Mission groups make hurried exit from Honduras after presidential ouster
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Bailey McBride Erik Tryggestad | Christian Chronicle
Hours after a presidential ouster in Honduras, workers with Churches of Christ hurriedly packed U.S. campaigners for a quick exodus from the Central American nation.
“We made frantic flight changes this morning and sent the 60 folks who arrived in Honduras on Friday back to the capital to get on afternoon flights to the U.S.,” said Jarrod Brown, president and founder of church-supported Mission Lazarus, in a June 29 e-mail from Choluteca, Honduras.
Brown made the decision “not because the situation is very dangerous now … but rather because no one knows what will happen.”
“I hope and pray that we have overreacted by sending the groups home,” Brown said, “but, as the old Spanish saying goes, ‘The man who takes precautions is worth two men!’”
Brown and his wife, Allison, have worked in Honduras since 2001 and have two young children, Soledad and Levi. The Crieve Hall Church of Christ in Nashville, Tenn., sponsors the family.
On Saturday night, June 27, Jarrod Brown was in a hotel room in the capital, Tegucigalpa, sending an e-mail to a group of church members preparing to lead teams to assist Mission Lazarus this summer. The ministry partners with native Hondurans to provide educational, agricultural, medical and spiritual support for the country’s people.
“The general gist (of the e-mail) was not to worry, nothing is going to happen,” Jarrod Brown said. “I awoke the next morning to the sound of fighter jets (and) helicopters.
“And as I looked out my hotel window there was an enormous plume of smoke rising in the distance,” he continued. “Soon tanks and armored vehicle would move down the streets. I could not believe what I was seeing.”
On Sunday morning, June 28, Honduran military troops stormed the presidential palace to remove Manuel Zelaya from office. Zelaya, who was in office since 2006, previously had called for a referendum that could have led to an extension of his four-year term in office, according to news reports.
Honduras’ Supreme Court had ruled the referendum was illegal, and the nation’s Congress voted not to hold it. Zelaya disregarded those actions and vowed to hold the vote anyway. Polls were due to open on Sunday, but instead troops detained Zelaya and flew him to Costa Rica. Hours later Roberto Micheletti, president of the Congress, was named provisional president.
Ministries in Honduras host frequent visits by members of Churches of Christ in the United States — especially during the summer months. The Central American nation, with a population of 7.2 million, has served as a focal point for church missions since 1998, when Hurricane Mitch destroyed much of the country’s infrastructure.
Phil and Donna Waldron moved to Santa Rosa de Copan, Honduras, last month to launch Mission UpReach, a church-planting ministry.
“Our power has been out as well as the TV channels,” Donna Waldron wrote in an e-mail to supporters. “It is a very complicated scene, but we are fine. We are in a very calm area where the people hardly even feel connected to the capital or the leaders of the country.”
Other workers in Central America shared similar stories with The Christian Chronicle on Monday.
“I am 10 miles south of the border in El Salvador,” Ralph McClurg, a church member from Springfield, Mo., said in a Facebook message to the Chronicle June 29. McClurg is overseeing the distribution of medical equipment and school supplies for the Salvadoran people.
“People here are watching, and there is talk of closing the border if it gets any worse,” McClurg said.
Workers coordinating mission trips to Honduras this summer are doing likewise.
“One volunteer group from Oklahoma is working in the mountains this week, and their return plans are being carefully monitored,” said Martha Rivera, executive director of Predisan, a church-supported medical mission in Catacamas, Honduras. “A group from Atlanta due to travel to Honduras on this Thursday, July 2, has cancelled its trip.”
“However, if you have a trip planned to Predisan later in the summer, please do not cancel your trip at this time,” Rivera said, “and we will be in close touch about developments as they occur.”
Jarrod Brown, who plans to host several U.S. teams later this year, made a similar appeal.
“Satan would love to take advantage of this situation to mess up the plans of many Christians this summer,” he said. “We have spent thousands of dollars on supplies for groups and have spent countless hours getting prepared. However, we also want to err on the side of safety.
“This week will be a very important week to see what will happen here,” Jarrod Brown said.
