Bruce & Linda Hanson – Honduras
In a cement block structure, with a tin roof, and doors open to the morning breezes and an occasional bird, Ana Ruth prepares to lead the first CEPAS meeting in Talanga, Honduras. CEPAS (Pastoral Education Course) prepares students with a 6th grade education level (or below) living in rural villages and urban barrios from a wide variety of denominations in theological reflection and critical thinking.
After an opening prayer and reading of scripture, the ten students, ranging in age from 17 to 74, with 8 women and 2 men, begin their study of the module “The Minister and Ministries.” Seated on folding chairs, with Bibles and photocopied materials balanced on their knees, the students listen attentively. A lively discussion follows.
Ana Ruth is studying in La Comunidad Teológica de Honduras, CTEH (the Theological Community of Honduras), a partner organization of Global Ministries that provides theological and general education at a variety of levels. The overall goal is to promote a theological culture by means of Biblical, theological and pastoral education. Beginning with the youngest children, CTEH provides a preschool/kindergarten program in cooperation with World Vision, for children living in the community surround CTEH, a community where most family are living on under $1 per day.
In July, 2006, CTEH opened a technical school program for youth “at risk”, the terminology used in Honduras to indicate those youth whose life options are limited to illegally immigrating to the United States or joining a gang if there is no intervention. This program provides spiritual formation along with technical training in computers, hair care/beauty, auto mechanics, carpentry or electronics to youth 15-25 years of age.
On Saturdays nearly 400 students come to CTEH to study at junior high and high school levels. Originally developed for pastors who needed high school level general education in order to study theology at the university level, the general education program has become popular for a wide variety of students living in the poor neighborhoods surrounding the Theological Community. Teachers are all volunteers and teach an average of two or three classes each Saturday. Approximately 60% of the graduates go on to higher education at the university.
Besides the basic pastoral education CEPAS program the Theological Community offers theology classes at Bachillerato level (a degree between high school and college level) and Licensiatura level (a degree between college and post-graduate). CTEH is accredited through Universidad Biblica Latinoamericana (UBL, or Latin American Bible University) in Costa Rica. Students are given the opportunity to study with professors of UBL through study scholarships to Costa Rica, or through attending one week intensive courses with visiting UBL professors in Tegucigalpa. Through innovative study methods including self study modules, self study supplemented with occasional meetings with professors, weekend and evening classes, classes during vacations and individual tutoring, CTEH strives to meet the education needs of students who must continue to work while studying.
Recent forums sponsored by CTEH have included issues of migration, youth at risk, youth violence and the churches response to HIV/AIDS. Short term diplomas are available in areas of Youth Ministry, HIV/AIDS Ministry, and Christian Education. CTEH offers ecumenical education that emphasizes the relationship between the church, society, faith and politics, and helps prepare leaders to meet the challenges facing the Honduran church in contemporary society.
Future plans for CTEH are to begin a Maestria (post-graduate) theology program, to offer a technical education program for adults and to develop a technical education program for people living with disabilities.
Ana Ruth has almost completed her Bachillerato en Teología and hopes to eventually get her Licensiatura. She receives a full scholarship at CTEH in exchange for her willingness to teach others what she has learned. In addition she serves as a pastor in the Methodist Church of Talanga, providing an example of female church leadership, an example often absent in the Honduran culture.
CTEH is a branch of Comisión Cristiana de Desarrolla (Christian Commission on Development or CCD) which works in community development projects such as water, health care sanitation and housing in rural communities in southern Honduras. CTEH accompanies them as they work with villages offering theological education, and consultation to assure that theological refection is a part of the process of community development. CCD and CTEH believe that access to theological education is another basic need which is essential to allowing people to move out of poverty.
Bruce and Linda Hanson are assigned to the Christian Commission on Development (CCD) to serve the Honduran Theological Community (CTH). Bruce is teaching HIV/AIDS education, prevention and care, while Linda is teaching theological courses.