Second Quarter Newsletter from Nicaragua - Aug 2004
So much has happened since our last letter. It seems that with so many projects in progress, we keep putting off writing, “’til we see how things are going to turn out”. Given that everything here seems to take a long time to resolve, it really is time to update.
Troubles in May
At the end of May a group from Riverside, California visited for a week. The group was led by long time friend Marty Cooper. The group worked on the new classroom that is in progress at the Christian Primary School in Tipitapa. They finished the roof and poured the floor. During their stay with us, two unfortunate occurrences complicated matters. The first was the almost annual student riot/protest over government funding for the universities. The main inconvenience is the closing of the main roads that enter Managua by the riot police. This action seals off the rioters to a few block sections of road where they can throw rocks, burn tires, and shout protests at no one in particular except the TV cameras that turn out in force. Everyone uses the back roads to get into town which takes a lot longer.
The second occurrence hit much closer to home. On Wednesday, 19 May at 5:50 am our longtime and trusted employee Reynaldo Arias shot a well known delinquent who was threatening him and his 11 year old daughter with a machete. Tragically one bullet passed through the man’s body and hit a 3 year old boy. The boy was wandering around several blocks from his house unsupervised for some unknown reason. Reynaldo took the boy to the hospital where he was operated on and is expected to make a full recovery. Then Reynaldo went to our lawyer Elias Rocha who accompanied him to the police station to turn himself in. He was in jail for 5 days before he was released on bond pending trial on 2 Sept. All the witnesses and police investigations support that he fired in self defense after retreating several paces from the advancing attacker. The man with the machete also lived and is expected to make a full recovery. The mother of the injured child is not pressing charges as she recognizes that it was a tragic accident that her son was hit and also that he had no business being off by himself.
In spite of all these factors, Marty’s group got a lot accomplished. They also saw first hand the problems that can pop up anytime here.
In May we received word that Wal Mart donated $1000 to be used for the purchase of school supplies for the children’s outreach ministries in Granada, Tipitapa, and Managua. Big thanks to Wal Mart and their very patient representative, Mia Masten. Also thanks to Dennis Ferguson and John Carrol for working to secure this donation.
In June Ann and the children made a quick trip to the US to visit family. During their absence I made a trip up to the Nueva Guinea area to visit the churches up there. We have a small cattle loan program in progress, so it is always a good idea to check up with production. Accompanied by Jonatan Navas from the church in Managua we showed an evangelistic film and visited with brothers we hadn’t seen in a long time. Hopefully, we were an encouragement to them. (As of recent, we’ve now received word that our bull broke his leg and had to become hamburger; fortunately we have another young bull that is quite willing to step into his hoof prints.)
Also in June, construction was started in earnest on the church building in Granada. With help from some members of the Granada Church and some church members from Managua the walls are all up. The roof trusses are also ready to set so hopefully we will be under roof by the end of this month. We are working with this building project to involve the members of the Granada church in the building of their own facility. Obviously, we are buying materials, but labor, as much as possible, is Nicaraguan. We want to include the folks from the existing sister churches as well to have a chance to help, so they can experience the blessing of participating in the work of the Kingdom. The worst thing we as missionaries have done over the years is to have the attitude of “Oh, poor little natives, let us do this for you”. People here are desperately poor, but they still deserve the dignity of being able to do what they can. In the up coming weeks, I am planning to start a new leadership teaching series with the leadership team, focusing on church growth and balance in ministry activities.
In late June very heavy rains began to fall in the eastern coastal regions of Nicaragua. Several days of rain raised the rivers to flood stage, drowning out crops all along the Prinzapolka River. The flooding left 11,000 people without food crops to sustain them. That area is the poorest province in Nicaragua with an average household income of only $48 per year. It is inhabited mostly by the Miskitu and Suma tribes. They make their living by fishing and planting small plots of rice, plantains and corn along the river banks. Even in the best of times, life is hard but a flood like this brings everything to crisis level. The great danger in these situations is that poorly nourished chil dren will weaken and succumb to diseases so prevalent among the poor in rural Nicaragua.
