I’m probably in the air right now, on my way to Honduras with my husband, his parents, my dad, the pastor at Nick’s parents church, and a good friend who’s been before.
I realized that I didn’t really give much information about why we’re going, what we’re doing, and what this trip is for, so I thought it would be good to explain it as we’re on the way.
Quick back story:
Four summers ago, Nick, his parents, his sister, and I tagged along with a church from Miami to work at a clinic in Honduras for a week. While there, we did a variety of things to help out:
– bagged food to take to villages
– built houses for families
– worked in the dentist office and general health clinics at the free clinic
– entertained the children at the clinic
– packed up the clinic to take to villages that couldn’t make the trip, where we cleaned teeth, dressed wounds, passed out clothing for children, etc.
– visited an orphanage
It was an amazing trip, even the last day where I was laid up in the hotel, sick all day. Although the entire trip was life-changing, this orphanage seemed to grab a hold of all of our hearts. We were only there for 3 hours, but it didn’t let go of us.
You see, this isn’t any orphanage. It’s not like any in the states.
They don’t adopt out. These kids are saved from the streets and brought here to be raised up, educated, and taken care of.
Jovenes en Camino is a place that stole our hearts as soon as we stepped off the bus 4 years ago.
While Honduras has no sole claim on homeless children, the causes are painfully disturbing.
Many lost both parents to Hurricane Mitch. Others are unclaimed offspring of illegitimate and short relationships. The most disturbing situation, however, involves destitute single mothers who are forced to put their children on the street by the replacement male adult of the house. It is a form of self-preservation triage, and the male children are the primary victims of this culture.
The purpose of Jovenes en Camino is to intervene and break this cycle of hopelessness and abuse for 128 children by fulfilling the words of the Lord Jesus, “I was a stranger, and you invited me in”.
THE BOYS – HOW DID THEY GET THERE?
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself undefiled by the world.”-James 1.27
God’s injunction encourages us to care for those unable to care for themselves. It is a happy burden that has been placed before us and we are called to pick it up. Jovenes en Camino is the manifestation of this call to action. It has been brought to fruition by countless benefactors, workers, and volunteers who have given selflessly of their wealth, time, and abilities to provide a home for about 80 children.
Many of the children at Jovenes en Camino are orphans. Others have been rescued from situations of extreme abuse. Still others have been forced into the streets by parents who are unable or unwilling to provide for them. The vast majority of street children are boys.
HOW ARE THEY CARED FOR?
Physically: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy, Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?”-1 Corinthians 6:19
The bodies of children at Jovenes en Camino are well nourished by a healthy and varied diet. Medical care is readily available and provideded by the Neil Howard Clinic in Tegucigalpa. They also maintain a very active lifestyle. The children frequently go on organized hikes in the mountains where they enjoy sunshine, fresh air, and can also swim in the rivers. Interns are often on staff and direct a variety sports programs. Soccer is by far their favorite physical activity. In fact, soccer balls get so much use that a brand new ball might only last one week before being reduced to a raggedy, flat, torn, scrap of leather.
Spiritually: “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”-Mathew 4.4
While some shelters provide only for the immediate bodily needs of needy children, the creators of Jovenes en Camino realize the importance of ministering to the complete person. In addition to caring for the physical well being of the children, Jovenes is designed to minister to their mental, emotional, and spiritual needs. The reasons for this are twofold. First and most obviously, all these areas are important to the overall health of the individual. Second, by investing heavily in a relatively few number of children rather than providing minimal care for a great number we hope to break the cycle of poverty, destitution, and hopelessness. They will be offered the opportunities necessary to become contributing members of society, upright family men, and leaders in their community. Their children will not end up on the streets. The boys regularly attend church, have daily devotionals, and are surrounded by loving and godly staff.
The boys are currently enrolled in public school system. Smaller children attend pre-school and the smallest ones have class and organized play time with the house parents. Interns often teach English classes and there are plans to bring in a long-term volunteer to develop a more comprehensive English curriculum. The older boys attend technical classes on the property where they learn practical and marketable skills in the fields of woodworking, electricity, and mechanics.
Many children at Jovenes have suffered severe emotional trauma prior to their arrival and professional psychologists are available and periodically offer their services. However, the most important emotional support is provided by the staff that is there every day. They foster a caring and environment in which the boys can grow and mature. The house parents are there twenty-four hours per day and it is up to them to discern and dispense optimal doses of discipline, affection, and love. The brotherly love that exists between the children is also an invaluable source of encouragement and support.
The ages of the children range from about fifteen months up to sixteen years. Since Jovenes en Camino has only been operational for a few years it has not graduated any children yet. But for some of the older boys the age is rapidly approaching when they must venture out, spread their fledgling wings, and achieve some sort of self sufficiency. For some, higher education may be the correct route. Though public Honduran universities offer free education, the boys will need a source of income or financial support for housing and food during this time. Other boys may be more suited to enter into a vocational career. Plans are currently being made to help smooth the vital transition from Jovenes en Camino into the next phase of their lives.
The Jovenes en Camino Project ministers to the physical and spiritual needs of homeless Honduran children, using a foundation of Christian principles to educate and foster a healthy self-esteem. Our goal is to return these children into their communities as young men that love God and His Son Jesus Christ. The by-product of their faith is being a productive Honduran citizens, breaking the cycle of hopelessness.
Jovenes en Camino is our only focus on this trip. It means “Children on the Way”, and we are so happy and thankful that this trip has come together.
This trip is definitely different than the last; we are not with a large, organized group this time.
It is simply a group that formed out of the desire to go back to this orphanage and help in any way we could. There aren’t many of us on this trip, but I know we can do great things.
Our main mission this week is to put a new roof on one of the buildings at Jovenes.
It will be a long week. Physically, emotionally, and spiritually draining, but worth every minute.
Because when these boys come up to you calling you “tia” and “tio” and just want a friend to play “futbol” with…you can’t say no.
When they sing you a song they’ve learned in English and come onto your bus to pray for you before you leave after they’ve just met you…your heart melts.
They deserve everything I have to give. My life and its hardships are nothing compared to what some of these boys have dealt with in theirs.
When these boys love you with all they have even after just meeting you, there’s nothing I can do but give them all of me when I have the chance.
While I may not be able to solve the problems that led to these children being left on the street, I can be part of the solution.
There is always something you can do, no matter how big or small.
Here we go!