Happenings in Nicaragua
Since I am officially three months into my journey to Nicaragua, it seems like a great time to post an update on everything that is going on.
My time in Nicaragua has taught me a lot about myself and life. Being in a place that is so different from everything you grew up in tends to allow you to learn things about yourself that you never would have realized in more familiar surroundings. I have learned to be more patient because the pace of life requires it in Nicaragua. I have realized the importance of asking questions and trying to understand why something is done the way it is more than I ever have before. I now understand what it is like to be a minority and the difference treating people as fellow creations of God makes, no matter the color of their skin, the country they came from or their socioeconomic status. I have seen the difference real hope can make and experienced how knowing Christ can change your perspective on the future of your life and the world. Most of all, I have come face-to-face with my own trust in God and his calling on my life. This has taught me to lean into Him more and trust that His plans are greater than mine.
Well, much has changed since I did my last “update” post. At the Verbo farm in Vera Cruz, we now have 700 plus papaya plants in the ground. Alex and Junior, our team member who handles the day-to-day operations of the agriculture projects in Vera Cruz, did a great job of planting the papaya trees and keeping them healthy in the early stages of their growth. Aldo and Josefina, agricultural experts who have given their time to help us, have been very helpful through the whole process and have provided us with great advice. At this point, we are learning the importance of patience and a keen eye as we watch the plants grow and look for potential problems such as fungus and insects. With that said, it has been amazing to me how quickly plants grow in Nicaragua. It almost seems like one week of growth in Nicaragua is equivalent to one month of growth in the United States. In addition to the papayas, we have begun the social improvement process in the greenhouse. This meant removing approximately 12″ of soil from the greenhouse and then replacing it with new soil that has not been depleted of Nitrogen from years of growing. We will then take measures to infuse additional Nitrogen in the soil. Heberto, who oversees the Vera Cruz property, has been incredibly helpful during this process. Once this process is complete, we plan to begin a crop of tomatoes, which we hope to sell to local grocery stores through our partnership with the Taiwanese. Both of these agriculture programs are being developed so that we can create agricultural training opportunities. Through these agricultural training opportunities, we hope to teach people how to create sustainable agriculture projects as well as how to run their own agriculture related businesses. Additionally, we believe this will allow us to develop discipleship and mentorship programs with the people who are being trained. We believe the combination of practical hope and eternal hope is the real answer to ending extreme poverty in Nicaragua.
Also at the Vera Cruz farm, the latest shipment of bikes from Northern Virginia has arrived at the Bike Shop. These bikes are carefully collected, packed and shipped by a group of men from Cedar Run Church, a church in Northern Virginia and a partner of VNDF. The Casa Bernabe Bike Shop is another vocational and business training opportunity that has been developed over the past few years. With this shipment, we are trying out a new inventory and profit and loss system to attempt to better track our income and expenses. Additionally, this allows for more training and the development of more business skills. At the bike shop we not only sell bikes, but repair and prepare the bikes for sale, which provides further vocational training opportunities. Similar to the agriculture, we hope the bike shop allows for the formation of discipleship and mentorship relationships.
Plans are also beginning to move forward in El Canyon, the other community in which we are currently working. As I have mentioned in past posts, we have hired a great guy, Victor, to assist with and oversee projects in El Canyon. He has been an incredible blessing so far and we are excited to see what God is going to do through him. At this point we are in the planning process for two potential projects, the first being beekeeping and the second being agriculture related. While beekeeping may seem a little odd, there is a huge opportunity for growth in the beekeeping industry in Nicaragua due to the high volume of flowers. Again, in conjunction with our experts, Alex and Aldo, we are hoping to create a training program and assist people in the establishment of their own beekeeping business. With that said, if someone is not interested in starting their own beekeeping company, there are also employment opportunities in this industry. The agriculture project is very much in the infant stages of the planning process, but we believe the climate in El Canyon is very conducive to growing of ornamental plants. This could allow us to not only teach horticultural skills, but potentially teach people to run their own plant shops or landscaping businesses. In conjunction with both of these projects, we hope to develop an entrepreneurial training program to teach people the basics or creating, building and running a business. As in Vera Cruz, we plan to incorporate discipleship and mentoring into these programs as people understanding the real hope that only comes from God is even more important than people realizing the practical hope that comes from learning to provide for their family.
Another exciting development has been the Saturday morning discipleship time in El Canyon. In partnership with Pastor Josue, a friend and pastor in the community, we kicked off a one hour discipleship time for the young adults in El Canyon. Our hope is to be very real with this group of young adults and to talk about the hope that comes from following Christ in a way that meets them where they are. Victor and I taught the first meeting together and Victor has been teaching the subsequent meetings on his own while I am in the United States. We feel very encouraged and believe this discipleship time will allow for even deeper discipleship relationships with the boys down the road. We are also praying that God would raise-up a woman to do the same with the girls who are part of the Saturday morning time. In addition to our time with the Lord, we are also eating doughnuts, drinking sodas and playing soccer on Saturday morning, which, as you can imagine, seems to be a hit.
In addition to this discipleship time, when I return to Nicaragua next week, I am planning to create a weekly study for some of the key men who are involved in leading the projects and the people who will be involved in them. I am very excited for this time as I believe it will be as encouraging to me as it will be to the other guys who will be attending. Our hope is that we can encourage each other and push each other on as we strive to do the work God has called us to. I am also encouraged because I believe part of what God has called me to in Nicaragua is to disciple the people who will be discipling those who are involved in our programs. This will begin this process and should be valuable to everyone involved, me included.
Well, I head back to Nicaragua on Monday morning and I am looking forward to all that God will do over the next three months. I hope you are too!
A verse a friend shared yesterday puts into words my prayer for you as you step back into Nicaragua: “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.” Matthew 10:8… Sincere thanks to you and to God for all that you have done and will do to this end! It was great for Chris and I to be with you back in Maryland, James. Thanks for the blog update – such exciting stuff.
Thanks for the encouragement and prayers! It was great being will you both as well!