A Visit to Santa Patricia

January 30, 2009
A new homes built for Deaconess Sonia

A new home built for Deaconess Sonia

This family will receive a new dwelling
This family will receive a new dwelling

This past weekend I had the opportunity to make an extended visit in the community of Santa Patricia, one of the first communities to be touched by our Synod’s Gospel proclamation in Nicaragua.

Santa Patricia began as a small refugee camp for families moving in from the surrounding rural areas. Settling in this camp just outside of Chinandega, they hoped for better economic opportunities in the city. After the devastation of Hurricane Mitch the population of Santa Patricia exploded. Hundreds of people left their villages and homes devastated by the Hurricane. Their refuge in Santa Patricia became a piece of land that they would stake out and their home, whatever dwelling they could construct with wood and plastic and tin. Battles soon developed between the owner of the land and the squatters. Some 3 years later, the Government stepped in, purchased the land, surveyed the community and deeded the small plots to the residents. But the community continues to grow as more and more people find refuge in this area, stake out new parcels of land and build their make-shift dwellings.

It goes without say that the community is extremely poor. I am told that over 65% of the population is illiterate. They eek out a living making tortillas and other products for sale on the streets; a few may work in small businesses around. Many do not have the resources to give their children the opportunity to get an education.

Though the community is poor, many of its inhabitants became rich in faith. Outreach ministry began in this community before the hurricane. A small community soon gathered together under the ministry of Pastor Sandor. When the hurricane came, this small worshipping community became the vehicle to bring hope to the hopeless and the instrument through which a multitude of resources from outside could be shared with those who had lost everything.

This community of faith, taking the name “Jesucristo Nuestro Salvador” early had identified several individuals from their midst to prepare for ministry. One of those men, Pastor Mardo Calero, continues to serve the congregation as pastor; Another, Roberto Carlos Acuna Rivera, now serves as our Missions “Volunteer Mission Coordinator.” Serving as deaconesses and teachers and also coming from the community are Sonia Urey, Midgalia Acuna, Luisa Taleno and Lucia Barba.

The ministry of the congregation continues to be strong. Worship is held each Sunday afternoon, there are programs for women and children. The congregation hosts the Christian Children’s Education Program in their midst with 25 children on scholarship. These children receive their school tuition, uniforms, shoes and supplies. They also participate in a daily Christian Education Program that includes tutoring, catechesis and Nicaraguan cultural activities. We want these children to feel good about who they are as children of God and Nicaraguans. The first building erected to serve as a worship center for the community was a “ranchero” In 2004 a cinder block worship center was constructed with the assistance of a volunteer mission team. A Christian Education addition was added in 2008.

Assisting this congregation for the past six years in social ministry has been an LCMS congregation from Gainsville, Florida, First Lutheran Church. This congregation has sponsored numerous medical and vision clinics in the community. They have also set up a program which facilitates the sponsoring of families from the community by member families in their congregation These member families remember them in prayer and they also provide the necessary resources so that their sponsored family is able to have their children attend school and receive vocational training.

The weekend of my visitation, a small delegation from First Lutheran was in the community. Their goal was to identify, with the assistance of congregational leaders, four worthy families whose living accommodations are the worst in the community. A team from First will be returning in April to build and provide a new 10X15 dwelling for these families.

Please remember Iglesia Jesucristo Nuestro Salvador and their work in your prayers. Remember Iglesia Luternana Synodo de Nicaragua and our LCC mission in this country. Pray that God’s Word might continue to have free course in this land.

jesucristo-nuestro-salvador-church

Jesucristo Nuestro Salvador Church

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Nicaragua January 21, 2009

January 21, 2009
A Happy Couple

A Happy Couple

A Mother Preparing the Meal
A Mother Preparing the Meal

 

Children sitting down for Lunch
Children sitting down for Lunch

 

 

 

 

 My arrival at the Mission Centre in Chinendega on the 15th of this month was the fulfillment of a promise made to the pastors and deaconesses back in 2007. We were preparing for the establishment of the new Synod, Iglesia Luterana Sinodo de Nicaragua. Understandably there was some concern and fear on the part of many. “Are we going to be left to our own devises?” “Will we be abandoned by our mother?” “What do we know about synods and carrying on the mission in our country!” It was in the context of these concerns that they were assured that Lutheran Church Canada would not abandon them and that God’s willing, following my retirement from the office of President and with the approval of the church, I would come for an extended period of time and work with our mission and the leaders of the church.

The new church at its founding convention didn’t forget that promise and neither did I. It will be a privilege to serve Christ and His church in this place. Over the years I have come to love this country and the members of this church. May God bless the work we will do together in the coming months.

The following are a list of some of my objectives:

Assist the leaders of the new Synod in developing the necessary administrative aspects of the church as per our protocol document and to work with the leadership of the church in developing operating policies in such areas as: Oversight and pastoral and deaconal ethics, Pastoral and Congregational Visitation; The Calling Process for Pastors and Deaconesses; Admission Requirement for admission for Theological Education; Colloquy etc.

Assist the church in developing its vision for ministry as well as outlining strategic foals for the next 5 years.

