A Note from a Dear Friend of Our Ministry
Where do I start writing about my beloved Micah Project?!
How about November 2000 when my late wife Jo (or Mama Jo as the boys called her) were invited to a presentation in Houston by Michael and three of the original boys who were visiting the USA? During that time, I was looking for an opportunity for a dental ministry team. Michael knew of a need at an Episcopal group home for boys in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. We exchanged e-mail addresses and agreed to work together to make the trip happen in early February 2001. I started making plans and e-mailed Michael with questions about hotels, transportation, meals, availability of dental supplies and equipment, etc. I e-mailed and e-mailed and e-mailed. For those who knew Michael back in that time, he was not the best in responding to e-mails! But eventually, he started responding and that trip in February 2001 changed our lives and the lives of so many. While we ministered to this group home (120+ patients) with their extensive dental needs, the real blessing was establishing a relationship with Michael Stephen Miller and the boys and staff of the Micah Project. (I sit here and write with tears of gratitude rolling down my face for the last 16+ years of a beautiful relationship.)
By the end of that year, I was the treasurer of Micah until December 2009. We made so many weekend trips to Tegucigalpa for me to do boring treasurer-stuff and for Jo to do the fun stuff like helping the ladies and loving the Micah guys. The four dental trips I led were an opportunities to see our Micah guys help us every year to set up, tear down, manage patients, and assist the medical professionals, etc. Over these years, I have seen these guys give back so many times to so many. I have a photo in my home office of the guys painting the interior of another group home (more paint seems to be on them than on the walls ☺). I have another photo of the guys teaching the school-age children of the parents who scavenge at the city dump. They built a couple of wooden benches and would bring them sandwiches each afternoon and teach them reading, writing and arithmetic. This daily activity would later spin off to another mission organization that has grown and still successful to this day. Around Mother’s Day in 2004, participation was waning in the school as the parents wanted their children scavenging with them. To encourage participation, Michael had four really huge Mother’s Day floral bouquets made. Then he and I delivered them to the dump where mothers who sent their children to the school were working. I have never seen smiles so big as those mothers had on their faces on that day at a public city dump. Needless to say, participation increased at the school after that. Micah guys are taught to give back at every stage of their lives at Micah. It continues to this day with an annual Senior Citizen Day at Micah attended by Villa Linda Miller residents. Street ministry continues with meals taken to those who still live on the streets, followed by fellowship and sometimes soccer games or trips to parks and swimming pools outside of the city. And those too old to enter Micah at a young age are not forgotten. Stephen Kusmer heads a ministry for young men that want to better themselves as well. He mentors them in this group home (housed in the original Micah House) to improve their life skills and helps them secure work and education as appropriate to each guy’s unique case. Two of these young men recently graduated from barber school, and another graduated from high school.
One unique part of Micah’s ministry is our relationship with the Villa Linda Miller residents. It started with Michael helping create a vision for the community after the devastating 2008 Hurricane Mitch. I don’t believe Michael just wanted these 166 families relocate, as a community, to a place that they could call home. I believe he also wanted a community with which our boys could identify and for them to find a sense of “family” that many of them never had. Our guys spent hundreds (or more) of hours helping these 166 families build their homes (Habitat for Humanity-model). They especially helped the elderly and smaller families that had no large amount of relatives to help with the heavy-lifting required to build a new home. Michael has helped the Villa Linda Miller get organized with a mayor and city council (USA terminology) so they can govern themselves. This is unique to Honduran communities and has helped them “help themselves” and avoid some of the drugs, gangs and violence that have plagued so many post-Hurricane Mitch communities. Some Villa Linda Miller teenagers can be seen almost every day at Micah playing soccer and hanging out with the Micah guys. That sense of community, outside of the Micah Family, helps instill a “sense of family” in our guy’s hearts and lives. It helps to keep them looking outward versus always-inward.
I have personally learned so much from Michael, specifically in trusting God to provide our needs and his demonstration of grace day-in and day-out. As the treasurer for eight years, I looked at Micah many times from a financial perspective as opposed to Michael’s eternal perspective of serving our guys and providing for their needs and for the needs of others. Many times, I would look at the bank balance and “sigh” as I thought of upcoming expenses and increasing salary payments when the ministry grew and we needed to increase our number of staff members. “Where will the money come from?” was my thought many months in my eight years as treasurer. But, as you might guess, the money always came. We never missed a payroll. The guys may have eaten a bit more rice and beans at times, but they never went hungry.
We have some prayer and financial supporters who have been with us since Day 1, including a Sunday School class in St. Louis, Mo. We have other supporters who have been with us for many years and also some new supporters who have recently “caught the Micah vision.” Our past and current supporters have always been so faithful to God and to Micah, and we are always looking for new individuals and groups to whom we may communicate the “Micah vision.” Just contact Michael, and he will respond accordingly. I guarantee you that a vision trip to Tegucigalpa will hook you to Micah and change your life. Just ask Debbie, who attended the 2016 Micah graduation after we had been married a week.
And Michael’s demonstration of grace over the years has been such an encouragement to me. Even with the first generation of guys in 2001, chaos “appeared” to be the norm at Micah. But, Michael is always “cool, calm and collected,” as that old commercial goes. A sense of peace always seems to be over him. When things don’t always go according to plan, Michael is not deterred. He adjusts. I remember when “little” Darwin “escaped” from Micah when a dental team was in-country in 2004. It was one of the many times that he left, and Michael always seemed to know where he was hiding. He would also always welcome Darwin back to Micah where he and the others “loved him back.” We thought that Darwin’s brain would be terribly damaged from all the drug use. But, a few months later when I visited Micah, Darwin got in my lap and showed me how he could add, including carrying over numbers. I was so amazed and gave thanks to God.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. As new generations of guys enter Micah, they arrive with a stronger addiction to drugs than the previous generations. Time and time again, some boys leave, then come back, then leave, then come back, then leave, then come back…You get the picture? What do Michael and the staff do? They welcome each back with open arms and God’s love. Watching the staff minister to the guys over the years has demonstrated to me what grace is all about! Michael’s newsletter about Axel that I just received brought tears to my eyes. The fact that he was able to walk Axel to the gate to “let him go” back to the streets and then welcome him back several times was such an inspiration to me. I can recall so many instances of boys leaving and “coming home,” but this specific situation has to be the most dramatic of all. And the new boys keep getting loved on and loved on and loved on…
The “new” Micah House is such a hubbub of activity these days, as it always has been. There are two soccer fields, a large above-ground swimming pool during the summer, stargazing via a recently-donated telescope, coffee, vegetable and fruit gardening, a walking trail, vocational training, art classes, a reading nook, a computer lab, bicycle-riding, ping pong ball games and the ever-favorite of the guys: daily work chores. ☺
Our paid staff and missionaries have been so amazing over the years. They love the guys. They care for the guys. They discipline the guys. They cook for the guys. They school the guys. They minister to the guys. They accompany them to extra-curricular activities. And sometimes, they “just hug the guys.”
And God has provided the perfect board of directors each and every year since 2000. Each has brought its own unique perspective and background to the table, which has allowed the Micah Project to grow not-too-fast and not-too-slow, but at the right pace, according to God’s will. Each board member has listened to God’s voice and led this organization to grow and thrive.
So, as I look back with real joy and a smile at what God has done, I am really looking forward to see what He has in store for the Micah Project in the future. So, buckle up, hang on and enjoy the ride with me!
Blessings to one and all!