On May 29, 2014, I flew to Honduras, one of the most dangerous places to live according to statistics. It was not my first visit. I had been there in January 2014, to serve for the H.O.P.E. Worldwide Brigade with my son who is graduating from high school this year. I wanted to spend time with him serving in a needy place and the brigade had an opening for San Pedro Sula. While with the brigade, I learned so much and my heart was moved in ways I was not expecting.
In the evenings, we sat and talked with each other. One of the evenings I had the privilege of spending time with Dulce Cruz (women ministry leader of SPS). I was very moved by her love for the women of the church and the community. I don’t know why, but I began to share with her my walk with God, the way He has worked and the things I’ve learned along the way. After I was done speaking, she mentioned that it will be so great if they could have mature Christians come who’ve had certain resources to help them grow, but the truth is their financial resources are limited and really can’t afford to host disciples to come speak and teach the way they would like, also people are sometimes afraid to come since it’s so dangerous. Without hesitation I said, I would love to come. I am not an expert, but I would love to come and teach whatever God has taught me to the sisters in Honduras, to which she replied she would love to have me.
I am from Panama and moved to the US in 1989 after the invasion that took place in Panama for Manuel Antonio Noriega. I became a disciple May 26, 1995 in San Diego California with the amazing Steve and Sue Shoff and have been part of several ministries in the US due to my husband’s job in the Navy. I grew up with a lot of traumatic experiences that led me to years of therapy in order to find healing after forgiving others and myself.
After I returned from the brigade, I mentioned to my hubby that it would be awesome if we could go and do a marriage retreat; but he mentioned that it would be risky due to his job.
For some reason I could not get out of my mind the desire to help and needs of the church in Honduras. I felt insecure to even consider going by myself because I didn’t think I could help that much. One night while laying in bed with my husband, I asked how would he feel he I went to Honduras to teach a class on self esteem to the women, he replied, “it will be scary but if God put it on your heart, you should go because we can’t live by fear.” So after praying about it and making the decision to go, I asked my husband for a plane ticket to Honduras for Mothers Day.
It is incredible what God did there and the things I learned. In John 6, God multiplied a boy’s five small barley loafs and two fish to feed five thousand. I am like that boy; God took what I had to give to the church, which was nineteen years of faithfully serving Him through the ups and downs (which isn’t much compared to disciples who’ve been faithful for 50 years or more) and multiplied it to spiritually feed over three hundred women.
While in Honduras, I was greeted by sisters who were eager to learn from me and grateful for my time there. I facilitated various discipleship groups for single women, married women. Also to women married to unbelievers, college and teen young ladies, and mother/daughters groups. Every time I met with a group I asked each sister to share their conversation story. I was able to listen to 43 conversation stories that strengthened my faith.
One woman had been kidnapped, but when the kidnappers saw her Bible they left her alone.
A teen became a Christian after seeing a radical change in her mother. Her mother use to be mean and even abusive at times, but then she turned to God and her daughter, instead of seeing a woman of rage, began to see a woman of faith. She was moved by times when she will wake up in the morning to go see her mom and she will find her on her knees praying.
One sister had a good marriage, but one day someone she knew left her a child with a note asking for care for the child. This child’s mother then took her own life. When the sister became a disciple, things were going well at home with her husband, adoptive daughter and her two children ages 3 and 1. But one day everything change, during the storm of 2005, her two biological children died and she was left with her adoptive daughter and her husband. Sadly, her husband soon left her and now it’s just her and her daughter. Through all of this, she is still a faithful sister who others share of their amazement at the fact that she never complains when is time to serve, especially in kid’s kingdom.
I was blessed to preach during their women’s midweek service and Sunday service.
The Sunday lesson, on June 1, 2014, was something I had never done in my life; I spoke to 300 women, sisters in Christ and their friends. I was so nervous prior to stepping on stage, but once I went up to speak, all fear was lifted. I was convinced that God had a message he wanted me to share with the sisters in San Pedro Sula and a message He wanted to remind me off.
I still can’t believe that I spoke to 300 women…actually, let me rephrase that…God used every bad experience, every challenge in my life that I’ve overcome; every fear I’d tackled to inspire 300 women. He spoke through me; I was honored to be a vessel for God on that day.
I can honestly say that as I stepped on the stage, God moved me and said, “Olivia you don’t get to speak. I do, for I have a message that I want the women of San Pedro Sula to hear” and that is exactly what happened. I wasn’t afraid, I wasn’t shaking, because I wasn’t speaking, it was God. God spoke. He used my mouth, my body, my hands, my heart to deliver a message that with Him all things are possible (Luke 18:27).
Although I was only there for four days and got very little sleep, it was a mountain top spiritual experience. I learned so much and I realized that I have become very ungrateful spiritually. The sisters in Honduras welcomed me with such open arms, not just one, all of them!
Every sister I met with wanted to grow, they poured their sin and any disorder in their lives openly for spiritual guidance.
The teenagers were respectful and wanted to have deep conversations to grow spiritually.
I learned that I often take for granted the resources God provides me here in the US. I remember recently, Randy, my church leader, announcing that someone from Dubai was coming to speak and honestly I didn’t give it a second thought. I am ashamed to say it, but it’s the truth.
I have sisters with so much wisdom near me and I can hesitate to call them when I need spiritual guidance.
I have become complacent when it comes to my sin. The woman there were bothered by the sin in their lives and felt stuck, they just needed (and desired) some direction. The problem is sometimes I am not even bothered by the sin in my life; and then I wonder why is God not helping me to grow.
Other things that made this trip special were the willingness of sisters in Northern Virginia to help. Ten sisters donated journals with their favorite scripture and how it has help them in their Christian walk that I used as ice breakers. Also my dear sister and close friend Jannett Long helped translate seven devotionals I had written to Spanish so I could give them to the sisters there.
After working on all the junk in my life (and still working on them) I always hoped that I could inspire other women. My dream is to be a motivational speaker. I started praying for that dream since 2009. I had no idea that God would answer that prayer in Honduras. Although considered to be one of the most dangerous places in the world, it has faithful disciples longing for spiritual growth and fellowship.
Today more than ever I believe Isaiah 55:8; “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.”
I am humbled and honored to have had such a privilege and I am so grateful to have a man of God in my life that supports my spiritual dreams, even if they are a bit crazy at times!
To God be the Glory!!!
This story is publish on Disciples today: