As a child I remember sitting next to my grandfather’s favorite chair while he carefully hand stitched leather wallets and belts. Eugene Adalai Brown was his name, known simply as "Gene", but I knew him as Poppy. He had a long career as a leather inspector and joyfully created amazing leather pieces for those who were lucky enough to know him and his artisan skills. Gene not only loved leather but he loved people and he loved Jesus. Being his only grandson I was able to monopolize his time and learned more than he ever realized just by being with him, watching and asking incessant questions. His love for leather, people and Jesus lived on in me.
While living in Honduras in the early 2000s, I was fortunate to meet another man who loved leather, people, and Jesus, Ramon “Ernesto” Izaguirre. Ernesto, like my grandfather, is a skilled artisan who creates amazing custom leather pieces. It wasn’t long before we became close friends. Ernesto, like my grandfather, had never graduated from high school. Poverty had forced both of them to support their families from an early age. However, their lack of education didn’t prevent them from being successful in their own right.
In 2008, I approached Ernesto with the idea of us working together to share our common love for leather with other young people from a similar economic background. He was immediately all in, confessing to me that he had "always dreamed of being a teacher". By 2009, Mission Lazarus had opened a new vocational school and enrollment was at capacity with a waiting list.
Since its inception, the Mission Lazarus vocational school, now called the Lazarus Academy, has been focused on teaching trades to young men and women who would not otherwise have an opportunity to study.
Today, the vocational school has grown, and continues to expand in order to equip even more young artisans, so that through education they will have dignity and purpose. And these young men and women are willing to work hard to have an opportunity to know transformation. This is the story of the students from the village of Las Trementinas.