Justice & Mercy

Caring for vulnerable and at risk children

Sophia, moved to Honduras 4 years ago to help an organization called Legacy of Hope Foundation to start up a crisis care center. This home is a short term care facility for children who have been neglected, abused or abandoned. The center receives children who are newborns up to 18 years of age for a maximum of 72 hours, some children stay longer depending on how child services processes their case. Every child who comes into the crisis care home receives medical care, psychological attention and the experience of a family environment. Children also receive new clothes and personal care items to take with them when they leave, but most importantly they are shown the unconditional love of Jesus as they begin their healing journey.

Over the years the crisis care program has continued to grow and has served hundreds of children since opening in 2016. In 2019 the crisis care center opened a new building that can house up to 20 children at a time, along with a transition home that receives special cases. Sophia is now directing this program and continues to serve children from hard places. In 2018, her husband Alberto moved to Honduras to also serve alongside Legacy of Hope. He now has a job within the community at a bilingual school but helps within the ministry whenever he can. They are also foster parents to two girls that they received as newborns through the crisis care center. As their hearts for children and ministry continue to grow, they are so excited to see what the future holds for their family.

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Recently Mosaic Church interviewed one of our Global Ministries partners, Sophia and Alberto Reyes.

They serve in Honduras through the Legacy of Hope Foundation, a ministry that works closely with Honduran Child Services in providing care to children who have been traumatized through abuse, neglect, or abandonment.

Sophia directs Legacy of Hope’s Crisis Care Center. This portion of the ministry receives traumatized children for short term care. Children are received immediately after being rescued from duress. The care they receive is instant, professional, intentional, and holistic.

It is the work of Christ.

Honduran Land and Life

Mosaic: If someone who had never been to Honduras came to visit you what would she see?

Sophia: We are in a part of Honduras that is surrounded by mountains. It is a beautiful terrain. I would compare it to North Carolina but also little bit tropical.  The view from our ministry is incredible. The air is super dry; it’s different than the humidity of Florida.  We love it.  It’s awesome! It’s coffee country. The coffee here is incredible.

Mosaic: How would you describe daily life in Honduras?

Sophia: Honduras is a beautiful country with incredibly beautiful people.  There are some areas with very nice homes. Some areas of Honduras have a sustainable, thriving economy. But it is still a third world country.

You would see a lot of poverty; you would see a lot of kids who come from extreme poverty.  And unfortunately, Honduras doesn’t have as many programs as the United States has for people who are suffering from extreme poverty.  In the very poor areas people live in shacks. When I say, shacks I mean sheet metal that has been propped up on wood to form a single room home that, on average, houses ten people.

There are areas called Bordos which are slums with a lot of gangs. These are extremely dangerous areas; and when you are born into poverty it is very hard to get out of the area because of the gangs. It is very hard to survive if you are born into this kind of area.

In the United States it’s common to celebrate mile- stone life events like a ten -year wedding anniversary or a sixteenth birthday. But in Honduras there is a different mind- set. It is really a day to day- how am I going to survive today?-mindset. Hondurans don’t celebrate every birthday or every milestone and that comes from the mentality: I don’t know if I’m going to be alive tomorrow. It is a hard place to live.  There is not good health care.  Most people live with this mind-set: I’m in the here; I’m in the now.

Even so, Hondurans are some of the most beautiful, most kind, and compassionate people I have met.  They have a heart to give.  Here is an example. Because of the COVID shut down, many people are only allowed to work one day, every two weeks.  So, for instance, for the ladies whose job it is to sell mangos by the side of the road, they and their families are literally starving to death.  But we are seeing other people, who have very little as well, putting baskets together to give to others. We are seeing people who have nothing to give, come together and finding a way to give. It’s truly humbling to see.

Getting to Honduras

Mosaic: How did you realize God wanted you to serve Him in Honduras?

