Tuesday, June 30, 2015

2015 Nicaragua: Building a Legacy of Hope

Leann writes:

Acción Medica Cristiana (AMC) began in 1984 as a grassroots organization that was founded by a group of university medical students in Nicaragua, who recognized the need for a Christian action group in a place where poverty was very widespread.  Their efforts were initially discouraged by others due to their youth, but they persisted in their mission to provide medical assistance and share God’s love with communities in need.

AMC reached out to communities in remote areas, focusing largely on the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua- an area that did not have access to medical care.  The Ministry of Health did not have much outreach to these hard-to-reach communities, as national infrastructure was essentially nonexistent in these areas.  Transportation to a hospital could take upwards of four days, and medical emergencies typically resulted in fatality.  AMC provided medical assistance to these communities, and began training community leaders to provide their own medical care.

Thirty years later, AMC has expanded its outreach to 230 communities, and provided assistance to over 200,000 people in Nicaragua.  The organization has three areas of focus: Community Health, Food and Nutritional Security, and Risk Management.  Projects include determining sources of clean water, providing low-cost medicine through networks of community pharmacies, and teaching communities to prepare for emergencies.  Nicaragua is currently ranked #4 on the Climate Risk Index, meaning that when a natural disaster occurs, it is highly likely to become an emergency situation.  Community leaders are trained to take the lead in these projects, to ensure sustainability.              Funding for these missions is a challenge for AMC.  The organization has received support from the U.S. and Europe, but this support is declining and more restrictions are being placed on funding.  Although the majority of people in Nicaragua live on $4 a day, the country is perceived by other countries as being “less poor” than previously, and international aid is therefore being reduced as well.            So what is our team doing in Nicaragua?  AMC is working on constructing a training center and meeting room at the AMC central headquarters in Managua, Nicaragua.

This project was abandoned for several years due to lack of funding, but the hope is to complete construction within the next few months.  This building will be used to host meetings with community leaders and house future volunteers working with AMC, reducing administrative costs. It will also provide an additional source of income to AMC, as the organization can rent the space to other groups.  Our group will be finishing walls and windows, installing flooring, and painting, to make this space usable to AMC.  There is a great deal of work to be done in the next week, but we are so blessed with an amazing team at AMC and with the prayers, love, and support of our friends and family back home.  Todo lo puedo en Cristo que me fortalece; I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me.
by Leann Misencik

2015 Nicaragua: The Wonders of Cement and Managua

Ximena writes:

After a night of rest here in Nicaragua I regained all my sleep.

So waking up at 6:20AM started to become difficult. I stayed in bed for a good 15 minutes longer before I actually woke up and started my day. We ate our breakfast this morning in the mist of a princess for it was Angela’s birthday. after breakfast we went strait to work at AMC. Carlos, Henry, and Alberto took the time to teach us how to properly put the cement mixture on the wall. They were very patient with us and would not mind to show us how to properly do our work as much as we needed. The work was challenging at first, but once you get an idea and a flow of it we got better. Basically, what we did was take a cement mixture and put it on the walls as a finish in two coats. The first coat was rough for the most part and it was very hard to actually get it smooth on the wall. Leann and I were given the opportunity to redeem ourselves from yesterday's okay work of putting the first coat on a few of the walls, by putting the second finishing coat. this made us worry since this one had to be perfect and flat. Luckily for us, we were able to wet the wall and smooth it out after the last coat was put out. I got into it and was covered in cement. while we were thinking that we were not doing it as perfect as they wanted, Carlos and Henry kept telling up that it was all good and always reassuring us. Carlos was joking with us and saying that we were going to have to move to Managua and he would have to fire Henry to hire us because our work was that good.

