Archive for November, 2013

The Opportunity to Build

“I never thought that I would be able to do all this with just one animal,” reflected Juan Martin Ruíz Lopez as he sat in front of his newly constructed house, which he built using the money he earned selling the offspring of a single pig.

 

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Like many of the families in their community of Dulce Nombre de Jesús, Juan and his family had lived most of their lives in a house made of scrap material and palm branches. “Before, I did not think it would be possible for me to build a house,” recalled Juan.

 

But, when Amigos for Christ came to help his community repair their well in 2006, Juan heard about the opportunity to own livestock through the Pay It Forward program. He requested to participate, and his family received a pregnant pig that gave birth to 11 piglets a month later, each of which sold for about $40.

 

Thanks to this new source of income, Juan realized his pig could change their future in much bigger ways than he could possibly have imagined before. Instead of living on the edge of survival every day, Juan and his family began to dream about growing in previously unimaginable ways. “We were able to start thinking ahead to the future,” explained Juan. “I told my wife, ‘With this pig, we are going to build a house.’”

 

Since then, their pig and its offspring have given birth to a grand total of 97 piglets, an abundant blessing that made their once far-off dream a concrete reality when Juan began construction on their house about a year ago.

 

Besides enabling them to construct their home, the money they’ve earned from the sale of their piglets has also allowed them to dream bigger in every area of their life. “We can provide for our children and enable them to have a life of pride and dignity,” explained Juan. And, in the future, their earnings will enable them to afford the biggest dream of all for their children: education.

 

Thanks to just one pig, Juan and his family are able to imagine of a better story for their future and have the resources they need to make it happen. To give a gift that can empower a family to dream bigger and build a better future, visit www.amigosforchrist.org/giftsofopportunity and give the Gift of Opportunity today.

The Opportunity to Grow

To see a photo timeline of what the gift of a micro loan can make possible, click here.

 

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Six years ago, Felix Rivera was farming about 2.5 acres of land in the community of El Capulín and fighting to make ends meet for his wife, Dinhora, and three children, Melba, 17, Felix Jose, 13, and Genesis Primavera, 5. In particular, Felix struggled under the burden of high-interest loans from local banks. “I would borrow $400 and end up paying back $615,” recalled Felix, an interest rate of over 50 percent. “It took me a long time to pay it back.” Caught in a cycle of crushing debt, Felix was unable to save money to invest into expanding his business, and his family seemed stuck on the edge of survival with little hope of ever achieving financial security.

 

But in 2007, that cycle changed when Felix received his first loan of $200 from the Amigos for Christ Mirco Loan program. At 1.6 percent interest, the loan enabled him to generate significant earnings and start really investing in his businesses. “When I received the first loan life was very difficult,” explained Felix. “My boat and farming equipment were in disrepair, so I used the loan to fix these things so I could improve my farming and my fishing businesses.” Since then, Felix has received and paid back six loans, each time earning enough extra cash to reinvest in his work in the form of land, tools, and materials.

 

Today, Felix farms 8.5 acres of land. “Now, I have what I need to provide for my family,” he said with a smile, and he also has the extra cash he needs to invest in his other businesses, including fishing, carpentry, and welding. “When I get the money from the harvest, I always use it to invest back into my businesses instead of just spending it,” said Felix. “Sometimes my fishing business isn’t reliable, and sometimes the planting isn’t reliable because of the weather, but because I’ve been able to invest in the other businesses
my work is more stable,” he added.

 

Thanks to their newfound financial stability, Felix and his family have shifted from merely surviving every growing season to thriving in the present and dreaming for the future. “Being a part of this loan program has really changed my family’s life,” said Felix, adding that he has plans to invest in home repairs this year and his dream is to buy a truck one day. In addition, he hopes to pass his many skills on to his son, Felix Jose. “When you live in a rural area, if you only know one trade your life is a lot riskier,” he explained, “so my dream for my son is to teach him all the trades that I know.”

 

Now, Felix has joined a pilot group in the Micro Loan Program that will begin putting 20 percent of their annual earnings in a savings account, to which Amigos will add the interest paid on the loan. At the end of five years, the entire savings is put back in the hands of the program participants, a fund that will hopefully enable each farmers to become financially stable enough to manage their business independent of Amigos or any other organization. “These loans have allowed me to work how I’ve always wanted to work, and I’m proud of that,” Felix concluded.

Below, check out a timeline of the growth made possible by Felix’s participation in the Micro Loan Program. To become part of a story like this one, visit www.amigosforchrist.org/giftsofopportunity and give the gift of opportunity today.


Seven years of opportunity:2

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It’s A Beautiful Thing

Several times throughout the year, our Health Team has the privilege of hosting brigades of medical professionals who offer their skills and their time in the service of their Nicaraguan brothers and sisters.
 
