Our Mission Statement

Thursday, December 24

Feliz Navidad!

Every Sunday Christians all around the world unite in spirit as they gather to worship God. Every Sunday we also unite in the common purpose of the partaking of the Lord's Supper to remember the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And Friday Christians around the world we unite to remember the birth of the King of kings. It will be celebrated in many different ways in many different cultures.

Jesus entered the world in a very unique, humble way. Even though the Old Testament contained prophecies telling of the coming of the Messiah, and even told where he was going to be born, the people did not see it. They were looking for a birth worthy of royalty. Pomp and circumstance, trumpets and tambourines. Feasts and celebrations. Only a few shepherds and the wise men from the east were there to witness the greatest birth that has ever taken place. The King of the highest nobility was born in a small, obscure town, in a stable. Yet that is the way it was. that was the way it was supposed to be. For at just the right time, Jesus was born.

As you celebrate the occasion, may you have a very merry Christmas. May if be filled with hope and wonder and love and grace. I hope you have a wonderful holiday and that you will be with family and friends and that you will be able to enjoy all the good things life has to offer. and I hope that you are grateful and thankful for what you have. We are truly blessed.

And while we are at it, happy new year!!! 2009 is about to depart and 2010 is about to begin. What promises, challenges, and dreams will it hold? May 2010 be the best ever. In times of uncertainty, stress, and anxiety, may we put our hope and faith in the Lord and allow Him to lead us. "For the Lord is good, His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endureth to all generations." Psalm 100:5


Thursday, December 10

Viva Pepe!

The winter winds and weather have blown in from the west in our sleepy little town of Henderson. Although we do not have snow the cold weather is here and looks like it will be here for a while. Of course I am writing this as a person who lived in Florida for 15 years so my definition of cold will always be viewed as laughable from most of you out there. When the temperature drops below 55 degrees it is pretty much freezing in my book. So, if you live in areas where it really gets cold (my Dad told me it was -3 today in Colorado where he lives) bear with me. It is all relative....

Sorry for such a long time for writing any entries. I would bore you to tears will the numerous excuses I have (both real and imaginary) but it would only help my conscience. Let's just say I have been busy, just like you have... and leave it at that. This time of the year is busy for everyone with jobs, school, decorating, shopping, and traveling. Not to mention the closing out of the year and preparations for a new one.

I love this time of the year. From November 1 through the first week of January is wonderful. Receiving and mailing Christmas cards, shopping (I am one of the few guys out there that loves to shop), eating (why does turkey taste so good during this time of the year?), and seeing family and friends. Thanksgiving Day is probably my favorite day of the year. I love the concept, created by the first Pilgrims when they arrived here in America, and the native Americans who helped them survive. Giving thanks for what we have. I just wish we, as Americans, would focus on that more. Going all out on the huge Thanksgiving meal is wonderful (refer back to my comment about turkeys) and watching football games and dog shows is great. But reflecting on what we have as individuals and as a country is so much more important.

We live in a country that has been so blessed by God. We have been blessed with abundant natural resources, wealth, and prosperity, to which no other country can compare. We live on the cutting edge of technology and have more at our fingertips than anyone else in the world. We live in comfortable houses with A/C and heat. We drive nice cars. We wear nice clothes. We own nice stuff. And yet we always want more. We always feel we have to have the next great thing that comes along. We have become so selfish that we cannot see the blessings that we find ourselves in day to day. but for those of us that have been to Honduras, or place like it, we do understand. And it is important for us to keep that in mind. If it were not by the grace of God we could be living in a place like that as well, living day to day and wondering where our next meal will come from. And that makes us aware of our blessings and helps us appreciate them all the more!

Just a couple of weeks ago we watched the elections unfold in Honduras. Sunday, November 29th was a day on my radar screen for weeks. Rumors and threats swirled as the day approached. Ex president Mel Zelaya, holed up in the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa, sent out messages begging people not to vote to show support for him. However, 65% of the voters turned out to show they were ready for a new president. Profiro (Pepe) Lobo, a wealthy rancher from the conservative party, won in a landslide. Pepe carried well over 60% of the vote and the liberal party has been dethroned. The Hondurans have spoken and the transfer of power will transfer at the end of January. It is a good thing to have the conservative party in power once again.

Also, the Honduran Congress voted overwhelmingly (114-11) to not reinstate Zelaya for the remainder of his term. He remains in the Brazilian embassy with few options now. It is indeed interesting what the ex-president, who had inspirations of becoming a dictator like his buddy Chavez, will do now. Maybe he should read Daniel 5 and the story of the handwriting on the wall. "His days have been numbered and he has been weighed in the balance and has been found wanting. His kingdom has come to an end." If the shoe fits... wear it. Brazil and Mexico have both offered to come and take him out of the country but the government has stated he cannot leave unless he leaves as a private citizen and not as president. This has become another sticking point for Honduras who is sticking to its guns and its constitution.

The validity of the election now becomes a key issue as Honduras prepares to install its new president. The United States has announced that they will recognize the election results, which is good news for the new president. The United States is the chief ally of Honduras. Brazil, Argentina, and Venezuela have stated they will not recognize the new government. So, the political turmoil is far from over. It will be interesting to see how the other countries line up in this political chess match.

However, our path has been cleared, at least a little bit, as we ponder and prepare for next summer. With the elections out of the way and the fact that little took place to mar the results, it makes the opportunities to go back this summer more stable. Tim Hines, who has spent a great deal of time meeting with various members of the Honduras government, has made great strides to insure cooperation with the government and Torch Missions and IRC. The fact that the conservative party won the election is a very good thing for us. Tim feels that we will have a much stronger relationship with the government officials that we have ever had in the past, which has bee good. In weeks to come I hope to receive more information and details concerning all of this.

I will be posting more information about the 2010 trip soon. Stay tuned as we prepare to go on yet another short term mission trip to Central America. Can you believe 2009 is about to come to an end? As we are about to user in 2010 I would like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and happy holiday season. May God bless you and keep you. Feliz navidad! (you knew it was coming, right?) Now you will have the song in your head.... :-)


Monday, November 16

numb, or not to be numb, that is the question


This week I proved to my self, once again, that I am not the man I was a few years ago. I know it is just part of the aging process, but I don’t like it one bit. And I bet most of you out there don’t either. Things you could do a few years ago can’t be done the same way today. Oh, sure, there are the freaks of nature, that, 20 years out of high school, are in better shape than they have ever been in. I am not talking about “those” people… I am talking to the normal, everyday people out there. The weekend warriors, the ones who think they “still have it.”

Now, before I get too far into this, let me explain that I didn’t do anything particularly out of the ordinary. I didn’t run 20 miles with one of the cross country guys in the dorm (like that would EVER happen), or bench press with the guy in the dorm that runs the weight gym off campus… nothing even remotely like it. Nor did I hurt myself taking a nap like some people have been known to do. Nope. I just picked up a large box incorrectly and hurt my back. Of course the box was 4 feet long, 3 feet wide, 1 foot deep, and weighed about 80 pounds.

So, that happened on Thursday. Friday I hobbled around feeling the love of the box that was still in the car where I had left it. Saturday I was able to hide the fact that I was still hurting. Sunday I was feeling better (Monty Python quote) so I decided to play 18 holes of golf. And surprisingly enough, I came back with my back hurting even more! Imagine that. You can go back to my initial statement if you want to…

Enter Margaret, stage left. Anyone who knows Margaret knows that sarcasm runs through her veins (evil blood as Tyler Steffy would say) and trying to get sympathy from her can at times be hard to do. Tonight however, was my lucky day. Not only did she not tell me how stupid I was for playing golf when I knew my back was hurt, she didn’t even tell me to “suck it up.” She instead gave me drugs. You know, Advil, that kind of stuff. And a little bitty pill that she called a muscle relaxer.

Oh my, in 20 minutes my back was pain free. It was amazing. I was walking around and bending and going about my business like nothing had ever happened. Fantastic. Incredible. Unbelievable. I loved it. We watched the Sunday night football game and everything was good. Everything was good for about 3 ½ hours. That was about the time the effects of the pill began to wear off. That is when I realized my back was still hurt. Basically, my body had been deceived. The medicine blocked the pain for a while but the problem (pulled muscle) was still there and was still very much hurt.

I am sure by now you are wondering why in the world I am talking about all of this. I really do have a point. Anyone who knows me knows that I tell elaborate stories to emphasize a point. And this one is no different. I will now take you to the Sunday morning assembly at church. Dr. Edwards, the pulpit preacher, delivered a politically incorrect sermon. It was quite good and at times I just wanted to stand up and shout “amen!” (But my back was hurting and I am not sure how well I would have jumped up… and I am not usually prone to doing stuff like that anyway so the word “awkward” comes to mind).

He was talking about Ephesians 6 and putting on the whole armor of God. Pretty standard stuff. But what was interesting was some of the stuff he pointed out that we should be standing up to fight against. Things (and organizations) that political correctness would deem inappropriate today. Things that a tolerant society would just leave alone so that there wouldn’t be any waves. Things that go against the very fabric of Christianity. And he named names too. And he simply asked the question, “Why are we not doing anything about it?” Good question.

