We are an international family. Susana and I met in Costa Rica and worked together there in ministry for one year during my Spanish language study. Susana was sent as a cross-cultural missionary by her church in Korea in 1996.
We were married in Costa Rica and our first child, Josh, was born in 2000. He has dual citizenship. Esther was born in 2002 in South Wales. We speak Spanish and English in our family and both children also speak Korean. When we travel together getting our passports stamped at immigration can be interesting!
The best-kept secrets of Nicaragua
In 2000, our young family moved from Costa Rica to Nicaragua shortly after hurricane Mitch and we consider the country to be our home. Josh and Esther consider themselves Nicaraguan having grown up there. The country is the largest country in Central America, with a population of almost 6 million people and has many well-kept secrets; the problematic political secret and communist socialist past and present is now in the open and quite complex. Positively, Nicaragua has wonderful natural beauty and many untapped resources: it is 50% jungle; there are two very large lakes and many volcanoes; the people have big families and take care of the elderly; they are very humble, friendly and, in general, are quite happy. They are relationship-orientated and our whole family has many close friends.
There is a great openness to God and, most exciting of all, is what has been happening in the evangelical church over the last 15 years.
There are many problems for these young churches, but people are coming to the Lord in Nicaragua and the churches are starting to be recognised and to have an influence.
I have tried to think how best to explain what life is like in Nicaragua? Think of a country constantly moving from one crisis to another. All aspects of life in Nicaragua, and the country itself, have been through so much over many, many years. As a result the people are resilient and imaginative. I find their spiritual attitude very humbling and challenging: one example is to hear children praying at a birthday party thanking God for one more year of life.
In Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ has a double meaning; both danger and opportunity.
Having an Asian wife has helped me to understand and benefit from this thinking, I see an outworking of this in her approach to and perspective on the potential opportunities when sudden problems arise.
How does this idea of a constant state of crisis work out in Nicaragua? The country has seen many crises over the years. We have witnessed the people rise up after hurricane Mitch. Nicaragua still faces massive challenges. In April 2018, whilst we were in the UK, Nicaragua hit the news headlines with the majority of the population rising up in mass protest against the president and government, the whole country was thrown into crisis. The people are well trained in sacrifice, survival and hardship as they focus on the democratic goals of changing the country. The next few months will reveal the direction and outcome. As outsiders, we have watched these issues develop for the past 12 years.
Establishing Corazo Christian Academy
In 2005, Susana and I were burdened for the long-term future and impact of the next generation of Nicaraguans and started to dedicate all our energy into a ministry vision for Christian bilingual education. We started by building and opening the Preschool department. It was a step of faith and many believers in the UK, Korea, Nicaragua and America have helped make this a reality through praying, giving and visiting. We started one grade each year, bringing the students into the school at a young age, and we now have 13 grades. Our first group of students are now 15-16 years old. The second school was started in 2016 and we have already had 4 grades operating. There are over 300 students in both schools.
Parents are attracted to the school by the abilities of our Christian teachers, their biblical worldview and ethos, and the English language. The parents know we love and care for their children. The majority of families are from a traditional religious background but they are very open to the gospel in the context of a school setting. Evangelism takes time with sensitivity; it is integrated into daily routine throughout the school by our team of national teachers. We haven’t seen revival yet, but we have great expectations through the small encouragements so far with students and parents. Our vision is to evangelize the family through children going home and sharing the biblical truths they learned at school. We also have good opportunities with families at regular school events: very often, three or more family members will attend school events.
The ups and downs of ministry
Sometimes people ask us what are the most encouraging and the most difficult aspects of our ministry?
The most encouraging aspect of our work in Nicaragua is seeing children being changed through their schooling and through the power of the gospel.
We have seen a few children and parents changed through the gospel and more are being drawn closer to faith because of the school atmosphere and experience.
The most difficult part of the ministry is finding teachers. Being a teacher is not a desirable career for young people in Nicaragua. We are beginning to see some convinced that it is valuable and better paid than normal, but finding passionate believers who will dedicate to this ministry is a long-term process. Finding the right people is a great challenge; “the workers are few”. Please pray for our future and present teachers, volunteers and workers.
The great challenges for Nicaraguan society are leadership and family breakdown; these issues are also a priority in the churches. These problems are very real in the lives of our students and affect their education and personal faith. The pain of poverty is connected to this.
We work with many international volunteers from around the world, some young and some more mature “re-fired” seniors! Please pray with us for more people to pray, to give and to come.