Most recently, a surgical brigade of OB/GYN specialists led by Dr. Lance Wiist provided medical services to 47 women who had been waiting months or even years to receive treatment. Each day the team woke up early and went to bed late so they could spend countless hours in the operating room performing a broad variety of surgical procedures. Without question, God used each person to bring love and healing to every life they touched that week.
 
During their visit, our longtime friend and photographer Lennox Bishop followed the team with her camera, recording countless beautiful images that tell the story of this incredible week. Each is exquisite, and we want to share a few of them with you; their beauty is only matched by the beauty of the hearts and hands whose loving work they so skillfully capture.
 

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Interested in leading your own surgical trip? Click here to learn more.

Check our more of Lennox’s work on her blog at www.lovelikecrazy.org.

Journeying Together

One of the ways our Education Team impacts lives is by building into the students who benefit from our scholarship program. This summer, they took the students on an overnight retreat. By all accounts it was an incredible couple of days, and so we asked Danny Duggan, one of our summer Servant Leaders who accompanied them on their trip, to share his reflections below.

By: Danny Duggan, 2013 Servant Leader

As the sun peaked over San Cristóbal Volcano, we pulled away from Monserrat, where the Amigos Complex is located, at 5:25 in the morning with students from the neighborhood. We continued our journey by making our way to El Chonco, Villa Catalina, Los Rotarios, and Santa Matilde. As each student shuffled on the bus – still with sleep in their eyes but nevertheless accompanied by a loaf of pan dulce, some nancites, a few bags of Ranchitas, and countless bottles of fizzy Coca-cola – they joined the journey.
 
Vólcan Casita, known as the location of the most devastating effects of 1998’s Hurricane Mitch, was afterwards transformed into the beautiful conference center where we hosted the retreat. The very top of the volcano – where 15 years ago the hurricane broke saturated soil and rock loose and started a debris avalanche of 60 mph – was the same top we were so pleased to summit after over an hour riding in the bus paired with another 45 minutes of hiking.
 
The retreat, organized by the Amigos Education Team and supplemented by the energizing force of Vida Joven (Young Life), hosted over 60 high school or college students who receive educational scholarships through Amigos. These 60 students represent just half of those who have applied to be on scholarship, and each has achieved in school and put forth a noticeable desire to continue their journey in being a leader for their families, friends, schools, and country.
 
The retreat was centered on the reflection of how our sins move us away from the Lord. As Carla, Leader of the Education Team, and Doña Gloria, Director of Spiritual Enrichment, presented different ways to look at this theme, students listened intently to each and every word they said.
 
During meal times students were eager to goof off with their friends, kick the soccer ball around, sit and gaze off into the beautiful view that we had been gifted with at the top of Vólcan Caista, bombard me with questions about Barack Obama, or intently pick my brain about why I was spending time in Nicaragua. The memories hold vividly in my mind: during the day the sun shone brightly through the trees and at night the moon glowed gently to light our paths as we walked between the houses in which we stayed.
 
Friendships occurred so naturally. Although there were students from five different communities, we gathered together as one unit, all recognizing the gift that being there was. As the night grew later the air became cooler and we all gathered closely to hear the closing talk for the evening.
 
As people felt called, they would share bits and pieces of their life stories: how God has blessed them, how they had followed or ignored those blessings, and the journey they had traveled to get to where they are now. We listened in appreciation as we received the gift of the stories of those around us. Listening to folks share the journeys they had walked, we each felt in our hearts that we had now walked each and every one of those stories with each other. Even though not everyone’s story was spoken aloud, each was understood and appreciated.
 
Afterwards, we each took our own time to relax and reflect. As we were doing so, two simple lines from a song played over and over and over again in my head: “Toma mi tiempo, es para ti/ Dame el camino que debo seguir” (Take my time, it’s for you/ Give me the path I should follow). I sat under the Nicaraguan night sky praying these words, “Lord allow these moments to be for your greater glory, allow me to continue on this journey that you’ve given me to follow.” And, as I looked around at each person propped up in a different way – sitting on the grass, leaning against a pillar, leaning back in a chair, or standing with a fixed gaze on specific stars in the sky – my heart was filled with the recognition that we all have given that time and are on that journey.
 
But that wasn’t all; we were giving, enjoying, struggling, journeying, and living juntos (together). This continued journey for each scholarship student, member of Vida Joven, or Amigos employees was taken with the greatest appreciation that night; we felt “raw love,” or the gift that comes from fully appreciating the worth of another’s soul. And now the volcano that once marked a place of tragedy is forever marked as one of hope since we, staff and students, showed our dedication to the continued opportunity that exists in our every step.
 
Read more by Danny on his blog at http://dannydoogs.tumblr.com.