Have we removed ourselves from the fight? Are we confused about our marching orders? Are we scared to enter the battle? Are we afraid we are going to lose? Are we afraid we are going to offend someone? Are we concerned about our image or reputation? Or, do we just NOT CARE. HAVE WE BECOME NUMB? Interesting questions.

Each Sunday we pack church buildings full of people. We are dressed right and we sing right and we pray right and we say the right things and we do the right things. We are timely and efficient. We sit through Bible classes and sermons and we hear the message of God presented to us over and over and over. And at the end of every sermon the invitation is offered and we stand and sing and might even sing all of the verses to “Just As I AM.” We have our closing prayer in which we ask God to “guide, guard, and direct us.” And we march out our beautiful sanctuaries, I mean church auditoriums, and live our lives the way we chose to live them. Numb.

Now you see, it is my observation, that there are many people that are members of our churches that are numb. Just like I was when I took that muscle relaxer. I was numb to the problem. I didn’t feel it and therefore it did not exist as far as I could tell. I did not do anything about my back because I did not feel anything for a while. And it is easy to ignore pain when you don’t feel it. And, it is easy for Christians to ignore things going on around us when we are numb to it as well.

We become numb to the profanity that is on TV today. Or the suggestive innuendos. Or the blatant sinful situations that are portrayed on TV, movies, and in magazines. We have become numb to the slang terms being used today. We have become numb to the things that are advertised on TV and in magazines. We have become numb to the harmful effects of things that re being legalized around our country. We have become to the life styles people are living all around us, even in the “Bible Belt.” We have learned to just block it out. Ignore it. Pretend as if it did not happen. After all, we do live in the age of political correctness. We should not offend anyone by addressing something that is right and wrong. After all, what standard would we use? The Bible?

We experience physical pain for a reason. Dr. Judy and Dr. Anna, physical therapists, would probably tell you that pain is the body’s way of telling you something is wrong! Even though pain hurts, it is helpful because it lets you know something is not right. Once the problem is fixed and dealt with properly, the pain goes away. Taking painkillers and muscle relaxers just masks the pain and does nothing for the problem. Our society is not going to get better all by itself. Moral issues will not fix themselves either. Why do you think Jesus said in John 15: 19-21, “If the persecuted Me they will persecute you, for they do not know the One who sent Me.” Matthew 5:10 tells us to rejoice, for they persecuted the prophets that came before you. That is why we are to put on the full armor of God, so that we can withstand the attacks that will come. The armor is not going to keep you from getting hurt, it will keep you from getting killed!

I remember the first day I played organized football. Middle school. I had played back yard football and was the Joe Montanna of my neighborhood. I was ready for the big time and I knew it. I had a cannon of an arm and the accuracy of a Patriot Missile. I remember going through line that day to get my equipment. Pads; helmet; jersey; pants; cleats; mouthpiece; etc. I put the pads in their respective places, thigh pads; knee pads; hip pads; tail bone pad; ear pads; shoulder pads, and suited up. Hmmmmm, bulky, awkward, restrictive. But cool. Very cool.

We warmed up, ran some laps, and I went to my first drill where full contact would be made. I was with the running backs and we went one on one with the linebackers. Piece of cake I thought. I faked left and went right and WHAM. Lights out. Coach Nunley was standing over me with smelling salts. I felt to see if any body parts were missing. Wow, the pain was unbelievable. And I got up and did it again. And again.. And again. When practice was over I went up to my coaches and asked them where the rest of my gear was… they obviously had forgotten to give it to me. I knew there had to be more pads because I had way too many places that were exposed!

They assured me I had everything I needed. The pads they gave me did not protect me from pain, they protected me from serious injury. It hurt to play football. But the pads did their job. And at the end of their tour of duty they were beat up and scarred. Battle scars. Reminders of the games and practices that I had gone though. I still have my helmet. I can probably tell you who we played the night I got that mark, or that scratch, or that nick. Your equipment should be beat up and worn out when you get finished with it. Otherwise, you didn’t use it! The same applies to the armor in Ephesians 6. Our spiritual armor should be beat up and worn out when we finish with it… after all, we are fighting in a war. If you don’t have beat up armor, you didn’t fight. And Jesus tells us that if we are not for Him, we are against Him. If we are not gathering we are scattering.

You are in the fight. You are on one side or the other. There is no neutral ground. You have armor that has been issued to you. It is your decision. You can fight. You can become numb. You can be captured. You can fight for Satan. Revelation 2:10: Remain faithful, even until the point of death, and I will give you a crown of life. Victory is found for those who take up their armor and fight! So, what are you going to do? Are you numb to what is going on around you? Or are you going to fight? The choice is yours and yours alone.

Have a great week. Go out and be a blessing to someone. Make a difference.


Wednesday, November 11

Sleep is for the weak...

It’s 6:30 am. For some of you, that is no big deal and you see 6:30 am all of the time (I am thinking of friends like Joe Roberts and Tim Hines). Others, 6:30 might be a tad bit early for you (I will not mention names here to protect those from public ridicule…). Being a dorm supervisor, staying up late every night is part of the job. Going to bed at 2:00 am is now common practice for me. So, as you might be able to figure out, 6:30 am is VERY early for someone who goes to bed sometime after 2:00 am. And for me, it has been an “all nighter.”

Last night I began working on Honduras plans and I decided to launch out and do something I have been meaning to do for a long time. I am still unpacking things from the move to Freed-Hardeman. We had literally dozens and dozens of boxes that had to be unpacked and I decided that not only would I unload them, I was going to go through and sort out things that needed to be tossed or given away. No easy task… try it your self someday when you have nothing to do. I went through everything we packed up IN the house and everything that was in storage. Oh yeah, stuff that has been boxed up for years. Nearly every box had a bunch of “why did we keep this?” stuff. Downsizing has been a good thing.

So, about 1:00 this morning I got on the computer and decided to do the same thing. I literally have thousands of photos on the computer and hundreds of documents. Stuff that has been on the computer for quite a while. Since the computer has been running slower and slower recently I decided it was time to do some cleaning on the hard drive. I figure that if I remove a bunch of this stuff it will speed the computer up. So I began organizing photos into files, deleting photos that were not up to par, and down loading the photos onto flash drives. It might have taken all night but I am so glad I did it! There just might be something to this organization thing…

And, as I mentioned earlier, I have been working on the Honduras plans. We are now just about 2 weeks away from the official kick off for the 2010 trip. During thanksgiving break the Torch application, rules sheet, and Spanish release form (for those under the rip old age of 18) will be ready to send out. As always, I will be glad to send the forms to anyone by email or my postal mail, all you have to do is contact me. Paperwork and trip deposits ($150.00) can be sent to me anytime after December 1. The deadline for deposits and paperwork is March 1st but I highly recommend that you send it in as soon as possible.

As I have mentioned before, we are expecting a large team this year. We always have a strong number of returning team members and this year I am expecting several new ones too. Although it is hard to make an accurate guess now, I do believe we will have somewhere in the 100+ range. Early indications from returning groups already have the estimate well over 80. It is so exciting to watch the team grow and to know the possibilities that await our team this summer. God is so good and is so faithful to see us through as we strive to do His will. I know that this summer will be no different.

We are now 18 days away from the November 29th election in Honduras. Not only will the citizens of Honduras be electing a new president, they will also be electing local and state officials and congress. AS we all know, the situation in Honduras is still far from over but congress and the Supreme Court of Honduras has shown unbending will to follow the letter of the law as stated in their constitution. Powers from around the world are less than 3 weeks away from deciding how they will treat the outcome of the elections. According to the La Tribuna, one of the largest newspapers in Honduras, the government is expecting over 600 officials from around the world to come to Honduras to witness the election process. Honduras will certainly be under the microscope as they attempt to transfer power to the next president. Interim president Roberto Micheletti has vowed that he will do everything within his power to assure a fair and legal vote will take place.

Once the election results are posted we will know, for the most part, what will be happening in Honduras for the next several months. I am hopeful and optimistic that things will go smoothly and we will be able to make our preparations for the trip this summer. There is no doubt that dozens and dozens of other groups will be doing the same thing. Playing the waiting game is killing me and I know it is you too, but we must be prayerful and patient as we allow this to play out. Like I said earlier, God is good all of the time and He will carry us through all of this. His hand is in this event and He is in control.

Relating to this, I mentioned that a “plan B” would be in place in the off chance that we will not be able to go to Honduras. I will be taking a small scout team down to Costa Rica in March to do a survey trip. In particular, we will be traveling to the southern part of Costa Rica to meet with local preachers that work in a town called Buenos Aires. There is a new congregation located there, less than 6 months old, meeting in a city of 67,000. During the trip we will be meeting with the preacher and his family and will go to see the town and surrounding area. This region of Costa Rica is agricultural and also the home to about 42,000 native Indians. This is one of the poorest areas of Costa Rica and the possibilities of work in this area appear to be in line with what we tend to do best. This area is certainly on the short list for new mission outreach by Torch and going this spring will help begin the process of taking a team there no later than 2011.

Time to sign off for now, work calls! I hope you all have a great week and that you continue to be a blessing to those you come in contact with on a daily basis. Ministry takes place everyday in many different forms. May God work through you to make a difference today.


