Norris gives Hondurans helpful hand

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 8, 2000

Alex Norris is in his element surrounded by the Honduran children he has come to love through his missionary trips.

He goes to share his carpentry abilities and his Christian witness in their poverty-stricken country.

Photo contributed to The Advocate

Alex Norris was a pretty likeable guy back in his high school days in Greenville.

He was bright, talented, perhaps a bit eccentric.

Alex certainly seemed capable of accomplishing a great deal with his life-if someone could get him motivated enough to care.

Alex loved to party, delighted in outwitting and sometimes defying authority.

His motto might have been that of Mardi Gras: "Let the good times roll."

In more ways than one, 19-year-old Alex has traveled a long way since his rebellious prankster days at FDA.

He's now a mass communications major at Auburn University in Montgomery, where he also studies photojournalism.

Alex has already made two trips to Honduras in the last year or so, and is eagerly making plans for a third trip this August.

What's the attraction for him?

Honduras is not an appealing tourist destination, a "pleasure island" sort of tropical paradise.

The living conditions are very harsh.

The vast majority of its people live in extreme poverty.

Two years ago, the country was devastated by Hurricane Mitch, and it will be a long time before their full recovery from the destruction it caused to homes, businesses, and churches.

So, again, why would a fun-loving guy like Alex choose to keep returning to such a place?

He is happy to share his reasons, saying, "Well, over a year ago, I made a major surrender to the Lord.

I turned a lot of things over to him I'd been holding back.

Somehow I knew missions would become a part of my life."

When Alex heard about a Christian group at Auburn planning a missions trip to Honduras, it seemed the perfect opportunity to follow his new calling. Alex signed on and made his first visit last August, journeying to the capital city of Tegucigalpa.

It was truly an eye-opening, life-changing experience for the young man.

"I had never seen such wide-spread, deep-rooted poverty in my life.

Children were using garbage dumps as their playgrounds.

I was both amazed and so saddened by the terrible conditions", explains Alex, adding, "It was hard for me to understand why so little cleanup and rebuilding had been done from a storm that had happened over a year before."

Alex learned that the Honduran government has no disaster relief programs in place for its people.

Their government cannot do any of its own rebuilding; it must instead rely on help from other countries.

The process of recovery has thus been tremendously slow, compared to our own recovery efforts following natural disasters.

"Here in the US, we have government relief organizations, we have churches and civic groups-everybody pitching in to help in times of crisis, and usually, the rebuilding is complete within a few months." Alex notes.

During his first visit, Alex worked with a team of United Methodist mission volunteers to help with construction work, building much-needed homes and churches for the locals. They also ran Vacation Bible Schools, with Alex developing an instant rapport with the children.

He

knew he wanted to return, certain that God had further plans for him there.

This past March he got his wish, once more journeying to Honduras with the same organization.

Their focus on this trip was individual evangelical work, sharing scripture, testimony, and prayer with the local people.

Alex had a particularly touching experience one evening, following a street evangelical rally in the city of La Ceiba.

A young street child approached with open hands, begging for help.

His grandmother desperately needed medication to treat her enlarged liver, but she could not afford the high price of the prescriptions.

By request of a doctor in our group, the boy retrieved the prescriptions, along with one for his own parasites.

Two people went to a local pharmacy to purchase the medications while the rest of the group talked to and prayed for the little boy and his grandparents. They, too, had lost home and possessions in Hurricane Mitch, and Alex and his group prayed with heavy hearts for the healing, restoration, and continuing faith of these people.

Alex saw hope dawning in these despairing people's eyes, and felt a warming in his own heart.

After the medications were presented, the group began saying their goodbyes to the family. That's when the little "boy" finally revealed her true identity as Dixa Gabriella.

She had been forced to cut her hair and dress like a boy-otherwise she would have likely been molested in the streets.

"The serenity and warmth I'd felt disappeared at that moment; I felt such a burden for God's children in Honduras, "

Alex explains, his voice reflecting the strong emotion he felt.

If anything, the suffering, depression and fear of this people made Alex all the more determined to help lift the burden of the Hondurans.

He helped in a soup kitchen and assisted in the construction of a number of homes, 17 of which he co-presented to the families receiving them.

Alex will be returning to Honduras this August, leading a group of eight missionary volunteers.

He has plenty to keep him busy in the meantime, as he continues his studies and also serves as Director of Youth Ministries at the First United Methodist Church of Tallassee.

Alex is still fun loving and a little crazy; but he also has new eyes of compassion for the needy and a heart that cares for those in despair.

The good things he seemed capable of accomplishing are coming true.

Alex, like John Newton hundreds of years before him, has discovered just how truly amazing grace can be.