2018 Gateway to Hope Garden Tour

2014 Garden Tour Poster


Visitas a las Iglesias

I was very glad to be able to visit all five of Faith Church’s sister churches in Chinandega during my time there. On Tuesday night, I preached at El Manatial. On Wednesday night, I gave a short meditation and made a presentation about my family’s time in Africa at Iglesia del Nazareno’s missions service. The church was a faithful prayer partner during my family’s time in Africa.

As always, click on any picture to open slideshows.

Saturday night, I preached at Amor Viviente’s main service. Afterwards, I enjoyed authentic Honduran cuisine. Porfirio and Suyapa, the pastoral couple at Amor Viviente, are Honduran missionaries in Nicaragua.

Sunday morning, I preached during Sunday School at Resurreccion y Vida. What a joy it was afterwards to gather around the Lord’s Table with the congregation to celebrate communion, including our union with one another in Christ. Somos uno in Cristo!

After church, Evaristo and Ignacia, the pastoral couple at Resurreccion y Vida, treated me to lunch. Evaristo encouraged me to try cow tongue, something I’ve never knowingly eaten before. He said that it’s good for preachers, because it will help us talk more.

Sunday evening, I preached at Iglesia de Dios’ main service before heading back to Managua in preparation for an early Monday morning departure back to the United States. After the service, Lorenza introduced me to her daughter and granddaughter, Ester. It was a privilege to meet them and pray with them for Ester’s upcoming surgery.

I’m currently at Managua airport, awaiting a 7am departure to Houston and, by 7pm, Des Moines. Visiting neustros amigos en Chinandega is always a great encouragement, but as I told each one when we said “Adios!”, “Proxima en Pella!” Next time in Pella.

Compassion & Corinto

Saturday morning I visited the teenage class in the Compassion program at Iglesia de Dios Central. (Click on any picture below to open slideshows.)

The program director, Yahaira, gave me a tour of their offices and explained the records they are required to keep for each of the program participants.

It was a delight to see how well-used the second-storey classrooms Faith Church helped fund are. When I was last in Chinandega in October 2015, the church had just completed construction of the classrooms, and the Compassion staff asked me to offer a prayer of dedication for them before they began using them.

Lorenza cooks for the Compassion program. She and Kathy Groenenboom, who last saw her when a team from Faith Church visited Chinandega in July 2016, became fast friends. Lorenza has a two-year-old granddaughter, Ester, who underwent heart surgery in August 2016. Adrianna has facilitated ongoing communication between Lorenza and Kathy as Kathy’s three-month old grandson, Derek, recently submitted to heart surgery. It was a joy to show Lorenza a picture of Lisa (Kathy’s daughter) and Derek in the hospital after surgery, and to share the latest update from Faith Church’s weekly prayer sheet, that Derek had been able to return home from the hospital. Lorenza shared that Ester needs another heart surgery, which is scheduled for March 2. Before leaving, we prayed together for Derek, Ester, and their grandmas.

After visited the Compassion program, I enjoyed a visit with Adolfo and Martha in their home, before traveling with them to Corinto, a town on the Pacific coast about 20 kilometres from Chinandega. There, we visited the beach and the port, and ate fish together. On my last trip to Nicaragua, I also went to Corinto with the Quiroz family. I guess it’s becoming a new tradition.

Retiro de Pastores

Early Thursday morning, I departed from Chinandega with the pastoral families from four of Faith’s five sister churches in Chinandega for a pastoral retreat in Diriamba, facilitated by Adrianna Oudman, CRWM missionary at the Nehemiah Center responsible for church friendships.

After our late morning arrival, we enjoyed times of Scripture, reflection, and prayer together. The retreat grounds were lovely, and there was ample free time for fellowship and games. It was great to reconnect with Alma Hernandez, who served as my translator at the retreat. (Alma was also a translator for our mission team on my first trip to Nicaragua in January 2015.) Thursday evening we shared testimonies – always encouraging! – around a bonfire before enjoying s’mores together.

Click on any picture below to open slideshow.

