Dordt College News

AMOR team works in Nicaragua

January 25, 2006

Fourteen Dordt College students used a week of their semester break recently to serve in Nicaragua as mission workers on an AMOR (A Mission OutReach) team.

The Nicaraguan AMOR team consisted of Elbert Bakker, Winnipeg, MB; Jessica Braunschweig, Randolph, WI; Thomas Dykstra, Lake Worth, FL; Dustin Elgersma, Sioux Center, IA; Bethany Haak, Tucson, AZ; Jill Hiemstra, Salem, OR; Paul Hoogendoorn, Rock Valley, IA; Branden Kooiman, Brandon, WI; Sarah Matherly, Pella, IA; Lawren Sinnema, Blue Island, IL; Harah Sun, Sioux Center, IA; Adam Van Gelder, Orange City, IA; Erica Vande Kamp, Lee’s Summit, MO; and Carmela Vanderploeg, Grandville, MI. Also serving on the Nicaraguan AMOR team were Karen Wynia (student accounts assistant at Dordt College) and her husband, Stan (a farmer involved in the Farmer-to-Farmer mentoring program in Nicaragua). Nicaragua

The Dordt group worked at Rancho Ebenezer (a farm mission that teaches farmers ways of improving their farming skills) and the Nehemiah Center (education and other ministries). This year marks the ninth year that a Dordt AMOR team has traveled to Nicaragua.

“I felt God tugging at my heart to go, and even though I didn’t want to initially leave the Christmas festivities at home, I was really glad I did,” commented Jessica Braunschweig. “This trip emphasized the beautiful people that are missionaries in Nicaragua. I saw first-hand the trust they put in God, the faith they live out on a daily basis, and the way they’ve chosen to serve God in conditions that are often far from comfortable.” Jessica said she was overwhelmed by the sense of God’s working in Nicaragua.

A missionary with Worldwide Christian Schools, Nathan Boersema, served as their team leader, translator and driver. Boersema and his family moved to Nicaragua four months ago to serve and teach with Worldwide Christian Schools. Boersema made a big impression on Branden Kooiman, who commented “Although his supplies are limited, he goes out every day with a positive attitude and a willingness work. I’ll never forget the constant encouragement he gave when we were having difficulty with the work we were doing.”

“I definitely admired his faith for following God’s leading to Nicaragua,” concurred Paul Hoogendoorn, who also appreciated Boersema’s sense of humor. “He told us a lot about the history of the country, and then he would throw in some comment about the ‘Anaconda path’ we were walking on or some other story to get us a little nervous.”

Hoogendoorn said he was expecting to see some poor areas, but what he saw was beyond imagination. “Possibly the largest eye-opener was when we toured the city dump. There were literally hundreds of people living at the dump, most of which depended on the next garbage truck to provide them with food to survive. The sight of hundreds of people surrounding a garbage truck will not soon be forgotten.”

As the daughter of a missionary, Harah Sun, South Korea, said she loves to go on mission trips, but she also found Managua’s city dump to be shocking. “There were vultures everywhere... and kids were trying to search for something to eat in the pile of garbage. My head was aching so bad because I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing.”

“There was hopelessness and desolation in the sad, lost eyes of little girls and boys,” recalls Jessica Braunschweig. “Yet, at the same time, in other faces I saw a deep contentment in those who knew Jesus Christ as their personal savior … I am so grateful for the blessings I have in my life, yet at the same time, I’m ashamed of all I take for granted and even waste.”

The founder of the location where they worked, Don Chico, was a Nicaraguan who grew up in the Managua dump. An alcoholic by the age of 13, he testified to them that God had miraculously provided a way for him to turn his life around and get an education. Because he wanted to help fellow Nicaraguan farmers, he started Rancho Ebenezer.

At the ranch, the group learned to sift sand and mix concrete by hand, which they applied to a dormitory wall. They also painted walls, hog gates, rabbit cages, taught English words and played games with the children.

The second work site was at Nejapa, a Spanish speaking school that has just started as part of the Nicaragua Christian Academy. There they did some painting and laid a cement block walkway to connect two of the school buildings.

The third work project was constructing cement walls and metal roof at a small Christian school in one of the villages in Nicaragua. “Even more important than the work we did though were the resources that we brought along with us, and the initiative to get it done,” remarked Lawren Sinnema.

While in Nicaragua, the AMOR group also had the opportunity to learn some of the country’s history, and see surrounding lakes and mountains, where coffee is grown. They toured Granada on horse-drawn carriages, saw active and dormant volcanos, and visited the only lake in the world with fresh water sharks. On New Year’s Day they had the opportunity to swim in a lake (Laguna de Apoyo) that had formed in the crater of an inactive volcano.

“The trip made me aware of both the extreme beauty and poverty of Nicaragua,” said Paul Hoogendoorn. “It didn’t make me appreciate the comforts of home as I thought it would. Rather, it made me upset for the way I had been living and made me more aware of the needs of others.”

Jessica Braunschweig adds, “Such an experience helps you see the bigger picture of life, the reason we’re here, and the way God can work through us, here in America, to serve those in Nicaragua. This trip helped me better put my life into perspective, enabling me to realize and see firsthand what living for Christ truly means. I was challenged and blessed immeasurably by this trip. It’s important for people to move outside their little box in life, where all is comfortable and familiar. It’s when we make that leap of faith and follow our heart to see God in a whole new way that He can work so powerfully through us.”

“We saw several different types of ministries in Nicaragua which broadened my ideas of what missions can be,” said Carmella Vander Ploeg. “I realized on this trip that just about any field of study can be used by God in some way either in the U.S. or in other countries.”

Speaking for her husband and herself, Karen Wynia said it was great privilege to accompany this group of young adults to Nicaragua. “We were so blessed by their spiritual maturity and their ability to work so well together and have fun together …we highly recommend anyone to go on such a trip if given the opportunity. Seeing the culture of a third world country makes you realize how tremendously blessed we are in this country. Every time I take a shower I say a prayer of thanks for hot water – something I took for granted before going to Nicaragua. This trip will be a treasured memory for both of us for the rest of our lives.”

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