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To Gehenna and Back

Chris —  July 31, 2009

In many ways, our final stop here in Managua, Nicaragua has been the hardest.  We faced some difficulties on our first day here, which I’ll tell you about when we have lunch on Saturday.  This is our only stop that is not a former British colony, so language has also been more of a barrier here than anywhere else.  It doesn’t help that we’re tired and the poor girls have had to put up with me for two months.  To top it all off, we’ve also been to Hell and back.

In Matthew 23, and throughout the New Testament, Jesus uses the term Gehenna to describe the destination of those who oppose him.  Gehenna was a valley outside Jerusalem.  It had once been home to pagan rituals of child sacrifice, but by Jesus’s day was a constantly smoldering pile of garbage.  We translate this to our english word Hell.

On the banks of Lake Managua is a giant smoldering plateau of trash called La Chureca.  On the outskirts of the dump is a barrio that is home to somewhere between 1,500 hundred individuals to 3,000 families.  Let me state this plainly: Thousands of human beings living in a garbage dump.

They go to Chureca because, strange as it may seem, it’s a place you can find work.  When garbage trucks come by families run up the hill to dive after recyclables.  Life is dirty and dangerous.  Stories are told of mothers renting out their children to get a place in line, and children being ran over by the trucks.  One of the hottest items is glue, which, when sniffed provides not only a momentary high, but more importantly, an appetite suppressant.

I find it quite interesting that Jesus and the New Testament writers chose a literal valley to describe the eternal destination of the damned.  Hell isn’t just a place where bad people go when they die.  It’s a way of life created and sustained by the sinful choices of man and an unjust system he has set up.

To learn how you can help people get out of Hell, check out

In 1909 the U.S. began to involve themselves in the affairs of the Nicaraguan government. It started with diagreements over a canal that would have great dividends for the US. Since then the U.S. has propped up dictators, meddled in trade and backed guerillas in this country of about 6 million.

I don’t understand enough to make a statement as to whether or not our government’s actions have turned the jewel of Central America into the second poorest nation in the hemisphere. Plenty of blame can be assigned to Daniel Ortega and the other corrupt leaders who have siphoned foreign aid into their own pockets for decades.

Mission work in Nicaragua does not neccessarily mean “sharing the gospel” — at least not in the traditional evangelical “love-Jesus-so-you-can-go-to-heaven-when-you-die” sense.  The church is actually growing like wildfire throughout Latin America.  In a place where the average salary is 50 dollars a month and there seems to be no incentive to go to school after fourth grade, the church’s role is to prove that there is life before death.

The missionaries provide a YMCA analog that gives 100+ kids a safe place to spend their afternoons.  I’ve seen the alternatives and they are quite dangerous.  This is one way the church can aid in the development of Nicaragua. 

Maybe we American Christians owe it to them.

We finished up in Nice about a week ago by deep cleaning the Church building and babysitting the missionary kids.  Because our flight wasn’t until Thursday, and left from London, we spread our separate ways for some down time in Europe. 

I headed to Paris, where I had great intentions on seeing the museums and the sights.  However, travel was much more expensive than I expected, and apparently the Louvre is closed on Tuesdays.  So, I spent most of my time in the subways,  trying to find my way around, and fasting, because I didn’t have quite as much money for food as I needed.  I did however get to see Eiffel, the Arch of Triumph and Sacra Coeur, and do a 2.5 hour flyover of the Louvre.

We met back up in Heathrow airport, and arrived here in Nicaragua late on Thursday night.  We are working with missionaries who run a sports complex that provides a safe place for kids to hang out in a very corrupt country.

Tomorrow, I’ll get to speak with these kids.  My goal is to cast a vision of how Jesus can not only provide a hope for life after death, but a reason to invest in life here and now.  Nicaragua desperately needs it.

What Are You Doing This Summer?

Chris —  March 13, 2009

For those of you who still don’t have summer plans, you might consider a trip around the world with my friend Sarah over at  Here’s what she has planned:

  • Hang out with Slum Dogs in India
  • Help out at an AIDS orphanage in Uganda
  • Get to know the Muslim population of Paris
  • Run a sports camp for Nicaraguan children

The trip takes place over 60 days this summer.  It’s a great opportunity if you are interested in mission work, but not sure you know where you want to go.  It’s also great for students or teachers trying to make the most out of their summer.  For more information, contact Sarah Rinn at