Nella Sandrock was a member of the Resonate Global Mission Come & See team with the purpose of visiting the Nehemiah Center in Nicaragua. The team of 11 people spent 8 days in February traveling to different places in Nicaragua learning about the programs and ministry of the Nehemiah Center. Nella shares with us her experience and transformation that resulted from her visit.
Before this trip to the Nehemiah Center I was not sure of its exact role. Our church has long supported two missionary families there, but the exact nature of their work was unclear to me. As we made preparations to go, it became very evident that we were going to learn, not to do. We were on a fact finding and relationship building mission. We were going to get to know people and share a little part of their lives in order to better understand missions. We were there to learn how to do with, instead of do for, to walk alongside and gain an insight into their work and experiences. I discovered Nicaragua, especially the Nehemiah Center, had much to teach us. Where before I saw poverty, now I see possibilities; where I may have wanted to “help”, I feel humbled to learn; where I expected sadness I found much joy.
I was touched by so many things. Teachers make personal sacrifices so that the children have an opportunity to learn and to know God’s love. Churches with support from outside donors, provide many of the social services that the government does not. Clinics provide healthcare and health teaching that an overwhelmed and under funded public system does not. Much is done for very little pay or voluntarily. All of it is done for the love of God and neighbor. The local churches, with the support of training and mentorship provided at the Center, are the hands and feet of Christ in their communities in a very practical way.
Our Easter Sunday message was that the angel’s instructions to the women at the empty tomb was to “go and tell.’ They had no advanced degrees in theology but they had encountered Jesus. We also are commissioned to “go and tell.’ This is what I found so evident in the Nicaraguan pastors and churches. With few resources, they step forward in faith, expecting that God will provide, That is how Pastor Giovanni can run the Rehab Center at the Torre Fuerte (Strong Tower) church, rescuing men from the streets and their addictions, as once he himself was rescued. The only condition is that they come voluntarily. To others it may appear as a poorly constructed addition to the back of the church, but to those men it was a home, a place of shelter, where they are treated as persons of value and are welcomed regardless of their history.
Our North American mindset would require feasibility studies, funding proposals, goal setting, evaluation and demonstrable results. Having been to Nicaragua, I believe we could probably do a lot more with the resources we have. The core idea is that someone, be it a pastor or members of a church community, gives value to a person’s life. They demonstrate Gods love and redemption in very humble circumstances. People who have little still share with others who have less. They provide a home to the homeless, and engender self-respect and a healthy pride in those they serve. I asked Pastor Giovanni if the men were welcome to come back if they relapsed after they left the Rehab Center. His answer was, “Does God reject us after we sin yet again?” It gives a whole new insight into the meaning of forgiving seventy times seven for the same sin!
We continue to process the experiences and impressions Nicaragua and its people made on our hearts and minds. In so doing, we will prayerfully seek to work out what God requires of us both here at home and in Nicaragua.