Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Humanitarian Crisis at the Border has many Faces

First things first. This is not a blog about partisan politics: who's to blame and what went wrong.  My hope is to call your attention to the work of the Episcopal Church in one of the poorest countries in Central America, Honduras, and highlight the good work being done there.  

Matt Engleby was my classmate in seminary. I got the opportunity to spend some weeks in Guatemala with him in 1988, where he had served for two years a Peace Corps volunteer in the 80's. He and I went on to do years of parish ministry but have stayed connected with Latin America.  Matt took the plunge in a truly courageous way some years ago when he began living a great deal of the year in Honduras as El Hogar's Executive Director.  When he is back in the States reconnecting with his family in New Jersey, he is tirelessly visiting churches and spreading the news of the hope and the tragedy that fill his day. People are making a difference in many lives. 

Please read Matt's letter, watch the video, and pray for the many children's who flee such terrible poverty and crime.  And if you are able and called, I commend this vital ministry to you for your generosity.  


Watch video here: El Hogar Vimeo Video

My dear Brothers and Sisters,

These past few weeks have seen significant and appropriate attention being directed toward the plight of vulnerable immigrants crossing the US border. We are seeing unaccompanied children and young mothers fleeing to the US at an unprecedented pace.  The attention being directed toward this tragedy has been both compassionate and condemning.

Those of you familiar with the conditions of life in Central America are well aware that what we are witnessing is nothing new. Certainly the proportions are higher than before, but this exodus has been a tragic part of the life of the tragically poor in places like Honduras for years. While I, for one, am grateful for the concern directed to this matter, I am also well aware that the attention span of the media and individuals in the United States is relatively short.  This issue may soon fade from the headlines, but regrettably, the causes that lie at the root of these immigration issues will remain for years to come. And I ask you to hold fast to these concerns and seek resolution in the US and support for organizations like ours in Honduras.

I take this opportunity to remind you all of the importance and incalculable value of the work of El Hogar Projects in Honduras. As an effective ministry of the Episcopal church in Honduras, we strive to provide a preventative approach to the concerns being addressed in the United States at this time. The children fleeing Honduras are motivated by a desire to survive. I ask you to imagine the desperation that a parent must feel when the only option for a child’s future is to send them into the wilderness. Such is life here. No one desires this outcome, but for many it is the only choice.

So, while we do what we can on the northern side of our border to create a just and compassionate response toward the unaccompanied children, in the end, these activities will only serve as a Band-Aid and not address the real causes that are the poverty and violence so present in everyday life in Honduras.  

What must happen is that children who have no hope, who have seen parents gunned down before their own eyes, must have hope restored and a new future structured before them.  That is our goal.  The work of El Hogar is to lift children out of poverty that they may become productive members of the Honduras community.  That is what we do, and we do it well.  We give children an education, life skills, and a new sense of hope such that their future does not depend upon a desperate journey into the wilderness but rests, rather, on a new community formed of loving and caring people.  

Please note that this is the only viable solution to the issues being played out at the US borders.  Please remain faithful to us and these vulnerable children.  I know for many of you, these summer Sundays are less engaging and lower in attendance, but please convey this hope to your communities as best you can.  

I am attaching a few links for you to see.  First is the presiding Bishops response to the immigration crisis.  The second is a recent article written by Lynette Wilson of the Episcopal News Service about El Hogar, a link to our video on El Hogar and finally a New York Times article about the desperation in Honduras.  Read them, learn them, inwardly digest them.  As the salvation of these children depends upon such.  As does yours.

The Rev. Matthew Engleby
Executive Director
El Hogar Projects
Tegucigalpa, Honduras

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

No Turning Back

Vacation in Acadia National Park in Maine 

For anyone who knows me, the picture above is a head scratcher -- for I am famously afraid of heights. I mean palm-sweating, nearly unable to speak afraid. Thus I can barely ski anymore because of my fear of getting stranded on the lift. Which means I do not climb ladders and will never bungee jump, nor parachute, nor even go up in a nice tranquil hot air balloon at sunrise over the plains of Africa.  

So why did I hike up the Beehive Trail last week at Maine's gorgeous Acadia National Park with my wife Leslie?  It's not like I didn't research the hike. I went online and did hear that one should stay away if one is afraid of heights, but it was "doable" and six year old reportedly easily did the hike.  I told myself: I could do this.  Yet I walked right by this sign at the base of the climb... Bad first move. 

When we ask for signs from God, we don't always expect to see visual signs... (Note to self: read warning signs next time!) 

So Leslie and I made our way up the mini-mountain -- only 520 feet high but straight up. At one point we did say to ourselves that this was a foolish idea: how could we reach the top with our nerves so frayed? We were actually near the top -- about 50 feet away -- when we paused and questioned ourselves.  And then an angel appeared in the form of a hiking park ranger.  She saw our misgivings, yet also our determination and hope to find a way to reach the top. She warned us of the dangers (i.e. asked us if we saw the above sign!) and gave us a choice: head back down or move forward. She also told us that if we wanted to keep going that, "I'll go with you."  THE sign!

She was the encouragement we needed, but also the assurance and the company that sealed the deal. When she learned of what I did for my job/career/vocation, we joked that a few sermons would come out the day and I'm sure she's right. 

For now, this is what I learned:

1. Obstacles, and fear, are real.
2. It's hard to know when it's time to pause, re-assess and perhaps head home.
3. Sometimes we only need a little encouragement, especially when we are so close to our goal. 
4. It sure helps if someone walks with us and we are not alone.
5. Psalm 121 is true: I lift up my eyes to the hills, from where is my help to come? My help comes from... 
6. An angel in the form of a park ranger. 
7. The view is pretty nice from "up there."