Monday, November 2

water, pure, clean water

Water purification system at Dadasko Orphanage ......................Water purification system at Casa de Esperanza kkkkkkkkk
This past week Tim Hines traveled up to see me from Louisiana on his way to Florida. I know, Tennessee is not on the way to Florida. Tim knows that too. But, I am using his words. In reality it was two great friends getting together for a couple of days to see each other. We had time to talk about all kinds of stuff but mainly it was a pow-wow about Honduras, Torch Missions, IRC, and life in general. Since the trip was short we did not have time to solve many of the world’s problems this go around. Maybe next time. It was a great visit except for the monsoon rain that kept us from playing a round of golf at the Jack Nicolas course just outside Henderson at the Chickasaw State Park. Of course I didn’t lose a couple dozen golf balls either.

Tim and Gayle Davidson have ramped up their efforts to get supplies shipped down to Honduras during the political crisis. With the help of many, several 40’ containers are scheduled for delivery soon. Mark Connell unloaded a container that just arrived last week full of food, clothes, 5 gallon buckets, and other supplies ($686,000.00 from the Melbourne Church of Christ). A container from the Mitchell, Indiana congregation full of corn (42,000 pounds!) and supplies is in port in New York and should go down this week. Another container is in port in Virginia about to go down that is full of medical supplies ($2,100,000.00). Nearly 3.5 million dollars in aide in just a few weeks with more coming soon. Praise God for He is good.

In other news, our water purification system project is now complete! Steve Gilstrap, from Mitchell, Indiana, along with 4 others, went back to Honduras to complete the job we started this summer before the mass exodus from Honduras. The week long trip turned out to be quite successful with a lot of good work being done is a short amount of time. The group stayed at the Mission House and worked along side Mark Connell installing the 2 water purification systems and getting other work done as well. Steve even got to experience the thrill of driving in Honduras and the frustration of being stopped by the Honduran police. He did not go into specifics and said not to ask any questions. I will just leave it at that… (May I add, been there, done that….)

The water system at Casa de Esperanza was a great install and will serve their needs perfectly. The system went in as designed and planned and will serve the facility for years to come. The install at Dadasko was much more challenging. Because of the way their water storage system is built the water purification system had to be installed in between the 2 large holding tanks that they have on their property. Because Dadasko suffers from power outages on a regular basis the system will not be able to operate 100% as it is intended. However, there is little doubt that the water the orphanage now has is far superior to what they have been using in the past. What a blessing to know that the children now have good, clean water to drink!

Steve’s crew also built 3 houses while they were down in Honduras. They built in 3 different locations allowing the team to see 3 different parts of the city. This small group got to see what the main team did not… work in the city. Steve commented how drastically different it was working in the city as compared to working on the mountain in the La Tigra Rain forest. They also went to the city dump one day to serve food for the community that lives and works there. Hearts were broken as they say the poorest of the poor trying to survive in the harshest of environments Honduras has to offer. Steve said it truly was a life-changing trip.

Plans continue to unfold as Nathan and I plan the 2010 trip. Nate and Karen will be up here soon and we will have our first “sit down” planning session. As I hear from more and more of you it only makes me even more excited about the plans for this summer. After all of these years I still get fired up and pumped about going back to Honduras to work.

3 ½ weeks away from the official kick off for the 2010 trip. Applications and trip information will be ready to be sent out the week of Thanksgiving break. I hope you are making your plans, marking your calendars, and have asked off of work. Can you believe it is already November? Take care and I will write again soon. Take courage my friends, God is in control. Dios te bendiga


Saturday, October 24



The World Missions Workshop is winding down at Freed-Hardeman University. Several hundred from many of the church of Christ colleges and universities came this weekend to hear some great lectures and messages about world missions. Along with the Christian Universities were groups from state schools, youth ministers, and guests. Dozens of booths were set up in the student center highlighting efforts taking place in Asia, Europe, Oceania, Central America, South America, Africa, and North America. I really enjoyed walking around and meeting people and finding out about their works. There is a lot of neat stuff going on all over the place.

I was especially glad to hear a long time and very dear friend, F.H. Gates, from Belo Horizonte, Brazil, speak. F.H. has been in Brazil for 30 years. He is very good friends with Randy Short and Danny Bratcher from Recife, the area Torch has sent teams the past 2 summers. I also spent time with Alfred Donald, another classmate of mine from Freed that is a minister in the Atlanta inner-city program. I met lots of new people and had several that singed up for an email follow up from the Torch Missions booth. I believe several new contacts have been made and the door has been open for new participants in the future.

With the workshop out of the way my next mission is to secure a booth for Winterfest and CYC, which take place in Gatlinburg in February. I also hope to be able to set up a booth at the Faulkner lectureship this spring. My hope and goal is to begin giving Torch exposure in as many venues as possible. Even though our program has been steadily growing the past 7 or 8 years, PR is important for our organization as we begin climbing towards the step up to the next level of ministry. We have certainly come a long way in the past 10 years but I feel we have yet to touch the hem of the garment of what Torch Missions is going to accomplish and achieve.

As far as my trip is concerned, the dates have now been set. After much time looking at calendars and comparing notes with several people on our team, we have decided that the best dates for our trip will be THURSDAY, JULY 1 – SUNDAY, JULY 11. Unless something drastic takes place, these dates will not be changed. You may now fill out those vacation request forms and get those dates off for the trip. We will again be staying at the Mission House for the trip and will use it as the base of our operations. We do have some day trips planned that will take us out of the city. If tentative plans work out, a team or two might even spend a couple of days away working in new locations that we thinking about working. It will indeed be an exciting trip and for nearly everyone, something new and challenging.

As you know, the political situation in Honduras is still very much a boiling pot of controversy. Even though very little has been said in the media the past several days does not mean things are not going on down in Honduras. Ex-president Mel Zelaya is still in the country and negotiations are still taking place. Agreements have not been reached and the elections are now just over 1 month away. In my opinion, the elections running on schedule is one of the most important items of the process at this time. Recognition of the results from the international community is equally important. Let us all hope and pray this will take place and the stalemate will end. If it does we will precede full speed ahead with our plans.

However, if the waters remain cloudy, and unrest and tensions continue on, I have been working on an alternate plan for our trip this summer. Research and scouting is taking place right now in 2 different locations in Central America. We will have a backup plan in place and will be able to implement the plans by the end of March 2010 if needed. With this in mind, I think it would be prudent to research airline tickets to Honduras but I do not recommend that anyone purchase tickets until we have a clear indication as to where we will be working this summer. I will certainly let you know the moment a decision has been made.

I know some of you might be wondering how to go about making plans for the trip. My plan is to prepare to go to Honduras and consider it our mission point unless something changes that decision. Fund raising should be geared, as of now, to go to Honduras. Collections for supplies should be based on needs in Honduras. If we are to change plans, you will have detailed information to give out and use at that time. Safety is our number one point of emphasis on our trips, and if we feel the trip is in any kind of danger, we will change our course of action. Anyone who questions our plans to go to Honduras can certainly be given any information being discussed in this message.

Please feel free to write if you have any specific questions. I will be posting information on a regular basis from this point forward. In particular, I will be sharing information about a small Torch team (from our summer team) that has been in Honduras this past week working to install the water purification systems we began this summer. I have some exciting details to share with you early next week! The team had an amazing trip and got a LOT of work done in the few days that they were there.

I am constantly amazed by the hard work and dedication of those who work with us at Torch. I feel that I have the BEST teams, resources, and networking that anyone could ever ask for. We have loyal and dedicated team members who constantly work to make our missions program better and better. I am so blessed to be part of a mission team that loves the Lord, the people of Honduras, and the work that we do. It is truly a privilege to work with all of you. RUE2B?


Sunday, October 11

growth is painful but necessary for the good of many

Baxter Institute of Biblical and Cultural Studies served as home base for Torch for nearly a decade. After the completion of the girl’s lodging under the cafeteria and the use of a few empty rooms in the married housing, Torch had room to grow. Guys could stay in the empty rooms in the men’s dorm, girls could stay in the pit of despair, and adults and married couples could stay in the married apartments. Even though the Torch team was just one team a year, the size grew consistently over the summers.

Torch began using resources in the States and soon we purchased and shipped school buses down to Honduras and gave them to Baxter. The purchase of buses allowed us to have our own transportation so that we could travel not only to new locations but to have the flexibility to travel when we wanted since we were not reliant on public transportation anymore. We could even drive up closer to worksites since public transportation buses stayed on assigned routes. We were also able to carry more gear and supplies with us. It was both convenient and practical. And the door was open to do a lot more ministry.

The ownership of buses also changed the way we did ministry. For the last part of the 1980’s and the first part of the 1990’s Torch focused and worked in and around the area of La Vega, the colony where Baxter was located. Within walking distance were several schools, a boy’s orphanage, and lots of poor people. There were a couple of congregations in the area that we assisted with and there was plenty of work to do right there on campus. But once we had our own transportation, the entire city of Tegucigalpa and the surrounding areas became mission locations for our team.

With the increased efforts came more growth. More and more people were coming on the trips and soon our team had grown to 40+. I saw the need for help and could see the potential that Torch had within it. I knew that one person in particular needed to come on board and I began a relentless effort to get him on the trip. Tim Hines. He was one of my best friends and I met him while living in Miami. Tim grew up in Costa Rica and was fluent in Spanish. He was a youth minister in Florida and ran one of the most active groups around. Tim and I have been described as “twins from different mothers.” Those that know us know it is true. We are very much alike and by knowing myself I knew Tim. And visa versa.

