Smiling Again in Honduras
In May 2020, 24,900 pairs of shoes arrived in Honduras. But, because of COVID-19, government offices were closed and no legal papers could be issued.
This meant the shoes were stuck at the port with no way out.
Months of back and forth went by as the Samaritan’s Feet’s Honduras partner, Maria Melgarejo, Founder of GLOW International, worked and prayed tirelessly for a solution. Melgarejo and her team spent the whole summer making calls and sending emails to get access to the shoes. It seemed like there was no end in sight.
A Honduran attorney was able to get access to the legal papers for the container, only to learn that there were several additional fees since the shoes had been sitting in the port for so long. However, within a few days, many of those fees were reduced and some were totally forgiven. And with additional support from Samaritan’s Feet, MX Logisitics, and other donors, the fees were covered.
“This was a miracle,” said Melgareho.
Finally, on October 9, Melgarejo got the 24,900 pairs of shoes. They were released from the port and taken to Hotel Colonial in Tegucigalpa, where they would be organized and ready to distribute.
Just weeks later, in November 2020, hurricanes Eta and Iota hit Honduras within 12 days of one another, devastating the country.
Melgarejo and her team received the shoes just a few short weeks before the hurricanes hit. Maybe the waiting and timing wasn’t so bad after all.
“With Hurricane Eta and Hurricane Iota, the shoes will bless so many who have lost everything. God sent them just in time,” said Melgarejo.
Hurricane Eta was a Category 4 and hit Honduras on November 4. It brought heavy rains which caused flooding and mudslides. Then, with no real time to recover, Hurricane Iota, a Category 5, hit on November 16. This brought more rain and powerful winds causing damage to homes and businesses. It is estimated that these hurricanes caused over $10 billion in damages to Honduras.
“Honduras was already of land of great poverty. The people were facing COVID-19 and a dengue fever event before the hurricanes,” said Melgarejo. “When Eta and Iota hit, they brought unimaginable destruction. Homes, roads, infrastructure, and loss of life were so great, it was difficult to communicate just how devastated the country was. Many mountain communities lost homes, water supply, roads to their homes. One community disappeared in the night—it just washed down the mountain.”
Melgarejo and her team began planning the best way to support Honduras with the shoes, along with other much-needed emergency items. Hondurans were in desperate need of simple, essential items.
Desiring to be good stewards, Melgarejo used her network of partners and pastors throughout Honduras to locate and define those communities who were in need, so that shoes could be distributed effectively.
“Those areas most affected by the hurricanes have received the greatest number of shoes. Shoes have been distributed from San Pedro Sula to Taulabe to Tegucigalpa and the mountain regions in between these cities. Shoes were even distributed in La Mosquitia, a place only accessible by airplane or boat. We are providing basic needs to the people in the mountain communities,” Melgarejo said.
Melgarejo and her team began distributing the shoes from the Samaritan’s Feet container in November 2020, just after the hurricanes hit. Since that time, they have given out over 15,000 pairs of shoes across the country. Volunteers and mission teams have helped get these shoes to hard-to-reach places—they carried bags of shoes across narrow bridges into remote communities, filled trucks that went into the mountain villages, and walked up steep rocky hills to isolated homes.
Melgarejo recalls a moment that stood out to her saying, “A doctor serving on a mission team spoke of the sadness he experienced seeing the condition of the children’s feet as they entered the church [where shoes were being distributed]. Some had no shoes. Some had shoes that were only worthy of a trash can. As each one received their shoes, joy began to return to their faces. They knew the shoes were a gift from not just the team, but a gift from God. In ministry, the great blessing is seeing lives changed by the gifts God provides. Needs are met. Lives are changed. Our God receives thanks and glory.”
Honduras has faced so much tragedy the last year. Not only from the COVID-19 pandemic, but from two hurricanes that caused unimaginable destruction. Samaritan’s Feet is so thankful for the ongoing work of Melgarejo and GLOW International in Honduras and honored to be a small part of that ministry through the gift of shoes.
“To a child or an adult who doesn’t have shoes, it is a gift of love and hope. There has been so much mud and filth from the storms, just getting their feet out of the mud, warm and dry brings hope. It tells them someone cares,” said Melgarejo. “The smiles on the faces tell the whole story.”
Melgarejo adds, “There have been few smiles these days. So, seeing a smile is a big deal.”
Check out the map of Honduras below to see everywhere the team distributed shoes after the hurricanes!
If you’re interested in serving in Honduras with Samaritan’s Feet, consider joining us on our mission trip there in November. Ready to help us create more stories of hope and inspiration just like this?