Mission trip to Nicaragua cut short for safety concerns

Tia Bopp (left), Lee Wells (Source: KAIT-TV)
Tia Bopp (left), Lee Wells (Source: KAIT-TV)
Charlie Brown (Source: KAIT-TV)
Charlie Brown (Source: KAIT-TV)

PARAGOULD, AR (KAIT) - A group of volunteers from Region 8 left for a mission trip in Nicaragua.

But, they were back home just a few days later.

This wasn't the first mission trip for Open Hearts Ministries.

And volunteers with the group have been to Nicaragua several times before.

But this time, they said they could sense a major difference.

It was a feeling of unease in the air and a look of fear in people's eyes.

Tia Bopp and Lee Wells said they knew immediately that this trip would not be the same as the ones previously taken.

"As soon as we got there you could just feel like depression and sadness," Bopp said. "It was just totally different from any other time we went."

Political unrest has caused violent protests across the country between those in favor and against the government.

Local media has reported over 100 people have died because of the protests that began in April.

And even in areas deemed safe, Wells said there's a tension in the atmosphere that wasn't there before.

"Traffic was a lot lighter, both foot traffic and vehicle traffic," Wells said. "People weren't out moving around as much as they normally were."

Regardless, the group went about their work spreading the message of God.

"When we got to go out and to minister door to door you could tell that some of it was a little different," Wells said. "But you could also see a hunger in some of their eyes that they were really glad we were there."

But, days later, Executive Director of Open Hearts Ministries Charlie Brown said things he was observing that were escalating overnight made the decision for him to send the rest of the group home.

"I was fearful for their safety and concerned for that so we sent them home early," Brown said.

However, Brown decided to stay behind.

Along with teaching the Gospels, the group was there to help drill a water well.

And Brown was determined to see it through.

"My intentions were staying to help drill the water well on Monday," Brown said.

But, Brown watched barricade after barricade being set up throughout the city. And he feared there would soon be no way out.

"It really gave me uneasiness inside thinking I could really get blocked off from getting to the airport to get out," Brown said.

So Brown booked a plane ticket and flew out the next day.

And it was at the airport when he realized, he was making the right decision.

"I met other missionaries that had been doing work there for 25, even 30 years," Brown said. "And they were getting out, so I knew then that it was time to get out and come home."

Though the trip was cut much shorter than they expected, the entire group got home feeling accomplished.

"Ten people gave their lives to Christ," Brown said. "So I believe the mission that was set before us was accomplished just through those short few days we got to spend."

"That's 10 more people that we're going to see in heaven than if we wouldn't have gone," Bopp said.

And Brown said their work isn't finished.

Now that they're back in Region 8, they're working to get donations and most importantly, prayers sent back to Nicaragua.

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