Educational, medical, agricultural, and spiritual outreach in the mountains of Honduras.
Journey with me (Kendyle!) to the mountains of Honduras – right on the boarder of Nicaragua. There lies an incredible organization, started by Allison and Jarod Brown, called Mission Lazarus. A few weeks ago, I was given the privilege of spending a week with the staff, children, and the community to learn more about their Children's Refuge. While there, I discovered the many other
programs Mission Lazarus has to care for vulnerable children and adults and completely fell in love. While their family-style Refuge for children is incredibly done, that is only a small part of what they do. I wanted to write this blog to share about both the Refuge and the many other programs throughout the community.
Mission Lazarus Children's Refuge
I am so passionate about holistic care for orphaned and vulnerable children and visiting Mission Lazarus' Refuge only reinforced that passion. I saw children that have undergone traumatic experiences (loss, abandonment, abuse, etc.) have a healthy family environment and dreams for their life.
They are intentional in how they set up this care to ensure a secure, loving, and stable environment where children come to restore and grow in to adults. There are currently 6 homes with 5 – 8 children in each of them. Each home has 3 caretakers but only 2 are in the home at a time – this allows for caretakers to take a week off to be with their families that live in the city.
I had the chance of visiting a few of the caretakers homes when off-duty. I met their families and asked them a few questions about their job and couldn't help but notice the unanimous joy and thankfulness each one of them had. Some of the women would have to travel so far to find work that they could only see their families a few times a year, others were barely being paid, if even at all. Mission Lazarus has allowed for these women to make a fair wage that pays enough to expand the size of their house, or buy
good shoes for their children; they have allowed women to move back home with their family after working for years in Costa Rica. On top of that, these women get 1 whole week off every 3 weeks to spend quality time with their children, parents, friends, and husbands.
The house mothers love their jobs and they love the kids in their house. It is not a job to them, it is motherhood.
As for the children, they love it too. They receive individualized attention because they are not in a giant orphanage where caregivers have to split their attention between 80, 100, 200 kids. They live in a normal house with two parental figures that cook dinner, help them with homework, and tuck them in at night. They are allowed to be their own person, to dream big and take steps towards those dreams. Some of the kids have their own gardens, some take care of horses, bunnies, and other animals, some paint pictures to decorate the house.
These children, who were a overlooked, get an opportunity at a life full of love.
Mission Lazarus Vocational Training
With 3 vocational schools, both near the grounds and up further in the mountains, Mission Lazarus allows for youth to develop practical and useful skills for a better life.
They train in carpentry, leather-smithing, and sewing. Their programs are 3 years of extensive training in one of the areas along with a typical education. Children continue their studies while getting hands-on experience with a skill of their choice.
The vocational schools are open to both the children in Mission Lazarus' Refuge and children all throughout the community. Some kids walk 3 hours just to receive this training and experience. I got the opportunity to walk the journey with 2 boys in the carpentry school and it is a long one. I wondered why their 3 hour hike to and from the school was worth it and then discovered why. These boys live in a remote village with no school and not a lot of opportunity. Typically, children in their village go straight to work for very
little pay to help their families in any way. With Mission Lazarus, these boys receive an education, vocational training, and get a stipend so that they can continue to learn instead of feeling the need to quit school for a job. Their families are also required to be involved so that they can feel apart and give back to these schools: 2 mothers, on a rotating schedule, come and cook lunch every day.
I had the opportunity to speak with kids and instructors from each school and the confidence and excitement they had was amazing. A few of the girls from the sewing school told me about how they used to be incredibly shy and not believe much in their future but because of the training they have received, they are excited to graduate and continue their education or open a shop; they speak boldly to family and in front of their church. The vocational schools are giving children a chance to change the trajectory of their lives, their children's lives and influence those in their community.
Mission Lazarus School for the Refuge
One morning I got to ride the school bus with the kids from the Refuge. The older kids were dropped off at a public school in town and the younger kids and I were dropped off at another school – one specifically for Mission Lazarus kids (at least for now). The school is new and only goes to the 7th grade currently. I walked around with the principal and learned about the horrible education system in Honduras – how teachers just don't show up or care to teach the kids, how kids with special needs are just known as "trouble" and no steps are made to help them learn.
She started with Mission Lazarus only 2 months prior and has her masters in education. She has so many dreams for the school and for the future of education in Honduras but right now she is
focusing on small class sizes and individualized education. Some of the children have learning disabilities and, instead of ignoring that and teaching them the same way, they cater to their needs and teach on their level.
The children from the Refuge are excited to attend school, they love their teachers and are incredibly interactive in class. The plan is to expand the school for other grades and children outside of the Refuge but they are currently focusing on quality not quantity. Honduras does not need more schools, it needs schools that are good. This seems to be the trend with all programs at Mission Lazarus and it makes such a difference in how successful each of them are.
Mission Lazarus Churches and Clinics Building
One of the coolest things about Mission Lazarus is their outreach and impact out in the community and remote villages of Honduras. They are behind the scenes building clinics for more accessible medical care and employing locals in those clinics. They are building churches to spiritually grow a community and training a pastor to be able to lead those people.
They are not an organization that people have to come to, Mission Lazarus is an organization that comes to people. Lives have been saved because of the placement of clinics in areas where
there were none. People have found new hope because they have heard the good news of the Gospel at the new church in their community. On top of that, they do not neglect or overlook their staff. There is a church and 2 clinics on the grounds for both spiritual and medical health for the employees and children of Mission Lazarus. A healthy staff means a healthy organization and Mission Lazarus has learned this over the years. Everyone cares so much and every program communicates with one another. This makes their outreach so much stronger because they are staffed with healthy and hard workers that care about the community.