After breakfast Friday morning we had a final reflection time, meditation Jesus’ encouragement in John 15 to abide in him and in his love. The retreat activities on Thursday afternoon and evening were definite a rich time of abiding in God’s love.

Before departing for some touristy activities, the pastoral couples and I met with Adrianna to discuss the core commitments of the Nehemiah Center’s church friendship program. It was not only encouraging to hear how our sister churches pray for Faith Church in Pella, but it was also encouraging to hear the pastors discuss the need to pray for one another in Chinandega as well.

At the friendship meeting, I was delighted to extend Faith Church’s Outreach Team’s invitation to the Chinandega pastors to visit Pella later this spring. Antonio, son of Porfirio and Suyapa, the pastoral couple at Amor Viviente, is currently part of the international student program at Pella Christian High School. Porfirio and Suyapa expect to come to Pella in late May to pick him up. Faith Church’s Outreach Team hopes that other pastoral couples from Chinandega will be able to join them. It’s exciting to think that after many years of sending teams from Pella to Chinandega, Faith Church will have the opportunity to host a team from Chinandega in Pella. At least two other pastoral couples expressed a serious interest in coming to Pella. Please pray for the plans that need to be made, especially the funds that need to be raised and the visas that need to be secured.

After lunch, we departed from Diriamba for Catarina, a lagoon on an imploded volcano. Some of us enjoyed milkshakes, and the pastors surprised me with a gift, a new Nicaraguan shirt. After spending about an hour in Catarina, we drove to Managua, where we visited Paseo Xolotian, a beautiful park on the shores of Lake Managua. The park includes a water park, a series of small replicas of famous Nicaraguan churches, and a small replica of Managua’s main street before the 1972 earthquake. From Paseo Xolotian, we returned to Chinandega, stopping on the way for supper.

Click on any picture below to open slideshow.

Tomorrow (Saturday), I plan to visit the Compassion program at Iglesia de Dios in the morning, followed by a trip to Corinto on the Pacific Ocean for lunch with Adolfo and Martha, the pastoral couple at Iglesia de Dios, and their family. In the evening, I’ll be preaching at Amor Viviente’s main weekend service and enjoying dinner and fellowship with Porfirio and Suyapa and their daughters afterwards.

Centro Educativo Eben-Ezer

This morning I walked from Hotel Don Mario to Centro Educativo Eben-Ezer, the school connected to Iglesia del Nazareno. I was delightful to again see how Chinandega has changed since my last visit. This public space was still under construction when I was last here.

Today was the third day of classes as the Nicaraguan school year began on Monday.

I enjoyed a long visit with mi amigo Paulino, pastor of Iglesia del Nazareno, in his air-conditioned (due only to the office’s computer equipment, he told me) office. We had a wonderful conversation about life, ministry, missions, and how and why we do (or don’t) celebrate Christmas and New Year’s in our churches. img_0122

Iglesia del Nazareno started the school in 2004. When Paulino became the pastor of Iglesia del Nazareno in 2006, the school had approximately 40 students and the church paid the teacher’s salaries. In early 2015, when I was first in Chinandega, the school was building additional classrooms as they expanded to include secondary education. In late 2015, when I last visited, the school was completing a fund-drive to replace a one-storey structure with a two-storey classroom structure. Several EduDeo teams completed that work in 2016.


At the end of 2016, the school had approximately 250 students. This week, as they began the 2017 school year, they have nearly 450 students! The school is now entirely self-sufficient and even supports three church planters in Chinandega and other parts of Nicaragua.

Click on any picture below to open a slideshow of pictures from the school.

Tonight, I return to Iglesia del Nazareno for their Wednesday night mission service. For several years, the church has prayed every Wednesday night for Faith Church in Pella and, last year, they prayed for my family while we were in Africa. I am grateful for the opportunity to be here, to thank them for their partnership in the gospel with us, and to share some of our experiences with them.

