They say someone is murdered every 88 minutes in Honduras. Well today I witnessed the statistic come to life as I saw a bloody victim about 88 minutes after arriving in the country.
Our communications team flew into San Pedro Sula this afternoon–the second largest city in Honduras, and the second most violent city in the Western Hemisphere. As we took the two-hour journey to Santa Barbara, I talked to Country Director Brad Phillips about some of his experiences. In the 17 years he has lived here, Brad has been robbed 7 times.
“You can ask anyone in this area, and they would tell you they have been held at gun or knife point multiple times,” he told me. “Soccer or murder is always on the front page of every newspaper.”
I stared out the window of our car, looking up at the emerald mountains and hazy skies as we drove through the valley towards the hills. But I broke out of my trance quickly as our car slowed and we approached a large gathering of people in the streets.
My scenery changed from beautiful to bloody in a matter of seconds. There was a truck stopped in the middle of the road ridden with bullets. As we passed it on the right, I continued to stare out my window.
A body was laying facedown underneath the truck. His head had been blown into pieces from the gunshots and the road was soaked with blood.
I could barely believe what I was seeing. I probably looked like everyone else on the streets, staring in horror like a child lost on the front lines of war.
But I couldn’t take any more of the spectacle in and turned my eyes away.
“It’s common to see a dead body on the side of the road as you are driving,” Brad said as we went by. “I guess we’re just jaded now from seeing it all the time.”
The rest of our trip was coated with conversation to distract our minds and hearts from the bloodshed and the fear.
Later, we found out that the driver got caught in a drug war. More than 100 bullets flew as he tried to escape the attack. We had been traveling on a road that is commonly used to traffic drugs into Mexico from Guatemala.
I thought to myself, ”I’m definitely not in the Boonies anymore. The last time I saw a dead body was at my grandmother’s funeral. I wonder what else we will come across in 88 minutes.”
The rest of the ride was more colorful for me as I observed different animals roaming along the side of the road–cows, donkeys, chickens. They all looked like puppies that had wandered from home. I asked Monica Napier, the program development officer, about it, and apparently the animals either escape from their fields or young shepherd boys get distracted and lose track of their livestock.
A black cow welcomed us at the entrance of our hotel as we drove through the gate. We were there to learn more about Samaritan’s Purse’s animal and agriculture projects, and it seemed to me like we would not have any trouble finding any. Animals were everywhere in Honduras.
After our team settled in, I decided to go with some of the staff into town. Cristina, animal and agriculture program coordinator, had to pick up a few things. I waited in the car with Marcos (another member of the Honduras office staff) and Monica. I looked to my right and saw two young girls playing in the streets near a small cart of candy. Both of them looked as if they had been playing in the mud all day. Once they discovered I was trying to take pictures of their games, they ran up to our car and stuck their heads in the windows.
“photo! photo!” they screamed. A young boy also ran up to us. But he wasn’t camera-shy like the girls. Monica began to talk to them and found out their father is in prison and their mother was doing laundry at the house.
We bought some candy from them–lollipops and gum. Just as we said goodbye they all gave us peace signs. “Why would they wave peace signs at us?” I thought. Maybe this was a way of crying for peace in a place where you can’t walk the streets without getting robbed.
In Honduras, children typically do not get past the 6th grade, or have fathers stay with them in the home. Many of their dads leave to try to find jobs in San Pedro Sula. The kids either drop out themselves or are sent to work to provide for their families. Samaritan’s Purse is aiming to keep these families together by helping the fathers find work in the rural areas they live in. Instead of going to work in factories, they can get help from us and farm the land.
I’m excited to see our work in action. Tomorrow we are going to visit some of our beekeeping projects. Matt Powell, our photographer, seemed to be very excited about getting into the protective gear so he could get some shots of the bees up close and personal. Producer Joe Benson, Audio/Sound Technician Peter Messengale, and I will be doing some interviews in a few villages while Matt and Videographer Ryan Smith get some various footage of our location.
I’m starting to understand why the people of Honduras have struggled for so long to build and develop their nation. There is so much fear here, but I am so glad Samaritan’s Purse is giving people hope so that they don’t have to worry about their future every 88 minutes.