The Northeastern Minnesota, Companion Synod Relationship with the Iglesia Cristiana Luterana de Honduras (ICLH)
“Our first task in approaching another people, another culture, is to take off our shoes, for the place we are approaching is holy. Else we may find ourselves treading on other peoples’ dream; more serious still, we may forget that God was there before our arrival.”
-John V. Taylor
Where exactly is Honduras?
Honduras is located in Central America bordered by Nicaragua to the south, the Caribbean Sea to the north and east, El Salvador to the southwest, and Guatemala to the northeast. It is mostly mountainous and forested—although widespread slash-and-burn subsistence farming is destroying many forests. The largely mestizo population speaks Spanish, with English common on the northern coast and Bay Islands. Mayan ruins at Copán, which represent the wealth of the past in what today is one of the region’s poorest nations, help diversify the economy with tourist revenue. Although agricultural products are plentiful, mostly bananas and coffee, they have failed to enliven the economy of this country. A military coup in 2009 further destabilized the country. Violence is widespread, especially in urban areas. The population is 7,212,000 with just over a million of those living in the capital of Tegucigalpa. The GDP is US $2,500 and the literacy rate is about 76%.
What do we do in Honduras?
People often ask, “What are you going to do in Honduras? What will you be building?” The answer is “relationships.” Through the Companion Synod program of the ELCA, the 65 synods of the ELCA are partnered with Lutheran church bodies all over the world. ELCA Global Mission established the Companion Synod Program to deepen relationships with church bodies around the world. These relationships reflect the new reality of mission. The Northeastern Minnesota Synod has companion synod relationships with the ICLH in Honduras and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria in Russia
What is “Accompaniment?”
The ELCA promotes the principal of “Accompaniment” in its global mission endeavors. Our generous tendency to want to “do for” can create dependency between companions. Dependency is avoided when we invest in building up one another’s capacity to proclaim and serve by sharing knowledge, insights, personnel, resources, and experience. ELCA mission personnel and funds help build the capacity of companion churches; the ELCA’s capacity to proclaim and serve in our multicultural society is also built as we learn from our companions. The process is mutual. Part of our mission is to gather stories that we can tell to each other and to our communities at home – each person’s story is part of God’s story. You can learn more about the principles of Accompaniment on the ELCA website.
How many Lutherans are there in Honduras?
Honduras is predominantly Catholic. The small Lutheran community, though, is very active. There are 11 congregations that make up the Iglesia Cristiana Luterana de Honduras with most either in the northern part of Honduras near the Caribbean or near the capital of Tegucigalpa. To learn more about the ICLH and their ministries, check out their website.
What ministries do we share with the ICLH?
Our ministry with the ICLH has been built up by many years of shared relationships, shared dreams, and shared trust. Through our many conversations, they have expressed to us, first and foremost, the desire for us to share with them in faith formation and leadership training for their lay leaders. The ICLH is a small church body with only eight ordained pastors, four men and four women. The congregations also have very active and involved lay leaders. A key component in our ministry with the ICLH is our yearly Worship & Learning Workshop for lay leaders. Each year a different theme is the focus of this workshop. As members of the Northeastern Minnesota team participate alongside Honduran leaders, all are strengthened to be leaders in their individual congregations through small group discussions, sharing, presentations, worship, and fellowship.
Most of the members of the congregations of the ICLH are from some of the poorest parts of Honduras. The financial burden of sending a team of church leaders to a three-day workshop is not a possibility for these congregations, so part of our team fees and a large part of the fundraising within our synod is used to sponsor these Worship & Learning Workshops – we provide the funds to reserve a facility for the workshop, provide programming and materials, and provide housing, meals, and transportation for participants. Although the workshops are the most important component of our shared ministry, they are far from being the only component. The ICLH has a very vibrant community health education program, including education on HIV/AIDS, domestic violence, nutrition for children, and clean water. We share in many aspects of that ongoing ministry, for example, in providing the funds for water filter distributions.
The local water systems in Honduras do not provide sanitary water. Each home needs its own filter system to purify their water. A simple clay filter is about the size of a 3-gallon pail. Each filter system costs about $30 which includes the filter, the shipping and the training to use and maintain it. These clay filters, developed by Dr. Richard Wukich, are being manufactured and used throughout the developing world, including Honduras. They are comprised of a mixture of clay and sawdust. As the filter is fired, the sawdust burns, leaving tiny pores for water to filter through and the filter is coated in collodial silver. The clay pot sits inside a plastic bucket with a spigot at the bottom. The water comes out 99% clean and drinkable. Together with the ICLH and also the North/West Lower Michigan Synod of the ELCA, water filter distributions are ongoing in several Honduras communities with a Lutheran church presence.
The Northeastern Minnesota Synod also helps to support a Lutheran kindergarten in the community of La Cañada, the location of Luz del Mundo (Light of the World) Lutheran Church. Rubi Flores, general secretary of the ICLH, explains, “We have a vision of transforming our communities, one kindergarten at a time.” Schooling in Honduras is compulsory and free, but kindergarten is not provided. In the Kinder Dr. Martin Lutero in La Cañada, families benefit alongside students as they learn about good hygiene, nutrition, safe water, and general health. Students also receive an important headstart for elementary school. Funding from northeastern Minnesota helps to pay for the kindergarten teacher, supplies, and nutritious food and snacks for the students.
How can I help?
Most importantly, you can pray for our brothers and sisters in Honduras. Poverty, violence, and hopelessness are intertwined with daily life for much of the population. The social and political problems in the country are often overwhelming. The light of Christ is very much needed in the face of the realities of life.
The ministry of the Northeastern Minnesota Synod with the ICLH also needs funding
The funds donated by people and congregations in the synod are used 100% for ministry needs. No synod funds are used to pay for the trip fees of mission trip participants; in fact, the trip participants often help pay for ministry expenses. Donations are used for hosting Worship & Learning Workshops, lay leadership training, water filter distribution, and support of the kindergarten, depending on where the need is greatest. Please consider adding the Companion Synod Ministry with Honduras in your church, WELCA, or personal budget.
The Honduras Mission and Ministry Team always welcomes new people to come to our meetings. We receive trip reports of past synod-sponsored trips and plan for upcoming trips. If you would like more information, you can contact Brenda Wagner here, Honduras Mission and Ministry Team secretary, or at 218-341-1831. We also have speakers willing to come to your congregation to do presentations…a perfect learning opportunity for Sunday school groups, Vacation Bible School, WELCA groups, mission committees and much more.