Empowering Youth, Preparing Leaders, Impacting Central America for God's Purpose
In 2002, Donna Beverly made her first mission trip to Honduras, chaperoning a team of young people who joined with Mission Caribe in Tegucigalpa. In 2003, she returned to work with Mission Caribe, leading another team. Along the way, as a practicing attorney, Donna became involved with providing legal representation to missionaries and nonprofit organizations in Central America. In 2003, she felt God leading her to form a more permanent connection with the mission outreach in Honduras. Specifically, she met with a young man who introduced her to his home village of Reynel Funez.
Reynel Funez is a colonia that is in the mountain region of Honduras approximately a forty-five minute drive from the capital city of Tegucigalpa. Reynel Funez had little or no interfacing with American mission efforts and had a history of violence, drug activity, and extreme poverty. It was in that village that has a population of approximately 8,000 people where the dream for International Mission Connection first took root. As she stood on the rocky hillside, looking out over the valley and the tiny houses that dotted the rugged terrain, Donna felt then that the people of this community needed hope and encouragement and she promised to return. And again and again over a period of the next fifteen years, Donna returned.
At first, she came alongside the local villagers, helping them organize a home church. They named the church Agua de Vida. As the church participation grew, she saw the need for building a church structure and she bought a vacant lot in Reynel Funez. With the help of men, women, and youth, they all used their own energy and effort to literally dig out the side of the steep hill to create a space to lay the foundation of the building. They mixed concrete on the dirt street and lugged blocks and materials without having the benefit of sophisticated equipment, bulldozers, or cement mixers. The people lifted and dug out huge stones in order to make the space for the church.
When the foundation was laid, the young people themselves worked diligently to build the walls, and give the one room “church” its finishing touches. The church grew and this beginning phase served as a sanctuary on Sundays, a place for children to gather on Saturdays, and a spot where ministries and youth activities began to flourish.The early group of young people included not only members of Agua de Vida but also reached out to other kids in the village and to young people who were affiliated with other churches but who believed in the vision of Agua de Vida and International Mission Connection and who wanted to be a part of this youth-driven ministry. Together, they saw the need for a second floor addition to this church building to make more space for the children’s activities. So, everyone pitched in again to tile, wall, and paint a second story which then housed a children’s area, a bathroom, and two additional rooms.
During the years, the second floor was modified to make a kitchen, a church office, and a bunk room for mission visitors. Today the largest room on the second floor is an all-purpose room furnished with a sofa and seating as well as a table so that groups can meet there, have a meal together, or have space to work on a project or craft together. Meanwhile, the third floor “roof” of the building was open and without walls and the young people used the flat roof for bonfires and youth activities as they looked out over the mountains. Eventually, the third floor “roof” area was turned into an enclosed sanctuary with a platform. This sanctuary can hold as many as 500 people and also serves as a large space for conferences, children’s activities, and youth events.
As the church building itself expanded, the first floor, initially used as the first “sanctuary” became the children’s area on Sundays, and another bunk room for visitors and two bathrooms and a laundry area were added.During these first few years, as the church grew, its outreach into areas of evangelism also grew. Agua de Vida planned visits to prisons, to the local school, staged concerts in government parks, joined with other youth to plan music events, and initiated yearly camps and retreats for men, women, and youth. Agua de Vida maintained a strong emphasis on street evangelism and discipleship training.Because the building itself is the largest facility in the colony, the space is used for community ministerial activities and an association of approximately 14 local Honduran pastors was formed.
To address the crime issue in Reynel Funez, a group of young people called “The Squadron” took the initiative to patrol the streets and to raise awareness about drug gangs and dealt with the issue of ongoing violence and criminal activity in the area. The Squadron welcomed young people from various areas of the village, but the majority of the Squadron members came from Agua de Vida. To date, there has been a significant reduction in the murder rate within this colony.
Agua de Vida has continued to emphasize connection with other pastors and ministries. Through Iglesia Agua de Vida, IMC has established numerous home churches that meet every week and are led by the young people. In keeping with IMC's commitment to empower the culture from within, Agua de Vida continues to be Honduran-run and youth-led.
Through the years, the outreach of IMC has moved beyond one village and one church. IMC now reaches out and connects with various churches and communities within Honduras, Central America, and the Caribbean as well as Latino communities within the United States. Its purpose and vision remain the same…to empower, prepare, and impact young people and communities to become more, to strive for excellence, and to take charge of their own culture in a dynamic and transforming way.