In search of a bigger world, Pella resident Carol Van Klompenburg headed to Nicaragua in 2008 for a ten-day service trip. She found that bigger world. And, as she explored it, she discovered a people and a country that beckoned her to return again and again as she heard, amazed, their stories of transformation.
Those stories—and Van Klompenburg’s personal story—are included in her new book, On Mended Wings: Transforming Lives and Communities in Nicaragua, to be released November 1 by The Write Place. Her book will be the 25th The Write Place has published.
The book invites its readers to step into a larger world to meet people whose lives have been transformed by God and through the work of the Nehemiah Center, an interdenominational collaboration of agencies and churches.
“When I first traveled to Nicaragua, I expected to see people living in poverty, and I knew I wanted to help make a difference in their lives,” said Van Klompenburg. “What I gradually came to understand was how the poverty in my own life has limited me and how much, even today, I still need to learn from Nicaraguans.”
Written in a personal style that includes many of Van Klompenburg’s personal journal entries, On Mended Wings is also the story of the formation and growth of the Nehemiah Center and the story of people who are leading transformed lives.
“One pastor who struggled in vain for years to strengthen his church—he had to do everything, including cleaning the toilet—told me that when he discovered God’s direction for his life, he was affected to the corazon, a word that means heart or core in English,” said Van Klompenburg. “That is how I felt over and over as these people opened up to me about the details of their lives and their transformation.”
Virgilio Espinal and Maria Gunera live in a village once considered so poor and filthy that its residents were derisively called iguana-eaters – catching and eating the lizards as only the poorest of the poor would do. Through training, these villagers coordinated their efforts, cleaned their village, and today work together to ensure their community has fresh water and clean streets.
Nixon Delgadillo lost his leg by machete when fellow gang members turned on him. He still struggles, but relies heavily on the support of a weekly Bible study of former gang members. Daniel Aragón, once a leader in the Sandinista army and a drug addict, is devoting his life now to improving Christian education. Nery Martinez longed to go to school but her single mother couldn’t afford the school supplies. It wasn’t until she was 13 that she learned to read. Ten years later, she is teaching school and taking classes at the university.
As amazing as these stories are, the book also tells the stories of North Americans. “Transformation is happening north of the border, too,” said Van Klompenburg.
“I don’t mean to say that we, as North Americans, are changed only when we realize how blessed we are or how many more advantages we have,” Van Klompenburg added. “The transformation I witnessed is far more than that. It is more like a slow realization that as North Americans we suffer in poverty, too, because our arrogance blocks our ability to be humble; our material wealth inhibits our generosity; our lifestyle makes us too busy to really love as we are commanded.”
An integral part of the book is the story of the Nehemiah Center itself, which is an organization founded, in part, by Joel Huyser, a Pella native who grew up in Sully. A graduate of Pella Christian High School, Huyser serves as a missionary for Christian Reformed World Missions.
Besides Van Klompenburg, many Pella area residents have traveled to the Nehemiah Center on mission trips arranged through their churches. In the book, Pella residents Al and Barb Kopaska share how the transforming vision of the Nehemiah Center impacted them and helped them understand the meaning of humility.
Also, by working through the Nehemiah Center, members of Pella’s Faith Christian Reformed Church have agreed to form a partnership with several Nicaraguan churches. Already they have raised funds to send Nicaraguan children who had never taken an art class in their lives to weeklong summer arts camps. (More information about the Nehemiah Center can be obtained from its website, www.nehemiahcenter.net.)
Van Klompenburg, author of six previous nonfiction books, said with a sense of wonder, “When Nicaraguans see that God is God of all, something HAPPENS. Their lives are changed. I have learned much from them, and I feel as if I have just begun.
“My dream is that readers of On Mended Wings will learn from them as well.”