Mi Amigo Sergio

So I managed to fit everything I remembered to bring – not quite everything I’d wanted to bring; I forgot a couple of African shirts – into one carry-on, so there was no lost luggage when I arrived in Managua last night. The flight crew kindly asked passengers to let those of us with tight connections – about fifteen minutes between landing and when my last flight started to board, at another terminal! – in Houston to disembark first. The rest of the passengers were wonderfully cooperative and after a quick walk, I arrived at the gate just as the plane was beginning to board. I’m thankful for safe and relatively smooth travels.

After spending the night in Leon, Adrianna Oudman, the CRWM partner missionary at the Nehemiah Center responsible for church friendships, and I traveled by microbus to Chinandega late morning today. We checked into Hotel Don Mario just after lunch, and had a short break before walking through central Chinandega this afternoon to El Manatial and a visit with the Blandon family.

The town looks lovely! Many properties have been freshly painted – and not just the ones with cell phone advertisements. I was especially delighted by this park, located on a lot that been surrounded by tin walls on my previously visits to Chinandega.

I had a wonderful visit with mi amigo Sergio y su esposa Scarleth this afternoon, telling them about and showing them pictures from my family’s time in Kenya last year. On previously trips, Sergio and I tried to converse with the help of a “Spanish on the Fly” cheat sheet an aunt had given me. This time, I came armed with mi neuvo libro, a Christmas gift from my children after my first trips to Chinandega. Sergio diligently studied it over supper after church.

I preached at El Manatial’s Tuesday evening worship service. On a previous trip, Sergio’s family and I had joked about sermon length. His daughter, Maureen, had even promised to translate for me, if I promised to preached for an hour. I did that today, including the translation provided by Marlon. (Yes, he told me, he was named after Marlon Brandon. He regrets that, at the time of his birth and naming, he was too young to say anything about it.) Afterwards, Sergio gave me a thumbs on sermon length, and then tried to tell me that his sermons have actually been getting shorter. To that, Scarleth, his wife, rolled her eyes, and Maureen asked, “In which church? Certainly not in this church!”


Church Visits & Pastoral Retreat!

I (Pastor Ryan) first visited Nicaragua in January 2015 as part of a mission team from Faith Church. By that time, Faith Church’s friendship with her five sister churches in Chinandega had been growing for over five years. One my regrets on that first trip was that I hadn’t been able to spend much time with the churches’ pastors, so I returned in October 2015 for a week to do just that. What a blessing it was!

Now I’m heading back. Tomorrow. Monday, February 6. I’ll be in Nicaragua for a week, returning on Monday, February 13. It will be a full week.

Monday, I travel all day. I’m flying Des Moines – Chicago, Chicago – Houston, and Houston – Managua. With three flights, I’m really hoping to fit everything in my carry-on. Less chance of lost luggage!

Tuesday, after arriving in Chinandega for lunch, I’ll visit Sergio and his family and preach at El Manantial’s Tuesday evening service.

Wednesday morning, I’ll visit Eben-Ezer, the school at Iglesia del Nazareno. When I was last there they were completing a fund-drive and anticipated a EduDeo team coming to help put a second story on one of their buildings.

Wednesday evening I’ll share about our family’s experiences in Africa during their mission services. (You can read about those experiences on our blog.) This is the global church – a Canadian immigrant to the United States travels to Nicaragua to talk about his mission work in Kenya! I’m excited to participate in the Wednesday night mission services at the Iglesia del Nazareno. For several years, they have prayed for Faith Church in Pella every Wednesday at this service, and I know that they also prayed for our family every week while we were in Africa.

Thursday and Friday promise to be a real highlight. They are the main reason for my trip. The pastoral families from Faith Church’s five sister churches will be going on a retreat together, and I’ve been invited to join them. I look forward to a wonderful time of worship and fellowship with them.

I’ve been asked to preach the Saturday evening service at Amor Viviente and the Sunday morning service at Resurreccion y Vida. Sunday evening, I’ll be sharing about our family’s experiences in Africa at Iglesia de Dios Central. And then Monday morning, I hope on a plane back to Pella.

So there it is: five church visits, at least three sermons, two mission presentations, a one two-day retreat with pastors, and, I’m sure, much more…

I plan to post updates and pictures here regularly while I am in Nicaragua, February 6-13.