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September 26, 2012

We entered Honduras under heavy storm clouds and lightening, arriving in Tegucigalpa over two hours late.  We were greeted by Juan Guerrero, his wife Alexandra and their son, Jeremias.  Juan, church superintendent, and Alexandra are missionaries from Columbia.  The young Methodist church in Honduras is a mission connectionally related to the United Methodist church.   The church office building in an upper scale area of the capital has spacious accommodations for work teams, pastors from the outer departments and visitors (including us and then UMCOR representatives later in the week).  We arrived late on Friday, September 21 and left the next day for a rural area in the neighborhood of Danli.  Saturday night we visited a vibrant young congregation in the village of Obraje.  This church grew out of a family who had been involved in  worship in another denomination, but felt called to begin a Methodist congregation.  The church building has been built largely by community donations and in kind labor, a fact of which they are very proud.  Services were first held here in March.  The service began with songs of praise and thanksgiving, accompanied by guitar, drums, keyboard and much clapping and dance. This congregation expresses its faith in fervent expressions of joy and emotion, and pastor Alejandro made a quasi-apology/explanation for the exhuberance, acknowledging that if the people did not sing praises, the very rocks would. We spent the night outside of Danli, falling asleep to the same music of crickets singing with the rocks and people in worship earlier that night.  Morning we attended a very different service in Danli Central.  This church is more tradition and staid (at least compared to Obraje), but the people were as welcoming and friendly in their greetings.  Later that afternoon we returned to Tegucigalpa where we experienced a third and still different church service.  This one was held in an area known as Fuertes Unidos, an area high above the city in an especially poor and somewhat dangerous section with a million dollar view.  The church was filled with children and we later learned they offered a strong feeding and education program for these the youngest. 

This exercise in listening and discernment that has accompanied our travel has  involved constant re-evaluation and thought in how the Institute for Wesley Studies can best serve and work with the people of Latin America.  At times we have questioned the wisdom of naming it in such a scholarly fashion, when the mutuality of exchange will benefit from a grassroots wisdom.  These Central American churches clearly are interested in, indeed recognize a need for, theological education and well trained pastors.  That need has been made known in every country, in every church.  But at the same time we realize over and over again that the spirit is very strong and present in these churches and while we may have much to offer them, they have much to offer us.  The presence of the spirit in these people is humbling.  Their generosity and love shine in their smiles and embraces and in their appreciation of having been recognized.  See me. Hear me. The meeting of a people face-to-face, one-to-one becomes an expression of mutual recognition and value for what is offered, what is received, and even more, what is shared.  Are we willing to surrender our own perceptions when they are not tangential with those we touch, those who touch us?  What is our mission?  What is our vision?

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