The Hope Dealers of Honduras
Tegucigalpa's Micah Project, founded in 2000 by Michael Miller, shares many of the same strategies and aspirations as Jericho Ministries. But Micah focuses is on drug-dealing boys living on the streets.
"We set high standards for the boys," said Miller. "But rather than the environment being strictly about discipline and rule-following, we try to set those standards through relationship—through mentoring, encouragement, and lots of one-on-one counseling." Some graduates have gone on to both public and private universities, including Universidad José Cecilio del Valle in Honduras. Miller added, "We are always amazed at how quickly the boys begin to leave the habits of the streets behind as they catch a vision for their future."
In a similar vein to Jericho, Micah is supported by two local church congregations: Iglesia Central Evangélica de Santidad and Centro Cristiano Hondureño. Miller encourages the Micah boys to join one of the two congregations to assist with service projects and learn what it means to become part of a local church body.
"It is important to give teenagers a voice in these kinds of decisions," Miller said.
By the time this article is published, Micah will have opened a new residential rehab facility 20 minutes from Tegucigalpa. Pedro Martinez, a Micah boy going on his 12th year with the program, will complete a degree in civil engineering in 2013. He used his internship DECOESA, one of the largest construction companies in Tegucigalpa, to donate the use of equipment to the ministry that led him off the streets. "The fruit of Micah's prayers and donations in my life is the construction you see in front of you," Martinez said at Micah's rural project site.
Micah Project leader Stephen Kusmer said he calls the staff and volunteers "hope dealers in a world of brokenness."
San Pedro Sula, an urban area of 1 million, is a major center for evangelical and charismatic renewal. (In rural areas, the Catholic Church retains a clear majority.) Recently, local Catholic and Protestant leaders joined political reform campaigns against violence and corruption. "It's inspiring to see churches working together," Ver Beek said. "It's also exciting to see Protestants getting socially active."
In May, Catholic leaders mediated a cease-fire in San Pedro Sula between two of the country's most violent gangs: Mara Salvatrucha and the 18th Street gang. But working for justice can be extremely dangerous. In 2006, Dionisio Diaz Garcia, a Christian labor-rights attorney associated with AJS, was assassinated by two men who shot him in the head.
In Tegucigalpa, Karla Lazo is one of a half-million Protestant residents. As a leader at Koinonia Baptist, she reaches out to troubled youth through evangelism, public artwork with biblical themes, prayer walks, and violence-awareness campaigns.
"The gangs have started knocking on doors in my neighborhood," Lazo said. "I'm not sure how much longer we'll be able to stay where we are, but I am optimistic there is a bright future for our country."
Scholars like Eldridge readily admit that grassroots outreach comes naturally to Christian leaders, but he believes churches should also persuade politicians and policymakers to address the nation's underlying problems. "Working with young people is glorious redemptive work, but the greater political issues of governance also have to be addressed," Eldridge said.