Tim’s calendar was packed and it took me a couple of years of “not taking no for an answer” before he finally caved in. He agreed to go ONE TIME so that I would get off of his back. I agreed because I knew something he did not know. I knew Tim well enough to know that he would fall in love with the work in Honduras. I knew it would only take one trip to “sell” him on the trip. And I knew that Tim, like me, would see the potential and would work hard to get Torch to step up to the next level. Tim came on a trip, fell in love with the work, and the rest is history. Two mavericks took the ball and ran with it.

As we began traveling about the city we found numerous squatter villages that we began working and ministering within. The need was great in Mateo; El Mogote; San Miguel; Via Veija; Union y Fuerza; Nuevo Oriental; Mololoa; Israel; Santa Ana; Valle de Angeles; Dadasko; Los Pinos; Tamara; and others. With help from Baxter and assistance from stateside congregations, local congregations were established. Work funds were stretched and challenged as we built church buildings in the areas for the local congregations to meet and to serve as staging areas for outreach and humanitarian efforts. The team began to grow at an amazing rate. Mark Connell, from Birmingham, joined the team and suddenly we faced the fact that the team had grown too large. Baxter was at the breaking point as far as housing and the team was not able to work at its full potential because of resourcing limitations. The team was going to have to divide into multiple teams to continue.

Steve Davidson took a team and continued on. Mark Connell took a team and soon brought Larry Sawyer on Board. Tim and I remained together and took the other team. The teams took separate weeks and went to work. Since Mark was from Birmingham, Larry was from
Louisville, KY, Steve and I were from Nashville, and Tim was from Sarasota, FL, recruiting was easy since we were not drawing from other’s “territories.” The teams flourished and grew with amazing zeal for the next few years. Soon Tim and I had to split as well because our team again grew too large. Other teams followed when Gayle Davidson and Marc Tindall split away to form their teams. Tom Beach split away from my team about 3 years ago. Growth is painful (none of us wanted to part ways with good friends) but necessary for the good of the many.

IRC (Inner Restoration Corporation) was established. IRC, a 501-C organization, was established as a non-religious organization to apply and secure funds and grants that is not possible to receive as a faith based group like torch. Others, such as Keith Boyer and Carry Hadley (Tampa and Orlando), Jennifer Arnold, Randy and Melissa Kluge, and Jen Wright established works, which, by choice, ran independently from the Torch name. During this time
the Manna Project (Jen Arnold and the Kluges), Casa de Esperanza Children’s home, and Mi Esperanza women’s ministry began. Networking with Jorge and Rosa at the Dadasko Orphanage and Greg Vaughn at the Good Shepard Children’s Home began. Soon ministry hubs were throughout the city and outlying areas of Tegucigalpa and beyond. Ministry opportunities were without limits.

Team after team grew to the point that Baxter finally became too limited to house our groups. After years of cooperation and partnership, Torch separated from Baxter in the early 2000’s when Tim found Villa Gracia, or what we now call the Mission House. Even though it was quite a drive to get there, the space and number of beds were too good to pass up. The Mission House could house small, medium, large, and even mega teams. With the use of our own buses, torch was ready to again step up to the next level.

Today well over a dozen teams go to Honduras to work under Torch. Teams vary in size and sometimes vary in mission. Some teams focus more on evangelism while others focus more on medical brigades. Some are prolific building teams while others specialize more on visitation and service projects. Each team has its own unique “personality” and traits. And even though each team is unique in and of themselves, we are all still very much alike. We are motivated and moved by the same passion that brought us to Honduras in the first place. We use the same resources and protocols. We use the same tools and blueprints. We implement procedures and rules that are tried and true.

And we all work under the name of T.O.R.C.H. Training of Redeemed Christians Heaven-bound. Taking THE Light to a world in darkness. And each team leader, like myself, is deep into preparations for the 2010 trips. Lining up dates, contacting suppliers, researching work sites, and evaluating team skills and talents, and recruiting team members are just a few of the things being done right now. I hope to have concrete dates and tentative plans and work sites ready by the end of this month. Applications will be ready to send out by the first week of November. Deposits will be due by the end of the year. Yep, it is that time of the year again!!!


Tuesday, October 6

We've come a long way baby!

After all of the stories you have read about the life of a Torcher on campus at Baxter I am sure you have been wondering about the arrangements girls experienced “back in the day.” I can assure you it was much different from the girl’s point of view.

If you have ever been on a youth group trip, especially one of mine, you probably have experienced staying at a host family house. My groups did it all of the time and it is just the way you do things when you take a road trip to work with a church group or stay in an area where lodging is scarce or expensive. Families volunteer to host one or more in their house during a trip and provide beds, meals, and anything else needed during that time. Its easy, fun, and you never know what to expect.

So, the same principle was used in the early days of Torch. Steve Davidson, one of the co-founders of Torch, the youth minister at the Vultee Church of Christ in Nashville, was certainly familiar with housing arrangements during youth trips and Miguel Agular knew families in Tegucigalpa who were more than willing to be hosts. 2+2= 4, right? Well, yes and no. Yes in the fact that this idea would work, no in the fact that we did not know how well it would work. It didn’t take very long to find out.

Since the guys were staying at Baxter we did not have to worry about anything beyond the perimeter walls of the campus. The walls not only established the property boundary of Baxter but also served as a protection. Baxter also had security guards on duty 24/7. We were not
allowed to leave at night, unless we were walking down the street to the local pulperia, in a large group. This was all done for safety, even though it was no more dangerous than it is today.

Girls, on the other hand, had to leave the property in the evenings after our work was done and go to host family homes. Most families lived within walking distance of campus. However, the distances were at times farther than you might expect. And since the girls had to walk home on the same sidewalks that they guys were not allowed to walk on except in large groups, it presented a problem. We certainly could not allow our girls to walk home alone. So, in the evenings, they were escorted home by a large number of guys. The guys didn’t mind much, especially since they could stop at the store and buy a cold drink or a bag of chips on the way back to campus.

However, the nighttime walk was only the beginning of a system of flaws and errors that we had going for us. Some host families could only keep 1, maybe 2 girls. Others could keep 4 or 5. So rooming assignments were challenging. Some families could speak English while most could not. Some of the girls could speak Spanish while most could not. Some host families had large houses with several bedrooms and extra beds while most did not. Some families were relatively wealthy while others were not. Some had running water, hot water, and even maids. Most did not. In other words, there was a huge variance of living conditions the girls were experiencing.

Some girls started their days with a hot, delicious breakfast and fresh squeezed orange juice after taking a nice hot shower. Others started their mornings with cold cereal and warm milk after taking a cold shower. Some girls slept on thick, fluffy mattresses and pillows while others slept on a thin foam pad on an old bed frame. Some girls had their own bedroom while others
had to share a bedroom with the host families’ children. Some came home each day to find their clothes washed and folded on their neatly made beds. Others had to wash their own clothes on scrub boards in the back yard. Some host families had cute puppies as pets while one family had a pet pig! Not just a pig, but also a very large one that loved sleeping under the bed in the guest room!!! As you could see, the living conditions varied widely.

Now, add to the fact that the girls came to Baxter every morning to share in their experiences they were having with their host family. We had girls who were getting little to no sleep in their houses because of the roosters and dogs and pigs (oh my! Sorry, you knew I was going to say it….). We had girls that were hungry because they were not getting food that they could eat. We had girls that were taking ice cold showers and wearing clothes that had been washed “the old fashioned way.” And we had girls living in the lap of luxury, so to speak. All I can say
is that I am glad I was not the one who was making the housing assignments!!! Yikes! We had some unhappy campers who kept using the term, “this is not fair,” a lot. And honestly, it was not fair and something had to be done.

So, after a couple of years of this system, it was time to change the system. After all, returning Torchers knew who to request to stay with and the poor rookies were getting shafted. And, interestingly enough, a large number of the shafted first timers were not coming back on repeat trips. Something had to be done to bring about a more equal living environment for the girls and the only real choice was to get them on the Baxter campus. But how? They certainly could not stay in the men’s dorm and there was little space in the apartments built for the married students. But, after some thought and ingenuity, Tim Hines and Timeteo Estrada came up with a solution. It became known as the pit of despair.

Directly under the cafeteria was a huge bodega. It had been used as a staging area for work. Supplies, such as food, clothes, shoes, toys, etc, were brought to the bodega to be sorted and stored until distribution. This room was so large we could easily unload 2 trailers of supplies in it with room left over. Tim and Timeteo measured the room and designed a plan to build a small dormitory for the girls using about half of the bodega. Showers, sinks, and toilets were installed along one side of the bodega and a wall was built to separate the bathrooms from the living area. Then bunk beds were built, 3 beds high, to utilize the space. Once completed, the girl’s dorm could house about 45, in a not so comfortable room. No windows, no ventilation (except for fans), and no privacy.

Now, I am not sure anyone out there reading this has ever experienced living conditions like this before (unless you actually lived in the “pit”), but it is hard to describe. It’s hot. It’s dark. It’s crowded. It’s messy and unorganized. There was no place to store your stuff or put your suitcases. No place to hang wet towels or clothes. The bunk beds (made of wood) moaned and groaned at night as people toss and turned trying to get comfortable. There were plenty of challenges in the new living arrangements. The good news was everyone was now on campus and safety issues had been addressed and solved.

