Five years ago, John Gates, a member of Abiding Savior Lutheran Church (ASLC) in St. Louis, set out for his first mission trip through Hearts for Honduras. He joined a group of missionaries in the water well division from Salem Lutheran Church in Tomball, Texas. A driller of oil wells by trade, John says there was something about this trip to a third-world country to help its people gain access to life-sustaining water that appealed to his sense of humanity. It was a greater purpose.
“On my first trip, I was by myself and I flew into Houston,” John recalls. “I’m sitting in this car with a member of the mission team, and I don’t know this person. I’m going to Honduras for eight days to dig wells with people I’ve never met, for people I’ve never met. I thought to myself, ‘What am I doing?’”
Once he arrived in Honduras, he says it all became clear. The people inspired him to return every year since. God inspired him to take the mission trip a step further. On the flight back from his first trip, John spoke candidly to the leader of the well team he had worked with all week.
“I said, ‘We’re doing the service part by giving them wells, but we’re not sharing the Word of God,’” John recalls. “He agreed. The next time we were there we had a movie night and showed The Book of John in Spanish. About 500 people showed up to watch this movie. We gave the village pastor $100 and he got food and made it for all those people.”
Upon his return from that trip, John alerted his ASLC pastor that he committed it for the next five years to take part in the mission trips to Honduras. Mission work is a focal point of the ASLC ministry. The church's mission statement is written on its sanctuary walls:
"To know Christ . . . to make Him known."
That commitment brought Arnold, Missouri residents Don and Jane Haas to the church’s Butler Hill Road doorstep about a year ago. In January, it took Jane, a retired Lutheran teacher and curriculum editor, to Honduras.
She joined John and a group of missionaries—a total of 13 from ASLC, one from Illinois, and one from Texas. The team had three main goals in mind. The theme for the week was the story of Jesus giving living water to the Samaritan woman at the well from John 4. Members of the group were broken into three teams, each with a purpose.
John’s team drilled for water in a small village, Aldea Rio Arriba. This team also was able to visit a village where a well was successfully drilled the previous year, and reconnected with the people there. John recalled the people remembered those who returned by name.
A second team served at the Gates of Hope Girls' Home and the Village of Hope Orphanage in Tocoa. Along with sharing Jesus' love and care with the young girls and their babies, the team built walls to make bedrooms, refinished dining tables, welded iron railings, poured concrete sidewalks, created a chapel cross, and installed electrical and plumbing projects. Both of these teams operated as part of the Open Doors Ministry.
Jane was part of the third team. She described her experience as “adventuresome,” with early morning van rides over rutted rural roads to the village of Aldea Rio Arriba’s concrete church, Bautista Conservadora. Afternoons were spent hosting Vacation Bible School sessions at the orphanage in Tocoa. The team kept busy until late in the evenings.
“In the evenings, we joined the others for fellowship at the Gates of Hope, and also worshiped with the villagers, led by their Pastor Lucas,” Jane says.
“Children of all ages, as well as some grownups, heard the Gospel message of salvation through Christ Jesus in Spanish,” says Jane. “We used Spanish resources from Concordia Gospel Outreach to tell the Christmas and Easter Bible stories, as well as the story of the one thankful healed leper and Jesus' blessing of the children in Spanish, thanks to our translators. Everyone enjoyed crafts and Bible story-related songs each day, and we had fun playing soccer, relays, and parachute games with the children, too.”
CGO provided Spanish catechisms and Spanish adult Bible studies for use with those ages 13–18. About 50 teens and young adults participated in a teaching session led by ASLC’s associate pastor, Jason Hoerth. A total of about 350 children, teens, and young adults participated in the Vacation Bible School and Bible study sessions.
All three goals of the mission were accomplished. Jane adds, the opportunity was life changing and allowed her to see God’s undeniable presence in the lives of many.
“My sixth-grade Sunday school teacher would always remind us that we’re all missionaries in our own corners of the world,” Jane fondly recalls. “Not until the middle of last year did I seriously consider doing something like this. I wish I could tell Mrs. Geiger all about it.”
On the second day of the trip, Jane says the missionaries charged with digging the well in Aldea Rio Arriba met success. As the refreshing liquid gushed from the ground, people rejoiced.
“There was a lot of praising and thanking God for that,” she says. “It was really exciting.”
While the people were poor in monetary resources, Jane says they were “so rich in spirit. They were very open and welcoming. I was so impressed. Everybody wanted to have us over for a meal. Everybody just wanted to share. It was such an enriching experience.”
Hoerth used his resource Parables of Jesus from CPH to teach the people of Rio Arriba about Christ. Concordia Gospel Outreach provided the team with copies of this Bible study that were published in Spanish to share with them and leave behind for future use.
Backpacks, books, clothes, shoes, blankets, and other items were passed out to orphans, young women, and others living in the small town.
“Children’s books about Jesus from CPH found their way into hungry hands,” Hoerth says, noting, “The question ‘Do we really need to go?’ turned into an answer: ‘We really do need to go.’” He added, “I hope our congregants see the incredible hospitality, the fervent worship and love among the people we’ve been sent to help. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. We just happen to have a different address in God’s harvest field.”
John plans to return to Honduras on a mission trip in January 2015 with his wife and eight-year-old daughter. It will be their first trip. Haas says if it is God’s will, she plans to take part in another mission trip—next time with her husband.
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