MANAGUA, Nicaragua – Attaching the front door is Lee Sisney’s favorite part of the home building project.
“It’s the last step and there’s something so satisfying in seeing a project completed,” said Sisney, worship pastor at First Baptist Church Blue Springs (FBCBS). “I guess it’s because once the front door gets put on, the home is secure. Once the front door’s on, it’s ready for a family to move in.”
Sisney was able to help attach front doors on ten houses last July, when he along with 18 fellow FBCBS church members went to rural Managua, Nicaragua, on mission. The trip was organized through Project H.O.P.E., a relational mission organization that has been serving and sharing the gospel in Nicaragua and Haiti since 1998. He said FBCBS is one of many Missouri Baptist churches that partner in Project H.O.P.E. mission trips throughout the year.
“We are so thankful and blessed to help these families,” Sisney said. “They are families who have nothing and are barely making it and now they are able to have a real place to live; instead of a makeshift hut, they have a real shelter for their children.”
Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the western hemisphere (Haiti is first) and each 18×18 cinderblock home that mission teams join in building is life-changing for the people who live there. Since 2015, FBCBS has sent six teams to serve alongside Project H.O.P.E. in Nicaragua to do home building projects, teach, deliver food, and make personal connections that lead to opportunities to share the gospel.
While Project H.O.P.E’s mission flows in nicely with FBCBS’s Great Commission calling, Sisney said serving the Lord in Nicaragua started with a personal calling God gave him and his wife, Casey, five years ago.
“We began praying about the possibility of adoption,” he said. “We didn’t have any kids at the time and we sensed that maybe this was something that God wanted us to do.”
As they prayed to know whether they should adopt domestically or internationally, God made it clear to them that He wanted them to adopt from Nicaragua. Sisney knew a few people at Project H.O.P.E. and they reached out to support the Sisneys and invited them to get on a plane and go to Nicaragua with them to get their hearts around the culture.
That first trip to Nicaragua changed the Sisneys forever.
“I’m sitting in Nicaragua for three days and watching not only physical needs being met – homes being built for people who have none, clothing being distributed – but all three days I saw people coming to know Jesus,” Sisney said. “This is how it’s supposed to be. It’s not supposed to be just about doing good activities. God opened my heart a little wider to what living on mission should be.”
Meanwhile, three and half years ago, God allowed the couple to adopt three children from Nicaragua: José, who is now 7; Sofia, 10; and Jenny, 12.
While constructing homes for families is a big part of the team’s mission in Nicaragua, God opened the door for the team to take part in other ministry opportunities as well. Prostitution is legal and prominent in Nicaragua and Project H.O.P.E. is reaching out to the women who are coming out of that lifestyle and offering healing, education, and job training so they can stay out.
“It was neat to see some of our ladies sit down and have Christ conversations with women who were hurting maybe from the loss of a family member or because of medical issues,” Sisney said. “We may speak a whole different language and our way of life may look different, but we all have the same day-to-day cares. God is big enough to heal those wounds and bring peace and comfort. We are cut from the same cloth. We’re God’s people and we all need Him.”
As with any short-term mission effort, the prayer is that the trip would not just be a “mountaintop week” for each mission team member, but that it would change the way they look at God’s people everywhere.
“We don’t want people to come away with a new love for people in third-world countries, we want them to see their neighbors across the street and their co-worker in the next cubicle with more loving and understanding eyes,” Sisney said. “The way they interact, the way they connect—our hope is that the mission seed is planted and we don’t have to go across the ocean to make a difference, we can share the love of Jesus right next door.”