A Life of Sacrificial Love

Rachel Chimits

One woman in Nicaragua has given up everything to love others, and World Challenge’s partners were able to bless her with a gift she never expected.

“Ned Phillips remembers the moment when he froze in horror. While touring his new home near the capital Managua several years ago, he discovered a small, dark cage. He was told that until recently, this cage held a human being — a man with an intellectual disability,” Tomas Quinonez-Riegos reported for The World.

“Other Nicaraguans have similar recollections. As recently as 15 years ago, many people here who were born with intellectual disabilities were locked away, treated as animals, and feared as monsters.”

Children born with cognitive disabilities carry a heavy stigma in Nicaragua; around 70 percent of them are abandoned by at least one parent, usually the father since many locals believe that it’s the woman’s fault if a child has birth defects. While conditions are starting to improve for those born with disabilities, life is still challenging for those with disabilities and the family who choose to protect them.

The Cost of the Hurricanes

Cleotilde didn’t have to stay with her parents and sister who was born with a severe cognitive delay. She could have found a husband and left them to make do as best they could without her, but she chose to stay and help her mother and father care for her sister. She never married, instead dedicating herself to caring for her sister and aging parents, especially as her father began to lose his vision.

In 2020, when Nicaragua was hit by two hurricanes back-to-back, Cleotilde’s home was destroyed. The family lost everything to the storm surge and furious winds.

The strain of trying to figure out how they would survive became too much for Cleotilde’s mother. She had a stroke and passed away soon after. Because Cleotilde’s father was completely blind at this point, the responsibility for caring for both him and her sister in the wake of this crisis fell on Cleotilde’s shoulders.

When the family’s neighbors saw what had happened, they came together to help Cleotilde. No one was wealthy in this area, but they knew what she faced, and they gathered scraps of wood and pieces of sheet metal to build a small shack for the family so they would at least have basic shelter.

The Blessing of a Home

Some of Cleotilde’s neighbors approached World Challenge’s partners in Nicaragua and explained the family’s situation to them. Our partners were moved and used their funds and resources to help build Cleotilde and her family a new home, one on stilts so it would be above storm surges and with a firm steel roof that could withstand tropical storms and heavy rain.

Cleotilde cried tears of joy and grief.

They had shelter from the elements in the form of a cozy house she’d never anticipated owning, but her mother would never get to see their new home.  She said, “Even though my mother isn’t here with us to enjoy this gift from God, I know she is in a much better place.”

Being able to help someone who is living sacrificially is an incredible blessing to us and our partners, and we want to thank all of those who support this ministry and made Cleotilde’s new home possible.