Sewing Ministry in Nicaragua

The sewing ministry in Nicaragua is awesome!  I have been going to Nicaragua with our team for many years now.  I never planned to go and I certainly didn’t plan to buy sewing machines for a foreign country.  But God did.  When I look back at how I came to be involved with these very special women of Nicaragua, I can only say God opened the door and said “go”.  Nothing in my life has blessed me as much as these women.

It was February a few years ago when we were first able to finally implement a sewing program.  We had four women from the dump learning to sew on sewing machines and make aprons.  Our time with them was very limited, but they were so proud of what they accomplished.  We went back the next year with hopes of being able to work with more women teaching them how to sew so that they would be able to make extra money and sew for themselves and their families.  We had four new women, also from the dump; Mariella, Ava, Patricia, and Elba.   We spent a week learning basics of sewing and they each learned to make a blouse and skirt.  Some made several skirts and clothes for their children.  Mariella was a single mom with two small girls.  Ava had two children, one living with her and one living with her mom outside the dump.  Elba was the house mom, divorced from her husband and having a hard time dealing with those problems.  And Patricia, which was probably the most well off, she lived in a house with her husband and children - right there at the dump.   Each day they came in with kind of a frown.  By the end of the week, they were smiling at “me” and talking and feeling really good about their accomplishments.  I had hoped they would have access to the sewing machines after we left, but because of their circumstances, there was no safe place to leave the machines except at the villa where the team stayed and the classes were taught, and that just was not a working solution.  I really felt like I had failed these women.  

The next February, Gloria (our Nicaraguan missionary) gave me another four women, Nachita, Garnet, Wendy and Elba.  Praise God!  These women had real homes with electricity that was a safe place.  The goal or at least “our” vision was to be able to leave three sewing machines for three women to use in  their homes.  Gloria would work out all the details and monitor the use of the machines. I spent a very busy week teaching these women to sew, starting with the  basics; cutting patterns, making a blouse and a skirt and and some made clothes for their children.  They were there at 8:30 am and never left until at least 5:30 pm.  I had to tell them to go home or they would stay all night.  At the end of the week, they were so proud of themselves.  They asked me to “please come back and help them to learn to sew better”.  They would be praying for me and also that I could learn Spanish.  What a week this was.  God had begun to show me that our vision was His vision and that it could be a reality.

I was able to go back in July for a much needed two weeks this time.  One week just isn’t enough.  This time I came prepared with morning devotional books and also self help books for, luckily, the same women I had worked with in February.  This was such a special time together. This is when we really began to know each other and developed a real relationship with each other.  I found out they have the same fears for their children that we do.  They have the same problems in school that we do; bulling, drugs, the wrong crowd, peer pressure, etc.,  everything our kids face.  The sad thing I found out is that they don’t have time to visit one another when they need support.  They are so busy shopping, cooking, keeping house – and the only transportation they have is good old “FEET”.  Time is not on their side.  They have to rely on weekly and bi-weekly church meetings or special meetings during the week.  (We are so lucky, all we have to do is get in the car or pick up the phone and go to someone’s house when we need to talk, or come to church any day of the week if we feel the need and there is always someone there we can talk to).  But, these women are real women of God.  They are so special.  I spent two wonderful weeks really developing a relationship with these women and teaching them to make more clothes and bags (fabric pocketbooks) which they thought they could sell to teams at the villa or to friends and people in their communities.  I can’t tell you how grateful and happy they were when Gloria and I presented each of them with the opportunity to purchase, at a good discount, one of the sewing machines I had brought down for that purpose.  Wendy said she had been praying for something that she could do from home.  She likes and wants to work but her husband wants to be the provider in the family and likes for her to be home.  This would be the solution he would agree to and it would give her the opportunity to help the family financially.  Nachita and Garnet were praying for something like this for themselves also ; something to help out in their communities.  When presented with their contracts to purchase the machines and pay them off with the profits of their sales - they all said, “Praise God! Hallelujah!  They said I was an answer to their prayers.  I cannot put into words what I felt at that moment.  

This last July I went back again to see how “my” women were doing.  I was greeted with two bouquets of flowers and such hugs and kisses.  It was awesome.     Wendy has started her own small business from her house sewing bags and other items for friends and neighbors.  She now has money on hand when her husband needs to borrow some (she offered to give him a loan, but he would have to pay her interest!  Ha, ha) She has such a sense of humor and a head for business.  Garnet has been making things for her family and friends.  She made a diaper bag for a baby shower and everyone couldn’t believe she actually made it.  Nachata has been making bags also and each of the women has been able to use this as a tool for ministry to women of their communities and churches. 

During this two-week stay, I prepared Nachita, Wendy and Garnet to be the teachers and mentors to the next four women during the second week.  I officially became just the supervisor.  They were terrific.  When four new women arrived, fellow Nicaraguans came along side them and taught them how to sew on the machines. Nicaraguan women were teaching other Nicaraguan women! This time I had brought two new machines down.  These ladies were from a town about 1 ½ hours away called Leon.  They are really poor, but now have hope for a better future.   They have dirt floors in their homes.  Lola, is the pastor of the church in Leon.  She has to travel by bus both ways each Sunday and any other time she needs to be there.  That’s at least two hours each way.  From what I understand, she has quite a full time ministry.  Lola is quite a woman.  These women already knew how to sew.  They just needed help with the machines and how to fit the patterns to themselves.  They also learned how to made bags and bible covers to sell.  One of their visions is to teach some women in their community how to sew and open a store so that they can sell what they make.  My only regret is that one-week with a new group of women isn’t enough to develop strong relationships.  I feel I didn’t really get to know them even though the morning devotional time was priceless.  I brought devotionals for each of them in Spanish.  (Garnet uses these with the women of her church.)  Just before they went home, I presented each of them with a new Spanish Bible.  I don’t know which they were happier with, the machines or the Bible!  They either didn’t own a Bible or they carried a small children’ bible.  I think that was the greatest gift I could have given them.  We left them with two sewing machines, which will be the property of the church there in Leon and where they can teach other women in their community and also minister to them.  I left them with a skill, patterns, supplies, tools and a “New Hope” for their future and the future of many.  I can’t wait to see how Lola, Lizette, Senobia, and Marilyn are doing and how this ministry will grow and expand to other communities.

When I first took machines down to Nicaragua, it took a year and a half before one was ever used.  We tried with different groups of women and finally found a group where the concept of ”Nicaraguan women teaching other Nicaraguan women” is working.  It’s funny how God gives us a small talent and uses it in a big way.  I am encouraged and blessed that God has allowed me to be a part of His plan for these wonderful women of God. 

Pray for their future.  Pray for wisdom to meet their needs. Pray for the funds to continue helping them.  Each time I have to come up with the funds to go.  Each time it is a little more expensive.  Please pray that I can continue to find enough sponsors to fund this project.  It is growing and expanding and God is doing a mighty work there.

Thank you for your past support and prayers and for your future support and prayers. Contributions can be ear marked for Nicaragua sewing project any time.  Please, please keep us in your prayers.