Nicaragua Mission


The Nicaragua Project is a mission of Bethlehem Lutheran Church, which provides assistance to children and their families in the Somoto Nicaragua community.

Founded in 1999, it has had several areas of emphasis over the years. Today the majority of our effort is concentrated on the continued operation of the children’s project, started in 2008, and scholarships to high school and university students.

The children’s project provides both a preschool and after school learning.
The preschool has 85+ preschoolers, almost all from very impoverished backgrounds. At the preschool, the children daily receive two healthy meals and two snacks. This is often their only meals for the day.

The children are taught by a loving, capable staff of three teachers and four assistants, who are supported by two directors.

Additionally, the staff is assisted by scholarship students, who are paying forward the scholarships they receive from their sponsors.

In addition to the teachers, assistants and directors, there is a guard at night that keeps the facility safe and a cook and assistant to prepare the meals.

The children receive not only the usual preschool education similar to that in the US, but also receive Christian education.

Their parents also receive parenting education in meetings held for them.
The preschool provides a safe place for the children while their parents are out trying to find dollar a day work.

The annual preschool and scholarships budget is $45,000.

The Nicaragua Project is funded by annual support from donors who contribute to our annual spring and fall matching funds challenges. In addition, we receive mission support funds from Bethlehem Lutheran Church and Bethany Lutheran Church.

Latest News

Open the newsletter as a PDF

  Reports from the 2017 Nicaragua MissionSubject: Nicaragua first morning….

Sent: 2017-06-14 9:38 AM

Hi! All of us arrived safely and on time! Customs took their time looking through our things but all went through.

Cristel, one of our scholarship recipients who is studying dentistry, met us at the airport. Scholarship dollars are already bearing fruit in serving the most needy. She goes with groups to communities that have high needs with dental care. Cusmappa, for example, has thousands of people and NO dentist! For $3.50 in materials, she can treat a patient. If they have money to pay, they do. If they do not, her generous and giving spirit we have seen through the years pays for the materials herself. In the community, they can only pull teeth. However, if they can get to the dental school in Esteli, they can fill teeth as well. The inflamed teeth often cause additional problems with health on top of poor nutrition, hunger, worms, and poor living conditions. One person walked to Esteli for two hours each way to get such help. Well, our ride to Somoto is here and I must run.

Blessings to all and gratitude for your prayers. Cathy

Subject: Second Day…

Sent: 2017-06-15 8:43:55 PM

Hi All,

Take a good look at the plastic shack in the attached picture. Now notice what is good about the shack.

Was that difficult to do? To imagine what is good about it? Guess what. This family is “lucky” because they have plastic all around.

I never cease to be shocked anew, as many trips as we have had here. There is a brand new barrio of people who were told by the municipality they had to move from their land by the garbage dump to a new area. Marta said the children were excited, carrying the sticks, plastic, metal sheets, cardboard, and their meager possessions to the new area about a mile away— like “the Egyptians of the Bible,” she said. First the good news: each family will be given title to their small plot. The bad news: in the process, their plastic was often torn or could not be used at all again. For the first time ever, we were presented with a letter from a mother we met yesterday pleading for…PLASTIC…for walls of protection. Twenty dollars. That is what plastic costs to surround a little shack. Imagine being in a position of petitioning others for plastic. Now imagine yourself in a shack without plastic or with too little or shredded plastic. Now add to your mental picture the rain coming down. Yes, it has rained every day. Now add in a dirt floor and as many as 20 people to one little shack of 8X10 feet. Yes, you get the picture.

So tomorrow Candida and Marta are going to check with the barrio to see how many need plastic…a new project, for us…the donation of walls of plastic.

So thank God today for your walls.
Did you remember to thank Him for your dentist too?
Blessings, Cathy

Subject: Fwd: “I’ve got the Joy Joy Joy Joy….”

Sent: 2017-06-16 5:25:37 PM

Some of you know the song, “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart.” Today we saw joy all around us. Smiling, laughing children, 52 of them. They were at the preschool at our children’s project (26 others could not come because they were in the relocated barrio I wrote about). Their joy abounded. What a difference the children’s project makes in the lives of these children who otherwise would be abandoned and on the streets as their parents worked, sometimes even abused. We observed the preschool in operation and after my teaching preschool for 12 years many years ago, I can tell you it looked and sounded like a preschool back home. They sang preschool songs, played preschool games, were taught counting and numbers, and were doing an art project using the number one.They dashed with glee around the playground and, after a hearty lunch, they napped, perhaps dreaming of the ice cream treat we had given them that they relished with incredible enthusiasm.

I can guarantee you that without this preschool, instead of joy, their faces would reflect abuse, neglect, and malnutrition. We give thanks to God for leading us into this project and for the generous donors who support it.

Blessings, Cathy

Subject: Micro Loans

Sent: 2017-06-17 8:44:44 AM

If you give a man a fish he eats for a day; if you teach him to fish…
You know how the saying goes.

