‘Living Hope pt. 2
LaGRANGE – Local churches are teaming with groups from across the country to provide hope and education to children in Honduras.
Living Hope for Honduras is a mission effort that has been working to build better lives for Honduran communities since the late 80’s when the first missionary went down to see what they could do to help the impoverished country.
“Living Hope for Honduras is a whole life mission effort,” said Gary Kirkendall. “It’s churches, education, helping with schools, community improvement, improving homes through getting concrete floors in there and roofs and things to get kids off the dirt, nutrition, medical, dental. And so, what we do is, we find folks who want to go… and we let them define their own ministry, and then we become the clearing house for their resources, and their logistics.”
Several churches have adopted villages in Honduras to help build the community in that area, like how First Baptist Church on the Square adopted Gualaco. The ultimate goal of the mission is to make the communities self-sufficient and two out of the 15 churches that Living Hope has helped are already self-sufficient. This progress is especially impressive considering Honduras’ status as one of the poorest countries in the western hemisphere.
“We try to leave as small a footprint as possible as far as North American influence, but enable them so that – and this is the whole philosophy of that ministry – so that people can be inspired to begin to dream and have hopes of their own,” said Kirkendale. “When you don’t have any hope, nothing’s possible, so when hope is born, then all of a sudden your options multiply. I can go to school. I can be something besides someone who works in a bean field.”
A large part of that hope comes from the education that the ministry helps the children receive through scholarships that allow them to go to high school. It costs $300 a year to sponsor a child going to school because Honduras’ schools do not receive government subsidies, so children in grade six and up have to pay to go to school as well as for uniforms and school supplies. Many of these children would barely be able to afford food without the ministry’s assistance. The ministry still has applications for about 62 children who were approved through the program for a scholarship because want to go to school but cannot afford to go financially and need sponsors.
“I go down every year in January – so I just did it – and go to each village, and all of the students in that village come to one little church, and I meet with each child,” said Jan Oliver, who oversees the program that sends roughly a hundred children to school each year. “I get their updated information and their grades. I get all of their information about who they live with, how many siblings they have, any other interesting things that I can get about them and an updated photo, and so on our website, in a few weeks, we’ll have the pictures of each one of those students, so that sponsors can go and see a photo.”
Many of the children sponsored through the program do not have strong parental figures, so when they enter the program they gain not only an education, but a strong Christian community full of love and support. In fact, the high number of orphans in the region created the conviction within Living Hope’s members that a children’s home – which opened this month – was needed for homeless girls in the region, who would otherwise bear the brunt of the hard times. These girls also apply for the scholarships in order to go to school.
“We have seen some of our students go all through high school, and then some of the ones that have done the best, we’ve been able to send them through college,” said Oliver. “And so, we do also have college sponsorships… We have seen several of our students go all the way through school through twelfth grade then go to university, and then they come back to this little community.”
It costs $2,000 a year to sponsor a college student, but those graduates – like a doctor who the group sponsored through medical school – have the potential to make a major difference in the community when they return, and because of the support that they received that allowed them to go to school, they are encouraged to continue the cycle by helping the community grow and prosper.
“He kept saying (as he went to school) I’m going to come back and help my people, and I was thinking, you’re not coming back here,” said Oliver. “This is the middle of nowhere, but he did. And he built a clinic, and he will be taking care of our girls in our children’s home.
“And we have another guy who got an accounting degree, and he helps with our accounting down there. … And all of them have a desire to come back and help their community. That’s what’s really been impressive. They really appreciate the help they get, and they want to turn around and be able to help others.”
Anyone who would like to sponsor a Honduran child’s education is encouraged to call Jan Oliver at 706-844-4482. The deadline to sponsor a child for this year of school is Jan. 31. Anyone who would like to go on a mission trip down to Honduras is also encouraged to call the church.
Reach Alicia B. Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 706-884-7311, Ext. 2154.