By Billy Davis
A youth group from Batesville’s First United Methodist Church landed at Memphis International Airport Wednesday night, concluding a goodwill trip to Honduras that proved memorable.
The Panolian reported Tuesday that the 22 Panola Countians found themselves in the Central American country when the military, acting on orders from the Supreme Court, forced the Honduran president to step down.
The Methodist group left June 24 with plans to help villagers in a rural region of the country.
And that plan succeeded, said youth minister Stephen “Lud” Ludlum.
“I don’t want the coup to overshadow what we did there, which was to work for God to bless the people of Honduras,” said Ludlum, who is the son of First UMC pastor Pat Ludlum.
Amidst the government turmoil, the local group, working in a mission compound located in a remote mountain village, passed out shoes and clothes, and rice and dried beans, which had been collected for the Hondurans. The mission group also helped construct a soccer field.
The youth minister said the mission workers, after learning about the coup on Sunday, carried out their work without seeing signs of government instability. By Tuesday, when word had spread about roadblocks, some began wondering if they would make their Wednesday morning flight for home.
“When we heard about the roadblocks, we realized the seriousness of what was going on. People were getting nervous,” Ludlum recalled.
He credited missionary Porter Briggs for ensuring the group could leave on time.
Briggs wisely found new lodging for the group Tuesday night, which moved the mission workers closer to the airport in the city of San Padro Sula. That decision proved pivotal when a roadblock, manned by police and military, held up traffic leading to the city Wednesday morning.
Ludlum said the roadblock was set to close down at 9 a.m. – too late for the flight home.
“But at 8 o’clock, right on the dot, they opened up the road,” he recalled.
Both father and son, in separate interviews, chuckled when asked about a News Channel 3 story that described the group’s plight in Honduras.
“It was a little embellished,” said the pastor. “But it was a stressful time.”
Pat Ludlum said the church group arrived at Memphis International Airport at 8:30. The group was pulling into the church parking lot by 10 o’clock.
A second local group, led by Batesville dentist Andy Garrott, had planned to leave this weekend for a medical and dental mission trip to the region meant to coincide with the returning group. That trip has been postponed. Garrott is the founder of New Vision Ministry which operates an orphanage and mission program where the youth group stayed.
Members of the returning group, along with Stephen Ludlam, are: Darrington Ludlam, 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.