Honduras (MNN/ORO) — The afternoon rains have not yet begun in La Paz, Honduras, where Austin South is serving with a team of missionaries from the United States. As the Director for Asociacion Manos Extendidas, the Honduran NGO partner of Orphan Outreach, South has seen the country he calls home struggling to provide care for orphans and vulnerable children.
He and his staff have been instrumental in introducing trauma-informed care principles to caregivers and children. There have been recent discussions with the Honduran government about possible privatized foster care. South is also encouraged by interest in the formation of the Alianza Cristiano para Los Huérfanos — or Christian Alliance for Orphans — in Honduras. He shares, “ACH started with the Orphan Sunday movement in Honduras. The Orphan Sunday leaders met with Orphan Outreach to discuss how to develop a Christian Alliance for Orphans organization in Honduras.”
“It was really the Lord just opening doors…”
The first ACH conference was held in September. Orphan Outreach’s Texas-based staff worked with their Honduran NGO counterparts to create the conference that attracted more than 200 pastors and ministry leaders from around the country.
“It was really the Lord just opening doors,” reflects South, as the organizers met with different pastors and the president of Confraternidad Evangelica, an alliance representing 9,500 Honduran churches. With their endorsement, South says it was possible to get the word out to many pastors.
Though interest in orphan care within the Honduran Church was growing, South says the organizers had no idea what to expect when it came to conference attendance. “When we had our meetings about the conference, we would try to speculate — maybe 50, maybe 100. It was really beautiful, because the Lord provided 208 people who came to the conference — all to hear about what the Christian Alliance for Orphans was doing in the United States and around the world.
“We had the President of CAFO, Michael Douris, come and speak at the conference. We also had Aixa Lopez, who is the president of the board of directors for ACH in Guatemala. Both shared what the orphan care movement looked like in their respective countries, and then planted a seed of what it could look like in Honduras.”
“The dream and the hope is motivating the Church…”
So what is the goal of the ACH as it expands into Honduras? South smiles as he shares. “The dream and the hope is motivating the Church in general and then the specific churches and then the congregants of those specific churches to realize taking care of Honduran children at risk and orphans is the responsibility of the Christian church – period. Biblically, that’s what the Lord tells us.
“I think that what that looks like, and where the Church can really plug in, is all along the continuum. I think churches can provide families that can be adoptive families. It’s a great place to look for families that could get involved in foster care.
“Churches can go and be family to kids in residential care — visit them and play with them and care for them. Churches have an amazing opportunity, and have all the resources, and I’m not talking about financial resources because you don’t even need financial resources to do community projects and programs that are reaching out and try to keep families together.”
South shares, “That’s the ultimate, preventing kids from ever becoming at risk. I think that right there, in and of itself, is where the Church can be so powerful. Because the Church is always ministering to families, so how can you identify families that are at risk for breaking apart in our own congregations and our own communities.”
“An orphan is not just a word…”
This week, South and the mission team are providing therapeutic activities to children in the most difficult neighborhoods. In one of those neighborhoods, the sound of fireworks can be heard. Testing them is one of the day labor jobs offered to parents struggling to provide shelter and meals to their children. He pauses for a moment to listen to them. Then he speaks again. “An orphan is not just a word — ‘orphan’ or ‘kids at risk.’ But every orphan has a name, every orphan has a face, every orphan has a story.”
When asked how people can pray for the orphan care movement in Honduras, South’s response is for not only Honduras, but the Church overall. “The general prayer is just ‘Lord, open the eyes of our hearts to the need of your children.’
“It’s an act of human nature that we get stuck in our own bubble — no matter where we’re from — even if we’re in a developing country or if we’re in the United States or we’re in Europe. If we really believe what the Bible says, the Body of Christ is everyone who knows Him. If we really believe what the Bible says, we are called to love everybody, and we have to get out of our bubble to do that. And so, I think a big prayer request is just lifting up the Honduran church, that they would open their eyes to the needs in their own backyard.”
South also says those churches in the United States that regularly serve in Honduras or support Honduran ministries should ask, “What are you doing about orphan care now?”
He looks down for a moment as the rain begins to fall, and then says, “It’s hard to ask that question, though, if we’re not asking it of ourselves – and I think that’s something we need to do.”
Learn more about the work of Orphan Outreach in Honduras, and join them on a mission trip.