Escuela Santa Lucas: Regalo de Dios
by Mark Walz, Jr.
In January of 2015, Mark Walz, went on a trip to visit the remote villages of northern Nicaragua in the hilly tropical rainforest of the Bosawás Biosphere Reserve along the Bocay River. When we met with these people in these communities (which were only accessible via a canoe on the river) we asked them about their greatest needs. Most of them replied that their greatest needs were clean running water and education. Further still, most of the communities emphasized more of a desire to have their children educated in a community school over having clean running water.
We brought back the idea of partnering with a village on the Bocay River to the Going Forth team at St. Luke and it was enthusiastically approved. But it wasn’t until December of 2015 that we learned of a village that was in need of a two-room school named “Yakalwas #2”. As a church, we committed to come along side the village of Yakalwas to help this vision of a school come to fruition. We provided the community with bags of cement, oil and gas, paid a supervisor (contractor) to oversee the work, provided fabric to make uniforms, sewing machines, a solar panel energy system, and school supplies.
The school was finished (well, nearly finished) on October 25, 2106 when Craig Potts, and I made the long, strenuous trip by plane, truck, canoe, and foot to Yakalwas, Nicaragua. On that day, we held a dedication and celebration of the opening of the school. When we arrived they were still finishing up the painting and installing the doors and windows. The children were decorating the building with balloons and special fabrics. Everyone was grateful, thankful and excited about the school and we were so happy to see their joy and excitement about the chance of education bringing new life to their community.
At the dedication that Tuesday there were close to 350 people present. It seemed that the entire village had shown up! We presented the children, all dressed in their handmade uniforms, with school supplies. Each child got a backpack, set of pencils, pens, erasers, pencil sharpeners, a notebook, crayons, some glue, and a New Testament Bible. The school was named by the community, “Escuela Santa Lucas, un regalo de Dios” or “St Luke School, a gift from God”. The community is extremely proud of their school. It is one of the only two-room school buildings in the area, it is very well built, nicely finished, and it has electricity, unlike any other building or residence in the entire village. The school already has three teachers and a principal and together they have already begun to teach the students in preschool, kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade and fourth grade.
St. Luke member, Craig Potts was able to secure a donations of several used and refurbished laptops from Toyota and we presented them to the teachers, along with a working HP printer, so that the teachers can learn to use computers and subsequently teach the students to learn to use computers, a skill that is very important for their future university education.
Leonardo is a older man in the village who is a leader in the community and has been the one who has really been spearheading this project. He seems to always be in a joyful mood, filled with excitement, and is always sporting a cowboy hat, boots with spurs, and a western style shirt. And, although he can’t read, the school project is especially dear to him because he has 20 children and 51 grand and great grandchildren, most of whom will attend the school. He said, “We are so grateful to the good people at St. Luke. We want to thank the people that gave us the money for this project. I want to leave a legacy of education and the people of St. Luke in Kentucky have allowed me to do that.”
What a joy it was to see the smiles on the faces of the children! How incredible it was to experiencing the rapture of Leonardo when he spoke of leaving a legacy of education. What amazement it was to see the gratitude and joy of the parents, knowing that their children would learn to read, write, and experience more in life.
Thank you, St. Luke for sending us to Nicaragua. Thank you for capturing the vision. Thank you for making this dream of a school a reality. Thank you for providing this community with the gift of education. Thank you for being the church, and for introducing Jesus Christ into every life.