Volunteers help build pastor’s home

Pastor Scott leads an afternoon Bible School lesson on David and Goliath. The bible schools had four different activities, all following the David and Goliath theme.
Pastor Scott leads an afternoon Bible School lesson on David and Goliath. The bible schools had four different activities, all following the David and Goliath theme.

Early this fall, a group of volunteers from Colorado and Ohio came together to volunteer for two weeks of work and ministry.

They gave up the comfort of air conditioners and refrigerated foods for an opportunity to help Nicaraguan communities build a pastor’s home, hear the word of God and distribute food to needy families. The team came together through the Casa Unida Foundation, an organization focused on helping the people of Nicaragua with churches, medical needs, schools and water supply and safety needs. This year, the team went to Nicaragua with the goal of building a pastor’s home in a small community.

The time is also spent holding bible schools in local communities. The programs have lessons, activities for the children and adults, and food baskets are distributed to needy families. This year the team arrived as the region was experiencing a drought. Food staples that normally cost little skyrocketed in price. Families hopeful for a bright future after buying a cow had to sell it to meet expenses. It affected the team as well because more funds were needed to purchase the food, and the more that was given, the more need that was identified.

Sometimes the team lived the New Testament story of the five loaves and two fish. What resources were availa

Gary Kreczowski shows children how to play a David and Goliath themed game of marbles where the object is to knock the "Goliath" marble out of the center with five stones.
Gary Kreczowski shows children how to play a David and Goliath themed game of marbles where the object is to knock the “Goliath” marble out of the center with five stones.

ble were stretched to beyond their limits. The work part of the project is like applying sweat equity to ministry in another part of the world. It is not about being the most skilled. The local contractors and workers know how it works best for their region. It is about working beside them, as brothers and sisters in a common cause. The cause this year was to take an empty lot near a church the Foundation assisted with a few years ago and build a pastor’s home. The community is far enough away from the nearest city it is a challenge to recruit a pastor without a home.

The 13 or so American volunteers grew to 20 or 30 including nearby adults and children. Children barely old enough to walk and seniors who may be great-grandparents, and all ages in between helped with the removal of top soil, refilling with the proper fill process and setting of bricks. Hard work is a way of life for these people. Casa Unida teams go to assist them, not to tell them how, or to take jobs. The two-week experience ended with about half of the exterior walls raised; not a bad effort for a collection of people from students to truck drivers.

It will be completed as more people back the effort. The next trips are planned for early 2015 and July.Volunteers help build pastor’s home Early this fall, a group of volunteers from Colorado and Ohio came together to volunteer for two weeks of work and ministry. They gave up the comfort of air conditioners and refrigerated foods for an opportunity to help Nicaraguan communities build a pastor’s home, hear the word of God and distribute food to needy families. The team came together through the Casa Unida Foundation, an organization focused on helping the people of Nicaragua with churches, medical needs, schools and water supply and safety needs. This year, the team went to Nicaragua with the goal of building a pastor’s home in a small community.

The time is also spent holding bible schools in local communities. The programs have lessons, activities for the children and adults, and food baskets are distributed to needy families. This year the team arrived as the region was experiencing a drought. Food staples that normally cost little skyrocketed in price. Families hopeful for a bright future after buying a cow had to sell it to meet expenses. It affected the team as well because more funds were needed to purchase the f

American and Nicaraguan workers dig trenches where the walls will be built of the new home.
American and Nicaraguan workers dig trenches where the walls will be built of the new home.

ood, and the more that was given, the more need that was identified. Sometimes the team lived the New Testament story of the five loaves and two fish. What resources were available were stretched to beyond their limits.

The work part of the project is like applying sweat equity to ministry in another part of the world. It is not about being the most skilled. The local contractors and workers know how it works best for their region. It is about working beside them, as brothers and sisters in a common cause.