Sophia:  In my junior year of high school, I was working to get a softball scholarship to college.  I rededicated my life to Christ. I felt then, He wanted me to do mission work.  I went on several mission trips throughout high school. I went to Haiti and the Dominican Republic. I felt strongly I should jump right into mission work immediately after high school.  I served on a six- month mission to the Dominican Republic through Mosaic. That’s where I met my (future) husband. He is from the Dominican Republic and was working with various mission groups as a translator.  When I came home, after serving in the Dominican Republic for six months, I did an internship for Global Missions through Mosaic. During that time Gabe Forsyth shared with me about Legacy of Hope Ministry in Honduras. He said the couple who led the ministry needed someone to step in over the summer so they could return to the United States for a time. He asked me if I would be interested in doing that.  I reached out to the directors and decided I could help.  I came to serve in a director position for two months in 2015.

I fell in love with the country.  The directors were a married couple serving this ministry in their home by receiving abandoned newborn babies who came from Child Services. I also fell in love with their whole family and the ministry.  We talked about what it would look like if I moved to Honduras permanently to serve with them.

They told me Child Services had reached out to them several times, to inquire about Legacy of Hope opening a crisis care program.  I moved to Honduras permanently in January 2016 and helped Legacy of Hope open our crisis care program.

Alberto: The first time I came to Honduras, it was the summer of 2016.  I came for two months. I came to visit Sophia.

Sophia: Laughter

Alberto: It was difficult for me because it was my first time ever to leave the Dominican Republic. And even though the Dominican Republic and Honduras are both Latin, there is such a difference with everything; the food, the way of life.  I helped in the ministry in whatever way I could for two months.

Sophia: While Alberto was here for those two months serving in the ministry, I asked him, “Can you see yourself moving to Honduras?” and he said, “What?! No! Never!”

Alberto: That was my first time here. I’m the kind of person who needed to come many times before I could make a decision like that.  Before I moved to Honduras, I came back three or four times.  During that time Sophia would visit the Dominican Republic and my family and me. And I would travel to Honduras at other times to work with Sophia in the ministry.  In both countries we were praying with others to help us know if I should make the big decision to move to Honduras and work with this ministry.  I moved here November 8, 2018.

Sophia: We got married March 14, 2020, in the middle of all this COVID craziness.

Mosaic: Such an unusual love story!

Sophia: We’re weird. (laughter)

Growing in Honduras

Mosaic: What are some of your personal struggles, both coming from other countries, now serving in Legacy of Hope in Honduras?

Sophia:  When I first moved to Honduras, I lived in the Crisis Care Center with the other staff members.  It was a house full of people and full of kids and it was hard. There was culture shock. I was the only American. I was the only one who spoke English within the building. That was hard.

The Crisis Care Center works directly with Child Services and nobody from either of the two, speaks English. They all speak Spanish. I spoke some Spanish before moving to Honduras but I was nowhere near fluent. I am now, fluent, but it took a full cultural immersion for that to happen. That was hard.

I moved out of the Crisis Care Center building within a year and when I did, I took three foster daughters to live with me; a five- year- old, a four- year- old, and a newborn.  That was difficult.  But I knew God was telling me to be these girls’ foster mom. I was a foster mom and single with no one to help me care for these three young girls. I was directing the Crisis Care Center, doing full time ministry. I was doing all this at the age of twenty-two. Even though it was so hard, it was also so good. The Crisis Care Center offers only short- term care. I knew these girls needed a home; it was good to serve them in this way.

The five- year- old and four -year- old were eventually reintegrated into their families.   But the newborn is still our foster daughter.

Alberto: For me, coming here- doing full time ministry, but not being able to spend a lot of time in the community so I could get to know the people more and become more familiar with the culture, with the food, with everything- was hard. There were so many adjustments I needed to make, but I was kind of isolated within the ministry.  I needed to be in the community more to immerse myself in Honduran culture so I could understand it and the people.

Now I am a teacher in a bilingual school as well as serving in Legacy of Hope. Being a teacher lets me be in the community more. I play basketball with people.  I’m the one from Legacy of Hope, who has friendships within the local community. If someone needs to go to the hardware store or any story for Legacy of Hope, I’m now the one who goes because I know people within the community.

Mosaic: What are some of your personal victories?