And so our microloan program was developed. There have been so many given, they cannot give us a number of how many have been started. Last year, they guessed 70, but it is more now. They do not need more money to continue the ones right in Somoto this year because of the excellent administration of the loans by Candida. They choose women for the loans, since without them women are often dependent on abusive men or else live as a single mother with little to no means to feed their children. We quickly toured some of the newer ones yesterday; the one in the photo started a year ago. The owner’s father designed this building from the metal sheets usually used for roofs. Her business is going okay and building little by little, the recipient of the loan reported. The two year old loan inside the university obviously did a brisk business as they were madly preparing for the lunch rush. “I don’t have any time to chat,” she blurted while quickly dashing around. Good news, huh?

Yes, a few have failed. The vast majority have succeeded.

Do they want more than the $2400 they have recycled through the program for Somoto? No. The recipients are faithfully paying back their loans under the watchful eye of Candida.

What do they want micro loan money for? The new barrio where 126 families just moved,”like Egyptians.” What a great idea. Some can start earning a little there in a vast field of 126 shacks where there are only trees, grass and bushes, and mud…lots of mud… and the walk to Somoto is several kilometers—often through some additional mud. Thank you to all who gave us undesignated funds. If we have enough, we will be able to fund the startup of a few businesses in the new barrio.

Blessings, Cathy

 Subject: Education

Sent: 2017-06-17 8:12:31 AM

School. There are sometimes some tough choices to be made. For Ana, a young person who has been receiving a scholarship for a few years, she is torn. She started her life near the river living in what was basically a sewer covered in plastic overhead. We built a house a number of years ago for Ana and her grandmother, whom she considers her mother. What a joy it has been to watch her grow up. Now she is 17 and has just one year of school to go before she could go to the university and learn to be the primary teacher she wants to be because of her love of children. But having more income has made her torn. She helps her grandmother sell food items on the street instead of going to school for half a day (the usual here) Monday through Friday. What will she choose? The income she brings in of a dollar or two or three or maintaining her scholarship that can change her life? She is torn. Please pray for Ana who needs to make this decision and let us know by Sunday.

Blessings, Cathy

Subject: Fwd: Hi Lance from Cathy

Sent: 2017-06-18 5:02:22 PM

Hi Everyone!
Enjoy this story from Lance, one of our board members and our newsletter editor!
Greetings again from Somoto, Nicaragua.

May I just say that even though we have been here only a couple of days, my heart, my mind, emotions, and memories are full of incredible experiences. Once again, we come here with the idea of helping and giving to people who are less fortunate than we are, and they end up enriching our lives in ways that make us feel like we are the ones receiving the blessings.

Last year, at the recommendation of our local leaders, we helped finance and build a sewing co-op located right next to the Children’s Center. The idea was to allow mothers to work in close proximity to where their children were being taken care of and to give them an extra source of income.

For some reason I pictured a room full of older ladies sitting at their sewing machines, making dresses and blouses, linens, and table cloths… boy was I mistaken! These ladies have an eye for fashion and a talent to sew modern clothing that the younger generation is willing to buy. School uniforms, sports gear, casual clothing are a few of the things they have learned to create. They also sew decorative coverings for chairs to be used in formal gatherings like weddings, celebrations, and church meetings. This is just the beginning. These ladies have learned so much in one year!

When you look at the photos, keep in mind that many of them had absolutely no training as a seamstress less than a year ago.

This turned out to be a very cool idea. We have really learned to trust our local leaders when they come to us with an idea like this. We lean on them to help us decide how to best distribute our funds in a way that effectively meets their needs, on a sustainable, long-term basis.

Tomorrow we head out to the rural areas to install 75 water purification systems to the families that live in those communities. Much more to share in the next few days.


 Subject: Gratitude

Sent: 2017-06-19 7:21:45 AM

I wish each and every one of you could hear the gratitude of so many expressed to us and to each one of you who support us with prayers, encouragement, and donations.

  • It comes from the scholarship students: “Thank you, thank you. Without you, I could not go to school.” Sometimes it is expressed with tears as it was by Snyder’s mother. She wept with gratitude expressing how she did everything she could to earn Snyder’s tuition to complete his last year at the university but could not. Now, with help from a donor for just one year, he was able to graduate from the university.”
  • It comes from those we have known so long as they talked as part of the church service: “Thank you to all those who came before, as well as, those here now…Pastor Abe who started the work here and the many who followed. You are changing so many lives with God’s help.”
  • It comes with tears in the eyes of house recipients.
  • It comes from families of preschool children and from the secondary students that receive support.
  • It comes from a father who did not know how he could continue to keep his daughter Rita in medical school. Rita now has a scholarship.
  • It comes in the joyful eyes of preschool children.
  • It comes from a woman who recently reunited from her husband, received a devotional from us, read several pages that very night, and had a “panorama” she said open up to her that for the first time since the reunification brought her peace and joy.
  • It comes in the glorious music they sang for us last night to celebrate Father’s day and to praise God.
  • It comes in the hospitality and celebrations they carry out with us.

