POMPANO BEACH, FL (FR) – Christian schools have experienced unprecedented growth under the Sandinista government in Nicaragua – despite the record of human rights abuses and religious persecution in this communist nation. Sources say that the number of Christian schools has actually increased since the 1979 revolution.
“Teachers face prices that go up as much as 300 percent once or twice a month, while their wages may go up only 100 percent” said Jeff Donnan, president of Caribbean Christian Ministries (CCM). CCM is closely involved in the development of the Christian school movement in Nicaragua. “Teachers aren’t able to live under these circumstances, so many teach twice a day and have a job at night to make ends meet.”
Salaries and fees are government controlled, and any cost differences are expected to be met by the churches. CCM is working together with Nicaraguan evangelical churches in developing a strategy to promote “Christian cooperatives” which will promote the self-sufficiency of Christian ministries, thus allowing them to cope with the skyrocketing inflation and lack of funds. Christian schools will hopefully be one of the major beneficiaries of such a strategy.
Recently the Nicaraguan-based Christian Ministries of Central America (CMCA), which works closely with CCM, held the first conference in Nicaragua on Christian Principles in Education in the capital city of Managua. Around 34 Christian schools were represented, which is estimated to be about 20 percent of the Christian schools in Nicaragua. The conference was attended by almost 100 leaders and teachers, and was covered by the local newspaper, El Nuevo Diario, along with the government television station.
The effort to promote “self-sufficiency” among the Christian schools and youth was noted by El Nuevo Diario. “For many years evangelical churches as well as Central American countries have depended on the United States. For this reason our program is made with the purpose of preparing our youth technically to promote independence by means of self-sufficiency,” Rev. Ernan Savery, director of CMCA, told El Nuevo Diario. The conference covered topics such as the philosophy of Christian education; biblical principles of education; and the Christian perspective of school discipline.
The Nicaraguan Constitution ensures religious freedom, thus Bible teaching is permitted. Bibles are also readily available; however, Christian schools lack fundamental reading materials, paper, and equipment such as typewriters and mimeograph machines. To meet these needs, CCM is asking organizations or individuals to donate used typewriters (manual or electric) and mimeograph machines.
CMCA, with help from CCM, is assisting in establishing church-run “cooperatives” which will produce income. This income will not only provide jobs for people, but funding for such ministries as Christian schools. “These ministries will be aimed at serving their communities in Christ’s name,” said Donnan “We want to avoid creating a dependency on the U.S.”
Along with the growth of Christian schools has been an increase in the number of churches and ministers. “Revival is taking place all over the country; evangelism is rampant and churches are starting everywhere,” said one observer. “God is also leading many men into the ministry. Men who otherwise could be gainfully employed, are giving up good jobs to be pastors at substantially lower incomes. Nevertheless, some pastors have fled the country so there are many churches without pastors.”
“An estimated 50 churches a year have started and many are starting their own schools. The Assemblies of God has opened up over 12 schools, and one church with the Central American Mission group has a school of over 3,000 students (one shift in the morning, another in the afternoon.)”
Donnan added, “Despite all the problems facing Nicaragua, God is at work in the evangelical churches which represent about 25 to 30 percent of the people. Their witness of service and works will validate their witness in words.” If you are interested in more information about CCM, please write: U.S. Regional Office, 1113 S. Cypress Road, Suite 100, Pompano Beach, Florida, 33060.