Reporting from Nicaragua

 Hello from the still hot and sunny Nicaragua. After spending the first thirty years of my life in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States, it is very strange to be sitting in near ninety degree weather at the end of October. Today’s post will be my periodic update on what’s happening in Nicaragua. I hope you enjoy it!

I am happy to report that all is going well in Nicaragua! In addition to it being the end of the rainy season, our first crop of papayas at the Veracruz farm is reaching the end of the maturation process and will be ready to harvest in the next couple of weeks. Once we begin harvesting the papayas, these trees will continue to produce quality fruit for approximately twelve months. In fact, we could harvest more than 60,000 pounds of papaya from the 700 trees we currently have in the ground! Junior, the day-to-day manager of the papayas, and his crew have done an incredible job. The Nicaraguan and Taiwanese experts who have been helping have described the farm as a model for how to grow papayas. Alexei, VNDF’s Director of Agriculture, has done a great job of supporting and training Junior to give us the best possible chance for success. God has certainly blessed us and we are very thankful. One of the most important pieces of a successful agriculture project is the commercialization of the crop. In our case, this means selling the papayas to local supermarkets and suppliers. We have begun the preparations for this phase and feel confident that it will goes as planned. Now that the current crop is approaching the harvesting stage, we are preparing to plant the second phase of papaya trees, which will be another 700 trees. This will allow us to have a continual flow of papayas. Different from the first set, we will be propagating these papaya trees ourselves. This will require additional training, but will also allow us to be more self-sufficient as well as potentially a supplier of propagated plants to other farmers. We are very excited for this next chapter at the Veracruz farm. By developing a working model, we hope to have a self-sustaining project that can be used to teach others to be successful. In addition to the papayas, we are exploring additional crops for the greenhouse and other areas of the farm as well as different training opportunities that we can implement over the next few months.

Beyond agriculture, additional discipleship and spiritual training has started in Veracruz. This is being led by Mark, Josh, Andrew and other leaders on the farm. We are very excited about this development and the impact it could have working in conjunction with vocational and agricultural training. The Veracruz Bike Shop has also taken strides forward under the leadership of Pedro, one of the staff people at the farm. They are preparing for their next shipment of bikes, which is exciting. With the implementation of improved financial tracking and organization on the last shipment, we believe this could be another great training opportunity. There is a great team developing at the farm and we believe God has big plans.

There is also much to be excited about in El Canyon. Our VNDF Community Project Manager for El Canyon, Victor, has spent a lot of time in El Canyon over the past month developing relationships and preparing to launch additional initiatives. We have continued our Saturday discipleship/Bible class for the young people of El Canyon. Victor has done a great job partnering with Pastor Josue to teach the classes and increase interaction. In addition to the Saturday class, Pastor Josue has asked us to partner with him in the creation of a Thursday class as well as a community outreach initiative that would involve eight of the young people who have a vision for reaching their community for Christ. We are excited about these developments. Maria Jose, the director of the Puente de Amistad orphanage, has also asked me to present a weekly devotional on Monday nights. This has been a great time and a great opportunity to practice my Spanish!

In addition to continuing our current projects in El Canyon, we are preparing to launch two new initiatives. First, Victor has begun to teach basic carpentry by involving some of the young people in the restoring of the kitchen cabinets in at the orphanage. This is a project Maria Jose asked us to complete so we saw it as a great opportunity to use Victor’s carpentry skills to teach the young people. Our plan is now to implement formal carpentry classes that would involve teaching carpentry skills as well as basic business principles, when appropriate. Our goal is to eventually train young people to design and build furniture as well as be able to sell the furniture at a profit. We believe these skills will serve them well, whether or not they work in carpentry in the future. Our second initiative is the development of basic agriculture training through organic gardening classes. Through a UNICEF plan found by Alex, we are going to begin teaching young people how to grow various vegetables, fruits and spices as well as the process of determining what we should grow to eat and what we should grow to sell. In this process, they will learn basic entrepreneurial skills that should serve them well in the future. Victor and Alex as well as Maria Jose and Pastor Josue will be involved in teaching the classes and caring for the garden. With final preparations being made over the next two weeks, we should begin classes by December. In both of these initiatives, we hope to include discipleship opportunities so that we are not only giving them hope for today, but hope for eternity.

Outside of these projects, our Wednesday evening study group has continued. This has been a great opportunity for everyone involved in leading the various projects or in a leadership capacity in the areas in which the projects are taking place to come together and encourage each other. Additionally, my hope is that this time will allow us to catch a vision for how God wants to use each of us to make an impact in Nicaragua. I have been very encouraged so far and look forward to how God is going to continue to use this time.

Certainly there is always more I can say about all that is going on in Nicaragua, but my fingers can only handle so many letters in one sitting (ha-ha). I hope that gave you a good picture of all that is happening and got you excited for all that God is going to do in the coming months. I know I am!

– James Belt

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