Knox family invite others to island where they are missionaries

By Betsy Pickle

Travis and Tish Morin and their four children celebrated Christmas a long way from home, but some things didn't feel so strange.

"We've got a Christmas tree here, and the lights are up," said Travis by phone from Roatan, the largest of the Bay Islands off the northern coast of Honduras.

"My parents are coming Dec. 22, and they'll be here for two weeks," added Tish, daughter of Charles and Lois Dial of Lenoir City.

There was no trace of homesickness in the Morins' voices, no hint of doubt about leaving Knoxville and moving to Central America to serve as missionaries.

"It's been good," said Travis. "We've really enjoyed it."

Leading Bible studies with the help of a Spanish-speaking translator and helping islanders with construction and maintenance projects on their simple homes in the second poorest country in the Americas may not seem in keeping with the image of an advertising man. But Travis Morin, president of TradeMark Advertising and a 2008 alumnus of the Greater Knoxville Business Journal's "40 Under 40" class, is also an ordained minister and volunteered with a prison ministry for 12 years.

The Morins visited missionary friends in Honduras several years ago, and the seed was planted.

"We had never been here before, and we fell in love with the people," Travis Morin says. "God put it on our heart, and He always reminded us of it and never let us forget it."

It took the Morins a while to realize that each of them was seriously weighing the idea of becoming missionaries. Once they did, Travis began to examine how he could make his business work long distance. Last year, they visited Roatan to observe the work of other missionaries and look for a house.

In May, the family started an eight-week trial run and decided they liked it. They came home to Knoxville to sell their cars and lease their house. They returned to Roatan in August with 31 pieces of luggage and joy in their hearts.

"Just getting here has been a huge faith walk," said Tish Morin. "There were so many unknowns, but if God called us, He is going to work this or that out.

"Seeing Him meet those needs in ways we never thought of has been a faith builder."

While her husband spends much of his time on construction projects, she has found her calling at Greenfield Orphanage, where 19 children live in a group home, never to be adopted. Honduran law makes it nearly impossible for orphaned children to be adopted because a decade ago it was discovered that many of them were being sold into the sex-slave trade.

Tish works with the children while her own kids Ella, 14, Zachary, 13, Heather, 11, and Eli, 10 play with them. The Morin kids attended Paideia Academy in Knoxville and spent one semester in a bilingual school in Roatan, but Tish and Travis decided that they would be better off if they were homeschooled.

"It was not a good fit," she said. "The academics were not on a par with what we were used to."

Education is a big problem in Honduras, as is unemployment. While Roatan is a popular tourist destination thanks to its proximity to the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, unemployment is around 52 percent. The Morins started a coffee business to give locals work roasting beans and selling coffee.

The Morins enjoy the slower pace of life, the warm Caribbean weather and the time they have together as a family, but they never forget the urgency of their work.

"We're trying to encourage anybody we know who has church mission teams, youth or adult, and even families, to come down for a week or two weeks," said Travis Morin. "There are many ongoing projects we can plug them into. There are all kinds of opportunities all the time."

"Everywhere you turn, people need help," said Tish Morin.

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