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Feb9TuePartners in Mission spotlights Latin America North Territory. February 9, 2016 by Steve Nelson
February marks the beginning of the 2016 Partners in Mission campaign, when Salvationists come together to support the work of The Salvation Army around the world through sacrificial giving. The funds raised through this campaign enable the Army to maintain a presence in the developing world and continue reaching out through corps ministry, community development and disaster response.
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The campaign also helps us get to know our partner territories so we can pray for and learn from each other. This year, we are focusing on the Latin America North Territory: Cuba, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Colombia, Panama and Venezuela. Their territorial theme is ¡Nuestra Prioridad ... La Gente! (Our Priority ... the People!) Download this pdf for a detailed infographic about the Latin America North Territory.
The following photos highlight the trip our Salvation Army World Missions team took to Nicaragua, Panama, Honduras and Costa Rica. Consider how you can support our partners in mission.
Wilma Garcia is a member of the Managua Corps and has attended for four years. “It's hard to know how to pay back the Lord for all he has done for me—I am thankful for his grace,” she told us. Wilma has 10 children and 40 grandchildren. She has an amazing amount of energy, but her hands show the years of hard work. When we arrived at her outdoor kitchen at 6 a.m., she had already been working for two hours, making tortillas to sell in the neighbourhood. One tortilla costs two Córdoba (about 10 cents) and she makes 400 a day. Later that evening, we helped her celebrate her 74th birthday at a mid-week corps meeting.
Lieutenants Alvaro and Vanessa Vargas, corps officers at Managua Corps, with members of KM21, an outpost of the corps about 21 kilometres outside the city, in Rosalio Murillo. Reyna (back row, second from the right), one of the corps members who lives here, provides the building where up to 60 people gather for activities throughout the week. The Salvation Army is reaching out to families in this community with pastoral and practical care, helping parents gain literacy and computer skills to be able to help their children with schoolwork.
The community of Rosalio Murillo was established when the government offered land to those who could build a home within three months. As a result, many homes are made of corrugated metal, with dirt floors, and often require renovation. This is Reyna's home, where she lives with her two daughters and their children. Although they have very little, Reyna managed to raise enough money to attend the Boundless international congress in London, England, by selling SIM cards for cellphones.
Our next stop was Honduras, but the eruption of a volcano temporarily closed the airport, resulting in a short detour to Panama. We visited the Rio Abajo Corps and the Clara Ophelia Wattley School on the property, which is attended by 150 children from preschool to Grade 6. The children were excited to participate in a video being produced by Matthew Osmond and went wild when Happy by Pharrell Williams blasted throughout the playground.
One of the ways the Army is growing in Honduras is through house meetings, where Salvationists and their friends gather to sing, pray, study the Bible and share their lives. Lieutenant Sarai Almendares, regional commander (far right), offers support.
Karen, seen here holding her daughter, Anna, has been through difficult times. When she was 12, her mother died, and then her father left. Karen ended up on the street, where she had Anna. She moved to Nicaragua for a time, but was mistreated by people she thought were friends. She had a second baby, Daphne.
“When I returned to Honduras, I needed psychological help. I came with so many bad things. I argued with everyone,” she told us. When she was younger, her mother had taken her to meetings at The Salvation Army, but now she hid from her friend, Mercedes, the leader of the house group.
“Then I could not hide any longer and God came into my life.” She began to go to church again, and the house group began to pray. After being out of work for nine months, Karen found a job with a cleaning company—an answer to prayer. She is also praying to be reunited with Daphne, who remains in Nicaragua with her father.
“My life wasn't the same without God and living in faith. I see life differently now. It changed me a lot,” she says. “I am a brighter person than I was when I first returned from Nicaragua.”
On our final day in Honduras, we drove back to Tegucigalpa and dropped in on six house meetings. Marianna lives in a dangerous neighbourhood, where drugs and gangs are everywhere; we were told to always have an Army representative nearby. Despite the dangers right outside her door, God has given her the courage to open her house for his use. Nine adults and six children attend her house meetings. “I wanted to serve the Lord and for my house to be used,” she says. “It has been a blessing.”
This is Pedro, eight, and his mother, Belkis. Not long ago, Pedro was an active, healthy little boy, able to walk, play and go to school. But then he started having trouble walking and was diagnosed with a brain tumour. Pedro and his mother travel seven hours by bus to get to the hospital for treatment. Belkis is a single mother, with another young child. “Prayer and the presence of others here in this program give me strength,” Belkis says. Pedro is holding a colouring page titled “Jesus Loves the Children.”
The Salvation Army provides volunteers and support for a school program at a hospital in San Pedro Sula. The teacher, Marjory Sarai soler Benitez (standing), leads a song.
From Honduras we travelled to San Jose, Costa Rica, where we stayed at the training college. On our first morning, we visited a before- and after-school program. The children were excited and proud to perform a traditional dance for us celebrating a local festival.
One of the highlights of our trip was joining the training college cadets for a Sunday afternoon “Hour of Joy” in a poor neighbourhood. As we walked through the community, the cadets knocked on doors and invited children to join them in the park for a service. They shared the gospel with the children through music and drama and then broke into small groups to pray with them.
As I reflect on our visit to the Latin America North Territory, I am reminded that God uses ordinary people and limited resources to accomplish great work for his kingdom.
Poverty, political instability, lack of infrastructure and other obstacles aren't stopping God from working in these countries. The Salvation Army is making a difference in the lives of people in this territory, but they need our help. We can help by praying for the Army's work and donating in support of the Partners in Mission campaign.