The Young Life Nicaragua ‘La Finca’ camp here, like every other Young Life camp in the world – including Woodleaf, the Young Life camp I both attended as a kid and worked at many times in High School – focuses on reaching kids for Christ through living out in nature, having lots of fun and exciting activities, and introducing them to God in a low pressure but compelling way.
But something else we’re learning about on this project is…coffee! With 150 acres here at the camp, and at an elevation of 4800 feet, growing coffee has become a major part of running and funding the camp. It’s a great model for ministry – using the resources of the ground, with local labor, to help pay for local kids to come to camp. But first, a bit about all they’ve taught us here about coffee. (And yes, this really was the trip I was ‘randomly’ assigned to! ;) )
|The finished product - available online from Young Life.|
Coffee was first discovered in the 10th century in Ethiopia. Today, only oil is a more commonly traded commodity than coffee. Here in Nicaragua, coffee is the number one export.
Coffee grows well in relatively high elevations of tropical climates, where mild and warmer days cede to cooler nights. The cold nights are key – the coffee ‘cherries’ that house the beans mature slower when the nights are cold, allowing the sugars to develop and enhancing the flavor.
Ultimately, Young Life Nicaragua views coffee as a way to reach kids with the gospel. Each plant produces 2 pounds of coffee each season – enough to send a kid to camp for a day. Since they see many of their campers make decisions to start following Jesus during camp, they look at their plants as representing a kid entering the Kingdom of God each year.
In addition, their coffee operation is a ministry to the workers – on average, they pay their coffee laborers 25-35% more than the average wage in Nicaragua. In an age where Western supported mission is being scrutinized heavily by even the West itself, it’s exciting to see a ministry get creative in supporting themselves, and finding a way to expand their ministry impact as well to include building a labor force that finds deeper meaning in their work.
|Freshly hand-picked coffee 'cherries'|
being sorted on the La Finca site.
|The end of the wastewater treatment for the water used in|
the coffee bean processing.
|The roaster...conveniently located in our work room!|
|Two of the wives on the team got to help package.|
|The coffee 'station' in the Dining Hall, made available to our|
team pretty much anytime, day or night. Since the roaster was
in our workroom, we could only take so much of the glorious
smell before heading over to use one of these presses.
Today we finally got down to the business of the trip. As it turned out, I found myself starting the day doing hand calculations for determining the seismic loads on the bridge (think ‘Southern California’ as far as Nicaragua’s seismic potential), and ending the day spending several hours drawing the structural details for the bridge.
|Getting the low-down on bridge options.|
|Surveying across the drained pond to locate the new bridge.|
|The soils engineer got some help from a couple Nicaraguans|
to dig a soil test pit.
|The drained pond.|
Since as a trip leader I’m normally coordinating all the different disciplines on an EMI team, it was an unusual day to spend simply calculating and drawing! On this trip though, I’m here to ‘shadow’ the trip leader, Jon Burgi, since it’s just his second project trip. EMI trains trip leaders by having them co-lead on two trips – the first one they shadow an experienced EMI trip leader, and the second one another trip leader shadows them. Consequently, Jon is leading this trip with me along to just help out as needed.
|Jon Burgi and I, ready to depart from the Colorado Springs airport.|
Jon is also going to become our Latin America office Director once that office launches. After this project trip ends, the rest of the Latin America team is traveling down to confirm the presumed decision we’ve made to locate our future office here in Nicaragua.
|Meeting about the bridge design - selecting the right kind of|
bridge took us two days.
|The bridge design team - 3 structurals and a geotech.|
|The architectural team - they worked on a completely different|
project for the camp while we were there.