Dordt University students explore Nicaragua to learn about agriculture practices, educational experiences

Earlier this summer, two Dordt employees and a group of students embarked on a trip to Nicaragua that involved exploring education and agriculture opportunities.

Earlier this summer, two Dordt employees and a group of students embarked on a trip to Nicaragua that involved exploring education and agriculture opportunities. It was A Mission OutReach (AMOR) trip, a vision trip where “the goal is to see what God is already doing in another part of the world” and an “opportunity for students to gain cross-cultural experience, to apply their majors and unique gift sets to glorify God and serve others.”

Professor of Agriculture Dr. Jeremy Hummel and Director of Career Development Amy Westra both participated in the trip. Hummel helped to lead the agriculture group, while Westra was in charge of the education group. For the first three days, the team engaged in combined activities – some agricultural and some educational.

“This created very interesting contrasts for our group to consider,” says Hummel. “For example, Missions Door provides support to families in extreme poverty through food assistance for kids who attend school. Nicaragua Christian Academy (NCA) International, the English-language campus of NCA that we visited, provides Christian education under a model similar to Christian schools in Northwest Iowa.”

The group reflected on how both ministries serve important functions for the advancement of God’s kingdom through education, even though they serve very different communities experiencing considerable income and resource disparity, adds Hummel.

After a few days, the two groups split up. Hummel and the agriculture group traveled to Chinandega Department, where they visited a fruit processor that collects fresh coconut, pineapple, dragon fruit, mango, and other fruits to create freeze-dried fruit pieces and powders for the U.S. market. They watched the production of coconut from whole fruit to finished, freeze-dried food.

“What was great about this processor is that it works with small-scale producers who co-op together to obtain more fair and equitable pricing,” explains Hummel.

They connected with Missions Door, where they helped to construct a dairy goat shed that will be used to demonstrate dairy production for the local economy. They also traveled to the mountains of Matagalpa where they toured a sustainable coffee plantation that was partially transitioning to raising avocados, before visiting Nicaragua’s only strawberry farm that operates through a hydroponic production system.

The education group was able to spend time visiting all three of NCA’s locations: International, Nejapa, and Matagalpa. “Each school serves a very different population of students, so it was fascinating to see what each location had in common and how each site adapts their education to the specific students they serve,” says Westra. “Most of our time was spent in classrooms assisting with educational projects such as dissecting insects, helping students with artwork, speaking about what it is like to attend college in the United States, and helping students with their English lessons.”

They visited Tesoros de Dios, a Nicaraguan-based Christian nonprofit that seeks to help children with disabilities achieve their full potential. Tesoros de Dios staff support children with non-residential therapy and services to children, adolescents and their families that come with a host of physical, intellectual and mental disabilities. Most children come from poor living conditions and often see exclusion from the culture and community in Managua, Nicaragua.

“In addition to our work in the schools, we focused on growing in our awareness of the Nicaraguan culture and witnessing the work that God is doing in Managua,” Westra says. “We visited several cultural sites to learn more about the historical and political context in Nicaragua. We also visited several other ministries, including Engineering Missions International and International Christian Fellowship.”

Hummel says that, since AMOR is intended to be a visioning trip experience rather than a work trip, he hopes that the students who participated learned something about the culture, history, politics, landscape, and environment of Nicaragua.

“I hope this will allow us to graciously consider causes and solutions to poverty and to recognize the image of God and the inherent capacity of the Nicaraguan people—affluent and impoverished,” he says. “I believe, and I hope students catch a glimpse of this vision, that the ability to combat poverty and injustice and to minister to the saving grace of God is already present in Nicaragua, and we can humbly support and encourage the work already being done by organizations such as Missions Door, NCA, and Tesoros de Dios.”

About Dordt University

As an institution of higher education committed to the Reformed Christian perspective, Dordt University equips students, faculty, alumni, and the broader community to work toward Christ-centered renewal in all aspects of contemporary life. For six years in a row, Dordt has been named number one in the nation for student engagement by the Wall Street Journal and Times Higher Education. Located in Sioux Center, Iowa, Dordt is a comprehensive university named to the best college lists by U.S. News and World Report, the Wall Street Journal,, Washington Monthly, Princeton Re

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