Nicaragua Gap Year: GRIP

(Global, Responsibility, Internship, Program)

After being in relationship with Nicaragua for ten years now an exciting pilot program has been set into motion this school year 2017-18. After a Student Ministries trip over spring break in 2016 several students indicated their desire to live in country instead of going to college their first year after high school. Council Tree’s Nicaragua point person Jane Mirandette was approached to lead this project and immediate fell in love with the idea and now six 2017 graduates will be in country for seven months.
The program seeks to give students a global perspective on life and what is required to run a non-govenrment organization (NGO) in the context of developing world. They will have Spanish classes, work closesly with Jane’s lending and mobile library projects, work with our sister church in Ameya and maybe even learn to surf! As it is a pilote program their is a degree of built in flexibility that will allow them to best engage the year as it comes.

You can follow along with their adventure here at their blog nicagrip.com

The Road to Ameya is Well Travelled.

We believe God had called us to be in a reciprocal relationship with the community of Ameya, and we are now in our 10th year continuing to build this relationship. Over 100 people from our congregation have been to Nicaragua. Some of us several times! We continue to build the relationship by various projects and activities and emails and hand delivered letters that come with the various members of our yearly mission trips and with several who travel back and forth on a regular basis.

Our last All Church Mission to Nicaragua was July 27-Aug 6th , 2017. We celebrated of our 10th year Anniversary of walking alongside this little church community we see so close to God’s heart. We provided a loving Children’s church experience and participated in Baptisms in the Pacific Ocean at the nearby beach at Corinto.

Fellowship in Christ is the prevailing theme being each of us God’s own child.

This was the first year of personal collaboration between our church group and the Oakland Covenant Church group who also have a heart for Ameya.  There were 12 of us and 18 from the Oakland Covenant Church.

We have been collaborating with two other churches these past months to build a house for the Pastor, Many of the mission volunteers worked on this project. Watch for continuing stories of the house in progress. It is very near completion and a totally God driven project. How else could a house come into being when the idea was initiated in January of 2017 and ground broken in June with helping hands in July and the $35,000 needed simply there just as it was needed.  The funds were provided through a private grant available at our church, a similar grant at Oakland Covenant and Pastor Luna’s church as well.

Our congregation has a strong heart for Ameya, we hold an annual Christmas drive to provide over 100  “Canastas Basicas” – Basic food and supplies baskets to our sister church families every December. ( photos available in the gallery ) Many of our church community families provide several baskets worth of funding each year at $25 per basket which proves a week’s food supplies for a family in Ameya. This December’s project will need over 120 baskets for the community and their new church plant at Philadelphia. This second church area is 20 minutes away and services are held there in the open rancho twice a week. The kickoff for this year is at our Fall Festival on October 29th. Come check out the posters and handouts at our Ameya table, provide for a family’s basket and take a caramel apple!

The most recent activities with the Ameya family have been the Nicaraguan Youth Mission in March of 2016 and the subsequent donation of money earned by the youth groups for a much needed fence surrounding the church school and library property. The fence was built in June of 2016 with the help of the San Juan del Sur Biblioteca staff and family and the men of the Ameya church. A second donation from mission team helped purchase and deliver a stout gate across the entrance to the property in July of 2016.

Our mission team provides some funding annually that this past church fiscal year helped with the needed renovations and new equipment to the transition to the new high school which now offers high school to over 60 young people from the surrounding areas. The vocational school  that has been reorganized and improved with our help  to become an accredited free Saturday adult high school in early 2016 and was recently awarded their charter.

The Gracias y Esperanza lending library there on the property was initially furnished by Stephanie and Jenna Wisely and still supported by them and is available for community use during the week and the high school teachers and students on Saturdays. Stephanie Wisely Claitt provides the monthly funding of $100 still for the two library staff teens and some of the utility costs.

A second church planting has been happening in a nearby area called “Philadelphia” and our youth group traveled in the new truck to participate in a presentation in their honor and celebrate with that community and their youth group. A rough shelter in a field is the provision of the moment there. Chairs, a generator and speakers for worship music are transported back and forth. The youth and men of the area are continuing to come in greater numbers.  The women have started an open-hearth bakery making a local corn meal bread to sell to help support this little church plant. Our youth mission spent a delightful afternoon at Philadelphia, in service, playing games and sampling the hearth breads.