The cause this year was to take an empty lot near a church the Foundation assisted with a few years ago and build a pastor’s home. The community is far enough away from the nearest city it is a challenge to recruit a pastor without a home. The 13 or so American volunteers grew to 20 or 30 including nearby adults and children. Children barely old enough to walk and seniors who may be great-grandparents, and all age in between helped with the removal of top soil, refilling with the proper fill process and setting of bricks. Hard work is a way of life for these people.

Casa Unida teams go to assist them, not to tell them how, or to take jobs. The two-week experience ended with about half of the exterior walls raised; not a bad effort for a collection of people from students to truck drivers. It will be completed as more people back the effort. The next trips are planned for early 2015 and summer.

Serving God, people’s needs in exotic locations

Karen Bianco leads a Bible School session with Nicaragua children.
Karen Bianco leads a Bible School session with Nicaragua children.

By Karen Bianco

Before we chit chat about our trip to Nicaragua, I will introduce my husband and myself. We live in Longmont, Co. We attend Christ Our Savior Lutheran church, and we were invited to attend a 16 day mission trip with the Casa Unida Organization. We were privileged to have Forest Hershberger as a hardworking team mate.

The best way I can describe our trip to Nicaragua is living the pages of National Geographic. I am sure many of you are inundated with junk mail this time of year. It seems like every charitable organization in the world has your address and phone number. That is why I wanted to write this article at this time of year. Our church has taken on the project of giving up one Christmas gift for ourselves, and putting the money toward buying an animal through Lutheran World Relief. These animals will be sent to families in impoverished countries to help families feed themselves, and to possibly boost their income.

I’ve always been intrigued with this project, as I think raising your own food would be a good way for others to help themselves. It isn’t just a handout. It wasn’t until we went to Nicaragua that all this proved true. We saw this gift in action, and it works! In Rioja, Nicaragua, we helped to build two new classrooms from the foundation up with very crude hand tools, the muscles God gave us, and the joy of working with people who love the Lord. At the church, they had staked out 10 animals.

Goats were raised near the church we worked at in LaRioja. Later, mutton was served at the birthday party for the local church superintendent's granddaughter.
Goats were raised near the church we worked at in LaRioja. Later, mutton was served at the birthday party for the local church superintendent’s granddaughter.

They were either goats or sheep.

These animals became our pets, and we fed them our banana peels everyday. They take very little care, not particular in their menu choices, and can be used for milk, and meat. It is such a good feeling to know that what you share with these people goes to the people and not to a corporation that spends most of it’s money on advertising. Before we left the United States for Nicaragua, we all collected things to bring to the families we would be living next too for two weeks.

We were able to give each family that came to Vacation Bible School a sack of food, clothing and health items that would enrich their lives. There is such a joy to personally hand a family a gift and see their smiles and receive hugs of gratitude.

I asked Bob Moore if I could be part of teaching the children about Jesus. I was richly blessed to be able to help with 7 Vacation Bible Schools. We rode in an overcrowded pick up truck, as many as 15 of us, with our supplies, on roads that were no more that wagon tracks. We headed up the mountain seeing people walking with their donkeys loaded with items to take to market and oxcarts loaded with wood. Sometimes our church activities were held in a new church built by Casa Unida, or they were in someone’s front yard. We had up to 107 children attend.

These beautiful raven-haired children had very little materialistically speaking but had the love of Jesus in their hearts. They had crude instruments, but their singing was joyful, and heartfelt. The children were so eager to learn about Jesus. I wish we could bottle their exuberance, and bring it back to our country.

Constructing a quality building requires a lot of moving rock, top soil and bricks.
Constructing a quality building requires a lot of moving rock, top soil and bricks.

I have never seen a people so thankful for so little. When we returned to the U.S., I felt a sorrow for our country. We are so greedy, selfish, and spoiled. It made me think about what Jesus says in the Bible about what is important in this earthly life. When we die we will leave all of this materialistic junk behind. True joy comes from giving, not collecting for ourselves.

