Using The Hands of God to Create Sustainable Missions
Patricia Perea has been involved with the Manos de Dios (Hands of God) Honduras Mission Team for the past 20 years. The mission started through a partnership between four churches in the Diocese of West Texas: St. Andrew’s, Seguin; St. Mark’s, San Marcos; St. John’s, New Braunfels; and St. Francis by the Lake, Canyon Lake.
The ministry began as an initial conversation between Dr. Henry Moore, a member of St. Andrew’s, Seguin, and an Episcopal priest who lived as a missionary in Honduras who suggested bringing a church planting ministry to Danli, Honduras. Danli is a small town two hours East of Tegucigalpa, the capital city. In 2000, the initial exploratory team traveled to Danli which consisted of 12 team members from all four churches. During this trip the team met with all the members of the deaneries of the region who came to the neighborhood Nueva Esperanza (New Hope) and went around inviting people to participate in the beginning of the Episcopal Church coming to their neighborhood. Three home churches were established in Nueva Esperanza from that trip.
After three years the ministry expanded to several microenterprise workshops and a scholarship program. The microenterprise workshops have focused on baking, sewing, setting up a school cafeteria and selling school supplies at a local high school. There have also been several educational workshops including sustainable gardening, job readiness, entrepreneurial skills, liturgical dance, safe sexual health, futbol (soccer), and on the Episcopal Young Adult Service Corps (YASC). Additionally, the scholarship program has been one of the most successful and has positively impacted over 200 students and their families. The program picks up qualified students who are entering the seventh grade and carries them through high school and vocational school or university. Several students have even gone on to complete a master’s degree that have been fully-funded by the sponsoring university.
In 2003, land was purchased to build a church and a community center in Nueva Esperanza and with the help of Texas Water Mission, a water well was drilled and later a fence installed in order to begin construction. In 2008, Bishop Lloyd Allen of Honduras consecrated the Manos de Dios Episcopal Church and the next year he dedicated the community center. Since then, Manos de Dios Church has gone from a mission to a parish and has been used as a force and center to start planting churches in small rural villages in the area such as San Lorenzo and Santa Maria.
As the years went by, new ministries have been created including the Casitas (Housing) Project, music ministry, Club Aventura (book club), Manos a la Obra (hands at work) the mission’s anti-littering and recycling campaign, eyeglasses clinic, and Manos To Go which takes the construction, eyeglass clinic and vacation bible school arms of the ministry on the road to serve a rural community in Honduras for a day. Additionally, the mission has been able to build several in-country partnerships with nonprofit organizations. Patricia says, “Partnering with local NGOs has allowed us to not work too hard adapting to the cultural nuances and barriers since the NGOs help us bridge the cultural divide. This also allows for community buy-in and commitment to the improvement and lifting up of their own neighborhood.”
Each of the Manos de Dios ministries are run and operated through Honduran leadership within the church. “I feel that the programs could run without us,” Patricia says. The sustainability component in this ministry is key as it has allowed for local leadership to grow. “The key to any mission success is finding the intersection between the passion of the individual missionary, the passion of the parish/rector, and the targeted community’s needs. When you find that intersection, that’s when you’ve hit gold and you see faith in action.” In January 2020, the Manos de Dios mission will be celebrating its 20th anniversary by throwing a feria (fair) to showcase and celebrate the various ministries of this mission.
Patricia has been the team leader of the Manos de Dios mission team for the past 16 years and says, “I couldn’t do this on my own; only through faith that God has His hands on all of our mission. It is so hard to do mission work and without the faith, strength and grace of God, this could never happen. I put it all in God’s hands.” The ministry of Manos de Dios has changed and shaped many lives. Each Manos de Dios ministry, and especially the scholarship program is trying to break the cycle of poverty. The mission continues to provide development opportunities for individuals and families, so they can have a better life and stay in Honduras, instead of deciding to make the dangerous journey North. The transformation seen in the community of Nueva Esperanza through the efforts of so many missionaries is a testament of God’s presence in our lives. As Patricia says, “I feel that mission work is at its core to be living out the teachings of Jesus. Mission work has taught me to observe my everyday world with a different set of lenses, like if a filter has been removed and now I can see things more clearly. I strive every day to carry out the lessons that mission work has given me.”
To find out more about the Manos de Dios Honduras Mission, please visit their Facebook page.