Sunday, July 24, 2011

Further Reflections from Tegus: AJS, Globalization, and Missional Partnerships

Further reflections from July 22
As mentioned, one of our destinations was Association for a More Just Society. This organization works to engage the various levels of social and political injustices in Tegucigalpa. Their mission, paraphrased, is to exist as brave Christian leaders who seek to advocate for justice, peace, and reform in Honduras, especially on behalf of the most vulnerable of society. Their director of communications, Abe, explained to the team the broad spectrum of concern and advocacy, which includes victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse, government corruption, distribution of resources, and reform of a very dysfunctional education system. It is reported that the average Honduran does not receive an education beyond fifth grade, teacher's strikes occur at least every year, and political biases allow for the hiring of less-than-mediocre educators. The stories shared moved all of us us, especially those of youth who, through the networks, staff, and programs of AJS, have overcome sexual abuse and gang violence.

However, the most profound statement made by Abe was that despite Honduras seeing an influx of Christian communities, 40% of the population in 2010 compared to 8% in 1988, violence and poverty has continued to rise throughout the country. It was mentioned that the murder rate has tripled in the last 7 years. In other words, why is it that although more short-term missions and long-term missionaries have entered other country, the social and political climate has worsened? In short, Abe suggested that this is due to a disengaged evangelical influence that sees salvation in terms of the individual and not in regards to the social, political, and economic systems that oppresses individuals and communities. It was at that moment that Alex, son of the pastor and member of Peña de Horeb Presbyterian Church, asked Abe in eagerness, "How can we partner with you? If the local church leaders will not, I know that at least the youth will?" Again, a witness that the youth are eager to begin transforming their future...I look forward to these possibilities as we contemplate further partnerships.
Finally, we ended the day with a visit to...Wal-Mart. We needed to purchase a variety of supplies for some of the upcoming paint projects and this was the most effective means for us to do so (I have not been a Wall-Mart in over four years, and do not miss it). Later that night as we debriefed, I learned that one of the students was deeply grieved by this, especially as she noticed that Wal-Mart was an upscale experience in Tegus. It is incredible how much globalization continues to infringe on the developing world. Nonetheless, as Mark Wight mentioned, it does provide good jobs in the city. This is a tension that I am not sure I will ever overcome.

July 23
Today marked the first opportunity for our youth and the youth of Peña de Horeb to begin real face to face interactions. The day began with an initial encounter that impressed me a great deal. Most of the youth from both churches were eager to meet face-to-face those whom we have only heard about over the past year plus. The language barrier was a sure difficulty for some, surprisingly mine has been sufficient (better than I expected), yet students pressed on and enjoyed a day of fellowship, worship, Bible Study, and play at Parque Obrero, nearby Valle de los Angeles. I was invited to preach (I will post the text soon), and we also heard from their youth director, Erika. However, the highlights involved games of soccer or fútbol, an introduction to wiffle ball (my team won dramatic comeback fashion), and on-the-side conversations. The hope is to be able to share in more intentional conversations with the local youth in regards to their hopes and dreams for their churches, our potential partnership, and the issues in their community that they long to transform and engage. This may come on Monday or Tuesday.
As an aside, I have thoroughly enjoyed my conversations with Alex from Peña de Horeb. He has helped me to understand why the local Presbyterian Churches often resist engagement with social and political issues. He mentioned that most of the congregations in Tegus do not have sufficient resources to sustain their own churches and pastors and so all the funds they have must be put into sustaining their ecclesial community. It is true that piety also may play a role, as socio-political issues may be considered "secular work"; however, volunteer youth leaders like Alex and the youth he serves want to see something different. Their hopes are for partnerships like ours to make feasible, through the sharing of resources, not only internal church programs, but also and especially external involvement that seeks to improve their communities, cities, and country. Our prayers are or this to become a potential reality.

More to come...

Also check out The Westminster Blog: Work of the People for a great post from one of our Imago Dei Youth

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