Teaching in the area of worship, liturgy and the new hymnal

Assist the church leadership and mission personnel in organizing and prioritizing Volunteer Mission Projects and Opportunities for uploading on a new Mission Project website

To continue development of “small business” opportunities in support of the church and in particular the stipends paid to pastors and deaconesses.

To review the Continuing Education Program of the Mission and in concert with CLTS and Dr. Humann outline a program for the next several years.

To work through the mission with our two missionaries in Honduras and Costa Rice and lay out plans for extending the mission in these areas.

I ask for your prayers. May our gracious God bless Iglesia Luterana Sinodo de Nicaragua and the work that we are privileged to do together.

 

In this initial blog, I share with you two brief items. Both brought happiness to the faces of children and adults.

 Carita Feliz (Happy Faces) See pictures above

 This project is a program of “With God’s Little Ones: (WIGLO) , a U.S. based organization under the leadership of an LCMS pastor, Rev. Rudy Schasser. The program is operated in the community by one of the deaconesses of ILSN, Milagros Martinez .

The purpose of the program is to provide two meals a day, 5 days a week to children in the community who have been identified by medical personnel as suffering from malnutrition. Milagros is responsible for securing the food on a daily basis. It is prepared with the assistance of some of the mothers who have volunteered to work with the program. The children are fed each day around 12:00 noon and 5:00 p.m. On a monthly basis the children are examined by visiting nurses in order to monitor their progress. Presently there are 93 children enrolled in the program. Most of the children who are enrolled in the Christian Education Program (I’ll share a little about that program in another blog) also participate in the food program.

 I was reminded that life is not always easy here in Nicaragua. Milagros goes to the market each morning around 6:00 a.m. One morning she was accosted by a man with a knife who demanded her wallet, money and food. That morning she lost her wallet, the food, the remaining food money and her entire pay she had received the day before. “But he didn’t take my life,” she said.! “I am thankful!”

 A Happy Celebration A Wedding.

The Business Manager, Roberto Jose Zepeda and Deaconess Marisela Osorio were married in the Mission Chapel on Saturday. The wedding was to start at 4:30 p.m. , but like in Canada it was somewhat delayed. President Luis Turicos officiated, Pastor Angel Salazer delivered the sermon and I had the privilege of assisting in the rite of marriage. It was a wonderful wedding. We pray God’s blessing upon the couple.


Ukraine visit wraps up

January 19, 2009

After the Synod of Evangelical Lutheran Churches (SELCU) held its convention January 8-9 and I visitedNikolayev, I went south to the Crimean Peninsula, preaching in Armyansk on Saturday (a new mission start) and in the Black Sea resort town of Yalta on Sunday.

Monday we took a long train trip northward to Dnepropetrovsk to visit extensively with LCC Missionary Aleksey Navrotskiy. On Tuesday I lectured about 50 students at the “Alpha and Omega Student Society” about hearing God’s call to leadership and fulltime service in the ministry. Wednesday I preached a Christmas season message (here in eastern Europe it’s still Christmas) on a Dnepropetrovsk television station and also for an evening service at the new Lutheran congregation served by Missionary Navrotskiy.

Thursday I went to the town of Zariya and was given a formal ceremonial Ukrainian greeting by two girls in the school auditorium, dressed in folk costumes, presenting me with the traditional welcoming gift of a round loaf of bread topped with salt. We then proceeded to a private home in Zariya for an evening Bible class, which was held by candlelight because hydro went out! Two rooms in the home were jammed full of listeners.

Thursday midnight Pastor Navrotskiy, seminarian Oleg Schewtschenko and I boarded a night train with sleeping compartments and rode eight hours, arriving in Kiev by breakfast. We left Kiev very early—5:30 a.m.—Saturday for our return flights to Frankfurt, Toronto and Winnipeg.

I will look forward to reporting on everything in detail in The Canadian Lutheran soon. This has been a fruitful trip. It educated me well in the details of our mission enterprises in Ukraine, and helps me understand how we can help these treasured ministry partners.

President Robert Bugbee


On location in Nicaragua

January 14, 2009

CHINANDEGA, Nicaragua A year after the founding convention of Iglesia Luterana Sínodo de Nicaragua, the church body will receive some hands-on administrative guidance. Lutheran Church–Canada’s interim mission executive and president emeritus, Rev. Dr. Ralph Mayan leaves today to spend three months in Chinandega helping the year-old church develop long-term administrative structures. His wife Linda will join him in February.

“We take so much for granted here when it comes to organization,” remarked Dr. Mayan. “With no history of church organization in Nicaragua there is a need to develop such things as a clergy and diaconal roster, call documents, administrative policies and procedures.”

During his presidency, Dr. Mayan served as an advisor to LCC’s Committee on Constitutional Matters and Structure as it developed a new constitution and bylaws for consideration by the 2002 synodical convention. His experience in this area will be valuable to the new church in Nicaragua.

Dr. Mayan will also assist the new church as it begins developing a strategic plan for further advancement of the Gospel in their country. He will also work with LCC’s missionaries in Costa Rica and Honduras as they expand their outreach ministry. “As a student, one of my dreams was to serve in a foreign mission field,” Dr. Mayan recalls. “Now, near the end of my active ministry in the church, I have that opportunity, by God’s grace. I am indeed blessed.”

