HISTORY OF THE HONDURAN WORK
August 1, 1991 Issue
by Murl R. Helwig
The Honduran work actually began long before my family and I entered the country to initiate it. The first planning and preparation begin in 1977 when Brother Jim Hickey discussed with me the possibility of establishing a work there. He knew Sister Elizabeth Townsend who had family living in Honduras. Elizabeth, as almost everyone, wanted to see her family converted to the Truth. From that very discussion we made plans to visit the country of Honduras in order to make a firsthand observation of the possibility of starting a work there. The 85th and Euclid congregation in Kansas City, Missouri, agreed to back this investigative trip. In February, 1979, Jim and I left for Honduras and met the Townsend family in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras. This visit allowed us to see and visit with the people of Honduras. We also made short visits to Guatemala and Costa Rica.
Based upon my observations and experiences during this visit, I felt that the church could be established in the country of Honduras. However, Brother Hickey did not completely agree with my conclusion concerning this future work. At the conclusion of this trip the 85th and Euclid congregation began to make plans to realize this great work. This congregation has been actively involved with this work from its conception until this present day. They continue to guide, help, and support in this work as it continues to move forward.
In June, 1980, my family and I moved to Honduras to begin the work. When we arrived in Honduras, there was not a faithful congregation, to our knowledge in the entire country. Brother Russell Townsend and his family accompanied us to Honduras. Their help was invaluable to us to the extent of helping us get settled and making the first contacts of the work. My ability to speak Spanish was very limited. Therefore, Elizabeth helped tremendously in taking care of many of the daily business matters. She was also instrumental in introducing us to many of her family.
The work began in a little village named Chirina which was located about 80 miles from where we lived in Comayaguela. The reason we started so far from the Tegucigalpa and Comayaguela area, where we lived, was because that was there we received our first opportunity to study and teach to the people. To say the least, the work was slow and very tedious in the beginning for several reasons. One reason was my inability to function well with the Spanish language. I was trying to learn the language and start the work all at the same time. I will admit freely that the people were very patient with me by tolerating and overlooking many of the language mistakes that I made. Another reason was my lack of knowledge and familiarity of the social customs of the people. This disadvantage could only be overcome by time and patience in getting to know and understand the people better. Another reason was the gospel of the New Testament was so different from what they had heard and had been taught for years that they had to develop confidence in me and begin to study the scriptures instead of just listening to what denominational preachers had been preaching for many years. This problem was compounded by the fact that many of the people could not read or write. Therefore, the confidence they had in the preacher was extremely important. Because I was new and a foreigner to them, they were slow to accept the preaching of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Eventually, a man and his wife from the nearby village of Zapotillo were converted and baptized. The first faithful congregation was established in his home. The congregation continued to meet in Brother Jose Triminio's home for several years until such a time a building could be constructed. However, a short time later a loyal congregation was established in the village of Chirina.
With that meager beginning the work began to grow. Once a foothold had been established, the work became easier. However, that is not to say there were no problems or discouragements. Every work, no matter where it is, has its ups and downs, its high points and its low points.
The Honduran work had grown from zero congregations in June, 1980, to nine congregations as of January, 1991. The work has never grown by leaps and bounds, but the growth has been steady. It has, also, had its share of setbacks.
The work had grown to the point where I was hardly able to keep up with it. Therefore, Brother Randy Tidmore and his family joined the work in the spring of 1986. I welcomed Randy's entrance and contribution to the work. Brother Tony Melton and his family joined the work at the end of 1988. Tony added a great deal to the work when he came. He and his family came to replace my family and me. We had planned to return to the United States after working there nine years and when our son graduated from high school. For a period of about six months there were three missionary families living in Honduras. My family and I returned to the United States in June, 1989.
I would like to elaborate on some of the problems and setbacks. In general, most of the problems stem from denominationalism. It is like a disease or cancer that afflicts many mission works. It appears to be worse in underdeveloped countries where the illiteracy rate is very high. When people cannot read the Bible for themselves. they have to rely on what someone teaches them. There would be no problem in this if the denominational preachers always taught the truth, but this is seldom the case. Most of their teaching is slanted to justify certain beliefs and practices that are not found in the New Testament. These ideas were taught with such apparent authority that few people question them. Therefore, when one preaches only that which is contained in the Scriptures, he is often looked upon with great skepticism. It is not until he has gained the confidence of the people that they will begin to listen and obey the teachings of the New Testament. Many people have been so accustomed to denominational teaching and practice they can hardly think of following the true Word of God. However, once the person begins to read and study the New Testament for himself and listens to the pure, simple preaching and teaching of the Scriptures, he can be converted to Christ. The person can become a very strong and active member of the church.
Another problem that we see in Honduras that causes setbacks in a work is the motive of the person when they obey the gospel. I must point out, however, that this problem is not unique to only mission fields, but it can be a problem anywhere. Denominationalism uses many different tactics to entice people to join their particular group. These tactics may include promising and giving the people food, clothing, medicine, and, sometimes, even money. Some people come to the church with the idea of receiving something other than the Word of Life. Some may put on such a facade that you will not be able to see their true purpose or intentions. The old expression, "only time will tell," is true in those cases. When they realize they are not going to get what they thought from the church, they will abandon it. This appears to be a setback because the person may have shown great promise in the future work of the church, however, the truth of the matter is, the church is just losing some of the dead wood. When these instances happen, they are very discouraging, but they must not bind us to the point of inhibiting the future work and growth of the church.
I would like to speak of the positive side of the mission work in Honduras. There is no greater work on the face of God's great earth than to teach someone what he must do to be saved, and watch that same person obey the gospel in order to become a child of God, then watching and helping that same one to grow in grace and truth to become a strong and active member in the body of Christ. It appears that people from underdeveloped countries, like Honduras, are more apt to hear and receive the truth of the Word of God than people in developed countries such as the United States. It is especially true when at almost any worship service of the church there are people present who are not members of the church, and they are hungering and thirsting for the true Word of God.
Let us not close our eyes to the fields that are ripe for the harvest. I know of no mission effort that has been set forth by our brethren that has not reaped many rewards. I am confident that the greatest reward of all will be to enter into that mansion that Christ is preparing for the faithful. Just to know that there are souls being saved, because the church sent men to sometimes far and distant lands to preach the gospel, should be incentive enough to continue on in this great work that has just begun.
In closing I would like to say "thank you" to each congregation who has supported this work, especially the 85th and Euclid congregation for their part in overseeing the work and also, to each of the men and their families who have labored in Honduras. Each one has added new dimensions to this work, and I am confident that they will receive their reward for their contribution to the work.
Murl R. Helwig 1991 OPA Main Page HOME