“I Am Grateful for Hurricane Mitch!”

By Larry Overholt, Honduras

In the storms of life, things can become negative and seem like a complete downward spiral of hopelessness. In this story, taken from the January/February 2009 issue of The Call, missionary Larry Overholt shares how God took a man at the end of his rope and gave him hope in the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch.

Prior to first arriving in Choluteca (population 120,000) in September 2000, Angie and I had wondered how we would ever get started in ministry in a new area of the country. We had served 18 years with the long-established ministry at Escuela El Sembrador (School of the Sower), a boarding school for underprivileged Honduran boys, and moving to a brand-new area with no established ministry was a bit scary to us. Besides starting a completely new ministry for World Gospel Mission and Honduran Holiness Church, the other challenge we faced had to do with the fact that the southern region of Honduras was still suffering the aftereffects of Hurricane Mitch. It was almost like everyone was going though post-traumatic stress disorder. Large numbers of youth were still not back in classes. The regional economy, supported largely by shrimp farming and cantaloupe and watermelon production, had not recovered. Large numbers of the population were still unemployed. Along the river, the city was still cluttered with the ruins that had been destroyed by the flooding. We had no idea where to start working.

The first day we arrived in Choluteca with our belongings to unload, we were met by several people from the recently established congregation. One man was Chacho. He was a 30-year-old ox cart operator with a sixth-grade education who made a living hauling sand and gravel from the river for construction projects. Chacho helped us unload our belongings from the truck and trailer and moved boxes into the house we were renting. The following day he did his own work with the ox cart in the early morning and showed up for breakfast at 7:30 a.m. He continued day after day, making himself useful in the following days grabbing a machete and cleaning up around the yard. There was a lot to do since the property had never been fully remodeled from when it had six feet of water during Mitch.

Chacho was so helpful we hired him full time to work with me. Chacho naturally shared his testimony with me as we got to know him. At the time of Hurricane Mitch, Chacho had been living a rough life. As a husband he exhibited a “machismo” attitude and would stay out drinking at night without telling his wife were he was. Looking back, Chacho feels he was already an alcoholic. He and his wife, Patti, had one son at the time.

Chacho, Patti, and their small son had escaped the flooding with only the clothes on their backs. Chacho went back for his oxen and swam out of the river holding onto the tail of one of them. Chacho told me how they moved from one shelter to another and finally found a church building where they could stay. They were wet and cold and had little to eat. When they did manage to get a piece of chicken, they even ate the bones. Chacho told me that the most difficult part was having to tell their young son that they had no way to buy him juice when he cried for it.

Chacho and his family left the church after a week, seeking another shelter. Chacho says that he felt guilty because the pastor caught him smoking inside the church. He was also resisting the preaching.

Eventually, when he was able to get back to the community where he had lived, Chacho found that there was nothing left of his house except one post. He was able to gather a few pieces of lumber and had enough materials to put up a small shelter. When relief items began to arrive a few days later, Chacho met Pastor Alejandro, who was disbursing food and clothing that had been donated through World Gospel Mission and Honduran Holiness Church. His wife, Patti, was one of the first converts of the future church. Chacho resisted the gospel.

Soon after Hurricane Mitch, Patti became extremely ill and miscarried during her pregnancy. Chacho explained that she was admitted to the hospital due to complications, and the doctors gave him very little reason for hope that she would recover. Patti went into a coma and Chacho cried out to God one evening as he left the hospital. He said, “God, if you are out there, will you save my wife? I will follow you.” That evening he went home to his small shelter and his small son. As Chacho lay awake all night he kept thinking of the pistol that he had under his pillow. As he lay there contemplating suicide, he came to a very clear sense that his son very well could be an orphan in the morning. Chacho felt God’s presence and comfort as he decided that whatever happened, he would continue on.

That morning he got up and milked his father’s cows and headed to the hospital early. As he walked into the hospital ward, he was amazed to see his wife sitting up on the side of the bed. Chacho says that was the moment he was saved. Patti’s first words were, “Chacho, as soon as I am able, we are going to church together.”

Chacho cannot tell his testimony without tears flowing down his cheeks. There was no church building at that time, just a pastor’s house. During his first-ever church service, Chacho responded publicly to God’s invitation to accept Him as his personal Savior. I could not relate to Chacho when he said he was grateful for Hurricane Mitch. Many people suffered from the hurricane, but Chacho wonders if he ever would have responded to the gospel message if it had not been for Mitch.

Chacho has continually been faithful in all areas of his life. He studied electricity and finished his junior high education. Though Patti cannot give birth to any more children, God has miraculously provided them with a beautiful adopted daughter. But that is another story.

ACT: Do you know someone in pain and in need of a brother or sister to come alongside them and provide something tangible that they need right now? Do what you can to help that person today while the Holy Spirit is prompting you, because who knows what tomorrow brings.

