Our Partnership with Chacraseca, Nicaragua through JustHope
For the last 10 years, UCV has sent a delegation of church members, family and friends of church members, and community leaders to Nicaragua. We partner with the the community of Chacreseca and Just Hope in a cultural exchange. Our music director, Lynne Bradley, has led these annual mission trips where, each year, we conduct a music camp, construct a house, and raise money to support these activities.
2018 brought sad and concerning news for Nicaragua. We had a great group ready to travel, build a house, and do the music camp in Chacraseca. On April 18, we purchased 8 airline tickets and two days later political unrest arose in Nicaragua. Initally, demonstrations were in response to price hikes and lowering pensions but the government's harsh response opened up deeper concerns by the local people. After determining that these problems were not going to quickly be resolved, JustHope, the non-profit that coordinates our partnership, decided that it was not safe for any of their American groups to travel to Nicaragua in 2018 and even their American staff returned to the US leaving the Nica staff to handle ongoing projects. Recently, the situations seems to have stabilized but has had enoumously dire economic consequences. Many, many businesses, especially those that rely on tourism, have closed and so unemployment which has always been a serious problem but is now endemic has made hunger a reality for many .
Meanwhile life-and JustHope-supported projects-have continued desite the difficulties. In Chacraseca, the issues have not been safety related but economic disaster When our travel was canceled, we felt tht we should try to honor our commitment to build the house for the Menendez family, who had been so looking forward to having a safe housing. With the help of many donations and a couple of fund-raisers, we were able to share the cost of building a house with cement floor, latrine, and improved green stove. It was so good to hear that the music camp went off without a hitch, thanks to local musicians and teachers in the area, who led the camp. The model farm, women's project, and other ongoing programs continue. Because the translators had no one to translate for, they offered organized English classes in the community.
Read more about our partnership through JustHope.
Good News from Nicaragua
So the good news is that many of the programs, including the music program our church supports continue and flourish. There are frequent posts on Facebook of performances by the musicians we have hosted. And one of the amazing pieces of positive news is that, after many years of promises that never materialized, there is now a PAVED road into most of Chacraseca from the main highway. And one of the benefactors is the Chacraseca hardware store and cafe, which was developed and managed by local women through a JustHope project. Traffic has been greatly increased after the completion of the road.
UCV, with the help of other donors, is able to continue to provide the salary for the music teacher for the school in Chacraseca.
Looking ahead, there is some hopeful news. The founder of JustHope (now retired), Leslie Penrose, and her husband, Steve Penrose, were in Nicaragua in late December 2018. This was the first visit since the political unrest last summer. There is cautious optimism that travel to Nicaragua can resume soon. Leslie's description of their emotional reunion in Chacraseca indicates the depth of relationships that she, along with partners like UCV, have developed. Here is her description:
Steve and I visit Chacraseca and stopped to reconnect and say Merry Christmas. Faces lit up with joy when we arrived. Over and over again, people broke out in huge smiles, often running to welcome us with hugs. It was a delight to see everyone after 8 long months. But it was more than that...it was a" we have not abandoned you" kind of greeting, filled with relief and excitement and joy. It was a "we believe that that they had not been forgotten" and "we really aren't alone". There were smiles, tears, and hugs. And perhaps most of all, it was an "If JustHope is back, we might just make it through". Solidarity has lots of manifestations. The real intended recipients of the delighted greetings were every single JustHope partner who have helped make JustHope's continued international solidarity possible while our hands and feet couldn't be there.
For 2019, things are still unsure but there are several people who have contacted us and are ready to go this summer if JustHope determines that conditions are safe. If you or anyone you know would be interested in considering a trip to Chacraseca, Nigaragua this summer, please let Lynne Bradley know. We will continue to be updated on the situation there.
News Flash-A small group of JustHope partner leaders was invited to Nicaragua to try to discern what JustHope's next steps might be in this "in-between time". Our very own, Lynne Bradley will be part of this group which will meet March 20-27, 2019 and will help with ongoing projects and meet community leaders. This demonstrates the serious commitment and deep ties of all of the JustHope partners.
Volunteer With Us
United Church of the Valley works diligently to meet the ever changing needs of the communities in which we live. We believe we are called to continue the work of our Jesus Christ in this world.
Murrieta Food Pantry
United Church of the Valley supports the Food Pantry which is located at Murrieta United Methodist Church. We are proud of the fact that the pantry hands out food to any individual in need (average of 150 families per week)...no names or questions asked. The food is distributed every Friday morning. We are able to touch lives in profound ways and meet some wonderful people.
Blessing of the Backpacks
The United Church of the Valley is derived from the the Congregationalist tradition and we have a long history of supporting education. For the past 5 years, we have donated backpacks full of school supplies and a note of support to foster children, who are among the least educated subgroup in our country. With a realization that education and knowledge are power, UCV provides these educational instruments so some of our most vulnerble individuals may realize their potential. These backpacks are blessed during a Sunday Service in August, when our congregation acknowledges the hard work and dedication of educators and offers a blessing to all students returning to school.
Last year, members of our congregation made and donated bags filled with necessities to an organization that helps the homeless and mentally ill individuals. In keeping with the words of Jesus, what you do to the least of these, you do to me.
Habitat for Humanity
In 2018, we had the priviledge to do repairs and paint a house for a family in need. This was an incredible experience and we look forward to others opportunities to be of service.
This wonderful ministry continues to do a wonderful job keeping in touch with those who cannot make the journey to church every Sunday and keeps the congregation aware and updated. The Rooftop Ministry is a lay leadership program who visit people in the hospital and during times of illness at their homes. We arrange transportation, provide meals, and provide words of encouragement and support.