Update - October 4, 2011
My, it’s nice to be back in our crisp, clean Colorado, with the leaves turning gold. The USA is still the land of (usually) orderly traffic and clean restrooms, drinkable water in the faucets, and tranquility to think our thoughts. If you want to appreciate your country, visit Latin America for a few days. We must never forget that we have this incredible land because of the faith, values and bloodshed of our forefathers.
We miss the sweet bananas, fresh pineapple juice, the rolling green hills, and most of all, the warmth of the people of Honduras. They remind me of an old English friend who didn’t have much in the way of worldly possessions, but who used to say, “People are our treasures.” When we gave Marjorie, Joel’s wife, a birthday gift, the thing she most appreciated was the message we wrote on the card.
Joel and Marjorie, along with Marjorie’s parents, are some of the treasures who mean so much to us in Comayagua. Joel is an agricultural engineering major at the university there, and has been helped by a scholarship from PTTW for several years. We spent several pleasant evenings with them. Arnulfo and Silvia are dear to us as always, and we truly appreciate the professors and director at the university. Roberto Contreras, the owner of five Power Chicken restaurants in SPS, is a much loved friend.
This week Arnulfo is supposed to train teachers in the military how to teach Values and Principles. If this actually takes place, it will saturate much of the country with the need for honesty, competence, creative thinking, hard work, the importance of reading, and so forth. Those of us who grew up hearing George Washington’s famous words, “Father, I cannot tell a lie,” take these things for granted, but these principles are paradigm changers to most Hondurans. When they learn about right moral values and right behavior, they often seem to be set free. It is as if they suddenly realize, “Oh, now I understand how life is supposed to work!”
Students and teachers responded well to Barb Hermanson’s writing classes. At the end she received gifts and notes of appreciation, and a former student, a teacher, from several years ago wrote and asked her to teach the class in a private Catholic school in San Pedro Sula. Public schools in the US that have put Barb’s teaching into practice have seen amazing improvement in their students’ national test scores. Jim had a tough week, with three days of no classes. But his Friday classes for professors at the university in Comayagua were well attended. He later learned that one of the profs was an atheist, probably a Communist, who tried to influence students in a negative way. The man sat through an hour and a half of Jim’s teaching, and afterward spoke cordially with Jim. Often Communist professors do not like our message, so we hope that Jim, with his gentle, persuasive manor and intellectual approach, made inroads in this man’s thinking. Jim taught philosophy of education and the importance of physical education at the national university in Comayagua.
Eric Valenzuela, the pastor of the Latino church, Iglesia El Camino, that meets in our church here, spoke to several congregations, convincing them of the importance of obeying and teaching right principles. The Gospel has permeated this culture, but there has been a disconnect between believing and doing. Eric, who was born in Guatemala, but is now a US citizen, was obviously comfortable in Honduran culture. He won many friends and gave us valuable insights into Latin America.
Eric has also given us a new idea for teaching values in our own country. There are countless Spanish language radio stations in Colorado, and Eric assures us they are always looking for material. He has access to many secular stations, and wants us to write five-minute spots on values and principles, which he or others can read to listeners daily. Latinos listen to the radio all day every day. We hope to tell many stories teaching right thinking and behavior. We also have the possibility, because of Eric, of sending these broadcasts to stations in Central America.
Because most of the people who made our teaching arrangements were untrained, this trip has been one of our most difficult, often seeming terribly disorganized. We have fought discouragement all along the way, both before and during the journey, continually asking ourselves if we are accomplishing anything of lasting value.
We have returned home convinced that the things we have been teaching have taken root in the lives of many Hondurans. Once, in a moment of fatigue, John told a professor he didn’t know if we would be back. She pleaded, “Oh, please don’t abandon us!”
And how could we ever cease this rewarding work when the opportunities to teach good things are endless? This week the five of us plus businessman Roberto Contreras and Honduran lawyer Noe Vega, spoke to 1,415 students and 145 professors in two departments in the national university in Tegucigalpa, and four schools of higher education, two bilingual schools, the air force academy, and the national university in Comayagua, as well as 665 people in four churches.
God is still at work in our world!