My husband Michael has taken to investigating charitable organizations on his smart phone. We are flabbergasted to find how little the people receive from the bounty collected. We found that Casa Unida is compiled of people that love the Lord, and love serving the Lord. When Jesus came to earth at Christmas as our Savior, He became our model for life on this Earth. He took those 10 Commandments that God gave to Moses, and He condensed them into 2. I thank him for making it so simple. He tells us to love God, and love others. We have found that stepping out of our environment and into someone else’s shoes, have brought us closer to God, and we have experienced a true joy that only comes from God.

We pray that God will continue to bless the work of Casa Unida, and all the willing hands that can make a difference in the lives of people that have less than we do. But also keep us strong in our faith for the one and only True God, and willing missionaries to share that word with others.

Achieving growth by helping others

Gayle meets with Alyda and her family in the Rodeo. Alyda is 12 years old.
Gayle meets with Alyda and her family in the Rodeo. Alyda is 12 years old.

By Gayle Munds

How do I say thank you? First to my father for making me come on this trip. He knew I was like a lost sheep. When he first told me about the trip, I said sure I will help the organization by working to build a school.

Then I came and through the last five years so much has gone on in my life that in many ways I was like a flower that had wilted away. But with the help of the many people who I have met here, I feel like I am finding a path stone by stone and the wilted flower is slowly blooming.

I think of a song by Dirks Bently called “The Prodigal Son” that says Father won’t you help me please?” I now can truly feel God’s love and compassion and his faith in me, for he never left. I found a prayer that says “Father forgive us for the times that we have questioned you, forgive us for the times we have doubted you, forgive us for the times we have shaken our heads and pounded our fists against the earth and cried “Where are you?” For father, we know that you have always been imagehere and you’ve carried us through the valley and you’ve given us strength.

In Romans 12:2, it says “Do not change yourself.”

So now with the Casa Unida, we’ll build the school for God’s children and work with the children to show them God’s love. I’m thinking of the line from Amazing Grace: “I once was lost, but now I’m found,” and his prodigal daughter has come home.

Thank you for helping me.

CASA scenes from 2013 Nicarauga

Prep work for a new education center.
One of the projects done by the CASA Unida team this year is construction of a new classroom building at the La Rioja church near Somoto. The job included removing soil so rock and sand prior to cement flooring. Workers are pictured removing the heavy soil.

Working on a CASA Unida Foundation project in Nicaragua is a combination of many tasks, from stripping out top soil to having fun with children.

The team arrived this year to greet friends from past visits, and to see what lies ahead. Adjacent to the community Nazarene church was the outline of the future classroom. Our first job in sweat equity involved getting the foundation ready for bricks. Our goal was to help construct the brick walls that would house students studying scripture and likely academic lessons.

The work included moving water from the community well to the work site. One person worked the hand pump while one, sometimes teams of two carried two to three buckets, or locals and girls wanting to try carried buckets on their heads.

Pumping water from community well
The primary water supply at the La Rioja church is a community well pumped by hand.

On the other side of the process team members were busy planning their own crusade. Buildings are only part of the mission. In the two week stay, several churches and communities were visited. Bible school events were held and food was given to numerous families. Hundreds of families received a food basket with a variety basic food needs.

Spending time with the local people is valued as much as the construction. Much of the outreach involves relaxing enough to have fun, communicating as we can and getting to know the people of Nicaragua.

We played softball with the local people and with the construction crew. Even during the sweat of the day, most of us enjoyed the work, the increasing camaradie of the workers and the smile on the children’s faces. It is an experience that cannot help but change a person. Imagine changing your values in life in the course of the flight from the United States to Managua. What if a new car, a today’s technology computer Or a $5,000 carbon fiber racing bike was put back on the shelf to help people needing food, a way to a region with jobs, job training or a safe home.

This is what Casa Unida is about, applying what you have to people in need, offering a hand up more than a hand out, and bringing the gospel of Christ’s love with us.

Styling hair in Nicaragua
Hannah Christiansen has the attention of three girls in the La Rioja community