When we became aware of the situation I made a quick trip to the area to see if there was anything we could do to help. When I say “quick”, it takes 2 whole days to get there driving as the road is marginal. The overwhelming consensus among the leaders there was that food was a priority to help until normal planting could resume.
As quickly as possible a truckload of beans, rice, cooking oil and powdered milk were prepared to transport and distribute. Five tons of food were loaded onto a truck provided by World Relief, a local Christian organization, and sent on its way to the town of Alamikamba where the road ends. Alamikamba is the largest community in the Prinzapolka province and also the “county seat” so to speak. The Lord really opened the doors by providing two good Christian leaders in the area to help with the distribution. Ivan Law and Victor Wittingham(the area was colonized by both the British and Germans in the 1800’s, so many have English names and the Moravian Church is the dominant Christian denomination) Transportation from Alimikamba on is by rive r so we also sent our boat and gasoline for the outboard motor to help with distribution of food downriver.
Arriving in Alamikamba, we consulted with local church and tribal leader and decided to distribute the food in the community of Dipawala downriver and in the town of Alamikamba. These two locations had received little or no relief supplies. The situation was complicated by a food distribution begun by the United Nations which helped some areas but not others. This aroused a great deal of greed and envy. Big relief efforts like these unfortunately often become the pawns of local politicians and usually leave big sectors of the population without aid. Our own boat was badly damaged during transportation due to the pounding it took on the bad roads up there. When the truck arrived with the food we were able to borrow another boat to take the food downriver to Dipawala.
The day after the truck arrived, we loaded up and left to go downriver to Dipawala. The river is wide, flat and lazy as it winds through swampland on its way to the Caribbean. Around the bends from time to time small settlements would appear. The larger ones would have a clapboard Moravian church, always painted red and white. In Limbaika, the rusting machinery of a large cargo dock can be seen. In the 70’s this region was busy with American mining and timber concerns. Many older people here remember those times as “the good old days” since there was employment. Three and a half hours downstream the first houses of Dipawala come into view. This far down, the last of the river is flat and swampy to the extent that houses are built in small clusters on narrow s trips of land that are a few feet above the water level. The houses are built mostly of bamboo. “Boards” are made by cutting large bamboo stalks lengthwise and flattening out the round shape. This is done when the bamboo is green, but when dry, a surprisingly rigid “board” is formed.
We began to pass out food; 32 lbs of rice, beans, oil and powdered milk to each family. The Miskitu are a stoic people, but it was apparent that they were grateful. Soon we arrived at the central part of the settlement. The Moravian Church was just letting out of a service so we were able to distribute the rest of the food relatively quickly as virtually every family was represented. Ivan Law, the preacher from Alamikamba, gave a long message informing everyone that this food came from a group of brothers and sisters in Christ who wanted to help in the aftermath of the flood. He emphasized that the help had nothing to do with any government agency or political party, just followers of Christ helping others.
After such a trip, we realize more than ever, that God in gracious in providing and we are only tools in His hands. We are grateful to those who contributed financially for the purchase and distribution of food to this devastated area. With the extra monies we received, we hope to send seed for replanting crops.
As Ann and the children returned to Nicaragua at the end of June, they were accompanied by a young lady from Harvester Christian Church, Ami Wilson. This past Christmas, Ami approached us with the request to come visit during her summer vacation. We were thrilled by her interest and encouraged her to come. We have now come to know that she was heaven sent, for while Marcus was traveling to the flooded areas, Ami was a wonderful companion to Ann and the children in his absence. Ami was able to spend a week studying Spanish at a language school in Granada and later helped out doing activities with the children at the school in Tipitapa. Her artwork also graces the 5th grade classroom. (The 6th grades, whom had become quite attached to Ami were a bit jealous that she wasn’t painting in their classroom.)
It is with heavy hearts that we said goodbye to a dear woman, friend, mother and sister in Christ. Doña Blanca Barahona, mother of Nadia Vasquez, the director of the school in Tipitapa, died on Thursday, May 27th, 2004. She was battling breast cancer. Energetic and with a zeal for Christ, she never let the disease take from her the passion of spreading the Word of Christ to all she visited. She is greatly missed in this world but is certainly celebrating in the Kingdom with her Lord.