The following is adapted from the
first chapter of God Distorted by John Bishop.
I know people who have incredibly blessed relationships with their fathers. But sadly, in my experience, they are the minority. Mostly I hear stories of people who feel abandoned, devalued, criticized, and unable to measure up. I have heard stories of horrible abuse and of dads who were there but never really “there.” Yet, as important as a dad is, many children in America and throughout Western civilization are living with- out a father, or they bear the scars of an abusive, demanding, uninvolved father. The statistics are frightening:
63 percent of youth suicide victims are from fatherless homes.
90 percent of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes.
80 percent of rapists with anger problems come from fatherless homes.
71 percent of all high-school dropouts come from fatherless homes.
Children living in two-parent households with a poor relationship with their father are 68 percent more likely to smoke, drink, or use drugs, compared to all teens in two-parent households.
Children with fathers who are involved are 40 percent less likely to repeat a grade in school.
Adolescent girls raised in two-parent homes with involved fathers are significantly less likely to be sexually active than girls raised without involved fathers.
To combat this epidemic the vocational class was started. Boys need a role model that can help them to change their perception of what it is to be a father. This is discipleship done in a way that eventually teaches boys to be men of God and a skill to provide for their families.
"The Little Rays of Light Preschool" is vital to the children in our community. Most of these 3-5 year olds do not receive any instruction at home on learning their numbers and letters and would excel in school later on. We also give these little people a head start on learning English. Some of these children walk over 3 miles on rough road to attend this free program. Preschool provides an opportunity for us to reach unchurched families and to offer counsel to them as well.
A very generous gift of a feeding center building has been given to Iglesia Bethania by Fraternity of Evangelical Churches Mission Central America (FIEMCA). FIEMCA is a 115 year old network of churches in Nicaragua dedicated to sharing the gospel of Christ, caring for the development of people, and serving those in poverty. Beginning in 2017, the feeding center will feed the 60+ children in the preschool and provide a nutritious lunch for other needy children in the community.
Sick and Elderly Care
There are two groups of people in our community who need extra assistance. It is especially hard for the elderly in Nicaragua if they don't have family to provide for them. Many are forced to work well past the age of 80 or live on the generosity of their neighbors. When a younger person (especially a provider) becomes ill, it is also a hardship on the family. The sick person not only loses wages earned while they are ill, but also needs to pay for the medicine to recover. We work with the church to aid these families in these times of need by providing food baskets, medicine, and financial assistance.
Youth Arts and Crafts
The average Nicaraguan does not own a computer or have reliable access to electricity and the internet. Our first corporate donor, Allstate Insurance of High Point North Carolina, has generously given 20 computers to our computer lab. Desks were constructed by the vocational students to furnish the computer lab. Wifi was installed in 2015 and it is the first time this has been available in our community. Unlimited use of the internet has opened the door to more than we had imagined. Students are educating themselves on how to make jewelry, crafts, and other things that they can sell through the instruction videos on YouTube. This lab is one more opportunity for the church to reach the youth in the community. Everyone wants to be knowledgable on how to use a computer because they know that this also opens the door to new job opportunities.
Every month, as a part of FIEMCA-Global CHE (Community-Health-Evangelism), we travel a few hours south to a new church plant, The Church of Discipling the Nations for Christ. This church was started by the young people in Iglesia Bethania about 5 years ago. This year, the 28 family church will get a real building to reside in. El Menco is extremely thankful for the clean water programs, the medical clinics, and the classes that have been provided on jewelry making and nutrition through this partnership.
Iglesia Shaloam is a new church plant by Iglesia Bethania and FIEMCA-Global CHE. It is located about an hour south of Masatepe. It is only a year old, but Wilmer and Gretchen Sanchez have been teaching the people there and helping them grow in their faith. They have also benefitted from clean water programs, medical clinics, and jewelry and nutrition classes this year.
Ometepe Island is a rustic and isolated place where time seems to have stopped. We travel there once a month with the mission team from Iglesia Bethania and FIEMCA-Global CHE to work in one of 8 remote jungle villages on the back side of Volcano Maderas. We teach about the Bible, health and nutrition, and how to make crafts that can be made and sold by the people there. The people on Ometepe Island benefit greatly from medical clinics since there is not a hospital on the island.
One of the biggest struggles for Nicaraguan housewives is deciding how to spend their very limited food budget in order to give their family the most nutrition. There are new and affordable food supplements (soy, bulgar wheat, etc..) being introduced into the country to help with this problem. We hold nutrition classes in people's homes to show them how to cook with these new products. We also educate them on which foods have the most vitamins and which should be avoided. And of course...we throw in a Bible lesson and turn it all into an evangelism tool.
We are so excited to announce a new area of ministry in 2017! We will be holding prenatal classes for women in our community. We will have a Bible lesson, talk about physical concerns, nutrition, and offer support for teenage mothers. We want to be able to offer the mothers assistance with vitamins, ultrasounds, and products to begin caring for their new baby.
Every Saturday afternoon, a large group of youth gather to learn English. When students learns English, it opens the door for them to higher income opportunities and more job options for the future. We hold a Bible lesson at the end of every class, which makes this another evangelism tool to reach the unchurched youth in our community.
The Church of the Great Commission is a church plant by Iglesia Bethania and FIEMCA-Global CHE. It is located about 30 minutes west of Masatepe. Caleb and Eunice Urbina are entering their third year pastoring this church and doing important work with the children and families there. The people are eager to learn more about the Bible and they often have teaching times that extend hours past the normal schedule because the participants want to know more.
Boaco is a remote mountain village where we teach every 3 months with Iglesia Bethania and FIEMCA-Global CHE. It is located about 3 hours north of Masatepe. They have also benefitted from clean water programs, health/nutrition education, and jewelry making classes. During our last visit, we found Maria, a woman who was starving to death. We were able to bring her back down the mountain with us to receive medical care. All of Iglesia Bethania participated in her recovery. After 3 months, she was fully recovered, had doubled her weight, and was able to return to her home in Boaco and reunite with her family there.
Saturdays are busy days at Iglesia Bethania. Not only are there English classes and a youth service, but there are also classes for the community youth to learn arts and crafts skills. These classes teach many things, jewelry making, hair bows and bands, piñatas, gift bags, centerpieces for tables, etc... We also teach business management skills so that the students not only make and sell these products, but also learn about how to manage the income they will generate. This is by far our most popular outreach for the community and the attendance for this class has risen from 5 the first year to over 75 now.