New doors open for Lutheran education in Nicaragua

April 8, 2011

by Leonardo Neitzel

High school classes meet wherever there is shade

Agustin and Yadira own a ‘finca’, a small agricultural farm in the province of Leon. These Christian friends, concerned for the education of adolescents in their rural area, decided to start a secondary school on their property. The school is registered by the Nicaraguan government and Agustin and Yadira serve as principal and vice-principal. He is also a public accountant. Students attend intensive classes all day Saturday. The government pays the teachers, and students contribute 100 cordobas (around five dollars) a year. Fifty students attend the school whose classrooms are under trees and shady areas around the house. Agustin and Yadira share the ownership and work of the property with her parents and the large community of relative and friends who live around their home.

Agustin and Yadira heard about the Lutheran church’s Christian education program in Nicaragua and Agustin decided to check it out, taking part in Bible studies led by Lutheran Church–Canada’s missionary Pastor Maximo Urroz in the provincial capital of Leon. Having witnessed the Lutheran’s solid and strong Biblical teaching, and recognizing the great need for such education for their students, they invited the missionary to visit their farm to talk about the possibility of teaching the Christian education class of their school. Missionary Maximo accepted the invitation and now leads the Christian education classes on Saturday afternoons. According to the school’s statutes, religious education class is obligatory and students review and take Biblical and religious literature tests.

Dr. Neitzel presented the historical background, brief introduction and overview of the Book of Revelation to the students.

Different types of millenialists, ‘rapturists’ and heterodox groups have spread false and misleading teachings among the adolescents in that farm community, which has concerned the owners of the school greatly. Some of these teachings have to do especially with the second coming of Christ and the Book of Revelation. Confusion, fear and fanaticism among families and students have risen tremendously lately. In dialogue with missionary Maximo we agreed that the students would have an introduction and overview of the Book of Revelation based on Lutheran confessional teaching and a chapter-by-chapter study to follow. I had the privilege of presenting the historical background, brief introduction and overview on the book to the students.

Further dialogue between the owners of the school and the school community resulted in an offer for the Lutheran Church in that area to take charge of the entire school program. They are looking for solid Biblical and confessional teaching. For such there couldn’t be a better foundation than the Lutheran ‘solas’ — Sola gratia, solus Cristus, sola Fe, sola Scriptura.

It’s too early for us see where this is leading, but we have a great start. Missionary Maximo, farmers and the church community seem very encouraged by the new development.

One of the highlights of my Saturday at the farm was joining the family for a ‘sopa de gallina’ or ‘caldo de pollo’ (chicken soup) cooked in the style only farmers in that area know—very rich, strong, solid and mixed with every ingredient you could imagine for a tasty dish. The dessert was a one-hour seminar with the family and students on Revelation and the End Times.

God seems to be ‘revealing’ that He is opening a new door for our LCC mission into this farm community. May the Lord be praised!

Rev. Dr. Leonardo Neitzel is responsible for Lutheran Church–Canada’s overseas missions.


Nicaraguan church celebrates Reformation

November 1, 2010

by Rev. Dr. Ralph Mayan

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They came from congregations as far away as Rivas and Granada, from Matagalpa and Jinotega. More than three hundred people gathered in Martin Luther Chapel to celebrate the 493rd Anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation this past Sunday. They joined in the liturgy of the church; sang hymns of faith including Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress is our God.” They understood why they had come together.

“We have not gathered to celebrate the life of Martin Luther as if he were some kind of Lutheran saint. We celebrate what he discovered through his study of Holy Scripture. We celebrate God’s grace and that central Bible teaching that we are saved by God’s grace through faith on account of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.” 

Fed with the Word of God and nourished with the body and blood of Christ, participants departed strengthened and encouraged for the work Christ has given to His church in Nicaragua. 

This was the first time the Synod has held such a large event. It was a challenge for the Synod Committee.  It had to consider transportation arrangments from the 22 plus congregations, table and chair rentals, and providing a light lunch for everyone following the service. With the support of volunteers, they met the challenge and the church was blessed. 

Members from small congregations were amazed at the number of people who gathered. They had no idea the church was so large! And everyone had the opportunity to meet brothers and sisters in the faith from other congregations and communities in the social hour that followed.

