A GOD OF SECOND CHANCES: A RAMA CAY VILLAGER’S STORY
My heart melted as I listened to Peter, “Tim, I know today is a workday for the project, but can I go to the Bible teaching this morning instead?”
Up until now, Pete has been known as one of the village drunks. God has given me a soft spot for Peter. When he is sober, he is a hard worker and very respectful. The Rama Cay people of Nicaragua are normally a very stoic people who do not often express emotion. But when Pete gets drunk, he tries to express his appreciation for all that Friends in Action (FIA) has done to help him build his block home and give him work.
I have tried to encourage Peter by complementing him on his hard work and his willingness to help. I gave him my work gloves and told him I’m praying for him. He just smiled and said “uh-huh.” But today was different.
Pete’s struggles are explainable as the Rama people have experienced their fair share of hardship, sadly causing many of them to turn to the wrong things to ease their physical and emotional suffering. Pete’s people are one of six indigenous groups left in Nicaragua. The greatest concentration of Rama is a group of 1,400 who reside on a poverty-stricken island almost forgotten by the mainland. The island is overcrowded with over 200 families (3-4 families residing in each house).
The World Health Organization reports that malnutrition is increasing each year for Rama children in Nicaragua. The children face widespread malnutrition, inadequate water and sewage systems, and sporadic public health measures typical of impoverished nations. Nicaragua is one of the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere. The Rama suffer from poverty, discrimination and unemployment due to their ethnic identity. While many Rama families survive on subsistence fishing and farming, poor soil conditions in the rainforest do not allow for extensive agriculture. The Rama attempt to cultivate small fields along riverbanks, producing only meager portions of bananas and root crops.
Since 2004, Friends In Action has worked with the Rama people to develop a new village on the nearby mainland, providing a healthy, safe place where families can remain together in a local community. To date, FIA has overseen the construction of 20 new homes, a water system, workshop, dock, pedestrian bridge, housing for work teams and national missionaries, and taught the Rama welding, woodworking, mechanical, and masonry skills.
Our most recent volunteers visited Nicaragua in late November 2019 to build The Amanda Brandt Memorial Playground. The men did a wonderful job of building and setting up eight swings, a spinner, a set of monkey bars, and a climbing unit with two slides and lots of recreational areas. Over 150 Rama gathered at the dedication of this special project. Jaime, the Rama territorial president, shared his appreciation along with Tim Johnston, Bruce McCracken, Marion (one of our national Bible teachers), and Amanda Brandt’s father. God truly used this project to demonstrate His love and concern for the Rama children and their community in a very tangible way.
This June and July, FIA hosted Bible teaching sessions for the Rama people. Mother-daughter volunteers from local Pennsylvania churches experienced the Great Commission together as they led teaching, songs, and crafts with 180-200 children while 25-50 parents attended adult sessions. It was one of these sessions that Pete asked to be part of.
I think my grace and patience for Pete comes because I often think of God’s loving ways towards myself and each of us. God is patient in giving us second chances. Micah 7:18 says, “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.” I think that is why I never gave up on repeatedly inviting Pete to attend the Bible teaching— although until his latest request, he only attended an occasional meeting now and then.
I am happy to report that Peter has recently made a choice to attend all the teaching sessions offered to the Rama adults! He has not missed one since that day (beginning in late August)! God has used your prayers and giving, and that of our volunteer teams, to open the Ramas’ hearts to a second chance at life with God through Jesus. What a joy to have the village drunk be thirsty for the Word of God!
During this New Year, always remember that God offers us new beginnings and second chances—for people like Peter, and you, and me. Thank you for being a part of FIA’s life-changing work with the Rama. May the Lord return His blessings as you pray and give to see His