Earlier this month, I was fortunate enough to join a small group from Faith Lutheran Church in Kitchener on their mission trip to Nicaragua. The trip lasted a week, from March 6-14 and provided a wonderful opportunity to witness firsthand the work that Canadian Lutheran World Relief and Canadian Lutherans are doing in Nicaragua in partnership with Lutheran Church–Canada, and to see other programs supported by LCC congregations in Canada.
The first couple of days, we helped to paint a church in Telica called the Iglesia Redentor y San Pablo. This church was constructed with funding from Redeemer Lutheran Church in Kitchener and St. Paul Lutheran Church in Elmira. That Sunday, we had service in the newly painted church and Pastor Maximo gave a sermon.
The women in the group then spent 3 days with over 40 deaconesses as they held a training workshop at the ILSN Mission Center in Chinandega. The deaconesses put together the 3-day workshop which looked at the themes of domestic abuse, divorce and forgiveness. The deaconesses are the backbone of their church communities and they are often short of resources; so this training was a way for them to support each other. In the end, we taught them interaction games, but they taught us Canadians about their community struggles and their own strength to overcome so much with the limitations they have.
The deaconesses are also responsible for Sunday School classes and teach Vacation Bible School (VBS) to 25 children from the poorest communities in Nicaragua, to which CLWR provides scholarships through the support of Canadian Lutherans. The scholarships include the required school uniform, shoes, backpack and school supplies.
While at the Mission Center I was able to look at the Medical/Dental Clinic and spoke with staff. Unfortunately, the doctor was away in the USA and the dentist was not working the week I was down because the dental equipment needed repair and so there were no appointments. I was able to speak with staff, however, about how the dental clinic and the VBS were a huge help in the communities. The clinics operate once a week, on Thursday. Medical patients are asked to give a symbolic donation of C$10 (about $0.33 CDN). If they are not able to afford it, they are still given service and all required medications for free. The dental clinic patients are asked to pay C$100 for dental services (about $3.32 CDN).
On our last day, we went to Rancheria where I was able to meet with Pr. Marvin Donaire, the president of the Iglesia Luterana Sínodo de Nicaragua (Lutheran Church Synod of Nicaragua). I was also able to help with the feeding program run by the ILSN and coordinated by one of the deaconesses, Lisbeth. Many LCC congregations across Canada support this program. I also saw the Rancheria Medical Center which is publicly funded and receives donations from Canadians as well.
I am very grateful for the experience and the opportunity to meet such lovely people. Please pray for the wonderful work being done by CLWR, LCC and the ILSN in Nicaragua.
You can view more pictures here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/clwr/sets/72157642497190824/
Jennifer Ardon, CLWR Church Liaison and Volunteer Coordinator (Waterloo, Ontario)