And so we thank them as well—for all the gifts of themselves they give to us so freely. As Dave said, it is where he comes in his mind when he wants to lift his spirit. And we say thank you to you and to God.

Blessings, Cathy

Subject: People with DisABILITIES

Sent: 2017-06-19 7:41:17 PM

Here in Nicaragua people with disabilities such as people with Down Syndrome are hidden away. If they do not have a support system, there is no help for them. Even living on the street, so to speak, does not work, as people do not wish to see them. Being the mother of three disabled daughters, this hits me in the heart.

Years ago we built a house for Flora, a grandmother who was trying to protect herself, her daughter, and two grandchildren—all three of whom have Down Syndrome, from buckets of rain. She had only pieces of cardboard to use and not even a plastic house. After her house was built by us, the children’s project started construction. Out of gratitude for her house, she protected the building supplies by staying with them all night…alone…in the dark…and it gets really, really dark. During the day she carried water up the hill to the construction workers, all out of gratitude. Well, now she is sick and elderly. What is going to happen to the three with Down Syndrome without her? They would have the house but no means to eat.

Three students in the social work department and their professor have worked hard as volunteers for the children’s project. They have visited the families of the students in the project (at least 100 of them) to see what their needs are. They visited Flora and her family. Together they came up with a plan—quite an elaborate one. After seeing that Christian, her grandson, had some talents, they envisioned him selling yarn crafts….square yarn doilies, yarn purses, and other crafts. They found a stall at the artisans market in Somoto where he could display his wares and developed a plan to teach him additional crafts and market his pieces of art in other communities. A social worker, people who train in handicrafts, the professor, the three students, and our wonderful children’s project will organize and run the program for six months, after which they hope he has built a community of support as others see his abilities, developed a means to earn a living, been an example that people with disabilities do indeed have abilities and are people with whom they can develop a relationship, and has paved the way for others with similar disabilities to be an integral part of the community. The cost of the program will be paid in some part by the students, with the rest coming for our generous donors who year after year give above and beyond our basic projects so that we could give a resounding YES to this proposal.

The students, the professor, Marta, and we all met to share how emotional we felt about this unique scholarship for Christian and how we all know that it is led ultimately by God. The professor shared that it is the first such project he has had students do, and since he has taught these three fine ladies since they were freshman, he got teary eyed as well. Lance led us in prayer. Please pray for Christian, Forita his sister, his mother with Down Syndrome, and for Flora as they go forward.

Blessings, Cathy

Subject: Ana

Sent: 2017-06-19 7:55:04 PM

Please know that there is so much more that could be written about…books worth.

Some have asked about Ana. Please know Ana and her grandmother did not need Ana to work to provide their basic needs. Because Ana has started the once a week school program, she cannot change it for this year. A compromise was made. She will receive a half scholarship while she finishes this year and will return to full time next year with a full scholarship and, her donor hopes, a scholarship to the university after that. From now on, we will let students know that they need to attend school five days a week like other scholarship students, even those living in horrendous conditions, have been able to do without harm to the family.

 Subject: Fwd: 53 homes built this year.

Sent: 2017-06-19 8:11:40 PM

Fifty Three Homes Built This Year.

Yes, that is right. 53.

Three out of concrete blocks.

Fifty out of plastic and metal sheets.

Today we went to the barrio so that we could see the community of people who are going to benefit. I wish you could have seen them too. Children, parents with the wear of years living in harsh conditions etched on their faces, elderly. One woman stopped me to show me her house—it was a small plot with only a small area where sand had been thrown. I asked them if there was anything to cover themselves in the rain that has been off and on each day, sometimes light, sometimes pouring. NO. Heads shook. NO. They have lived outside, some with NOTHING over them in the rain. I told them what strong spirits they have for be able to survive. Could you?

Why can we build so many plastic shacks? Because of you, the donors. The shacks are better than sand on the ground. Right?

Blessings, Cathy

PS: Mayor Marcio wants us to approach Habitat to tell them all 126 families need a house on land they now own. Each house costs $6000. If anyone has a contact with them, please let us know.

Subject: Casa Materna Mother´s House

Sent: Tuesday, June 20, 2017 18:31


I am writing from Managua where we arrived safe and sound an hour or so ago. This computer and keyboard are so different, I am likely to make many mistakes!

Yesterday we went to the Casa Materna (Mother House) we built in approximately 2006 in Telpaneca. It is a place where mothers who are pregnant go to stay for approximately two weeks before giving birth and to stay approximately two weeks after the birth. We delivered the layettes so lovingly made by the women at Immanuel Lutheran in Greeley. They are a blessing!

