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Granby church group enriched by giving to impoverished Nicaraguans

by Tonya Bina
The Sky-Hi Daily News
Mission trip participants help to construct a concrete block home for one of the village families in Somoto, Nicaragua. (Photo by Kathy Naples)
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Last July, 13 members from the Lord of the Valley Lutheran Church in Granby spent seven days spreading goodwill to the people of isolated Somoto, Nicaragua, among the poorest of the poor in Central America.

From their experience, the people of Colorado’s mountains got their own taste of goodwill resonating in that nation’s high country.

As they built a brick home for an impoverished citizen, gave medical assistance, taught English and conducted Bible study, church members obtained their own lessons in simplicity and what it means to have little in worldly possessions ” but much love, pride and camaraderie, according to Pastor Joel Martin.

“It’s amazing how we feel cut off if we don’t have news or Internet, whereas they feel cut off if they don’t see their neighbor that day,” he said.

“We have these assumptions of what it would mean to live in poverty; we assume it’s a miserable experience and causes a sense of self-worthlessness, but in reality, the people have a sense of self-worth that is extraordinary and a sense of joy that is extraordinary,” he said. “Their self-worth is not tied up in money like ours is. … They brought us joy.”

Northwestern Somoto is in the central highlands near the upper Coco River.

Farming (particularly butter production), the manufacturing of hammocks, and the gathering of pine pitch are the principal economic activities.

“Their land mass is huge, with swamp area on the Atlantic coast. And they have little to export other than coffee and cigars. It’s not a very developed country,” said trip coordinator Dave Naples of Granby.

The region has little commerce, and families live on an average $2 per day.

Since a three-hour bus ride to the capital city of Managua costs around $5, most people have never been there.

“But they have no reason to go to Managua,” Naples said, commenting on the population’s resourcefulness ” the acceptance of a simpler way of life.

Because of the geographical and educational challenges of the region, Somoto has become a welcomed community for mission trips such as Lord of the Valley’s, which arranged its first trip along with the Trinity Lutheran of Loveland and the Loveland chapter of Habitat for Humanity. They were also accompanied by Bethany Lutheran Church-Denver and Our Saviours Lutheran Church-Greeley.

The Granby church is already planning to return to Somoto next July.

“The need is so great there, I can’t ever imagine meeting it completely,” Naples said.

Granby’s Carmen Covington, R.N., led the group’s medical mission, her first such trip, and her husband Ray Covington led the construction side of the mission.

As part of the four-day medical effort, more than 750 people were seen in four available clinics set up in schools. “The people walked to the clinics wearing the very best clothing they owned,” Carmen wrote in a description of her trip. “A few cowboys rode their horses. Two mothers walked from Somoto to El Cairo with their children because they heard American doctors were in the village … It took them all day.”

The medical teams would examine the patients and care for their needs.

Prescriptions were filled, children received fluoride treatments and reading glasses were available and given to patients after a simple vision test was completed.

“The generosity of the people was demonstrated in several villages where we were served coffee in the late morning and afternoon. The people have so little in comparison to what we have but were so happy to share,” Carmen wrote.

Each Lord of the Valley traveler brought with them two 50 pound bags of donated items for the people of Somoto, equating to about 1,300 pounds of tools, bedding, school supplies, hygiene products, medical supplies and toys.

The church also supplied money to the residents of Somoto for fences to be put around gardens and crops to keep the goats out ” an example of a simple necessity they have that can go unnoticed to those who want to help.

“They want to get better and do better,” Naples said. “It’s rewarding to help somebody who is really making an effort.”

“Realistically, we could do this anywhere,” Martin said, explaining the church’s decision to go to Nicaragua . “We could go anywhere in the world to expand our understanding of ourselves, the world and God.”

But going to this part of the world or to any impoverished region, “makes you aware of the abundance we do live in and what we take for granted,” he said.

Naples hopes to get more young adults involved in mission trips. Without traveling abroad, people can have a “non-worldly view about life in general,” he said.

Trips abroad can bring about a new perspective of one’s own life.

“Mission trips help young people get beyond a hometown frame of mind, get a more worldly view and better educated,” he said.

The Granby church, located next to City Market, will be selling Nicaraguan coffee to help support next summer’s trip to Somoto, July 18 to July 28. The coffee, available Dec. 1, costs $15 a pound. As many as 25 slots are reserved for anyone who has “mission in their heart,” Naples said. Anyone interested in joining the group can call the church at 887-9252 for more information.

“One thing you learn is that people are people and families are families no matter where you are in the world,” said Dave’s wife Kathy Naples, who not only taught students during the trip, but served as the group’s Spanish interpreter.

“They don’t see themselves as poor people, they’re people making their way in the

world.”


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