When a Honduran wants to come to the states, they must first pay $160 non-refundable fee in the bank. When minimum wage is $400/mo, $160 is a significant fee. They fill out a 15 page questionnaire about their lives: names, previous travels, work history, family, relatives in the states, if they have ties to terrorist groups or other illegal activities, purpose of travel, when and where. They then schedule an appointment at the embassy in Tegucigalpa. At the embassy appointment, one goes to an interview with a consulate member, where they decide if you are approved or denied. For someone living in Puerto Cortes, you must travel from Puerto Cortes to Tegucigalpa, pay to stay over night, pay food and transportation in Tegucigalpa, and after everything possibly return home with no visa. It could cost a month salary to go through the hoops and get denied. Out of 270 people who apply daily, only about 30 get visas. The odds are against anyone.
My mom gave Pastor Juan the $160 fee about four years ago and he let it sit in his account. This year of all years, he decided he wanted to try for the visa. I took this as a sign that God might be up to something, because the previous four years Juan had said nothing. I told him, “Let’s do it.” But as time went on we kept putting it off. Until in September, Rina and I were purchasing our tickets and realized that we needed to start planning Juan’s trip. He would need a visa before we could purchase his ticket. As I filled it out I thought about the trip and realized that if he was to go to the states, this was there year to do it because my mom may not be in San Diego after this. This was his last chance to see the places I want to show him and he would need to fly with us on the 18th because I would have to show him what to do in an airport. We filled out the inquisition and sent it off. I thought we had plenty of time still, when we needed to find a date for his interview, but the only dates available were after our departure date! I scheduled an appointment thinking,” Tomorrow I will log in and see if someone has canceled and get an appointment for November.” I prayed that we would get an earlier date in Nov. and everything would be fine. The following afternoon when I logged in, I saw Nov. 24 available! I thanked God because only one appointment was left and I got so excited. I clicked the confirm button and waited as a pinwheel of death made circles on my screen. When the confirmation page came up, it said the appointment was taken and I scheduled us for Dec. 7. It was the only appointment available before our travel day. I booked it thinking I would change again, but later realized that the embassy only allows one cancelation. We were stuck on Dec. 7, 11 days before our departure. I felt encouraged though because 7 is God’s number, a perfect number.
Even though they advise you not to make any travel purchases until after one has the visa approved, we could not wait so long. The prices on tickets were going up and we needed to get Juan’s ticket without the visa answer. All refundable tickets were way out of our price range, and the only option was a non-refundable seat. As I sat at my computer looking at the flights for him, a battle welled up inside of me. My spirit said, “Trust God and buy it.” My brain said, “It’s eight hundred dollars! You could lose it all. Almost no one gets a visa. It’s a long shot. Are you willing to risk it?” If I bought Juan’s ticket and he did not get the visa, I would never be able to make him pay for it. I would feel responsible for purchasing his ticket presumably and I would be out eight hundred dollars. I closed the laptop and pushed the decision into the next day. This same scene happened about four times. The fight in my soul was HUGE. I told Rina, “I want to believe. I want to have eight hundred dollar faith! Imagine how great the story will be when God comes through.” As tears came to my eyes I confessed that I want BIG faith and if I didn’t buy the ticket I felt like my faith was worth nothing. I want faith that moves mountains and believes in God enough to put everything on the line. “So buy the ticket,” she said. “I trust you.” I still hesitated even though I was relieved Rina would not be mad. May I just say I love my wife? I love that she is all in with me.
I finally bought the ticket by faith and then found a verse that I taught a study with to the students at MLV. 2 Thessalonians says, “11 With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith.” This tells me, God wants to perfect every act of faith in me. God loves it when we stick our foot in our mouths, and take risks, because he loves to prove faithful. Overstepping in faith is actually what pleases God. It strengthened me because I bought the ticket with no refund, no insurance, no backing out. Pastor Juan had to get his visa now because God would back up the faith. He wouldn’t let me lose eight hundred dollars. The eight hundred dollars actually guaranteed his visa.
As we planned for our trip, we also realized that Rina’s passport was going to expire less than six months before our return date, meaning she would need a new passport. The bad thing was, I had already bought our tickets. I bought them because I thought a passport renewal would be easy. I was wrong. We went to the passport office to renew the travel I.D., but to our surprise they would not do it. They said Rina needed a valid Cedula I.D. and the passport I.D. was not valid to get a passport. This was our first hurdle, because Rina and I had been trying to get her Cedula ever since last year, when it was stolen along with her wallet in San Pedro Sula. Since this year was an election year, we applied for one so she could vote. Supposedly it was to come before the elections, but as the time drew near, her I.D. card was nowhere to be found. As Rina got nervous, I stayed calm because I had a dream that we went to the office and they gave us the I.D. A student of mine had also given us tickets to Disneyland and since I had prayed for them, I took them as a sign. God wouldn’t send Disneyland tickets to us if we weren’t going to go. Sure enough, we received her card a few days before the elections Novemeber 26.
If you have followed the news, our elections did not go as planned in Honduras and we have two presidential candidates fighting for power and using protests, violence and vandalism to win. The country was plunged into chaos a few weeks ago, right at the time we received our mission team. We crossed a riot line with burning tires blocking the street to get to the airport. When we got back to Puerto Cortes, we were put under curfew by the military, restricting our movements. Many people were uncertain about leaving the first few days, but our team accomplished everything it set out to do.
