Northern Wisconsin winters can be long and cold. Many of us long for warmer weather, but most of us don’t pack up and head for Honduras.
The Pederson family of Spooner — Dr. Allen and his wife Ann, and their children Jennifer, Lisa, Scott and Daniel — have been planning such a trip for some time. They will leave for a Christian veterinary mission to Honduras.
“Jennifer, Daniel and I have tickets for April 2,” said Allen, a veterinarian and 1975 graduate of Hayward High School. “Ann, Lisa and Scott will arrive about a week later. It is just too hard for the whole family to just show up (at once.)”
Allen was there in January to look at houses.
“Unfortunately there are not a lot available,” said Ann. “We will be going for one to three years (but) we certainly don’t have enough money for three years. It is free-will employment.”
The houses that are available are not those of the common people of Honduras, whom the Pedersons are hoping to help. Neither are they located in the areas where people need the most help, which concerns the Pedersens.
“We want to be connected to the people,” said Ann.
Christian Veterinary Missions
Veterinarians are uniquely equipped to make a lasting impact in people’s lives, said officials of Christian Veterinary Missions (CVM,) the organization sponsoring the Pedersons’ trip.
Thousands of people around the world struggle to survive because they don’t have the right knowledge, skills, and resources to care for their animals. CVM veterinarians live and work alongside these people to encourage and provide them with much needed veterinary expertise, as well as help them build and strengthen their belief in Christ.
Hondurans Learn to Care for Animals
“I’ll be giving treatment to farm animals and training the people there in veterinary care,” said Allen. “We want to try to give people there a little more experience. The nearest veterinarian to the area we’re going to be in is three hours away.”
Honduran vets don’t work in the area because there is no money to be earned, said Ann.
“A lot of their farmers don’t get paid enough to support a vet,” said Allen. “They are very, very poor. They have resources, but they need help using them better.”
This is not the first venture into volunteer missions for the Pedersons.
“Allen and I were Peace Corps volunteers before children,” said Ann. “There was always that little spark for mission work. Allen sat in on a prayer breakfast at a Minnesota vet mission. He has done two short-term missions to Haiti, and we were in the Dominican Republic during Peace Corps work. We have a Spanish background.”
The family will be working in a mountainous area outside of Santa Rita and will live in the city of Copan Ruinas.
“It is about the size of Spooner geographically, but with a much bigger population,” said Ann. “It has a very high density for a small town. Very few people have cars. If they are going a long distance, they go by bus.”
Uprooting the family
The Pedersons are a strong Christian family, well-known in the Spooner area through church work and the Washburn County 4-H.
All of the children are members of the Junior Farmers 4-H club, considered by some to be one of the most successful clubs in the county.
Jennifer is in the top three in her class at Spooner High School, Lisa is rapidly becoming an accomplished musician, and Scott and Daniel are both promising athletes in baseball.
The children will leave many friends, making this a particularly tough transition for them.
“There is no perfect time to do a mission,” said Ann. “The kids are all at different stages. They’re giving up a lot, but they will also learn a lot.”
The family will rent their house while they are gone, and retain their Wisconsin residency status.
Jennifer has fulfilled all of her high school requirements, but will continue taking Virtual School math classes. She and her mother will return for graduation this spring, and Jennifer will remain in the U.S. to attend college next autumn.
Lisa is open-enrolled in the Waukesha School District. She hopes to find a piano in Honduras so that she can teach music classes.
Scott is in sixth grade, although he is working on seventh grade math. He is virtual schooling with Kurt Kunkel in Spooner, as is his younger brother, fourth grader Daniel. All of the children are taking some classes online.
“Daniel is still too young for most of the virtual school, so he is basically home-schooling,” said Ann.
All of the children are learning Spanish.
Daniel is looking forward to being able to play baseball all year long, as is Scott. A youth baseball team has been established there.
“I’ll be working with the kids, teaching them,” said Ann. “I hope to connect with their schools. I also hope to create something like a 4-H group there. 4-H has been so positive for us. A lot of what I need to do is be very culturally sensitive. I have to ask the people what they want to do. The most successful projects are ones that the Hondurans embrace.”
The applies to both material things and knowledge, said Allen.
Both agreed that making the trip as a family to volunteer in Honduras will help make the journey easier.
“The kids play a big role,” said Ann. “It means so much more that we’re going as a family.”
They plan to stay in contact with their friends in Spooner through letters and online messages.
The pamphlet prepared for the Pederson family by Christian Veterinary Mission says that the family is serving Christ in Honduras. It is apparent that faith is a factor in their strong family bond.
The Pedersons are members of St. Frances de Sales Catholic Church in Spooner, but other local churches are also supporting the mission.
“It is unique how many churches are supporting us,” said Ann. “Mission is like a universal language.”
The Honduran Church
For the Pedersons, the Christian veterinary mission came together when CASM (Committee Action Social Mennonite) requested a veterinarian for the area.
“They are part of the Honduran Mennonite Church, which was established in 1983,” explained Allen. “With peace coming to the area, they’ve kept on with development. Heifer Project International in Little Rock, Ark. distributes animals all over the world to farmers. They chose CASM because it was so organized. People work well with them, they work with people. I was impressed. Our area will be one of the most peaceful in Honduras. Other areas are more lawless due to lack of law enforcement.”
In other parts of the country, drugs flow and timber is stolen, Ann said.
Help is needed
The family is confident that they will gain much through their mission work, but the trip presents a significant financial sacrifice. They must pay for housing, a vehicle, Internet service, and other items once they are finally in place. The family estimates it will take about $64,000 per year to live there. Allen sold his share of the Spooner Vet Clinic to make the trip. The family isn’t sure exactly how long they will be able to stay. They say they are putting that decision in the hands of a higher power.
“Initially we thought we’d go for a year and come back refreshed,” said Ann. “It could get longer. God has more control than we think.”
by Bill Thornley
Learn more about being a Volunteer in Honduras.