Isaiah 58 is one of our most ardent passions. Oppression is seen in many forms, but one of the most devastating ones that we have experienced first-hand has been by local leadership. A few short stories…

The local pastor has oppressed the village spiritually, not allowing them to develop beyond the point that he is at. He has not practiced what he preaches and far, far worse, implicitly giving liberty to others to do the same in their lives, thinking that it is just one variation of the Christian way.

The local president of the community counsel has oppressed the village socially with major alcohol, marital, and violence problems, occasionally ending with a visit by the local police or to the local magistrate's office. He has attempted suicide multiple times.

The local “sheriffs” that are installed to protect the community have oppressed the village socially, emotionally and potentially physically because they are regularly-drunk (all together and with the entire community's knowledge) at critical times that intervention is needed.
The local teacher has oppressed the village intellectually as he only teaches class 2-3 days a week and for about 2 hours to each class. Any attempts by locals to press for something better has ended in him threatening to leave the community all together, which would supposedly leave them with no education for their children at all (which is a lie). 

The (thankfully now former) local president of the PTO sells alcohol illegally out of her home and verbally and physically abuses her children/nieces & nephews on a daily basis and has even attempted homicide against a young woman in town - an encounter ending with a vicious machete wound to the head of her unlucky victim. We hear the words and see the wounds.

The community still doesn’t have a 24 hr water system primarily due to material/physical oppression - a local land owner intentionally purchased local springs once he caught wind that the community was thinking of purchasing it for community usage. The reason?  He needs to keep his cattle well-watered. Any attempts to approach him for a potential purchase have been quickly shot down.

These little snippets are not shared to depress or discourage, but to point to an underlying issue that seems to exist in many communities. Leadership is very weak - oppression is very strong.  Many people/leaders in this community have no example to look up to and follow. It is no wonder we are in a very sad state. Community members have tried to remove each of these leaders and put another in their place, but these leaders make threats saying that no one else will take their place or come to this village. The low self-esteem and rock-bottom dignity of the people allows them to believe these lies and remain in their sad cycle of holistic poverty. They truly think there is nothing they can do.  One of the most common lines we hear is, “I don’t say or do anything because I don’t want problems.” The people are scared, stuck… OPPRESSED.  God calls us to break these chains of oppression.

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
    and break every yoke?"  Is. 58:6

Many groups/organizations (Honduran or North-American) that visit these communities either don’t know any of this, don’t want to know, or perhaps know some things but ignore them. Things are taken at face value (from people desperately trying to "save-face," to be touched on in a following blog). The assumption is that these people are “poor” and need physical relief. They may be poor as we all are, but the type of poverty is not material and the help needed is not just give-aways or quick and easy fixes.

We have heard the question so many times, “What would it take to do X.” What we have found over the years is that when North Americans ask this, they are actually asking, “How much money do you need to fix it?”  To us, and from our experience - it’s not about money.  It’s about oppression. It’s about a lack unity and maturity in the body of Christ and in a community. Formation and restauration is needed, not just money. Oftentimes infrastructure projects, when done appropriately, can be an extremely-effective forum to confront these types of deeper issues and are often an excellent place for North American involvement. However, rapidly-executed projects will not likely create deep, lasting, sustainable change in a community. Quality of life in the developing world must be improved, and we believe that we all as believers are called to partner in that work, However, we must be very careful, and very intentional with those interventions.

Band-aids, no matter how many of them we apply or how passionately we apply them, will never send a deadly cancer into remission.

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