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Christmas Greetings from Nicaragua

Highland Presbyterian Church received Christmas greetings from the Sundberg family. Justin and Renee Sundberg are Presbyterian Church (USA) Mission Co-Workers who serve in Nicaragua with CEPAD (The Council of Protestant Church’s in Nicaragua). Our Nicaragua Mission team works with them for communication, support, and mission trips to visit with our partner community in Mirazul del Llano, Nicaragua. 

Much of the wonder of the holiday season is juxtaposition.  A warm thermos of cocoa savored in the frosty chill of a winter night.  The brilliance of tiny twinkling lights against a midnight sky.  A crying child on the lap of a jovial Santa.

During our first Christmas in Nicaragua we were struck by the contrast of the Christmas Eve we were used to and our new southern experience.  In the past we would go to a candlelight service at our church, climaxing in the singing of Silent Night.  In Nicaragua there is no hushed entrance of Christmas morning.  At midnight you hear a solid stream of fireworks that would rival the loudest July 4 in the states.  It is quite a contrast.  And yet the birth of Jesus was not only a quiet and humble event, witnessed by some livestock, but it was celebrated by a raucous and majestic chorus of angels filling a night sky.  Beautiful juxtaposition.

We see beautiful contrasts around us all the time.  A woman sweeping her dirt floor with care.  Torrential rain hitting ground that has been parched for months.  The hands of those who have little in material wealth linked in friendship with those who are almost always able to get not only what they need, but what they want.

We want to offer our deep gratitude for you as we bear witness to and participate in what is happening here.  For your friendship, your prayers, your financial support and all you do that allows us to be in a land of riches and poverty, hope and despair, joy and pain.  Know that you play a key role in bearing light to this part of the world. 

With our love,

Justin, Renée, Autumn, Jack, Cassie and Ethan

Christmas 2015


Mission Co-Worker Update: “SCRABBLING”

The Church in the World Committee of Highland Presbyterian Church discerned last year to support Presbyterian Church (USA) Mission Co-Workers Justin and Renee Sundberg. The Sundbergs serve in Managua, Nicaragua with CEPAD (The Council of Protestant Churches in Nicaragua). CEPAD is also a mission partner who facilitates our Nicaragua Mission Team’s (also known as the NUTS) ongoing covenant with the community in Mirazul, Nicaragua. When the team travels to Nicaragua, Justin is one of the people from CEPAD who guides, teaches, and supports our teams on the ground in Nicaragua. Justin and Renée share occasional updates about their with work in Nicaragua as Mission Co-Workers. Here is their most recent update.


Romans 8:26    “…the Spirit helps us in our weakness for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.”


“Scrambling,” describes our recent story well.   Our Nicaraguan brothers and sisters scramble too, though with much more toil.  Thank you for making it possible for us to live and work with these wonderful, but toiling Nicaraguans, to serve as a bridge of relationship with you.  Even on our most ragged and run-down days, we are carried by your love and support and thank God for you.  Thank you so much for sharing so generously in our ministry.


But it’s, “Scrabbling,” not Scrambling, that is on my mind.   I played a game of Scrabble yesterday image001 with our eldest son, Jack.  And then today some friends shared their approach to Scrabble — memorizing as many two or three-letter words as possible, even if they cannot recall their definitions.    This Scrabble strategy is an apt metaphor for us.  We piece each day together with words and growing relationships we don´t always fully comprehend.   There are times, to be sure, when our contributions are more elegant or strategic, but we usually feel a sense of accomplishment when we can participate in life even in the simplest of ways.


In our recent quarterly letters, we have not shared much about us personally.  Many of you have asked to hear more about how our kids are doing and how Renée’s health is.   Here is a brief update followed by a story which we hope underscores our gratitude for you and demonstrates some of what we are doing together, by God´s grace.


Renée’s dad has Alzheimer’s and since we arrived in Nicaragua last June, it has progressed.  Recalling most words is a struggle.  He has gotten lost and can no longer do much around the house.  It has been difficult for Renée’s mom not to have us nearby.


image002Autumn, Jack, Cassie and Ethan.  They deserve more than a group mention.  Each is thriving and struggling, each finding new words to include in their multilingual, multicultural puzzle.  Sometimes they feel stymied, waiting to draw a “vowel” from the Scrabble game of life so that they can make another play.  But more often, their creativity keeps them constantly on the move and discovering interesting new words.


Renée recovered from the elusive illnesses that plagued her during our initial four months.  After an early winter respite, the fever, fatigue, joint and back pain returned in the last few weeks.  She quickly returned to medical appointments and testing which ruled out several severe conditions.  Whew!  Next stop:  A visit with an orthopedic, a rheumatologist and a naturopath.   In spite of everything, she began regular Spanish language classes in January and is a fearless learner.  All along she had been jumping in at every chance to use her growing Spanish.  Additionally, she’s found joy in having new friends ask her to facilitate Bible studies and prayer groups.


