In October 2021, a devastating fire consumed one-third of Bonacca cay off the island of Guanaja, Honduras. Among the more than 200 homes and businesses damaged or destroyed by the fire was the Adventist school, Instituto Adventista Guanaja, which sustained damage to its third floor. The need to rebuild what was damaged was immediate; however, since then, slow progress has been made due to few available workers and limited resources.
This summer, a group of 10 missionaries from the Southern California Conference (SCC) arrived in Bonacca to provide relief to this community through reconstruction of the school, hosting a Vacation Bible School (VBS) program, and distributing reading glasses and sunglasses.
Bonacca is a densely populated cay located off the coast of Guanaja, the second largest of the three Bay Islands off the northern coast of Honduras. To get to the cay, you must fly into Roatán, then fly into Guanaja, and then take a small boat to Bonacca. The cay is home to about 5,000 people.
A small group of SCC youth leaders visited Bonacca in 2022 to see the damage firsthand. While there, the local pastor, school principal, and church leaders shared about the difficulty rebuilding and the school’s importance to Bonacca.
Emmanuel Olguín, associate pastor of Central Spanish church, was a part of that first trip and this year’s mission. “When I went for the pre-trip, I realized how much of a need there was,” Olguín said. “They told us, ‘We wish we could hire people, but there’s no one to hire.’ So they rely on groups who come in and work for a few weeks at a time until the next group comes in.”
Each day, the team, led by Jaime Heras, SCC Hispanic Region director, worked on construction in the morning and ran the Stellar VBS program in the evening. On the first night, 75 kids arrived for VBS, most of whom attended the local public school. As the week went on, more kids joined.
One evening, Heras shared the story of Jesus riding on a donkey into Jerusalem. Heras asked the kids what they would shout if Jesus did this today. As the kids took his question literally by shouting their replies, one pulled Heras aside to whisper, “If Jesus was here today, I would scream and say, ‘Jesus, I love you with all my heart.’” “I thought in that moment,” Heras recalled, “this mission trip was worth it, just because of that one kid.”
The turnout of kids at VBS each night showed the SCC missionaries how crucial the completion of this school is to the Guanaja community. SCC donated $50,000 to purchase land for expansion, but there is still much work to be done. “This work is ongoing,” Heras said. “There’s still a long way to go.” If you would like to get involved, reach out to Principal Rigoberto Dawkins, firstname.lastname@example.org.