Farthest Up the Mountain: InnerCHANGE Ministry Among the Poor in Honduras

08 Aug

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“I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in…” (Matthew 25:35)

My wife, Célida, and I are familiar with poverty. I came from a poor background myself and have worked alongside the poor in InnerCHANGE for 20 years. But I’ve never experienced poverty like I see it here in La Guzman.

La Guzman is part of La Nueva Capital, an area of Honduras’s capital notorious for violence and kidnapping. Many Hondurans (including taxi drivers) refuse to go La Nueva Capital. But when Célida and I visited it on our vision trip, we clearly felt God telling us, “This is your place, and these are your people.”

La Guzman is a hillside neighborhood in La Nueva Capital on the edge of the city; it is so far out that electric wires don’t go there, and the trucks that deliver water often turn around before they reach it. La Guzman wasn’t on our list of potential neighborhoods because of the difficulty of living there. But when the people in that community heard that we were considering moving to La Nueva Capital as ministers, they built a house for us and invited us to live there.

So that’s the short story of how my wife, daughter, and I decided to move to one of the most challenging and stigmatized neighborhoods of Tegucigalpa. And what a welcome we received! Neighbors stopped by all the time to give us food—even families who only eat once or twice a day, and can only afford a Coke and two bags of Cheetos for dinner. We were so amazed by their generosity and welcome, despite the poverty they face.

With a little help, we have learned how to live with the inconveniences of La Guzman. We bought water in barrels and our neighbors taught us to take bucket showers. In La Guzman, people sometimes have to choose between buying water and buying food.

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We learned to live with the poverty, but we could not get used to the suffering we saw on a regular basis.
All the children were malnourished, some severely. For example, we met one 4-year-old boy from the neighborhood weighed only 23 pounds. Another 12-year-old girl was 22 pounds below a healthy weight. As we explored the needs of the community, my wife Célida was filled with pain for these children.

Célida began to pray. She cried for the children—she felt devastated by their suffering, powerless to do anything about their situation. She knew we needed to do something for them. But how?

That’s when we received an email from a friend back in the States. It started, “We have some money for you to buy food for children in your neighborhood.”

Wow.

We hadn’t asked for anything. But this lady in America had gotten some friends together, on her own initiative, to raise funds to help children who needed food. And when she heard about us, she knew that the money was meant for the kids in our neighborhood.

And we knew that God had answered Célida’s prayer.

So Célida started a nutrition program, cooking a meal twice a week for 27 - 35 of the most malnourished children. And God brought other people alongside to help. A woman from the neighborhood offered to assist Célida with the cooking. (We later found out that she had experience cooking for a restaurant.) A local woman with medical experience volunteered to weigh and measure the children to monitor their nutritional needs.

Célida had asked “How?” and God had provided an answer.

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We realized God was not only answering our prayer; he was responding to our pain and suffering.
God had heard Célida’s sorrow and seen her pain for the children. He had seen the suffering of the children. And he responded through one of our friends, guiding her to raise money and to send it to us for that exact purpose.

Life continues to be hard in La Guzman. We continue to struggle with the pervasive death and violence on many levels. At the same time, we are more sure than ever that God sees it too. And we know that he wants to respond—he is responding through his people.


How You Can Help

PRAY. Please pray for the Peñate-Aceves family. Jose’s particular request is prayer for his daughter Belen, who is living in two worlds—the poverty of La Guzman, and the wealth of an international school. Also pray that Jose and Célida will be able to live in constant relationship with God. Because, in Jose’s words, “that’s the only way we will be able to survive and do God’s will in this place.”

PARTNER. Célida’s answer to prayer came through a partner back in the States. It’s a powerful example of the way God connects and calls his people to fulfill his purposes in specific (and unique) ways. God led Jose and Célida to the place of need in La Guzman. He also led their partner in America to champion the ministry and meet a specific need. If they had not all been faithfully listening and responding to God’s call, this story would never have been written.

Our encouragement and challenge to you is to not underestimate the significance of your role in the story of God. There is an important part you are meant to play in his mission. Invest time to listen for God’s voice and prompting in your life, and take risks to act on what you’re hearing. God may want to answer someone’s prayer through you.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jose Peñate-Aceves has been with InnerCHANGE (a ministry of CRM) since 1997. He and his wife, Célida, invested years working with gangs in San Francisco before launching a team in Oakland, CA among Honduran youth who were dealing drugs. They moved to Honduras in 2015 to work to address the roots of the problems pushing young Hondurans toward street life in America.


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