Celebrating a Vision Becoming Reality-Larry Overholt

It was an honor to participate in handing
out diplomas. 
Sometimes, with all the activity of our daily routine, we get complacent in celebrating successes. Yesterday was graduation day for 19 women and young ladies, and one young man. It was a true celebration for them. It was a time of real reflection for me.

While the ceremony was taking place, my mind kept bringing up memories of my call to missionary work. Seeing the graduates reach an important goal, I thought, "this is really what it's all about." Women and Men are learning vocational skills that will serve them and the entire community in the future. We are going to be able to build on the success of our first mobile course in Apacilagua. Next year we expect to add new courses. The Gospel was presented in the classroom daily by Melba, our instructor. Our health promoters gave a weekly class to the students as well. In combination with vocational education and health care teaching, most importantly a church is being started.

The dream of us creating a vocational education program in the region goes back to 2000, immediately following Hurricane Mitch. The region had been devastated by the destruction of infrastructure and the loss of hundreds of homes, along with thousands of lives. Work was hard to find, and the future looked bleak, especially for young people who were in the middle of their best years for obtaining an education.

After Hurricane Mitch, a new church had been started by the Evangelical Holiness Church in Choluteca. We had been recently assigned by World Gospel Mission to support the new ministry. Due to the need for jobs in the region, many of the church members thought that we needed to start a vocational education program. They were new Christians and had an abundance of faith. I found myself in a real struggle. My faith was being tested. The reality of starting a vocational school was nearly overwhelming.

I had no doubt that God could do whatever He wanted to do. I just fell back on the old "cop out" that I just wasn't convinced yet that He wanted to do it. It was a good idea, but if God really wanted someone to start a vocational school, He probably had someone else in mind to do it. It would be a huge task and I had no idea where to even begin. After all, we did not have buildings. There were not teachers. We did not have a curriculum. We had no money.

Melba taught our first class in 2002 in the
community center. Four years later we officially
started the Vocational School. 
The church members finally convinced me to make a move. The simplest option available would be to set up classes in the community center. The building was available and we had a qualified teacher in the church. The Honduras government vocational education program had teaching materials available for us to use. It would not be hard to get a few used sewing machines donated. That pretty much covered all the excuses I had for not going ahead with a plan for beginning vocational education. After all, I thought this would be a great way to show the church members and the community that it really was not that easy to start vocational education courses.

Melba did a fantastic job and the students excelled in our first experience at vocational education. The members of our church congregation concluded: "See, we knew we could do it." At their suggestion, I began, half-heartedly, to look for a property to build on. We still did not have the finances we needed or the teachers.

Finally, we were offered a property in El Limon de la Cerca, a community that had been built six miles outside of Choluteca after Hurricane Mitch. I assumed that it would take considerable time to raise the necessary funds to construct buildings and add the equipment for vocational education.

Just as I was getting a little bit excited, another organization came and built a vocational school in the exact location where we had considered building. I vividly remember my reaction. It was a time of real confusion and personal frustration.
  • I had been reluctant to get involved in vocational education.
  • God convinced me that vocational education was important. 
  • Then, someone else began to take over our dream. 
I completely withdrew from any further talk of vocational education. Instead, we helped start churches in other communities. We were involved in construction projects. A property was purchased by WGM for setting up a medical clinic and to provide missionary housing. I tried to forget all about vocational education. 

The vocational school in 2006.
THEN, in the summer of 2006, a fellow missionary David Hawk called me. I was walking downtown with Chacho. David asked me if I was aware of the vocational school that had been built in El Limon. I was certainly aware of the school since I drove right by it on the way to one of the churches we were helping build at the time. I will never forget the feelings that came over me when he said: "It's yours, if you want it." Admittedly, I wasn't even sure if I wanted it at that point. It was one of those special moments that we experience as missionaries. As I explained the phone call to Chacho, we both broke down in tears right in the middle of the busy city sidewalk. We knew without any doubt that God had spoken to us through the circumstances. 

His way is always better than our way. Once again, I could not have imagined or planned how things would work out. 

Current school director Osman Echeverria discussing
the program with the Master of Ceremony
Pati Rodriguez.
The school was donated to World Gospel Mission in 2006. I am grateful for the team that I have had working with me at the school. We learned together as we began sewing classes in September 2006, and added refrigeration and auto mechanics. Around 1,500 students have attended the school since then. We are excited to see what new plans God has for us. 

Today, the school continues with the programs in sewing and in auto mechanics. 


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