Dordt College News

AMOR team volunteers in Nicaragua

January 25, 2007


An 18-person mission team from Dordt College traveled to Nicaragua the first two weeks of January, using part of their winter break to serve with AMOR (A Mission OutReach), an international service/mission opportunity offered annually to Dordt students.

AMOR teams do construction or renovation projects while being introduced to the culture and the mission challenges of their host country. 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 tenth year that a Dordt AMOR team has traveled to Nicaragua.

Serving on the Nicaraguan AMOR team were professor Lorna Van Gilst, Sioux Center; Nicole Top, Maurice, IA; Lacey De Groot, Oskaloosa, IA; Amber Wilson, Redfield, IA; Bridget Smith, Des Moines, IA; Leah Applebee, Mount Vernon, IA; Matthew Sieperda, Wauneta, NE; Jacob Holtrop, Hudsonville, MI; Andrew Shupe, Elkton, MI; David Posthuma, Brandon, WI; Lauralee Stel, Lansing, IL; Jessica DeBoer, DeMotte, IN; Joseph Buhlig, Norborne, MO; Jeanetta Groenendyk, Downs, KS; Allyson Gjeltema, Northbridge, MA; and Bradley Kuiper, Buckeye, AZ; Joel Sikkema, Ridgetown, ON; and Kerri Ewald, Smithers, BC.

The first task on their to-do list was digging a latrine, seven meters deep, with footholds dug into the side to climb back out again. The students also dug the footings for a house, poured cement, helped set cement beams, picked coffee beans, painted at the Nicaragua Christian Academy, and helped and interacted with the children at the school in Nejapa.


“It was truly a lifechanging experience,” says David Posthuma. “It opens our eyes into a new culture. We often see these kinds of things on TV or in books, but they don’t actually hit home until you see it all with your own eyes. This kind of trip is almost indescribable and is only really truly understood by experiencing it first hand.”

Leah Applebee noted poverty, dirt roads in both the city and the country, poorly constructed small homes for large families, and yes, a chance meeting with a tarantula. As a Spanish education major, she was especially excited about getting the opportunity to tutor the eight-year-old son of their construction leader. “I improved greatly in my Spanish and I now know for sure that I want to teach and live in a foreign country like Nicaragua. Living there for two weeks, interacting with the people there, and helping Andres with English all solidified my decision to go back someday for an extended amount of time.”

Andrew Shupe was particularly surprised to see oxen and cart use in the 21st Century, along with no running water in homes and on farms. Despite (or maybe because of) the poverty conditions, most of the houses and property were fenced in and gated off, and many places had guards in place to discourage thieves. Shupe said playing baseball with the construction workers at the Nehemiah Center was a highlight of the trip for him.


Amber Wilson noted hiking on Volcan Mombacho (an inactive volcano) and Volcan Masaya (an active volcano), as well as seeing Lake Nicaragua, some of the many islands, and the Pacific Ocean. Among this beautiful scenery, David Posthuma observed the country is littered with garbage as well. Posthuma reflected that “by helping the children, hopefully we can help them impact more lives in the future.”

Picking coffee beans was the unique experience noted by Jeanetta Groenendyk. The group walked up a long hilly dirt road to the field, then handpicked beans while in some instances trying to stay on both feet on steep hills. “I thought coffee beans were dark black and would smell like coffee, but they actually were red berries. I also thought they would grow on a small plant, but they grew on trees.”

Jeanetta recalls whenever they asked what meat they were eating the response was always “pollo” (chicken). “One day I was quite certain it was rabbit because of the bend in the bone … I asked her about it and she assured me it was chicken. They must have some funny looking chickens running around there.”

Groenendyk’s lasting impression of Nicaragua was “amazing … everything there is so beautiful: the mountains, lakes, beaches, the ocean, and the people. But alongside that beauty the country is so poor, with houses that don’t have windows or doors, dirt floors, and chickens and pigs running in and out of them.

“I can’t believe people live like that. I am so blessed to have a roof over my head. I must admit I’m glad to be back in the United States where there are hot showers, flushing toilets and more to eat then rice and beans.”

Kerri Ewald had never been outside the U.S. or Canada until this mission trip and said it was an incredible, eye-opening experience. “I don’t think I will ever forget seeing Nicaragua, a country so full of beauty yet suffering from government corruption, lack of organization and care for beauty around them. I now appreciate our North American transportation systems, warm water, and clean water that you can drink from a tap without getting sick.

“We got to experience the culture by working with the Nicaraguans and having groups of people speak to us about their specific work in Nicaragua. I got to see new landscapes and different farming practices that work well. I came to realize that North American ways can’t work in Nicaragua because almost everything is different! Rancho Ebenezer actually did an incredible job of management and the diversity created a complete cycle where everything supported each other.

“It was just really fun! When I try to tell people about my experiences it is hard because in order to understand what Nicaragua is all about, I think that you have to experience it yourself.”

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