A Letter from Jhan Dotel-Vellenga and Ian Vellenga, serving in Nicaragua
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Hebrews 3:4 “For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything.”
The wait is almost over! After a little more than two years, we finally have concrete plans to return to our Nicaraguan house this coming October.
We must confess that this feels a little strange. Before March of 2020, we were living in Nicaragua; we had a house, a place of work, with co-workers and friends whom we saw frequently. We were still in the process of adjusting to living in a new country, our work with CEPAD, and learning the culture.
We left for what we thought would be just a brief time, three or four months. But we ended up being away for almost two and a half years. Our rented house is dirty, filled with heavy air and full of dust from being closed and empty for such a long time. All my plants are dead. Some things will have to be thrown away because they are too old or don’t work anymore. Our work office is different too: the structure and format have changed, and many familiar faces are gone. Some had to be let go due to the economic situation, some retired, and some went to their heavenly home. Our family dynamic has also changed. When we left Nicaragua, we were just two, waiting for our first child. Now we return as a family of three and wondering if we could make Nicaragua our home again.
Nicaragua, of course, is not the same country as when we left. Political struggles, economic distress, societal changes and natural disasters have hit the country hard. Nicaragua is like an old friend we are encountering once again, like a friend we need to catch up with and understand after not seeing each other for a long time. We have changed, too. We have expanded as a family, and grown as individuals, but also, we have lived under uncertainty, concern and stress.
Research shows that particularly when life is difficult or challenging, being near things that remind us of better times helps to renew and restore us. When we left, we had just started making memories and building a life there. That’s what our current, but temporary home, did for us here in North Carolina. It reminded us about the emotional connection and sense of comfort that comes from a place where you feel safe and welcome.
After two years, it feels like we are starting from the beginning again. And in a sense, we are. When we left Nicaragua due to the pandemic, there were only two of us. Now we will be returning as a family of three and wondering if we would recover that sense of emotional and physical connection with our place there, work and co-workers.
We had a meeting with our fellow mission co-workers in Costa Rica this August, and that was a blessed renewal of spirit. Some never left their place of service, some are starting brand new, and some, unlike us, don’t know when they are going to be able to return to their places of service. So, we are not alone, since during the pandemic a lot of things changed for a lot of people. One might say the whole world had been affected in one way or another.
We are longing to make our house and Nicaragua our home again because we know a home is more of a feeling than a place. It’s where you feel loved and welcomed. A home is built not by bricks or wood, but with the bond of family and loved ones. We still feel called to serve and minister with the people of Nicaragua, and that has never changed. We know, as people of faith, that God is with us, it has always been and as we, at the same time, continue and start this new chapter in our lives we know God’s steadfast love is leading, guiding and protecting us all the way. So, yes, we are moving again, we have started the bustle of packing, making travel reservations and arrangements to be picked up at the airport. But we are also looking forward to re-connections and familiarity, and wonderful new adventures and re-discoveries. We hope to turn our house into a home again and to continue the labor with our partners who have been upheld and sustained by God.
And in time we hope to see you there too when you feel called to come back to visit old friends and places or to meet for the first time. Know that Nicaragua is going to welcome you the same way it welcomed us in the past and will welcome us once again.
Ian and Jhan
Please read the following letter from Rev. Mienda Uriarte, acting director of World Mission:
Dear Partners in God’s Mission,
What an amazing journey we’re on together! Our call to be a Matthew 25 denomination has challenged us in so many ways to lean into new ways of reaching out. As we take on the responsibilities of dismantling systemic racism, eradicating the root causes of poverty and engaging in congregational vitality, we find that the Spirit of God is indeed moving throughout World Mission. Of course, the past two years have also been hard for so many as we’ve ventured through another year of the pandemic, been confronted with racism, wars and the heart wrenching toll of natural disasters. And yet, rather than succumb to the darkness, we are called to shine the light of Christ by doing justice, loving kindness and walking humbly with God.
We are so grateful that you are on this journey as well. Your commitment enables mission co-workers around the world to accompany partners and share in so many expressions of the transformative work being done in Christ’s name. Thank you for your partnership, prayers and contributions to their ministries.
We hope you will continue to support World Mission in all the ways you are able:
Give – Consider making a year-end financial contribution for the sending and support of our mission personnel (E132192). This unified fund supports the work of all our mission co-workers as they accompany global partners in their life-giving work. Gifts can also be made “in honor of” a specific mission co-worker – just include their name on the memo line.
Pray – Include PC(USA) mission personnel and global partners in your daily prayers. If you would like to order prayer cards as a visual reminder of those for whom you are praying, please contact Cindy Rubin (email@example.com; 800-728-7228, ext. 5065).
Act – Invite a mission co-worker to visit your congregation either virtually or in person. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to make a request or email the mission co-worker directly. Email addresses are listed on Mission Connections profile pages. Visit pcusa.org/missionconnections to search by last name.
Thank you for your consideration! We appreciate your faithfulness to God’s mission through the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
Rev. Mienda Uriarte, Acting Director
Presbyterian Mission Agency
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
To give, please visit https://bit.ly/22MC-YE.
For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6
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