By Rita Howell
The news Sunday morning of a political coup in Honduras might not have caused much of a stir in Mississippi, except for the fact that 22 Panola Countians are there right now on a mission trip.
A youth delegation from Batesville’s First United Methodist Church had worked for six months raising money and collecting donated shoes and clothing to distribute to the people of Yamaranguila, a village in an impoverished mountain region of the Central American country. They left June 24 and are scheduled to return tomorrow.
“We feel pretty secure about them,” Pat Ludlam, pastor of the church, said Monday. “They’re not anywhere close to Tegucigalpa.”
Tegucigalpa is the capital city where the president, Manuel Zelaya, was removed from his residence at gunpoint early Sunday morning and exiled to Costa Rica.
“It’s quiet at the village where they are,” said Tom Womble, whose wife Rosemary and children Thomas and Mary Ruth are among the members of the mission team.
“We probably know more about what’s going on than they do,” Womble said. He has spoken with his family members, who have cellphones with them.
The team is staying on the campus of New Vision Ministry, where an orphanage, medical and dental clinic, and Christian radio station have been built. The ministry was founded by Batesville dentist Andy Garrott, who has been leading mission teams to that area for 26 years. He and 16 volunteers are scheduled to leave on Friday for their annual medical and dental mission.
“We are relying on the Hondurans to make the decision about whether we should go or stay,” Dr. Garrott said Monday. He works closely with a network of Honduran doctors, ministers and others who help with New Vision’s operation. He said one option is to delay the trip until the fall.
This week, in addition to disbursing 600 pairs of donated shoes and hundreds of garments, the Batesville youth group has been distributing bags of rice and dried beans. They’ve also been building a soccer field at the New Vision complex.
“They’re tired, but they’re having a good time,” Ludlam said. His son Stephen and daughter-in-law Darrington are among those on the trip.
Other team members are: Kyle Yates, Thomas Womble, Mary Ruth Womble, Rosemary Womble, Mary Katherine Baglan, Anna Katherine Baglan, John Wesley Willis, Danielle Willis, Jenny Flint, Caroline Flint, Kole Oakes, Emily Smith, Ryna Smith, Deana Pittman, Carrie McCain, McKenzie West, Marlee Goforth, Grant Goforth, Malcolm Morehead and Josh Garrott.
One advantage to the group may be that they are flying out of San Padro Sula, the country’s second largest city, rather than having to venture into Tegucigalpa for their return flight.
“We feel like they’re fine,” Ludlam said. “But we’ll feel better when they’re back.”