Faith Matters: Granby church continues mission to Nicaragua
November 6, 2008
For the second year in a row, a group of volunteers associated with Lord of the Valley Lutheran Church (LOTV) in Granby, Colorado, traveled to Somoto, Nicaragua, and its “suburb” Caucali, to build houses, provide medical, optical and dental services and educate children through Bible studies.
Somoto is located in the north central part of Nicaragua near the Honduras border. Somoto is about the size of Granby and is similarly structured with several main paved roads, surrounded by numerous dirt roads branching out into neighboring areas.
Unlike Granby, however, there is no guarantee that electricity will be available or that roads will be passable. On any given day, there is only about a 30 percent chance of passing through the side roads without being delayed by a fallen tree, a river crossing the road, or livestock blocking the way.
Caucali is similar in some ways to many of the smaller neighborhoods in Grand County. The houses are scattered off dirt roads on fairly large tracts of land in beautiful hilly landscapes. Very few services are available within close proximity to residents. Residents must either walk 45 minutes or find other transportation to the closest store or service.
Caucali differs from places in Grand County, however, in the size of home (typically 2-3 rooms), the utilities offered (few homes have electricity and indoor plumbing) and the number of inhabitants (most 2-3 room homes house 7-8 members of the family).
Few residents own motorized vehicles and workers make anywhere from $2 a day as a laborer to $150 a month as teachers. Professionals such as engineers and lawyers fare better, but are still poor by United States standards. Many residents grow their food and raise livestock to feed themselves.
This year, the LOTV group helped residents of the Somoto area by beginning construction on 5 houses in Caucali. Dave and Kathy Naples and Raymond and Carmen Covington organized and led the trip while another 26 church and community members participated.
Raymond Covington and Dave Naples led the construction component of the mission trip. Five houses were started by the LOTV group and were completed by Trinity Lutheran Church of Loveland. These houses were constructed of 40 pound adobe bricks cemented together by mud mixed from dirt from nearby fields. No power tools were available. Helpers used wheelbarrows, buckets, hands, muscles and even their feet to help mix mud and build walls. The prospective homeowners and friends assisted in the construction. Even the children and neighbors jumped in and lent a helping hand.
Carmen Covington led the medical mission. Dentists, nurses, opticians, translators, an optometrist and more spent the week setting up make-shift clinics in homes, schools and the village health clinic. Because no electricity was available, the team used a generator to power their equipment.
The team saw over 650 patients during the week. Patients arrived dressed in their finest clothing and patiently awaited their turn. Visiting the “American” clinic was a family affair in most cases, and patients were happy, kind and gracious during waits that could last hours.
Each patient received a basic medical exam, including a check of vital signs and short eye and dental exams. Patients received over 500 pairs of prescription eyeglasses, 1,200 toothbrushes, 500 tubes of toothpaste, 150 Bibles, countless vitamins, pain medication, and antibiotics. Those with more serious ailments were referred to local doctors or the Nicaragua Health Ministry. In return, the Nicaraguans donated more than 150 teeth (painlessly, thanks to Dr. Rina Lopez.
Both the medical team and the patients felt very blessed by their experiences with the medical mission group. Carmen described the optical outreach: “Words cannot express the joy in seeing the expressions on the faces of a child or an adult when they could see clearly. It is a blessing to be able to provide services to God’s people.”
Children’s Bible Studies
Children’s activities were a big hit at all four clinic locations. Two LOTV members along with two teenagers from the local Lutheran church worked with the children as they waited their turns for medical attention. The group leaders discussed dental hygiene and brushing teeth with the children, while providing them an opportunity to practice brushing teeth on an oversized model (and with a BIG toothbrush!) Songs, games, puzzles, bubbles and coloring were just some of the activities that allowed kids to be kids. The children felt important and knew that they were celebrated just for being kids! Bible activities included the Noah’s Ark story and accompanying craft projects. Pastor Concepcion from the local Lutheran church joined the festivities at the various clinics to tell Bible stories and sing songs in the children’s native language.
For the returning members of the mission trip, the highlight of this year’s trip was the opportunity to visit friends from the previous year’s mission trip and to see the progress made on projects started last year. These friends include the Sanchez family – Cena, Sergio, Sergio, Jr, and Roseangelica and their mother, sister, cousins, and nieces and nephews.
This family of 28 lives on an acre of land above Somoto. Their compound contains 3 small 2- room homes equipped with only minimal electricity and an outdoor hose for a shower. All 28 family members share one city-issued Porta-Potty. The mission group constructed one of their 3 houses during the summer of 2007 and group members were able to see the completed house this summer. Just as important, the members were able to visit and play with Roseangelica, the 6-year old daughter with serious birth defects who has been supported financially during the year by members of the mission trip.
Mission members also worshipped with the Iglesia Luterana de Caucali (Lutheran Church in Caucali headed by Pastor Concepcion), which has been supported both financially and in faith by LOTV and Trinity Lutheran Church (Loveland, Colorado) over the past two years. LOTV members and the local congregation shared their faith in two different languages through song, prayer and translators.
LOTV members are already planning next year’s trip. With the support of the congregation, the community of Grand County and the mission group’s Nicaraguan friends, each year’s trip brings more assistance and goodwill to the people of Somoto.