The women sat in a semi circle while Marta talked about our history of building the facility and added a great lesson on the importance of nutrition, especially while nursing. There they sat. Some were obviously well nourished. Some were thin, malnourished and life worn. In one room sat a mother whose baby was just a few days old. Her legs straight across the bed looking like the legs of a small wooden table, they were so thin, and the legs of her new born looking like twigs. She will have a 2.5 mile trip back home. Sometimes they ask the mayor to use the ambulance to take them back home, but some live in isolated, inaccessible areas. One who was there will need to walk a mile and a half back home with her newborn, imagine! She also walked to the Mother´s House two weeks before giving birth! We will never know if the other woman will get a ride or will be walking.

They gratefully received the layettes; I wish you could see them looking over the beanie baby, the baby blanket, and the small baby outfit with gratitude. At the end we took a group picture.

We were able to talk to the Mayor Bernarda afterwards. We had seen the many changes she listed, a bright well laid-out kitchen, tiles instead of dirt and rocks in the hall, better made bathrooms, and much improved cleanliness. Step by step she said. But still. They have up to 18 there at a time and only 11 beds. Yes. Two women often share a simple single bed. Unbelievable. One hundred and thirty babies were born there last year! It was originally conceived as a facility for four at a time; then they paved the road and started serving many surrounding communities. It saves lives. Women always have food to eat, which some obviously had not during their pregnancy, with some not showing much, likely from malnutrition. We still have needs, she said. We want two more sewing machines so they can sew diapers to keep themselves occupied and useful. We want to build two more rooms upstairs. We imagined pregnant women close to giving birth climbing stairs…but then they walk miles to get there.

We wish to thank Pastor Abe of Immanuel Lutheran, our leader for many years, for having the vision to initiate and complete this most worthwhile project. It saves the lives of mothers and babies.

Blessings, Cathy

Subject: It is like pulling teeth! And cleaning teeth, and filling teeth

Date: June 21, 2017 at 20:11:16 MDT

It is my last night here. Please pray for safe travels for all of us, as two of us leave early tomorrow and the others the next day.

Cristel, one of our scholarship students who is learning to be a dentist, can pull, fill, and clean teeth. We are supporting her in her mission to help the impoverished with dental care. She treats people each week at the university and needs to get patients, which is easy to do for those who have some money. However, she has a strong personal mission to help the suffering. She will be able to treat two people who do not otherwise have a hope for dental care every week for $12 each—$3 for them to travel an hour away to and from Somoto to Esteli where she goes to the university, $3 for what the university charges her for the “dental chair”fee, and $6 for the supplies she needs. If someone can help pay a little, they will. If they cannot, they will be covered—all of this by the money we gave her for seven people each month. She plans on treating the mothers of the preschool students and the staff as well as people in the barrio. For people who already have worms, malnutrition, and very difficult living conditions that challenge their health, it will be a blessing to help them not have the damage to their organs that poor dental health can bring. May we all pray for her as she begins this way to do the missionary work she has had a passion to do for years. For anyone who has met Cristel, they have felt the warmth and love that pours from her heart and knows the patients will not only get dental care but also care for their hearts and spirits as well.

Blessings! Cathy

Subject: Water Filters

Few things are more important to families in developing countries than to have clean drinking water. In the mountains of Somoto the water table is very shallow, making it susceptible to being polluted by surface water, which includes sewer waste. The water borne diseases that occur from this can be devastating to a family’s health, especially the young children.

This situation makes our water purification project extremely important. Our generous supporters donated enough money to provide water filter systems for 75 families. We spent today up in the rural mountain areas near Somoto, working alongside some volunteers from the Emergency Response System for Latin America (ERSLA), educating the people on how to use and take care of the filters.

I was impressed at how attentive the people were, as we met in a building that they use as a community center. And, as is often the case, they wanted to show their appreciation to us by having their children entertain us with a skit. The creative way that these families use common materials (trash) to make masks and costumes for their production is humbling to me. The kids are very enthusiastic and often comical in their play. They also enjoyed having their photos taken with the two American strangers, soon to be their friends.

We walked to over 40 homes, up and down the steep trails that lead to the houses of the people who lived there. The Firemen would do a quick inspection of the home and talk with the families about fire safety and any fire hazards that they spotted, usually having to do with the crude electrical connections leading to and inside their houses. The ERSLA volunteers would take their photograph and record the GPS coordinates of their homes and then off to the next house.


The story continues….Nicaragua

Just an update on shack construction…..

Marta wrote right after we got back that 20 more families in need of plastic and metal roof shacks had moved in. Not only that, 39 other families were struggling to find a legal way to construct the shack. Cutting the trees is illegal and a few had done so, putting themselves at legal risk. Authorities had already been out to talk to them. So now we have the “wood frame” project. We will provide the plastic and roof for 20 additional shacks at the cost of $90 each and the wood for 39 shacks at the cost of $53 each. A complete shack of about 10 X 10 that amazingly may hold up to 18 people (I do not know how) is $143. A couple people have asked if they can contribute to this project, and the answer is certainly YES! I will never forget the woman pointing to where her family was living in the rain on top of a little sand and dirt.

