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SEPTEMBER 5, 2013
Return To Nicaragua
“For the poor will never cease from the land; therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and your needy, in your land.’” Deuteronomy 15:11
Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Eighty percent of the population struggle to survive on less than US$2 per day, and half of the population live below the poverty line. Over the years, Nicaragua has been plagued with political turmoil, guerrilla wars, and natural disasters.
In 1998, Hurricane Mitch (a Category 5 hurricane with sustained winds of 180 mph) took 10,000 lives in Nicaragua. The people living in the region devastated by Hurricane Mitch lost everything, but those things that were loss proved to be gain for the many who later gave their lives to Christ. Following Hurricane Mitch, two churches were planted in Nicaragua: La Capilla del Calvario, in Managua (“CC Managua”) and Capilla Calvario in San Juan de Limay (“CC San Juan de Limay”). Cal Stuebner is the pastor of CC Managua, and Vicente Gomez is the pastor of CC San Juan de Limay. Both are dear friends who have been faithfully serving the Lord and the people of Nicaragua since 1999.
Over the years, we have watched our friends in Nicaragua persevere through political upheaval, famines, draughts, financial difficulties, illnesses, and turnover. Despite frugal living and serious efforts to establish tent ministries, these ministries have no choice but to continue to rely on donations and short and long term missionaries. Steve and I were delighted to have the opportunity to minister once again in Nicaragua this year.
IMG_5150CC Managua is located in Barrio Santa Ana, the poorest section of Managua, Nicaragua’s capital city. Since its start in 2000, CC Managua has been faithful to share the gospel, to teach the Word of God, and to minister to the physical and emotional needs of the people. With only 2 full-time staff members, CC Managua relies heavily on short term and long term missionaries who minister alongside of Cal and volunteers from the church.
IMG_5183In addition to the church, which has two bible studies each week, a night of prayer, a youth ministry, and a recently-added foundations class, CC Managua funds and operates a Christian elementary school attended by 135 children. Most of these children would be unable to attend this school without the church’s financial assistance.
6a017ee7903224970d0191027c0585970cFrom its inception, CC Managua has ministered to people in La Chureca (“the dump”). Although it has been 12 years since we first visited the dump, the sights, sounds, and smells from our first visit remain etched in my mind:
Children sleeping on trash, wrapped in plastic bags as their only blankets;
People frantically raking through burning trash with their hands looking for something to eat or recycle;
Gangs hovering near the entrance to the dump, attacking cars that appear to contain items of value;
Satan verbally assaulting us through a broken man as we shared the gospel with a mom and her kids; and
Piles of waste around us igniting through spontaneous combustion and smoldering, reminding us of Gehenna.
Through many years of prayer and ministry in the dump, there has been much progress. Several hundred homes have been built for the people who once lived in the trash, and a recycling center now employs some of these people. The ground has been cleared of all trash, and the land has been redeemed. Our prayer is that many lives have been redeemed as well.
37468_409631387734_3094756_nCC Managua also ministers to families living in “Tent City.” Tent City is a section of Managua where rural farmers and their families have set up tents and other makeshift houses. American fruit companies growing crops in Central America allegedly exposed tens of thousands of Central American farmers to toxic chemicals banned by the US EPA. Now, without work, and ill from exposure to the toxic substances, they are principally squatters in the City trying to secure health care from the government. Recently, the Nicaraguan Government has provided housing to replace the tents, but many of these people are still without work, food, medical care, and hope.
Ministry in Managua
During our week in Managua, we were able to minister at the church, near the dump, and in Tent City.
IMG_5166Throughout the week, Steve worked on a variety of projects at the church, including insulation, a hot water shower, auto mechanics, painting, and cleaning. While Steve and Cal worked on projects at the church and made plans for a team visit from CC San Juan Capistrano, I made preparations for a Ladies’ Tea which had metamorphosed into an evening dinner with tea, coffee, soft drinks, and cinnamon buns for dessert. In faith, we prepared gift bags and purchased and prepared food for 50 ladies, although only 26 ladies officially signed up to attend the event.
IMG_5264During the week, Steve and I joined Pastor Cal and a team from CC Chelmsford, walking door to door in the neighborhood near the dump, sharing the gospel, and encouraging and praying with the people. Almost everyone opened their doors to talk to us. We met a young man who listened intently as Steve shared the gospel and then prayed to receive Jesus. We left rejoicing. We spoke briefly to a young woman trapped in a lifestyle from which she seemed powerless to break free. Her eyes told us that she wanted to talk to us more, but the man in the house was becoming annoyed with her. Steve told her that her Father in heaven loved her in a way that no man ever could, and he asked her to consider giving her life to Jesus. We left the property to avoid further irritating the man inside the house, and prayed for Jesus to set her free. We also met and prayed with many Christians who needed strength, healing, and God’s provision.
Image 2We also made a house call to a family in Tent City to deliver a cane to an elderly lady. We met three lovely ladies and invited them to attend the Ladies’ Tea planned for later in the week. When it became clear they could not attend unless someone picked them up, we offered to do so. They seemed very excited about the opportunity to have fellowship with other Christians. I got to hold the elderly woman’s hand as she took her new cane for a test drive on the sidewalk, reminding me of the times that I helped my father walk with his walker. She was adorable.