To see more Team photos Check out our Gallery Page.
We were not afraid. Instead, the team was peaceful and confident. We held our end-of-semester party at the water park and we visited different neighborhoods to pray for people. We got them to the airport without incident. When things seemed to be getting out of hand in other areas, we had clear paths wherever we went and Puerto Cortes has been relatively calm. On the way back from dropping the team at the airport, we stopped at the migration office to see if we could get Rina’s passport. I thought, “If we get this, it is a confirmation that Pastor Juan goes with us too.” The Passport office was surprisingly empty. The riots and protests had kept the regular 300 person crowd at home. We walked right in and to the window. Forty five minutes later we had what Rina needed.
I told Pastor Juan the good news. He was leaving for Tegus the following morning. He was supposed to go with a cousin and stay with a cousin’s friend, but the plans changed. He had to go alone. But I could not let him go alone. He needed someone to accompany him. When I told Rina I thought I should go, I could tell she was worried. While things had been relatively peacful in Puerto Cortes, things in San Pedro and other places had not. The news showed rioters in Tegusigalpa were burning commercial centers, breaking gas station windows, In Progresso they had destroyed a toll booth station. In the south, the protests were blocking highways and commerce, leaving serval cities without food or supplies. Tegucigalpa was the center of it all, the worst of the worst. Police in riot gear, fighting protestors in the streets were there. Rina was worried, but she knew I was going in faith. “God picked Dec. 7 because he knew another day would not work.” I told Juan I would come, and then freaked out over all the things I need to get done this week and a trip to Tegucigalpa was not in my plans. After I fell asleep I calmed down and woke up resolved to do whatever I needed to do. I packed a backpack and met Juan. Rina drove us to the bus stop and we got a directo to San Pedro Sula.
The ride was uneventful in a good way. We made it to the terminal, had great chinese food, and caught a bus to Tegus. What we thought was a direct bus, turned out to be a stopping bus and we were in route for five hours. Only in Villa Nueva did we see a small group of half-hearted protestors burning a tire as we crossed their pencil line of concrete debris in the street. Our bus had about ten passengers besides us, and forty deported immigrants from the U.S. trying to make it home. I was the only American. As we waited in line to get on the bus, there was a teenager with a hard look, tattoos up and down both arms, and his hair pulled into a Chinese pony tail. His tan eyes caught mine and he did not look happy to see me.
When we stopped in Siguatepeque, half way to Tegus, we got off the bus to use the restroom and get some food. I stepped out of the restaurant and saw the teenager sitting on a bench smoking a cigarette. He saw me and looked away. I felt the Lord say, “Give him some money.” I silently walked over to him with his hard look staring me down, extended my hand and gave him some cash. He flinched with surprise and then returned to his bitterness. “Are you American?” he asked. I nodded. “I was in prison three months there.” He said. “They beat me.” His lips were pursed with hate as he recalled his memory. “I’m sorry,” I replied and sat down next to him. We began to talk. When we returned to the bus, he was sitting in the front and I was in the back. Juan talked with me occasionally, but my mind was stuck on the boy. I had to talk with him again. So I got up, and moved to the front. While kneeling in the aisle, the bus ripping around the mountain curves, I continued our conversation. I asked to pray for him and it was as if a burden lifted from him. He genuinely looked grateful after I prayed. I returned to my seat, but still felt the spirit telling me to do more. Be generous and surprise him. Again I made my way up front. He was going to get off early so that he could beg money to get home. I took out a 500 lps. and gave it to him saying, ”Now you don’t need to beg.” He couldn’t believe it. No one gives anyone 500 lps. let alone an American to a deportee. I could tell that the love worked. I prayed for his future and he promised to contact me someday.
Juan and I got a rickety taxi ride, the kind you can only find in a third world capital, to our hotel. We figured we would go to the embassy early the next morning to find out about his appointment. He was scheduled for 2:15 pm. We wanted to get in earlier to possibly make it home.
Seven thirty we were out the door to walk the block to the embassy. As we came up behind the embassy, we followed the ten foot security wall to the side street so that we could walk to the other side. When we got to the corner, I saw a sign. I am not kidding, the sign said “SAN DIEGO” with an arrow under it pointing the way we needed to go. “Juan! Check out the sign! This road is called San Diego. Of all the names it could be, it’s San Diego!” I took a photo, knowing that this was God. I started to laugh and still laugh as I write this. I imagine God years ago, thinking about our faith and deciding to name the street San Diego, just for us, knowing that years later we would be in this situation and see his sign. I sent the photo to Joel. He replied, “It’s a sign.” And I laughed because it was a sign to believe in and a road sign. We got to the line and were told to come back in the afternoon.
I spent the morning updating our Cocal Website ( which you should regularly check out for photos and updates) and then we went to my favorite restaurant in Tegucigalpa, Mirawa. Mirawa is a Japanese cuisine restaurant that Rina and I ate at eight years ago when she got her visa. I have been looking for it ever since. Juan and I took a table close to the window and took some photos of us to send to Rina.