The Pastor and the Pandemic

Glen Evans would rather be in Honduras. Even with the threat of Covid.

During his first trip to their homeland in early 2002, he found “unimagin­able” hardship. “I have been involved with the poor all of my adult life,” he says, “and I’d never seen poverty like I was seeing in Honduras.”

He recalls visiting dwellings that were barely recognizable as houses, with plastic sheets for walls and dirt floors. Some had no furniture—“not a chair, not a table, nothing,” he says. Children slept on concrete slabs.

That first trip led to additional ones. In 2003, Evans and his wife launched a nonprofit, Art for Humanity, with the idea of helping Hondurans sell art and crafts in the U.S. The charity has morphed over time. Now it’s a conduit to two schools that Evans helped create in Honduras, along with a string of mom-and-pop businesses—among them, a paint store, nail salon, tailor, auto mechanic, bike repair shop and welding operation.

Through all of the charity’s permutations, its mission has remained the same—to give people hope. Hondurans have a caste-system mentality, the pastor explains: “This is how I was born, and this is how I will die. That mentality is part of what keeps the poor in place—the lack of hope.”

He wants to change that. He’s an ardent advocate of the teach-a-man-to-fish school of philanthropy, focusing on long-term solutions to poverty, not quick fixes.

During one of his earlier trips, Evans encountered a young woman on a bus and communicated with her using flash cards that he had concocted (at the time, he had yet to learn Spanish). He sensed she had ambition. The two kept in touch, at first through a courier system and in-person visits, then later by email. Evans mentored her through school and helped her open a child care business, which later evolved into a private school.

The Honduras Independence Bilingual School (HIBS) now teaches some 175 students in the rural town of Quimistán. Its students represent a cross section of the community. Some of the “richer” kids come from modest homes in town.

Others—who are sponsored by Art for Humanity contributors—live in primitive doorless huts with mud floors. Sponsors pledge $35 a month to pay a student’s monthly tuition, and that buys a lot of hope, Evans says, not only for the student, but for the whole family.

“A lot of charities I see… they’ll go in that day or that week to help somebody and then they’re gone,” he says.

“They serve sandwiches, and there’s nothing the matter with that, except the day after that sandwich the people are just as hungry as they were before. We’re on the extreme opposite of that. When we get involved with a family…we help them get through grade school and high school and into college.”

Both of Evans’ schools have been closed during the pandemic, but have been delivering food and lessons to students at home, thanks to ongoing donations to Art for Humanity.

In late August the pastor finally returned to Honduras, carrying 50 pounds of donated pharmaceuticals, masks and protective gear for hospitals there. Upon arrival, he learned that nearly all of the HIBS staff had contracted and recovered from Covid.

Public misunderstanding about the virus has yielded some “foolish” efforts to control it, he says, such as the requirement that people disinfect the soles of their shoes and bike tires before entering stores and gas stations.

Pregnancy rates have spiked. At press time, Evans was planning a return trip in mid-October, armed with an additional 120 pounds of pharmaceuticals, including prenatal vitamins.

He knows his age makes him vulnerable to Covid-19. He says he intends to take precautions.

“If my overriding concern was safety, I probably never would have gone there in the first place,” he says. Back in 2002, on the occasion of his first trip, Honduras had one of the highest homicide rates in the world. “Even with the virus, I feel much safer than I did in the early years.”

Simply put, the need outweighs the dangers to a man whose life work has been ministering to people in need. He says the global health crisis—and the response to it—has taught him a lot about human resilience.

“Hondurans find a reason to live, to get up in the morning and put one foot in front of the other,” Evans says. “People there face hardship and they’ll laugh about it. I have a lot to learn from them.”

Mike M. Ahlers is a writer and photographer based in Silver Spring, Maryland. He has worked at The Journal Newspapers, WUSA-TV, CNN and CBS News.

Categories: People