Nicaragua (MNN) — Crossroad Bible Institute, a discipleship ministry to prison inmates, recently opened its sixth international and its first Central American Distribution Center [DC] in Estelí, Nicaragua. Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America, and Estelí is its third largest city.
Nicaragua incarcerates 5,600 people in eight prisons. The State Department reports that the Nicaraguan prison system is overcrowded and lacks food, sanitation, infrastructure, and medical supplies.
A minister in the United Reformed Church, Rev. Eric Pennings, played a significant role in the opening of the new DC. He travels extensively in Latin America and witnessed Nicaragua's "unbelievable" prison conditions.
"I was shown where the prisoners are kept. They are ‘housed' like animals in here!" he said.
Despite the harsh conditions, eighteen incarcerated students have already completed more than 50 Bible lessons. Poor conditions in the country require the lessons to be hand-delivered to the students.
Rev. Pennings recruited Emerson and Martina Wilson–missionaries in Nicaragua for ten years– to run the new CBI program in Estelí. The Wilsons have already begun the Bible lesson ministry and trained three more CBI instructors. CBI instructors correct the Bible lessons and correspond with the students.
Though Nicaragua is now a tourist destination, it is also a third-world country that experienced civil war and rule by the Marxist Sandinistas in the 1980's. Though democratic elections defeated the Sandinistas in the 1990's, the CIA World Factbook explains that a former Sandinista was elected in 2006, and the nation is still recovering from the civil war and from Hurricane Mitch.