Nicaraguan church worker families need support

June 22, 2010

by Rev. Dr. Leonardo Neitzel

Although it is ‘winter’ in Nicaragua, temperatures are around 30 degrees Celsius with lots of thunderstorms, lightening and heavy rain at the end of every day. And then there are mosquitoes, which are very annoying!

I am finishing my second week in Nicaragua teaching intensive courses in the Continuing Education Program for pastors and deaconesses of the Iglesia Luterana Sínodo de Nicaragua (ILSN). The courses are hermeneutics, (principles of Bible interpretation) and Preparing the Congregation in Mission. I have visited LCC mission fields in the area and met with the Synod’s leaders and Evangelism committee. The synod established its two-year mission strategies, and under God’s grace and with the help of the Holy Spirit they want to add 100 new members to each congregation during this period.

Dr. Neitzel (centre) meets with the Nicaraguan Lutheran Church's evangelism committee

The Apostle Peter recommends, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and forever! Amen” (2 Peter 3:18). The church workers’ main focus here is studying and sharing the Word of God through their daily activities. It has been a blessing to see them applying the Word of God in very special situations, especially in the Children’s Education Program.

 My wife, Maria is with me. She is a social worker and family therapist. As a volunteer she is using her gifts and experiences especially with pastors’ wives and deaconesses who with her for a very special moment of sharing about their burdens, challenges, blessings and joys in the work of the Lord’s kingdom. The theme of the study was “A Christian woman by God’s grace”. This study continued the type of work Dr. Ralph and Linda Mayan have provided in this area. There is a great need for spiritual and emotional support to pastors, deaconesses and their families. We pray and trust that the Lord will continue to provide the financial means needed to carry on such a program.

 If you feel the Lord speaking to you and encouraging you to assist financially towards a church workers’ family retreat and more seminars in the ILSN in the near future, contact Dr. Mayan at ralph.mayan@lutheranchurch.ca or Rev. Leonardo Neitzel, missions@lutheranchurch.ca

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Medical care and Gospel witness

June 21, 2010

A pastor (left) shares God's Word with people waiting outside the medical clinic

by Rev. Dr. Leonardo Neitzel

Since its beginning, the medical clinic of Iglesia Luterana Sínodo de Nicaragua (ILSN) has provided a special opportunity for the church to care for the peoples’ physical needs as well as for Gospel witness. I have met former patients and heard stories of people who came to the clinic, who besides the medical treatment received God’s Word, a prayer and were comforted in their anxieties by the ministration of the love of Jesus Christ as Saviour.

A beautiful example is from Anastacio Cerda Ortiz. He came for medical treatment and was approached with God’s Word by the president of the ILSN. He became interested in the work of the Lutheran church and today is a faithful member of the church, present every Thursday at the Clinic to build friendly relationships with patients, to pray for them if needed and to share the Gospel with them. He is also involved in the church work and has his own business during his spare time selling bread on the streets.

In 1982 an interesting paper was presented by Soritua Nababan at the Lausanne Grand Rapids Consultation titled “Your Kingdom Come.” It highlighted the close connection between physical care of others and Gospel witness or between “evangelism and social responsibility.” It certainly applies to the work of the ILSN medical clinic as well as to any other care mission and ministry developed by God’s people. It says:
. . . First, social activity is a consequence of evangelism. That is, evangelism is the means by which God brings people to new birth, and their new life manifests itself in the service of others. Secondly, social activity can be a bridge to evangelism. It can break down prejudice and suspicion, open closed doors, and gain a hearing for the Gospel. Jesus sometimes performed works of mercy before proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom. Thirdly, social activity not only follows evangelism as its consequence and aim, and precedes it as its bridge, but also accompanies it as its partner. They are like the two blades of a pair of scissors or the two wings of a bird. This partnership is clearly seen in the public ministry of Jesus, who not only preached the Gospel but fed the hungry and healed the sick. In his ministry, kerigma (proclamation) and diakonia (service) went hand in hand. His works explained his words, and his works dramatized his words. (Soritua Nababan, “Your Kingdom Come”, pp. 179-192 Lausanne Grand Rapids Consultation, June 19-25, 1982).

As God’s church we “unlike so many, [we] do not peddle the Word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God” (2 Corinthians 2:17). As we serve we don’t do it for earthly reward or profit. As we serve others we rejoice in the opportunities to share the forgiveness and salvation Jesus provides for all people. We don’t serve for own sake but for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Our greatest joy and reward will be at the very end of the ages when we will see those whom we have served joining us for eternal life. It will be our reward of grace when Jesus will say to us: “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’” Matthew 25:23. Jesus will say to his own at the very end “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40.


Christian education hits home in Nicaragua

June 17, 2010

By Rev. Leonardo Neitzel

We have been impressed with the way pastors, missionaries, deaconesses and “maestras” daily carry out the church’s mission and ministry in Nicaragua with children. The foundation of the work is the Holy Scripture. Besides tutoring and reinforcing lessons in math and Spanish and assisting them daily with homework assignments, they teach and lead the children in God’s Word as they provide exercises through Bible stories and memorization of verses.