We All Stood Together

By: Cortney Newell, Missionary

Earlier this summer, we turned on the water system in Miguel Cristiano for the very first time. After months of hard work, the fifty families that live in this community finally have clean, abundant, running water in each and every home.
 
I have a suspicion that, no matter how many times I attend one of these water system inaugurations, it’s never going to get old. They always involve a massive celebration – feasting, dancing, music and games – all centered around that monumental moment when the spigot at the water tank is turned on and clean water comes pouring out. One of the highlights every time is watching friend after friend – community member, missionary, group member or otherwise – get dunked under that gushing flow of life-giving water for which so many people have worked so very, very hard.
 
This time the inauguration fell on a Monday, just one day after our newest group of week-long missionaries had arrived. With few exceptions, the majority of this group had never worked in Miguel Cristiano or even been there until the day of the inauguration. As I watched the ceremony unfold, I noticed a kind of discomfort ripple through the group. Should they jump in? Shifting from foot to foot, they wondered. Wasn’t this, after all, really the community’s celebration? Were they, the first-time visitors, really supposed to be a part of it? Were they in, or were they out?
 
It brought me back to my first water system inauguration, which I attended in a community where I had not personally done any digging. Like our group members, I remember standing awkwardly by, wondering if I was really invited into the celebration – not as a witness, but as a participant. Would it be presumptuous of me to jump in and partake equally of an accomplishment for which I couldn’t possibly take equal credit?
 
But that is not how Nicaraguans see it at all. With the sincere joy and hospitality that pervades this culture, the community at Miguel Cristiano enthusiastically included each and every one of us in the celebration. Whether we’d worked there since day one, or it was our first day in Nicaragua, everyone was invited – many by name – to share the indescribable feeling of that water washing over them, soaking each heart with the overwhelming reality that God is still writing really awesome stories, each day, in every farthest corner of the world.
 
This insecurity on the part of the American group members is, I think, an artifact of a culture preoccupied with knowing exactly where we stand. I know I have spent much of my life wondering if I’m an outsider, tiptoeing around social situations, trying not to cross any of the invisible lines that I believe separate me from others. We wonder if we’re butting in; the community of Miguel Cristiano delighted in each additional person with whom they could celebrate. We don’t want to cross the line; the community wanted us to know there had never been any division between us.
 
Author Gregory Boyle writes poignantly on this kind of inclusiveness, which he labels kinship. When we embrace kinship as our ideal, he says, we begin to see our relationships differently:

Inching ourselves closer to creating a community of kinship such that God might recognize it. Soon we imagine, with God, this circle of compassion. Then we imagine no one standing outside of that circle, moving ourselves closer to the margins so that the margins themselves will be erased. We stand there with those whose dignity has been denied. We locate ourselves with the poor and the powerless and the voiceless. At the edges, we join the easily despised and the readily left out. We stand with the demonized so that the demonizing will stop. We situate ourselves right next to the disposable so that the day will come when we stop throwing people away. The prophet Habakuk writes, “The vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and it will not disappoint… And if it delays, wait for it.” Kinship is what God presses us to, always hopeful that its time has come.

Previously, perhaps like many who come here, I had always envisioned myself as the one pushing out the boundaries of that “circle of compassion;” I was on the inside by default, and worked to bring others in. But at the water inauguration in Miguel Cristiano, that shifted. We all found ourselves in the-middle-of-nowhere Nicaragua, standing in a crowd of people, wondering if we belonged. And we would have entirely understood if we did not. But Miguel Cristiano wasn’t interested in figuring out where we all stood; they were too busy just making sure we all stood together.
 
In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., “We are inevitably our brother’s keeper because we are our brother’s brother.” Thank you for standing with your brothers and sisters in Nicaragua, and for inviting them into your circle of compassion. I hope that each of you will have opportunities both to extend and to receive the kind of extraordinary love that pushes the boundaries out until every single person is welcomed inside.
 
What incredible joy it brings the heart to realize that the only one who ever thought you were on the outside was you.
 
Read more by Cortney on her blog at http://cortneynewell.tumblr.com.

New Look, Same Amigos

Hi y’all! My name is Noah, and I’m responsible for this new website you’re looking at.

Noah

I spent almost 90 days this summer living in Nicaragua and redesigning this site. I am proud of all that I accomplished with this redesign, and I want to make sure you take a gander at some of my favorite parts:

  • Our new Staff page, where you can view photos of our entire staff, Nicaraguan and American, and get to know what they do! And those sweet interchanging images aren’t bad either…
  • Our new About page, which highlights who we are, what we do, and why Amigos for Christ is compelled to change lives in Nicaragua.
  • Our newly redesigned Footer, which now lets you stay connected to Amigos by following our social media accounts and signing up for our newsletter. We’ve got lots of awesome stories to share, so make sure you don’t miss out!

I hope you like what you see!

Noah

P.S. To see more of my work, visit www.noahwebworks.com.


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