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Pastor Jim and Jeannine Case of Stow Community Church returned from a 10-day missions trip to Tocoa, Colon, in the Central American country of Honduras, and what a story they have to tell.
Beginning with the 85-degree temperature at the San Pedro Sula International Airport in the northern part of Honduras, with its rather high humidity level (close to 80 percent), the group of 12arrived to begin their work, play and ministry with the children at Open Door Ministries' orphanage called The Village of Hope.
The second location, The Gates of Hope (Casa Grande), houses teenage girls and their babies, rescued from abusive homes in the "department" of Colon (departments are equivalent to our counties).
There are about 60 to 70 children and 20 staff who reside at the two locations.
The 12 missionaries joined three others from the team who had ventured there the previous week, including the leaders, Kris and Regina Kodzev from Redeemer Lutheran Church in Cuyahoga Falls.
Together, they completed several major projects at two locations of the Open Door Ministries organization in this extremely poor municipality: painting at both locations, indoors and out; construction of a shed to shelter a water pump; building picnic tables for several locations; and building a large bookcase ("library") to securely house teaching supplies for the teachers who educate the children at the orphanage.
In addition to the projects, they were tasked with feeding children from a squatters camp (La Primavera) not far from the Village of Hope, and providing clothes, games, and faith-based lessons of love for the nearly 160 children there.
On another day, they visited Las Brisas de Amor feeding station to feed the children in that neighborhood, near the banks of the Tocoa River.
There, they fed about 85 children and provided a program at a church nearby, once again providing clothes, games and a faith-based lesson of love.
A heart-wrenching visit to a public hospital located in Tocoa was on the agenda for one afternoon, when the team brought 50 "hospital kits" that had been put together by members of the two churches.
The condition of the hospital rooms, the beds, the environment, was deplorable, dreadful, shocking, woeful, and the members of the team are more grateful than ever for the Akron area medical care locations after having seen this terrible situation.
But, what saved them all, what gave their hearts a leap of faith, were the faces of the children at all the places after the initial meeting.
The hugs, the smiles, the glow and sparkle that came into their eyes when they opened a plastic bag and saw their own crayons, coloring book, toothbrush, toothpaste, prayer card and a super-hero shirt that was only theirs -- to take "home" no matter what "home" looks like.
The team came back "home" to Akron, Stow, Northampton, Silver Lake, Cuyahoga Falls, Tallmadge, Iowa, Houston, and Arizona, with a new look on life, a new appreciation for where God has put each of them, and a greater capacity for outreach than ever before.
Their journey was a beginning for each of them, a start of something that can only expand beyond their previously small world.
This is an annual trip with many opportunities to help stateside. For more information on mission opportunities and fundraising for Open Door Ministries, contact Regina Kodzev at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also check out the Open Doors Ministries at website: www.odm.us.org.