Honduras ranks as the second poorest country in Central America and is the top 15 worldwide. There is an estimated 60% of the population that currently lives beneath the poverty line. Just outside of the capital city of Tegucigalpa, a community of roughly 1,500 adults and 300 children fight to survive by rummaging through a mountain of garbage in order to make a living. Their goal is to find anything that can be used and/or recycled. On average, one adult working 12-15 hours a day can earn $3 - $5 and a child can earn $1 - $2.
In 2001, while serving with another ministry in the city, Pastor Jeony Ordoñez was given the vision to begin working with this incredibly poor population. His eyes were opened to the reality of their need by his own daughter who was only 5 years old at the time. Together, they made a trip to the dump to deposit the trash from a medical brigade. While in the dump, his daughter asked, “What are all these people doing up here?” Jeony did not pay a great deal of attention to the question, but over time, God began to speak more deliberately to him. After several trips to the dump, the question changed. With time, she began asking, “Daddy, do you think there is something that you can do for the people.” That was the moment that Jeony’s eyes were opened to the reality that was in front of him. He now knew that God was speaking to him through his daughter and that it was now up to him to respond.
Even though it was clear that he was to begin working in the dump, he was not exactly sure what that would entail. The one thing Jeony knew needed to be done was that he needed to earn the trust of the people in the garbage dump.
As a population, they are largely ignored. However, that does not prevent visitors from coming to earn sympathy points. Two groups in particular, pastors and politicians, are largely viewed in a negative way by many of the workers. Many have come to make promises that are never implemented. For that reason, Jeony knew that he needed to convince them that he was here for the long haul.
For months, he dedicated his time to simply meeting the people and hearing about their lives. He would shake their hands and look them in the eye. Overtime, they began to trust him and even began to call him “Pastor”. After several months, Jeony and Jesy had the desire to begin offering basic classes to the children in the dump. Their desire was to start with a small group of 5 students. However, they had 30 arrive on the first day. With these 30, they began having classes in the middle of the garbage dump.
For the next three years, they continued to meet in the dump and year after year, their numbers continued to grow. Following three years in the garbage dump, the ministry was forced to find a new location. Although they were never given a reason, they suspect that it was a publicity move by the government. With a large group of students, they relocated to a soccer field located at the base of the garbage dump, where they remained for an additional three years.
In 2006, they were blessed with their very first building. Thanks to the faithfulness of God, AFE has continued to grow. In 2011, we celebrated alongside 11 students who were the first to graduate from AFE with a High School Diploma.
All of them being the first in their family to do so.
We continue to dream for the future of this community. We continue to lean on support from donors. Mostly, we continue to follow God’s lead because he has proven his faithfulness from the beginning when it all started with a question by a 5 year old girl.