When Someone You Love Is Ministering In a Dangerous Place
Adrienne Gross

Adrienne Gross

Right now, there is a rebellion happening in Nicaragua, one on a scale that has not been seen in there in decades. Until April, Nicaragua was considered one of the safer countries in Central America. But when the Marxist dictator, Daniel Ortega, issued a social security reform that would penalize the already struggling middle class, chaos ensued. It began with peaceful protests by university students and soon morphed into nationwide revolution that has on one hand unified the people who have suffered under Ortega’s rule, and on the other hand increased the division between people and government, leaving hundreds dead, over 1000 injured and dozens missing.

And in the middle of it, in the capital city of Managua, is my brother Michael and his wife and two-year-old son. Michael moved to Nicaragua almost ten years ago when he felt called to become a missionary. IT wasn’t long after arriving that he knew Nicaragua was where he was meant to serve long term, and God put a burden on his heart for the children and single-parent families who are in poverty in the city of Managua.

According to the NCFC (Nicaraguan Children’s Friendship Commission), Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere after Haiti, and 53% of the population is under 18 years of age. 50% of young Nicaraguans (aged 18-29) live in poverty, and nearly a million adolescents and young adults are disadvantaged in terms of health, living conditions, employment and education according to the United Nations Development Program. Teen girls are often preyed upon by much older men, who disappear once the girls give birth, and these young women are left to raise families on their own when many of them lack the support or resources to do so. Young people commonly drop out of the educational system by fifth grade because their families are unable to pay for the clothing and supplies required for school.

It’s because of the sense of despair and resignation that Nicaraguans experience daily that Michael began his faith-based non-profit organization, The Isaiah Ministry, which meets practical and spiritual needs of children and families in the slums of Managua. Fully supported by sponsors across the globe, The Isaiah Ministry is a project that serves school-aged children from elementary to high-school, by providing two meals a day and the clothing and supplies needed for school. After school the children usually return to the Isaiah Ministry for devotional, praise and worship and prayer time, and help with schoolwork. Entire families are also supported by IM sponsors, who send a monthly financial donation to ensure that families have the food and necessities each month, provided that the family head is employed and productive.

Almost five years ago Michael married Jessica, a young Nicaraguan woman he met through the Isaiah Ministry. She has become an integral part of the IM—as a role model for young women, a source of hope that God can provide a future that is different from the cycle of poverty they see every day. In addition to raising their two-year-old son, she runs a sewing program for ladies in the project, teaching them how to mend clothing and possibly turn sewing into a profitable skill.

Things have been running smoothly like this for Michael and Jessica for a while now, with only the occasional problem. My family and I traveled to Nicaragua for their wedding and were able to visit the IM and meet the children and families that we support, and seeing the way that the Lord has provided for these young people through the IM was touching. They really love Michael—he has earned their trust and they rely on him for so much. He meets so many of these children when they are very young and has watched several of them grow up, wrestle with questions about their faith, their future. He’s coached and guided them as they’ve made choices that could impact their lives in significant ways. He’s prayed for them and ministered to them, shared the Gospel of Christ in hopes that these children will see that they are dearly loved by the Lord as individuals and not simply another Nicaraguan statistic. He has mourned when kids have chosen to leave the IM for a boyfriend or a gang and celebrated when the first students have completed their tenure at the IM by graduating from high school, a major accomplishment for these low-income families.

So, when the violence began in April, we were paying attention. At first, I thought that these were typical protests that would go on for perhaps a week and then die down, leaving no damage or lasting effects. But there has been country-wide looting and rioting. Buildings have been burned. Roads are blocked. The American Embassy has sent many employees and families home and diplomats have abandoned their posts. Anti-riot police and Sandinista youth are firing on peaceful marches and kidnapping, beating and torturing people calling for Ortega’s removal. Many people are missing—their families wait outside hospitals and jails with their photos, hoping for some information on their whereabouts and condition.

And Michael and Jessica are still serving the children and families they love—providing food and making sure people are safe. Lately, handfuls of local people not associated with the IM stop by their home daily hoping for a meal, because the blockades have restricted commerce and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get the basics. Nicaragua is not just a place where my brother lives—it’s his home, his place of service, his calling. The Nicaraguan people have become his people—even more so since he married one of their own and is raising a family there with her.

As the days have grown darker, Michael’s feet have dug deeper into Nicaraguan soil. He has said many times, “We’re not going anywhere.” He feels strongly that he and Jessica are there for such a time as this—showing what it means to trust in Jesus when times are hard and scary, to be love and Christian service in the face of fear when most people would hide and do anything to protect themselves. Their smiles are hope to their friends, staff members, and the families they help. Their prayers reflect their desire and commitment for the country.

I know all of this in my heart. I know there are those who wonder why he’s still there and why he doesn’t just “come home.” I sit here on my velvet sofa in cool air conditioning in my safe and comfortable house, free to walk out the door and go wherever I please without fear of being shot or kidnapped, and I am aware of my American aversion to danger or inconvenience. People don’t understand why Michael would stay, why he would subject himself to danger, to uncertainty, to discomfort and inconvenience. Shouldn’t I, as his sister, encourage him to go?

And the answer is no, and even if I did, he wouldn’t listen. Michael’s allegiance shifted from himself to his Lord long ago. Who would I be to insist that my worried pleading for him to return to the USA should be louder in his ears than the voice of the Lord calling him to stay? He is willing to serve the cause of Christ no matter where it takes him, or what it costs him. Didn’t Jesus pay the ultimate price to bring us peace, to demonstrate His love? Yet He counted it a victory when He said, “…In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Because of this promise, Michael remains. Because of this promise, I support his decision and share his heart. So, I trust God to protect my brother and his family. I know that He is able, and that as long as Michael’s feet tread that dusty ground, there remains a greater purpose for him in Managua. I know that we are not all promised an easy path as Believers, where the greatest sacrifice that we make is a comfortable monthly tithe. Sometimes the sacrifice is more profound.

In my more human moments, I’m forced to wrestle with the “what if’s.” What if Michael or Jessica or Jo were in imminent danger? What if they ran out of food because they gave it all away? These are the moments when my faith must be bigger than my fear, when I must remember that Michael’s primary identity on this earth is not being my brother, or Jessica’s husband, or even my parents’ son. He is a child of God, and the responsibility for all of us who call God “Abba Father” is to recognize our Father’s voice when he calls us to trust Him, and respect, not challenge, His calling for those He loves.

 

If you would like to find out more about how you can support the Isaiah Ministry in Managua, Nicaragua, please visit: https://isaiahministry.com/

 

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