By Norris Burkes
Jan 14 2018

By the time you read this column, my wife and I will have landed at one of the most treacherous airports in the world in one of the most dangerous cities in the world. The final approach is so nightmarish that passengers often post harrowing videos of their flight through a twisted ravine before landing on a way-too-short runway.

The airport is in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. With 1.3 million people, the city is best known for its crime, corruption and high murder rate.

Becky and I will spend 10 weeks here to help our daughter, Sara, with the humanitarian project she started in 2014.

Sara named her undertaking the Chispa Project, pronounced cheez-pah, meaning, “spark” in Spanish. Honduran people use the word to describe people with spark or drive. Sara chose the name because she believes education must spark the sustainable change Honduras needs.

Chispa has a simple mission: start children’s libraries and equip them with quality books in Spanish. She accomplishes the mission in three ways: she solicits donations, coaches their teachers, and sponsors international volunteer projects to Honduras.

Sara’s secret to success is in her ability to inspire the communities to design, fund and run their own libraries. Local people do the work and supply a small portion of the funding, which helps assure that the library will be maintained.

Still, Sara must operate within a tight budget. She depends on small monthly donations from her relatives and friends. After she pays rent, she lives on less than $500 a month. This year, she went into debt as she financed much of the Chispa expenses herself.

Nevertheless, the project works because hers is a “micro-charity,” meaning that small donations make a huge difference. So far, she’s received enough donations to send more than 10,000 books to more than 50 different schools.

Yes, her parents worry. It’s dangerous work. Tegucigalpa regularly places in the top-10 murder-rate cities in the world. She drives some very dangerous roads that are sometimes plagued by highway robbers. She rents a truck when she can, but her tight budget often sends her riding a used motorcycle to transport books in a 50-pound backpack.

I sometimes wonder what sparked Sara to work in such a dangerous place. I suspect it’s the same spark God gives us all, but it’s always accompanied by a choice. We can snuff it out or we can we use the spark to ignite the kind of change this world needs.

So what spark will Becky and I take to Honduras? Well, for starters, we’ve lugged 250 pounds of books. Additionally, I suspect, Sara will have her mom teach a bit while I may preach some in the local churches.

But we’ll certainly rent a truck, drive the dangerous roads and distribute books to smiling, giggling children. And, of course, I’ll be writing this column each week.

Last year, Chispa became a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization with a governing board. Sara says if I prove my worth next month, she’ll make me a board member. Whoopee. I can’t wait.

If you want to join her board, too, or donate, or land a mission team on the most maddening runway in the world, visit

Email: Voicemail 843-608-9715 Twitter @chaplain Read past columns at