After we were done working for the day at around 12, we showered at the AMC bathrooms, had lunch (which was so good and fresh!), and went off to do what Americans in a different country do best: we became tourist. Freddie took us to some of the places we learned about in our history lesson yesterday. We went to Samosa’s Palace (Lomas Tiscapa) where we were able to see the old and new Managua on either side of the palace. We event went downstairs to the torture room where we saw where Samosa kept all his enemies close to him and tortured them. From there, we went to the original Roman Cathedral Church (Catedral Santiago de Managua) where we took a group selfie with my selfie stick in front of the church. It was built after the 1931 earthquake. It didn't collapsed but was the only standing structure after the next earthquake, but is now condemned because it is structurally unsound. Within that location there was the presidential palace, which was turned into a national museum, and the three graves of the revolutionary martyrs. After that, we went to a boardwalk location (Paseo Xolotlan) to enjoy ourselves a bit in and walk around. There was a plane in the middle of the field for people to enter. For most of the people in Managua, that would be the only time they would enter a plane. We even got to see the mini Managua that showed how Managua looked liked before the earthquake hit and wiped everything. We took all the classic photos near the building like holding it or leaning on them (p.s. you know you are short when even the mini building are taller than you…).

We ended our day at Pops to get ice cream. I was so worried I would give them the wrong amount of U.S. dollars (the ratio is 27:1 (well technically its 27.024 to 1)) but, with the help of others, I was able to get my $3 mint cappuccino. We sang happy birthday to Angela while eating our ice cream. We relaxed at the hotel for the rest of the day and shared our views with one another of how our days went. We talked about our God moments and just conversed and laughed while enjoying dinner (seriously, the food here is great! 10/10 would eat again). God is truly working through us and is visible through how we can connect and show our true selves with one another and with others.

by Ximena B. Varas

Monday, June 29, 2015

The 2015 NYAC VIM Arrives in Nicaragua - A Beautiful Start

Pastor Alex da Silva Souto writes:

May you have trusted that God's grace was all that you needed on this Sabbath day.

We started our day enjoying an amazing breakfast at the best place we have stayed in Nicaragua.  The lodging we normally stay at was completely booked, and as God would have it, we ended up at the cutest little posada, with the friendliest staff, best food I've had in Nicaragua, and guess what ...?!??!
Front gates decorated with butterflies!!!!
Butterflies has been a great icon for us since Holy Week, and it seems to a constant on our path of faith.

We spent this sabbath morning by a cradle lake called Laguna de Apoyo.
We froliced in the refreshing emerald waters of this volcanic lake, then enjoyed a delicious lunch while feasting on the beauty of God's creation.

After breaking bread with great joy, we headed out to the Masaya artisan market. There our team members had a chance to witness the exuberant craftsmanship and artistry of Nicaragua, and support the local economy by bringing some souvenirs back home.

By now you might be thinking, aren't these missionaries going to church at all on the sabbath day.  Yes, we are faithful followers of Christ, and we did go to church to offer God all the praise that God deserves.
Sunday evening tends to be the prime time service on the week, and we were blessed to worship with the devoted members of the "IGLEMEN" Evangelical Methodist Church of Nicaragua at "Laureles Sur".
We were received with the typical Nicaraguan generous hospitality and invited to praise God for the lives of the fathers in the church and the "MaPas" [mothers that are also fathers for they children].
The reading came from the lectionary just like the readings that you were doing there at home.  The sermon was offered by a General Board of Global Ministry originally from Bolivia.  She offered a very positive positive message that invited all the generations present to reflect on their images of fatherhood.
A talented group of girls led the worship with an spirited liturgical dance, and singing from the top of their little lungs.

It was a moving celebration and delicious fellowship dinner afterwards [rice & red beans, chicken, beef, salad and tortilla].

We did quite a bit of driving today; which provided us with exposure to many different realities of our siblings in Nicaragua.  We even passed by a festive Pride Parade, and our missionary, Belinda said that they were very brave LGBTQI & allies

Tomorrow we start the day by joining the AMC weekly devotional, where the entire AMC central office staff get a chance to reflect on God's will for them as individuals and as a community.  And they also get a chance to start their week together as co-workers and faithful followers of Christ.
After devotional we get back to our hammers, power saws, brushes, brooms and other tools of concrete ministry [pun intended].

