A Time For Reflection

By Larry and Osman Echeverria

Agriculture students learning to work with goats.
Reflection- It's the end of the fiscal year (March 2019) for World Gospel Mission (WGM) and it's time for us to write our annual report. It's the time of the year when we always stop and reflect on the past and ask God to give us a renewed vision for the future. We've been doing this annually for most of our 39 years of service with WGM. We are also approaching our 19th anniversary of working in Choluteca in collaborative work between WGM and the Honduras Holiness Church (IESH). Returning to Honduras in January brought us face-to-face once again with the reality of the needs and opportunities of Honduras youth.

Apacilagua- Since coming to Choluteca, I have always felt the drive to teach agriculture. We had been told that there was a school in the region that had a high school agriculture program. In 2014, along with my adviser, a fellow student at OSU and one of our health promoters, we had driven through the countryside looking for the school. 

Following our initial visit, over the previous five years, we have been involved with the school and the community, seeking ways to improve health, increase living standards, and to support the educational efforts already taking place. Our health promotions program was instrumental in providing education in the community and in the schools. One of our supporting churches in the
2017-Ribbon cutting at the inauguration of the new well.
States raised the money to drill a well on the school property. The agriculture students in Apacilagua are now able to grow a garden during the dry season. We have supplied goats for them to gain experience in working with animals. 

Combined Study Abroad teams from Ohio State and Utah State universities have helped the school with several projects. Our health promoters have been teaching children and young people in the school each week. The promoters have emphasized the importance of maintaining a healthy diet. Medical brigades have participated in education programs as well.

In March, our ministry team visited Apacilagua.
Recently, along with other members of our Choluteca team, Angie and I revisited a high school in Apacilagua that we had been working with over the past five years. Our recent visit was in response to an invitation from the school to discuss possible ways we can collaborate in the education of the youth of Apacilagua. 

Apacilagua is about 22 miles from where we live in Choluteca and is a town of around 800 families. The main economic activity in Apacilagua consists of agriculture and livestock. The majority of the crop production is cantaloupe, watermelon, okra and basic grains such as corn, sorghum, and beans. Apacilagua is part of the "dry corridor" of low yearly rainfall that runs through parts of the Central American countries of Guatemala and El Salvador in addition to Honduras. Due to low levels of precipitation most of the year and with lack of developed technology available to the small farmer, production levels remain low, creating a situation where farmers are barely achieving a subsistence living. Many people in the region are undernourished or malnourished. 

A Vision for the Future- We have been praying about ways we can get more involved with helping in education in Honduras. We want to build on the investment that has already been made. There are many needs at the school but we do not want to enter into a large construction project that will consume all our resources. Instead, we hope to work with the community to make use of locally available resources whenever possible. Personnel at the high school expressed interest in developing a closer relationship with our team and to discover ways that we can help them. Our group met with the director of the school and several of the teachers. In the meeting, I was not expecting that the agriculture teacher would look at me from across the room and simply say, "I need your help." 

Our Choluteca team meeting with high school personnel.
The high school agriculture program now has fewer students than in previous years. We are considering several possible areas of collaboration with the school. We would like to 1. help improve the classroom experience for students, 2. collaborate with the students in developing a design and building a small model sustainable agriculture project, 3. start an after-school intercurricular leadership program similar to FFA, and 4. develop a vocational shop plan that would include courses in different areas such as welding, small engine or motorcycle repair, electricity, food processing, etc., 5. we would like to develop supervised agriculture projects in the homes of the students. 

Agriculture is vital to the region. There is a need for young people to better prepared in understanding agricultural production. Teaching agriculture is an excellent opportunity for us to apply innovative ideas for mentoring the youth of Apacilagua.

The agriculture teacher and Chacho talking teaching options.
After Easter week, we plan to sit in on some of the agriculture classes just to observe. The teacher has invited us to become actively involved in teaching as well. Maribel (doctorate in Microbiology) has offered to go to the Apacilagua once every month to teach microbiology. The school does not have a microscope or other lab equipment let alone a science laboratory. We are hoping to obtain a couple of microscopes as a beginning. 

Since we helped the school put in a well for water, there is ample water available for any small animal projects. They have a small garden but still, face many obstacles. We would like to help the school set up a small sustainable model farm based on using aquaponics as the primary focus. We would also like to help them set up a small seed bank to provide seeds to members of the community. 

I share a dream with several others of adding an "FFA like" element to the education program for the agriculture students. They do not get any leadership training or any encouragement to become entrepreneurs. Our vocational school is preparing to offer courses to the students in addition to their regular classroom work. 

We hope to obtain a small property close to the high school where we can teach the vocational courses. We are considering the possibility of using shipping containers to build a mobile classroom that can be used for the vocational courses, community health teaching, and for the church that is getting started. Containers for classrooms have been found to have several advantages over typical "brick and mortar" construction.
  • They are cheaper and faster to set up.
  • Containers may be transported to a new location.
  • They are weather resistant.
  • They are versatile. 
Pray with us that God would direct our paths in this new opportunity.


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