Sunday, September 1, 2013

Is it safe to visit Honduras on a mission trip?

Now that Ben is the poster child (and I'm the poster adult) for American crime victims in Honduras, I'm starting to get emails, asking me this question: Is it safe to come to Honduras on a mission trip?

(For those who missed it, HERE is the story of our kidnapping.)

I'll be honest with you . . . it's not a topic I really want to think about right now. My family has prayerfully made decisions which have brought us to a place where we aren't considering living outside of Honduras. Two of our adult children are married to Hondurans, and plan to continue living in Honduras for the foreseeable future (in Brandy and Rachel's case, his military commitment will require his presence in Honduras for many years to come). Ben is not officially adopted, and we cannot get a passport or visa for him to travel. For us, leaving Honduras would mean leaving our young child behind, as well as moving away from some of our adult children. You can see why our level of commitment is on a slightly different level than that of many expats here, whether or not they are missionaries - and reasonably enough, it is a different level of commitment than that of people considering coming for a week long mission trip!

I'll also add that my husband, Allen, has the perspective of having grown up in southeast Asia in the late 60s and early 70s. He went to school with missionary kids who had lost their parents in incidents related to the Vietnam War and been adopted by other missionary families. He knew people who were captured and held prisoner during the war. He knew people who were killed. He doesn't shrug off dangers and think they can't happen to us. We pray, and carry on, because that's what we're called to do.

We've long since decided that being in the center of God's will for us is where we want to be, even if this does involve risks to our physical safety. It's what God made us for, and we've chosen to stay within His will, for better or worse. Honduras is our home.

The emails I'm receiving are from people who are scheduled to visit Honduras in the near future on short term mission trips, or are considering signing up for such a trip. They are obviously concerned about whether such a trip is advisable. We all have to pray about and weigh these kinds of decisions for ourselves. Many people come to Honduras just to vacation - it is a beautiful country with friendly people and a fascinating history. The vast majority -practically all- of these visitors have a safe and pleasant visit. Many people also come on short term mission trips and return safely to their homes. But there are risks, and the risks are real. Only you can decide what risks you are willing to venture, for what return.

As a Christian considering a mission trip, you can't make this decision based solely on the possibility of danger. You need to ask yourself, what is God calling you to do? Some people are truly not called to missions, and if that's you, then you should go do the thing God has put upon your heart. This is not something I can answer for you, except to say that feeling fear isn't the same as not being called to missions. You can trust me on that one.

I will say that, should you choose to sign up for such a trip, you should voice your concerns with the mission organization with whom you will be working. Security issues are different in different parts of the country, and the host of your group should be someone who is very well informed about the area of the country where you will be visiting. They ought to be giving you some very specific guidelines, and you should definitely follow their instructions! If you follow this advice, you are much more likely than not to have a safe, enjoyable trip.

Is that a guarantee of a safe trip? Not even close. But then, you know there are no guarantees in this life. Our faith isn't in our physical safety and security in this world . . . or it shouldn't be.


Anonymous said...

I would like to add my opinion as a recent visitor to Honduras. I spent 16 days in Hondurus just 2 years ago, half of which was with the Sowers in Gracias and the surrounding areas. I felt more peace and security walking alone after dark in Gracias than I do in my own home town of Lakeland, Florida. As Trish said, there are risks but I think you would find that the risks in Gracias are likely to be no more than in your own home town.
However, you may not feel that way in Tegucigulpa unless you lived in Brooklyn, NY. Just south of there is another small city named Catacamas where everyone is just as friendly and hospitable as you could want them to be. San Pedro Sula is as modern and busy as any large city in the states. Surely, the risks are comparable as well as you travel from one area of the city to the next. The same is true from one region of the country to the next.
The risks are real but the same God who protects you while home will also protect you abroad for He is a faithful God and able to perform all that He says he will do. If God has called you to it He will certainly walk you through it.
Pastor Douglas W. Richards

Trish said...

Thanks for this, Doug!

Anonymous said...

Good post Trish! On our trips we generally follow a few safety rules....always driving with another person (that speaks fluent Spanish) with doors locked, preferably with shaded windows up, and no driving at night with maybe one exception to go a short distance to a Wed. night church service and back. We go into areas we feel comfortable with and are somewhat known. I might add it is important for the leaders to have God's peace. San Pedro Sula area is dangerous, be extremely careful in this area and so is the Northern coast (per U.S. Embassy & friends). Having said all that if God is calling you to come to Honduras come and be a blessing to a wonderful people. -allen little, with The Foundation

Trish said...

Thanks for your comment, Allen. We appreciate it!

Cindy in California said...

Thanks for your sharing your insightful thoughts, Trish. I visit Honduras (Tegucigalpa) three times per year and plan to continue doing this. I have been coming to Honduras for almost twenty years and unfortunately have seen the increase in danger.

I co-lead a team of women every January when we cook for a Women's Conference. I go every November to prepare for the conference. I also usually go during the summer "for fun" and to visit my adopted Honduran family (although this summer was part of a team from my church that worked at the camp where the conference is held in January.) As team members are making the decision about whether to go, I have also been asked about safety. My answer is similiar to yours...if this is what God wants you to do you are better off in Honduras than anywhere else in the world.

I also contemplate this as I look toward the future and my desire to live in Honduras when I retire (to be involved in ministry). Sometimes I think it's not a smart thing to do because it's a dangerous country but come back to...if it's what God wants me to do, it's the safest place for me to be.

As I say all this and I also try to be a wise traveler and take precautions in where and when I go somewhere, who I go with, not displaying large sums of money, not wearing jewelry that makes me a target (and if I were to loose it, I would not feel overly sad about its loss), etc. I follow the leads of the Hondurans I know and trust God.

I'll refer people to this blog post when I get further questions. Thank you for thoughtful response.

Annette said...

I've been leading mission trips to Honduras since Hurricane Mitch. Allen and the Sowers family help me bring dental students to serve the folks there. My little daughter (6) and I follow their advice and put our trust in the Lord. I agree with "the Lord's will is the safest place to be". That doesn't mean we may not run into danger, but He will be with us, just like He was with Trish and Ben!

Anonymous said...

My youth group will be going on a mission trip there this summer 2014, and some parents are concerned. I however, believe the same as mentioned. If your leader, and your goal is God's will then you are in the right hands. You prepare, listen to your leader, and know when and where to be then your mission can be successful. Trust in the Lord, and his will can be done.

Maddy Duly said...

What types of dangers might a youth group mission team meet in San Pedro Sula? Is there any specific precautions or things we should look out for?

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