The bad news? When you have 30-40 in 1 room, chances were you were going to have some personality clashes. Early risers disturbing late risers. Night owls disturbing those who went to bed early. Light sleepers being kept awake by the slightest sounds. We had those who snored and those who talked in their sleep. We had girls who wanted to stay up at night to talk and visit and those who wanted some peace and quiet. Type “A” personalities clashing with
each other. Neat freaks living with not so neat freaks. Wow, all I can say is that I am glad I was not a girl living down in the pit of despair!!!

But, it was fair. It was equal. It was practical. And miserable. And most importantly, it worked. We made it work. We had strong women who went into the pit to make it work as smoothly as it could be done. And we made sure everyone kept receiving a healthy dose of why we were in Honduras in the first place. After all, going out and working among the people each day always brought even the most miserable person back into reality knowing that our plight was nothing compared to those we were ministering to in Honduras.

So, now, when we unload our stuff at the Mission House and you receive your housing assignment, take a look around and see what you have around you. Hot water showers (most of the time). Clean bathrooms (most of the time). Running water. Comfortable beds (in perspective mind you…). Good food. Peace. Quiet. When you think about it, we have it made
compared to the “good ol’ days.” Those of us who have been around long enough to remember know how good it is now. And believe me, we appreciate it more than those who have come on board after the fact. As they used to say back in the 70’s & 80’s, “We have come a long way baby!”

As plans for the 2010 trip continue, please continue to pray for Honduras. Pray for a quick end to the political unrest and that the right thing will be done, both for the country and its government, but for its people as well. Pray for those who are in the field (Jennifer and Josua, Mark and Lori, Jen, and Marc and Terri) who are working in the mist of the crisis. Pray for those who are securing goods and supplies to be shipped down. And pray for our plans for next summer and how God will use us. May we be willing vessels for His will. Use us as You see fit Lord. As Isaiah said long ago we say now, “Here am I send me.”


Wednesday, September 30

Curiosity killed the cat?

You know the old saying, “Curiosity killed the cat?” I guess its true, sort of. In my last blog I mentioned an incident that happened in the men’s dormitory at Baxter that obviously caught the attention of several that were not there for the event. The infamous “Water balloon battle.” I didn’t go into any detail about the story because, to be frank, I didn’t think anyone would care to know what happened. Either I was wrong or the lack of details drives some people crazy. In any event, I will humor those curious minds out there. And I will try to be as factual as possible (although I do have a master’s degree in Tim Hines’s School of Exaggeration).

Back in the early to mid 1990’s Torch was only sending 1 team a summer to Honduras. The team was small, especially compared to today’s mega teams. We averaged around 20-25 each year. We got to know each other very, very well and we also got to know the Baxter students too. After a year or so of going to Honduras you begin making friends and creating special bonds with the guys there. And they really looked forward to the Torch team arriving so that they could learn new devotional and praise songs and just hang out with us. After all, gringos are very entertaining to the Hondurans. (I mean, think about it, you are from a third world country, from a poor background, and going to a very challenging academic school… homework, research papers, choirs, structured routines… we were the best show in town for them!)

Now, to set the story you have to understand a few things. Tegucigalpa was WAY different back 15-20 years ago. You think the roads are bad now? Ha! Oh my, I can’t even begin to tell you how bad they were… you would think I was making it up! But probably the main difference you would notice was the lack of American restaurants. Today they are on every street corner. Just about any restaurant you can think of (except maybe Taco Bell…. Imagine that….). 15-20 years ago? There was 1. Like 1 in the whole city. Pizza Hut. The one that is over there by the Marriott Hotel to be exact. Of course, the Marriott Hotel was not there….

I bring this up because Miguel Agular, one of the founders of Torch, thought it would be a good idea for the American gringos to take the Baxter guys out on the town one night before we left. Well, it was either Pizza Hut or take our chances at one of the local Honduran restaurants like Super Pollo. That in itself is another story that will have to be told later. After 10-12 days of Senora Chung’s rice and beans, we were more than up for a trip to Pizza Hut. Since Miguel came up with a good idea, we decided that we must follow suite.

One day while we were out in the city riding the pubic buses and singing devo songs over the blaring radio of the bus, we found a store that sold balloons. Now, mind you, this all started off fairly innocently. Some of the girls were thinking it would be a neat idea to have balloons and decorations for the trip to Pizza Hut (since this really was a big deal…. This was a real treat back in the day). Not to mention getting off campus and getting 30 minutes of late night extension!!!! So we bought the balloons…. All of them. A lot of them. The girls were thinking decorations while the guys were thinking water balloon battle… as you can tell from the lead in on this story, they guys won the battle of possession. The battle was about to begin!

The “plan” was to have the water balloon battle the day before we went to Pizza Hut. Why? I really don’t know. But I can tell you it was a very bad plan. So, without remembering the facts clearly, I am going to say it was not my idea! Fair enough, after all, I am telling the story. If there are those out there that want to challenge my story, email me and I will read your version. Depending on which story is better (not necessarily more accurate, just which one is better) I might revise the story in a later blog.

But I do remember some of the details; some very clearly. We met with the Baxter guys after morning devotional. They already knew something was up at breakfast that morning. We did not have very good “poker faces.” Our expressions gave it all away. Anyways, after devotional we met with the guys and asked them if they had ever thrown water balloons? (Now, to our defense, these guys play soccer… we figured they did not have a lot of eye hand coordination). They responded by telling us that they had never even heard of a water balloon. Oh, the advantage was so ours… make fun of our soccer playing skills, eh? Game on!

We explained the BASICS of water balloons (how to fill them up, what to do with them, why throwing them at each other would be fun….). We, of course, DID NOT share the fine details with them (Like putting just a little bit of air into the balloon so that it will not pop too easily when you are running with them in your hands….). Oh, come on, you would have done the same thing. We had to have the advantage you know. After all, we were the teachers and they were the students now. So, after a few minutes of explaining, we went on to the battle plan.

The plan was simple. We would divide the balloons evenly between the Torch guys and the Baxter guys. The battle would take place in the dorm around the courtyard. It would begin as soon as we finished dinner. After the water balloon battle we would all chip in and clean up the mess, mop down hallways, and make sure everything was nice and tidy. After all, we did not want to get the students in trouble for trashing the dorm (OK, WE did not want to get in trouble for trashing the dorm!). We all agreed, and shook hands (or something like that…).

Of course, as anyone knows, the element of surprise is a must in any water balloon battle. We adopted the strategy of “win at all cost.” In other words, we were more than willing to cheat if needed to win this battle. So we did. According to our agreement, water balloons could not be filled up until after dinner. We of course, filled ALL of our water balloons up after lunch. Our plan was simple: we would strike the Baxter guys while they were filling up their balloons. Now, I know what you are thinking, but this is water balloon warfare. Fight to win or go home wet.

After we cleverly filled our water balloons while the Baxter guys were in Bible classes (yeah, I felt sort of guilty about that) we stacked our water balloons in our rooms in the closets and locked not only the door but the closet door as well. Out of sight, out of mind, right? We then went out to do our daily activities and projects… whistling all the way. However, a dark, ominous cloud was on the horizon that we did not see… one that we could not prepare for. The keeper of the key.

The Baxter men had an ace in the hole. They had THE ace as a matter of fact. Little did we know that when we left the building that the keeper of the key came forward. Who was the keeper of the key? The dorm had a supervisor. A Baxter student that had a master key that could open every room in the dorm. Yes, THAT keeper of the key. And while we were away working the Baxter men raided our rooms and stole all of our pre-made water balloons. Can you believe that? They cheated! Bible majors at a Christian Bible school… cheating…. The nerve of some people (I am sure you are catching the sarcasm dripping from this blog by now…)

We returned, late in the afternoon, just in time for dinner. The “innocent” Baxter students were eating and laughing and having such a great time. It was obvious to us that they did not know what was in store for them. So we laughed at their silly little jokes and ate our food with joy. The time was at hand. Suddenly, as if a silent alarm went off, we shot out of the cafeteria, across the bridge, up the stairs, and to the rooms. Baxter students went running to the bathrooms to fill their balloons. We laughed with an evil laugh, as we headed to our closets.

That is when we realized what was going on… and why the Baxter students were having such fun at dinner. We did not have a single water balloon. They had them all. Some of the brave Torchers went outside to try to fill their trashcans with water. They were ballooned down with unbelievable accuracy. Others of us opened up our water bottles and water canteens and went out to do battle. We too were blasted from every direction. Some stayed in their rooms hoping to be left alone. They too were bombed by water balloons through the windows. While they threw OUR water balloons at us they were filling their own. Round 2 is when it got out of control.

Water hoses were located. Torch gained control of the hoses and the high ground. Water was spraying everywhere. Balloons where flying around and buckets of water were being tossed to and fro. It was out of control and we were having a great time. But the Spanish tiled hallways got slippery and as people were running and dodging and jumping and twirling, people began to slip and fall and slide and crash. That is when we broke one of the beautiful, handmade, solid wood doors to one of the rooms. That is also when we broke a couple of windows. Yikes! Houston, we had a problem.

