Missionary Paul Jetter* shares an inspiring story of the movement of God through His church in Honduras. After investing nearly, a decade of his life there as a missionary, Paul said that it has been very gratifying to see that instead of establishing a paternalistic church dependent on foreigners, District Superintendent Begardo Bardales and his leaders are establishing churches and training pastors who will continue to reach people for Christ, with or without help.
Jony is neither well educated nor wealthy. He lives in a depressed area in the mountains of the southern part of Honduras. Several years ago, Pastor Nicolas and his wife Claudia felt God leading them to show the Jesus Film in the rural areas near their church in Choluteca. One day they ventured up the rugged, winding dirt road to the little town of La Esperanza. After showing the film, Johnny and several persons accepted Christ. Several times a month over the next couple of years Nicolas and Claudia made the 45-minute trip up the mountain to instruct the new believers in the ways of the Lord. Johnny became the leader of the group, but since they had no church building the believers met in various houses.
When I was in Honduras a couple of years ago, District Superintendent Begardo Bardales urged me to go with him to Choluteca to see how the churches were progressing. I was encouraged as I observed the sacrifice and dedication of Nicolas and the other pastors. In one poor area on the edge of the city, a young pastor excitedly showed us two lots he and his congregation had recently purchased. When I asked him how they raised the funds in such a poor area he answered, “We are not poor.” Then he pointed to his head and said, “The only poverty is here.” (I was so impressed with what they had done that I was able to channel funds to him to buy a third lot. A work and witness team later helped them complete a building.)
While in the Choluteca area I observed teachers, who were donating their time to hold classes in areas where the children might not otherwise receive an education. I saw buildings that had been built with a healthy combination of donations from work and witness groups and local participation. I observed the fruit of the ministerial training extension classes that are taught each week. Some courses are taught by local pastors but others are taught by Begardo or others from Tegucigalpa which is located several hours away. But most of all I observed that the Church of the Nazarene in Choluteca is alive, growing, and healthy.
Begardo and Nicolas wanted me to go with them into the mountain to see if I might help raise funds to purchase a lot where Jony and his new congregation would construct a church. At first, I was skeptical. Could a self-supporting church really develop in such a remote, poor area? But to please them and to get a chance to see the mountains, I agreed to go.
We bounced around for about an hour on the steep, curvy “road.” Finally, we came around a bend and there was Jony and a group of believers standing under a simple roof with no walls that they had built. They explained that the lot was loaned but was also for sale. After hearing their stories and seeing what they had done, I agreed to find funds to help them purchase the lot. It turned out to be one of the best $1000 investments we have ever made.
I didn’t hear much about the project for the next year or two. But when we returned to Choluteca in January 2020, Begardo and Nicolas insisted that we visit La Esperanza again. The road seemed longer and bumpier than ever. Eventually we came around the curve and there was the lot we had agreed to purchase, but instead of a church someone had built a house there. “What happened?” I asked.
“The owner decided not to sell,” they replied. “So, we purchased a different lot instead.”
We rode a little further and turned off the main dirt road onto an even smaller one. “What have they done?” I wondered.
And then I saw it – a neatly built church on a large fenced-in lot. It didn’t take long for me to realize that Jony and Nicolas had used very good judgment to purchase a lot off the main road. It not only eliminated the dust and noise of the trucks and buses, but the children were safer as well. It was another lesson that our role as donors and missionaries is not to make the decisions but rather to facilitate and assist those that are leading the local churches. Often they know better than we.
I was amazed at what they had accomplished with so little. And then Jony began the story…
After purchasing the lot, the first thing they needed to do was to level it so they could begin construction. On their own the congregation contracted a bulldozer and worked together to clear the lot. Once the land was ready, they dug trenches for a foundation that would consists mostly of stone. However, they had no money and no stone. They prayed, asking God for help.
As someone was adding the finishing touches on leveling the lot, they discovered a cluster rock. Miraculously it was a layer of rock that formed blocks that were just the right size and shape for the foundation and a small retaining wall. I asked Jony if when they finished there was still more rock. “No,” he explained. “Once we finished the foundation and the retaining wall all the rock layer was gone.” God knew ahead of time just how much rock they needed.
Even though Jony and the congregation didn’t have much money, they had a lot of faith and a lot of mud. Working together they soon had enough adobe blocks to begin construction. They had walls but their limited resources were not enough to purchase material for a roof.
Through Begardo and Nicolas, Bob Shea, a volunteer who has helped in Honduras for many years, heard what Jony and his congregation had accomplished and their need for a roof. Bob likes to help local churches and congregations that are involved in their own projects and are reaching people for Christ. Jony and his church were doing both, so it was easy for Bob to find donors to provide funds for roofing materials.
But Jony had another challenge. Now he had steel for trusses and sheets of aluminum for the roof, but he had no one in his congregation that could weld and no money to hire a welder. He was very concerned because the rainy season was coming. An adobe structure without a roof can be quickly damaged by rain.
