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Expectant and Hopeful

A Letter from Jhanderys and Ian Vellenga, serving in Nicaragua

May 2020

Write to Ian Vellenga
Write to Jhanderys Dotel-Vellenga

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May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (Romans 15:13)

Dear Friends,

We are expecting, and by “expecting,” we mean the political correct term for “pregnant.” And probably like a lot of people, never in our minds did we think we would be going through pregnancy during the present circumstances. A couple months ago, many of us were completely unaware of the realities we would be facing today. We are five months into the year and it seems we have been put to the test from the very beginning. At first, the year started off with the massive wildfires in Australia, then an impeachment of a president (remember those? They seemed like years ago). Now we are in the middle of a global pandemic that has infected millions and has taken the lives of hundreds of thousands and threatens the lives of many more.

A lot of people found themselves trapped in other countries during vacations, cruises, and work or volunteering trips as countries closed borders, and flights around the world decreased or just stopped. Many of the mission co-workers, including us, had to leave their countries of post and have been in quarantine or under stay-at-home orders for months now. A lot of people have family and friends in other countries and states they wish they could just see or stay with. Many are stuck at borders, in detention centers, prisons, or refugee camps under unsanitary and unsafe conditions. Many have no place at all. Some have homes but are completely alone. Many are trapped with people or in situations they wish to escape from but cannot. In one sense, all of us are expecting something, for things to get better and even to change. Or simply for answers to our many questions … but the truth is that we are surrounded by high levels of fear, mistrust, doubt, and uncertainty.

We watch the news every day in search of those answers and constantly see how this virus has quickly become a worldwide pandemic that is affecting every one of us directly and indirectly. COVID-19 is indeed affecting us all, but not at the same degree or level. In developing countries like Nicaragua, the pandemic might affect people in much harsher ways. Around 70% of the population makes their living in the informal sector, meaning they do not have a typical “nine-to-five” job working for a typical company. They need to go out every day in order to make a living and provide for their families. Many work in crowded markets and public streets, making social distancing impossible or very difficult. The majority of people live in small houses with a large number of family members ranging from infants to the very elderly.

Many live in rural areas with limited access to information and health services. On top of all of this, the Nicaraguan government has not implemented any type of quarantine or stay-at-home measures. Some of the reasoning for this is the current economic situation. If quarantines are wreaking havoc on economies in rich countries like the United States, imagine what the toll would be in poorer developing countries. But in a country with a lack of resources and limited health services like Nicaragua, this decision could prove detrimental in the future.

Many non-profit organizations like CEPAD have taken it upon themselves to educate the population about the dangers of the virus, safety measures, and precautions, and have started requesting funds and donations to provide, in the near future, some communities with health kits to help stop the spread of the virus. But with limited resources there is only very little they can do in a country with so much need.

We are all expectant, and (most days) very optimistic that this time will also pass. Keeping the faith is more challenging for some than others due to their unique circumstances. Life was already hard or difficult for a large segment of the world population before all this happened. Poverty, inequality, and discrimination were situations already putting lives at risk. For weeks many of our days had been filled with feelings of isolation, distress, and some sadness when we think about the near future, as the spread of the virus does not seem to have a foreseeable end. In some countries, the spread has decreased, but in many others people keep on getting sick or dying, and many battle to make ends meet, having lost their jobs. We miss our home in Nicaragua, our colleagues and friends, and worry about what the pandemic might do to an already struggling and impoverished country in the upcoming months. But most days we try (sometimes very hard) to be hopeful, because life, as difficult as it can be sometimes, is a gift. Although some days may be full of adversity and concerns, each breath, heartbeat, and thought exemplifies the beautiful gift of life. Like many, we are expectant and are preparing to receive a new life in a couple months within uncertain circumstances, but we are also waiting in anticipation and in hopefulness to go back to Nicaragua, to see family and friends. We hope for a much deeper sense of humanity and care for others in the world. Things will not be the same, not for us or anyone else, but as we all go through this, each in our own particular ways and circumstances, let’s not forget that we are not alone, and we need to do our part to make things better in the next months, not just for ourselves, but also for others.

We are thankful for all of you, and all of your support and donations, and we pray for your physical, emotional, and spiritual safety and well-being during these troubling times.

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.

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