A world of good: Part 4 - seeking God and truth
“Holy moments” is how Gus Villanueva describes instances where God makes His presence known. He and his wife, Cecilia, are council members for Educate the Children – Honduras, and each time he travels to Honduras to visit the three schools affiliated with the diocese, he experiences several holy moments.
Public education in Honduran villages ends at sixth grade, and in 2005 ETC-H opened two schools in remote areas to provide education from seventh through 11th grade. On one of his early visits to Honduras, Gus noticed several young children not attending elementary school and inquired why.
He learned their parents couldn’t afford the mandatory uniform for the public school, so he immediately equipped 17 kids with uniforms, shoes, and backpacks. Since then, ETC-H steps in to furnish essentials for younger students without means to buy them.
Which brings us to one of those holy moments. On a subsequent trip to Honduras, a grandmother stopped Gus and thanked him. “You spared me,” she said. “I could only afford to send one of my four grandkids to school, and I was praying about which one to send. I don’t have to worry about that now.”
In 16 years, Gus estimates that almost 1,000 students in the villages have graduated from 11th grade. The opportunity for education has transformed the children, he said. “You see the spirit of the young adolescent coming through. We see their hopes, their wishes, their desires for their future.”
Gus, who has made about 20 trips to Honduras, begins his day praying, “Lord, open my eyes to what you want me to see and do.” By surrendering to the Lord, he says, the Holy Spirit has guided ETC-H to open a third school, sponsor college scholarships, and build a house for an especially destitute family.
Cecilia, who is preparing for her fourth trip to Honduras, explained how the couple became involved. About 10 years ago, they agreed, with much persuasion, to be translators for a medical mission to Honduras. She said, “It was a big eye opener for the two of us. To be in the thick of it, to speak to the people and look into their eyes and hear them talk — there is no way to describe how God touches your heart.”
Since then, the St. Stephen parishioners have helped sustained the project begun by a group of faithful from the Diocese of Fort Worth who visited Honduras after the devastation of Hurricane Mitch in 1999. They estimate about 90% of the current financial support of ETC-H comes from individuals within the diocese.
Cecilia understands that not everyone can do mission work in Honduras, but she insists everyone can find their mission, even if it’s the lonely senior citizen three blocks away.
“Look around and see where you can do mission,” she said. “Because that’s what it’s all about….If you just change one person for the good, you will actually change many people for the good.”