When the plane’s tires hit the runway, I immediately knew that I had landed in a special place. This past January, my family had the privilege to travel to Nicaragua with Drs. Paul and Delia Nüesch-Olver. Our church, CrossView in Snohomish, WA, is praying about developing a long-term partnership with the Nicaraguan churches. My family was invited to go and meet some of the people who minister there. While in Central America, I made several observations about the people, the food, the city, and the schools.
During our time in Nicaragua, there were a few things that stood out to me. First, can we talk about the food? Some were shocked that I liked Nicaraguan food, but it was seriously some of the most delicious food that I have ever eaten in my life. I especially enjoyed the Gallo Pinto, which is a simple dish of rice and black beans, and the Fried Plantain Chips. And while we are talking about starches, can I just tell you how much I enjoyed the potatoes! For a teenager like myself, this was my kind of food!
Even though it was obvious they were facing various hardships, I was taken aback by how joyful the people of Nicaragua were. Their homes are tiny, food is scarce, but they are joyful. Although we may have more material resources in the USA, the people of Nicaragua (at least the ones that I met) are rich in other, more significant ways. Their faces were rarely without a smile, their eyes shone brightly, and they were very welcoming to me and my family.
The schools in Nicaragua are quite different compared to the schools in the USA. First, their school days begin much earlier. Due to the heat, their classes start around 6AM and end at 1PM. Why do the schools end so early? Well, many of the teachers work second jobs, so they have to be able to get there. As well, we were told it’s not safe to be out after 4PM, which is another reason for the different school schedule.
When we visited two of the FM schools, I noticed the classrooms are much smaller than what I had expected. I was shocked to discover that 30 or more students and their desks are in one tiny classroom. A typical classroom is only about three times the size of my bedroom––and I have a rather small bedroom. Plus, the classrooms are very hot. There is no air conditioning and very few fans. And the schools are made of metal with very few classrooms having drop-ceilings, which help to manage the heat. I cannot imagine being able to stay focused to learn in that environment, but the students in Nicaragua do.
Speaking of learning, the schools in Nicaragua may have fewer resources than ours in the USA, but they are equipping leaders for tomorrow. Recently, Pastor Jenny Orozco’s school had their first graduation. If my memory serves me correctly, they graduated 22 students. Of those 22 students, twelve received full-tuition scholarships from the Nicaraguan government, which was based upon their grades, formal tests, and face-to-face interviews. In my opinion, that’s pretty amazing!
Sitting on the plane waiting to take off, I recalled the last five days that I spent in Nicaragua. They were very meaningful to me. I am grateful for the people that I met and the experiences that I had. As the plane sped down the runway, we ascended into the clear blue sky and soared above the city. I looked out the window and said to myself, “This is so beautiful, and I will be back here one day.”
written by Jadon Swanson
God is at work in Central America! The Nicaraguan Free Methodist Church is on the cusp of a great move of God! After nine years of fervent prayer and leadership development, the Nicaraguan church is healthy, thriving, and ready to explode. They have a powerful Holy Spirit-anointed vision to reach their country and a church multiplication strategy to match. Under the leadership of the Latin American Area Director, Dr. Delia Nüesch-Olver and the District Leader of Nicaragua, Pastor Hiuberth Zapata, Nicaraguan church leaders are being identified, equipped, and empowered to do the work of ministry.
Recently, Pastor Jada, our children, and I had the tremendous honor to spend a few days in Nicaragua. We were particularly honored to attend a Sunday morning united worship service, where all the Managua Free Methodist churches gathered and worshipped together as one body. During this service, Dr. Delia Nüesch-Olver formally appointed four Nicaraguan pastors as Conference Ministerial Candidates (CMCs).
Not only did our family have the opportunity to interact with many pastors and provide some leadership development sessions, Pastor Jada and Dr. Paul Olver led a spiritual renewal retreat for the teachers of the Nicaraguan Free Methodist schools. We are so proud of Pastor Jenny Orozco who not only effectively pastors a church, but also gives leadership to the El Mesías FM School in Rene Polanco. Pastor Jenny oversees 425 students. The El Mesias School graduated their first class of eleventh graders this past year. Many of the graduating students made such high scores on their college entrance exams that university professors wanted to know more about this school (El Mesias) of which they had not previously been aware.
As you can imagine, we came back from Nicaragua thinking a bit differently about life, ministry, and our role in the global world. Personally, I was inspired as a leader by Dr.Hiuberth’s vision for the church in Nicaragua. In addition, I was moved by the deep sense of community among the people and overwhelmed by their generosity. After sharing our experiences with CrossView’s Leadership Board and congregation, as well as spending time in earnest prayer and discussion, we feel led by the Holy Spirit to partner over the next five years with the Nicaraguan Free Methodist Churches.
Do we have it figured out? Nope! But we are committed to the journey. We are committed to send teams, raise church planting funds, and gather support from other churches to fuel an apostolic movement in Nicaragua. What about you? What about Nicaragua? Would you join us? Would you consider coming alongside us? What role might your faith community have in helping Nicaragua become a hub for spiritual renewal and Kingdom outreach that extends throughout Central America? I trust that if you prayerfully ask these questions, God will provide answers. And I would welcome the opportunity to share more with you about how we can collectively work together to encourage and support our brothers and sisters in Nicaragua.
written by Jon Swanson