May your week start and unfold with God's perfect will,

pastor alex

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Mize's Bucket Brigade Saves the Day

Phyllis Machledt writes:

After a day of relaxing at YS falls, we were back at work again moving cement at Mt. Osborn.  This time we were more efficient (Mize helped with a training session for the bucket brigade.)  Since the line had to extend pretty far back to reach the ladder, we were a little shorthanded so Brother Lawrence recruited 4 more women from his church.  They really made the difference!  Not as many people had been able to come on Saturday as he had predicted.  The ladies stayed all day and spent some time telling us about their families and Jamaican schools.

The neighbor children – Karon, Jeffrey, and Akeem – were joined by Latanya.  Veda, Pauline and Opal “supervised” them bringing back the buckets.  I say “supervised” because some 7 to 9 yrs olds have short attention spans.  However, the kids worked really hard, and they don’t even go to Mt. Osborn.  We were able to accomplish even more than we did on Thursday in terms of concrete mixed and moved.  On Monday once the concrete dries, the wooden forms will be removed and put up on the remaining beam areas.

We discovered that some of the men working were volunteers from other churches and some were paid construction professionals – which is good because we don’t have the particular skills needed for this type of construction.  Brother Lewis, the chief carpenter, will be there on Monday to finish with the forms. Because of a confusion about dinner at the church, we ended up with patties instead of dinner at the hotel.  For those who wanted a dip in the pool, that was a good move.  The hotel was hosting a wedding so there was a lot of music late into the night. Tired from the hard physical labor during the day, the team all went to bed early During reflection everyone expressed satisfaction in what together we had accomplished

Phyllis Machledt

Friday, June 19, 2015

Digging in to the work

Thursday June 18, Phyllis Machledt wrote:

The plan today is to mix and pour the cement at the church into the forms we made yesterday.  We’ll be at Mt. Osborn all day for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  However, the cultural program which had been planned has been switched to Sunday.

Breakfast at the church arrived a little late, but for the coffee drinkers in our group, there was an ample supply.  They served eggs and sausages, plantains and fried breadfruit as well as fresh pineapple.
Mize, Sean, Matt and Elijah did the devotions for the pre-school, telling the story of Noah and the significance of the rainbow.  They had also prepared a craft but because of all the work going on, the teachers decided to do it back at the school which is next door.

To Americans used to cement mixers filling the forms, the whole process was very different.  The local workers began mixing the sand, small stones and cement in a big circle in front of the church door on the parking area.  Once it was sufficiently mixed with water, we started the bucket brigade.  Buckets had to be hand carried and passed along the line a hill, up stairs and up a ladder to be poured in the forms.  The buckets were heavy and it was hard, messy work, but luckily with everyone working the first part was done in one and a half hours.  Then we had to stop to make more wooden forms for other beams.  The local men, especially brother Lewis, were definitely the experts!  None of us, with the exception of Bob and Mize, had done any construction quite like this.  However, we were good, cheap labor.

Meanwhile the ladies of the church were cooking and preparing lunch and dinner for us – curried chicken and escavitch (snapper) and ackee. After a full day of work moving cement, the team came back to the hotel, tired but feeling good about the progress we made on the building.  Our only casualty was Opal’s sprained ankle (she is recovering).  However, when she was injured, we called for help in the bucket bridge.  Three women from the church stepped forward to help and worked with as for the afternoon. There was an incredible feeling of accomplishment not only from the actual amount of concrete we moved but also from the cooperation with the people of Mt. Osborn.
Would that the whole world could find a way to work together with mutual respect and with God’s love.

Phyllis Machledt

Jamaican Breafkasts, Contrasts and Joyful Work

John Machledt writes:

Breakfast  at 7:30 AM.  We were served fruit, pancakes, eggs, boiled green bananas and akee which is the fruit that is poisonous if you do not cook it when it is ripe.  After breakfast, we headed to the Mt. Osborn church with 15 of us packed in the van with the driver.  On the way, we passed many run-down the  and standard colorful Jamaican houses, but there was one mansion, which was very strange to see. It was striking ato see this mansion among so many poor, a personal castle for show.  Fortunately, the van made it up the hill (more like a mountain) and we go to the church.

