CONCORD TOWNSHIP – Local missionaries Ben and Dagny (Henderson) Dunham are in the process of selling everything they own, including their rural Urbana home, to move from one of the world’s richest countries to one of the world’s poorest countries. Their goal – to change lives and in turn, change the future for generations of people who call the Central American nation of Nicaragua home.
While the Dunhams, who started Thirsty Soul Missions this past fall, have already made several trips to the country of 6 million people, when they depart for their new home in September, they will do so surrounded by a team of 11. Ranging in ages from 6 months to 15 years old, the additional company just so happens to be the Dunhams’ 11 children: Ryan, James, Riley, Mason, Daisy, Rosey, Rylin, Lily, Violet, Iris and Ryder.
“It all started because we had both taken mission trips to different places, but when we came home, it was really hard for our family to relate to what we experienced, so we were thinking it would be great to take our family with us so they could see what we saw and experience what we experienced,” said Mrs. Dunham, a 1992 graduate of Graham High School.
Taking into account the current state of the world, the Dunhams said they feel there is no better time than now to take their missionary work to people in need, and at the same time, teach their children valuable lessons in humanity and being thankful for what they have.
“We want to teach them to love other people, especially when bad stuff is happening all around and people don’t know what to do,” Mrs. Dunham said. “What God says is when there is evil, the way to overcome that is by doing good.
“Our family doesn’t have a lot compared to others in the United States, but we still have a lot more than 90 percent of the people in Nicaragua. We want our kids to see there are people in the world who have a lot less than them, and while everybody wants to compare themselves to those who have more, the best thing to do is compare yourself to someone who has less, then you realize how much you do have.”
According to Forbes magazine, Nicaragua is the poorest country in Central America based on per capita gross domestic product (GDP), and it’s the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere behind only Haiti.
When the Dunhams sat down to decide where Thirsty Soul Missions could have the biggest impact, they selected Nicaragua for two main reasons – safety and overall need of the people.
“Nicaragua (GPI ranking of 69th overall) is actually rated safer than the United States (ranked 103rd) on the Global Peace Index,” Mr. Dunham said.
As for how many Nicaraguans live, Mr. Dunham said, it’s to the point where not even basic needs are met.
Having visited the country a few times, Mrs. Dunham added, “We were just blown away by how people live so differently from us, and how we have so much.
“Many don’t have access to running or clean water, and people are living under sticks and tarps. You’ve got young children who play in dumps and are being prostituted for food, and you have a lot of single moms and disabled people who don’t have any care,” she said.
Only time will tell how much change the Dunhams can bring to the people of Nicaragua, but the family of 13 are determined to make a difference.
“We really want to help in some way,” Mrs. Dunham said. “It might only be one person at a time, but we feel like God can use us to make a difference in someone’s life.”
When the Dunham 13 arrive at their new home somewhere near Jinotega, Nicaragua, in late September, the family plans to immediately begin its mission of being “SAFE” to the people of the country.
“‘SAFE’ is the acronym we came up with which represents our goals to serve, adopt, feed and educate,” Mr. Dunham said. “Those are the four areas we would like to focus our energy on.”
The premise behind “SAFE” is outlined as follows:
•Serve: Building homes, churches and praying for those in need
•Adopt: Providing financial help and support to widows, children and the disabled to meet their needs
•Feed: Providing food to widows, children and the disabled
•Educate: Teaching life skills, vocational skills and the Bible to bring about changed lives and a brighter future for families
Carrying out Thirsty Soul Missions’ “SAFE” goals isn’t something that will take place within a few months or even a year, Mrs. Dunham said, so the family is unsure how long they will call Nicaragua home.
“We know the first year we are there is going to be a lot of learning the language (Spanish) and the culture,” she said. “By the second and third years, we hope to be able to do more like helping to build homes, setting up a financial program to help people go to school, creating a program to help support widows and the disabled, and creating feeding programs for kids.”
Having already met many Nicaraguans on their previous mission trips, the Dunhams said they are confident the family will be able to transition well with help from the natives.
“They are super helpful, kind, and eager to learn English from us,” Mrs. Dunham said. “They were also eager to teach us Spanish. I think it made them feel good to teach us their language.
“If we can go over there and use the little we have to bless someone else, that’s what will make us happy,” she added.
To help fund their mission work, the Dunhams have set up a website at www.thirstysoul.org where people can learn more about the mission and donate toward the effort.
The family has also scheduled several fundraisers from now until September. More information can be found on the Thirsty Soul Missions Facebook page.
Joshua Keeran may be reached at 937-652-1331 (ext. 1774) or on Twitter @UDCKeeran.