Nestled between Mexico and Colombia, Central America is well known for its lush topography, natural resources (coffee, fruit, and sugar cane), and famous historical sites, such as the Mayan ruins and León Cathedral.
Tearfund is currently operating in three Central American countries ⏤ Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala. As developing nations, these countries face economic and social challenges that threaten their ability to thrive; among them are poverty, inequality, natural disasters, and violent conflict. And now, a global pandemic.
Since 2000, Alexis Pacheco, Tearfund’s Country Representative for Central America, has been working to support local churches in Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala, helping them to change their way of thinking and demonstrate change by promoting justice and acts of solidarity. Often, pastors and leaders start with their own churches, many of which are in very poor communities.
Alexis accompanies pastors and leaders in three of the cities with the highest rates of violence in Central America: San Pedro Sula, Guatemala City and Tegucigalpa.
Previously, when pastors and leaders would visit, they placed a high emphasis on the salvation of souls; however, in neighborhoods overrun with poverty and violence, pastors realized they needed both biblical and practical training to be effective.
Tearfund helps them in this process. “It is important that they do not feel isolated as leaders; we have helped them to share experiences, learnings, and ideas,” says Alexis. ”It helps to know how to face these situations and how to bring the whole gospel to these new contexts.”
Alexis’ faith is what motivates him in this work. “I do what I do because I believe it is part of my mission, the mission of God. Thank God I am able to count on the support of my own local church, which set a good example to me in my youth.”
For those starting out in this work, Alexis tells them:
“You need a commitment that goes beyond favorable situations. It needs to manifest itself in the service of solidarity with those in need, knowing that our God is a friendly God who enjoys justice and hope. Our work is part of our ministry. If it were not so, frustrations and obstacles would easily make us lose hope.”
Tearfund is working to address the challenges that these vulnerable communities face and help find solutions. Alexis and the teams of pastors he works with are committed to giving more attention and time to the care of creation and advocacy for peace. These two areas are key to growing the development and welfare processes in Central America.
“Although Central America is not a region that significantly contributes to the causes of climate change, it is one of the areas in the world most affected by its droughts and floods. We have a great opportunity to involve young people and the church to change the current culture and foster green and alternative energy sources to reduce the negative effects of climate change,” says Alexis.
A new way forward is possible. Things like improved training and practices for disaster risk reduction and the renovation of a healthy ecological environment for communities will enable the people to access enough water and food.
”It is only when we see the hand of God that we can continue to have hope.”
The challenges that Central Americans face are vast. Inequality has hit people particularly hard during COVID19, both those living still in Central America and here in the US. You can give hope to those who need it most.