“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.

Making a Daily Difference

Greg and Teresa Leeth, missionary pastors, recently visited Honduras and shared about their experience in a guest post on Larry and Angie Overholts’ ministry blog. The Leeths help support missionaries on the field as part of WGM’s Member Health team. Read their uplifting story of how God has impacted the people and country of Honduras. 

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“The challenges faced by many in the world never cease to astonish me. Poverty, illness and a lack of opportunity are throughout the world. And Choluteca, Honduras, is no exception. The basic need for homes, clean water, education and daily food are a part of everyday life for those who live in this most southern Department (State) of Honduras.

“Recently while in the city providing pastoral support to missionaries through Member Health WGM, within which my wife and I serve, I had the opportunity to see these challenges first hand. And while the challenges are there, so are answers. Answers through community development efforts in these needed areas alongside the work of the Shalom church led by Pastor David, are making a ‘daily’ difference.”

You can make a daily difference where you are, too. Pray that God will open your eyes to the needs in your community, and then, when He answers, go and do His work boldly! May His name be given all the glory and honor for the many works His people do in service around the world and here at home. Read the whole post on the Overholts’ blog: Choluteca Ministries.

What is Happening in Honduras?

Larry and Angie Overholt are missionaries in Honduras focusing on the Community Development Housing ProjectCholuteca Vocational School, and Lizzy Scholarship. In their latest posts from their blog and Facebook, they highlight needs and transformation happening in Honduras. Will you take part in praying for and fulfilling a need in their community?

“Honduras is a lower-middle income country in Central America. Throughout the country, there is great inequality of wealth and income. Nearly 60% of the population lives in poverty. Approximately two-fifths of the population lives in conditions of extreme poverty. The problem is even greater in rural areas among agricultural laborers (USAID, 2011). Interest rates are high and very few people are able to invest in good housing. Many people live in substandard housing.

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A new house being built in front of the old one. Photo credit and caption: Larry and Angie Overholt

“The climate conditions in Honduras compound the poor living conditions. Older adobe homes have been damaged by recent seasonal heavy rains, flooding, and occasional earthquake tremors. Roofs are built out of whatever material is available and are leaky and hot. Many homes do not have concrete floors, allowing water to run into the sunken interior rooms.

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Skyping with OSU engineering students Photo credit and caption: Larry and Angie Overholt

“Poor housing contributes to chronic health problems. While adobe brick construction is a relatively cheap method of construction, the earthen bricks allow potentially disease-carrying insects to live in the crevices. Cooking stoves are commonly built inside of homes with no chimney for the smoke to escape. Asthma cases are common. The dampness inside the homes encourages the growth of mold and causes respiratory problems.

“As missionaries working with World Gospel Mission, we moved to southern Honduras immediately after Hurricane Mitch. Hundreds of families had lost their homes during the hurricane. Southern Honduras was especially hard-hit. The new church that was being established immediately began to respond to the need for helping provide housing in the community. They took on the goal of building a house each year for a needy family.”

To read the rest of this story, visit Larry and Angie’s ministry blog.

Larry and Angie Overholt

SPECIAL NEEDS

Larry mentioned this special request for support on Facebook: “For our entire career, we have heard it said that you can support missions by ‘going,’ ‘sending,’ ‘praying.’ We are asking that God would give someone the vision for helping in a bit of a different way. We need someone who would help us develop promotional materials for the Choluteca ministries. This includes web design, writing for the internet, video editing, grant writing, etc.

“You can help make a difference. Possible action steps:

  • Consider joining one of our construction teams.
  • Make a contribution to our rotating fund or to help finish building the Amigos Church parsonage. (account: 25498, Lizzy housing)
  • Pray that our local church will continue to learn how to best help needy families.”

Visit Larry and Angie’s blog to learn more.

 

Empty Tortillas

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Larry and Angie Overholt

In WGM Compassion‘s blog post, it states the dire need of the people in a community of Honduras for food, water, shelter, and God’s love. Read on for a story of how God used His people to give to those in need and what you can do to help the cause.

Larry Overholt and his wife, Angie, have been involved in various aspects of community development in Honduras since 1982. In this post, Larry highlights the challenges found navigating between relief and development, and the Overholts process some of these hard and challenging issues. What have been your challenges as you walk this fine line between relief, rehabilitation, and development?

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Photo Credit: Larry and Angie Overholt

“Our church has been helping build a new house for Francisco and Yolanda in one of the communities where the Shalom Church has been developing a church plant. A Hispanic church in the States had donated funds to help with construction materials. Church members from our Shalom Church in the city of Choluteca, Honduras were supervising the construction and local workers from the community were volunteering to help with the labor needed to build the house. With everyone working together, it would take about two and a half weeks to build a small secure cement block house.

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Francisco and Yolanda standing next to their house under construction. (Photo Credit: Larry and Angie Overholt)

“Francisco and Yolanda were selected by community leaders as the most economically needy people in the area. Their old adobe house had deteriorated over the years and the rainy season was about to arrive. With a leaky roof and broken down walls in the house, the couple did not look forward to enduring another rainy season.

“Francisco is older and has chronic health problems. He is no longer able to work in the fields or go fishing along the coast like most of his neighbors do for a living. He and Yolanda have a few garden plants planted around their yard but it was not enough to sustain them.

“One of the guys working on the house construction said, ‘Yolanda and Francisco have been eating empty tortillas.’”

To read the rest of this great story and learn how Francisco and Yolanda were supported, check out the WGM Compassion blog at wgmcompassion.wordpress.com.

To donate to the cause of building more homes, visit www.wgm.org/community-development.