We found them so hungry to have direction in their careers and purpose in their lives…
“My students cried when they shared their experiences from the teaching of Values and Principles. They continue to be motivated to apply this teaching and to change their university and their country for the better.”
Mission trips can be dangerous. When we agreed to take our children’s youth group on a spring break trip to Mexico, we had no idea the adventure would impact more than high schoolers; it would also trigger a small personal avalanche in us. After that first trip in 1988 we took kids to the same village every year, and our comfortable plans for the future began to change.
Five years later our son, Steve, spent a semester in Honduras, helping develop water systems as part of his college program. At Charlene’s urging, John joined him, and an idea began to form: why not do the same kind of program in Honduran villages that had worked so well in Mexico? And so, in 1996, John returned to Honduras with seven men, half of them college students.We were inundated with 350 children in our VBS program. Where were the women who knew how to handle kids? We were asked to speak in churches, and one night, with the help of two young Honduran men with Campus Crusade for Christ, we showed the “Jesus” film to a thousand people. So began our village ministry.
Our many following trips were so exhilarating that we could have continued them forever. However, God had other plans. As a former college professor with a PhD in Electrical Engineering, John had a respectable career in the defense industry for many years. In spite of the adventures of the villages, he often felt restless, wishing his skills as a professional could be put to use in something other than doing crafts with children. Neither was he trained as a pastor with polished speaking abilities. He wondered, could God use his career in a developing country?
And then in 2004, our Honduran friend Jose Ordonez asked John to speak to students during Science Week at the National University of Honduras in San Pedro Sula. His last talk, on a technical subject, was addressed to 105 engineering students. At the end, Jose gave a two-minute Gospel presentation, which the class received with enthusiasm. Fifteen students prayed to receive Jesus Christ into their lives. John and Jose both realized something special had happened. How unlikely was that? To connect a technical talk with Jesus! Two years later Professionals to the World was born.
Since then we have taken many professionals in various careers to share their experience with literally thousands of students. We found them so hungry to have direction in their careers and purpose in their lives that multitudes of them prayed to receive Jesus into their hearts during the short presentations given by Honduran Christian students.
Our educational nonprofit enjoyed success for three years and our professionals won the respect of several Honduran universities. And then once again our direction unexpectedly changed. Jose went one way; we went another. One day sitting in the office of the Dean of Engineering in Tegucigalpa. John noticed a banner on the wall listing several goals for the reformation of the university. The first goal was ethics.
“What are you doing about teaching ethics?” he asked curiously, well aware of the problem of corruption in the country.
“Well,” he confessed, “Nothing. No one seems to know what to do. We need a textbook to use in our classes.” After our long discussion, he asked, “Why don’t you look for a book or, if you can’t find one…write one.” A revolutionary idea!
Charlene and I searched through some of the hundreds of excellent books on ethics available in the world today, but we found none that we felt would work for Spanish-speaking university students in a developing country. At last my we decided to write one tailor-made for Honduras. The result was an intensive writing project, Values and Principles that Can Change the World, published in 2010, in both English and Spanish. We had no idea if the book would work with students.
We were amazed and humbled by the enthusiasm which greeted our book. Hondurans were thrilled that someone had written a book just for them. Both students and professors seemed to love it, and we heard testimonies of changed lives by students and teachers who undertook to follow the simple principles discussed in the lessons, principles such as honesty, perseverance, hard work, integrity, courtesy, and so forth. Our book was filled with stories and one of the greatest compliments we received came from a successful Honduran businessman and friend who said, “This isn’t a textbook.”
“It isn’t?” we asked.
“No,” he asserted. “It’s too interesting!”
One professor wrote, “My students cried when they shared their experiences from the teaching of Values and Principles. They continue to be motivated to apply this teaching and to change their university and their country for the better.”
Since the book first began to be taught, over 3,000 books have been sold to students and that many more have been donated to faculty and others. Professionals from the U.S. have spoken at all of the eight national universities, several private universities and high schools, and the Honduran Air Force Academy. We have also met with many high ranking military officials and the head of the national police. It’s been quite an adventure.
Professionals to the World has helped the national university in Comayagua construct, on their campus, a new building named the National Center for the Formation of Values. This building has become the focus for the teaching of values and principles for the entire national university system of eight universities, with 80,000 students and 3,000 professors. We now have a full time representative in Honduras whose job is to train professors to use the book Values and Principles that Can Change the World in their classes.
Encouraged by the success of teaching values and principles to older students, we tried another textbook, Principles that Make you Strong, written for children. Another Honduran representative has the job of distributing the book in and around Comayagua and training teachers in its use. So far, in the 26 elementary schools where the principles are being taught, the results have been encouraging. Teachers are more motivated, less discouraged, as the classes teach children to respect their parents and teachers. On both the university campus in Tegucigalpa and in the grade schools stories are circulating that tell of students who returned lost property they found in school, valuable things such as cell phones and even money. There is more order in the schools, more caring for others. Students are picking up trash on campuses. This did not happen before this teaching began.
So how can North American professionals make a difference in Honduras today? When successful professional men and women such as teachers, engineers, medical workers, government employees, writers, an architect, a coach, a business administrator, a finance manager and a school counselor share in Honduran classes their lives, their faith and the principles by which they live, students and teachers are instructed and motivated. The change in the lives of young people who have participated in classes on values has been so dramatic that the governing committee for all the national universities has included Professionals to the World in their quest for teaching ethics in their schools. We now work with this governing committee to promote the teaching in all of the university disciplines.
Today Professionals to the World is standing beside Hondurans who are teaching thousands of their fellow Hondurans how to live and work successfully.