Mutuality in mission

Honduran-North American partnership sees beyond the cinder blocks

by Dori Kay Hjalmarson | Mission Crossroads

Betzabé Reyes teaches church elder Reynaldo Hernández in a pastoral education program of the Universidad Bíblica Latinoamericana of San José, Costa Rica. (Photo by Dori Kay Hjalmarson)

LOUISVILLE — “We are learning what we’re capable of,” said Selenia Ordóñez. She and I share an anniversary: Ordóñez and her Presbyterian Women’s team began running a retreat center ministry the same week I was installed as a mission co-worker with the Presbyterian Church of Honduras. For the past year, we have both been learning what we’re capable of.

I was commissioned as a mission co-worker after a three-year process, using a new model for discerning and responding to mission partnership needs. The mission co-workers who preceded me had retired or left Honduras for other calls. The Presbyterian Church of Honduras and the newly formed PC(USA) Honduras Mission Network felt there was still a need. But the Presbyterian Mission Agency didn’t have immediate plans to hire a new mission co-worker.

Presbyteries with an interest in Honduras, primarily Arkansas, Tampa Bay and Pennsylvania’s Carlisle, as well as Providence and Charleston Atlantic in South Carolina, banded together with the board of the Presbyterian Church of Honduras to define their values of partnership, discern their needs and start raising funds. This means I have not one or two supervisors, but three: World Mission, the Presbyterian Church of Honduras and constituents of the Honduras Mission Network.

Over the past year, I have been accompanying the Honduras church in new partnerships with Universidad Bíblica Latinoamericana (Latin American Biblical University) and Presbyterian Women of the PC(USA).

My job description is “facilitator for theological education and leadership development” within the Presbyterian Church of Honduras. The focus of my first year, although not explicit, has been education and development of the concept of partnership. I see my work as empowering and highlighting the capabilities of the Honduran church and sub-groups, such as Presbyterian Women, which is tithing its retreat center’s income to add to the fundraising effort taking place among the U.S. partners. Where a U.S. partner might donate $1,000 or $10,000, Presbyterian Women is able to contribute about $150 per quarter. It seems like such a small drop to them, but every drop counts, especially when it is given with the kind of love and dedication these women have demonstrated.

During a recent visit, the Presbytery of Carlisle and the Honduran church took a day out of their schedule of home construction to receive training on intercultural and international partnership, and to start a process to assess and renew their bilateral relationship. I confess that some of our participants started out skeptical that this training was of any practical value — admittedly, its value was less tangible than building a home from cinderblocks.

Inspired by the training in partnership and mutual concern, the week ended with a Honduran-led initiative that has never happened before: A leader in one of the Honduran congregations gathered volunteers and workers to join in partnership with the North American volunteer construction crew in building the home of a member of a different congregation. Local presbytery leaders are now encouraged to more intentionally practice this demonstration of mutuality and partnership in their own communities.

This article is from the Summer 2019 issue of “Mission Crossroads” magazine, which is printed and mailed free to subscribers within the U.S. three times a year by Presbyterian World Mission and also available online at

The Rev. Dori Kay Hjalmarson is a mission co-worker serving as facilitator for theological education and leadership development with the Presbyterian Church of Honduras.

Every drop counts
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