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Trusting God in Every Season

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

September 2020

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).


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For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1

Dear Friends,

We are quickly approaching the autumn months, and it seems like time is running at an accelerated pace now. Like many of our co-workers, we have been in the United States for around six months now. I am not sure how to describe the past months, maybe as a little bit apocalyptic. We started the year with excitement, planning to begin our IA (Interpretation Assignment) church visits at the end of March. We would be traveling, attending church services, meeting people, and reuniting with longtime friends. We spent months exchanging emails, planning flights, and even road routes to visit as many churches as possible to talk about our work in Nicaragua and with CEPAD. We were looking forward to our first-time doing church visitation on a large scale, so coming to the U.S. in the middle of March didn’t seem like a big deal at that time, or at least that’s what we thought.

At that time, coming to the U.S. earlier simply meant being in quarantine for 14 days and possibly rescheduling some of our visits. We were aware of the rapid spread of the virus, but never in our minds did we think that the world would have to stop the way it has. Death tolls quickly rose, fear spread, and stay-at-home orders were put in place for what seemed just a couple of weeks. Still, a lot of people didn’t seem to understand why we couldn’t sit in restaurants anymore or meet in large gatherings with family or friends (some people still don’t understand it today). The first few weeks were hard for a lot of people. The first weeks were hard for us too.

It was not easy to adapt to a new routine and try to figure out the best way to do our work, being limited to just emails and video calls. Yes, technology now feels like a God-sent tool for us, but at the beginning, it felt like we could not really do much, or even connect with people at the level we would have liked through a computer with an internet connection. We started questioning if coming back to the U.S. was a good idea. We wanted to be in Nicaragua at our home, supporting our colleagues and friends the best we could.

The truth is that our work looked a lot like what we do nowadays, but it felt like we were abandoning our post in the beginning. Not only were we unable to physically visit churches and connect with people in person, but we were also not allowed to travel back to Nicaragua. We felt a little displaced and uprooted. We were glad to be safe and comfortable with family here in the United States during these uncertain times. However, we are concerned and saddened by the idea of not being able to go back to the place we had called home for the past year for a good while.

All these mixed feeling made us remember the passages in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.”

It feels like we are going through a lot of these seasons and changes all at once, but for every season of sadness or troubles, it reminds us that there would also be a season of restoration, renewal, rebuilding, and healing. I know that for many people, the good seasons feel out of reach right now, and as humans, we cannot determine or control these times, but we can focus on doing what is good and right, not just for ourselves but also for others.

We are still in the adaptation process, but now instead of just feeling lost, misplaced, and unproductive, we focus on doing the best we can when we can and reshaping our idea of contributions to our work and connection to people and churches. Yes, it is not ideal, but it is doable, and even pleasing and rewarding at some level to know we can still share our work and connect with people. We are grateful for being in the company of those whom we love as we patiently and hopefully wait for the seasons of betterment and mending to start. We see glimpses of hope every day and encourage all of you to search for those glimpses too while we wait together for better times.

Blessings, Jhan and Ian

We are grateful for your support of our work and ministry with CEPAD and the people of Nicaragua every season. Be well and be safe.

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