Friday, December 21, 2007

Cases of Angela Ochoa and Gladys Lopez

The photos below are of Angela Ochoa and Gladys Lopez, who are two of our sisters at the Iglesia del Espiritu Santo. Angela had her left leg amputated two weeks ago due to cancer. She is one of the women from our parish that helped my wife prepare food for the mission team from Trinity Church in Staunton, Virginia. Our community has provided a little economic support to Angela. Gladys Lopez is the youth coordinator at our church. Her pregnancy has been extremely complicated due to the fact that the unborn baby does not have half of his brain. Neither does the child have a vertebral column. For Gladys and her husband it is an extremely painful situation, particularly given that this is their first child and the doctors have told them that the child will be born and shortly thereafter die.

Concepcion Santos, December 14, 2007

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Letter to Holy Comforter

November 14, 2007
Santa Rita de Copán, Honduras
Iglesia del Espíritu Santo

Dear friends at Holy Comforter,

I write to say hello and to wish you the blessings of our Father in heaven. The months of October and November have been extremely busy here in Santa Rita. We have organized four spiritual retreats, which have been a great blessing. One of the retreats was held in Santa Barbara in the church of Fr. José Luís Mendoza and others within our Deanery. Thanks to God, many people have changed their lives and the lives of their families, and we as a church have successfully completed many other activities in our community.

All of this has been made possible thanks to God and the pickup truck that you gave to us. The vehicle has served us well this year. We had it painted red, and this should help prevent the spread of some minor rust spots. We have also spent $400 for engine repairs. The engine is in good condition now.

We want to express our appreciation to Holy Comforter for sending us the many Prayer Books that are helping to make our services more participatory. May God bless all who collaborated and donated these books.

I am personally grateful for the monetary assistance that Holy Comforter sends me each year. I want to tell you that this is the only financial support I receive for my pastoral work. In addition to helping me feed my family, the funds have helped me buy medicine that helped cure my wife of an illness recently.

As your sister church in Honduras, we ask for your prayers for a woman in our community that has been hospitalized for a disease in one of her feet. The doctors have told her that they will have to amputate the foot in order to save her life. Our church has helped the woman a little, but we do not have the means to help her pay for other operations. Also, there is a young woman who is an active member of our church. She is pregnant, and the problem is that her baby girl in the womb does not have a brain and the spinal column of the baby is separated. According to the examinations by the doctors, the woman’s life is in danger if she gives birth to the baby. Again, our church has helped her a little with the cost of her examinations.


Concepción Santos

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Bishop Katharine in Honduras

Growing Honduras diocese welcomes Presiding Bishop, Episcopal Relief and Development delegation

By Thomas Mansella, May 16, 2007

[Episcopal News Service] "You are transforming the world beginning in your own place," Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori told the people of Sangre de Toro, Honduras, an isolated mountain Gotas de Sangre community, praising their newly built houses as "a sacrament of the reality that God loves us, and of human dignity being restored."

Jefferts Schori joined Episcopal Relief and Development's (ERD) president Robert W. Radtke and Abagail Nelson, vice president of Programs, in visiting Honduras May 10-13 at the invitation of the bishop of the Diocese of Honduras, Lloyd E. Allen.

The leaders visited Siempre Unidos, the Diocesan HIV/AIDS Ministry headquarters in San Pedro Sula, including the Tabitha Industrial Project -- named after the New Testament embroiderer, and a micro-enterprise dressmaking shop supporting women and men who lost their employment due to the widespread discrimination against HIV/AIDS infected laborers by the local "maquiladoras."

The partnership with ERD helped The Tabitha Industrial Project to set up the factory with appropriate machinery, hire an experienced supervisor, and a skilled mechanic, and develop top quality products for sale mostly in the U.S. market.

"These brothers and sisters working together at Tabitha, and supporting each other, echo the experience of the early church: see how the Christians love each other," Jefferts Schori said. "The ministry of the Church healing the wounds of self-rejection and restoring the dignity of individuals that otherwise have been systematically discriminated in their workplaces, is a powerful witness to the power of love."

"ERD is committed to working with Aanglidesh for the long haul," said Nelson. "Honduras has one of the hardest roads to tread in working towards the Millennium Development Goals in Central America, with the highest incidence of HIV/AIDS, and over 44% of the population living on less than $2 a day. Programs like those in Copan and San Pedro Sula truly demonstrate that the church is making a critical difference in the lives of all that it touches. We are honored to be part of this process."