In 2014 our church mission team with some generous donations from the church body helped provide 2/3 of the funding for a new truck large enough to be used to bring their church members to and from services and serves as transport for emergencies and many events. A contract was drawn up that spelled out the ongoing responsibilities of our church, Pastor Luna’s church in Redwood California and the responsibilities of the Ameya church. Insurance and annual maintenance, tires and parts would be the responsibility of the two supporting churches. The Ameya church sent three people to driving school and provides for daily and weekly maintenance and service, fuel etc. The truck was outfitted with a metal shelter cap and signs that honored and thanked the donors are in place on the doors of the truck. It is functioning as church vehicle transport locally and to and from Philadelphia four times a week, school bus, ambulance and every day transportation now since 2014. It is running well and has been care for in a responsible way. (This is a major annual budget number for the Mission team)

A second church planting has been happening in a nearby area called “Philadelphia”

We have participated in providing funding for two separate renovations of their church and supported many of their ongoing projects. Currently the community boasts more men and boys in their numbers than most local churches and the youth programs are thriving. They lead worship services and are active in competitions for Christian Youth Worship Dance Programs. Their youth meet weekly and also participate in fasts and communion. There is a baptism class that meets when baptisms are to be offered. The women, men and elders also meet weekly with the pastor and there are two services at the main church per week as well. Donations are offered at each service and the community has grown from 30 families to over 100. One of the requests when asked were for 80 additional plastic chairs.

Pastor Luna’s church group initiated a major renovation in 2014 and removed the roof and gutted the back section of Pastor Francisco’s house all the way to the kitchen walls. We had allocated budget money to help them with the building of a structure at Philadelphia and when it was discovered that there was no clear title to that land they began the church renovation instead. It was a major undertaking that was underestimated and they appealed to us to provide funding for the renovation instead of Philadelphia. This was provided, the new roof was reviewed for safety and additional struts and supports constructed to make the structure safe. The electrical work had not been completed and was also not safe. We provided additional lighting and electrical.

Over the years our relationship has deepened and grown. We were able with our Project 21 funding in 2010-2013 to bring the funds to provide for the restoration f the church’s posts and beams that were termite ridden, The church could then be stucco’s and painted inside and out- We participated in that process one summer. The next summer a full kitchen was built with Project 21 money and the third year those funds helped build bathrooms and showers and a septic system so they could provide for a growing congregation and offer the services of their facility to other local Nicaraguan churches to bring their congregation for retreat days. Over a three year period Project 21 provided over $21,000 of infrastructure. One of Pastor Francisco’s continuing requests was for spiritual training and with funds we provided he attended workshops in Guatemala and also in Managua. They became connected with several teaching churches.

With the infrastructure stable, we began to see that our time together was better spent in the Word and in relationships than just in painting and physical projects. The first Pastor workshops that were provided by Bert Wright and Russ Bruxvoort were unique in that many of the 30 or so pastors that attended those first two years were unfamiliar with one another and there began to be a community of pastors working with one another. We also provide annually the small amount of funds that allow his wife Maritza to attend seminars for Pastor’s wives in Managua through the ICF International Christian Fellowship. FFH Food for the Hungry offers events at the church because of the location and facilities.

In the past two years there have been a surge of evangelistic programs that include pastors and their communities from all over Chinandega area several times a year. Francisco is a major participant in these events and some are held at the church as well as in Chinandega. Maritza and the girls dance team are a major part of that program throughout Chinandega with competitions and events happening regularly.

Pastor Luna’s church in California was ordained as part of Covenant in 2015 and provides the salaries for Pastor Francisco and the preschool teachers and Saturday high school teachers and is the mainstay of the Ameya church .We have the privilege to walk alongside both of these organizations and especially with this Latino church in Redwood CA which functions within a large Covenant Anglo church. Most of the money they provide comes from offering meals on Sunday to the larger church population.  Mike Nunan’s family were members of that church.

We’re grateful for the assistance provided by Covenant Merge Ministries, a Covenant organization that initiated this worthwhile and ongoing relationship for us.  They continue to arrange short term mission trips for many groups like ours going on mission all around Central America. We are unique in our commitment to walk alongside in relationship to help further the Kingdom in this way.

Please pray for this partnership. Over the years we have seen our prayers working in so many ways.. If you have questions, contact Jane Mirandette.