Children’s Reformation celebration in Nicaragua

October 14, 2010

More than 100 children learned about the Reformation

by Rev. Dr. Ralph Mayan

More than one hundred children and their deaconess teachers gathered in Martin Luther Chapel in Chinandega for the first-ever Children’s Reformation Celebration Saturday, October 9.

Each congregation selected five children from their Christian Children’s Education program and made arrangements for them to travel to the event. The day’s activities, all led by different deaconesses of the church, included a devotion, Reformation presentation, Bible study and artistic crafts. Marco Antonio Martinez led the children in hymns and a variety of actions songs at various times throughout the day. From the enthusiasm of the children in their singing, this part appeared to be their most favourite.

There is always time for a piñata

No celebration in Nicaragua takes place without piñatas for the children to break. This celebration had three on hand and the children released tons of energy as they broke open those piñatas to get the goodies inside.
Before returning home, (some had a three-hour return trip) the children enjoyed a hearty serving of Gallo pinto, a traditional Nicaraguan meal.

The day was a wonderful success; the deaconesses demonstrated their leadership and organizational skills and the children were enthusiastic in their participation.

The first hour of this Children’s Reformation Celebration (which included the devotion, Reformation presentation and interviews with pastors and deaconesses) was broadcast live on one of the local radio stations. The church is using these live broadcast events as a build-up to the major church-wide Reformation Celebration to take place at the Mission Centre October 31.  Please pray for God’s blessing on this outreach tool.

Sewing school: social ministry and church worker support

October 1, 2010

by Rev. Dr. Ralph Mayan

Deaconess Maria del Carmen Martinez and Deaconess Heyling Ordońez.

I am reminded of the ladies of the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League-Canada (LWMLC), their commitment to Christ’s mission and their generous mites each time I enter the building that houses “Dorcas,” our LCC Mission Sewing School. The school began in 2001 with an initial grant from LWMLC; each year those grants have continued to come and that has permitted the mission to keep this social ministry program going. The instructor for the program is Santos Alvir. To date some 70 students have graduated from the program.

The school teaches design/pattern making and sewing to women (and some men too) who come with no marketable skills and in most cases are too poor to enrol in any other school. Their goals are lofty, they want to be able to support themselves and their families, but without this initial training, their chances of doing that are slim. It’s a joy to know that some of our graduates are now employed in one of the local clothing factories and others have opened little shops in their homes and now make and repair clothing.

In October 2010, the mission will open its own small clothing factory and will employ at least three graduates. Our product will be the 900 “school uniforms”  that we currently purchase each year for the Children’s Christian Education Program. The profits of this new business will help support the stipends paid to our pastors and deaconesses. It is part of the overall program in assisting the church to be self-supporting.

Three News Students with Instructor

This past summer our “Dorcas” sewing school expanded its operation and now holds weekly satellite classes in Rancheria. On my visit to the school last week, I was introduced to 19 students; three of whom were just beginning. While they were receiving lessons in pattern making, others were preparing their initial project out of paper, while still others were at the treadle machines. I was pleased to see Edila, the wife of Pastor Marvin from El Viejo in the class. Two of our deaconesses from El Piloto were also learning the skills: Deaconess Maria del Carmen Martinez and Deaconess Heyling Ordońez.

This social ministry project, as with other social ministry projects, makes contact with people at their human need and provides opportunity in this context to share grace and love of God with all the students.

Mission includes healthy teeth and bodies

October 1, 2010

by Rev. Dr. Ralph Mayan

In the next several “On the Road” articles we will visit a number of social ministry projects operated by our LCC Nicaragua Mission. In this article, I introduce you to Dr. Rodolfo Mendoza, our Mission Clinic dentist. Dr. Mendoza graduated from the Faculty of Dentistry at the National University of Leon in 2004 and he joined our team at the Medical Clinic in February this year.

It is my first visit since returning to Nicaragua. Dr. Mendoza has a wonderful smile on this face as he expresses his thanks for the new dental chair installed in the centre as well as other supplies donated to the clinic by Canadian Lutheran World Relief. It is much easier to operate than the old chair (a 1950s model) and much more comfortable for the patients.

