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!!! RUE2B?