Sophia: We just got married. And we have two foster daughters, the daughter who was the newborn I mentioned and is now almost four, and another four- year- old foster daughter.  It has been cool being a family unit and doing ministry now as a family. And we are thankful Alberto has a job within the community. It’s good for me to be fully immersed within the ministry. It creates balance.  My job is hard. We receive a lot of heavy, heavy cases such as child abuse, child neglect, or babies being abandoned.  For me, it’s nice having a conversation at the end of the day, with Alberto, who has not been in that space all day.

Work and Workmanship

Mosaic: Would you describe in more detail the work you are doing?

Sophia: In our Crisis Care Center, we receive children right after their trauma happened. For instance, if the police raid a home that was infested with drugs and there were children, we receive the kids right after the raid happened. We are the first line of defense in caring for these children. There is no care between their trauma and their coming to us. There have been times when the authorities came to our center with an entire police van full of traumatized children to be taken in at the same time.

We focus on holistic, family care.  All our centers are set up as homes.  All our staff is trained in Trauma Competent Care which is a specialized style of training to help traumatized children. We also have a psychologist on staff. All the children who come under our care receive help from the psychologist, they receive a medical check- up, they receive full, well-balanced meals and snacks. We provide clothes and hygiene products.

We care for the emotional needs of our staff too. This is because serving children from hard places, especially when you are the first line of defense for them, can be really traumatizing for staff.

Mosaic: Would you share a specific story of a child or children to whom Legacy of Hope has ministered?

Recently we received two children at 1:00 a.m. They arrived because their mom was involved in a drug bust and she was killed. Their dad had previously been killed. Their mom was their only family. They had no other family. They had nowhere else to go. We have been working with them but that’s all I can say. We have very, very strict policies to protect the privacy of the children in our care.

Mosaic: Did you have any professional background or experience that prepared you for this work other than the Global Partner internship you mentioned earlier?

Sophia: I truly believe God equips those He has called. But we also must make sure we are doing our part.  For me that has looked like getting as much training in trauma care as possible. When I first came into this type of ministry, it was when I went to the Dominican Republic right after high school.  There I worked in a home for street boys. Before that experience, I had heard so many beautiful stories of stepping into orphan care.  And it is beautiful. But at that same time there are so many dark realities to it. In the Dominican Republic I saw those dark realities and the true messy and difficult nature of stepping into the lives of traumatized children. As someone coming from the United States, it was serving in the Dominican Republic that allowed me to understand what poverty is.  I am trained in TBRI: Trust Based Relational Intervention. It is specialized training designed by Dr. Karyn Purvis that is widely used in care for children who have been through trauma.

Mosaic: You’ve explained some of the economic hardships Hondurans face.  Do you ever face serious personal safety issues?

Sophia: We can truly say we are so blessed to live in the part of Honduras where we are. Our city is considered one of the safest cities in Honduras. Unfortunately, for many missionaries in Honduras that is not the case. Gang violence is a very big issue. In many cities, gangs use extortion.  Small businesses must pay a fee to gangs and if they don’t, the gangs deal with the business owners in atrocious ways. So, living in a safe area, but knowing that gang extortion and violence happen, we have our guard up. We pray Psalm 91 over our home and we trust in God’s protection.  But there are dark days. There are days when I go to my knees because I feel the oppression. That has been an adjustment.  I never felt that living in the United States.  I was never concerned for my safety the way that I am living here.

Mosaic: Since you went into global mission ministry directly from high school, were you concerned with how you would support yourself financially?

Sophia: Oh! That is such an important question. Missionaries must raise their own support. Many missionaries choose to serve with programs, but even within those programs you must raise support before you can serve on the field. Fund raising is hard. It can be uncomfortable to ask people to partner with you financially. We have learned its helpful to let people know what you need to be sustained; to break monthly expenses down and be honest about what you really need.  The Bible calls us all into orphan care. But not everyone is going to go on the field or move to another country.  Many people can minister in orphan care, however, by giving financially to those people who are stepping directly into it. And prayer support and encouragement in any way are both very meaningful to us.

