By: Sara White for Georgia Weekly Post.
It is a rare moment, to realize your home is not where you were born, nor where you reside, rather a place both foreign and unconventional.
A place faced with poverty, crime, and neglect. There are few people in the world who feel drawn to such places. For the few who are, they are often questioned by their peers: “Why are you going?” “Aren’t you afraid?” “How will you make money?” “Won’t you miss home?”
Born and raised in Metro–Atlanta, I assumed this was my home. I know the roads, the unpredictable weather, and the culture. It’s a part of me.
However, at age 14, I found my heart home; my place of passion and peace. Honduras, located in Central America, is not the definition of an ideal home for many Americans.
There is reasonable cause to see Honduras purely for its dangerous environment.
Health risks linger amongst the natural environment, as seen by the contraction and spread of the zika virus.
America recently witnessed one of the first babies born with zika within our borders as the pregnant mother travelled from Honduras to the States hoping for better treatment for the virus.
Apart from environmental risks, crime and violence rampage more than the police force can efficiently respond to. San Pedro Sula, Honduras recently held the title of “the murder capital of the world,” now second only to Venezuela.
As witnessed internationally during their coup in 2009, there is instability within the government and conflict among the peoples.
Apart from each of its faults, Honduras holds treasures as well: the Mayan ruins in Copan; Roatan, a popular port for many cruises; Lake Yojoa, surrounded by its many mountains and volcanoes.
▲ Denia, found at the age of 6 in a hospital on the edge of death from malnourishment, pneumonia, and anemia. She was taken into the care of EFP. This photo was taken 2 years later. She is now a healthy 14 year old, mastering point ballet and aspiring to be a pediatrician. Photo by Sara White for Georgia Weekly Post.
I first visited Honduras at the age of 14 alongside a youth ministry, Vision2Hear. Unfortunately, Honduras was not kind to me during my first visit. As my body could not adjust to the changes in food and lack of clean water, I spent the majority of our time there in the hotel bathroom, barely able to crawl back into bed.
It was as if my whole body and spirit was in shock from the vast differences between their lifestyle and my own comfortable life in the United States. I saw their lack of comforts and it tore deep, leaving me with a guilt I didn’t know how to purge. Fear took hold of me, as I swore I would never go back. It was dirty and foreign and made me vomit, quite literally.
▲ Many of the babies in the orphanages are extremely fragile and sick, like this baby at 8 weeks old. We entered into the nursery, immediately drawn to pick up and embrace the babies for as long as possible. Photo by Sara White for Georgia Weekly Post
Less than 6 months later, I returned. Not as eagerly as before, but convinced by family and friends who found something in Honduras worth revisiting. I decided I must be willing to make one more attempt to find something beautiful there.
One last chance for Honduras to prove it could fill my heart with joy. My family and I connected with a small, but growing non-profit organization. Eternal Family Project (EFP) is run by a young woman who surrendered herself and her home in Tennessee to fill a need.
There are an estimated 170,000 children recognized as orphaned, abandoned, and neglected in Honduras. The majority placed into public orphanages.
▲ The public orphanages appeared to be more prison-like than a home for children. The stone walls, topped with barbed-wire, had gashes from the children trying to create escape holes. The playground held more dangers than fun with a splintered wooden slide, and protruding screws. Photo By Sara White for Georgia Weekly Post.
These orphanages functioned as nothing more than a shelter. Education, health, and emotional well-being were neglected within the barb-wired walls. Allison, the founder of EFP, began her mission in the hopes of breaking the cycle of poverty amongst Honduran women. She takes in girls, from birth to adulthood, and immerses them into an environment of love while building foundations of family, education, and faith.
It was through EFP, I began to see Honduras for something more. I saw a country through the eyes of the children it forgot.
Young girls facing far more than any human should: torn apart by self-indulging family members; malnourished due to neglect or poverty; physical injuries including limb loss and paralysis without proper medical treatment. Every girl with a story, a past they would face and conquer.
▲ Apart from environmental risks, crime and violence rampage more than the police force can efficiently respond to. San Pedro Sula, Honduras recently held the title of “the murder capital of the world,” now second only to Venezuela. Miss Honduras Maria Jose Alvarado has been found murdered at the age of 19. With the help of a “protected witness,” two men were brought into police custody. Since Alvarado’s disappearance, members of the community have come out pleading that Alvarado be released from her abductors. This is a terrible ending for her fans as well as family. Read on for the sad facts on the incident. File Photo.
