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Going with the flow
Local residents carry out mission work amid coup in Honduras
When Rockdale residents Sheila Porter and her 14-year-old niece Brittany Owens went to Honduras on their first mission trip abroad, they knew they needed to be flexible while working and witnessing in a new culture.

"We went with a notion to go with the flow, because we knew anything could change at any time," said Sheila.

Even so, the last thing they expected was to be caught in the country during a presidential coup.

Sheila and Brittany were part of a 14-member mission group from Bethel Christian Church that went to Tegucigalpa, the capital city of Honduras, for two-weeks. This trip was part of a longer-term outreach effort the church has maintained since 1994.

Their first Sunday there, worship services were banned because an informal vote was going to be held on extending the number of presidential terms. During that Sunday, another mission team from the church was returning home and took what turned out to be one of the last flights out before the coup.

"Right after they left, all our power went off," recalled Sheila. "Everywhere."

Brittany and Sheila's mission group didn't realize what was happening - "We thought it was a power out" - but during that time, the Honduran army had come in and taken President Manuel Zalaya and flown him to Costa Rica. "They cut everybody's electricity off so there'd be no media," Sheila explained.
In the States, Brittany's mother, Gail, heard what happened after a friend texted her.

"That's when I was a little bit panicked, until I got in touch with Sheila," she said. She was able to contact her sister through Facebook when the power returned in Tegucigalpa four hours later.

Sheila reassured her that they were safe. "At no time were we in any danger or threatened in any way. We were five miles from downtown where all this was going on, but if we hadn't known what was going on, we wouldn't have known because the city was quiet," she said.

"Which was different than what they were portraying on the media, that there were riots in the streets," said Gail.

During that time, the mission team was still able to do their work. For the first two weeks, the group visited a nursing home, talked with children in the street, painted a church and helped build a new home on where each piece of building material had to be carried up the side of a steep hill.
Everywhere they went, they found welcoming smiles and an open warmth that transcended language barriers.

"The people were so friendly there," said Brittany. "We would just wave to people and say ‘Hola,' and they would wave back and smile. We don't do that here." She described children that would save half their treats to take home to share with their brothers and sisters.

"They truly represent humility and they know the true meaning of Agape love," said Sheila. "They love unconditionally, no matter what."

There were some things that took some getting used to, such as disposing of toilet paper in waste baskets, since the plumbing couldn't handle toilet paper, the hair-raising, bone-rattling rides on roads in the countryside, and the pitch-black darkness that would descend at night at homes where there was no power.
Even with the challenges and cultural differences, both aunt and niece enjoyed their trip immensely.

When there was a possibility the group might have to extend their stay because the ousted president might return to Honduras on the same day the team was supposed to leave, they didn't mind.

"We were enjoying so much what we were doing for other people we didn't care if we were there for another week," Sheila said. The president didn't end up coming back and the team was able to leave as planned.

For her part, Brittany is already saving up for two mission trips to Honduras next year and plans to eventually intern at the mission house. Sheila said she had felt the pull towards missions for two years and this trip confirmed the calling.

"It showed me that no matter what language it is, worshipping God is the same all over," she said.