As an international projects officer for Cross Catholic Outreach, I am privileged to work closely with our partners in Nicaragua. I am regularly blessed to meet these faithful servants of God and learn more about the programs they are creating to enrich the lives of the poor. Many are bringing tangible relief to the poorest families in their communities and inspiring greater faith as they demonstrate Christ’s love and mercy along the way.
I also have the honor of meeting with the benefiting families on a regular basis. In those visits, I am able to speak one-on-one with the men, women and children who are directly affected by the programs we support. In the beginning, many are discouraged, hungry and ill. As they receive access to the basic tools we all require for living, something amazing happens — joy replaces frustration as their lives are transformed.
It is difficult to express in words how meaningful this experience is for me — to see once gaunt, sickly children begin to brighten with the light of improved health or to see once disheartened families suddenly filled with new hope. I thank God for our donors and ministry partners because I know this inspiring change is made possible only by the grace of God working through them.
Related: The Nicaragua Food Crisis
In 1998, John Bland set off for Chinandega on what was supposed to be a short-term mission trip — but God had other plans. Little did John know that this single adventure would reveal his true calling and forever change the course of his life.
“That first trip to Nicaragua was my introduction to severe poverty,” John said. “These people desperately needed help from someone, and I thought, ‘Why not me?’”
After seeing the vivid signs of need — a little girl eating rotten fruit peels, a family scavenging through the city dump — John knew he had to do something. Ultimately, he left his lucrative job in Georgia to start Amigos for Christ, and 20 years later, this ministry is still giving strength to poor families. By addressing urgent concerns regarding water, health, education and economic development, Amigos for Christ lays a firm foundation of hope that communities will be able to build on for generations.
At present, Cross Catholic Outreach is working with Amigos for Christ to install much-needed water systems in communities that lack access to safe drinking sources. Each system includes a deep, professionally drilled well, a thorough water filtration system, a pump, a water tank and piping that delivers water directly into households. With help from our incredible donors, families that once struggled to collect heavy buckets of contaminated water will suddenly be able to give their children a drink of clean water from their very own tap! The health, strength and peace of mind of these families will drastically improve as a result.
Megan Munzlinger had an experience similar to John’s. After traveling to Nicaragua on a mission trip, she “fell in love” with the country and applied for a job with Rainbow Network — an extremely effective ministry that empowers Nicaraguan families through health care, education, economic development and safe housing. After serving for many years as director of development, Megan now leads Rainbow Network as its executive director, and she has encountered countless stories of changed lives over the years. With a staff that is primarily Nicaraguan, Rainbow Network not only works to meet immediate needs, but also empowers entire households to improve their lives and invest in their futures.
“This support is like an injection. It gives them an opportunity to keep going, to do better, and once they get a taste of that, they want to keep reaching for more,” Megan explained.
One way that Rainbow Network provides critical support for poor families is by improving their nutrition. In the municipality of La Paz Centro, the organization operates more than 40 feeding and resource centers, which provide daily lunches for more than 1,000 children. True to Megan’s words, these meals give children the strength they need to keep reaching for more, applying themselves to their studies and working toward a future filled with hope.
By meeting the needs of today, Rainbow Network helps build a brighter tomorrow!
The children who attend Fabretto Education Center receive new hope through a powerful combination of nutritional support, quality primary education and after-school enrichment classes. Many of these boys and girls come from broken homes and face a number of economic, social and educational challenges. Some of them have fallen behind in their studies and have struggled to understand the material. Teachers in public schools did not have the resources to address students’ individual challenges, and children lost hope that they would ever be able to catch up with their classmates.
It is beautiful to see the change in them once they start attending Fabretto Education Center. Modeled after Montessori schools, the program incorporates advanced teaching methodologies and educational enrichment classes to reach struggling students in ways they can understand. Hands-on projects, creative literacy programs and innovative technology classes bring the lessons to life. You can almost see the light bulb turn on over each student’s head as he or she discovers a love of learning for the very first time. To provide a strong network of support for each student, Fabretto also offers pedagogical workshops for teachers and educational trainings that encourage parents to stay engaged in their children’s education.
Nutrition also plays a vital role in supporting the students’ academic success. It is a simple fact that children cannot learn, engage and perform to their best ability when they are hungry. They can think of little else apart from the growling pain in their stomachs, demanding their attention and calling their minds away from education. With daily balanced lunches, however, the improvement in their comprehension is remarkable. With their basic needs taken care of, little ones are finally free to dream big dreams, think incredible thoughts and work toward achieving all that God has in store for them.
When I visit our partners, I often ask whether there is a particular scripture that inspires or encourages them in their works of mercy to the poor. More often than not, they quote Matthew 25:40, “And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’”
I can understand why that profound passage has such a big impact on them. Imagine that today, somewhere in the developing world, Jesus walks among us with the face of a poor man or woman or child. He may be hungry and aching for food. He may be thirsty and asking us, his Church, for a drink of clean water. As our partners strive to satisfy these needs, they interact with the Lord — and we have the honor of joining them in that divine mission!
Learn more about these Cross Catholic Outreach partnerships: