Saturday, January 12, 2008
With help from Canada, worldwide Lutheranism added a new church body January 11. In Chinandega, Nicaragua, a city northwest of Managua, representatives of 23 Lutheran congregations voted to form Iglesia Luterana Sinodo de Nicaragua.
The congregations in the area are the result of a pastor from Winnipeg-based Lutheran Church-Canada meeting the community's spiritual and physical needs for more than ten years. Rev. Sandor Arguello, a refugee to Canada during the Nicaraguan civil war, received his theological training at LCC's Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary on the campus of Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario. Two years after graduation, he accepted the assignment to Nicaragua and moved to Chinandega with his wife and three children.
The Canadian Lutheran church had received an invitation to begin working in the area.
Eighteen months later, in October 1998, Arguello found himself heavily involved with disaster relief following a mudslide resulting from Hurricane Mitch. More than 3000 persons died and thousands were left homeless. The pastor rallied support from Canada and the US providing immediate at long-term relief.
In the years since, the church has grown to more than 6000 members in 23 congregations and provides a school program for some 700 children and operates two sewing schools.
With teachers from Canada, the Nicaraguan church has trained 16 pastors and 30 deaconesses who serve the communities where the churches are located.
Following the formation the church, the 81 delegates elected Pastor Luis Antonio Díaz Turcio the church body's first president. Pastor Luis, 47 years old, is a native of Chinandega and has served Emmanuel congregation since 2002, the year of his ordination. Before becoming a pastor, Luis studied communications at university and worked with drug addicts as a probation officer.
Delegates will elect the remaining members of the six-member church governing council before the convention concludes Sunday morning.