While I was on the El Ayudante board, I was able to interview and recommend the current in-country directors of El Ayudante. I met them on the seminary’s old campus in Mill Valley, California. They’ve been serving for nearly 15 years.
Getting to Honduras is easy—it is a one-hour time difference from Los Angeles. You can get there faster than you can get to New York or Miami! It’s relatively inexpensive too.
Once you go to Honduras and El Ayudante, you will want to return and bring others with you. As a pastor in California, I took our high school juniors and seniors every other year. This experience gave our kids a cross-cultural experience where they were helping people and sharing about Jesus. It helped them as much as the people they served. It also helped their faith to stick. We saw them staying committed to the Lord after high school.
If you are a student interested in going with Gateway Seminary on a Beyond Trip in Spring 2024, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have already graduated or are a church leader and want to take your people, visit https://elayudanteinhonduras.com/.
If you want to help others go to Honduras and beyond, you can donate to missions at Gateway Seminary.