And I have to add the amazing Habitat contact that showed up in my in box by the time I returned to Managua. I had several offers of help, and the Habitat Nicaragua head had already written to me. The network of caring people is amazing. Bless you all.

Blessings, Cathy

Nicaragua Relief Mission: 2016

The 2016 Nicaragua Mission Trip, June 16-25, 2016. Planning went well; our members have returned and are eager to share their experiences! Read the emails from Cathy Goodman and watch for more information about the trip in the bulletins and on the website. For more detailed information about the Mission and what we do, visit our web site at

Urgent Need for New Home for Nicaragua Family

Imagine living in a small hut made of mud bricks and sticks that was prone to collapsing when it rained. The Perez-Sanchez family—Marcial Jr., his brother and sister, Joseling and Jose, and parents, Corina and Marcial, just experienced a collapse of their hut on March 19, 2016. They were left staring at clumps of mud where their home once stood and only had plastic sheeting propped up by sticks to live under while the heavy rains and strong winds continued.

Corina is one of many women who make and sell tortillas—while Marcial tries to peddle firewood and candies on the streets. In spite of working hard all of their lives, under the best of circumstances, they barely survive. Marcial Jr., who is one of our scholarship recipients, and his siblings, are excellent students and some of the most dedicated participants and workers at our children’s project. We have known this family for years: strong, proud and hard working. It is with a compassionate heart that we share their grief in losing their home and we have promised to build them a new home made of concrete brick. Please help us fulfill this promise.

~The Nicaragua Mission Board and The Nicaragua Task Force

Thank you from the Nicaragua Task Force

Bethlehem members really came through this year for the matching funds campaign for the Nicaragua Mission. We were able to match all funds and will be able to provide many positive changes for the people of Somoto. This year you have made it possible to:

  • Build three houses (one for a widow caring for 5 children, one for the family in our flier whose mud brick house collapsed, and one for seven orphaned children being cared for by the oldest sibling).
  • Supply numerous roofs to help keep shacks dry in the rainy season.
  • Provide at least 23 scholarships (with the hope to expand this if funds allow or new sponsors are identified).
  • Provide the operational funds for the children’s center ($8,000 per year).
  • Provide improvements needed on the facility of the children’s center.
  • Provide an electric piano for the children’s center.
  • Provide a minimum of 86 water filters.

As always, we are so grateful for your support that is making a difference in lives of those we serve there!

~Thank you very much, the Nicaragua Mission Task Force.

It’s not too late to donate! Please clearly mark your envelope in the pews for the Nicaragua Mission with checks written to Bethlehem Lutheran-Nicaragua and Nicaragua on the memo line. To learn more about the project, visit the website or contact Cathy Goodman (

Reports from the 2016 Nicaragua Mission Trip
 Friday, June 22: Forwards…number two

Farmers are being taught many improved techniques, including how to have a variety of crops and animals so that if one crop fails, others may support them. Marcio has hired someone whose sole job is to plant trees, an effort that is cutting down carbon emissions, and explained to us the efforts to depend only 10 percent on nonrenewable energy in the next few years. He had an ecological park built both to educate the population and increase tourism so that people kill fewer of the endangered animals to eat (even raccoons and squirrels are endangered because people eat them) and to educate them on natural plants that have medicinal purposes and provide food. (The preschoolers come here each week to be in and learn about nature.) The canon of Somoto has been developed without disturbing the people who have lived there for years, with a zipline, rapelling, cabanas, inner tube and canoe tours, in addition to tours of petroglyphs. If tourism increases, the ability to earn a living here will increase. They are applying for a UNESCO world heritage site in November. So yes, even impoverished people are working here to improve their country.

The communities are being taught to clean up, even around the outside of their house,to recycle, and to plant trees, among other things, with a government sponsored theater that tours villages and performs on the streets. Even those with us who do not speak Spanish understood their message. What a creative ad campaign!

The student exchange group from Malone University in Ohio, led by Jack Harris who came with us last year at our invitation to setup an exchange, has been learning about their efforts in Somoto on many levels and yesterday presented their ideas to the city council for any improvements. As Jack said, they will be able to say that they are doing a good job and their ideas are only suggestions.

We are all safe and sound and returning tomorrow. As in other years, there are a hundred stories or more. I just cherry pick. If possible, we will forward some of Pastor Susan Kent’s pictures and writing after our return. I apologize for my technical inability to send pictures myself. Bless you all for you prayers, interest and incredible support, Cathy.

 Friday, June 22: Backwards?

Often it is thought that impoverished people are backwards. Maybe instead they are ¨forwards¨. There is so much evidence we have seen this week of the country and city, with our close ally and supporter Mayor Marcio Rivas, have been progressing. In my early years of coming from 2004 on, there were heaps of trash along the Pan American Highway and the streets of Somoto. Plastic bottles were trashed, and when I asked children to pick up their trash after an art project, they looked at me like I was from another planet. Tourism at best in Somoto was from mission groups and the market was open air only, full of flies and littered. Roads even to villages four kilometers away were deeply rutted, with ruts sometimes feet deep, and heavy in mud. Gangs grew and 200 members terrorized neighborhoods of Somoto.

