CRYSTAL, Minn. (KMSP) - Many of the migrants in caravans headed to the U.S. border come from Honduras, where a Minnesota church has established a connection over repeated mission trips.
Some members of the Crystal, Minn. church say after seeing the conditions firsthand, they understand why people are leaving in search of a better life in a different country.
For three of the last four years, Lisa Fernelius and her family have traveled to San Pedro Sula, Honduras on church mission trips. It’s no surprise to her that city would be where the migrant caravan got its start.
"There's a lot of poverty. A lot of violence,” said Fernelius. “As a mother, I see those mothers do not have the resources to care for their children. As a mom, I would walk a million miles so my child had a life."
Since 2003, Cornerstone Church has had a partnership with its sister church in San Pedro Sula. Cornerstone members have helped build classrooms, a new roof and a computer lab at the church school, La Patria, and pay tuition for about half of the 150 students, so they have a chance to escape the crime and unemployment.
“In other parts of the country, kids are going missing because of sex trafficking and other causes, but not here,” said Kim Cronen, a church member has visited San Pedro Sula. “These kids are looked after - cared for. Someone knows their family, knows their story. They reach out when something goes wrong."
While visiting San Pedro Sula, church members are accompanied by a group of local men wherever they go for their own safety. They've seen everything from burned out cars to shootings in what has been called the most violent city in the world.
"I've seen starving children,” said Cronen. “I've seen grown men drinking milk from lactating dogs in garbage dumps because they don't have anything else to eat."
For Fernelius, the thousands of migrants who have walked through Guatemala and Mexico toward the U.S. isn't a political issue, it’s human one. She hopes wherever they end up, they are welcomed with open arms.
"These are real people,” she said. “These are real mothers and real children. They are facing decisions and choices we can't begin to imagine."
Fernelius is returning to Honduras in January to bring supplies for an entrepreneur program they started at the school. The church is also selling t-shirts to support the Not For Sale program to combat sex trafficking.