It seems that broken windows are very expensive to replace. And doors. So, the Torch team had to pitch in with spending money to pay for the damages. The powers at hand were not pleased. They were not happy. They did not see a lot of lot of things the way we did. We thought we had just ‘made life more exciting” on campus. They thought we were crazy. We had to clean the mess up and it had to be spotless and perfect by morning. And we did. We cleaned that place like it had never been cleaned before.

Fortunately the headmaster of Baxter did not punish the students or us any more than that and we even were allowed to take the Baxter students to Pizza Hut the next night. Of course, that was the night that the Honduran death angel passed over the campus and plagued us with the dreaded “Honduran tea party.” Oh, we were so sick… not even an American restaurant was safe to eat at back then! What a way to end a trip.

We were not allowed (and still not allowed) to have water balloon battles in Honduras ever again. It has been stricken from the books. The moral of the story you might ask? Simple. Never trust a Bible major who has served in the military of a 3rd world, Latin American country! You will lose every time. Sometimes late at night I can still see Saul and Thomas staring at me with those dark brown eyes and water balloons in their hands….

Next up will be the life of a female Torcher back in the day. And the Pit of despair. Until later, Dios te bendiga mi amigos!


Tuesday, September 22

Those were the days my friend....

I heard from a long time friend, Lane, a couple of days ago. He read the blog discussing the “good old” days of Torch, back in the early 1990’s. As with me, Lane has vivid memories of the early days of Torch Missions. It is amazing the things you remember, isn’t it? Lane started going on Torch trips his freshman year of high school at Friendship Christian and helped raise thousands of dollars to help build the living quarters at the Jovenes en Camino Children’s home. His project is still carried on today at school as they collect coins for “Change for Honduras.”

As I mentioned in the earlier blog, the guys stayed on campus in the dormitories at Baxter Institute of Biblical and Cultural Studies while the girls stayed with family members. Now, if you were not there, you might think the girls got the better end of the deal. But not necessarily so! Baxter is a beautiful facility and the men’s dorm was quite nice. Red Spanish tile floors, solid wood paneling, exposed beams, hardwood ceilings, and large rooms with plenty of storage space. The doors opened up to the inner courtyard, which was a beautiful grassy area.

The only real downside to the dorm was the public restrooms and the showers. The bathroom stalls were built for small Honduran men, not gringo mas grandes! And the showers? Without
knowing for a fact, I would guess the water was piped directly from the iced capped Andean mountains of South America! I have never felt water as cold as the water coming out of the showers of Baxter (that was not in the form of ice). Baxter did not have to worry very much about wasted water because you could not stand in the shower more than just a few seconds at a time. We might not have invented the speed shower but we certainly perfected it!

I conquered the cold shower problem the second trip. I was at Wal-Mart shopping for supplies to take on the trip (back then you had to take just about everything you needed, the stores were not stocked for gringos like they are today). Low and behold I wandered through the sports department and into the camping equipment. I found an outdoor shower kit! Basically it was a large, black, rubber bag with a nozzle on it. It held 2 ½ gallons of water. You left it outside and the sun would heat the water up for a nice warm shower in the afternoon!!!!! Goldmine!

I had struck it rich. I shared my newfound discovery with a few friends and we showed up at Baxter with our snazzy prize. It worked to perfection! At the end of the trip we donated our bags to worthy Baxter underclassmen and returned the next year with new sun showers. Others of the Torch group followed suite and it wasn’t long before dozens of black sun showers were basking in the sun! Life was good. (Isn’t it amazing the things we take for granted?) Now, you might be thinking, “2 ½ gallons of water????’ Trust me, it was plenty of water to take a shower.

The guys also ate at Baxter. We had breakfast, lunch, and dinner with the Baxter students. Food was meager and we ate a LOT of beans and rice. My favorite was the baked chicken. Not because of the taste or the seasonings, but because Senora Chung (the Baxter head cook) used some kind of funky marinade or something (to this day no one knows what it was) that looked like the byproduct of a nuclear power plant! It was a neon green liquid… sort of scary to look at but tasted great! (To my knowledge no one glowed in the dark after eating the chicken). We also ate some of the largest carrots ever grown! (I am pretty sure if Guinness Book of World
Records officials could have been there they would have agreed) I could go on and on about the food but I am sure you get the point. Most of us supplemented our meals with Pop Tarts, Beef Jerky, and Vienna Sausages. Even Spam tasted good during the early years of Torch!

Guys had to observe the 10:00 pm “lights out” policy in the dorms. The students were not allowed to stay up at night since their day began very early in the mornings. This was quite an adjustment for the Torch guys since we were not the least bit sleepy at 10:00 at night. We would stay up, in the dark, and talk for hours. (We did have our handy dandy flashlights too) We must have kept the Baxter students awake because they went to great lengths to make noise in the mornings when they got up while we were still trying to sleep! I guess it was fair, but the singing that came from the showers was awful! Of course I am sure it partly had to do with the temperature of the water too!!!

And of course the Baxter students played soccer every morning before breakfast. They would run around the dorm knocking on the doors trying to get us to get up and go play soccer with them. Usually the first day or two we would go out to play. Why not? We were up for a good game of soccer… oh, wait! Soccer! Most of us did not play soccer. But of course, how hard could it possibly be? All you have to do is run around and kick a ball around and into a net. Well, you can easily imagine what happened. These Baxter guys had been playing soccer from the moment they exited their mother’s womb. They killed us. Destroyed us. Embarrassed us. Shamed us. By the third day we were hiding in our closets when they knocked on our doors. No way were we going out as a lamb before the slaughter. We could get exercise somewhere else, thank you very much. And that, my friends, is why we went out and bought a basketball goal! Ha! Payback was sweet.

The Baxter students were actually very cool and a lot of fun to be around. They took their studies very seriously, which is a good thing. We certainly did not take our classes very seriously… what can I say. They loved practicing their English with us and of course we helped out by teaching them all of the useful phrases they needed to know! (Have you ever thought about how many words we use today that have nothing to do with their definitions????) One of my favorite students was Saul. He spoke very good English but always acted as if he could not speak or understand it. Very tricky man he was… Today he preaches in Honduras and is one of the finest preachers around.

Most of the Baxter students were from other Latin American countries besides Honduras, and nearly all of them were former military soldiers. On the surface they were Bible majors, dressed in their standard long sleeved white shirts, red ties, and navy blue pants. They were smaller in stature, thin, and very non-threatening. However, we found out that they were not ones to mess with! Very few practical jokes pulled on the Baxter students turned out well for us! (Although it did not stop us from trying…) The worst was the infamous water balloon battle. Without going into detail, lets just say broken windows in Honduras are very expensive to replace and you do not want to play a game of water balloon battle with ex-military commandos.

Next blog will discuss life on a Torch trip from the girl’s point of view. Today’s trips are a far cry from the early days of Torch Missions. Like Lane said, today’s mega teams can get a LOT done and you have the chance to meet so many new people from so many different places. You can be at many different places at different times and provide so many different types of services and ministries. But back in the “good old days” the teams were small. You became very close to EVERYONE on the trip. You did everything together and shared everything. It is part of the experience that we have lost over time. Something that was very unique and certainly very special. Something that only the ‘old time veterans” will remember. Those were the days my friend….

Until next time, take care and have a blessed day!


Monday, September 21

Zelaya has returned

As the new week begins I received an email from Mark Connell this morning that Mel has returned to Honduras. Later in the morning news outlets began reporting the story. Ex president Zelaya has returned to Honduras in another attempt to regain his position of power. The showdown between the ex-president and the interim government is now at hand. President Micheletti has vowed that if Mel returned he would be arrested on numerous charges issued against him while he was acting president.

According to the news, Mel, along with a small group of friends, traveled across Honduras and arrived in Tegucigalpa. Rumors say he is at the Brazilian embassy. This attempt to re-gain his post will surly spark unrest in Honduras and more riots and protests. Once again Honduras will thrust into the limelight and the world will see the political unrest that has gripped Honduras for the past 13 weeks. If the government holds true to its promises, Zelaya will be arrested and put in jail to await trial.

Last week Greta Van Susteren interviewed President Micheletti on Fox News. During the interview Micheletti did a good job explaining the makeup of the Honduran constitution and why Zelaya broke the law. He went on to explain in detail why he cannot, according to the constitution, be placed back into office. The Honduran constitution is very, very clear on this point. A person can only serve one term as president (4 year term). Once you have served and leave office, even if you were in office for only one day, you cannot serve again. And interestingly, that part of the constitution cannot be rewritten or changed.

I am sure all of you that read this blog will follow the story. If you are like me you are concerned about what is happening in Honduras for multiple reasons. I am concerned for the government of Honduras. I am concerned that they will do the right thing in this case. I am concerned for Latin America. This event might be a litmus test for other countries in Central and South America. I am concerned about the other countries of the world and the stance they have taken in all of this. Maybe this time they will get it right. And I am most concerned about the people of Honduras and the suffering that is taking place right now. The poor of Honduras are in dire straits since relief groups have not been able to enter the country and countries such as the United States have cut off humanitarian relief.

