The Hope Dealers of Honduras
Education Plus Justice
In Honduras, children (age 14 and under) represent the largest subpopulation—35.5 percent of 8.4 million total.
The 2-million-plus students strain the antiquated educational system. Although primary-school enrollment is near 100 percent, only 58 percent of those students reach the fifth grade. Public education needs a major overhaul, said Kurt Ver Beek, professor of sociology and director of Calvin College's Honduras Program. Reformers emphasize the need to improve literacy rates and teacher training and decrease the number of dropouts.
"There are over 2 million kids in Honduran public schools. We can't send them all to private schools," said Ver Beek. "If we can make public schools work well, our impact will be 100 times greater." Since 1998, Ver Beek has addressed education and other national issues in Honduras as cofounder of Association for a More Just Society (AJS). The group seeks to increase the influence of local churches and stimulate new ideas for social reform.
At the grassroots, Villa Jericho represents an experiment by Christians to reform education. Run by Jericho Ministries, the residential facility is designed to provide intensive education, training, and rehab for the urban victims of emotional and sexual abuse.
The villa is located in a rural area outside Danli, a city 40 miles from Tegucigalpa. The parents of some Villa Jericho children are trapped in prostitution or drug dealing. Other parents have gone through a Jericho program and have enrolled their children at the Villa school because of its superior education.
One resident, Angie, 15, was sexually abused by her father. After three years at the Villa, Angie courageously testified against him in court, and she later rescued her younger sister from the same abuse.
Hake's big idea is that Villa Jericho will prepare Hondurans to be leaders; Angie hopes to be one of them. "One dream is to be able to minister to others through worship and song, especially in healing and forgiveness," said Angie.
Ties to local church congregations are crucial to the success of ministries like Jericho. Elvia Forgas de Madrid, a lifelong resident of Tegucigalpa, has served as director of medical assistance and a high-school teacher at Jericho for 10 years. She is one of numerous staff members who attend Iglesia Bautista America Church in Tegucigalpa every Sunday. There, Jericho students help lead children's ministry and worship.
"We live happily with the Lord here, and we've seen many miracles together," Forgas de Madrid said. "It's beautiful."
La Iglésia Santidad and Sembradores de Amor (Sowers of Love) are two other local congregations that partner with Jericho in Tegucigalpa. Sembradores de Amor's founding pastor, Francis Murillo, spearheads outreach efforts to drug lords and gang members. The partnership benefits all parties, as certified medical professionals Forgas de Madrid and Hake help lead healing seminars at congregational gatherings, while Murillo serves on Jericho's board.