On May 18th, Joe Sahl and I travelled to Nicaragua to visit with Jason, Pedro, Ramon and the rest of the Oasis de la Gracia staff and children. Jason is the missionary that first introduced us to Ramon and other local pastors in a very poor area of Nicaragua. Ramon, the pastor of a church in Diriamba, was desperate to reach the numerous disadvantaged kids in the area and he proposed Oasis de la Gracia as an outreach ministry of his church—a way to feed children physically, mentally, and most importantly, spiritually. Three years ago, Oasis de la Gracia opened its doors with Pedro, a former university professor and assistant pastor, as the director.
Praise the Lord for Pedro and the faithful staff – when we showed up to Oasis, we were greeted with big smiles and hugs by Ramon, Pedro, Maria (cook), and the teachers. It was so good to see them all again. I recognized about 8 of the children from our previous trips. They were excited to see us and greeted us with smiles and waves. They laughed at us as we tried to talk to them with a few Spanish greetings we knew. Over the next few days, we met with Pedro, Ramon, and Jason to discuss the ministry. It was great to hear the report Pedro prepared regarding the status of things. The children are doing well and are getting good reports from their teachers in the local schools. Pedro communicates regularly with the teachers. Ramon said Oasis has been a blessing to his church and that both Oasis and his church are growing together, allowing them to reach more families. One of the most positive changes over the past few years has been the reception of the community towards Pedro and the school. Often-times, ministries like Oasis are viewed with suspicion, at best. In this case, Oasis continues to garner respect and positive feedback for what the ministry is doing for the children—the men laughingly refer to Pedro as the “Mayor of Dolores” because everyone recognizes him, driving the bus daily to transport the kids. Overall, the staff is very pleased and fulfilled in the ministry. We asked about their biggest challenges— retaining the older children, adequate classroom space, and supplies. After prayerful discussion with them, Joe and I presented the challenges and some options to the 18ten Board during our Annual Meeting in June. After spending the weekend with the pastors, staff, and children, Joe and I were sorry to leave. The joy of the children, dedication of the staff, and common bond is contagious and invigorating. Ramon, Pedro, and the staff have a true heart for the Lord and care deeply for the children. It is a blessing to be able to work with such godly men. They are smart, funny, honest, loyal and dedicated to the work of the Lord.
I pray that the Lord will continue to use them for His glory and will give them strength to continue teaching and guiding the children and their families. It is wonderful to see how the Lord works through us to accomplish His will. God is good and I am so thankful for all His mercy and lovingkindness.
The trip left Joe and I feeling very energized and we look forward to continuing to work with 18ten and local Christians to grow Oasis de la Gracia in Nicaragua.
~ Chris Chessher