Later on, while in the city of Copán Ruinas, Honduras, Jefferts Schori, Radtke, and Allen attended a presentation by Aanglidesh (Anglican Agency for the Development of Honduras), highlighting the partnership of the Diocese of Honduras and ERD in supporting development initiatives. Copan is one of the poorest regions of Honduras, with most rural people subsisting with incomes lower than 35 cents per day.

Aanglidesh executive director Carmen Brooks, a former member of the Episcopal Church's Executive Council, said the agency is "here to serve the people of Honduras, without regard to their political, religious affiliation, or ethnicity. We are not here to do something 'for them,' rather to support and empower the local community so they can begin to help themselves."

A non-profit corporation embodying the technical and social ministry of the Diocese of Honduras, Aanglidesh runs community development, food security, and environmental sustainability projects with the support of ERD, benefiting more than 1,600 individuals.

ERD has a long history of relief and recovery work in Honduras, including outreach after Hurricane Mitch, and support for several development projects in cooperation with the diocese.

ERD is partnering with Siempre Unidos to implement food security programs to benefit people affected by HIV/AIDS in three communities. ERD is also working in partnership with MAP International to eliminate the causes of sickness and disease by providing free medicines, improving water supplies and knowledge about health threats like HIV/AIDS and establishing community directed health education and training.

ERD and El Hogar Projects, a mission of the Episcopal Diocese of Honduras, work together supporting an Agricultural School which provides young men from poor, rural families with education and skills training in the agricultural field.

"ERD is very privileged to be in partnership with the Diocese of Honduras and Aanglidesh. It is very moving to see the transformation of individuals and communities as they have been empowered to change their lives for the better," said Radtke. "I am deeply grateful to Bishop Allen for his vision and leadership, and to the Presiding Bishop for her presence here early in her term."

Jefferts Schori also commended Allen's "giftedness." "I am impressed by Bishop Allen's leadership, for his ability to affirm the giftedness of the members of the Church as purveyors of the Good News, and for his push to make the Diocese self-reliant," she said. "I believe the Diocese of Honduras has a story to tell. It is a story that deserves to be heard."

Honduras is one of the fastest growing dioceses in the Episcopal Church. In the past two years, more than 30 new missions have been planted and configured in a new deanery in the Copan Department. A new dean has been named to supervise and work alongside three pastoral leaders.

Together with Allen, Jefferts Schori blessed the newly built Iglesia San Ignacio. The church is located in El Tigre, a rural mountainside community located over 4,000 feet of elevation. The community is part of one of the Aanglidesh programs supported by ERD that have enabled the residents to move from their basic staples, corn and beans, to a more healthy diet including vegetables such as carrots, cucumbers, squash, radishes, and other green leaf vegetables. The local residents made the adobe blocks for building the Church.

After the festive celebration, accompanied with gusto by a local guitar group, Jefferts Schori said that when people "begin to love themselves and to realize that they are beloved, they are moved to be grateful to God. The church they built is both a fruit of the labor of their hands and of their love to one another and to God."

On her return to San Pedro Sula, Jefferts Schori visited Iglesia San Andrés, San Pedro Sula, where she had a chance to meet clergy and lay leaders and other representatives from the nearby churches.

Addressing the congregation, Allen said: "Having seen the sacrificial work of the brothers and sisters of El Tigre in building their church, it is impossible for us to continue saying 'We can't. I would have none of it. God has gifted us, enabled us, and is up to us to use all of our God given gifts. Yes, you can. We can. Your congregations can become self-supporting. We all can do much better with the help that God has already given us.'"

On Sunday, May 13, Jefferts Schori celebrated and preached at the Catedral del Buen Pastor, San Pedro Sula, where she told the congregation that "as result of their actions building up communities of justice, peace, and love." the local communities are building "the Eternal City," the city of Shalom, "a community of justice, abundance, and of human dignity restored."

Monday, May 14, 2007

Bishop Katharine visits Espiritu Santo

Concepcion called me on Saturday night. He was extremely upbeat and excited. He said that Bishop Allen had arrived in Copan on Friday with Bishop Katharine Schori, Robert Radtke (president of Episcopal Relief and Development), and Abagail Nelson, vice president of programs for ERD. Concepcion was invited to have dinner with them at the Marina Copan hotel on Friday evening. There was a festive atmosphere, with marimba music in the background.

