Local churches minister to women in Nicaragua

In August, nine members of Hope Community Church, of Loyalsock and Muncy, travelled to Nicaragua with the primary focus to hold a women’s conference at the New Day Ministry’s mission in the country.

Although members of the churches had participated in missions trips to that area before, mainly working with construction or in the school, this was the first time they had focused on ministering solely to women. It also was the first time any team had been in the South American country during the rainy season. They recently shared their experiences with others at the church.

“When we first started planning for this women’s conference, the first number we got was 20 women,” said Paula Warrender, a member of the team. “Then we heard back 40 women, then we heard 60 women, so I thought I’m buying 80 Bibles and then we could leave the rest down there. When we got down there, there were 86 women. So I took some of the girls and they helped me count Bibles and there were 80. So we’re stressing. What are we going to do?”

Not only did they have to deal with a shortage of Bibles, but the weather definitely was not cooperating.

“The day of the conference it started to pour down rain. We had to put up decorations which were paper and we were in dresses and muddy and all that,” Christi Bennardi, an intern with the group said. “Then the bus that the women were in got stuck on the way in.”

“The whole front tire was in the mud,” Warrender chimed in. “So 85 women had to get out of the bus and walk into the compound.”

She added, “The 86th girl, who was 14, was Angie, who has cancer and is in a wheelchair. They had to get her out of the bus and onto a truck and bring her in that way. They walked about a quarter of a mile in their Sunday best in the mud to come to the conference.”

Despite the heat and being packed into a bus and then having to walk through the mud to arrive at the mission compound, the women came.

“As they came walking into the compound I received more hugs than I’ve had in my entire life,” Warrender said.“We walked to greet them and they hugged each and every one of us.”

The mission team had chosen the story of the woman at the well as the focus of the conference. The story tells of Jesus’ encounter with a Samaritan woman, an outcast because of her lifestyle, who had come to the village well to draw water. It was the story of how meeting Jesus changed her life.

The team had chosen this passage because of its relevance to the women in Nicaragua.

“There is actually a woman at the well there who has five children, has never been married, and the children all have different fathers,” according to Judy Lunt who led the teaching of the lesson. “So, when I was down there in February, the inspiration came to me that the woman at the well, Rosa, needed to hear what the Bible had to say about the woman at the well.”

“They actually have to go to the well to get their water,” Lunt continued, “they don’t have running water to drink or shower. They go to the river to shower. So, getting water from the well, just regular water, is a daily thing for them.”

Translators were provided because the women did not speak English. But a greater difficulty was that many of the women could not read, not even from the Spanish Bibles they were given.

The team had placed bookmarks in the Bibles and highlighted what verses were being read so the women could follow along.

“It was really nice. You could tell about half the people there couldn’t read. And when we were giving out the Bibles, we didn’t want anyone to be embarrassed because maybe they didn’t read or maybe they didn’t know where to look, so we put the bookmarks there so everybody could just open to where we were at. You could tell that some could not read but they could participate and not have the embarrassment of other people knowing,” Warrender said.

It turned out there were enough Bibles, although none of the team could explain how 86 women received Bibles and there were seven left over.

“We handed them the Bibles, you can take from that what you want we miscounted or it was a miracle,” Warrender said. “It was a miracle.”

As part of the conference, the women broke into groups and rotated through various activities similar to the way Vacation Bible School is run in this country.

In the end, according to the team, it remained sunny and perfect all the time the women were there. When the team started on the last activity at the conference thunder could be heard.

During the week that the group was at the mission, they also conducted activities with the children at the school. Part of their planning included a day of activities centered around Dr. Seuss. One of the books they read was “Green Eggs and Ham,” which they admitted lost something in translation. They also prepared green eggs and ham for the children.

“One of the girls, dressed as Dr. Seuss, went around and tried to see if anyone would eat the green eggs and ham,” Warrender said. “By far they didn’t care for the green eggs and ham.”

One thing the team noted is the disparity between the classrooms here and in Nicaragua. For the day that the team visited the school, the students carried their desks outside.

“These kids are not like our kids, they carried all the desks outside from their classrooms from kindergarten to fifth grade,” Warrender commented. “They carried their desks out there, no one complained no one got out of their seats, they were all well-behaved.”

Another day at the mission compound was spent in a cultural exchange.

“They were excited for this day,” according to the team. “They had really gone all out for us to come and spend a day with them to share their culture with us. We had done our preparations, but theirs’ were huge compare to what we had done. They have so little compared to us and they had brought so much food. They wanted you to try everything They didn’t give just small portions.”

One team member, Linda Eckenrode, told how she had wanted to try the chicken soup the Nicaraguans had prepared, but when she saw that all the chicken’s parts were in the pot, she changed her mind.

“There were other people behind me, so I just kind of backed up. That was a little too different for me,” she said.

Each group shared other aspects of their culture such as songs and dances. The team admitted that the cultural dances and songs that their hosts performed were far better than their rendition of that American reception favorite “YMCA.”

One thing the team shared is how thankful the Nicaraguans were and how they thanked God for everything through passionate prayer. Each member marveled how a people with so little could be so thankful for everything they had.

For many of the team members this wasn’t their first trip to Nicaragua and it won’t be the last. They encouraged others to try the experience.

“I wasn’t too happy about leaving,” Lunt said, “I never am. I can’t wait to go back. If God lays it on your heart to go, you gotta go. If it’s not Nicaragua but somewhere else, go. He’s got so much to show you, so much to tell you about.”