By Pedro Luis Espinales with Ken Zacharias, Director of Global Outreach
Pedro Luis Espinales, a pastor in the FIEMN, our sister conference, and member of the Anabaptist Emergency Committee, updated us on the pandemic’s effects on Nicaragua and FIEMN within it. Here’s his report with additional thoughts.
Nicaragua is vulnerable in health, economy, and environment. Since 2018 we have been in an economic recession because of the socio-political crisis. Many companies have closed and there are many unemployed people. Then COVID-19 arrived and it spread rapidly through Central America, affecting us with illnesses, deaths, and more unemployment.
Except for Nicaragua, the Central American countries have taken prevention and containment measures. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have criticized our government for ignoring recommendations given to face this crisis. Other Central American countries have followed the international guidelines and can receive donations or credits from international financial organizations for medical supplies and food.
The Nicaraguan government, though, only follows three recommendations and is unable to receive donations or credit. Many people are infected and dying, and the government denies the Ministry of Health’s report as to the number of people recuperating and dying from COVID-19.
COVID-19 has affected the life of the Nicaraguan Mennonite Church (FIEMN) in these ways:
- The National Council and the Pastoral Council recommended that congregations suspend their church services.
- There is concern that if pastors do not give good pastoral strategies during this crisis, people will become discouraged and withdraw from the congregation or will change churches.
- Many congregants are unemployed, have food insecurities, and have difficulty paying for basic services.
- Schools have not been closed, although most parents are not sending their children for fear of the virus. Parents don’t want their children to lose a year of school, though. In schools the children received a snack and at home there is a food shortage.
- In the church communities they also feel the food shortage, and those with land do not have the seed to plant their crops because the banks are not giving credit.
- Neighbouring Costa Rica’s borders are closed. Many people have gone there in the past for work and sent money home, but they cannot do this now.
- According to the Central Bank of Nicaragua, the minimum monthly wage in cities ranges from $158 to $278 CAD depending on the labour sector; a day labourer working in fields earns about $119 CAD per month.It is estimated that a family needs to spend much more on basic foods each month: in June 2019, it was $556 CAD; now it is $794.
The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says that one effect of the pandemic will be global food insecurity.
There are positive outcomes in the life of the Church:
- As churches are closed, families meet together; they read the Bible, meditate, and pray daily.
- As families meet together, this will result in a revival because there are siblings and other relatives present who are not believers and others who know the Lord but who have left the church.
- When churches re-open there will be more people present.
- The Church of Jesus is being redefined.
Other countries are being similarly affected. Please remember the Global Pandemic Emergency Fund. The EMC, MWC, MCC and other global Anabaptist agencies are pooling resources to assist the global Anabaptist church. The EMC invites contributions with the designation: Global Pandemic Emergency Fund. The fund exists to assist people around the world, including in Nicaragua.
Please continue to pray for our brothers and sisters in Nicaragua and elsewhere and for our missionaries and their families. Thank you.