In mid-October, a pastor/lay leader team from two district congregations went to Nicaragua with the Central American Lutheran Mission Society (CALMS) to explore long-term partnership possibilities with villages there. This was an annual district-sponsored "Get To Know Your Mission" trip.
Pastor Paul Rieger and Jake Langeslag from Trinity, Faribault and Pastor Greg Schlicker and Matt Tveite from Good Shepherd, Owatonna, attended this trip, along with Rev. Dr. William Utech and Billy Schultz from the district staff. Rev. Steve Hughey, retired CALMS executive director, Jeff Bibler, CALMS' board chairman, and Rev. Hector Morales, a Nicaraguan pastor employed by CALMS, joined us on our trip. We were also blessed to be joined by Rafael and Reynaldo, our translators, and Kevin, our bus driver.
These village visits included conversations with leaders in churches, healthcare, education, and government, and activities with children. The group also got to spend time with Lutheran pastors and deaconesses to discuss Reformation theology and its implications on ministry.
CALMS' desire is for these trips to help leaders in American congregations see long-term mission possibilities that avoid paternalism and dependence, instead making relationships with villages in partnership with them. Their three desired outcomes are committed disciples, thriving churches, and healthy communities.
See below for a day-by-day recap about what our team saw and did while in Nicaragua!
Day 1: October 17, 2017
We boarded a flight from MSP to Houston, where we had a short layover before boarding our flight to Managua, the capital of Nicaragua. Arriving in the late evening, we spent a short amount of time getting acquainted as a team and looking at the week ahead.
Day 2: October 18, 2017
We left Managua and headed south to just north of Rivas. After lunch at our hotel, we headed to a collection of villages called Pica Pica. We spent the afternoon in one of the barrios (neighborhoods) of Pica Pica, El Guasimo, where we toured the town. Most of our time was spent talking with Seria, who leads a small Pentecostal church, and the town doctor. We learned about the spiritual health of the area, what the needs are for education, and the health challenges that people face.
Day 3: October 19, 2017
We spent the morning in another barrio, Cuba, and walked through the village meeting with people. Cuba was in the process of having a water pipe installed that would provide running water to homes in the barrio. This meant that the main path through the town was a long trench. We spent time with Maria, the leader of Cuba, and Antenor, the leader of El Guasimo. They walked us around, and took us to meet with the leader of a Christian school. There, we learned more about the financial challenges private schools have, and how that affects their teachers and students. We also had the opportunity to visit the government health clinic in town, and learn more about the health challenges and available treatments.
That afternoon, we had a gathering of Christian church leaders from the area at hotel, where we shared about the joys and challenges of ministry, learned about what churches are like in that region, and spent time praying for them.
Day 4: October 20, 2017
We traveled from the Rivas area to Granada, located on the western shore of Lake Nicaragua, one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world, for a day of rest and tourism. A highlight of this visit was a boat tour of the archipelago southeast of Granada.
Day 5: October 21, 2017
We left Granada and visited Masaya, a national park with an active volcano, on our way to Sebaco. Pastor Hector Morales serves a church in Sebaco. After arriving in Sebaco, we toured a barrio called Tomas Borge. We met with their leader, Jose Miguel, and learned about education, the economy, and the spiritual life of the town. Jose Miguel gave us a walking tour of the village and even let us try some fresh coconut water!
Day 6: October 22, 2017
We headed to Iglesia Luterana Resurreccion, where Hector is the pastor. Billy and Greg helped lead the Bible study time before worship, talking about Baptism and Christian vocation, respectively. Worship was the divine service, and five young people were confirmed. After worship, the children of the congregation presented us with a song, two young people demonstrated a traditional Nicaraguan dance, and the youth performed a skit. We then enjoyed lunch together.
In the afternoon, our team and the youth headed to a local Catholic nursing home, where the youth performed their skit, and we all had the opportunity to talk with the residents there and get to know them. Afterwards, we debriefed that experience with the youth.
Day 7: October 23, 2017
We spent the morning touring more of Sebaco, learning about the neighborhood school and health clinic. The local school has a pantry that provides staple foods for families in need. The health clinic was very impressive the the scope of their services and ability to serve the community.
That afternoon, we spent more time at Hector's church, teaching the youth and children volleyball, and, after a heavy rainfall, spending time doing an art project and playing Bible charades. The joy on the children's faces was memorable.
Day 8: October 24, 2017
We spent the morning at Iglesia Luterana Resurreccion with a group of Nicaraguan Lutheran pastors and deaconesses. Our team led presentations on the Solas, and talked about the impact of Reformation theology on our ministries today. There was time for conversations and encouragement in ministry, and it was a very uplifting time!
After lunch with our new friends, we headed back to Managua, debriefed our trip, and shared communion together.
Day 9: October 25, 2017
An early wake-up call for our 7am flight meant that we were heading home, tired, but encouraged by all of the mission possibilities.
Since the trip, Good Shepherd and Trinity have decided to partner together to serve Sebaco and work with Hector's congregation for at least the next five years.
Want to learn more about attending a "Get To Know Your Mission" trip? Contact Rev. Dr. William Utech.
Here's what some of the trip participants had to say about their experience:
"I...wondered how to make a lasting difference by growing [village residents' ability] to live as disciples, to make disciples, and to make use of their own abilities and resources quite apart from what we might be able to do." -Pastor Greg Schlicker
"I valued our time with community leaders, both faith leaders and civic leaders...it is very interesting to hear them define the needs within their communities. It gives great perspective to know what we, as Americans, would consider a priority and then hear what is the priority in the culture we may serve." -Matt Tveite