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World Vision’s focus on holistic development includes both the physical and spiritual needs of communities we serve. For one struggling village in Honduras, the results have been remarkable.
Ten years ago, the tiny community of San Matias in eastern Honduras was in dire straits. There were no public services — no latrines, no running water, and no secondary schools. Drug and alcohol use was rampant. HIV and AIDS plagued the area and was a taboo topic of conversation. Children in school had low grades and little motivation to improve.
In 2000, World Vision began to work in this community, and, to this day, remains the only development organization working here. In partnership with local church leaders, drastic change has taken place in a once-isolated and hopeless setting.
"Thank God; he brought us here to work," says Alexis Antonio Calderon, 45, who works as World Vision's education facilitator and interim manager in San Matias. He partners with church ministers in the area to achieve not only practical community development, but spiritual nurture for individuals as well.
"We can create a culture of love and solidarity," says Alexis, referring to his work with the churches. "The objective is for Jesus to be the main motor of the community."
The partnership between World Vision and local churches produces community activities for the year — camps and retreats, recreation, concerts, and community service. World Vision provides the logistical support, such as children's Bibles and Sunday school curriculum to area churches, as well as transportation to camps and retreats.
And at World Vision's health clinic, church volunteers provide assistance, in addition to their contribution in compiling reports on the 3,400 sponsored children in San Matias.
But World Vision seeks to involve the entire community, not just faithful churchgoers. That's why staff members have initiated a community dialogue on HIV and AIDS through our Channels of Hope program, which discusses sexual health from a biblical perspective that emphasizes abstinence and responsible decision-making.
Alexis says Channels of Hope has produced notable, far-reaching results. In 2005, the year the program started, only 11 teenagers were enrolled in high school, 35 percent of whom were flunking. Today, 75 students are enrolled, and the flunk rate has dropped to 4 percent.
However, if education is key to the future, then spiritual nurture is encouragement for the present. At a Saturday night youth group service supported by World Vision, Iglesia Bautista Nueva Vida (New Life Baptist Church) is packed with people of all ages. But the majority of them are children who happily sing songs, play games, compete in Bible drills, and listen to several mini-sermons and Scripture readings, some of them from their own peers.
At just 19, German Eduardo Francisco Merlo has been sponsored through World Vision since early childhood, and now serves the church as its co-pastor. He helps lead the youth group on Saturday nights and coordinates Sunday school.
German's testimony speaks to the broader problems in San Matias — namely, drugs and alcohol. Speaking at youth group, he talks about transformation and shares his story — how he stopped going to church at age 12, started smoking and drinking, and finally felt convicted about his life's direction at 17, when a friend invited him to church.
"I felt like the Lord was calling me to be part of this group," he says. After only six months at the church, German was asked if he would like to take on a leadership role. He agreed. Now, he comes across as confident and natural in his position.
Xenia Maribel Castellanos, 30, serves in the children's ministry at the church and has known German since he was a little boy. She delights to serve the church alongside World Vision.
"It's very beautiful, the job for God," she says. "I fell in love with God. You feel your heart growing inside you. You need to be there, taking care of [the children]."
One such child is 9-year-old Angelica Lizete, who is sponsored through World Vision. She enjoys coming to church, because, in her words, "we are with brothers and sisters in Christ."
Xenia's son, Luis Carlos Ardon Castellanos, 13, is also sponsored. His perspective sums up the benefit of World Vision's partnership with the church. "It's really beautiful to be in touch with Christian activities, because you receive blessings," he says. "You feel sure that God is with us."
Ten years after World Vision began working in San Matias, the community has been transformed. Education and health statistics have improved, with better access to schools for children, HIV and AIDS education and prevention, clean water and latrines, and spiritual development.
Alexis says he hopes for more sustainable projects and that the area will continue to improve.
"I expect to see better opportunities for people in this community," he says, "that they would be prosperous and happy; that we would leave a fingerprint in this area, in the families."
Thank God for providing the children and families of San Matias with a sense of community where their spiritual needs can be met. Praise Him for the transformation that has taken place in this once-impoverished area.
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