with Central America began as a Short Term Volunteers in Missions
(STVIM) project of Christ United Methodist Church (UMC) in Rochester,
MN, and Faith UMC of St. Anthony, MN. The foundations of ISLA were
set in 1991 through the work of Jan and Gene Jones and later, Rev.
Marc Well Nagel. In 1992, Jan and Gene led the first STVIM team
from Christ UMC to Nicaragua. For the first three years the trips
were primarily construction and relational in nature. In 1995 the
first medical contingent joined the trips. Since then nearly every
trip to Nicaragua has contained both a medical and a construction
aspect to its mission.
In 1991 Marc
Well Nagel began coordinating various educational and construction
trips to Honduras, first for Heifer Project International, and then
for Iliff School of Theology, and then the STVIM programs. In 1995
he joined the team to Jalapa, Nicaragua, as a participant. In 1996
Marc helped to co-lead the trip to Jalapa and then was the coordinator
of the trips to both Nicaragua and Honduras. Marc was the first
Executive Director of ISLA from its incorporation, as a 501 (c)
(3) nonprofit organization, in September 1999.
of trips, people and finances had grown so as to dictate a new structure.
ISLA was formed as a new and separate non-profit organization to
manage the Latin American missions of the two churches. Faith UMC
served as the fiscal agent of STVIM programs until mid-year 2000
when that function was turned over to ISLA.
in the mountains of north central Nicaragua, is far away from its
capital city of Managua. Due to the fighting of the contra war in
the 1980s and Hurricane Mitch in the mid 1990s, this already economically
depressed region became the 2nd poorest nation in the western hemisphere.
Without much support of the government, these people and their land
have desperately needed the help of people from other countries.
out as occasional trips to Jalapa has grown into a long term relationship
with the people of this community. Our medical, education and construction
projects soon required follow-up work. As we have sought to listen
to the people’s needs, we have worked at providing on-going
continuity of care in all areas; a successful Pap smear program
in women’s health, scholarships for students, and repair work
in the schools, clinics and hospital. But perhaps more importantly,
we have developed deep relationships with people who are just like
us. They work hard to make a living, love their families and friends,
laugh and dance at birthdays and weddings, pray and worship in churches,
and cry at funerals and tragedies. They express appreciation for
acts of kindness. Our hearts have become connected to theirs as
we have partnered to strengthen their community.