There are places in this world and in our lives that appear dark – where hope is the last thing we would expect to spring out of them. I’m learning more and more that the character of God is just that – bringing life into the dark and the barren. And when I leave the comfort and predictability of home and the box I often put God in, he blows me away with how he’s doing just that all over the world – bringing hope to the hopeless.
I have the unique privilege of working for Students International which means I get to see God working in other cultures. This has been one of the most life-changing things for me the last few years and each time I say “yes,” I am blown away by what he teaches – just because I took the small step of obedience to go.
At SI Nicaragua I saw hope springing up from the most dry, barren ground: Valle de Volcan. “Valle” is a place that could appear hopeless from the outside. To get there, you drive up a long dirt road which dead ends at the city dump. Right behind the city dump is the community of Valle. You get dropped off on dirt roads with rows and rows of shacks made out of whatever sort of wood or metal is available. There are no cars; no one can afford them. There are no shops or restaurants. There are stray dogs, kids running around and neighbors handing their babies over the fence to be watched while someone runs an errand. There is a church and by church I mean some wooden posts with straw on 3 sides with an open “doorway.” There are no schools… except the one that Students International has started. One of the things SI does so well is meeting tangible needs in the communities where we serve. Our staff started building relationships in Valle and saw many needs – one of them being a school.
Elianor has a passion for education. She started talking to families in the community and a school was born – a school that meets in the backyard of a student named Marvin. It’s a two-sided tin shack with a roof. You may be picturing desks and a chalkboard at school. Not in Valle. Elianor walks the neighborhood before school and calls through the fences of each student’s house that it’s time for school. Within 15 minutes, about 20 kids balancing plastic chairs on their heads are making their way down the dirt road to Marvin’s backyard. They put their chairs that they’ve brought from home in a semi-circle and face one of the tin walls where Elianor tapes up lessons. When it’s time to work on something, the students get on their knees in the dirt and use their chairs as desks.
When I was there, I had the privilege of working with Carmen. Her family had recently moved to Valle and Elianor is getting to know them. Upon building a relationship with them, she discovered that Carmen is 12 years old has never been to school a day in her life. The week before we arrived in Nicaragua, Carmen had started attending school. I got to work with her on writing her letters and learning to spell her name. You know what that is? It’s hope – springing up from dry and fruitless ground. Without Elianor and her love for these kids and their families, Valle would have no educational opportunities and without that, we all know how hopeless a future can seem for these kids. But God sees them, he knows them and through SI and our unbelievable staff, he’s bringing hope to communities like Valle.
The words from this song, “Beautiful Things” by Gungor have been ringing in my head since we left Nicaragua:
All this earth
Could all that is lost ever be found
Could a garden come up from this ground at all?
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found in You.
SI Nicaragua – God is making beautiful things out of you, because of your love for people, because He first loved you, because you are hope-givers. I am so grateful I get to witness beautiful things springing out of the dust. Thank you for allowing us be part of the life-giving ministry that God is doing there.
To hear more stories about the SI Nicaragua Education Site and Elianor’s ministry, click here.