Unrest in Honduras steers local youth to missions at home

July 18, 2009

Jan Swoope - [email protected]


The pounding of hammers and swish of paint brushes were punctuated with laughter as a team of youth and adult volunteers from the Columbus of Christ gave a modest home on 18th Street North a new lease on life Wednesday. 


For most of the young people present, it was a far cry from where they''d expected to be this hot July afternoon. But for a military coup, the teens would have been teaching Vacation Bible School in Honduras. But when that Central American country''s President Manuel Zelaya was deposed by the military on June 28, ripples were felt all the way to Columbus. When political unrest closed airports and sparked travel advisories for American citizens, the mission trip was canceled. 


Fifteen-year-old Emily Evans, of Hamilton, admits she teared up at the news. This would have been her first trip to the distant land. For others, like Emily Chaffin and twin brothers Matthew and Logan Ferguson, it would have been their fourth. 


To make matters worse, this was the second sudden cancellation in two years for the church group. Last year''s excursion derailed when a plane crash at the destination forced closure of the airport. 


The side-lined travelers, however, agree the Plan B quickly orchestrated by Youth Pastor Paul Bennett and others in the congregation has been a rewarding experience. With help from knowledgeable sources in the church and community, the grounded group refocused on doing good right here at home. 




Hometown projects  


About 25 teen and adult volunteers spent last week priming and painting, replacing windows, rebuilding awnings and porches and working to install a wheelchair ramp in Northside neighborhoods. They also spread smiles at the Arrington Retirement Center in East Columbus. 


"We were able to select three houses that really needed attention, and with the money left over from what we had set aside to use for our teens to go to Honduras, were able to help people in our community," said Bennett. "The church was really on board with making this work." 


The hardest part? "It''s the heat, man," grinned Matthew, whose father, Billy Ferguson, is church pastor. "It''s hard work, but when you get done, it feels so good to help someone." 


The Frank P. Phillips YMCA offered shower facilities to the volunteers. About 200 gallons of donated powdered drink mix from Sqwincher and half-price lunches from McDonald''s were treats for the thirsty and hungry crews. The fast food restaurant also contributed coupons for free food for the youth to distribute in the neighborhoods. 




Friends in new places 


Volunteers, guided by church member Edna Cole, also visited Arrington residents each day, arriving with prizes and calling games of bingo, making ice cream sundaes and hosting "Let''s Make A Deal" and "The Price is Right."  


"It''s been a real eye-opener," said 18-year-old Chaffin, the daughter of Phyllis and Les Chaffin. The youth, she said, enjoyed budding relationships with their newest senior acquaintances.  


Pastor Ferguson stated, "We''re really happy to be working in our community; everybody''s been so friendly to us. It''s just a great place to be." 


Undeterred, the group with a heart for outreach plans to return to Honduras next summer. 


Taking a break from priming on 18th Street North, volunteer Calvin McNabb summed up the inspiration that drives this group to want to help people both at home and afar:  


"It''s all about Jesus," he said with a broad grin. "It''s all about Jesus."  


Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.