A Blessing in Disguise

Date Posted: 
Thursday, February 20, 2014

A cancelled flight led to a “God encounter” for Luis Ruiz.

In an airport in Honduras he met a woman whose life had been saved at the very medical clinic he was on his way to visit.

Bad weather had grounded his plane, and Ruiz was queued up with a number of passengers to arrange other transportation. Ruiz’s travel companion, Valdir França, struck up a conversation with a woman in line.

It was November 2012, and França, supervisor of RCA mission in the Americas, was leading Ruiz and Kevin Kremer on a trip to Honduras. Ruiz is pastor of community and global engagement at Christ Memorial Church (RCA) in Holland, Michigan, where Kremer is a deacon and a member of the diaconal ministries board. They were on their way to see the outreach ministries of the Evangelical Moravian Church, the RCA’s mission partner in Honduras. On their itinerary were trips to the remote villages of Ahuas and Cauquira to visit medical clinics and a mission aviation operation, and to Puerto Lempira to visit the Moravian Church’s headquarters and Bible Institute.

They soon discovered that the woman in line was from Ahuas, and the medical clinic they would be visiting there had saved her life.

“She then proceeded to tell us her incredible story of the delivery of her baby at the medical clinic in Ahuas,” says Ruiz. “She should have lost her life, but the doctors and nurses saved her life.

“She was eternally grateful for the clinic and the support to continue keeping the clinic up and running for the poor people of that area.”

Why Honduras?

Ruiz and Kremer were on their way to Honduras because leaders at Christ Memorial believed God was calling them to develop a mission partnership in Central America.

The congregation already had strong mission partnerships in South Africa, Turkey, and India, but felt drawn to extend outreach in the western hemisphere.

“With increased outreach happening in our local community, we developed relationships with the Latino community of Holland,” says Ruiz. “A global expression of that outreach made sense to us.”

Christ Memorial had turned to RCA Global Mission to explore missionary opportunities in the western hemisphere, knowing that Global Mission supports a holistic approach to mission.

“Our desire was to find a mission partner that was training indigenous leaders to reach people with the gospel of Jesus through church planting and social action and which could sustain a long-term U.S. partnership,” says Ruiz. “We found that partner in eastern Honduras!

“When we arrived [back home] from Honduras, we shared our experiences with the full diaconal ministries board in order to officially approve a mission partnership. In April 2013, we took advantage of visits [to the U.S.] from Dr. Ovelio Lopez [who serves in the Ahuas clinic] and Rev. Isai Granwell [then president of the Moravian Church]. They were able to share their work in Honduras and the incredible spiritual and physical needs of the people there.

“We launched a church-wide announcement that we would be beginning a mission partnership with eastern Honduras. We also shared a short history of RCA Global Mission and information about the RCA’s new missionaries to Honduras, the Rev. Andrew and Amy Fields, who will be deployed in 2014.

“The response was fantastic! We are excited for what this future relationship will bring to our congregants.”

Building connections in Honduras

Christ Memorial has since sent two more teams to Honduras. In March 2013 a Youth Exploratory Team that included Ruiz and three youth staff members, Chris Gibson, Jessica Stanley, and Jessica Vander Kolk, visited the same sites as the previous team and then shared their experience with parents and youth at Christ Memorial.

That inspired a team of 13 eleventh and twelfth graders and three adults to travel to the Ahuas clinic. “They mostly developed relationships with the youth from Ahuas and the surrounding villages as they organized sporting events and participated in youth-led church services,” says Ruiz. He says they also did painting and light construction projects. Two baby girls born at the clinic during their visit were both named Jessica in honor of the team, which included Jessica Stanley and Jessica Vander Kolk.

Christ Memorial is also helping to start a chicken farm at the Moravian Church’s Bible Institute. It’s an opportunity for students there to have fresh food and to take part in a business venture, as they can sell the chickens to neighbors in the area. “This is a wonderful example of community development to help foster self-supporting sustainable infrastructure that helps these indigenous leaders afford to stay in school and reach their goals,” Ruiz says.

$25,000 of Christ Memorial’s Thanksgiving offering was designated for finishing a building at the Bible Institute and to help send two men, Kevin Kremer and Christ Memorial member Shaun Macomber, to help with construction.

Mutual benefits

Ruiz says the ongoing mission relationship between Christ Memorial and the RCA’s ministry partner in Honduras has mutual benefits. “We believe that we can learn a lot about another culture and how God has uniquely formed them by partnering together in God’s mission.

“We believe in mutual collaboration and accountability as we work together to see God’s kingdom be advanced.”

Ruiz says this is accomplished through strategic conversations and dialogue, by sending and receiving mission teams from each culture, and by laboring together on projects and Christian witness.

“We believe that in cross-cultural relationships, we can combine the abundance of our mutual time, talents, and treasures to reach a world that desperately needs to hear the good news, both locally and globally.”

Would you like to explore a new mission partnership for your congregation? Email global@rca.org to look into possibilities.

Pray for the mission work your church is engaged in now. Ask God to lead the church in fruitful mission, whether new or long established.

Read the latest letters from RCA missionaries and mission partners in Honduras: www.rca.org/honduras.

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