A Mission with Roots

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In 1920 Luis-Alberto Amador-Cantarero was born in Matagalpa, Nicaragua to Federico Amador and Angela Cantarero. Times were tight but happiness abounded in the bustling agricultural town, known for coffee, cattle, and cornfields.

As a young man he worked side by side with his father, who was a hard worker and owned several farms. One of many brothers, Luis-Alberto, known as “Alberto” or “Chele” (a knick-name, meaning “fair-skinned”) was closest to oldest sibling, Armando, and had many friends. Jovial and a wild joke-teller, some say he was a gentleman, while others say he was a cowboy.

In 1949 Alberto married Filomena Lopez-Midence on a quiet May day in La Reyna village outside of San Ramón. Filomena, whom everyone called “Menita”, was from Ocotal and had a little business with her sister

Aurora cooking for “la gerencia” (the upper management) at the gold mine. She caught the eye of Alberto who worked as a production supervisor at “la mina,” and also knew her through family connections in Matagalpa.

That is where it all began, in a humble village where hombres outnumbered mujeres sixty to one and Menita swore there were more “perros” (dogs) than “gente” (people).

The couple’s first home was on the grounds of the Somoza-owned gold mine. Canadians and Americans frequented the mine and two of Alberto’s sisters married North Americans and emigrated. Alberto had no desire to leave Nicaragua and was happy sharing married life with Menita.

With a vision of owning his own farm, he and Menita moved down the road to San Ramón and rented an old adobe home from two sisters, Eulalia and Anita Castro. The spinster hermanas were devout Catholics and became lifelong friends of the newlyweds.

In the large, rustic home that sat on the corner of Main Street, Alberto and Menita raised their first five children, scrimping and saving in order to offer Eulalia and Anita a decent sum for some adjoining land the sisters owned. Time and time again, Eulalia and Anita refused to sell, though, saying they intended to keep the acreage and gift it to their church. As years passed and the sisters became like aunts to Menita and Alberto’s children, the Castros finally agreed to sell them one of the adjoining parcels and Alberto began constructing the family home at once.

As funds ran low from the savings he’d earned at the mine, Alberto reached out to his close friend and cousin, Fausto, to lend him a hand. Fausto, who was an important advisor to the president of Nicaragua, Anastasio Somoza, immediately obliged. Alberto felt very grateful and paid the money back quickly, never splurging for so much as a piece of clothing while indebted to his favorite cousin.

At Menita and Alberto’s new home, they welcomed children six, seven, eight, and nine, who were all born at home and tended to by midwives or nurses. Their eighth son, Nelson, was the only baby delivered by Alberto’s sister, Mercedes. The numerous, joyful family completely filled the country residence where Menita baked and sold bread and laughter was always present.

The nine young “Amadores” enjoyed the golden years of Nicaragua together, when their republic had a strong economy, nearly twice the size of all the other Central American countries combined. Around their town, farms of all types and sizes loaded rancher’s trucks with bountiful harvests of vegetables, fruit, and coffee. “Los chavalos” (the kids) helped in the family store where Alberto and Menita sold everything from eggs and sugar to nails and kerosene.

Almost at the end of the line, little Nelson, or “Nelcito” was kind, quiet, and stubborn. A fierce marbles and tops player, he daydreamed of speaking English and playing pro baseball. As a star shortstop and second-baseman he spent weekends traveling to villages all over North Nicaragua to face opposing teams on dirt fields that filled with mosquitoes at dusk.

Of the nine siblings, Nelson was the varón (young man) who liked working in the family store the least. While his older brothers and sisters enjoyed talking with the townspeople and selling groceries, he preferred working in the fields with his papa.
In the rural setting where they lived, many migrant agricultural workers and “campesinos” suffered hard times, especially when excessive or insufficient rainfall ruined crops. Nelson watched and listened as his parents shared food, clothing, and a kind word or prayer with needy people almost daily. When times became even more trying in later years, he could not believe it when his Papa opened their personal grain silos and gave the family’s precious food supply away in its entirety to hungry townspeople.

By the time Nelson was eleven, Papa Beto had changed jobs to work as a Power Plant Manager in Wabule and passed his after-work hours on the family’s small farm behind the home. After school, Nelson and his papa moved animals, gathered feed, and cared for the cows and pigs that supplied the store and family with meat, milk and cheese. Nelson enjoyed their time together, even though most of their conversations had to do with work. Not every lesson was easy at his papa’s side, as Alberto demanded early rising and quality work. On one occasion Nelson misunderstood the measurements of fence posts to be cut, and learned a hard lesson on how to “measure twice and cut once.” In all their activities, he saw his papa’s work ethic and generosity towards others, which Alberto always explained was possible “Gracias a Dios” (thanks to God).

