Christmas greetings! As we gather together to celebrate birth of Jesus, we are reminded of His message of peace and unconditional love, and the many ways in which we have seen and experienced this Love throughout the entire year. We are so grateful for the many special people and churches in our lives that have been our support and encouragement during this year of transition and change.
US Assignment: Our move from Nicaragua.
This July, after five years of living in Nicaragua as medical missionaries serving through International Ministries (ABC-IM), we moved back to the States to start our year of US assignment. In the past few months, we have had the opportunity and privilege of being able to visit many people and churches. We would like to thank all of you whom we were able to visit with for the opportunity and for all your hospitality and kindness. And to all of you who opened up your homes to us while we have been on the road. Since we have been spending most of our time in our "new home" (a.k.a. a minivan), our kids have become seasoned travelers. They lose fewer books and homework on every trip, and know how to explore and find things to do in almost any church or home. The kids haven't played in snow for five years and are closely following the weather channel to see when they will be able to build their first snow man or snow igloo.
Ministry Transition; AMOS Health and Hope
Before we left Nicaragua, Laura ended her term with Provadenic, and David with the Baptist Hospital in Managua. Through International Ministries and their Nicaraguan partner CEPAD (The Nicaraguan Council of Churches, an ecumenical organization that focuses on development), both of us will return to Nicaragua in June of 2007 to continue as medical missionaries through ABC-USA International Ministries in rural community health. Rural communities that lack access to health care suffer from the preventable deaths of children, women, and others who are vulnerable in their communities. In fact, every year about 7 million children die around the world of preventable deaths, simply because they are poor and suffer all of the consequences of poverty such as malnutrition and no access to healthcare or medicines!
In order to try to meet some of the overwhelming needs in Nicaragua and other countries in the region, Laura and David are now working together in a new and exciting ministry called AMOS Health and Hope. AMOS is an acronym which stands for A Ministry Of Sharing and is also a reminder of the prophet Amos because of his sensitivity to the poor and social justice.
We have been greatly encouraged by churches and friends who we have joined in trying to reach out to poor and marginalized peoples, not only in Nicaragua but in other Latin American countries as well. The immense needs that we have seen, not only medical but also spiritual, are a challenge for all of us. We are looking forward to working alongside these communities as partners helping to build health and hope for all.
Upon our return to Nicaragua in June of 2007, we will start by working with CEPAD in over 20 new remote rural communities who have asked for help because they have health problems and no access to health care. We will be training village people who have been selected by their own communities to be the health promoter. Many of these people will only have a second grade education, yet have a great desire to learn so that they may serve their communities better. The health promoters will be trained to diagnose, treat, and prevent common illnesses in a small clinic managed by the community, as well as to work with community-identified projects to improve health such as clean water, sanitation and education.
We will also be serving in new ways with patients with HIV/AIDS and terminal illnesses as part of our ministry. During the five years we have been in Nicaragua, we have seen that when basic medical and public health knowledge and resources are made available to people motivated by a willingness to serve, they can go on to make a big difference in the health and lives of their whole community! In places where children die of preventable illnesses such as diarrhea, pneumonia or malnutrition, these health promoters can be very effective in preventing the deaths of children, mothers and others at risk.
To continue our ministry when we return, we have prayer requests for medications and supplies for the new clinics, a 4-wheel drive vehicle to take these supplies to the remote communities, and funds to be able to offer continuing medical education to the health promoters and their health committees. We also need your prayers so that we can help other communities that we have not yet reached to build their first clinic, have a clean water supply, train new health leaders, and carry out other community projects. We welcome those who would like to volunteer with us to help meet these immense needs!
We have also been encouraged by all the short-term mission teams who have continued to work alongside the poor of Nicaragua. While we have been in the US, the teams have been cared for by our staff at AMOS (Claudia, Felicia, Martin) and retired missionaries Gus and Joan Parajon. The people in the villages express their gratitude to all of you. Thanks to all of you who took the time to volunteer with us! It is really amazing to see how God works through so many people and churches to bring His message of hope not only to the rural communities but also to us.
THANK YOU again for all your help, your prayers, your support and your love. We couldn't do it without all of you.
May all of us feel the presence of the God of love, peace and life in our own hearts as we celebrate the birth of Jesus!
With much gratitude,
Laura and David