Hultner Estrada
Bethany Beachum

When Maria Pilar talks about her community, she does it with joy.  Her neighborhood, “David Andino,” is a very typical community in Chinandega, the city of second most economic importance in Nicaragua.
This neighborhood also has many of the symptoms of insecurity, violence, dysfunctional families and community division, but Maria Pilar sees beyond these.  “We have many victories to celebrate”, she expresses joyfully.
For the last two years, Maria Pilar and five of her neighbors, have been involved with the Strategy for Urban Transformation (ETU), a training program that is using the local church to contribute to community transformation by means of a combination of evangelism, discipleship, and development based in the use of local resources and building cooperation among neighbors.
Maria Pilar sums it up this way, “Through ETU, God has taught us how we can help our community, both physically and spiritually.  We have been able to establish friendships with various people in the community that we never knew before.”
“Friendship” is a word that Maria uses often, but it is the term that best describes her work in the neighborhood.  From her home, she has begun teaching handicrafts to young women.  “We have a beautiful group of people who have learned to make handicrafts and sell their own products themselves, generating income for their households,” she shares.

Photo: María del Pilar (center) and her handicrafts class

For Maria and the ETU team, however, the most valuable part has been the camaraderie that has developed among the neighbors as a result of the arts and craft classes.  The community now has a stronger affinity with the church.  “This last semester we have met on several occasions with the leadership of the neighborhood to share the topics of Leadership, Community Service, Domestic Violence, Marriage Problems, and HIV-AIDS.  Also, we are developing roundtable discussions to promote healthy relationship within the family,” adds Maria.
What is happening in the neighborhood of David Andino is a small example of what can happen when the church reaches out to the community, taking small steps to help people flourish.  Beyond just growing new relationships among neighbors, the church allows God to add people that he wants to belong to its reach.  As Maria explains, “We celebrate the fact that two people have accepted our Lord Jesus as Savior and that others are visiting our church and small groups.”

Maria finishes her testimony asking for prayer for the members of the ETU team in the neighborhood of David Andino in Chinandega, “That the Holy Spirit would accompany us, illuminate us, give us patience, give us time, and above all, the disposition to work as a team, that God would touch the hearts and minds of those in our barrio and allow us to advance in the transformation of individuals.”