The loss of a child creates indescribable pain.
Debbie Storey said the experience of losing her son to cancer at the age of 12 made it possible for her to love working in a mission field full of abused and abandoned children.
“I lost my son to cancer,” Storey said. “Having a child you can’t help, you can’t make better - I think God was preparing me for the road ahead. That really instilled a deep compassion in me for children in pain.”
Through a mutual friend, she and her husband Jay met Barry and Penny Compton – a Florida couple who run Open Door Ministries in Honduras.
The Comptons lost a child to a genetic disease at the age of eight. The couple rekindled the desire to take part in short-term missions and began working in Honduras. They accompanied an optometrist on trips to Honduras until his untimely death. A few months later, the couple continued to feel God had a mission for them to complete in the country.
Then the couple worked through mountains of red tape to purchase land in Tocoa, Honduras and finally received governmental permission to receive girls.
Soon, Open Door Ministries was born.
In 2010, Storey took her first trip. In the three years since, she has made the trip a dozen times, taking groups from local churches in Wichita, Haysville and Augusta. If Storey has her way, she will continue working to help the ministry break the cycle of abuse in one region of the Central American country of about 7 million people.
“I tell people all the time,” Storey said. “You go on a trip like this to help the children. But it is your life that is transformed.”
Emily Deaver agrees.
An Augusta native who currently lives in Andover, Deaver recently returned from a trip and said she wants to go back as soon as possible.
“It was particularly impactful for me because I was there with my father,” Deaver said. “I am so close to my father and seeing the abuse that other fathers have created, there is a lot of brokenness there for that to happen.”
Storey said that paternal abuse is one of the biggest issues children in the area face.
“That family umbrella should protect the children,” she said. “But often harm comes from under it.”
Open Door Ministries supports two feeding stations where children and pregnant women in the impoverished area can get at least one meal each day. It also runs an orphanage and the Gates of Hope home for abused girls.
Many of the girls at Gates of Hope are victims of sex trafficking or incest that have resulted in pregnancies in girls as young as 11. There are about 20 girls in the home now and seven children under the age of three.
Page 2 of 4 - Many girls in the area have their first sexual experience with a family member. Others are sold into prostitution in order for families to put food on the table.
Gates of Hope is a refuge for these girls and their children.
“They educate every child,” Storey said. “That gives them a chance. They are also taught to cook, clean and sew to ensure they have life skills.” There are a couple of girls in cosmetology school and one is working toward becoming an LPN.
Public education in Honduras stops for most children at the sixth grade. It is a privilege to continue beyond that point.
Some of the girls at the home have been through unspeakable abuse. One seven-year-old girl came to Gates of Hope after being found on the street caring for several younger siblings and cousins. All of them were malnourished and eating dirt to survive. The parasites in the soil they were consuming to survive caused further health issues that threatened to take their lives.
But after more than a year in the home, their health is returning and they are going to school every day and church on Sundays.
Another little girl was abused severely by her mother. She probably has irreversible brain damage either from the abuse or severe malnourishment.
Another had a leg that was forever disfigured by a mother who intentionally burned her with some type of plastic. That same mother had told the girl she would rather have given birth to a ball of wire than her. This same girl was repeatedly raped by a foster father before being saved.
These abuses are horrible. Others are equally repulsive.
Little girls who should be learning multiplication tables are giving birth to the father or step-father’s child.
Deaver, who was Miss Kansas 2008, had heard some of these stories and worried about how she would react when she got there.
“I thought I would cry the whole time,” she said. “But it was very empowering and hopeful.”
Deaver said hope came from seeing girls who wouldn’t talk when they first came to the home grow comfortable and relax, smiling and giving hugs before the group had to leave.
“Seeing that much improvement in a week,” she said. “I can’t imagine the progress they will make in a year.”
Deaver’s father is First Baptist Church of Augusta Pastor Terry Deaver. He and his wife Karen, along with Emily were among the group on the most recent trip.
Pastor Deaver said he was motivated to make the trip because of his desire to do work like this.
Page 3 of 4 - “I felt called to go when I heard Barry and Penny Compton speak about the work going on in Honduras and was particularly struck by the level of dedication Deb Storey had to the mission,” Pastor Deaver said. “ I wanted to see for myself what was being done and how the lives of the children and girls were being impacted by Open Door Ministries.”
He said First Baptist Church of Augusta formerly had a relationship with a missionary in Mexico.
“Our church and a twenty-three year history of mission work in Monte Gordo, Mexico which came to an end when our missionary, Ralph Fuqua retired,” he said. “I believe God is calling us to a long-term relationship with Open Door Ministries so we can send both funds and people to be involved in the mission work going on there. I knew we would witness poverty, abuse and terrible conditions. Knowing that mentally and experiencing it in person are two very different things.”
It is exactly that kind of help that Storey said the mission needed to be successful. Even though no administration costs come from donations, it still costs a little more than $15,000 a month to run all of the programs in the area.
“We aren’t ever going to be able to save the entire country,” Storey said. “But we are changing lives one at a time.”
That is exactly what has drawn the Deavers and First Baptist Church to the mission.
“Lives are being changed for the better and I want our church to be part of what God is doing in Honduras and other places around the world,” Pastor Deaver said. “The ministry hires a teacher to come to Gates of Hope and the Village of Hope to educate the children and girls. I like what Barry says to his teachers, ‘I hope you are educating the future president of Honduras who may have the opportunity to help change the country for the better.’”
The Comptons have worked tirelessly and made many personal sacrifices to keep the ministry going.
Storey admitted that it takes a lot of work, time and effort to keep the mission going. But she relies on a quote by Christian author Hank Hanegraaf to explain her ability to stay motivated.
“It’s safer to stay at home, within our own little Christian world, preaching to the choir,” he said. “We can read only Christian books, watch only Christian media, make only Christian friends... and betray the One who touched lepers, ate with tax-collectors, and called us to follow in His footsteps.”
The ministry survives on personal funds from the Comptons and other donors in the United States.
Page 4 of 4 - Storey said the ministry is always looking for support. Some people pray and encourage. Some plan trips and others donate funds to make the mission work.
Currently they have a major need for vehicles. Diesel fuel is cheaper in Honduras so diesel powered vehicles are preferable although any vehicle would help.
They also need sponsors for children in the program.
“Those kinds of donations help us do the work,” Barry Compton said.
If you have any questions or would like to be part of an upcoming trip, you may contact Storey at firstname.lastname@example.org. To make a tax deductible (501c3) donation to Open Door Ministry, you can use their secure website at http://www.open-doorministries.com/donate.