Sharing God’s Gift

Minda Kleman is a missionary serving in church ministries in Honduras. She wrote in her latest prayer letter about how the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is a great gift that we get to share as a family of Christ. She talks about this wonderful gift and how it has had a positive influence on two of her former Sunday School students.

“Just recently, God let me hear about His gift at work in the lives of a couple of my former Sunday School girls.

“A few years back Fatima and Gaby were in the middle of those trying pre-adolescent years. Neither of them came from Christian homes, but they were blessed to have a Christian neighbor who brought them to Sunday School. Actually, they came with a whole gang of kids from a very poor neighborhood. Their behavior was a problem. Fatima was the ringleader. They acted out in class and bothered the kids from the church families. To put it mildly, they tried the patience of the whole Sunday School staff.

“Normal class discipline and correction just didn’t seem to help. After times of praying and fasting, the Lord showed us that we needed to change our strategy. So with a couple of other teachers, we began to heap extra love and attention on Fatima and her best friend, Gaby. We got permission during the week to take them out for ice cream and to invite them into our homes. After a few months, we saw some progress. The girls were still naughty with some of the teachers and kids, but at least they were open to getting together and talking about their lives. As they grew up, they settled down a bit. For a while, they visited other churches as they didn’t like their Sunday School teacher, but eventually they returned to our church.

“Just this week Fatima asked if we could get together and chat. She shared with me how both she and Gaby had accepted Jesus as their Savior and how God is changing their lives. They no longer hang out with the gangs in the streets. They have opted to participate in youth activities at church. Even more exciting, was what Fatima shared about how God is giving them the courage to stand up for their faith at their high school. Not long ago they were asked to participate in a very ungodly dance group as part of a school activity. They went and talked with their teacher. They told her about their faith in Jesus and explained that they couldn’t do those kinds of things. The teacher replied, “But no one from your church will know.” That was when Gaby pointed upward and said, “But there is someone else who sees everything we do.” Such a simple yet powerful witness! Their teacher gave in and said she would find another way that they could participate.

“As you partner with me, I trust this blesses your heart as it has mine. There is nothing better than to see others receive God’s gift and grow in Him. Please pray that both of these girls will continue to grow in their faith. As you celebrate Christmas, I pray that you will be filled anew with the peace and joy of knowing Jesus, the very best gift of all!”

WGM can help you learn more about Honduras and find ways to get involved in Minda Kleman‘s ministry by clicking on the links.

Regional Youth Retreat

A regional youth retreat—the first of its kind—was held in Honduras on November 26. Tim and Aleyda Spetnagel, missionaries serving in community development in Honduras, provided lots of pictures and an amazing praise! Read on to learn what God has done and to see how He is blessing youth ministry in Honduras.

“We are having a regional Youth retreat! This is our first one! God is Awesome! We have 110 youth, praise the Lord!” Tim Spetnagel

Photo credit: Tim and Aleyda Spetnagel

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WGM can help you support missions in Honduras. Visit our site to find out how to get involved and make an impact in someone’s life today.

Missions in Action

Today, we will look at some of our missionary’s photos to see what’s going on around the world as God works in and through WGM and its people to bring glory to His name!

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Bill and Beth Ryan‘s Facebook post from Honduras: “Sunday school building progress.”

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Holly Muehleisen‘s Facebook post about reading to children in Japan.

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Darin and Laura Arnott‘s Facebook post from the American Indian Field: “Teen Weekend Camp went very well with 25 teens attending. The lessons and activities were centered around setting and keeping healthy boundaries in our lives.”

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Brady and Alicia Searl‘s Facebook post from Uganda: “Preparing to pass out ‘mommy hospital kits’ to expectant mothers who attend the Jungo Omulise service. The kits help mothers deliver their babies with some of the necessary items that the hospitals do not provide. These kits allow the new babies to have a cleaner, safer environment during their first hours of life. #searlsinuganda”

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Robyn Moore Facebook post from Kenya, “This has been a busy and great weekend. Yesterday we celebrated my 35 years in Kenya with a host of friends helping me host over 150 children at my church here in Nairobi for a party. Face painting, nails polished, “football” and other fun. Six different ministries were represented that Least of These has a part in caring for them. I was so very blessed at the testimonies how God has used me to show His love and care for children. Acrobats, singers and dancers shared their love to me. The time ended with cake then gifts for every child, and I told them the gifts were from many of you from around the world. Today I was able to share my testimony of God’s faithfulness in my life for 35 + year in Kenya at my home church, Good Shepherd AGC. To God be the glory, great things He has done!”

This week, send us a photo of you participating in missions work in your community. We want to see how you are making an impact. Please leave details about the specific ministry, and we’ll pray specifically for your cause. Get involved, make a difference, and give God the glory, because we are all called to be missionaries wherever we are.