Stories From the Field
Despite his father’s dream of Ronnie becoming a famous soccer player nicknamed 4R’s, Ronnie Rahamel Rivera Rapallo is twenty-two years old and works at Camp Extreme International in Santa Elan, Honduras. Ronnie describes life growing up as “not having much but having what we needed.” Despite possessing a deep respect for God, Ronnie was not raised in the Christian faith. His first encounter with Jesus came at age eleven when he passed a church and saw young people meeting in side. While he began to attend and was eventually baptized, Ronnie soon wandered back to a life of partying with friends.
Several years later, Ronnie became very ill. While in recovery after a serious operation, Ronnie raised his hands in desperate prayer. “If you let me live God, I will live for you.” God answered that desperate prayer and Ronnie soon returned to church, convinced God indeed had a plan for his life. Pastor Henry gave a presentation to students about Camp Extreme International. Immediately, Ronnie knew he wanted to attend. A week later, he was a camper.
Life after camp was difficult. He felt a strong passion for serving God but was forced to work in his father’s bar. During a police raid, Ronnie was arrested for being underage and serving alcohol. The arrest landed Ronnie in jail. He was angry about his circumstances; angry about his life’s direction and angry with God-- until his father showed up to bail him out of jail. His father said Ronnie could not come back to the bar for fear of the police raiding again. Ronnie knew God had this. He knew God had healed him during his illness. He knew God had delivered him from his father’s bar. He knew God had changed his life by grace and by grace Ronnie would help impact other’s for Christ. Psalm 32:8 has become his life verse. “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.”
Ronnie came to work at Camp Extreme International in 2014 when his youth leader, Marvin Paz, was employed by Heart to Honduras as the camp director. Ronnie loves his role at CEI. He is passionate about pointing people to God’s Word and helping them to see themselves as God sees them. He has witnessed many life changes while taking campers through the obstacle course, reminding young students of their spiritual significance. While Ronnie is studying to become an electrician, no one would be surprised if he also became a bi-vocational pastor. He has a tender heart for God’s people and God’s word. This humble and compassionate man is just one of the many servant-hearted team members who make the Heart toHonduras experience more special every day.
Indigenous Dreams Change Communities
When an idea originates from within the people it will serve, the impact is immeasurable. That is exactly what happened when the community of Caliche solicited HtH for help with their hog pens project. They knew that caring for hogs would provide income in their rural area and they were willing to put in the work to make it happen.
For the construction of the pens, Caliche community members supplied labor, stone and wood. They dug the septic holes by hand through the rocky soil and then made covers to enclose the waste. The North American sister church for Caliche, Upper Arlington Lutheran in Ohio, contributed cement, the first sack of feed, the initial medication kit, and money to purchase hogs. A Honduran beneficiary of a similar project started three years ago, sold Caliche the animals. Even the local government pitched in and provided the blocks and sand needed for the project.
The eight hog owners and one boar owner attended five 2-hour training sessions provided by Samaritan’s Purse, ensuring the owners knew how to care for the animals. Caliche townsman, Jose Jimenez, received two days of training in basic hog veterinary skills. He has already been successful in treating at least 4 of the animals. When medications are needed, the hog owners pay for it. This system allows for the veterinary medical kit to remain well stocked providing for future needs.
In Caliche, the average household income is $5-$6 a day. Now with the hogs and boar in their community, they can produce at least 12 piglets per sow. Within 30 days, each piglet is worth $50. Additionally, they integrated a “pay it forward” concept with the project. After every birth, each hog owner is expected to give the best of their litter to someone else in the community or surrounding area. As payment, the boar owner receives a piglet per birth from the families as well.
Primarily women take care of the animals and they take great pride in doing so. They keep the pens as well as the pigs clean and healthy assuring the Caliche community thrives in their new venture. Mattie J.T. Stepanek says, “Unity is strength… where there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.” In Caliche, wonderful things are happening and with the hog pens in place, we have the feeling they are just getting started!