Did you know Nicaragua has the second-lowest GDP in the Western Hemisphere? Higher than Haiti; lower than Cuba and everywhere else on this half of the globe. The poverty seems especially striking on the East Coast. We’ve been here talking with and filming the work of RCA missionaries Adrian and Bernardeth Bobb-Kelly who run a nonprofit called Tabitha’s House (reference to Acts 9) in Bluefields.
This ministry has several components:
A lunch program for neighborhood kids
Shelter homes for orphans and other disadvantaged kiddos
Medical mission boat
On Thursday we rode in this boat 3 hours upriver to a town called Esperanza (means “Hope” in Spanish). This is a town of an estimated 300 people (2 of them pictured to the right), yet lacks running water and electricity. For my Northwest Iowa readers, imagine living in Ashton but not being able to travel to or from there by car; not being able to flush a toilet or do laundry; and not having Internet, a microwave, vacuums, or really any other modern convenience. For in Esperanza there is no industry to speak of: no stores, shops, or markets. And this is one town of hundreds like it scattered across the swampy Eastern coast.
In bigger cities (like Bluefields and Puerto Cabezas) you will find some jobs and social services, but the poverty is still astounding. Above, I mentioned the lunch program founded by the Bobb-Kellys. Six days a week this service feeds hot lunch to about 160 kids — for many this will be the only meal they eat in a day.
How does one cope with such overwhelming poverty and tragedy? How do we begin to see God at work in this? What should our mission be in light of the fact that the poor will always be among us (Mark 14:6)?
Reflecting on ministry goals this week, I made a connection to John 3. Here, some folks come to John the Baptist wondering if he’s miffed that this fellow called Jesus has started what appears to be a competitor ministry. John answers: No. Far from being put out, he is beyond happy, for announcing the coming of the Messiah was the chief aim of his ministry: “The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore, this joy of mine is now complete” (John 3:29; emphasis mine)
How seldom we have the joy of seeing the true purpose of our ministry completely fulfilled, as John did —no wonder he was celebrating. I had the chance this week to ask Pastor Adrian and Dr. Bernardeth about what brings them joy in ministry. Dr. Kelly said, "each time we see change in the life of a child, it brings joy to my heart." The sincerity and earnestness with which they serve these children is inspiring.
For them, joy comes when lives are transformed by the power of the Gospel, when God can be seen at work, and when communities are safe places for children and families.
“When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers” Proverbs 21:15
Here's a little video highlighting the Tabitha's House Bluefields ministries: