Church members to teach English, take part in church services during nine-day visit
TRURO - Scrap metal houses cobbled with tin roofs and dirt floors crafted the grimy streets. Chickens roamed the ground, invading outdoor kitchens and outhouses of the village of San Juan del Sur in Nicaragua.
© Baillie Saunders - Special to the Truro Daily News
Chantal Melanson, left, April Banks and Ken Banks of the Central Nova Wesleyan Church in Truro, reveal three suitcases filled with Spanish/English Bibles they took with them as part of a humanitarian mission trip in Nicaragua.
To many Nicaraguans, this was home. To Ken Banks, it was a trip that would change his life forever.
"I didn't know what to expect," said Banks, a pastor at the Central Nova Wesleyan Church in Truro, who along with local church members, visited the country on a humanitarian mission trip in 2011.
"Being exposed to people who have nothing makes you realize how blessed we are, not because of anything we were doing, we just happened to be born here (in Canada)."
Their group's first project was to help build a church, which was a frail shell, when they arrived.
"When we went to the church it was a tin roof stuck up with poles, that's what they were using, it was open air," he said.
"What we did was dig trenches, build a foundation, mix cement by hand, a lot of old-school construction. We also helped fund a well," Banks said.
After spending nine days in Nicaragua, Banks never expected it would have the impact it did.
"Their faces, their smiles. At the end of the week we were crying, the locals were crying," he said. "Even though we could only say probably 10 words to each other. Being able to work with them or give them a meal or to be in their homes; their existence wasn't based on what they had. It was their happiness."
Banks and 10 church members left on Wednesday for a return trip to Nicaragua. The team has been working out the details since last April.
"The trip is out of everyone's own pocket. The church here has given around $5,000 between the two trips, which goes towards the ministry in Nicaragua," he said.
The team will be visiting four villages during their nine-day quest and will be teaching English to elementary students, as well as taking part in church services.
Banks said many kids don't get the opportunity to learn English until high school.
"We will be teaching basic English for three days."
"If they learn English it helps not only learning a language but building a better life."
In the curriculum, the team will be teaching colours, letters and the alphabet. The team will also assist in building a home for a family.
"It's about being engaged in people's lives in a place that is filled with obvious needs," said Banks.
The team will also help serve food to many children and adults.
"If we as Christians believe Jesus is the hope, then we have to find ways to offer that hope and if we don't then we're failing at what we're called to do."
Bank's wife April will be going on the trip for the first time, and is excited to interact with the hundreds of children the team will encounter.
"I don't know what to expect. I'm looking forward to seeing the kids. We had teachers from schools donate a bunch of beads and necklaces to make with the kids," she said.
The group will be bringing along school supplies, work gloves and 400 Spanish/English Bibles to hand out. The Bibles where donated by local Gideons in the Truro area.
April said spreading the word of God is important.
"I've never been to a poor country. I need to let them know that God loves them."
Chantal Melanson will be making her second trip to Nicaragua and is looking forward to revisiting the country.
"I'm looking forward to a more hands-on experience," she said. "Last time we went we were working on a church site but I mainly spent most of the time interacting with the kids.
"It wasn't what I was there to do but I fell into doing it.
We will be doing things with kids. That is what I'm looking forward to."
Melanson is hoping to share her faith and her love of God.
"I'm hoping that it will instill in me, almost like a reminder, to keep serving God every day."