See Web sites maintained by Honduran ministries, including www.missionlazarus.org and www.predisan.org for information on the status of upcoming trips.
Are you in Honduras, or do you know someone who is? Are you planning a mission trip there this summer? Please contact Assistant Managing Editor Erik Tryggestad at erik@christianchronicle.org with more information.
  • Feedback
    I am just discovering the Christian Chronicle online! Thanks for having it online.
    Evelyn Enders
    Bammel church of Christ
    Houston, Texas
    USA
    July, 6 2009
    Erik, We have scheduled several from our church to leave for Honduras on July 24th. with the Broad Street COC. Please let me know your thoughts and info re. the situation there and have there been any problems with other groups since the President was ousted. Thanks, Don Lee, LaGrange.
    Don Lee
    FBC on The Square, Lagrange
    LaGrange, Ga.
    USA
    July, 2 2009
    Need, proximity, receptivity and in-country support make Honduras a welcome training ground for future world-wide missionaries. The people of Honduras are friendly and very receptive to the gospel. Because there is such a need world wide for the gospel makes Honduras a fantastic Missions 101 destination. The poor are fed, the homeless housed, the sick are healed and most importantly...the gospel of Christ is preached, believed and obeyed by many. God bless Honduras, God bless the good being done there and God bless all our missionaries...those present and those to come.
    Russ McCullough
    Archdale church of Christ
    Charlotte, North Carolina
    United States
    July, 2 2009
    John and others, God is working in Honduras. Instead of a "lone outpost" in a large capital, there are hundreds spread out over the country, hopefully making a much larger impact. I think God puts a love/concern/passion in our hearts for particular places/countries/cities. Mine happens to be Brazil. John's heart is obviously for Eastern Europe. Others will be China...Thailand...wherever. God is working on many fronts. The seed is being scattered just as Jesus asked us to do. Allow him to give the increase. May the Lord bless the Christians in Honduras with safety and the opportunity to fulfill their mission.
    Ed Allred
    Highland Church of Christ
    Abilene, TX
    USA
    June, 30 2009
    What is it with Honduras? Congregations and individuals giving money is the largest import the country has.
    What about Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine where the Bible is being used in schools?
    What is it about Honduras that causes it to be the country of choice for missions. It seems you cannot be a church if you do not have a mission work in Honduras?
    John Jenkins
    N/A
    Gatlinburg, TN
    USA
    June, 30 2009
    My family is preparing to move to Honduras. We just removed our belongings from the "parsonage" on Sunday. Then we get the news about Honduras. Does it change our plans? Yes, it makes us more determined to go. With groups pulling out, there is going to be work left undone. I don't blame the groups for leaving. It likely was a wise decision, especially since we can't foresee the future. We'll pay close attention to what happens, but we've lived in another country where governments come and go. One has to be cautious, but people are still hungry and have needs. Plus, we'll be living in a rural area. Pray that we, too, make a wise decision. If anyone wishes to help send us in August contact us through our web site at www.robinell.org
    Lowell White
    Yadkinville Church of Christ
    Dobson, NC
    USA
    June, 29 2009
    Hi Erik, Thanks for putting something out there for our brotherhood. As you said there are hundreds of short-term workers destined for Honduras this summer. I am planning to take a medical brigade to Trujillo to work with the Little Hands, Big Hearts mission this Friday, July 3. I have the group on alert for a final decision by Wednesday. At present, Thad & Rachel Bartlett from Hiram, GA have a group of 26 in Trujillo. They are contemplating their escape should it become necessary.
    Mark Young
    Summit View Church of Christ, Yakima, WA sponsoring church
    Trujillo, Colon
    Honduras
    June, 29 2009
    Central has 3 missionaries, Northwest Tampa and Bradenton have about 60 or so in Tegucigalpa building houses in the surrounding hills and conducting two VBS. They stayed at the hotel for most of the day Sunday before visiting an orphanage later in the afternoon. Today they're back building houses. All is calm.
    Jason Goldtrap
    Central CoC, Haines City, FL
    Davenport, Florida
    USA
    June, 29 2009
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