When I met them, I did not see their past. Instead, I was blinded by their overwhelming expression of love and joy for our company. They opened their hearts and embraced me, as if I was the one in need of healing and comfort. It was in those weeks of laughter I saw a country for both its desperation and splendor.
In the eyes of the daughters who’d been abandoned and abused, I could see hope for their futures. They faced each day with smiles and courage. I saw more strength, more perseverance in one little 5 year old girl, than anyone I previously encountered. Over those weeks, I saw an incredible force of change – and I desperately wanted to be a part of it, more than anything the States could offer me.
▲ Most available Honduras facts.
Over the past nine years, I spent as much time in Honduras as possible. Each holiday, summer, and any time in between, I run off to my Honduran family. As more little ones are added, my heart finds more room to love. As my spirit poured out for them, it became obvious; this family has a far greater impact on my life, than I could dream to have on theirs.
They’ve shown me how to love selflessly, to have courage, and to be the best version of myself. Growing up, from adolescence to adulthood with the radical experiences Honduras blessed me with, has led to my most important life decision yet. I am moving to Honduras to live long-term with my Eternal Family; no longer simply observing the ministry expand, but with the privilege to be a part of the growth and give myself to it.
My excitement for this journey cannot be contained; I exclaim it to everyone. Whether they know me a little, or not at all, I’m often faced with the usual questions. I answer with a simple response: “Honduras is my home.”
In reality, my answer to the question of “why” is not simple. It also cannot necessarily be duplicated among others who’ve chosen a life abroad. My answer is a story. Finding solidarity in Honduras was something that happened to me, it wasn’t a choice. The choice is a willingness and ability to set aside my comforts here, with a mission to comfort people elsewhere. It goes beyond reason when one chooses to serve.
▲ In a a place faced with poverty, crime, and neglect, local communities were able to put on a Carnival, celebrate their cultures and dance the nights away. Every May, for two weeks straight the town of La Cieba transforms into the largest party event in Central America. Streets, bars and discos are filled to the brim with eager locals and tourists alike waiting to pay tribute to the Patron Saint, Isidore the Laborer in a fun and vibrate parade and party. File Photo.
It’s a sense of knowing; knowing your ability to serve others, while allowing others to change you. From the moment I felt peace in Honduras, I acknowledged, this is the place I can best serve others.
Atlanta is not without brokenness; there is need across our borders for healing. There are many here with the passion and ability required to heal their neighbors and cities.
I admire them greatly. Any path to serve whether at home or abroad requires sacrifice and courage. Each time I came home, I got involved, fellowshipped with my neighbors and local children. But my heart was always a little deficient while here. It’s strange to feel a sense of unhappiness and lack of enthusiasm for your birth-home. Those feelings don’t diminish my love for the people here; instead it fuels me as their support lends the courage I need to further to give myself to Honduras.
My decision to move is not based on any practical reasoning. This is a radical life choice based on faith and enthusiasm in something greater than myself. I’ve seen changes in Honduras over the years, amongst individuals and through the presence of various ministries.
The closure of public orphanages in Honduras shows an attempt to recognize their systematic failure to care for their children. However, the streets are overflowing with children, pursuing whatever means necessary to survive and desperate for a loving home; poverty still engulfs families, rendering them unable to care for themselves and their children; a lack of sanitation fills the streets with trash and sickness.
I enter into my new home, knowing I am not only serving EFP, but will be working along side them in outreach to the community. I am blessed by the opportunity to witness a generation of Honduran women learning to be a movement.
What began as a group of young women with nothing more than a middle-school education, has flourished into those same women graduating university, studying to become nurses, doctors, and lawyers; the children on their way to graduating high school, while mastering arts such as dance and music.
And for the unknowable amount of time I shall spend living with them, my greatest ambition is to stand with them as we shed light to a darkened country.
▲ Lake Yojoa is the largest lake in Honduras lying in a volcanic depression. The surrounding mountains among the volcanic field provide a beautiful backdrop for fishing and boating. Photo By Sara White for Georgia Weekly Post.
As people ask me today if I fear moving to Honduras, a country known to be wrought with violence, I always find myself wondering why I should be.
To me, fear is rooted in the unknown and the uncertain. I no longer see Honduras as either. I stopped fearing Honduras the moment I embraced its children.