Archives For Honduras

If I’d been turned the other way I could have caught her. But like any good American, I was facing the lunch table. It was blast furnace hot and I had just spent three hours butchering the Spanish language to one hundred Honduran kids. I had comida on the cabeza.

As she passed just inches behind me behind me, she stumbled on the uneven terrain of the empty lot. I helplessly glanced over my shoulder to see my mom, in what seemed like John Woo slow motion, take a hard tumble onto an unforgiving bed of gravel, roots and stone.

Compression fracture.

Broken hip.

And just like that, everything about our week of ministry to the children and women of Honduras changed dramatically. We had to take action, but in that unknown environment we had little idea of what action to take.

A woman named Nolvia, one of the children’s center directors, immediately ran to the other side of the neighborhood to get “her doctor.” Confession: I was expecting a disheveled man with a magic goat and a necklace strung with shrunken heads. This is one of the poorest of the poor neighborhoods in La Ceiba. A place to be avoided. A forgotten people. What kind of witch doctor could they possibly be bringing to my mother’s aid?

So when I looked up to see Dr. Elmer Mejia standing over my mom in his bright white doctor’s coat, I thought for sure they had been watching too many Grey’s Anatomy re-runs. A doctor this sharp, this put together, would never have a clinic in a place like this.

We rushed my mom on the back of his pickup truck a half mile up the gravel road to his humble, little office. The main room was filled with an enormous hyperbaric chamber.

Turns out Dr. Mejia is a local hero. A navy-trained doctor on a mission to save impoverished Miskit Indians who risk their lives diving for lobsters to make money. His story was recently featured in the New York Times, Rock Center with Brian Williams, and on MSNBC.

And now he was treating my mom.

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He rode with her to the hospital in the ($21 cash payment) ambulance. Stayed with us all day in the ER. Negotiated with the local doctors and surgeons to squelch their desire to do a very lucrative hip-replacement in the Honduran hospital. Worked tirelessly into the night (even took a phone call at 3am on our behalf) talking with the insurance companies and medivac plane to ensure my mom would get all the way home to Indianapolis for her operation. He even offered to fly home with her on the air ambulance!

All the while refusing any payment. (I finally talked him into an Applebee’s gift certificate before I left. True story.)

As I watched Dr. Mejia at work, I glanced over my shoulder to see Nolvia (the Mission of Mercy director) stroking my mom’s hair and praying over her in Spanish as she lay on the gurney. Somehow, in that moment, it all started to make sense.

We had gone there to minister to them, and now they were ministering to us.

I grabbed Nolvia’s hand and in my broken Spanish was able to squeeze out:

“Somos el mismo.”

We are the same.

Super power. Developing world. Wealthy. Impoverished. North American. Latin American.

We are the same.

Desperately in need of one another. Desperately in need of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to do a work in us we cannot do for ourselves. All of us. The same. El mismo.

It was a beautiful exchange. A reciprocal awakening. A gift for which I’m eternally grateful.

NOTE: My mom is safely at home, recovering well from full hip-replacement surgery. The divine connection with Dr. Mejia is still in prayerful development, as we continue dream of ways to help him with his work and connect the dots between his clinic and the Mission of Mercy centers we work alongside in La Ceiba. “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” –Romans 8:28 NLT

The Power To Change

Erik Cooper —  June 18, 2012 — 6 Comments

After another week in Honduras, one thing has become stunningly clear…

I can’t fix their problems.

We experience. We feel. We brainstorm. We dialog.

We should do this. We could try that. What if we?


They need to do this. Or they should try that. What if they?

Our efforts are futile when they start with us. Our world is small when who we are, what we think, or what we can accomplish is the root of our action. The answer for Honduran poverty, American consumerism, government corruption, rampant fatherlessness, sustainable economic viability (pick your issue) will never originate in what we can do.

It rests in what God has already done.

The only hope for root transformation in my personal life or in the complexity of an entire culture is Jesus Christ.

Here’s an entry from my journal during our time in Honduras:

“The Gospel is the transforming power, not our wisdom and problem solving. Does that mean we shouldn’t work? No! But everything we do must be a response to what Christ has already done. Less focus on our efforts, more focus on His accomplishments.”

What do you think? Do you agree? Love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

More on our trip to Honduras later this week.


Let’s face it, we do a lot of things because of how they look, not necessarily because they accomplish something important. Or noble. Or transformational.

