As we fly into Bluefields, Nicaragua – we are greeted by a thunderstorm ….. low clouds and gusting winds. I find myself hugged in my seat in the small Caravan watching the pilot lining himself up with the runway.
Bluefields is connected with the presence on the Nicaraguan Caribbean coast of many pirates, subjects of powers at the time hostile to Spain. These pirates used the Escondido River to rest, to repair damages and to be provisioned.
But when you are in Bluefields you get the idea it should be paradise, because it sits in a very strategic position along Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast.
But as history unfolded, Bluefields became a forgotten city, cut off from the rest of the country by a vast jungle and different culture. As you walk its main street, you feel a struggle: Utility cables crisscross the streets, framing buildings, making them look like they’re sagging under the weight of history. It rains so much that when paint peels off a piece of concrete, it doesn’t take long for moss to set in. And no matter where you are, you’re hit by the stench of open sewers.
Eight out of 10 people in this city are unemployed, yet there are stores everywhere and business seems good.
I speak to a storekeeper who’s hanging out on a wooden cart who lazily in his Caribbean accent says – “this place depends fully on the the drug trade ….. and it’s fearful voodoo witches.” He laughs.
“It’s no secret. Everybody knows that,” he says in English. “The big businesses from here, if there are no drugs around, they cannot sell their articles. So when you see things are good, that means drugs are around.” It is with this backdrop where Harvesters finds itself. Churches in the area shows signs of ageing ….. evangelism, discipleship and church planting has become ancient terms. Meeting with older churches in the area confirms the fact that they are trying their best with the little they have.
We were invited by several pastors to help plant churches in the area. “But …..”, a pastor looked at me carefully … “we have an island close by – people are poor, starving, no one goes there not even missionaries anymore. Are you ready to plant a church there?” We decided to take the trip in a small fishing boat. Big waves formed on the river as yet another storm approached. Reaching the island wasn’t difficult – but we were dumbstruck as we reached the ‘forgotten people’ on ‘forgotten island’.
A Pastor visited the island 7 years ago – marrying a couple. Since then there has been no preaching or anyone accepting Christ. No functional church. Only poverty – survival of the fittest was what people believed in. No one cared anymore. There was no hope left that any Good News could come to the island. After much prayer and a nudge from the Holy Spirit we decided that the island and Bluefields were the perfect spot to bring the Good News of the Gospel. Sharing Christ and speaking to many natives of the area – many shared their sad smiles. One old lady took my arm and whispered in a soft cracking Spanish voice:
“Necesitamos a Dios … ¡ayúdanos!”.
I understood just enough Spanish to realize what she was saying: ‘We need God, help us!’ Harvesters has committed themselves to plant churches through evangelism and discipleship. Nicaragua is a very difficult country to work in due to its past – it has been in war for the last 100 years. Bluefields, like so many areas are fighting poverty, violence, gangs, drugs and voodoo religions that grips people with fear. We know that it is only through Jesus Christ that the bondage of sin can be broken. We have set up a good structure in Bluefields and other areas in Nicaragua eg. Limon, Rosita and the capital city Managua where we are actively planting churches. The strategy has always been very clear – reach people with the Good News of Jesus Christ – make disciples and plant a strong foundational church. And the words of Mathew 28:20 comforts us when Jesus says: “And I will be with you.”