IMG_5239Several days later when Cal and I arrived to pick them up for the Ladies’ Tea, we found them waiting for us, dressed in their Sunday best. Excited to see we had kept our word, they clapped when they saw the church van pull up to the curb.
On the night of the Ladies Tea, we had severe thunderstorms starting about 2 hours before the event and continuing well into the evening. Because so many ladies walk, ride public buses, or motos, we were concerned that the ladies would not be able to make it to the event. To our surprise, we welcomed 65 ladies!
Steve worked in the kitchen to get the food and drinks ready for the evening.
After worship and a message entitled “Rest,” from Matthew 11:28-30, the ladies were served a delicious meal, drinks, and desserts, at their tables, by Pastors Cal and Steve, and CC Managua’s youth team. It was so cool to shower these ladies with love, to serve them, and to watch them enjoy the little things that we so often take for granted in the U.S. Most of these ladies have never attended a tea or seen matching floral napkins, plates, and cups.
After dinner, I went table to table to greet the ladies and to thank them for coming. Many of them had wrapped up some portion of their dinner or dessert, most likely, to share with someone at home.
Steve lovingly delivered a message to a full house on Sunday morning. He exhorted us to keep our eyes upon Jesus so that we can finish our race well. He shared examples from the bible of men who started the race but did not finish well, and he spoke concerning the danger of allowing the distractions of this world to take us away from our first love.
IMG_5268During the week, we visited CC Managua’s elementary school and met Carolina, the school’s director. The children were adorable in their uniforms and the property was orderly and clean and an excellent representation of our Lord. We also had the chance to visit Nicaragua Christian Academy (“NCA”), a Christian school located just outside Managua. Pastor Cal’s wife, Jessica, is a teacher and mentor at NCA. NCA’s mission is to equip children of Christian parents with the spiritual discernment, the moral courage and the academic excellence to impact society through Christian living motivated by a heartfelt love for God.
Nicaragua’s only hope for change is Jesus, and the best possible way to reach this country for the Lord is through its kids.
IMG_5165We met a new friend and brother in Lord in Managua who is serving at a drug and alcohol rehab center in Costa Rica. Dominick could use some men to help in this ministry. He said that last month, they had to turn away 45 men seeking admittance. Men, please pray about serving in Costa Rica with Dominick. If you want to contact Dominick to learn more about his ministry, please let us know. Please also keep Dominick in your prayers.
Visit to CC San Juan de Limay
IMG_5385San Juan de Limay is a small village near the Honduras border, approximately 195 kilometers from Managua. This small northern town has narrow cobbled streets, routinely traversed by its residents on horses or bicycles. For many years, the only vehicles seen in this village were the ones driven by visiting missionary teams. Much of the church’s sustenance comes from raising animals and growing crops.
Following Hurricane Mitch, in 1999, Cal, Steve, and others were involved in relief work in San Juan de Limay. The relief work was funded by donations from the U.S. and overseen by an American missionary who hired construction workers to rebuild homes in the village. Each day, before any construction work began, the workers attended a bible study. Through this relief work, many came to faith in Jesus, including Vicente Gomez, who now serves as the pastor of CC San Juan de Limay.
IMG_5401In the Summer of 2001, Steve and I visited San Juan de Limay with a team of 18 from CC Rancho Santa Margarita. Throughout this trip, the Lord moved with the same power and palpable presence as He did in the early church. When we were not in service worshipping and studying the Word, we were sharing the Word with the lost, encouraging and exhorting our new brothers and sisters in the Lord, and praying for the miracles necessary for the people of this village. We saw many come to saving faith during these early years, and we bonded with the members of Vicente’s family and the church body. Over the years, we have returned to San Juan de Limay to teach and disciple the believers and to assist with various construction projects.
God founded His church in San Juan de Limay in 1999, and He has by His power sustained it over these years through many hardships. We were thankful for the opportunity to visit once again with Pastor Vicente and his wife, Claribel, their family, and other dear friends in this church. Please keep the precious families in San Juan de Limay in your prayers. Specifically, please pray that Pastor Vicente will be able to attend this year’s Central American Pastors’ Conference in Guatemala, and for the Lord to cause many in the village to desire the sound teaching of the Word of God.
On September 16, 2013, Pastors Gary Kusunoki and Steve will lead a team from CC San Juan Capistrano to Nicaragua. The team will serve at CC Managua and visit CC San Juan de Limay. Please pray that their time in Nicaragua will bear much fruit.
The ministries operated by CC Managua and CC San Juan de Limay are ministries that belong to God, not to man. We believe that what they need, God will provide and, indeed, He has done so faithfully over the years. If, however, you have a desire to serve or to support any of these ministries, in any way, please let us know, and we will gladly provide you with further information.
“If you extend your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul, then your light shall dawn in the darkness, and your darkness shall be as the noonday. The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, and strengthen your bones; you shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.” Isaiah 58:10-11