Dr. Mendoza and patient

Dr. Mendoza arrives at the clinic each Thursday around 8:30 a.m. During his morning hours he sees about five adult patients. In the afternoons, he sees mostly children. This afternoon he saw six. Most patients, both young and old have problems with cavities. He fills them and provides a cleaning. There was a time when there were a lot more extractions, but now he sees fewer and fewer. He also spends time helping children and their parents develop good cleaning and brushing habits.

Our Medical Dental Clinic opened on Easter Monday of 2009. On staff are Dr. Mendoza and our physician, Dr. Benjamin Garcia who has served here since the beginning. Our objective is to provide treatment for the pastors and deaconesses and their families; to provide on-going care for those whom visiting medical mission teams have identified; and provide clinic services to members of the community. In addition to providing the care of a doctor and dentist, the clinic tries to have any prescription medication on hand as most patients find it difficult to purchase their prescriptions. Theannual $10,000 medical clinic budget is supported by generous donations apart from the Synod’s mission budget.

God’s timing should never surprise us

September 20, 2010

by Rev. Dr. Ralph Mayan

The congregation of Estrella de Belén Luterana in La Resistencia, a barrio of Chinandega, Nicaragua gathered in celebration this past Sunday to celebrate an answer to prayer and a gift of land from God through St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Leduc, Alberta.

Two Sunday’s ago, the congregation had been worshipping in the local community centre (as they have for many years) when their worship was interrupted by a loud disturbance outside. Two of the community’s political organizations were disputing responsibility for the centre and the right to put their flags on the building. The dispute was getting out of hand and fearful that someone might get hurt or even killed, the worshipping community left the building.

Worshippers in front of the house

Since it was their desire not to be identified with either group or caught up in the dispute, Pastor Luis and the congregation decided that it would not be wise to continue to use the centre. But where would they worship and where could the children gather for their Christian Children’s Education Program during the week? They would have to meet in someone’s home and pray that God would provide in due time.

Pastor Luis leading worship

And God did! Little did this small community of Estrella de Belén know that on the very Sunday this disturbance occurred a note would be sent from St. Peter’s in Leduc indicating their desire to take on a building project in La Resistencia which included the purchase of land for a church. Within two weeks land was purchased with a small house on it. Worship was conducted in that house yesterday and today the children will gather there for their Christian Education Program. St. Peter’s Lutheran will be sending a volunteer team to work with the congregation in building their church the latter part of March 2011.

Future churchworkers ready to go but waiting for the Lord’s timing

June 23, 2010

by Rev. Dr. Leonardo Neitzel

The Iglesia Luterana Sínodo de Nicaragua (ILSN) has developed an interesting method to help seminary candidates prepare for their theological studies. During one year or more before they start the program, the lectores (seminary candidates) are involved in congregational and mission outreach activities. They assist their pastors as readers, conduct lay-led worship services, visit homes, participate in missionary programs and other activities.

Seventeen lectores or candidates considering the pastoral ministry studied with Rev. Leonardo Neitzel.

Currently, there are seventeen lectores or candidates considering the pastoral ministry in the ILSN. They come from several congregations and backgrounds and gather for special seminars at the mission centre whenever arranged by the Synod. Recently they had two special seminars: basic introduction to the study of Scriptures, liturgy and preaching, presented by Rev. Dr. Ralph Mayan and basic introduction to the study of theology (propaedeutics), which I taught.

The previous source for funding the seminary program is not currently available due to economic conditions. So LCC and the ILSN are asking the Lord God to encourage His people to provide financial resources to start the third seminary program with these candidates in 2012.

The regular seminary program normally has four intensive courses taught yearly during two years, plus the practical activities of students and the continuing education which follows. We pray and trust that the Lord will provide the means for this to happen as He is growing His church in Nicaragua and other countries in Central America, and as the ILSN is beginning to see a shortage of church workers.

If you feel the Lord God speaking to your heart in regards to assisting His church in Nicaragua especially in supporting the theological education for the formation of more pastors and missionaries, you may contact the mission coordinator Rev. Ralph Mayan,  or Rev. Leonardo Neitzel,

The Saviour Jesus Christ teaches us when He says, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Matthew 9:37-38). And He Himself as the true God has not left His church without His promises as He says, “I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding” (Jeremiah 3:15).

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