At “Llano Grande” (English)
It was 4:30 in the morning and I had still not been picked up, but it is Nicaragua and I know I must be flexible with regards to schedules. Besides, I wasn´t the only one who expected to be picked up in the large construction truck that would take us to Llano Grande (the Big Field) a village about four hours northeast of Managua.
It was 4:30 in the morning and I had still not been picked up, but it is Nicaragua and I know I must be flexible with regards to schedules. Besides, I wasn´t the only one who expected to be picked up in the large construction truck that would take us to Llano Grande (the Big Field) a village about four hours northeast of Managua. When they finally arrived for me, just after 5 am, I found a place on a plastic chair and got ready to face the cold and bumpy road in the company of the twelve sisters and brothers also on their way to church.
Little by little, I put together the history of this small congregation of the “Misión Cristiana” Church of Nicaragua, tucked away in an area which is deeply Catholic and where there was a great deal of fighting during the long and bloody civil war. The first evangelism campaigns were organized by Sister Flor Mendoza who worked for many years to establish a church in this town. The first member of the church was Brother Saturnino Urbina who had been a leader in the local Catholic Church and the right hand man of the priest. He told me that when he had begun to study the Bible and analyze its teachings, he began to doubt things that the Catholic Church was doing. Upon being invited to a celebration for the patron saint of a nearby town, he refused to go. At that moment, he decided to leave his service in the Catholic Church, which was the only church in the village, and where his whole family attended.
At 9:00 am, we were finally arriving at Llano Grande, a small sleepy village with two main streets and a hazy view of the mountains in the distance. We were warmly welcomed with coffee and milk, fresh cheese and tortillas in the home of the pastor, a young woman who is the daughter in law of Brother Saturnino. By 10:00 am, we were in the worship service at the church which is still under construction. We praised the Lord even without windows, doors, altar, floor, electricity or water! In this humble village where everyone struggles to survive, the building of the church has been slow and with many sacrifices. The sisters and brothers have remained faithful from the moment they started meeting in a lean-to during the civil war of the 1980s, until recently building the shell of the permanent building.
I met with 15 children of all ages. We talked about the birth of Jesus and how he, too, in spite of humble beginnings, had great potential and dreams. One boy told me that his dream was to have a motorcycle to help his family come to church, and another girl said she would build her family a cement home when she grew up. All the children said that they wanted something better for their families. Jesus came to be born in a manger even though he was the Lord of the Universe. I shared with them that this same Jesus would be with them throughout their lives and in the fulfillment of their dreams.
The son of Brother Saturnino, Luis Felipe Urbina, remained in the Catholic Church, replacing his father´s leadership. Two years later, however, he too, began having doubts. He had questions that were answered not by the Bible, but by other books or traditions. Eventually, he decided to leave the Catholic Church. He had said that the day he became an “evangélico” (a protestant Christian) he would build a proper church for the people to worship God, and to this day, that has been his goal. He has also brought many members of his family to the new church.
I have been in Nicaragua three months, and little by little I am learning about the stories, struggles and testimonies of the Misión Cristiana Church and its members. As I learn, God strengthens and blesses my life. During this visit to Llano Grande, I learned from the Urbina family about their sacrificial love for the church. The church is the center of their lives and they want to leave behind a beautiful inheritance for their children as well as their community. They work every day to take that dream that the Lord has put in their hearts and make it a reality.
Magyolene Rodriguez serves with the Convention of Churches Christian Mission of Nicaragua. She serves in environmental education, food security, and conflict transformation.