From left to right: Carolyn Vasquez, Vinnie Adams, Bob Marsh, Cory Vander Velde, Lisa Vanderbill, Nicole Spangler, Heather Foltz, Lindsey Heerema, Raul and Olga Bustos, and Tony Perkins
On June 11 a team from Elim began a week long ‘Ministry Outreach Vision Trip’ to Managua, Nicaragua (pop. 1.5 million) and surrounding communities. The team included several staff from Elim Christian School, one from Elim Adult Services, and one Elim Adult day program participant, Tony Perkins.
Our purposes in assembling a Nicaragua Outreach Trip included:
We also wanted to give Tony Perkins an opportunity to be a witness to how God has given special gifts to all and that these gifts are to be shared in building His Kingdom. Our team was prepared and excited to learn from the resourcefulness of the Nicaraguan people and to appreciate a culture much different from our own.
Nicaragua is a small country with a population of just under 6 million, and is one of the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere, second only to Haiti. Nearly half of Nicaraguans live on less than $1 per day. Generally speaking, people with disabilities in Nicaragua are not valued, and families struggle with shame and guilt often wondering what they may have done to contribute to their child’s disability. Children with disabilities rarely have an opportunity to go to school.
The Elim team was met at the airport in Managua on Monday by our host for the week, Elim Liaison Michelle Adams. Michelle is the Director of Tesoros De Dios (God’s treasures) in Managua, a school serving 83 children with a wide range of disabilities from impoverished communities in the area.
We left the airport on a small bus for the 3 hour trip to Chinandega (pop. 150,000), where we would spend the next 2 days learning about the work of Food for the Hungry under the guidance of FH staff member Claudia Escobar.
On Tuesday, our first full day in Chinandega, we visited the community of Ameya where Food for the Hungry is working with local leaders to make permanent and positive change for the families that live there. Part of their work includes identifying and finding ways to minister to families that have children and adults with disabilities. Our team split up and met with families in two separate homes before reconvening at a small school called El Porvenir. At El Porvenir we met with teachers, had an opportunity to interact with some of the children, and met two special needs children, Cecelia and Marvin. Marvin and Cecilia are two of eight children in their family. Cecelia has fairly significant mental disabilities, and her brother Marvin was born with a club foot. Two of their other siblings also have disabilities. We were encouraged to hear that Cecilia, who is 15 years old, is included in her school and according to her teacher, she is being helped by the other students and is making good progress in learning how to speak verbally. This was a great example of how a community with such limited resources is working to include children with disabilities.
Next we visited their home and saw the extremely poor conditions that the family lives in right next to a garbage dump where trash is continually burning. This was a great opportunity for Tony Perkins to bless two other members of their family, Pedro and Alexander, with Elim HOPE Packs of school supplies.
This trip was the first time Tony Perkins had ever traveled on an airplane, much less to a foreign country. As a member of the team Tony participated in all of the activities on the trip. He made an invaluable contribution by being a witness to the fact that people with disabilities have value and purpose, and that they have gifts and abilities that are important in building God’s Kingdom. Tony was especially happy to personally hand Elim HOPE Packs of school supplies to children in the communities we visited.
On Tuesday afternoon, the second day of the trip, we met with nearly 10 families that had gathered in a local church to meet Elim staff members and ask specific questions about their family members with disabilities. With the assistance of translators Elim staff members Cory Vander Velde, Lindsey Heerema, Carolyn Vasquez, Lisa Vanderbill, Heather Foltz, Olga Bustos, and Vinnie Adams encouraged the families in attendance by providing practical suggestions and showing Christs love and compassion. All of us on the Elim team were deeply touched by the love and dedication these parents showed for their children. This is especially true knowing they are almost completely on their own due to the lack of resources available to them for therapy and education.
Late Tuesday afternoon we left Chinandega for the 3 hour trip back to Managua where we would stay until our return to the states on Saturday June 16. For the next three days we spent the bulk of our time at Tesoros De Dios, where Elim Liaison Michelle Adams and her staff provide educational and therapy services to 83 children and young adults with disabilities. Each student attends Tesoros 2 days per week, and they are accompanied by one of their parents, most often their mother. Like Elim, Tesoros staff share the love of Christ through song, a gentle touch, a warm smile, and love and devotion to each individual regardless of their level of disability.
The Elim team observed, participated in singing, and–in a very short amount of time–began working alongside the Tesoros staff as they ministered to the children. During the course of the next three days the teams from Elim and Tesoros spent time with each other seeking ways to better serve each student.
Like Elim, Tesoros De Dios is a distinctly Christian ministry where Gods love is poured out through the loving actions of staff members. Each child is challenged to learn and to grow knowing that God has a plan and a purpose for their lives regardless of their level of disability. Through this active ministry families who don’t know Jesus are watching as the children their society largely rejects are valued and loved.
In addition to Michelle Adams and Tesoros De Dios, Elim Ministry Outreach also collaborates with Maddy Manden in Kigali, Rwanda, Geeta Mondol in Delhi India, and Lucia Mambure in Zimbabwe. These collaborators share the mission of Elim Christian Services to equip individuals with special needs to achieve their God-given potential.
The goals of these collaborations are to raise awareness that persons with disabilities are of profound worth to God, and therefore to themselves, their families, and the world; and to expand access to resources for persons with disabilities which enable them to become integrated as full-fledged members of their communities.
In the coming days keep an eye on this particular post of the Equip Blog as other members of the team share stories of how God used this trip to change their lives.
It is the Standard of Elim Christian Services to admit children and adults to agency services regardless of race, color, national and ethnic origin, to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to agency service recipients. Elim Christian Services does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national and ethnic origin in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other school-administered policies. Read Full Disclosure.