Dr. Neitzel tells a story to more than 100 children gathered in Santa Patricia


Martin Luther’s Small Catechism is the next important tool in their teaching. In the community of Santa Patricia we had the privilege of spending time interacting with more than 100 children and workers communicating through our “Portuñol” (a mix of Portuguese and Español) – and what a blessing it was to hear them recite Scripture verses, parts of the Small Catechism, pray the Lord’s Prayer and sing.

The way the church leaders and the community value these important ‘tools’ and handle them interactively with the children is a great reason for our gratitude to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. This Christian education process, seen in church and in family circles at home, highlights one of Martin Luther’s educational methods throughout his entire ministry and in his own family. Is the Lord trying to teach us a lesson today as we sometimes seem to put aside the Holy Scriptures and the Small Catechism in favour of other earthly priorities?

We thank and praise the Lord for giving Iglesia Luterana Sìnodo de Nicaragua the understanding of His will towards the Christian education of His church. As Martin Luther says, “the Holy Spirit is present in such reading and repetition and meditation, and bestows ever new and more light and devoutness, so that it is daily relished and appreciated better, as Christ promises, Matthew 18:20: “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.”


ILSN Establishes Mission and Goals

March 31, 2010

By Rev. Dr. Ralph Mayan

A year ago the church wasn’t ready for it. But now with their first convention behind them, it was a time for a new beginning. The pastors and deaconesses together with other leaders in the church sat down on three separate occasions to consider their strengths, weaknesses and challenges in the light of Christ’s mission. The result of this activity was an ILSN Mission Statement and series of goals for the next two years.  

Recognizing the two-fold “mission” responsibility that Christ gave to his church and reflecting upon the Mission Statement of Lutheran Church–Canada, ILSN set as its Mission Statement the following:

Iglesia Luterana Sinodo de Nicaragua will, through its members, proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ so that by the power of the Holy Spirit those who do not believe may come to faith and that those who believe might be strengthened in faith and life.

 In carrying out this mission, the Synod set the following goals.

 1. By the grace of God, ILSN will work to increase its membership by 100 persons per congregation.  

2. By the grace of God, each congregation will work towards having regular bible studies for women and men with a goal of doubling their present attendance.

3. By the grace of God, ILSN will seek to prepare an equal number of musicians for the church as there are pastors so that the use of music in public worship might be enhanced.

4. By the grace of God, ILSN working with LCC Mission will strive towards being an indigenous, self-supporting church body.

 The Synod Committee appointed working committees for evangelism, education and worship. Each Committee is now in the process of establishing their strategic plans and course of action. Responsibility for the fourth goal rests with LCC Mission-Nicaragua. The Mission has already begun work on business plans for the the establishment of “Small Businesses” in support of ILSN.

 In order that the pastors and deaconesses of the Synod might continue to grow in ministry, the Synod also added the following goals:

1. By the grace of God, our pastors and deaconesses will participate in 4 continuing education programs per year.  Although the Planning Session requested that the Synod Committee appoint a Continuing Education Committee to work with LCC Mission-Nicaragua in identifying course work that would benefit the Church, several areas were already identified by participants: Evangelism Strategy; Ministering to the Abused; The Christian Family; Managing time for work and family; Pastoral Care; Congregational Administration; A teaching practicum for teachers. The arranging of these programs remains the responsibility of LCC Mission-Nicaragua.

2. By the grace of God, our pastors and deaconesses will strive to develop a disciplined devotional life.  Both pastors and deaconesses spoke of times when they lacked in zeal for their work and often would not complete their tasks. While they recognized that some of this had to do with poor planning (and so the request for assistance in time management,) they expressed a greater concern for their own “walk with God.” Zeal comes from the Lord; He gives it through Word and Sacrament. We need to be people constantly in the Word.”  

Sitting on the outside, we might be tempted to say that Iglesia Luterana Sinbodo de Nicaragua has set an ambitious plan for this biennium. I don’t see it that way. The goals were already there in the hearts and minds of the church, but had not been individually identified. (Something like not seeing the trees for the forest.) The process helped the church to identify them and now by the grace of God with these goals in mind the church can move forward with singleness of purpose and godly zeal in proclaiming the Gospel so that by the power of the Holy Spirit those who do not believe may come to faith and that those who believe might be strengthened in faith and life.


Beginnings in Telica

March 5, 2010

Wednesday Gathering

Back Yard Bible Study

  By Rev. Dr. Ralph Mayan  

One thing that can be said to “visiting teams” is that sometimes God’s work really explodes after you go home. That is certainly true for the team from Redeemer Lutheran in Waterloo, Ontario who visited Nicaragua in January.  