Mosaic: Do you know how long you will live and serve in Honduras?

Sophia: We don’t have an end date.  We are keeping ourselves open to whatever God wants us to do. We both have a heart for missions and we see ourselves always serving in missions.

Mosaic: We this verse in mind: For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them, have you both seen the way God has handcrafted each of you; your unique qualities and your individualities that has allowed you to serve Him in Honduras?

Sophia: I can say God has used my resilience and my strong personality. I have been like that since I was a little girl.  My mom can tell you! I feel like God has placed that in me so I can use my voice so justice is served for the kids we are receiving. I feel like my strong personality allows me to advocate for these children in a system that is not always for them.

Alberto: For me, it is being patient.  I have a lot of patience. And trust.  I trust people as I get to know them in the community.  And I am patient waiting on God. I also have faith.  For instance, when Sophia and I are asking God what we should do, I have patience to wait for Him to tell us. When we have His peace then we know we are doing the right thing.  It is incredible.

Mosaic: It’s clear you complement one another in your personalities. And speaking of personalities, is there something of God’s Personality- His nature you have seen- that perhaps you would not have seen if you weren’t doing this work?

Sophia: Absolutely! Absolutely! I see it is true His mercies are new every day.  I see that in the lives of these kids we serve. I see He is a God full of love and mercy.  And He is faithful. I think sometimes when we hear stories of what these kids have been through, its normal to think, “God, how could You let that happen?” But when I realize it is reality that we live in a sin- filled world and so these horrible things are what happen in a fallen world, I can then see His mercy, His grace, and His love He brings into these broken situations. I have seen lives so broken, only God could restore; only God could bring beauty from ashes.  And He has.

Alberto: I see His love.  He cares about these kids. He called us to come and serve them.  If He didn’t call us here, how many children would pass away?  There is so much need. Sometimes it can look like its too big, its out of control.  But God continues to make a home for these kids.   Somehow, there is always a place for the children who come to us.  Because God loves them, I see His love.

Laboring in Love

Mosaic: If a short- term missions team came to serve with you, what sort of things would the team members do?

Sophia: Several short-term mission teams have come. Because of the nature of working with traumatized children, Legacy of Hope is very intentional about how often teams can come and what kinds of work they do. If too many teams come too often, it can create detachment disorders for the children. They begin to feel people are only coming and going.

Often, we ask a team to come and work on a specific maintenance project.  For instance, a team came and built beautiful playground equipment and swing sets that allows kids to have a great time playing.

We also love to connect with people who have specialized training in areas helpful to our ministry. For instance, a woman came who is a music therapist.  She taught our entire staff how to incorporate music therapy in our care for traumatized children.   We ask teams to come and host training sessions.  The kind of work we ask teams to do is either maintenance type projects or educational training in areas that are relevant to our ministry.

Also, we have a Mission Teams Coordinator who lives in Honduras. She talks with all the Legacy of Hope leaders to see what needs we have and then she connects with churches who are in relationship with us and we all work with each other to put a team together to meet whatever the current need is.

Mosaic: What are some of your greatest prayer needs?

We always need prayer for on going health and well being for our staff.  Our staff gives one-on-one care for children every day.  The ministry provides resources and help, but it is still a hard job. And, of course, during this time of COVID, we appreciate prayers for health and safety over all our kids and all our staff.

Mosaic: You have described beautifully the work Legacy of Hope is doing in Honduras. If someone were considering financially supporting you, is there anything else you could share about what that money might accomplish?

Sophia: Alberto and I are not paid by Legacy of Hope.  We are one hundred percent volunteers.  We must raise all our support.  When anyone gives to us, the money goes directly to us; to Alberto and me and our foster girls. We need more partners to help us on a monthly basis to meet our basic living needs.

Mosaic: Wow! Not only are you doing this incredibly challenging work but you are in a daily trust walk with God that your most basic needs will be met.  That is a lot to carry.

Sophia: Yes, it is. But it is an honor and privilege to serve God. And thank you to Mosaic Church for all your support to us.