Now: Attractive trash cans line the street, streets are clean, as well as most of the highway. Recycling is country wide and this year trained anti-gang police went throughout the country, arresting the most aggressive of the members. The school we have can have night classes, where as last year, at night it was between warring gangs and we could not go. Marta told us it is now considered the safest of the Central American countries. Many remote villages still have muddy roads or paths, but those closer by increasingly have cobblestone lined roads to them, cutting travel to a fraction. The government has started a water collection program to help with the drought, collecting water that otherwise pours into the ocean with some damming, allowing it to seep into the soil and become part of the underground water system, as well forming a reservoir from which to irrigate crops. Where there were no parks, the mayor has put in a park with great play equipment for children. I will write more about tourism, farming and conservation efforts in a following email for those who are interested.

Blessings, Cathy.

 Friday, June 22: A preschooler

It has been such a joy this week to see the 85 preschoolers currently enrolled in our preschool at the Children´s project. There has been a wonderful change in their demeanor this year. Once running wildly about as the preschool continued to increase their skills with training and improve their staff, they are now much more calm and organized in their behavior…and they are the best students in public school after they graduate!

Here is one story…

Dinoia Jireh Lopez Aroca is four years old and has attended the school for over a year. Where does she live? In an 8 by 8 shack near the garbage dump, one of many shacks in the area. Her shack has plastic sheeting wrapped around the outside of limbs that form the supports, one side leaning and, according to her parents, in danger of collapsing. The tin roof, held down with rocks, has a space between it and the plastic exterior wall, which is lined with a light allowing material inside. They saved from their $3 a day income little by little to buy the tin, sacrificing food, because they earn enough only to buy food, very little food. Stepping in, we immediately had to be careful to step around the the chicks and chickens flowing in and out on top of the uneven, dirt packed floor. Rain sometimes gets inside, even with a roof. There is a hand made single ‘bed’ with limbs holding it up, a mattress stuffed with ????, and a pillow. All three in this family, mother Nohenia and father Jose, sleep in this at night, using a mosquito net for protection. Proudly, they demonstrated its construction. Unlike some, they do not need to sleep on the dirt and rock floor. Their worldly possessions are tossed in three cardboard boxes by the back wall. Nohenia works as a domestic worker and Jose sells bread on the street with his bicycle. Dinoia smiles as she lifts a fluffy chick to her cheek, the smile the result of two meals and a snack every day at the center. The mother explains that without the center, she either would not be able to work or would have to leave her young daughter home, in a dangerous situation. They attend classes at the center on how to teach good values and basic academics to Dinoia. Several times, they expressed their deep appreciation for a safe, healthy environment for their child and gratitude for Candida, who regularly visits the families,naccessing their needs and showing love and concern for them. We thanked them for allowing us to visit and left their hut standing within a few feet of others to the chorus of three pigs oinking from the neighbors, the peeps of chicks, the crow of a rooster, and the gobbling protest of a turkey running free. The mud caked on our shoes, enough in which we could grow a garden, and we thought of the two kilometers they need to walk through this day after day to the school, and the two kilometers back. Bless all of you for the support you give the entire children¨s project. Blessings, Cathy.

Wednesday, June 22: Hot tin roof

We looked around. Every where we looked the tin roofs glistened, held down by rocks and heavy limbs over black plastic and stick shacks, roofs that existed where none had before. Last year, this area took second prize for the worst we had ever seen, behind only the sewer flowing river bank dwellers of a few years ago. This year, their tattered plastic had been replaced with new plastic…imagine a shack reconstruction like this! A boon to those inside. Although their floors are packed mud, they are much dryer when it rains now. Why? Because of generous donations that allowed us to leave money for the tin. Gracias!

And speaking of river bank dwellers, one sat beside me yesterday. Her daughter Ana receives a scholarship from someone who knows and loves her. The mother was pencil thin, her skin a dark brown leather hardened by years of survival in the elements. Thank you, thank you, she said, and thanks be to God for the house you built for us. I do not know where I would be living without it. (Unfortunately, we can guess.)

Bless you all, Cathy.

 Tuesday, June 21: Scholarship

“Wow! What a beautiful painting”, I exclaimed. Danielo stood before me, looking puzzled. He lives in a village about 10 kilometers from here and has been painting since he was nine. Art is his passion. He does not have money to go to the university to study graphic design, so he is selling paintings to try to get the $100 a month it will cost him next year. During the days, he labors on a farm to support his family, being the only support his family has. The painting was quite large and he could sell it for only $19. I asked him to paint 10 small ones for our fair trade fair. Two students from our student exchange ordered two more, including a graphic design student who admired it greatly. After I left, tears flowed down his face. He was shocked. Never in his life had anyone ever told him his art was good…and it is excellent!

