Sunday, February 12, 2012

Love from House of Hope - Nicaragua 2012 :)

Just returned from my 4th annual mission trip to House of Hope (Casa Esperanza) in Managua, Nicaragua, and wanted to summarize some of this wonderful experience! :)  A link to some of our photos (with captions) is included below.

I traveled with Aeron Moore, a friend from church with whom I've traveled twice before on mission teams to Guatemala (she's 24 and I'm 54, so people kept asking if she is my daughter :)) - this was Aeron's first trip to Nicaragua, but the 11th overseas mission trip for both of us. The purpose of our trip was to minister on "Joy" at House of Hope, a Christian vocational rehab center for women & children escaping prostitution in the Managua area. We left on Sunday 1/22, returning Monday 1/30.

House of Hope currently serves nearly 60 residents - primarily teenage girls, plus several adult women and their children - and over 400 women who attend the day program on Tuesdays, making greeting cards and jewelry as an alternative source of income (vs. prostitution).  Most of the women attending on Tuesdays have accepted Christ, and are able to plug in to multiple home fellowships led by Oscar & Vilma, Nicaraguan directors who live on the House of Hope campus.  For more information about House of Hope, to purchase products made by the women or contribute financially to this growing mission work, please check out their website:

Aeron & I arrived close to 11pm on Sunday at Quinta Primavera, a beautiful Christian lodge which accomodates teams working in Nicaragua for just $10/night ($20 with meals) - the lush tropical vegetation and peaceful atmosphere on this well-tended property made us feel as if we were on vacation at a luxurious resort!  Since I'd previously visited House of Hope solo or with just one other person, I'd never experienced Quinta Primavera (or similar lodging at Quinta Shalom) - House of Hope is not equipped to host visiting teams overnight.  Because there were only two of us, we were allowed to stay at House of Hope during the latter part of the week - I even got up for devotions with Oscar & the residents at 4:30am this year!  :) - but Aeron's brave battles with unusually large spiders in her room there convinced me that the restful "Quinta" surroundings are best for overnight stays, with visits to HoH during the day.  Pastor Mike (HoH director April Havlin's husband) pointed out to us that, although conditions at HoH may seem primitive to North Americans, it is still a great improvement for the women and children who live there to have shelter, security, running water, electricity, and a Christian environment in which to grow & be established in a new life. Some have previously lived in cardboard boxes near the garbage dump, or on the street near the brothels. Children as young as 6 to 10 years old have been sold for sex, some by their own family members.  The desperate poor are most vulnerable - with over 60% unemployment, Managua has numerous child brothels, and Nicaragua is 2nd only to Haiti as the poorest country in our hemisphere. Thank God for practical help and vocational training offered by ministries like House of Hope, and for the unlimited power of Jesus Christ to save, heal and transform broken hearts & lives!

Our ministry on the theme of Joy ("God is Joyful, and He wants us to be joyful in Him") was warmly received with smiles and open hearts from Day One:  on Monday, we followed the Bible teaching with giving out small gifts we had brought for each resident (soft toys, hairbrushes, small journals & personal items);  on Tuesday, I spoke about God's Joy to over 400 women who came for the day program - we touched and prayed over each one of them by doing a "joy tunnel" as the women walked by our small (but powerful :)) ministry team; on Wednesday, Aeron shared an anointed testimony from Zechariah 3 about how God's judgment is not like ours (He calls us righteous and beautiful!), followed by my teaching on Laughter (see 9/2/11 ), and we distributed postcards of "Laughing Jesus," which I had made for House of Hope with the artist's permission ( - this was also the cover for printed handouts, with Spanish scriptures, which we gave to HoH residents); on Thursday, we taught about Celebration from Luke 15 and followed up with a pizza party - many of the women came forward to testify of the good things God had been teaching them and doing in their lives during the week;  on Friday morning, a lovely Canadian visitor taught residents to bake bread & cookies, which went well with ice cream we enjoyed after our closing "Jericho march" at the end of our last class called "Sounds of Joy," with worship streamers and silly instruments we gave to each resident as reminders of the beauty, colors & diversity of things to enjoy in God's kingdom.  On Saturday, Aeron & I enjoyed a beautiful day at the beach with Laura (HoH staff member who coordinates visiting teams), and on Sunday we visited Pastor Mike's new church in a wealthier part of Managua, and had lunch at T.G.I.Friday's with the Havlin family - including son Jeremy & his wife Jessica, who lead a growing children's ministry called One by One - before getting up early Monday morning for our flight home...

Two thoughts stand out most vividly in my mind and heart as I reflect on this trip:  one is how wonderful it felt - and I believe it thrills the heart of God as well - to see families and young girls who have been rescued from severe poverty and sexual abuse - especially so many teenagers and children who are now safe, laughing and playing and attending school, with a whole new life ahead of them.  As I prepared for my last teaching on Friday morning, God spoke to me from the book of Joshua that these few adult women who are holding on to the Word of God, plus a whole new generation of teens and younger girls, have an opportunity for radical blessing and transformation of the same magnitude as that of the Israelites who went from slaves to landowners - not just wandering the wilderness of escape from sin, but truly coming in to their own "Promised Land."

The other thing that happened to me on this trip was more personal:  on previous trips, the physical challenges of living & working at House of Hope (tropical climate, dirt, bugs, etc.) seemed much more daunting - this year I began to feel more comfortable in Nicaragua, and could imagine visiting at other times of the year (although I enjoy the pleasant weather in January) or for longer periods of time.  I also hadn't expected to return next year (I'm still planning to go to Israel in February 2013), but after 3 or 4 girls shared testimonies & said, "Next year when sister Gina comes back..." I began to feel - well, how could I not?  :)   I don't know exactly how God's plans for my future will unfold, but sharing the Word of God and His Love for these girls year after year has become more than isolated short-term mission trips - I'm beginning to see the fruit of ongoing relationships and investment in what God is doing at House of Hope... Before I left this year, April & I checked the calendar and decided on next year's dates, and by the time I'd been home in the U.S. for just 3 days, I already had a full outline of teaching notes and ideas, ready to begin communicating with potential teammates for 2013...

Lots of Love from House of Hope, Nicaragua... Until next year!    :)

Link to more photos with captions:

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