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A letter from Tim Wheeler in Honduras

March 2013

Dear Friends,

We are on our way to Chonco
We decided to share this conversation that we wrote in order to share our story, the focuses, challenges and joys of our mission work.  We wrote this to share during home assignment when we were visiting churches and used it at different times last year across the country.

Women from Chonco showing necklaces that they have made

Chonco is a rural indigenous village in western Honduras near the Guatemalan border.  The people hold many of the traditions of the Maya-Chorti culture to this day although they are located only a few kilometers from the municipal town of Copan Ruins, where the Copan archeological site is located.

Gloria started visiting the village of Chonco in 2006 and has participated in and facilitated a series of programs with the village. We are assigned to work with Heifer International and receive church mission teams. Felipe and Maria are fictional characters but represent countless indigenous people in western Honduras. They have a conversation on their way to Chonco and tell of their lives, of what has been accomplished, and of some of their dreams.

Felipe:  Hello, Maria, are you going to Chonco?

Maria: Yes, I am going there to see some people. I have friends, you know.

F: Great, I am Felipe, and live in a nearby village. I too am going to Chonco—can I walk with  you?

M: OK, then—I think you are, anyway.

F: I have heard some good news from Chonco.  So this is the road that takes us there.

The Mayan belief is that they were made from corn, a staple toda

M: Yes, you know they say the people worked for two months by hand, pick and shovel to build this road.  This road has a lot of sweat and tears.

F: Really, why did they work so hard?

M: Well, they said that they wanted to have a program to build new houses to replace the stick, mud and grass houses that their abuelos used…. There is a program with a church and some other organization that has said they would help.

F: Really, that is hard to believe.  You know the government doesn’t help these people—not until they went and took over the entrance to the Congress. Then they gave them these lands that were theirs in the first place. Hilly, stony fields, hard to even plant some corn among those rocks.  I say seeing is believing, or never believe until you see [it]. 

M: Well, I have heard some good things about this program—haven’t you heard?  Seems like it was implemented in some other villages around here.

New improved eco wood-burning stove

What they say is that they don’t come and do the work for you…the houses that is…you have to work on your own house and in a community group…even learn new skills.  They come to walk along with you, sort of like we are walking together today.  A woman coordinator works with the people, but she is a lot like us, that is the most incredible thing.

F:  From what you say I think it is good that it is a church program. Maybe they will do what they say—after all, we all believe in one God now.  Many tell us to have faith, things will get better, but how?  Our great grandfathers lived better, and now we should have faith.

M.  I do have faith, that is about all I have…something better in this life, for the children.  They say women participate just like you varones in this program…something about self-esteem.  I heard the women are getting organized.  That is why I am going to Chonco, to talk with my comadres a little.

F: Well, so be it. What I liked was the idea I heard of getting a cow—can you  believe it, someone would give you a cow?  Well, I didn’t believe it either until a friend got one, but in those mountains… Man!

M:  I bet it cost him an arm and a leg, which is a lot, you know. How can you spend so much when a measure of beans is so expensive now?

F:  No—that is the good news, the good news coming to this place. It didn’t cost him anything.  All he has to do is give a heifer to someone else someday.  Never heard of anything like this before.  Can you believe that someone or some organization would be so good as to give you something that is worth a lot more than all of your corn from last year?

M. It is hard to believe. Maybe it is part of the plan of God—you know, how Jesus taught that we should live in community with love among neighbors.

Traditional way of cooking

F. Right, that is what the church is preaching where I go…I like the idea, but it is great to see action too, not just words about loving your neighbor. 

M.  Well, we are almost there now, just one more bend—so I will see you again.  It was good talking with you, and now maybe you will believe more when you see things that you can believe.

Six months later:
F:  Hey, aren’t you Maria, the girl I met one day on the way to Chonco?

M:  Yes, I am, I am on my way home. I went to Chonco today; there are so many things that are good that are going on there.

F:  Really? I haven’t been able to go there lately—what is good that is going on there?  What can grow?

M: Now you are talking like the people in Chonco after the workshop that they had.  They are talking something about using values, and looking at the best of what is.

F: Really, tell me more—that sounds interesting.

M.  Well, you know they conducted a successful housing project, and built their own school.  The municipal government wanted to take credit for it during the celebration but, you know, they only provided some sand to build it.  The people stood up in public and spoke—they told how they built the school themselves.  Seems like they learned more skills than just building their own houses, working together.  And then they told how a group of foreigners came and worked alongside them, can you believe it?

F:  Really, people from another country all the way to Chonco? I wonder how they found the road to take them there.

M.  That’s the easy part. There is a church program, this is all part of a bigger plan. Well, they had this workshop, ate some beans with tortillas during the breaks. There were kids running everywhere, but the people are talking about all of the riches they have, not about what they don’t have.  I really like the idea.

F:  Sounds good to me. You know, I have a heifer now that I will pass on to Juancito. I am teaching him how to milk. I am getting eight liters a day. Kids come from the neighborhood.  Don’t have any myself, you know. They line up for a glass of milk before school. I think they are learning more now.  I helped him plant some pasture, too.  This program really has gotten to me.  I wouldn’t mind someone passing on to me a goat, some chickens, or even some bees. I was remembering that the Bible talks about a land of milk and honey… What do  you think?

M.  Well, anyhow, they built a school and people came from another country to work along on what they wanted to do. They even gave them some bricks to build with.  It's not what we are used to, helping other people. My sister lives in Teguc and goes to a church there.  She said that the same thing has happened in her church.  They formed a group, I think a mission something or other.  They are seeing who needs help among their own members. 

F:  Never thought about that before, about putting into practice…not just spiritual, are you sure?  With all the talk these days, if you weren’t telling me maybe I wouldn’t believe it.  Now after the coup, the political mess, the new parties and the old politicians, change, change…but nothing changes.

M. Yes, it is real, a church from Estados Unidos sent a group of people, and they hauled bricks up this back alley, to Armando’s lot. They are really building a house there.

F. I wonder what those people get out of it. Makes you think, right?

M. Well, anyhow, with the idea of working on the best of things and using the values of the people themselves, the people in Chonco want to build latrines now.  They even talk in ways that at first are confusing but later they get used to them.  They don’t talk about problems, can you imagine?

F. It is hard to, considering where we live and the life we have been dealt.

M. Yeah, well, they talk about what is going well,  and what can be improved.  Just talking like that sound positive to me. Looks like their lives are changing and that the kids will have a better… Well, I better go now.

F. OK, hope to see you again. Maybe you’d like to see how nice my cow is?

M. Oh, come on, I think you are pulling a long one—only rich people have cows. Better think of a better one than that.

Thank you for your prayers and for your support, especially for people like Felipe and Maria in Honduras.

Yours,

Tim and Gloria Wheeler

Apartado 15027, Colonia Kennedy
Tegucigalpa, Honduras

The 2013 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 20
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