Annette Morriss shares her story of the first time she went in mission to Honduras. Having found a place to be in ministry, she continued to go on every trip for nearly twenty years.
In 1968, my Husband Jim received “the CALL” to go to Bolivia. So as a family we answered. This included six months in New York in training, four and a half months in Cuernavaca, Mexico, and four years in rural Bolivia as lay missionaries with the National Methodist Board of Missions. We returned to Austin and to TUMC in 1973.
Two decades later, we both retired. Within a week after Jim’s retirement date, he led a group of seven experts in the field of Electric Cooperatives to Bangladesh to do a survey of the country’s electrical needs and was gone for two and a half months! SO I said to myself, “Well, if he will be gone that long, I’ll just see about this trip that is being planned by our church to Honduras.” And that begins my story in Honduras. Now, we are celebrating our twenty-fifth anniversary of missional service with the wonderful people of the Agalta Valley.
Our connection began following the experience of an Emmaus Retreat when a group at TUMC was on fire to find a foreign outreach. In 1994, a small group went to Honduras to investigate a possible area of service. They decided to adopt the village of El Jobo, as part of HOI’s Model Village project, for a commitment of two years—infusing $2000 a year into the infrastructure of the village.
In 1995, the first full team was formed and planning began. I went to a meeting with several guys who were only talking about the building projects. I wondered where the spiritual aspect of the mission was. Since I spoke Spanish, God gave me the answer and I became the education person to plan the Bible school for children!
I asked Rev. Ann Beaty if she had any VBS materials I could use. Interestingly, she had a copy of curriculum in both English and Spanish called “Under the Storytelling Tree,” about the parables of Jesus. When we arrived in El Jobo, the only place to have Bible School was under the big tree in the middle of the village sitting on the log teaching the children!
After our commitment to El Jobo was completed, our Mission Committee agreed with the team to concentrate on education because we believed that education is the key to the future of Honduras. Jose Mondragon, the director of Rancho el Paraiso, envisioned the need to start Kindergartens, as the level of school teachers was very low. He felt if we could prepare Kinders for first grade, it would push the need to improve the education system.
In 1997, our team refurbished an old orphanage into a model Kindergarten. Carol Cain was a kindergarten teacher and a great addition to our group. And thus began the building of little chairs, bookcases, and teacher’s desks as the word spread throughout the Valley of villages wanting kindergartens. At one time, there were as many as forty villages with Kindergartens.
In the beginning, we had a lot to learn working together as a team. There were so many separate ideas and we were learning to work in a cross-cultural context at the same time. But God’s work is interesting as over the years the groups became real teams.
One of my great joys is seeing “newbies” go to Honduras for the first time and falling in love with the people and the place and the work and being transformed by the experience.
As the years go by and we see the teams and the work change, I am amazed by how many people have been changed by this ministry. It reminds me of standing on the shore of a lake and dropping in a little stone and then trying to watch the ripples until they disappear. There are so many ripples. There have been so many changed.
Learning to observe and listen to the needs of those we came to serve brings more gifts to us than we can give. This experience of going in mission as a group can be life changing as God works in our hearts and minds. Worshiping together, working together, engaging with those warm and welcoming Honduran children and adults, there is the body of Christ and “We are one in the spirit, we are one in the Lord!”