Our Mission Statement

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.”