The Honduras Side of Ministry
Over thirty years ago Seguin area veterinarian Bill Campaigne and others were invited by the Episcopal Bishop of Honduras to visit to see how they could help the people in Honduras. He responded by deciding to go to do veterinary work. Lynn Campaigne choose to do public health work, some did construction, and others went offering their gifts and talents. They went to Siguatepeque, Honduras, to investigate the problems. What they found changed their lives.
People in Hondurans depend on their animals for livelihood, and Bill saw lots of problems. His initial effort focused on eliminating rabies in the area. The effort continued with preventative vaccinations and parasite control. Eventually, he took teams of veterinarians and laypeople from around the world on annual trips to vaccinate animals. Thirty years later, thousands of volunteers have participated in vaccinating tens of thousands of animals. The program grew to include teaching programs. Volunteers on the public health teams eventually worked in the schools.
A program like this doesn’t just involve Americans showing up once each year; people from other countries participate as volunteers, and a large group of Honduran people and organizations grew to support the effort.
In the early years, support from the Episcopal Church of Honduras was essential. Oscar Ochoa Mendoza rose as an Honduran partner in ministry. He facilitates the paperwork needed by the government and coordinates housing, meals, transportation, and much more. In years that followed, Oscar brought in the coffee and vegetable co-op, Cafe CorHorSil, to provide logistical support – transportation, storage, and security. Josefina Gross Echeverria was and is a major force in this ministry. She provided important early support of the public health teams and helped direct the work in building a model school at Santa Rosita. Dr. Oscar Gross is the in-country physician who provides necessary medical support, coordination with the government, developing relationships with local people, and was an integral part of building a new, state of the art birthing center for the poorest of the poor. The local military and city officials have helped with shipments, logistical support and hosted fiestas for the team and recognized their contributions. The local school system is a partner in all the public health work that has grown to include vision clinics and another mission, The Owen Project. The local government and businesses go out of their way to support the teams. There are hundreds of ordinary mountain people who participate with hands on work and joyful generosity of heart.
This mission may come from the United States, but it arrives in Honduras to the welcoming arms of people and organizations who have paved the way for the volunteers to go to work.
Major Partners in Honduras:
- Ign. Oscar Ochoa Mendoza
- Dr. Oscar Gross
- Josefina Gross Echeverria
- Cafe CoHorSil
- Honduran Military
- The Women’s Hospital-Birthing Center
- Local Episcopal churches
Focus: Oscar Ochoa Mendoza
Oscar Ochoa Mendoza was born in abject poverty in the remote mountains of Honduras. When he was a child, missionaries visited his village. They gave him a toothbrush and a comb. They were the first presents he had ever received.
Oscar went on to Aberdeen University, Scotland and Oxford, England. He has had many opportunities to live in many places in the world. He has chosen to make his home in his native Honduras in order to give back to the people. Oscar has a thriving, international tree seed business. His three adult children live in Florida. This devout Christian has dedicated all of his spare time to improving the community of Siguatepeque and helping Hondurans. He has a vision for the future. One of his proposals has turned into a bill that is presently before the Honduras Congress. The plan is to involve schools, universities, churches, and the community in planting one million trees over the next twenty-eight years to restore the forests around Siguatepeque. He has been the primary force that has led to clean up drives, trash pickup service, economic renewal, revitalization, and countless other programs. He is, also, doing much of the same for his small home town.
When Oscar met Bill Campaigne he found a passionate partner who shared his vision. What they soon realized was that it was God’s vision. These partners led others to partnership. Oscar convinced the coffee co-op in Siguatepeque to send its drivers and trucks out into surrounding mountains loaded with veterinarians, veterinary students, workers, translators, vaccines, dewormer, and equipment in order to perform preventative medicine on the animal population. For an agricultural community, that service is life changing. In the mountains, animals are vital to the survival of the people because they provide income, transportation, food, tilling of the soil, and much more. Of course, healthy animals mean a healthier human population. Thousands of animals are treated each year. There is an important educational component to this mission. Now that the people have realized the far reaching benefits of healthy animals, there is the hope that they will reach an economic level where they can support a local veterinarian.
Oscar and Bill could have been the inspiration for George W. Douglas’ quotation, ““What made us friends in the long ago when first we met? Well I think I know; the best in me and the best in you hailed each other because they knew that always and always since life began, our being friends was a part of God’s plan.” Witnessing God at work has been a joy for these friends and trusted partners. With vital help from the Diocese of West Texas, the latest fulfillment of God’s plan was the completion of the new, modern, fully equipped birthing center. The Hondurans named the clinic in honor of the St. Andrew’s mission. Oscar has brought the Secretary of Health of Honduras, state and regional health leaders to the St. Andrew’s Veterinary-Public Health birthing center in the hopes that this state of the art facility might inspire others to establish similar clinics throughout the country.
When the Public Health Teams wanted to make presentations in the schools and provide each student with a toothbrush, soap, comb, pen, pencil and notebook, they found a sympathetic advocate. Oscar persuaded local school administrators to work closely with the Public Health Teams to minister to the children of the poorest of the poor. Administrators have revealed the dire needs of the children and have worked with team members to meet those needs. A few years ago, mission members began sending and taking used computers and laptops down to Honduras. Oscar immediately placed the first one in the town’s public library. The school district has used others in the urban schools. Although the rural areas are most in need since children do not even have textbooks, those areas do not have the necessary reliable electrical power. So now, Oscar, Bill, the Public Health Team, and local school administrators are participating in another one of God’s projects. The goal of The Owen Project (named in honor of Owen Keddal) is to place an “XO” computer in the hands of each child in the school district. The XO’s were developed by an MIT professor specifically for poor children of the third world. They are rugged, solar or wind-up powered computers loaded with educational software with access to 1.5 million books. Sally and Mark Keddal have begun negotiations with the One Laptop per Child organization. Bill is a driving impetus in the United States, and as usual, Oscar is vital to the project on the ground in Honduras and is hoping that the mountain schools surrounding Siguatepeque will be the first in a national effort.
God plans are wonderful and mysterious, and He uses us in ways that we might never know. Let us be inspired by Oscar to love God with all our “hearts, souls and minds and to love others” as ourselves, and we will find the exquisite joy of being part of God’s vision.
Oscar Ochoa Mendoza is a highly successful entrepreneur, respected leader in the community and a strong partner in God’s work. He still has the comb and toothbrush of his youth, gifts from God’s missionaries. He has been the lynch-pin for our support during the Covid-19 pandemic and has helped supply hundreds of families with food donated by LoveHonduras, St. John’s Episcopal New Braunfels and the Episcopal Dioceses of West Texas.