We first met with the children from the jpre-school and they sang songs and recited lines they had learned.  It was very sweet and touching and it reminded many of our mission group of their childhoods in Jamaica.  Then Opal and Byron led a story and song for the kids before they went went back to school. After that we prepared to start working. There were a few men there to help us which was more than we expected. They were all volunteers and great workers and they accomplished a lot for one day. One man was even standing on the cement wall working in flip-flops. At first we weren't sure what to do because no one was there to tell us, but we figured it out quickly with the help of brother Lewis who is a great carpenter.

Greetings from Jamaica! The 2015 NYAC VIM Team is in action!

The United Methodist Church New York Annual Conference's Volunteers in Mission team is already hard at work in Jamaica! Rev. Joseph Ewoodzie, the Conference Mission Coordinator, is leading a mission team sponsored by Golden Hill United Methodist Church in Bridgeport, CT to help people in a mountain village. Some of the Golden Hill team grew up in Jamaica, and so this will be an opportunity to introduce their families and friends to their culture in a close and personal way. Please pray for the success and health of our VIM team, and for the people who they will be supporting and for those supporting them.

Maya writes:

We left for Jamaica this morning at about 2:30 am, which meant getting up at  about 1:30. Most of us didn’t have much sleep, but we were all ready and excited to be off. The group met at the Covenant church to load the suit cases and left relatively quickly after the Crosdales arrived and Bob found the key to the second van. Thankfully Sean got his passport yesterday so when we got to JFK airport we were able to check our bags and go through security without trouble. Sean said he made his passport in art class, but I guess he is a great artist because the airport security believed him… On the plane we pretty much all slept to make up for the time we had lost by getting up so early. The flight was 3.5 hours long, but it seemed to go by much faster. We arrived in Jamaica around lunch time with about 3,000 bags to check. Surprisingly we got through customs relatively quickly and we went to meet Jacqui, one of the mission organizers in Jamaica. A van was waiting for us to take us and our luggage up to Mt. Osborn, but first we went to get lunch. We went to an Island Grill, which had good food. A lot of people ordered the spicy “jerk” chicken but they all thought it was mild except John, who thought the opposite. I guess his taste buds are a wee bit more sensitive. After lunch, Jacqui went back to the airport without us to pick up the other two members of the group, Joseph and his wife, who were arriving on another flight. The rest of us went with some of the church members up into the mountains to go to our hotel.

On the coast near Montego Bay, many of the houses are fancy and there are more resorts and tourist
attractions, but as soon as you head into the mountains, the jungle swallows you and the poverty of the country becomes apparent. The road was winding but well kept up, and the view was fabulous. We stopped after a few hours in Santa Cruz to exchange money and to fix the phones. We also bought some fruit, which was way cheaper and way better than anything you could get in the United States. We tried nesberry, which was the sweetest thing I have ever tasted, and a type of apple that was more of a tart flavor and quite delicious. We also got three mangos for 100 Jamaican dollars, which is about USD$1.

After the market we arrived in the hotel in Santa Crest, which is very nice. Everyone was so tired that we crashed for an hour plus before we met to go up to the church. Mt. Osborn Methodist Church is on top of a giant hill, which is so steep that I wasn’t sure the bus was even going to make it up. Fortunately, it did. The church is very pretty, and we have lots of pictures of it. The people there to greet us were very friendly, and one man, who has a bunch of goats in the yard next to the church, brought Sean a bunch of mangos to share with us. Pauline likes, excuse me, loves mangos, and she taught John how to eat them the right way by pealing the skin off and then squeezing the fruit off with your teeth.

We had a reception at the church and we were pleasantly greeted by the members with prayers, songs, and food. I had some of the best pineapple I have ever eaten. It was altogether a very welcoming experience. Then we came back to the hotel and had a delicious dinner and met another group who is on a medical mission from Florida visiting another church. After dinner everyone went to be to rest for a long day of working tomorrow.

-Signing off, Maya- P.S. It is VERY hot here.