My understanding is that Bishop Katharine had a chance to visit Iglesia del Espiritu Santo on Friday, either prior to or after dinner. Concepcion gave her a tour of the church and told her of those in the US who had supported (and continue to support) their community.

Apparently, Bishop Katharine (and the rest of the group) returned to Espiritu Santo on Saturday morning on their way to visit a number of small mission churches in the nearby mountains. Concepcion accompanied them.

Seems like Concepcion had ample opportunities to chat with Bishop Katharine, particularly given that she speaks Spanish. Concepcion invited Bishop Katharine to return, and she said she would very much like to come back and spend more time. According to Concepcion, Bishop Katharine had a great time and left the Copan area impressed with the work that is being done and the close connections that have established with churches and individuals in the US.

As some of you may recall, following last year's Convention in Ohio, Concepion wrote a letter of congratulations to Bishop Katharine on her election. The letter included an invitation to visit Santa Rita and the Espiritu Santo. Bishop Katharine (or her assistant) responded by e-mail to Concepcion thanking him for the invitation and promising to visit someday. Well, Concepcion put the energy out there, and within
less than a year Bishop Katharine shows up in Copan/Santa Rita. Amazing, isn't it.


Saturday, July 22, 2006

Team from Holy Comforter arrives in Copan Ruinas

Our 8-person team from Church of the Holy Comforter (Vienna, VA) arrived in Copan Ruinas safely on Friday, July 21. The team will be staying with Howard and Angela at the Casa de Cafe through July 29. The plan is primarily to learn a little Spanish at the Ixbalanque bilingual school in Copan during the mornings, and in the afternoons do whatever Concepcion needs them to do in Santa Rita and surrounding mission churches.

This will be Holy Comforter's fourth mission to Honduras. We've helped with the construction of the Iglesia del Espiritu Santo in Santa Rita, funded the construction of a the La Esperanza medical clinic in Copan Ruinas and painted it, done some cement work at the church in Quebracho, and a variety of smaller stuff. Mainly, we've developed a close relationship with Concepcion and the community in Santa Rita -- hopefully one that will last for many many years to come.

We've now raised $6,100 for the purchase of a pickup truck for the Iglesia del Espiritu Santo. Not sure at the moment how the funds will be transferred, but at least now we know that the prospect of a truck to serve the needs of the Maya Copan region is no longer just a
distant dream.

Lastly, I want to thank everyone who played a role in Concepcion's visit to Virginia and Louisiana last month and earlier this month. Special thanks to Deborah Matherne for all her tremendous energy and enthusiasm. I received a call from Concepcion a week ago, and believe me... He was awed by our hospitality!

Ladies and gentlemen, we are engaged in some very powerful and transformative stuff, and we've only begun to realize the potential of it all. Thank you so very much.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Trinity-Baton Rouge Mission to Sesesmil Primero

February 26-March 5, 2006

As we write this, we’ve been home about a week now. I think it takes about that long, to know where to begin or what to say about the trip. Eight team members ( Leah Davis, Santiago Lezcano, Kevin Portz, Missy Wafer, Ross Wafer, Peggy Scott, Tom Wafer and Camille Wood) from Trinity traveled to continue a relationship that began last year in the community of Sesesmil Primero.

In 2005, the Trinity team built a foundation figuratively and literally, including the construction of a retaining wall that surrounded the mission church. This year we financed the iron gate to complete the top of the wall, built a garden, and employed an artist to paint the name of the church proudly on the outside of the structure. Also, we conducted a vacation bible school (VBS) for the children of the community.

On Monday we saw probably 30-35 children and by Friday we were playing with around 70. Underneath the physical manifestations of our work was the incredible bond of Jesus Christ, creating that sense of community, that sense of corporate worship between Christian brothers and sisters.

The Iglesia del Espiritu Santo (church in Santa Rita) is the base church for about 36 tiny mission churches (Sesesmil Primero being just one) in the surrounding mountains. Concepcion Santos is the lay pastor there. He is in the process of becoming a deacon, but does wear a collar and performs many duties of service that a deacon would here in the USA.

