The Harvest Center
The school year is well underway at the Pequeno Benjamin School located in Tipitapa, Nicaragua. Registration is 330 children this year, up about 30 from last year. Alexandra Mendoza is now in her third year as director and is doing a great job with the administration. All our tried and true teachers are back this year. Low turnover of teachers is a testament to her ability to inspire loyalty in the faculty as is a very high retention rate of students, an average of 91% last year.
Carol Gasser gave a workshop with the young ladies in fourth through sixth grades. Her workshop covered womenís health issues and self esteem. In these poor barrios surrounding the school the prevailing ignorance of a Christian perspective on these topics contributes to teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Also as so many families live piled into one or two rooms, sexual abuse, especially by step fathers and step brothers is very common. Thanks to Carol for taking on this difficult topic and for former school director Nadia Vasques for translating.
This year we are making some improvements to the site, especially in the area of security. The school is located in a neighborhood where there is a lot of crime and street gang activity. We are replacing the chain link fence around the property because it is getting pretty ragged and really doesnít offer much protection. This will offer more security and also reduce the dust that constantly blows in off of the dirt street.
Also new for the school year is the El Chapparal Scholarship Fund. For several years now we have coordinated with local preachers to offer scholarships to the poorest children in the neighborhood. The goal is to have about ten percent of the student body on scholarship. This year we are offering the opportunity for individuals to sponsor children that are receiving these scholarships. For more information please see the website www.cosechanic.com. Valeria Lopez will start working full time for us next month and she will help us coordinate the sponsorship program as well as other administrative duties.
With this school year off to a good start we have begun to think about next year. Alexandra believes that we should consider offering high school classes. She is starting the process of changing our school certification to get government authorization for high school. We have decided that if there is a high school next year that it will have an extremely heavy Bible emphasis in the curriculum. Presently the primary school students receive Bible teaching in the classroom, but this will be a much more intensive teaching as a daily class upon which the students will be graded. The government is already starting to require community service from high school students and we will integrate our studentís service hours into the work of the local church. I am thankful that we have such freedom here to work with education as a body of Believers. Pray for Alexandra as we work on these plans for 2008.
Other possibilities for service that we are considering are expanding the scholarship program to two additional projects. Presently the Chapparel Scholarship Fund helps only children attending the Pequeno Benjamin School in Tipitapa. Currently we are also working with a group of children at the church in Granada. There are 26 children enrolled there. They attend school at the public school since we donít have a school set up in Granada. After school they come to the church for lunch and stay in the afternoon for tutoring, Bible Study, computer lab, and sports activities. With sponsorships in place we could bring more children into the program and also add more afternoon activities, like a sewing lab.
The other area we are considering extending the coverage of the fund is to the community of people who live in the garbage dump of the city of Managua. A group of about 100 families lives in the garbage dump and lives by foraging in the municipal waste for aluminum, plastic and glass to sell. For three years we have been in touch with a group of Nicaraguan Christians who have organized themselves to establish a medical clinic in that barrio and staff it. Now that the clinic is up and running they want to start a nutrition program for the children and that is a possibility for child sponsorship.
In other news the leadership training institute now has a name: the Centro Cosecha, or Harvest Center. So far the two rounds of leadership training seminars the center has hosted this year have been well attended and received by the leaders of the various churches. Rich and Carol Gasser came and taught about marital issues for pastoral workers and Pat McKracken came and taught about Biblical Leadership Principles. For April, Dennis Dowdall is coming to teach. In May, Dennis and I are scheduled to travel to Somotillo, in the far north corner of Nicaragua to teach a group of preachers there.
The one of the preacherís at the church in Managua, Carlos Mayorga, is a graduate of a denominational seminary. He has been on staff with the Managua Church for many years and I believe he is well centered in the beliefs and practices of the Restoration Movement. He works with a group of the young leaders teaching Bible content and pastoral topics. He does a good job with his teaching and we are talking to him about partnering with him in his ministry instead of trying to start from scratch with our Bible Institute. It would give us a jump start on the project and avoid the potential division that could be caused if we start a parallel work.
We are all trying to get back into the routine of living here. Even though we lived in Nicaragua for many years it is tough to get accustomed again to the heat, culture and language. The kids are enrolled in school here in Granada and are slowly getting used to it. They are picking up the language slowly but surely. We ask for prayer for out family as we continue to adjust.
Marcus, Ann, Will, and Amelia
505 679 9633