A Letter from Dori Hjalmarson, serving in Honduras
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As Honduran and U.S. church partners gathered together after three years apart, “time together” was the answer to the question, “What do you dream for the future of this partnership?”
The Honduras Mission Network, a group of mostly U.S. churches and presbyteries, along with the Honduras Presbyterian Church, has faithfully met once a month in a video conference for more than five years and kept up that habit through the COVID-19 pandemic. The struggle over the past three years, since pandemic lockdowns began, has been that the online meetings have not been punctuated by in-person visits by U.S. mission groups bringing medical clinics, construction teams, disaster response, and theological education. The Honduras church has had to look inward to find its own human resources and redefine its own role in the “mission” landscape. U.S. church partners have also had to do a soul search: If mission groups aren’t needed to “help” by providing manpower and suitcases full of goods, what are they needed for?
We gathered to study and reflect on the themes of abundance, fellowship with dignity, and mutual transformation, and to ask ourselves and God what the future holds for the Honduras Mission Network partnership. We visualized the history of our partnership as a “river of life” and were hit with pangs of grief as some of our number described themselves as feeling alone in a leaky canoe, and glee as others visualized an enormous ship with room for all. We reflected on our past errors, and also on recent triumphs, especially as the Honduras church has started to realize its own potential in serving its community.
Blanca Aída Rivas Rodas, my colleague in facilitating theological education in the Honduras church, opened the conference with a reflection inspired by a pastoral counseling course that we teach. Reflecting on the story in the Gospel of Mark about the rich man who asks Jesus how to attain eternal life, Blanca asked us how we could redefine abundance using this story, remembering that Jesus also said, “I came so that you would have abundant life.” The man in the Mark story thinks he does have abundant life, and the mark of his blessedness is his money, with which he is able to pay for participation in Temple rites and all the religious traditions of the Roman-occupied Middle East. But when asked to sell everything and give to the poor—not to the institution of the Temple—he becomes sad.
The strange thing about three years of hiatus of all the usual activities of the Honduras Mission Network, and the resulting fears and stress of dwindling donations, attendance and energy, is that we are beginning to realize the true source of abundance: the love and grace we have experienced by maintaining our relationships and allowing ourselves to transform and change despite all the other increasing scarcities. We are stripping away past habits and cosmetic visions of what mission is, and we are realizing that our only true aching need over the past three years of absent friends and isolated transitions is “time together.”
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