May 2004 Newsletter
The Granada church at 1 year
This Resurrection Sunday the church in Granada celebrated its first year as a congregation. Thankfully we were able to meet on a piece of ground purchased as a home site for the church. The group counts a stable attendance of around thirty adults and that many children. The first year had its ups and downs like all years. Moving the meeting place for worship services several times has been a slowdown. The church met in various borrowed and rented locations, including the workshop of a coffin company. The loss of one of our team members due to a disciplinary action was also a setback. However, all year the team and those members who have captured the vision have worked hard visiting, holding home Bible studies and faithfully carrying out the work of starting a new congregation. Several baptisms have been celebrated and some good leaders in training have been recruited.
Last year the Church started a community computer lab with five computers. They offered very basic computer operator training classes at very low cost. This helps people get a job skill and help us build up more contacts in the community. This year the program has expanded to fourteen computers and fifty students are taking classes.
Another big push for this year has been an outreach program for very poor children. Late last year the team did interviews with over 100 families to choose 30 of the neediest children. This year at the start of the Nicaraguan school year in January they received a scholarship to cover the cost of grade school and a monthly allotment of food. They meet two afternoons a week for help with homework and athletic activities. Parents must attend a mandatory four week basic home Bible study and monthly meetings throughout the year. Since property has been purchased we hope to have enough constructed to allow for serving hot lunches four days a week for the children as well as a dedicated classroom for the tutoring. A real concern for the poor was a great hall mark of the primitive church and so part of the vision for the church in Granada is making service to the poorest, mainly children and single mothers, a real priority.
The new property purchased in late March is 1 acre in size, very level and actually has a view of Lake Nicaragua (sort of). After many months of looking, this was the best option we could find for a reasonable price. We drilled a well on the site and got water which is a big relief as municipal water in that sector is unreliable, expensive, and a source of conflict among the neighbors. The congregation meets there under a 30’ by 30’ tarp while we work on a permanent building. The leaders of the Managua church are willing to help us by sending volunteer work crews down to Granada to help. Getting a more substantial structure up is a priority because honestly, I don’t know how long this make-shift tent is going to last!
Challenges for the new congregation include being shorthanded with the exit of one of the leadership team members for disciplinary reasons. The church already has a “Timothy”; a young man named Francisco, who is helping take up the slack but he is a new Christian and we don’t want to put more on him than he can handle. A chronic concern is the lack of musicians in the congregation. Like Nashville, I thought there were 4152 guitar pickers here. There may be, but we can’t seem to get ‘em in church. Maybe the Mormons have them all. Juan Zelaya and his sister Marta do a great job leading songs to recorded tracks but sooner or later it would be great to have some real live musicians. We have been talking to our nearby sister congregation in Masaya about loaning us a guitar player at least.
In April we were visited by Chris McConn, a brother in Christ from Minnesota. Lovely temps in the low 100’s made him feel right at home. He helped out with the drilling of the well in Granada but also with building a biogas digester. Basically it is a large plastic bladder half buried in the ground, filled with cow manure and water. It produces methane gas which can be used to cook with. Not as silly as it sounds since the poor people here cut down every tree in sight to cook food with while the cattle farmers here push piles of manure into the rivers just to get rid of it. I am always on the lookout for simple products that our vocational school graduates could reasonably build and install. It provides employment for them and if it helps the environment so much the better. I don’t have a lot of time to put into things like this so we will let you all know how this develops over time.
In May we had a visit from Captain Marty Cooper from Riverside, CA, another brother in Christ. He works for the Salvation Army and for many years has come here to bring donations for the school in Tipitapa. Marty is a volunteer chaplain for the Riverside county Sheriff’s Department and always brings load of good war stories from riding with the deputies. I don’t know what it is about Marty but things always seem to happen when he is here. This year we had the normal power outages, lack of water and other difficulties getting materials supplied but we got through it and it is always good to have his help.
Please begin praying for Mike McKinney as he plans to drive down here in July bringing a truck loaded with donations. The truck itself is being donated by Gary Schnieder of Grace Hauling in St Charles, Missouri and the donations will include equipment and supplies that will be greatly helpful here. I have driven from St. Louis to Managua twice and I can tell you it is no joke. We are thankful that Mike is willing to take it on. We plan to send one of our men to the Texas/Mexico border to meet Mike and help him drive and cross borders through Central America. The departure date is 10 July so start praying.
Thanks so much for support and prayers. Ann and the children are doing well. Amelia is crawling now and able to pull herself of low objects. Will always amazes us by how many details he picks up on, he is sharp. In June Ann and the kids will travel to the US to go to a family reunion and see other friends. I will miss them but am glad she can go visit with family and show off the grandkids!
Marcus, Ann, Will, and Amelia