In the early 1980's, before attending Bible college Steve Morris, a missionary from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, had served one year in the jungle of Guatemala then went to language training for a year in McAllen, Texas. From there he served two years in the interior of Honduras planting churches with another missionary family from Alabama. He then sensed the Lord moving him back to PA to attend Bible college.
During his Bible training Steve became acquainted with another missionary that had lived a number of years in Belize ministering to the Garifuna people. His name was Steve Shank and he was one of the Bible college instructors. Steve Shank talked a lot about the Garifuna people and challenged Steve Morris to pray about the possibility of reaching out to the Garifuna people who were considered to be an unreached people in Honduras. Steve did pray for God's direction and God directed him and his family to La Ceiba, Honduras with a vision to reach the unreached Garifuna people.
Steve Morris and his family moved back to Honduras in July of 1985. Soon after arriving Steve saw a need to start a ministry to the homeless elderly men of the city of La Ceiba. He found a facility in town and with the help of a team from Pennsylvania it was cleaned up and painted. Before long there were as many as a dozen elderly men living at the mission home. They were bathed, shaved, and given clean clothes and a bed to sleep in. Three meals a day were provided to them. The elderly men were cared for and treated with dignity and soon came to know God's love.
The outreach to the unreached Garifuna people started soon after. It was thirty years ago in a small Honduras village of Corozal, Steve (hermano Esteban) went house to house with his Bible and guitar sharing the Gospel to the Garifuna people. After some time a church was planted in Corozal that up to that point, was considered an "unreached people group". Steve then established the mission "Palabra Viviente" which translates, "Living Word Mission".
Soon after the church was started in Corozal, a member of the congregation, Vicente Guity, retired from working on board cruise ships and responded to God's call to serve as pastor of the small congregation. The believers then wanted to reach out with the gospel message to the neighboring village of Sambo Creek. So, they loaded up as many who would fit in hermano Esteban's pickup truck with a vision to reach the unreached. This team went visiting door to door sharing their testimony and inviting everyone to evening services. After some time a congregation was formed and a church building was built.
Steve then came to know Bernardino Amaya (Nino) who then lived in San Pedro Sula. He was originally from Corozal. Brother Nino was a young and talented musician and a preacher of the gospel. Steve invited Nino to minister at a tent meeting in Corozal. Nino was received well by the people since he was Garifuna and also originally from Corozal.
The vision to reach the unreached was birthed in the hearts of the believers of Corozal and Sambo Creek and a team of evangelists traveled to the next village up the coast which was Nueva Armenia. A church was then planted in that Garifuna village. Land was purchased and walls were put up by the excited new congregation. A team from Gateway Church from York, PA, led by Pastors Barry and Donna Ryan, came and built a church building.
Sister Neyda, who was from that congregation served as the pastor. For many years her husband, Miguel, was working away from home on board a cruise ship but finally retired and returned to serve alongside Neyda as co-pastor of the church. They are pastoring in Nueva Armenia to this day.
The Garifuna people, also called "Black Carib", have their own unique language and culture and were originally from Africa. Over the years the Garifuna people settled along the coast of Central America but have also migrated to many cities in the states. Churches among the Garifuna people have sprung up in many nations representing many denominations.
In 1989, Steve Morris met with Steve Shank, his former Bible college instructor. The two put their heads together and envisioned somehow connecting the Garifuna churches from the different nations. They decided to promote unity among the Garifuna churches by hosting the First Annual Garifuna Leader's Conference. The first annual conference was held in Corozal, Honduras over twenty-five years ago and each year it is hosted in a different location. 2015 was the 25th Year Anniversary of the Garifuna Leader's Conference and was held in Corozal.
Over the years the Palabra Viviente ministry has spread out to plant churches in other areas of Honduras, among the hispanic people. In 1991 Steve and his family moved back to the states leaving five churches with local pastors in charge and pastor Nino heading up the board of directors of the mission Palabra Viviente. Over the years those five churches have multiplied to 30 churches reaching four departments of Honduras.
In 2005 Steve and Valerie were sent out by Gateway Church and they served two years in Honduras training the leaders of the twenty some churches at that time. There were as many as 60 leaders attending the Bible training classes.
On an ongoing basis Steve and Valerie visit the churches spread throughout Honduras to promote unity among the churches. Pastor Barry and Donna of Gateway Church host an annual Conference in February for the pastors and leaders. Gateway Church continues to provide a spiritual covering for the ministry in Honduras.
To God be all the Glory for all He has done, is doing, and will do in the future in Honduras.