A sign at the entrance to the city of Danlí, Honduras, offers an invitation to visit the Central United Methodist Church. The Rev Jose Roberto Peña, the church's pastor, said, "It is always a challenge to make The United Methodist Church known, so we do it not only through preaching, but also through ministries that assist the needs of the communities."
The Rev. José Roberto Peña stands by a glass display he designed for the Central United Methodist Church of Danlí's expansion building. The building has several rooms for Bible Sunday school classes and other ministries the church does for the community.
Through the Four Areas of Focus churches are creating new places for new people and revitalizing existing congregations.
The Central United Methodist Church of Danlí is considered the first organized church of the United Methodist mission in Honduras.
It began in 1997 as a mission initiative of Bishop Armando Rodriguez, who was the leader of the Methodist Church in Cuba. At that time, Rodriguez had retired from episcopal duties and became a missionary of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.
Currently, the church is evaluating opening a new congregation and studying options to select the most appropriate location. The Danlí church has a lot of experience in this area, as it has already started four other churches.
The Rev. Jose Roberto Peña Nazario, the current pastor of the church, said that The United Methodist Church of Excuapa was organized after Hurricane Mitch devastated several regions in Honduras in 1998.
The Excuapa congregation continued to grow and developed another congregation — Ríos de Agua Viva United Methodist, located in the town of Jagua.
"Subsequently, the Council of the Central UMC was analyzing other possible fields of mission in order to develop a new congregation with the support of Yamilette Moncada. She is a member of this church and currently pastor of the mission,” Peña said. “In this way, the UMC of Quisqualagua was founded."
He recalled that while traveling to Quisqualagua to serve the nascent church, he met people in the neighboring community of El Pescadero. They asked him to start Bible studies in that area.
El Pescadero United Methodist Church was officially received as a church at the last Annual Assembly in January.
For Peña, "the motivation of the local church has been the foundation of all this experience of expansion and consolidation of new congregations."
One of the challenges to Central Church’s expansion is having the recognition of the communities it reaches. In Peña’s experience, the involvement of the communities in the development of the new congregations has been fundamental.
The other important challenge is the development of local leadership in the congregations that are being integrated.
Peña said the city of Danlí is a prosperous city, but like other areas of the country, it has great needs. The levels of insecurity are lower than other cities of Honduras, but poverty affects it in the same way.
"Many of our churches are financially supported by the income provided by tobacco factory workers who are members of the UMC,” Peña said.
"The medical brigades, the dental services, the sewing classes, the filtration projects of drinking water, the construction of stoves (rural kitchens), among many other ministries, have been essential in the development of our congregations and in the projection of The United Methodist Church in the different communities in which we are present,” Peña said.
Rev. Gustavo Vasquez, Hispanic News Desk director, UMNS
One of seven apportioned giving opportunities of The United Methodist Church, the World Service Fund is the financial lifeline to a long list of Christian mission and ministry throughout the denomination. Through the Four Areas of Focus churches are Creating new places for new people and revitalizing existing congregations: Seek to invite people to follow Jesus Christ and grow together as disciples on a lifelong journey.