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Rich in Creativity, Tenacity and Persistence

A Letter from Jhan Dotel-Vellenga and Ian Vellenga, serving in Nicaragua

Fall 2023

Write to Ian Vellenga
Write to Jhanderys Dotel-Vellenga

Individuals: Give online to E132192 in honor of Ian and Jhanderys Dotel-Vellenga’s ministry

Congregations: Give to D500115 in honor of Ian and Jhanderys Dotel-Vellenga’s ministry

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


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Dear friends,

The year is half over, and while the load of work of the first months makes them seem longer than they are, with the arrival of September, the days feel much shorter. In the first half of the year, we received most of the groups and delegations. Things can get pretty busy and hectic with groups coming one right after another or even overlapping. In contrast, from September on we rarely receive groups or even individuals unless we had some special international event. This week we received our last scheduled group for the year which means that now we need to occupy our time with office work, reports and to plan for next year.

Church group helping farmers plant yucca

2023 has been interesting. After several years of limited travel due to political unrest, the COVID-19 pandemic, and some natural disasters, our spring and summer calendars filled up with people who were ready to return to visit their partners, or to visit for the first time. We also got to receive three international volunteers who came to learn about the people in Nicaragua and help with the work in some communities.

Additionally, after a couple of years, we have three different groups visiting their partners in the United States. While it is much more common to have people from the U.S. travel to Nicaragua, we encourage exchange in both directions to enhance relationships and to learn from “the people” about what is being done in their communities.

Preparing bags to plant new seeds

There are changes in some of the older partnerships. Some changes are relational in terms of how we can involve new younger people so as to have generational continuity, but also in terms of projects and the purpose of the partnerships. A couple new groups have shown interest in joining CEPAD’s work and mission of helping the people of Nicaragua by establishing relationships and visiting communities where CEPAD is currently working. In many ways it feels as if things are getting back to some kind of “normality,” but underneath there is still a lot happening in terms of politics and the government’s intent for the future of the country. There have been systematic closing of universities, international non-profit organizations, and even some church denominations. There are some worries but there is a lot of work to be done and helping people’s needs is always our main focus.

Sharing the harvest

At CEPAD, we believe in a “different” kind of mission trip and involvement. We believe that while the Nicaraguan people are often poor in terms of material resources, they are not poor in creativity, tenacity and persistence. While CEPAD’s programs, trainings, and workshops provided some starting tools and resources, these communities thrive by their own work and efforts. Our mission trips aren’t focused on what we can do, in terms of material giving or trying to fix people’s lives, but rather serve as an invitation to come and see what God is doing in Nicaragua: how communities are lifting themselves out of poverty, improving their communities and creating positive generational change. Most importantly, we focus on building relationships and sharing the love as brothers and sisters to one another in ways that not only impact their physical lives but also strengthen human relationships in accordance with God’s love for all His children.

So, if you or your church feel led to support CEPAD’s general work or a specific project in a rural village we can help facilitate your vision. We are focused on human relations, fraternal love, and community building, not just on giving money or material resources. If this is the kind of trip that you or your church may be interested in, please do not hesitate to reach out.

Jhan and Ian

Please read this important message from Director of World Mission Rev. Mienda Uriarte

 Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Matthew 25: 34-36

Dear friends,

Great things are happening in World Mission! As you know from the letters you’ve been receiving, our mission co-workers are at the forefront of showing us what Matthew 25 looks like in the U.S. and in the wider world. They are addressing issues related to eradicating systemic poverty, building congregational vitality and dismantling structural racism. Together with our partners, mission co-workers are engaged in life-transforming ministries in 80 countries around the world. Here are just a few examples:

As an education consultant in the Democratic Republic of Congo, José Jones assists the Presbyterian Community of Kinshasa (CPK) education department in the development, implementation and evaluation of strategic plans to strengthen the church’s primary and secondary education programs for more than 350 schools.

Based in Manila, Rev. Cathy Chang works closely with the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) and other partners in ministry to engage programs and networks across Asia that advocate for people vulnerable to forced migration and human trafficking.

Nadia Ayoub works alongside our Greek partners as they faithfully hold to the biblical call to welcome the stranger. Nadia serves with Perichoresis, a ministry of the Evangelical Church of Greece that provides housing and support to refugees; most of whom have come to Greece from Arabic-speaking countries.

Joseph Russ strengthens and supports a network of partners working in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to address migration issues in the Northern Triangle. Based on the needs people on the ground identify, Joseph empowers U.S. congregations to engage in advocacy related to Central America and immigration reform.

Revs. Drs. Noah Park and Esther Shin serve as professors at the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo (ETSC). ETSC graduates work toward revitalizing congregational ministries in Egypt and work with refugee and peace ministries in various countries in the Middle East.

Please consider giving an extra gift this year to support our mission co-workers as they walk alongside our partners and help shape a more life-giving, equitable and hopeful world!


Rev. Mienda Uriarte, Director of World Mission
Presbyterian Mission Agency
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

To give online, visit

Honorary gifts can be made by checking the box and writing the mission co-worker’s name in the comment field online.

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