The Rhodes Serve the Forgotten ChildrenBy ELISA MAYO,
As you sleep in the protection of Clarke County, Mississippi, Sam and Ashley Rhodes serve “forgotten children” some 1,200 miles away, “as the crow flies.” These children live in a country with one of the highest homicide rates in the world--Honduras. The country of Honduras is located on the northern coast of South America. While it has a bustling tourist industry along its Caribbean coast and is known for its Spanish colonial architecture, much of the population lives in heart-breaking poverty in a land ruled by gang activity.
The capital city of Tegucigalpa is located south of the Caribbean Sea and is surrounded by mountains. Nestled within this valley is the orphanage where the Rhodes have served now for five years, Forgotten Children Ministries (FCM).
It was a one-week trip to Tegucigalpa with local church, First Baptist Church of Quitman, that opened the Rhodes’ eyes to the needs of the children in this area of the world. “Our hearts were deeply broken and our lives impacted forever,” states the couple. During their visit they recall, “God showed us a country with numerous needs and children who were truly longing to be loved by someone. It was then God began working in our own hearts to become open to serving Him wherever he may call.” The couple prayed and took a second trip with First Baptist to FCM the following year. Again the couple says, “We were filled with passion to move there and serve as full-time missionaries with FCM.”
Their life was about to drastically change with that call. Sam, having served for 12 years as an electrician with Woodall Electrical Company and Ashley as a Neonatal Intensive Care nurse at Rush Foundation Hospital, made the decision to put all of their lives into the call. They made plans to quit their jobs, sell their home, cars, and the majority of their belongings. They went through an extensive interview and application process and began speaking to local churches and small groups to raise the support needed for their ministry call. It was November 2012 when they began working toward their goal. By August 2013, the non-Spanish speakers had the provisions they needed and moved to San Jose, Costa Rica to begin a year of intensive training in the Spanish language.
After learning as much of the language as they could, the couple moved to Tegucigalpa, Honduras in 2014 to serve with Forgotten Children Ministries.
Ashley says, “While parts of the city are flourishing economically with new restaurants, hotels, growing businesses, and tourism, the majority live on the poverty level. The communities in which we serve live on about $2 a day. Many of our children were either on the street begging for food, runaways from abusive home situations, or brought to us by their parents due to lack of provision.” The children are often forced to work early and never receive an education, “thus the cycle of poverty repeats itself,” states Sam. In addition to the issues of poverty, gangs pose a real threat to the children, “Numerous children are recruited daily by the gangs to work for them due to the children’s desperate hunger and need for a family,” explains Sam. Ashley agrees, “This is why FCM exists, to offer hope to the hopeless, to care for these children and remind them they are not forgotten, that God loves them and has a very specific purpose for their lives.” FCM works with DINAH, a government agency formed to help children in Honduras, and local families to take children into the FCM homes and provide them with a “loving family environment, a safe place to sleep, three meals a day, a bilingual school, vocational training, and the possibility of university classes. But most importantly we share the gospel with them daily,” states Sam.
The Rhodes serve with two other American families, the Vanvactors from Alcoa, Tennessee and the Arthurs from Charlotte, North Carolina. There is also around fifty Honduran staff who serve 24/7 caring for the children. They include caretakers called tias and tios (aunts and uncles), as well as, cooks, teachers, psychologists, and guards.
FCM has two properties in Tegucigalpa. The girls home, Girls Grace Home, houses thirteen girls, ages 3-16 years old. The boys home, Grace Farm, houses thirty-one boys, ages 4-25 years old. There is also a mission house where short-term mission teams stay when they visit the group.
For fun, Ashley says, “When possible we like to take the children out. We introduce them to eating in a restaurant or shopping with their birthday and Christmas money. We take them to watch movies, invite them to have sleepovers at our home, and take them to the local swimming pool.” The couple knows the care they give them goes beyond just the activities and Sam says, “Witnessing a child forget about their troubled past momentarily while enjoying a fun activity brings us great joy.”
Sam and Ashley have proud parents who are also from Clarke County--Carroll and Wanda Rhodes and Randy and Lori King. Also, Sam and Ashley welcomed a new baby boy, Luca, just eight months ago. To find out more about supporting the Rhodes in Honduras, visit www.fcmhonduras.org.