Lynn and Mark Baker recently returned from a two-week trip to Honduras visiting friends, churches, and programs. Here are some excerpts from a post-trip letter of reflections. The entire letter is available for reading at the link below and includes more discussion of issues such as the current situation in Honduras, the association between inequality and levels of violence, violence and migration, and the meaning of ‘holistic gospel’ in this context.
Lynn and Mark Baker live in Fresno California and attend College Community Mennonite Brethren Church. Lynn is a hospital chaplain and Mark teaches at Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary. They previously lived in Honduras.
The vast majority of our time [in Honduras] was spent listening to people’s stories about their lives and their country.
It saddened us to hear of the many negative ramifications of the gangs’ extortion activity. The most obvious is loss of income. The most tragic is loss of life. How sad to go by the corner store in Flor del Campo and see it had a new name because the previous owner had been killed. Mark remembers the man’s friendly service last time he was in Honduras. The owner had regularly made payments to one gang, but when a second gang came to extort money, he did not understand that it was a different group. He insisted that he had already paid, and so he was shot and killed.
People told us stories of closed businesses. One school administrator told us that three of her students’ families hastily fled to the US because they could not meet the demands – no goodbyes at school, all was done in secret.
Honduras has the worst homicide rate in the world. Why? How has this happened? The simple answer is that the increased violence comes from the combination of gang activity and Honduras becoming the new bridge for drug traffic from South America to the US. There is certainly truth to that, but listening to our friends, we were impressed that the causes are complex and multilayered. Two themes came up again and again: greed and a nation on the brink of being a failed state.
The current situation in Honduras calls for truly holistic mission. Clearly Honduras needs structural change, but if that is not matched with encounter with Jesus, repentance and ethical transformation at the individual level the problems will continue. Human life has become too cheap, greed too rampant and the cultural honour code that demands revenge too destructive. In response the church’s efforts must be deep, wide and multifaceted. We reflected on the need for evangelism, counselling, ethical formation, and community organizing.
Lights in the Darkness
We could list many. Doña Ena is always a light…This time we made the journey to her small town. Throughout the visit people knocked on the door seeking her informal, but trusted, medical help, from checking their blood pressure to getting stitches. The small business making plantain chips that Doña Ena and four other women started over ten years ago with a large pot on a wood fire shines in a number of ways. They now have a building and provide jobs for ten other people as well. Doña Ena credits their success to hard work, discipline in using profits to help the business grow and, especially, the five women’s deep bond of trust and mutual support rooted in daily prayer together. What a contrast to the darkness of selfishness and greed eating at Honduras.
A number of our friends acknowledged that they have thought about trying to leave Honduras because of the stress and strain of living in such a violent and broken country. A couple of them feel threatened because of participation in the resistance movement protesting the status quo. Yet all of them spoke to us of their sense that as disciples of Jesus they are called to stay in this land of such great need.
Beauty and light filtered in through the ‘cracks’ everywhere we went. In a humble house in a barrio, Alejandra played lovely clarinet solos that filled the air with music, little girls excited about a birthday party danced in circles in the living room. An orphan who had been adopted by her aunt and uncle snuggled against her ‘Papi’ as we visited. Flowers and birdsong abound, both in the barrios and in the campo. In the silence in the darkest hours of the night, the Morning Star shines.
View the full letter here: 2013 6 18 Honduras letter