He could teach art at our children’s center if anyone would be willing to give him $30 a month for a scholarship, helping him attend the university. Are you, or possibly anyone you know, interested in giving $360 dollars a year for his scholarship? It would help assure his ability to raise what he needs.

I am so saddened by the many who cannot go to the university for lack of $30 dollars a month. Blessings, Cathy.

Tuesday, June 21: Water: Do you have a drop to drink or a light to turn on?

Last night, hot and sticky, I was ready to get in the shower, not the Nicaraguan kind of shower the majority use with a bucket of water, but a shower out of a shower head. The water was off. Phooey. I recalled what Mayor Marcio had told us earlier in the day. There has been three years of drought in which the 75 surrounding villages have struggled to even get any drinking water. Imagine. Not enough water to even drink! Okay, so my problem was not so big, was it?

On Saturday four of the men in our group helped to distribute filters. With generous donations this year, 86 are being delivered to 86 households in several villages. The water will be clean, promoting health and ability to work.

Oh yes, the electricity here is going off frequently, sometimes on and off several times in one hour. It’s a pain. Then I think of the many living here with no electricity, like the outlying area we saw a few days ago with plastic and stick shacks.

So, give thanks today for water to drink and all the electricity and great services we have. Blessings, Cathy.

Monday, June 20: Judging by the cover

Cross eyed, weather beaten, wearing clean but worn, mismatched clothing she stood before us. Her husband standing tall with a scraggly face and only a few teeth showing out of the hills of skin around his face, smiling, was next to her. What made her most happy was that she had recently married and now with a house could care for her 97 year old mother. I remember them well from two years ago, emerging from their igloo of trash that composed her home along with 15 others of all ages. We were there to bless their new home, one we started but did not finish last year. Who would have guessed. Out of her mouth and from deep in her heart poured the most beautiful of sermons of thanksgiving for her home, one she had prayed for for many years, but never believing she would receive. The interpreter said at the end that someone was going to pray now, meaning Pastor Susan with us, and she immediately raised her hands to God with a melodious prayer of thanksgiving pouring out to the heavens for many minutes. Who would have guessed that from her would pour out such beauty. Never judge a person by their cover. Blessings to all, Cathy.

Sunday, June 19: Tangential ministry

It happens every year. There are surprises. We were to build a house for seven orphans run by the oldest siblings. Guess what? The engineer said their land was not suitable for a house and they have to get another piece of land with a title. What now?

Three children, ages 2, 8, and 13 and their parents had been living with a grandmother for years. The grandmother bought a small parcel of land (land is VERY reasonable) on which to build a house because she knew that her family would be homeless once she died, since the mud brick abode belonged to the other part of her family. She has been extremely distraught for all the years since because the family could not afford to build a house. Marta had been soliciting the mayor’s office trying to get them one while the grandmother frequently wept. Nine days ago she died. Yes, you read it right, nine days ago, right at the time the engineer said the other house would not be possible. They will be the third house we build this year. Without us, they would remain homeless. We thought we were doing one thing but are doing another, and it will work out well, tangential ministry. Marta said she never dreamed it would be the Nicaragua Project that would build for her family.

PS: We hope next year we will be able to build for the orphans. Blessings to all; thank you for your prayers, Cathy.

Sunday, June 19: Unbridled joy

There were hugs, smiles, and giggles all around. It took us until 5:30 p.m. to arrive from Managua and people had been waiting at the children center to greet us since 1:00 p.m. Immediately, with no complaints, people began smiling and hugging, and the children began their program. (Can you imagine this in the US? Waiting for four and a half hours and yet being joyful?)

The preschool tunnel we gave them last year became Noah’s Ark and two by two, to the sound of music they emerged, some of the preschoolers from the children center, wearing masks made by the students from the student exchange we set up last year. Two by Two. Pairs. Vance talked last night about how they hugged and smiled without reservation, from their hearts. Children, adults. Grateful for our presence. We are paired with them as well. Hand in hand. Their gratitude and love meeting with our gratitude and love for them. As Dave said, he comes here each year to find joy. They have so little? No, they have so much. What they have is in their hearts and spirit. May we seek the same. Blessings, Cathy.

Saturday, June 18: Some heartache/joy

Christian, I remember him so well many years ago sobbing along with his young sister Bethsayda after the recent death of their mother during child birth, a common occurrence here. We and the children center worked with him many years, helping him go to school, up to the beginning of this year. Living with ex-gang members, he has struggled. This year he is drinking a lot and hanging out with the tough men in the area instead of going to school. Please keep him in your prayers.

Bethsayda, is now a bundle of smiles! She was one of the beautiful traditional dancers in the troupe made up of scholarship recipients: Marcial, Pedro, Yessy, Ana, Karolina, Sinthya, and others. She now studies English at the children’s center as well as dance and contributes many hours helping the little ones.

