Support our siblings affected by disaster, hunger and oppression through One Great Hour of Sharing.

Answering God’s Call: A New Adventure

A Letter from Jhanderys and Ian Vellenga

August 2018

Write to  Ian Vellenga
Write to Jhanderys Dotel-Vellenga

Individuals: Give online to E200391 for Ian and Jhanderys Dotel-Vellenga’s sending and support

Congregations: Give to D507593 for Ian and Jhanderys Dotel-Vellenga’s sending and support

Churches are asked to send donations through your congregation’s normal receiving site (this is usually your presbytery).

Subscribe to our co-worker letters


“If you are facing in the right direction, all you need to do is keep on walking.”
–Buddhist proverb

As part of our move, Ian and I decided to drive across the country. It was a great opportunity to see different landscapes along the way, and it was also ideal for reflection, pondering, and meditation. We soaked ourselves in the depthless beauty of the Grand Canyon and in the endless curiosity of Meteor Crater. We loved the twinkling of the skyline of Albuquerque at dusk and the weirdness of Cadillac Ranch. We rejoiced in the rhythm of the seemingly infinite country bands in Nashville. And we gazed at the misty mountains and the bright green tobacco fields of North Carolina. These were perfect scenes to share our dreams and hopes for this new stage in our lives and for the future.

In the past year, Ian and I have experienced a lot of changes. We relocated from California to rural North Carolina a month and a half after I graduated from seminary. This was not only the place Ian and I met, but also my home in the States for the last four-and-a-half years. I had moved to California from the Dominican Republic to pursue theological education at San Francisco Theological Seminary in 2013. Moving to North Carolina was motivated by financial reasons and the desire to be closer to our family; we planned to settle down with Ian’s parents while we searched for jobs and waited for God’s call and guidance. Their encouragement, help and support was what we needed the most during that period. We were not sure how things would go, but we were hopeful and optimistic about our decision to move. We both got jobs: I got a part-time job in a non-profit, and Ian began a job in retail and started a new degree. But we felt something was still missing — the sense that we were going in the right direction.

We were still waiting for God’s answer, and we knew that we wanted to be more involved with the church and work directly in ministry. Then one day in a chance conversation with a friend, who also happens to be a mission co-worker, we were told about the job opening in World Mission that would entail working with the Council of Protestant Churches of Nicaragua (CEPAD). She thought it was a good match, and she encouraged us to apply. When we applied, we felt the job was the right fit for us, and we were beyond excited when we were accepted.

Ian and I share an interest and passion for mission. I first experienced mission in my home country of the Dominican Republic through prison ministry, and I later served in Grenada in a prison educational program. My time there inspired me to pursue education in mission. Ian also experienced mission though work with his church in the Appalachian mountains helping to build houses. Later, he was a Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) in India.

Moving to Nicaragua is a new beginning, a new adventure, a voyage more in tune with God and our personal call to ministry. We will be immersing ourselves among the people of Nicaragua, so as to best see what they see, hear what they hear, and experience what they experience. We feel that this is the best way to truly be partners in mission with the people of Nicaragua. There’s excitement, and at the same time some nervousness. We will be experiencing a new nation and culture for the first time together. We have faith that God will give us strength to press on daily and overcome any challenges and situations. Following God’s call for us, especially to another country, is certainly not easy, and it is definitely life-changing, sometimes even daunting. It is hard to move away from what is comfortable and known, and to move far away from family and friends (again). Moving to a new place can be frightening, but changes can open the door to new beginnings and fresh starts that offer us the unique opportunity to grow stronger and challenge ourselves. In due course, change usually leads us to somewhere great. We believe we are being led to experience and appreciate the wonderful things God is doing in Central America, especially through and with the folks of Nicaragua.

Being part of the World Mission family and having the opportunity to move to Nicaragua was something we wanted, but it was unexpected and astonishing at the same time. A couple of months ago, we were still adjusting to a new place: now we are planning an even bolder move across the sea. Shortly after we accepted the mission co-worker position, conflicts erupted between the Nicaraguan government and the local people. However, instead of regretting the decision or questioning our choice, we feel it was God’s plan for us to go there and be of assistance and support to the wonderful people of Nicaragua during these difficult times. God has provided a place for us to use our training, skills, and passion. We feel we are finally moving in the right direction, the one God has chosen for us. We are grateful to have the support of our family, friends, and spiritual communities. We invite you to join us in this new quest, and to pray with us, not only for the duration of our ministry, but also for the long-term well-being of the people of Nicaragua and God’s peace in the midst of violence. Please pray for these difficult times to pass and for the restitution of the harmony and security that have been characteristic in Nicaragua.

You are our partners in this journey, and we are grateful for your constant prayers, your support and your generous financial gifts. Please continue to lift us up in these ways. We are thankful for those of you who have subscribed or are planning to subscribe to our letters, and for your continuous interest in our lives, ministry, and our work with CEPAD and the people of Nicaragua. We are grateful beyond measure for all of you.

Jhan and Ian

Creative_Commons-BYNCNDYou may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.

  • Subscribe to the PC(USA) News

  • Interested in receiving either of the PC(USA) newsletters in your inbox?

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.