 This past Wednesday, I had the opportunity to visit with a new community of believers in the town of Telica, a town about 20 kilometres north of Leon.  When I arrived there were some twenty-five women and thirty children all gathered together in one member’s back yard.  Pastor Henry and Missionary Maximo were leading the adults in a bible study;  Deaconess Jeryll, Missionary Maximo’s wife had the children in another corner leading them in song.  We usually gather on Saturday’s for our study, Missionary Maximo said to me,  but they wanted to meet you and so a number from the community (those not working) have gathered again today. 

During our visit I learned how this community of believers had come into being.  Redeemer Lutheran was assisting Pastor Henry, Missionary Maximo and Jeryll in conducting Vacation Bible Schools in two congregations (Maranonal and La Cartonera) and an outreach station (Gracios a Dios). Apparently one family from Tilica had their children attend the V.B.S. program in Gracios a Dios. That family was so excited about what their children learned that they sent a letter to Missionary Maximo asking him to visit their home in Telica. 

Missionary Maximo tried to follow up on that letter, but could not find the family’s home. (There are no streets or addresses in Nicaragua) A second letter came several weeks later asking, (Missionary Maximo is laughing as he tells me) “Why haven’t you visited us yet?  Don’t you want to come?”  “Please come!” once again giving instructions.Well Missionary Maximo eventually did find the house where he was graciously welcomed. And each time he came back there were more people gathered to hear the Good News of God’s grace in Jesus Christ. Why was I invited to visit on this particular day?  Missionary Maximo explained it in this way.  This community of believers in Telica wants to become an organized church. They know that there is only a river dividing them from Gracios a Dios (a farming community where Missionary Maximo has been doing work for about one year) and so they have worked together with members from this community to find a place where both communities might gather for worship together.  They have found that land. They want you to see it and to pray with them that one day they might have that land and a building too!

God's Acre

I don’t know if this land will be purchased or if there will ever be a little church built on it.  But this I do know.  Two children were introduced to Jesus at a V.B.S. and by God’s grace a new community of believers has come into being. God continues to do marvellous things; sometimes it even explodes!   


Scholarships for Nicaraguan Children

February 22, 2010

By Rev. Dr. Ralph Mayan, Nicaragua

The new school year has begun in Nicaragua and during these opening weeks, the Christian Children’s Education Committee of Iglesia Luterana Sinodo de Nicaragua is visiting each congregation and presenting to identified children their scholarship for the coming year. This past Friday the Committee visited Iglesia Luterana Jesucristo Nuestro Salvador in Santa Patricia to present scholarships to 60 children and their parents

 The scholarships includes a backpack, two school uniforms, shoes, books, pencils and crayons. In addition to these public school requirements, the children participate in a daily half day education program at the church held during that period when the children are not in public school. Here they receive tutoring in math, science and Spanish from the deaconesses and teachers of the church. They also participate in a daily bible and catechism classes and finish out the day with recreational activities.

After an explanation of the program to the parents, each scholarship recipient, as his/her name was called, came forward with their parents. The parents checked the materials in the backpack (to make sure that the uniforms fit) and then signed a contract in which they promised to support their child in his/her education and ensure the child’s participation in the tutoring program. It was interesting to note that some parents could not write their name on that contract and left a thumb print instead. Because of this program, you can be sure that their children will not have that disadvantage. Indeed there are some graduates of the program who are now attending university.

There are about 700 children enrolled in the program throughout the Synod. The annual cost of the program is approximately $125 per child. The Iglesia Luterana Sinodo de Nicaragua is grateful to Concordia Lutheran Mission Society and Canadian Lutheran World Relief for their on-going support of this program. Additional support is also received from the Christian Children’s Concern Society of Topeka, Kansas as well a number of individual Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod congregations.


A New Door Opened!

January 31, 2010

by Rev. Dr. Ralph Mayan

God continues to open doors for the proclamation of the Gospel. This morning it was my privilege to participate in the formal opening of a new mission and preaching station in the community of El Naranjo. The community is about 3 kilometres from Santa Patricia where Pastor Mardo serves one of the first established congregations in the Synod, La Iglesia Luterana Jesucristo Neustro Salvador.

Pastor Mardo began making visits in the community of El Naranjo about one month ago in response to an invitation. A family from the community had been touched by the help received from a visiting Medical Clinic in Santa Patricia and the encouragement and support given by Pastor Mardo and the congregation’s deaconesses. They invited him to visit in their home. The first visit led to a second; then to the start of a bible study in their home and a program of planned visits with all the neighbours in the community.

But they weren’t going to wait any longer. Today, they would gather for their first formal service. There were 12 gathered under the Cashew tree. They sang, they confessed; they listen to God’s Word and they prayed that God would bless this new mission start in their community.

We join them in praying too that as God opens new doors for witness, we all might be bold to enter and proclaim the name of Jesus. O Lord, grant faith to every hearer!


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