Choluteca is hot in March. It’s hot year-round, but especially in March. The grass is mostly brown, the ground has been baked hard by 100-degree days, and the road to La Fortunita is as dry as a bone, even where the road dips down and is covered by that shallow creek just before we drive into the community.
Our team intended to help with the construction of a classroom in San Jose, so we made sure to make accommodations for the heat. We took along plenty of sunscreen and appropriate work clothes for working in a hot environment. And we were confident that Jim would make sure we had plenty of water at the job site.
Even so, we were not prepared for what actually happened on this trip. There was no way we could be.
Previously, I shared that everything was going as planned for the first few days. That all changed dramatically in the evening hours of Sunday, March 15th. We became aware of the order from President Juan Orlando Hernández to close the borders due to COVID-19 concerns, and on Monday morning saw the first wave of flight cancellations. Public gatherings were also restricted, so the medical brigade scheduled for Monday was cancelled as well. Doctora Sandra and the dentists needed to return to Tegucigalpa and were transported by Juan Carlos.
The rest of us headed out to San Jose, intending to proceed with the work there. Our departure wasn’t scheduled for Thursday, so at the time we weren’t overly concerned. Surely the President’s restrictions would be relaxed after a day or two.
At approximately noon, we received the news that the President had declared a curfew to begin at 3:00pm that afternoon.
It is difficult to find words to describe our ride back to the mission house that afternoon. The streets were jammed with people trying to acquire everything they would need for the coming week of curfew. We stopped at several pulperias (the small shops people operate out of the front of their homes) in search of supplies that we would need. Most were completely sold out. We made it back to the mission house a few minutes after the curfew was supposed to begin, not knowing when we would be able to leave.
The mission house is a very comfortable and safe place to be during a crisis. Of course, Jim and Francis were there, along with Blanca, Francis’ mother. Our team of five, plus Manuel and Christian meant that a total of ten would be occupying the space. Even so, we had plenty of room to move around and were extremely thankful for the 21st Century technology that allowed us to talk with and even see our families at home. That same technology also allowed us to connect with our jobs and even be somewhat productive in that compartment of our lives.
Tuesday morning, we awoke to the news that our flights on March 19th were cancelled. While not totally surprised, the situation suddenly became a little more concerning. As much as we wanted to get back home to our families, the greatest need was to return the member of our team who, because of a congenital condition, depends for survival on weekly treatments of a drug that is only available in the USA. The day was largely spent on the phone and working email, all aimed at setting up travel out of Honduras. By the end of the day, our flights had been re-scheduled to March 24th and (thanks to some help from the staff of Senator Jerry Moran) we were working with the U.S. Embassy on a backup plan in case our travel was cancelled again. As it turned out, it would be.
Our days in the mission house were filled a wide range of emotions, one of the most powerful being a feeling of helplessness. As I reflect on that time, I wonder if it was something close to what most of the people in Honduras feel on most every day of their lives. I sensed it even as we drove back to the mission hour on the day the curfew began. The crowds were still very orderly. But the atmosphere contained a sense of urgency and uncertainty. An alert sent out by the United States Embassy on March 31st warned of protestors blocking roads and stealing supplies from the cars they can stop. The general public is angry and does not trust the government. They are desperately doing whatever they think is necessary to survive.
That’s what happens when God is not part of the picture. That’s why our ministry is necessary.
Will you help us bring God into the picture for the people of Honduras?
In my previous post, I mentioned our child sponsorship program. Another way to help is to give monthly to our general operating expenses. A regular give of $100-200 would help provide salaries for our local staff and workspace for offices and meetings.
With our return to the States seemingly on track, my thoughts turned back to the current circumstances and how our ministries would be able to function within the restrictions put in place by the government. In my next post, I will share a bit more about what we are currently able to do.