by Frank Holman, Bethany member
Originally Published August 2015
This last May six Bethany team members (Gil Ward, Jane Donald, Jane Frissell, Frank Holman, Nolan Olson, and Don Kunze) returned to Honduras and the village of Nuevo Amanecer for our tenth, and possibly last, service team trip for the foreseeable future. For the last eleven years Bethany has partnered with Agros International and journeyed with Nuevo Amanecer toward the goal of sustainability and ownership of land. When we last visited the community in October 2013, we were aware that Agros planned to end its direct support for the community in 2014. Through discussions with and efforts of Agros staff, direct support continued until this June.
How has the community changed?
In the last and additional year, Agros has helped prepare the community to graduate and survive on its own. Evident upon our arrival was this:
• One villager was growing coffee and passion fruit: other villagers were growing corn and beans
• One of the two reservoirs had been completely re-lined
• A pump and pump house had been built
• Irrigation lines had been laid
The challenges were also evident. In early 2014 they had failed to find water after drilling a dry well of over 400 feet. This disappointment was followed by the Central American drought and the loss of last year’s food crop. When we arrived this last May it had not rained in six months and the reservoir was nearly bone dry.
One adobe home which has housed four generations (including Rafael and his 90-year-old mother, wife Rita, daughter Thelma, and granddaughter Marjorie) was empty. Rafael’s mother had died, Rafael and his wife were in San Pedro Sula (where he works as a security guard), and their daughter and granddaughter were in Jesus de Otoro [20 miles away] so that Marjorie could continue her secondary education. We learned, however, that the family had every intention of returning and Rafael was getting much closer to his goal of paying off and owning his land. We were amazed at the persistence, hard work, and hard choices, of our friends in Nuevo Amanecer.
Reasons to Celebrate
Our daily routine in the village began with a gathering of the community and team members either for the welcoming introductions, or devotions and bible study. This was followed with work, time with the children and parents, or one-on-one discussions with individual community members. We ate our lunches together, and on our last day celebrated Mother’s Day with cake and piñatas. the mothers had the first cracks at the piñatas, without blindfolds.
On Tuesday we celebrated yet another surprise as the longest-residing family in the village, Armando and Antonia (and son Lionel), received their property deed. After eleven years of hard work and perseverance; four years of separation, and a lot of faith, these good friends had paid off their land loan and achieved one of the central and essential goals of the partnership. The “deed ceremony,” with a reading of the three-page deed before the full community, was wonderful.
Three families have paid off their land loans and have title to their property; and eight other families are still making progress. Although Agros has formally ceased to provide further financial support and social services, they will continue to hold the land titles in trust for remaining community members until the loans are paid in full or satisfied: interest is no longer charged and jubilee has been contemplated.
Where do we go from here?
We know and accept that this village will likely stay small and vulnerable. Lack of water (both potable and rain water) will likely remain a limiting factor. We know that much of the future sustainability of the community will be up to the villagers, their faith in both God and each other. But we also know that Bethany still has a vital part to play in their story; and they still have a vital part to play in ours. Although our “official” partnership with Agros is at an end, we can still be a friend to this community, witnesses to their lives, and a catalyst for support. This trip amazed and humbled us as we learned about and met other Hondurans with skills, compassion and a shared history with Nuevo Amanecer who intend to continue to support the community in the future. We believe God is giving us the opportunity to continue in this relationship.
As our week in Nuevo Amanecer was ending with goodbyes, gifts from the villagers, and prayers; God interrupted, surprised and amazed all of us with a near drought-ending torrential rain storm which drove all of us into the community adobe house, laughing and thanking Him for a joyful and hopeful reminder of His care and love.