One rainy day Jony went to the unfinished building to ask God for help. As he huddled wet and cold in a corner of the building the man who had sold him the lot happened to walk by. “What are you doing out here in the rain all by yourself?” he shouted.
“I’m not alone,” Jony replied. “Someone is with me.”
“You’re crazy,” the man replied. “I don’t see anyone but you. And do you know what you ought to do? You should block in the door to whatever you’re trying to build and we can use it for a water cistern.”
In spite of the man’s mockery Jony continued talking to the Unseen One who was with him.
Soon afterwards Jony met a tired, sweating young man walking up the mountain. “You look really hot and tired. Can I buy you something to drink?” Jony asked. As they talked Jony inquired, “Do you happen to know someone who is a welder?”
“I’m a welder,” the young man replied.
After looking over the project the young man replied, “I can build your roof. And since it is for a church I am not going to charge you anything at all.”
The young man worked for several weeks. The church people provided meals and helped as they could. Finally, it was completed – one of the neatest and best-built roofs I have ever seen in all of Honduras. The congregation now had a place to worship and began to grow rapidly.
Their next project was to plaster the walls with cement. They did such a good job that when I saw the building I didn’t realize it was adobe.
But soon Jony discovered he had another problem. Animals like burros, goats, and chickens have free range in many rural areas of Honduras. They began to congregate on the flat open land around the church. A fence was needed, but it was a large lot and a fence would be very expensive. But while Jony had very limited funds he had an unlimited God. So, he called the church to prayer.
Jony felt God instructing him to visit the mayor at Le Corpus, a nearby city whose area includes several smaller towns including La Esperanza. When he arrived at the mayor’s office there were long lines of persons asking for assistance. One of the receptionists recognized Johny and said, “You might as well leave. The line is too long. You’ll never get in to see the mayor. There’s no use asking for something with so many people ahead of you.”
“I didn’t come to ask for something,” Johny replied. “I came to get something!”
At that moment the mayor walked out of his office and saw Jony. Disregarding the long line of waiting people, the mayor said to Johnny, “How are you today? Come into my office. What can I do for you?”
Jony explained his situation and the mayor wrote something down and said. “Go to the building supply warehouse and give them this paper. They will take care of you.”
Jony thanked the mayor and did as he was instructed. At the building supply warehouse, they gave him all the material he needed – chain link fencing, steel posts, cement – everything except someone to build it. But God was still at work. The young man who had constructed the roof again volunteered to help. Once again, he didn’t charge for his labor. With the church members providing his meals and helping in any way they could the fence was soon built.
When I visited the church in January 2020, I was amazed not only at the miracles God had provided but also by the quality of the work. Jony invited me into the building and I saw the benches and décor. It was obvious that the church was much more than a building – it was a group of dedicated Nazarenes who took what they had been given and, instead of complaining that it wasn’t enough, turned to God and to their own labor and resources to get the job done.
As I walked across the dirt floor, I asked Jony if they planned to pour cement someday. “We plan to have ceramic tile,” he confidently replied.
“If you had money for the tile could you and the church take care of the rest?” I asked. After he assured me they could I told him we would secure funds for the tile. I look forward to returning sometime to see what they have done, but most of all to hear about lives that are being changed by the power of God. One such story I heard in January – the man who sold them the lot and who mocked Jony for saying he wasn’t alone in the rain has become a believer and disciple of the Unseen One.
A final note about this story.
Nicolas is a former military officer who is very disciplined and focused. Years ago, during a very difficult time in his life he made many trips to Tegucigalpa. During those trips he began to attend a Nazarene church and accepted Christ. Called to ministry, he studied in the extension seminary class and is now ordained. He connected well with district superintendent Begardo Bardales and through their tireless energy and vision they have established many churches in Choluteca as well as a very strong extension seminary center.
Over the last several years work and witness teams and medical teams have been inspired by the growth of the Church in the Choluteca area. Like most mission teams, they believed that the best use of their time and resources was to partner with national leaders who were being successful and churches that were dedicated to their own projects. As they see the fruit of their trips some teams have been inspired to return to Choluteca or to other parts of Honduras.
Although Jony’s story is unique, Begardo has shared with me many other stories of the initiative and faith of pastors and congregations throughout Honduras. Having invested nearly a decade of my life there as a missionary, it has been very encouraging to see that instead of establishing a paternalistic church that is dependent on outsiders Begardo and his leaders are establishing churches and training pastors who will keep reaching people for Christ with or without our help.
Written by Paul Jetter, April 2020
*Paul was a missionary to Honduras from 1981 to 1990. Previously he served in the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas. In 1994 he and his wife, Mary, planted The Valley Church of the Nazarene in Piqua, Ohio. He retired in 2012 and now volunteers as the coordinator for partnerships and work and witness teams to Cuba. Paul and Mary presently reside in Tennessee.