I will keep you posted on the events going on right now. All of this will impact our plans that are being drawn up right now for the 2010 mission trips. God is in control of all things and we must rest in the fact that His will must be done. He alone knows the big picture and we must be willing to follow Him through this. James 5:16 tells us the fervent and righteous prayer avails much. Let your petitions be sent to God; He will hear them. Matthew 7:7; Matthew 18:19; Matthew 21:22; Mark 11:24; Luke 11:9; John 14:13; John 15:7; John 15:16; John 16:23; I John 3:22; and I John 5:14 all speak of God hearing and answering prayers. James says we do not receive because we do not ask. Or we ask with the wrong motives.

Pray for the events taking place in Honduras. As I told my youth groups many times, pray specific prayers if you want specific results. Lay this before God and He will answer.


Tuesday, September 15

to know where you are going you must know from where you came.

Most of you know that I have been a late night owl for years. Staying up has never been much of a problem for me. I developed this trademark skill at Freed-Hardeman while living in Benson Hall. Late night spades and Rook games along with lots of pranks and mischief developed my time clock to run late into the night. So, working as a dorm supervisor is right down my alley, so to speak. After all, curfew here at F-HU is 12:30 during the week and 1:00 on weekends. Once they guys are in the party gets going.

So, what do you do late at night when the Indians are quiet in their teepees (I guess that might be a politically incorrect illustration… oh well…)? Watch TV, write emails, read the news on the Internet. And this week I am going through BOXES of photos! So far I have sorted through 3 large boxes and about 900 photos. And most of them are from past Honduras trips and youth group. It seems that each sleeve of photos I pull out to look at the farther back in time I go. I will be sharing some of those photos in weeks to come. Oh my how some of us have changed over time!

What has really struck me about looking at the photos is how much Honduras has changed during this time period. Places that we work in today have grown up so much that looking at old photos makes you take a double take. Areas that look so barren in the photos back then are crowded bustling areas that we see today. Lots of photos caused me to look for several moments to try to figure out where the shot was taken. Many of the photos were taken in areas that we do not work (much) anymore. In most cases it is a safety issue that keeps us
from going back or another group has adopted an area to work and we do not overlap our efforts. So as I post “retro” photos you will not only see faces you do not know (or haven’t seen for a long time) but different work sites too.

As we prepare for next year’s trips torch will continue to research areas to work. As more and more people move into the metro area seeking work new villages appear. Needs change. We try to adapt our team skills and personnel to minister in areas to our best potential. It can be quite challenging. Each year the make-up of our teams changes and we constantly adjust our plans as we prepare for the trip. Even right now I an in contact with several from all over the place discussing the possible make-up of the team this year.

Nathan and I are in communication going over budget numbers and projected numbers of people that might be coming. Indicators are showing that we are going to have a very large team this year. Large teams are great because it brings so much talent and energy to a trip. If a team is well organized and properly funded it can accomplish an amazing amount of work in a short period of time. It creates multiple opportunities each day to minister and to experience different aspects of a Torch trip.

As I have mentioned so many times before, Torch Missions is a multi-faceted ministry program. Those coming on a trip for the very first time have opportunities to do several different types of ministry as they find their “passion.” Veterans who have done the various projects not only know what they like to do they also know how to contribute to the team depending on what is needed that particular day. Ministry opportunities and projects vary from year to year but always try to utilize individual talent and meet needs that we encounter. Each year we actively seek volunteers, especially from the medical profession, to go with us on
our trips, such as doctors, nurses, physical therapists, dentists, and eye doctors. Ministers, elders, youth ministers, teachers, electricians, and other professionals are also sought after for our trips.

Of course the backbone of the ministry is teens and young adults. Energy, excitement, strength, and desire along with intense zeal and passion to serve God and those in need are just a few of the things this group brings to the table on a trip. From the conception of Torch Missions, teaching and training teens and young adults about mission work in third world, Latin American cultures is the foundation upon which Torch has been built.

Way back in the 1980’s Steve Davison, who was the youth minister at the Vultee Church of Christ and Vice President at David Lipscomb University, and Miguel Agular, professor of Bible at Baxter Institute in Honduras, worked together to establish Torch Missions. The now familiar acronym, Training Of Redeemed Christians Heaven-bound, was conceived and the
program was built upon the premise of training young people how to do mission work in developing, Hispanic countries. Honduras was chosen as the training site for several reasons including safety, need, and having the campus of Baxter as a base for operations.

In the earliest days of Torch, 20 years ago, a single team would arrive in Honduras and would set up shop at Baxter. The guys lived on campus in the dorms with the students who attended the school to be trained to become preachers. The girls lived off campus with church family members. I will talk about that more in future blogs. The Torch team was in Honduras about 3 - 3 1/2 weeks and would do a variety of projects. Included with the “hands on” training projects were daily classes that the team attended. These classes included Spanish classes (I did ever so well in that class!!!), culture class (to learn about the Latin culture), and Bible classes.

Teams stayed on campus nearly half the day in this setting and then half of the day out in the
community doing service type projects or door knocking with the Baxter students. Interaction with the Baxter students was a very important part of our work in Honduras. For us, it was a chance to work with preaching students who served as interpreters for our team. For the students, it was a way to practice their English since they had to take 4 years of English classes. We all of our meals together at the Baxter cafeteria and also had combined devotionals in English and Spanish. We also got toexperience the "light out at 10:00" cerfew that the students lived by... along with the ice cold showers!

Since we had VERY little work fund money our projects mainly involved evangelism and visitation. Construction mainly centered on simple repair projects. We did a lot of painting and cleaning, along with a heavy dose of visitation to schools and orphanages that was within
walking distance of campus. Walking was our main mode of transportation back then. When a project took us farther than walking distance we rode of public transit. It was very cheap (50 centavos… about 5 cents) and was CRAZY. Riding with the Hondurans on a packed bus cannot be described with words. Riding with chickens, men with machetes with 80 other people on a bus meant to hold 40 is describable. The smells and the sounds are not… and we will leave it at that! But it was crazy fun and quite the adventure. We would ride the bus and get off as close to a work site as possible and then hike it from there.

We have come a long way since then. Torch has changed dramatically over the years but it is still built upon the same foundation in which it was started; Training people and enabling people to do mission work in a developing, Latino culture. We may not offer Spanish and culture classes anymore (you can thank me for that later) nor do we use the Baxter campus (our teams outgrew their facility several years ago), but we do go into the communities in and around the city of Tegucigalpa ministering to their needs and spreading the good news about Jesus.

I hope you will enjoy the photos and the “history” lessons in the following weeks. 20 years is a long time to be involved in something. In some ways it is amazing that someone like me with gypsy-like tendencies could stay on a task for 20 years. I might have moved from place to place and worked at different jobs along the way, but one thing that I have carried with me everywhere I have gone is Torch Missions. It is something that touched my heart and changed my life. And like any good salesman would tell you, it is easy to sell something that you believe in.

And I believe in Torch Missions. If you don’t believe me, just spend a little bit of time around me. It doesn’t take very long before you will her all about it.


Friday, September 4

Are you ready to be?

Last year as preparations were being made for the trip I found myself juggling time and schedules as I taught 5 academic classes and coached 2 sports. I just didn’t have the time I had in the past to dedicate to the different projects of the Honduras trip including designing the t-shirt and writing the journal. Margaret can tell you even today that I struggled not only with time and schedules but also with writer’s block. Coming up with last year’s theme and journal was tough. I sat at the computer for hours staring at the screen waiting for something to inspire me. The Spirit moved of course, just when I was about to shrug my shoulders and give up. And the finished product turned out pretty well if I say so myself.

So, what would happen this year as the beginning stages are upon me? Well, I am not sure if it is the new surroundings, or the new job, the new schedule… it is hard to pinpoint it, but I am just filled with ideas, dreams, visions, plans, and more. I can see the trip unfolding right before my eyes. And it is exciting too. And it is genuine excitement too, if you know what I mean. Sometimes you have to motivate yourself to get excited, to “get up” for the occasion. Ask anyone who has been on multiple trips and they will probably tell you that even though they are excited about the trip, there is a fair amount of “pumping yourself up” that takes place.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with ‘getting up” for the big event. Athletes do it all of the time. Others do too, such as a salesman who is about to make that pitch to the client, or a public speaker right before he goes on stage. But sometimes you get pumped up just because you are just plain ol’ excited about something. Like a child on Christmas Eve… trying to go to sleep! Or waiting for the gates to open Busch Gardens (Tampa) so you can ride Montu! In a similar way that is how I feel about the trip this year. All I can say is that I am pumped and can’t wait to go.

The theme this year is, “RUE2B?” Yes, I spelled it exactly the way I intended. Most figured it out right away. It says, “Are you ready to be?” (The letter “E” is red… get it?) Trust me, that is what it says. But what does it mean? After all, it is an open-ended question, right? Consider it more of a challenge than a question. During our trip this year, are you ready to be: Challenged? Motivated? Broken? Inspired? A servant? Connected? A follower? A worker? A light? Salt? A mentor? An example? A warrior? Willing? Humble? Bold? Sacrificial? Merciful?

I don’t know about you, but when I look over that list it just sends electricity through my body. Those words just make me want to jump on the first plane down and start working now! But alas, I have to wait till summer to go to Honduras. But I do have 9 months to plan, schedule, write, design, print, screen, and collect! Even though it is only September, the wheels are turning and the plans are starting. I hope you are getting excited to and that you are starting to make your plans as well.

