I recently got back from a mission trip to Honduras, my third time in as many years. The group I go with has decided to distribute as many water filters as possible in the country where many lack access to safe drinking water. This approach has proven very effective to restoring the health of whole households, and even neighborhoods, as those who receive the systems share the blessing of pure water. It vastly reduces illness and malnutrition caused by bacteria, viruses, and parasites. We partner with a clinic in Tegucigalpa and an excellent team of local Hondurans who help us find places and people to serve.
If there is any such thing as a routine trip, this one felt like it in some ways. Our team of locals did such an amazing job of organizing and planning that virtually everything went off without a hitch. With so many moving pieces trying to come together from thousands of miles away, there are usually bound to be a few snags. This time there were no miscommunications, everyone showed up when and where they were supposed to, and even the weather cooperated perfectly. It was almost strange, but it led to some more time for reflection.
Early on in our trip, as we were preparing filters at the clinic, I noted a large map of Honduras with some dots on it. They were marking the locations of churches planted by Ambassadors for Christ, the organization which runs the clinic. I had always assumed when we took two or three hour car rides outside the city that we were traveling to far reaches of the country, but the dots denoting the impact of the program spanned only a few inches on the enormous map, probably five feet across. My ignorance of Honduras geography suddenly hit me like a punch in the gut. The diligent efforts of the local AFC team and numerous American brigades had probably reached only a hundred or so miles into the rough countryside terrain, where living conditions are often the worst. I felt so small. Our work felt so small. I imagined deep reaches of mountainous jungles unreachable by vehicles, children chronically sick when a simple $60 filter could change their life. And that’s just Honduras. There’s the rest of Central and South America. And Africa. And much of Asia. We’ll never fix this, I thought.
As we traveled about the country during the week, I noted numerous large-scale projects that seemed a bit out of place in the developing nation. There was a huge dam, electricity-generating windmills, and other civil engineering feats. Each one bore the flag of another country or government. Italy had assisted with the dam. We were told Germany installed the windmills. The European Union had chipped in on infrastructure projects. To me, this made the reality of the situation even more overwhelming. The largest and most powerful governments in the world have poured resources into the country on a scale that common man, and even the global church could not match. Still, the poverty persists. I’m glad for the way those governments have aided the people of Honduras, but it seems their projects stand as testaments to the failure of the secular humanist worldview. Powerful governments with seemingly unlimited resources cannot fix their plight or the human condition. I was reminded of these lyrics from “All the World Is Mad” by Thrice:
We can’t medicate man to perfection again
We can’t legislate peace in our hearts
We can’t educate sin from our souls
It’s been there from the start
But the blind lead the blind into bottomless pits
Still we smile and deny that we’re cursed
But of all our iniquities
Ignorance may be the worst
I understand that suffering in the world is far from a new thing. My generation may even be poised better than any other in history to eradicate it, but without a coherent worldview, without Christ, there is no hope. The human heart is broken, selfish, and corrupt. We see this in the life of every person. Christ showed us how to truly be human, how to properly bear the image of God. “If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you” (Matthew 5:40 – 42). The way of Jesus is the only hope for humanity, and I am more convinced of this now than ever before, even as I admit my woeful shortcomings. Only in a world where everyone strives to live as Jesus would true redemption be possible. Throwing money at problems does not eradicate corrupt government, economic exploitation, and evil intent. The grace of Jesus in transforming the human heart, however, can and will bring Heaven to earth.
In conclusion, I’m certainly glad to have gone and spent time in Honduras. Nothing I did personally scratched the surface of the issues gripping the country, but God’s church in action brings small slices of the Kingdom to the lives of people. Yes, there are 135 more long-lasting water filters in use, but it is my hope that they are more than buckets, tubes, and better health. I hope they are a glimpse of God’s love to the people and communities who received them, and that love begins healing Honduras and our world.