When God Takes Something Away

Story and photos by Josela Lopez, Honduras Field Communications Specialist

A pastor in Honduras believes that in order for a community to succeed, they must invest in their children. His passion for helping children, however, was ignited by a tragic loss.

Pastor Joel stands outside the building that would become his church and house a Hope Center.

When Pastor Joel first arrived in the community of Villanueva in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, he was struck by how deteriorated and run down the houses were.

Honduras is one of the poorest countries in Latin America, with nearly half the population living below the poverty line.

The country also has one of the world’s highest murder rates, and Villanueva was a dangerous place.

Pastor Joel also noticed a large number of homeless kids living in poverty in the community.

Because God placed on Pastor Joel’s heart a passion for helping children, he decided to build a church in the community that would bring hope to these kids and other kids and their families.

He firmly believes society must invest in their children in order to be successful. And that’s just what he, through a partnership with OneChild, did.

“If we invest in the children, then when they grow up, they will invest in the community, and this is how a community thrives and succeeds,” he says.

When Pastor Joel began building the church, he says people would walk by and call him crazy and ask him why he was investing in a community that not even the government would invest in.

“If we as Christians do not believe that God has a purpose through the church for the community, then what are we doing as a church?” he says.

“We should always influence our communities.”

Space for Homeless Kids

Pastor Joel has been in Villanueva for more than 15 years now. He is well known and very much respected in the community.

The church he built is called The City of the Children, but everyone in the community calls it “the blue church” (for its color), and it has become a well-known reference point in the area.

The Hope Center has a space where homeless kids can stay and be looked after.

The church also includes a Hope Center, sponsored by the nonprofit OneChild, where kids go to receive individualized care, support, and attention.

Pastor Joel is active within the community, and he and Child Champions regularly visit the children and their families in their homes.

He also has developed programs within the church aimed at motivating teenagers and encouraging them, once they graduate from the Hope Center program, to continue serving in the church and attend college.

And since homeless children are in his heart, Pastor Joel has included a space in the church “where children who are homeless will have the opportunity to have a home.”

This space is like apartments within the building, where homeless children live and are cared for by grandmothers who are alone or with grandchildren under their care.

These kids have the same access to school, food, and other developmental programs that kids with families have.

Kids at the Hope Center receive welcome treats.

Pastor Joel has plans to build even more spaces to help kids in hard place.

His determination and the help of God have helped him to achieve things he would never have imagined.

The community has taken notice of his accomplishments, and his influence is rubbing off on them.

Since the church was built, residents started fixing up their houses and now they look much prettier than before. And since The City of the Children was built, property values in the community have increased.

Drawing Strength From Loss

Yet amid Pastor Joel’s accomplishments is a story of loss. Several years ago, his wife realized she was pregnant with a son, and they decided that this baby would have everything they couldn’t afford in the past for their other children. They bought a crib, a stroller, bottles, clothes, and even had private health insurance.

The Hope Center is equipped with brightly colored tables and chairs for the kids.

Pastor Joel and his wife were so happy to have these things ready for their son and even happier that the baby would be able to be born at a private hospital.

The pregnancy went well, and after nine months their son was born.

However, a week after their son was born, he passed away. Yet instead of falling apart, Pastor Joel chose to draw strength from the experience.

“God will never take away something from you without giving something new back to you,” he says.

And the “new” that God gave Pastor Joel is his passion for children. The passion that God has placed on Pastor Joel’s heart for children has taken him to serve children through the Hope Center in his church.

As a result, more children in poverty have been given a chance to reach their God-given potential.

Let us continue praying for pastors in Honduras who have a calling to help children, that they may excel in the purpose God has given them.

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