RUE? RUE2B? I hope so!!! Even though the political situation in Honduras is still a mess, the elections are coming up in a couple of months and hopefully everything will return to “normal.” Plans are being made for next summer and I hope those of you that read this blog on a regular basis is making plans too. Reports from Marc Tindall and Mark Connell continue to echo the same sentiment; the poor are in desperate need of help. Because of the needs Torch teams need to not only gear up for their trips next year but to increase the projects that they are planning. We must be diligent in our recruiting efforts to get team members and to raising work funds. 9 months may sound like a long time but it will pass by quickly.

I hope all of you enjoy the Labor Day weekend. God has been so good to us and I hope and pray He will continue! May you be a blessing to someone. Make a difference by being a difference. Dios te bendiga mi amigos!


Wednesday, August 26

Silver linings

It has been a whirlwind for me the past 4 weeks. As some of you know, I spent most of the summer in a job search. I guess you could say I was one of the 10% that became jobless over the summer. The school I worked at had to dismiss more than a dozen teachers/staff due to a decline in enrollment and my search for a teaching job came up short in middle Tennessee.
But there is always a silver lining in every cloud. I am now working at Freed-Hardeman University as a dormitory supervisor for Sewell Hall. I have about 190 guys living in the dorm from all over the place (South Africa; Jamaica; Haiti; Nigeria; Costa Rica; even Texas!). It is going to be a fun and challenging job to say the least. But what a great place to work! Needless to say, I see a “field white unto harvest” of students in which to discuss Honduras!

And even though it is only August, plans have now begun for the 2010 summer trip. The unrest in Honduras continues as the presidential election approaches. I constantly get updates from Mark and Lori Connell about what is going on down there. The mainstream coverage has all but stopped since bigger and more pressing issues closer to home make the headlines. But we are all very prayerful that by next summer things will return to “normal” in Honduras and mission teams will once again begin to enter the country.

A Torch / IRC board meeting is going to take place this fall in the Nashville, TN, area. Although the date has not been anchored down several important items will fill the agenda. The need in Honduras has escaladed and our organizations are trying to meet some of those needs now. Containers are being secured with plans to send much needed food, medicine, and staples to be given out as soon as possible. The poor are hurting more than they ever have because of the unstable political situation drags on. We also need to discuss additional protocol for our trips to insure safety and oversight while we are in the country.

Although the 2010 dates are not finished, I believe that my tentative dates will be Thursday, June 24 – Monday, July 5. We might have to tweak the dates a little bit but hopefully we will be able to work in or around these dates. So go ahead and mark your calendars and start asking for time off from work. It will not be long before the Torch Missions engine begins to rumble again as we get ready for 2010.

This summer marks my 20th year to be working in Honduras. It is truly hard to believe I have had the opportunity to be involved in such a great work for such a long period of time (especially if you consider how often I seem to move from place to place!!!). I have watched Torch grow and stretch its wings in ways that very few can relate.

And as I prepare for my trip I can’t help but to think back on all of the hundreds of people that have gone with me on the trips. Some are now full time missionaries. Others are full time youth ministers. Some are teaching while others are school administrators. Some are working on master’s degrees and doctorial degrees. Some have earned their medical degrees and are now practicing medicine while others are nurses, dentists, and dental hygienists. Some are preachers and deacons and even elders. Some own their own businesses and others are computer experts. Some are presidents of banks and others are engineers. It is awesome to think of the impact all of you are making in your respective fields and in the Lord’s church.

So this year I am going to try to contact our alumni and invite them back to work with us again. It is going to take a while and I might need a lot of help tracking people down. But I want everyone to know you are invited back to Honduras to work with torch again. To be part of the ministry that has changed so many lives. Is the team going to be bigger this year? Probably. Are we going to have first timers? Absolutely. Will it be a challenge? For sure. But with the Lord’s help and a keen sense of purpose, we will do great things this summer in the name of Jesus.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21

Go and be a blessing to others and God has blessed you.


Thursday, July 30

The path forward

By ROBERTO MICHELETTI (interim president of Honduras)

One of America’s most loyal Latin American allies—Honduras—has been in the midst of a constitutional crisis that threatens its democracy. Sadly, key undisputed facts regarding the crisis have often been ignored by America’s leaders, at least during the earliest days of the crisis.

In recent days, the rhetoric from allies of former President Manuel Zelaya has also dominated media reporting in the U.S. The worst distortion is the repetition of the false statement that Mr. Zelaya was removed from office by the military and for being a “reformer.” The truth is that he was removed by a democratically elected civilian government because the independent judicial and legislative branches of our government found that he had violated our laws and constitution.
Let’s review some fundamental facts that cannot be disputed:
• The Supreme Court, by a 15-0 vote, found that Mr. Zelaya had acted illegally by proceeding with an unconstitutional “referendum,” and it ordered the Armed Forces to arrest him. The military executed the arrest order of the Supreme Court because it was the appropriate agency to do so under Honduran law.
• Eight of the 15 votes on the Supreme Court were cast by members of Mr. Zelaya’s own Liberal Party. Strange that the pro-Zelaya propagandists who talk about the rule of law forget to mention the unanimous Supreme Court decision with a majority from Mr. Zelaya’s own party. Thus, Mr. Zelaya’s arrest was at the instigation of Honduran’s constitutional and civilian authorities—not the military.
• The Honduran Congress voted overwhelmingly in support of removing Mr. Zelaya. The vote included a majority of members of Mr. Zelaya’s Liberal Party.
• Independent government and religious leaders and institutions—including the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, the Administrative Law Tribunal, the independent Human Rights Ombudsman, four-out-of-five political parties, the two major presidential candidates of the Liberal and National Parties, and Honduras’s Catholic Cardinal—all agreed that Mr. Zelaya had acted illegally.
• The constitution expressly states in Article 239 that any president who seeks to amend the constitution and extend his term is automatically disqualified and is no longer president. There is no express provision for an impeachment process in the Honduran constitution. But the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision affirmed that Mr. Zelaya was attempting to extend his term with his illegal referendum. Thus, at the time of his arrest he was no longer—as a matter of law, as far as the Supreme Court was concerned—president of Honduras.
• Days before his arrest, Mr. Zelaya had his chief of staff illegally withdraw millions of dollars in cash from the Central Bank of Honduras.
• A day or so before his arrest, Mr. Zelaya led a violent mob to overrun an Air Force base to seize referendum ballots that had been shipped into Honduras by Hugo Ch├ívez’s Venezuelan government.
• I succeeded Mr. Zelaya under the Honduran constitution’s order of succession (our vice president had resigned before all of this began so that he could run for president). This is and has always been an entirely civilian government. The military was ordered by an entirely civilian Supreme Court to arrest Mr. Zelaya. His removal was ordered by an entirely civilian and elected Congress. To suggest that Mr. Zelaya was ousted by means of a military coup is demonstrably false.

Regarding the decision to expel Mr. Zelaya from the country the evening of June 28 without a trial, reasonable people can believe the situation could have been handled differently. But it is also necessary to understand the decision in the context of genuine fear of Mr. Zelaya’s proven willingness to violate the law and to engage in mob-led violence.

The way forward is to work with Costa Rican President Oscar Arias. He is proposing ways to ensure that Mr. Zelaya complies with Honduras’s laws and its constitution and allows the people of Honduras to elect a new president in the regularly scheduled Nov. 29 elections (or perhaps earlier, if the date is moved up as President Arias has suggested and as Honduran law allows).

If all parties reach agreement to allow Mr. Zelaya to return to Honduras—a big “if”—we believe that he cannot be trusted to comply with the law and therefore it is our position that he must be prosecuted with full due process. President Arias’s proposal for a moratorium on prosecution of all parties may be considered, but our Supreme Court has indicated that such a proposal presents serious legal problems under our constitution.

Like America, our constitutional democracy has three co-equal and independent branches of government—a fact that Mr. Zelaya ignored when he openly defied the positions of both the Supreme Court and Congress. But we are ready to continue discussions once the Supreme Court, the attorney general and Congress analyze President Arias’s proposal. That proposal has been turned over to them so that they can review provisions that impact their legal authority. Once we know their legal positions we will proceed accordingly.

The Honduran people must have confidence that their Congress is a co-equal branch of government. They must be assured that the rule of law in Honduras applies to everyone, even their president, and that their Supreme Court’s orders will not be dismissed and swept aside by other nations as inconvenient obstacles.

Meanwhile, the other elements of the Arias proposal, especially the establishment of a Truth Commission to make findings of fact and international enforcement mechanisms to ensure Mr. Zelaya complies with the agreement, are worthy of serious consideration.

Mr. Zelaya’s irresponsible attempt on Friday afternoon to cross the border into Honduras before President Arias has obtained agreement from all parties—an attempt that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appropriately described as “reckless”—was just another example of why Mr. Zelaya cannot be trusted to keep his word.

Regardless of what happens, the worst thing the U.S. can do is to impose economic sanctions that would primarily hurt the poorest people in Honduras. Rather than impose sanctions, the U.S. should continue the wise policies of Mrs. Clinton. She is supporting President Arias’s efforts to mediate the issues. The goal is a peaceful solution that is consistent with Honduran law in a civil society where even the president is not above the law.

Mr. Micheletti, previously the president of the Honduran Congress, became president of Honduras upon the departure of Manuel Zelaya. He is a member of the Liberal Party, the same party as Mr. Zelaya.