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Spring break in Honduras: a sustainable short-term missions project

What makes Honduras Project, the annual student-led short-term mission trip, different? According to sophomore Karen Yates, the mission’s works projects coordinator, the trip is “sustainable,” “humbling” and “strives for an attitude of learning.” Having been critical of short-term missions trips in the past, Yates has a different opinion of Honduras Project.

Although the trip takes place over spring break, students spend six months preparing. Participants raise funds for a gravity-fed water system to be installed in a rural village in Honduras. The system makes fresh, clean water available to village faucets. Honduras Project may provide the funds, but the village takes ownership of the project. Students work alongside the Honduran people as helpers, avoiding the stereotypical “savior complex” often associated with missions.

The trip goes to a new village every year. So far, Honduras Project has helped build water systems in over 13 different villages. Team members are placed with a Honduran work partner and dig trenches, lay and glue pipes, and build water tanks daily. Throughout the history of Honduras Project, over 30 gravity-fed water systems have been installed and each well is still working properly today.

The villages start working on the water system before the students arrive and finish it after they leave. Honduras Project assists people on a goal that they are already trying to reach. The end result is important, but the relationships made along the way are seen as equally integral. Yates said that “every smile, shared cup of coffee … and friendship that is formed with the Hondurans or deepened within the team is a glimmer of God’s kingdom here on earth.”

Why not just send the money down? If the system is also being built before and after the students leave, the students’ presence might seem superfluous. However, Honduras Project works with the community, helping build something the people want and need and that will last long after they leave.

For example, Yates’s work partner was a 16-year-old boy named Jefferson. By the end of the week, Yates had developed a friendship with Jefferson. This is key to what makes the project as successful as it is.

“By God’s grace the opportunity presented itself for Ryan Bowman, another member of the team, and I to share about our faith, give (Jefferson) a Bible and discuss verses with him,” Yates said. “I will be praying for him and I hope to see him one day again in heaven.” For Yates, Honduras Project showed not only the tangible benefits of a job well done but also the seeds planted in the heart of a Honduran teenager — sustainable physical resources and eternal relational ones.

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