In the lead-up to Christmas, it became clear that I, Justin, could benefit from counseling.  Trying to ensure that everything in our family and at work always goes according to plan was taking a toll on me.   In fact, my attempts to control family outcomes, not surprisingly, were having the opposite effect!  Last week I had my fifth visit with a counselor.  With her help and with the conviction that God wants to help me let go a little, things have improved.


In addition to a God who deeply loves us and the friendship and support we have from you, there are two other constants in our days:  Dust and Wind.  Dust coats every imaginable surface.  Wind rips away the screens on our home.  After three months of dust and wind, we await two more months until the rains return to refresh this land and give it its desperately needed bounty.


Much of Nicaragua suffers drought during this time of the year.  Recently I visited La Joya, a rural community two hours northeast of Managua.  La Joya community leaders showed us their four polluted and virtually dried-up water sources.  It is heartening to know that this community of 765 will soon have ample water thanks to CEPAD, our local host organization for whom we are working in partnership with Presbyterian World Mission.  Your relationship with us, the encouragement you give, your prayers, and the sharing of your financial resources all ensure that CEPAD continues strong.  So you can smile, too, along with this community, over their forthcoming vital new water supply!


Just as in La Joya, the tens of thousands living in the 41 communities in which CEPAD works tend to have deep faith lives and trust in Jesus, the great thirst quencher, who helps keep their dispositions generally hopeful, even with what we would call profound challenges to their health and wellbeing.  Our role as mission co-workers is to bring together Nicaraguans and North Americans in life’s maze of words and world experiences, each with unique gifts and deficits, creating space to better see Jesus’ work of personal and community renewal.

Our role as mission co-workers is to bring together Nicaraguans and North Americans in life’s maze of words and world experiences, each with unique gifts and deficits, creating space to better see Jesus’ work of personal and community renewal.

One student who participated on a recent visit from a North American team epitomizes our gratitude for the role we play as mission co-workers.  She is in her final year at a prestigious college.  At a reunion with her teammates after her CEPAD-facilitated trip to Nicaragua, she shared the shocking news that for the first time in her life, she went to a class and was totally uninterested in it.  A chaplain at the school quipped, “That’s nearly an indicator of the End Times!”   You see, this young adult, who loves school and learning, had discovered something new, something life-changing, that gave her an expanded vista.  What a poignant moment, just prior to entering the workforce, to have a changed heart and worldview!


Thank you for helping to substantially alter the lives not just of Nicaraguans, but also the lives of North Americans who visit.  We invite you to pray with us for Nicaragua, CEPAD and the North Americans in relationship to them.  If you like to write, but haven’t been able to do so since we left, would you consider sending us a note to let us know how you are?  And might you, if you have not already, join us by sharing of your financial resources in support of all of this?


May the Lord bless and keep you as you steward the tiles in your reach, knowing that you are in the hands of the One who can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.

With much love,

Justin and Renée


Please keep Justin and Renée and their family in prayer as they continue to serve in Nicaragua. To learn more about how you can get involved with their ministry or the partnership of the Nicaragua Mission Team with CEPAD, contact Matt Nickel at

Supporting our Mission Partners

PCUSA Mission Co-Worker Amanda Craft

One feature of the blog shares the work of Highland Presbyterian Church’s mission partners. In addition to the many ways church members put faith into action through mission, Highland supports a wide range of people and organizations doing working the world.  Church in the World, the mission team responsible for partnerships and mission engagement, discerns the congregations call to use available mission funds. One ministry the church supports is Mission Co-Worker Amanda Craft.


Amanda serves as the Regional Liaison for the Presbyterian Mission Agency and as the Facilitator for Mexico & Guatemala. Amanda’s husband serves as the Presbyterian Border Region Outreach Ministry. As the regional liaison, she serves as a facilitator of Presbyterian Church (USA) support the denomination’s relationships with mission partners in Guatemala and Mexico and their activity in the region. As regional liaison supports PC(USA) mission co-workers in through communication, encouragement and care. Amanda grew up at Highland Presbyterian Church and the congregation is proud to support her ministry in Central America.

Amanda Craft has been called to this position, and her husband, Omar Chan, serves the Border Outreach ministry in Mexico. He facilitates faithful and effective mission at each of the six border ministry sites to enhance the opportunity for PC(USA) members and congregations to participate in mutual mission along the Mexico/US border. This work addresses three critical global issues: root causes of poverty (especially as they impact women and children), sharing the good news of God’s love in Jesus Christ, and engaging in reconciliation amidst cultures of violence.

Read Amanda Craft’s blog to keep up with her work.

Download and Read a prayer card for their their work.

Watch a video of Amanda talking about her work.

Learn more about PCUSA’s work in Guatemala.

Learn more about PCUSA’s work in Mexico.