While in Nicaragua, Dr. Mayan will share regularly his experiences and observations here and readers can comment, pose questions and provide encouragement.

Dr. Mayan expects to live on the mission centre campus in Chinandega. He and his wife, Linda have spent the last six months studying Spanish to help with day-to-day life.


Church convention begins in Ukraine

January 8, 2009

I write this from Nikolayev, a city of 600,000 people in southern Ukraine. The Synod of Evangelical Lutheran Churches in Ukraine (SELCU) held the first day of its annual convention today, Thursday, January 8. Pastors and delegates from all but one of the congregations attended. Bishop Viktor Gräfenstein greeted the gathering and spoke of the big decisions requiring discussion over the next two days. The conference was run on a more formal schedule, similar to the one seen by Bishop Gräfenstein at Lutheran Church–Canada’s convention last June in Winnipeg.
 
I was invited to bring formal greetings on behalf of LCC and presented a pectoral cross to the Bishop from our Synod. In addition, pictures of LCC’s national office staff were shared with all delegates, since the staff prays regularly for the work in
Ukraine.
 
I have preached no less than five times in the first six days of my visit here. At a service on Sunday, January 4, the congregation at
Odessa decided to direct its Sunday offering to the work of LCC, and the funds from this offering have already been transmitted to me.
 
Among the problems here is the worldwide financial crisis, which, according to some estimates, may result in 70 percent unemployment in
Ukraine before long. One delegate from a rural congregation reported that there are absolutely no jobs available in his village.
 
This weekend my travels take me to
Yalta on the Black Sea. I then continue to Dnepropetrovsk to spend time with LCC missionary Pastor Aleksey Navrotskiy.

 

President Robert Bugbee


Christmas #2

January 7, 2009

I left Winnipeg on schedule New Year’s Day, but the plane leaving Toronto for Frankfurt was delayed. This cut a two-hour connection time in Frankfurt down to barely 40 minutes, but Oleg Schewtschenko and I flew the final leg to Kiev.  However, our suitcases were not so forunate. Lufthansa German airlines offered to bring our suitcases the 500 km to Odessa (that’s southward on the Black Sea), but because of the New Year’s holiday, they wouldn’t do it for four days. So we stayed over Friday night onto Saturday in Kiev and fetched the luggage ourselves from the airport when it came in.
 
It’s not nearly so cold here as in Winnipeg, but it seems colder because many dwellings, especially in the country, are barely heated. We had a Saturday afternoon service in a stone chapel near Savran in central Ukraine, and they didn’t bother loading wood into the stove until 20 minutes before church began. Outside it was minus 15C. 
 
On Sunday, January 4, I preached again at a 2 1/2 hour service here in Odessa, and on Tuesday we will be celebrating Ukraine’s Christmas Eve out in the country. This afternoon (Monday, January 5) we’re going to see the seminary building in suburban Odessa. 
 
If you want to remember us in your prayers, the Synod of Evangelical Lutheran Churches of Ukraine (SELCU) has an important Synod meeting (something like a convention) Thursday and Friday (January 8 and 9) of this week in Nikolayev. Important and even sensitive matters could be discussed, so we’ll want God’s help for the discussions. 

 

President Robert Bugbee


Ukraine visit aims to build relationships

January 7, 2009

KIEV, Ukraine – Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC) President Robert Bugbee arrived today (January 2) for an extensive visit with the Synod of Evangelical Lutheran Churches of Ukraine (SELCU) and its bishop, Rev. Dr. Viktor Gräfenstein. Although LCC has not established formal fellowship between the two churches, SELCU and LCC have worked together for many years. LCC has provided seminary training for SELCU under the direction of Dr. Norman Threinen and Concordia Lutheran Seminary, Edmonton.

During his 16-day visit, President Bugbee will preach in Kagarlyk, Odessa, Yalta and Dnepropetrovsk, among other congregations. He will join Christmas celebrations on January 7, as many SELCU parishes still follow the Eastern church calendar. He also plans to address a two-day pastoral conference in Nikolayev. An important part of his time in Ukraine will be visiting LCC missionary, Pastor Alexey Navrotskiy in Dnepropetrovsk, who serves as a missionary to university students.

“I am especially eager to see SELCU’s new seminary building at Usatovo in suburban Odessa,” the president noted. “This facility is close to completion, but the final touches were delayed by rampant inflation in Ukraine, so that gifts from Canada were not quite able to finish the job.” The president added that Concordia Lutheran Mission Society (CLMS) has been especially helpful in channeling support for this project to Ukraine.

President Bugbee is accompanied on this trip by Oleg Schewtschenko, a native of Dnepropetrovsk, who is an LCC “foreign mission student” at Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary, St. Catharines. Seminarian Schewtschenko, who has been in Canada since 2007, will provide translating and other support services during the visit, and will use this time to “re-connect” with co-workers in his homeland. He is expected to return to Ukraine after his studies in Canada to assist with theological education in SELCU.


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