Concepcion is a delightful and Godly man. He accompanied our group every day providing spiritual leadership and a great musical talent. His contribution to the VBS was indispensable. One of the trip highlights was gathering for supper in his home. His wife, Mary, cooked the best taquitos we ever tasted.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Bread Bakery (Panadería) for Santa Rita


Our church, the Iglesia del Espiritu Santo, is located in the municipality of Santa Rita (Copán), Honduras. We serve the community in Santa Rita and 36 small mission churches in the surrounding mountains. With the help of the Episcopal Diocese of Honduras and several Episcopal churches in the United States of America (including Church of the Holy Comforter in Vienna, VA; Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Staunton, VA; and Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Baton Rouge, LA), we have nearly completed construction of our church.

One of the primary visions of the Episcopal Diocese of Honduras is to encourage its churches to become self-sustainable through a variety of activities, including the creation of profitable micro-enterprises that can channel funds into efforts to maintain and expand church facilities and develop social service programs to support the needs of parishioners and others.

Consistent with the sustainability vision, our church proposes the development of a bread bakery in Santa Rita. The bakery would produce a variety of breads for sandwiches and sweet breads, pastries and cookies. Our goods would complement the region’s love of coffee drinking. The Copán region is produces Honduras’ best coffee and particularly some of the finest organic coffee in the world.

The Market

The bread bakery would be constructed behind the Iglesia del Espiritu Santo in Santa Rita on church property. It would primarily serve the town of Santa Rita, which has an estimated population of 2,750 people. Santa Rita is only five miles from the municipality of Copán Ruinas, which has a population estimated at 6,500. While Santa Rita is a hub of local commercial activity, Copán Ruinas is tourist town that caters to foreign travelers who come to visit the nearby Mayan ruins, the Macaw Bird Park & Nature Reserve, and stay at scenic hotels such as the Hacienda San Lucas mountain lodge.

There are no bakeries in either Santa Rita or Copán Ruinas. The closest bakery is located in the town of La Entrada, which is an hour’s drive from Santa Rita. There is another bakery in the town of Santa Rosa, which is about one and half hours from Santa Rita.

There have been at least three separate attempts to establish a bakery in Copán Ruinas. They have not succeeded due either to poor management or the fact that the local population mostly eats tortillas. The tourist market is cyclical, and so it by itself is unable to sustain sufficient demand for baked goods. The fact that property costs are extremely expensive in Copán Ruinas adds to the risk of starting any business in that town.

The situation in Santa Rita is different. Santa Rita is not a tourist town, although it benefits from its proximity to Copán Ruinas. It is a commercial town that serves the needs of the local Honduran population and many villages in the mountains. This segment of the market is more constant and predictable.

Given the demand for baked goods produced in La Entrada and Santa Rosa, we believe that a bakery in Santa Rita could compete successfully for this business, certainly in terms of price, and even expand the market. Our geographic proximity to the consumers would give us a strategic advantage, as would our personal relationships of members of our community to government representatives, businesses leaders and families in our area.

An example of the kind of market opportunities that exist for our bakery is the annual Conference on Honduras that attracts more than 250 people to Copán Ruinas in October. This is a four-day event, and we have now secured a promise from the conference organizer,, to purchase all their baked goods from our bakery.

We intend to work through the network to help us develop business contacts and market opportunities in Copán Ruinas, including numerous hotels, restaurants and shops in town.

Sumary of Objectives

1. Establish a bread bakery micro-enterprise in Santa Rita in order to help make the Iglesia del Espiritu Santo self-sustainable.

2. Develop a consumer market for the bakery based on the local Honduran population and the growing tourist market of Copán Ruinas.

3. Create economic benefits for the parishioners involved in the bakery and help establish social service programs for the parish and other parishes served by our church.

4. Target niche markets not served by the bakeries in La Entrada and Santa Rosa.

Action Items

1. Gain approval from the Episcopal Diocese of Honduras to proceed with the project and develop a general plan to coordinate activities.

2. Develop a budget for construction of the building and purchase of the oven(s) and initial materials/supplies.

3. Obtain the necessary funding for the project.

4. Proceed with construction of a building and purchase of equipment.

Proposal Prepared by Francisco Villela and Olman Santos of Iglesia del Espiritu Santo, Santa Rosa, Honduras in partnership with Marco Cáceres, Church of the Holy Comforter, Vienna, VA