Journeys to Nicaragua are on the 2019 calendar for Anderson Mill Road Baptist Church’s Missions outreach after cancellations this year due to civil unrest and violence.
The Mill is sponsoring trips to the Central American country in the spring and summer as the dangers have waned. The trouble in Nicaragua began on April 18 with protests in several cities against reforms by President Daniel Ortega that raised social security taxes while decreasing benefits. Around 30 people were killed in the first five days and more than 300 since then, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
The Mill will send a group of about 20 to the Pearl Foundation’s mission in Granada from April 30-May 6, while another contingent will travel there in the summer, said Darrell Hinson, a member of The Mill, who with his wife Linda founded Pearl Foundation in 2007 after making numerous mission trips to Nicaragua. A group of 20 to 30 from The Mill will travel to Chosen Children’s site in Masaya from July 13-20, said Darrell Cothran, assistant director of Chosen Children Ministries and The Mill’s media Pastor.
“It just wasn’t safe for us to send teams to Nicaragua this year,” said Jason Williamson, The Mill’s Missions Pastor. “We’re going to trust our partners in the field. When they say it’s not safe to come, we listen.”
Missions in Nicaragua typically attract families with children because the travel is relatively short – with good flight connections from Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport – and good accommodations in the field. For those reasons, Nicaraguan trips are often the first that a person or family will take.
The Mill wasn’t alone in pulling out of missions to Nicaragua. Numerous trips sponsored by Evangelical churches or groups from the United States were postponed or canceled during the spring and summer, Christianity Today said, leaving people they served in worse shape amid the national crisis. And the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints pulled more than 350 missionaries from Nicaragua in June, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.
At the same time, Catholic churches were on the front lines of the protests, according to the Wall Street Journal, with clergy assaulted and numerous churches “attacked, shot at, looted or defiled,” primarily by “government-allied paramilitary groups.”
About half of Nicaragua’s believers are Roman Catholics, while more than a third are affiliated with Evangelical churches, according to the Central Intelligence Agency’s Factbook. Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America, with its population (6.025 million) about a million more than South Carolina’s and its land mass about a third larger than the Palmetto State.
While many mission teams work in regions that weren’t directly impacted by the violence and protests, one critical issue was getting there, since most teams flew into the major cities of Managua or Granada and then traveled by bus for several hours to the sites of their mission work.
Cothran said that protestors frequently blocked roads from the big cities to the outposts, creating dangerous situations for Americans on mission trips.
The Hinsons were scheduled to return to Nicaragua on May 30, but by then, Darrell Hinson said, “the unrest had escalated to mass killings, looting and burning of buildings. We had to cancel our trip and subsequently cancel team trips scheduled for the summer.” Six mission trips, comprised of more than a hundred people, were scrubbed, he said.
“Fortunately we have a wonderful staff of Nicaraguans that carry on the work of the ministry in our absence,” Hinson said. “One of the main activities of our ministry is the preparing and feeding a meal each day to the children in a barrio called Pantanal. Before the civil unrest, we were feeding 80 to 90 children per day.
“We are now averaging 200 children per day. The reason for the increase is a tremendous increase in unemployment. The area we serve is dependent on tourism for many of its jobs. Since the trouble began tourists stopped coming and many hotels, restaurants and other tourist-related businesses closed, putting thousands out of work.”
Even before the trouble, the situation in Nicaragua was dire, Williamson said.
“In some places, it’s a very hard life with not a lot of opportunities,” he said, recalling a time when he preached to a group of Nicaraguans at a garbage dump. It was a place where many went to scavenge for discarded clothing, appliances and the like.
Cothran said that Nicaragua is “the second poorest country in the region, right down there with Haiti. You kind of have two classes of people down there. The wealthy live in the biggest cities, while five miles outside of town you find the poorest of the poor.”
Cothran said that unemployment in the area that Chosen Children Ministries serves was running about 35 percent before the trouble started. Now, he said, joblessness is 65 percent.
“For those who are working, salaries are running about $2 a day,” he said.
Chosen Children provides meals and other aid, drills wells, plants churches, and partners to provide economic development to the area it serves, among other things.
Pearl Foundation has a feeding program and sponsors backyard Bible clubs for children, discipleship classes, sports, prison and nursing home ministries.
If you would like to be a part of one of the trips and make a difference in Nicaragua, please contact Keri, our Missions Logistic Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org