The symbol becomes our righteousness. The event. Our intent. The photo album. The Twitter posts.

And some of that stirs my cynicism.

I’m in day four of Honduras detox. Still feeling the physical fatigue and spiritual weariness of 8 days amongst the least of these on the northern coast of that beautiful country. And I’m wrestling some deep questions:

If our lives are just the sum total of special events, what are they really?

If mercy is confined to a week in June, is it really mercy?

Is a plantain a fruit or a starch? They look like bananas, but they sure do taste like potatoes. (Not all my questions are apparently so deep).

Short-term ministry trips have gotten some valid criticism in my social circles. They don’t really make a sustainable difference. They simply feed the American fix-you ego. The $1,500 travel expense would be more effective invested in long-term initiatives. It’s just a self-righteous photo-op. It’s nothing more than episodic compassion.

There’s some truth in there. Some real dangers. Worthy tensions to embrace.

Attending a weekly church service doesn’t make you a follower of Jesus, taking your wife out for dinner doesn’t mean you have an intimate marriage, and spending a week among the poor in La Ceiba, Honduras doesn’t place an completion sticker on your Great Commission chart.

But these events, these coordinated efforts, these “episodes,” can be powerful triggers for long-term transformation if we allow them to be a means, and never an end.

I know 22 people who are siphoning through what 8 days in Honduras means for them today. For their right now. For this very moment. Twenty-two people who have re-entered normal with a new sense of normalcy. Twenty-two people refusing to allow this “episode” to be a momentary high on the road they were already traveling, but contending to make it a starting point on a completely new adventure. A Kingdom adventure.

And that kind of awakening has no price tag.

What events have triggered long-term transformation in you?

Some things just have to be seen before they become real (kind of like a LeBron James championship).

Just a little over two years ago, City Community Church was born out of so much hope, pain, and conviction. Nathan and I knew we wanted to make a strong opening statement, so when the opportunity emerged to partner with Mission of Mercy in La Ceiba, Honduras, we took it. Even though we didn’t have the resources.

Mission of Mercy’s work in La Ceiba was nothing more than an unformed mass of God-inspired passion and imagination. A perfect reflection of CityCom. Not only could we help La Ceiba grow, maybe we could all grow together.

Two years later, our little “startup” has sponsored over 60 kids and brought two teams to interact in person.

But the most overwhelming realization undoubtedly occurred when Nathan and I stood just outside this new, two-story building attached to Lilles de los Valles church and realized…

…this is CityCom’s first facility.

We still don’t own any property back in Indy, but thanks to the outrageous generosity of so many CityCom’ers, we’ve somehow helped a little church in a poverty-ridden slum in La Ceiba, Honduras create a place to offer real hope to their community. (If you’ve ever given one dime to CityCom you’ve given to La Ceiba). I think that’s pretty dang cool.

And yet I’m 100% certain they’ve given us more.

I pray our parallel tracks continue with La Ceiba, Honduras, because what’s beginning to happen here is beautiful. Hopeful. God-full. Exactly what our city needs, too.

Telling Stories

Erik Cooper —  June 15, 2011 — 2 Comments

Tell me your story.

That’s one of my favorite ways to start a dialog, especially with someone I’m just getting to know. It shapes a conversation. Injects intrigue into a developing relationship. And makes me sound cool like Donald Miller.

Stories turn abstract concepts from National Geographic articles or State Department statistics, into actual human beings.

That’s exactly what’s happened here in Honduras over the past few days. Indianapolis hasn’t just come to La Ceiba. Humanity has collided.

Yesterday, a few women from our team shared their personal life stories with the mothers of the Mission of Mercy projects kids. Their vulnerability provided a safe place for these Honduran women to begin telling their own stories.

Stories of abandonment and abuse emerged, alongside a deep and abiding love for their children. Minus the dirt floors and language barriers, they could have been the stories of women in our own church. They were the stories of women in our church.

Suddenly poverty was no longer just an issue to wrestle with, it was people. People with hopes, and pain, and dreams, and joy, and brokenness.

With stories.

Stories we all found pieces of ourselves in. Stories that gave strength to both the teller and the recipient. Stories that muted U.S. and Honduran, wealthy and poor, super power and third world.

Stories that united us all by our desperate need for Jesus.

Our stories are powerful. They need to be told. Even if the plot line seems more tragedy than inspiration.

So what’s your story?