I cannot help but think about the parable about seeds: We scatter them. Some are taken over by weeds or fall where they cannot grow, while many fall on fertile soil. We continue to give thanks and praise to God that that is exactly where almost all have landed, on fertile soil. Blessings to all, Cathy.

Saturday, June 18: Ping pong diplomacy in Nicaragua

What? You may ask. Yes, ping pong diplomacy. Leaving Managua yesterday we drove to a large store that had one of what may be five tables available for sale in the city. Dave Twait, a board member who has come for six years has wanted the children’s center we built to have a ping pong table. Playing ping pong is one of his passions and it is a great sport for a pass time for older children, keeping them engaged in the center and off the streets. Problem #1: We were in a minivan and going on to Somoto. There was only the floor model. However, they had one in a box at their warehouse. We took a unique tour of Managua to the warehouse. Problem #2: How to carry it along with 14 fifty pound duffel bags, 10 people and their carry-on luggage in a minivan for four hours to Somoto. Solution #1: Put it in the back…but it would not fit. Solution #2: Put it in the middle seats…but it blocked the door by an inch or two. Solution #3: devised by our ping pong table engineer in our group, Mark Holste: remove the packing from the sides of the box. Voila! It worked.  We packed in. Today Dave and our interpreter put it together and Candida, one of our dear school directors, giggled and giggled playing her first game of ping pong. Dave can now teach the sport. We are proud of what is probably the only ping pong mission project in Nicaragua!

Oh yes, and by the way, we are all safe and sound and had a trip without a hitch. We were prayed through customs again as they distractedly searched four bags…the group behind us was not so lucky. Thank you for all the continuing prayers, Cathy..

Mission trips have been held for more than 10 years for the Nicaragua Project for building and repairing homes, medical facilities and children’s centers; providing water filters for villages; providing scholarships for schools and universities; and providing medical supplies and treatment for people in Somoto, Nicaragua and the surrounding area. The Project is ongoing at Bethlehem with plans to continue support of the Mothers’ Home, the Children’s Center and school scholarships, in addition to continuing support for mission trips that provide supplies for schools and medical clinics, clothing, and a Vacation Bible School. 

BLC has joined with other congregations in the area, The Nicaragua Project, to provide funds, materials and participants for the trips. (For more information on Bethlehem’s specific involvement, watch for the following links: About the Nicaragua Mission Project and information on BLC participation in past Nicaragua Mission Trips–coming soon). Our contacts at Bethlehem are Cathy and John Goodman. More pictures from recent trips are posted in the Nicaragua Missions slideshow.

2015 Nicaragua Entrefe Mission Trip

It is not possible to summarize the wonderful time we had in Nicaragua this summer, but here some of the things we were able to accomplish during the trip:

1. Financed 20 roofs to be put on deplorable shacks.

2. Provided funds for houses for three families and expansion of another to accommodate an extended family of 16. (Thank you house construction donors!) For the first time, we were able to dedicate a completed house for one of the three families.

3. Provided 50 water filters to 50 households.

4. Provided licenses for four graduates from the university in our scholarship program so that they can start their careers. They are our first graduates!

5. Provided 23 scholarships for youth who pay their scholarships forward by working at the Children’s Center, many for many hours a week.

6. Funded the hiring of two additional teachers at our Children’s Center for the 97 preschoolers.

7. Provided undesignated funds to the Children’s Center so they can allocate the funds in the way they believe is best.

8. Paid for 10 dresses for the ballet folklórico at the Children’s Center so that ten impoverished young women can receive dance lessons from a scholarship recipient. Lessons are not possible without a dress!

9. Three very impoverished families with a recent crisis were provided small packages of food to provide hope and temporary relief.

10. One suffering, elderly woman without a family was provided some financial aid.

11. Helped with transportation for an impoverished family whose mother has cancer.

12. Visited the clinic at the market that we funded last year to help the poor and loved what we saw.

13. Knitting lessons were provided for interested women by Pastor Susan Kent.

14. Pastor Susan Kent led Sunday worship and we gathered with old and new friends afterwards.

15. Jack Harris from Malone University in Ohio met with Mayor Márcio Rivas many times and decided to go ahead with a student exchange starting next June. This meeting also provided an opportunity for some of us to go see petroglyphs and an environmental preserve.

16. Many layettes made by Immanuel Lutheran in Greeley were taken to the Mother’s house we built in Telpaneca and a few were left for the Somoto hospital.

17. We videotaped interviews with 75% of the scholarship recipients. (Some go to school in other cities and were unavailable.)

18. We had a wonderful last night celebration at the home of Marta’s mother, and were given gifts of Somoto products by the mayor. We were thanked more times than we could count, and the past leaders who started the project—Pastor Abe Gonzalez and John Goodman—were remembered.

19. We had a joyous greeting and a goodbye ceremony at the Children’s Center.

20. We were able to spend time visiting with the friends and people we have met through the years, something we have not had much time for in previous trips.