Sixteen Months of Fun

Good morning again from Westminster, Maryland!

Today’s post will be my last from the United States for a while.  For this reason, it seemed like a great time for an update on all that is happening in Nicaragua.  When I began this journey sixteen months ago, I had no idea what life would look like today.  I am thankful for all that I have learned and excited about all that God is doing.  I hope you enjoy the update!

If you were to ask me sixteen months ago what I would be writing about today, papayas certainly would not have been my first guess.  Today, however, I could not imagine an update without them.  With 1,000 new papaya trees in the ground, we are excited about the future of the farm in Veracruz.  Over the past couple of months, we have hired another full-time staff member who will be overseeing the greenhouse production as well as an agricultural engineer who will be working with Junior to oversee the operation.  Currently, we are in the process of expanding the papaya production as well as rotating corn into the areas where we have either planted papaya trees in the past or will be planting papaya tress in the future.  In working with Aldo, one of our agricultural consultants, Alex and Junior have developed a rotation plan that will allow the farm to stay in constant production while maintaining the health of the soil.  In the greenhouse, we have initiated our first rotation of tomatoes.  With the hiring of our new staff members, we will be able to continuously rotate tomatoes, cucumbers and other vegetables.  By remaining in constant production, both in the field and in the greenhouse, we will be able to provide a constant supply of produce to potential buyers, significantly improving our market position.  With the operation now scaling up, we have taken steps to create a more formal business structure.  This will allow us to run the operation well and create a repeatable model.  By doing this, we will be able to create an internship program aimed at training people in how to successfully develop and operate a farm.  In addition to providing opportunities to spread tangible hope, it will give us the chance to share the spiritual hope that comes from a relationship with Jesus Christ.  

While the farming operation is an important part of what is going on in Veracruz, there is much, much more.  In order for the young people who live on the farm to be prepared to enter an internship program in the commercial agriculture operation, they need to have prior agricultural training.  For this reason, we are working with Heberto and other Verbo staff members to develop a basic agricultural training program.  By completing this training, the young people would be able to have the expertise necessary to be more than just a farm laborer.  Similar to the agriculture training, we are in the process of expanding the training provided by the Veracruz Bike Shop.  We believe opportunities like these will not only give the young people in Veracruz skills, but will also give them a picture of hope for a better future.  In addition to tangible hope, Josh, Heberto and the rest of the Verbo staff of the Veracruz farm continue to do a great job of using discipleship and other tools to teach the young people on the farm about spiritual hope.  Having recently completed a lot of strategic planning, we believe this is just the beginning of what God has planned.

We have also seen a lot change in El Canyon over the past sixteen months.  Through our partnership with Pastor Josue, Yamileth, Maria Jose and her staff, we have been able to take some neat steps forward.  Victor, VNDF’s staff member dedicated the El Canyon, continues to do a great job of working with our partners to impact the orphanage and the community.  Through our agriculture classes, Alex, Victor and I have had the opportunity to teach some of the young people at the orphanage about organic gardening.  We hope to continue to improve and expand these classes over the next six months.  Victor continues to teach carpentry classes and has started exploring a new opportunity Alex found, pallet furniture.  While this may sound somewhat strange, we believe this furniture built by “up-cycling” pallets could fill a whole in the Nicaraguan furniture market.  If this is the case, we would be able to develop a business that could employ people in the community of El Canyon as well as train people who might be qualified to start their own businesses.  Similarly to Veracruz, we are excited about the discipleship going on in El Canyon.  In partnership with Pastor Josue, we have launched a new discipleship class on Thursday nights and have seen a very positive response from the community.  In fact, a couple of weeks ago we had over forty people in attendance, many of whom were from the surrounding community.  By giving a short yet interactive message followed by a few intense games of soccer, we have been able to tell more people about the hope found in Jesus.  In addition to our ongoing work, we are look forward to working with a few teams from Crossroads Community Church over the next month.  In addition to spending time with the young people at the orphanage and the community, these teams will be focused on specific activities such as medical needs, agricultural training, women’s needs and education.  God is certainly doing a lot in El Canyon and we are glad we get to be along for the ride.

In addition to the continued development of these programs, I am excited about the continued development of the leaders with whom we work.  God is certainly doing great things in all of our lives and continues to bless us with the opportunity to meet on Wednesday nights to invest in each other spiritually.  I am very thankful that God has put these guys as well as all many other great leaders in my life.  More than anything, I have learned that real change happens when people decide to set their own needs and desires aside to work together in the name of Jesus to make a difference.  I have seen this happen in Nicaragua and feel blessed to be working with a great group of people who get that.  

The past sixteen months has been the journey of a lifetime.  I am sure the months that follow will be even better.

– James Belt

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