Increasingly unstable government began affecting the household in the early 70’s. Fausto, the cousin who lent funds to Alberto for the family home, talked of “trouble with the communists.” Despite Fausto’s personal love of democracy, his son, Carlos, was attracted to the dissidents. Alberto recognized the danger in becoming involved with either side and vowed to keep his nine children out of both the revolutionary movement and the government’s battle to hold onto power. Day by day, his desire to protect his family from the violent factions proved more and more difficult.

In 1979 the Sandinistas toppled Somoza and everyone thought their troubles were over. Peace was short-lived however, when the regime began confiscating homes and businesses, and persecuting those with wealth or connections to the ousted Somoza family. Armed counter-revolutionary groups were sprouting up all over the country in protest. Neighbors and politicians fled and Alberto was left in charge of the municipality and asked to serve as mayor. When Nicaraguans lined up for rationed soap and state-controlled provisions, Alberto and Menita, like so many others, knew that their beloved republic was headed for trouble again.

One by one, Alberto and Menita shipped off their sons and daughters to safety in the U.S., where Alberto’s sisters who had married North Americans provided a safety net for some of the kids. Most of them landed in South Florida, at least in the beginning, where they applied for residency in the states. Nelson did not wish to go join them and was reluctant to leave his parents’ side.

Knowing that Nelson would not depart willingly, Alberto took him to Miami, saying they’d visit his siblings there. After a few weeks of celebrating the family’s reunion and safety, Papa Beto gave Nelson the sad news that he must stay in Florida and make a new life for himself in the United States. Feeling frustrated, but no longer afraid, Nelson said good-bye to his father in March of 1983. Alone, Alberto headed back to Matagalpa, the epicenter of the revolution, where, ironically, Carlos Fonseca Amador, the son of Alberto’s favorite democracy-loving cousin, Fausto, had been the founder of the uprising that led to the demise of the Somoza administration.

For the Amador children, life in Miami was incredibly different from life in San Ramón. It wasn’t easy to get around in the new surroundings with tall buildings, busy streets, fast highways, and signs in English. The lives of the young adults were taking off in different directions as each one dealt with their own longing for Nicaragua. Everyone missed the warmth of the family home in San Ramón.

To make matters worse, work permits for all the siblings were slow in coming. Nelson visited the U.S. immigration office weekly to check on the status of his application for political asylum. Without an employment authorization, having only proof of his filing, he worked sixty-hour weeks at a Cuban grocery store to satisfy a required bond, which was needed in the early 80’s for employers who contracted immigrants in process. Determined to get ahead and make a new life as his father advised, Nelson gave his all at work as a meat cutter for Sedano’s. Unfortunately, this harmed him more than it helped him, as he lifted heavy sides of beef and pork and wound up with two herniated disks in his back.

At the young age of 24, Nelson ended up needing major surgery when he realized the crippling pain would never cease on its own. His orthopedic surgeon advised him to, “quit work and lie flat on your back for a year. Then teach yourself how to walk again.”

Realizing he’d never get the rest and care he needed in Miami, Nelson made an important decision to relocate to Seattle, where his Tia (Aunt) Mercedes, who had delivered him when he was born, was living with other members of the Amador family.

The Pacific Northwest turned out to be a great move for Nelson. In 1986 and ‘87 he was able to do physical therapy to heal his back and he enrolled in community college to improve his English. When he met Tanya Mroczek, in 1988, his life was already back on track.

Tanya, a Seattle area native, studied in France and was very fluent in French by the time she returned. During her tenure there, she tutored students in English and was able to travel all over Europe, also doing homestays in Germany and Switzerland. She also comes from “international stock,” with her father being of Polish and French-Canadian descent, and her mother being born in Brazil to Ukranian parents. A lover of foreign language and culture, Tanya quickly enlisted Nelson’s older brother, Roberto, to help her learn Spanish and embraced the culture she now found herself immersed in. Today she is fluent in three languages.

They married in 1991 and melded two cultures and families, agreeing that some day they might call San Ramón their home. In 1993 they brought their newborn son to Nicaragua for the first time and on the same trip witnessed a woman give birth on a rocky street in front of a health center angrily closed by striking workers. “If we keep coming here I know I am going to want to start something, anything to help these people,” Tanya told Nelson. They returned almost every year as their family grew, bringing donated clothes and items for infants in the early 90’s.

The eventual idea of establishing a vital mission in Nelson’s hometown of San Ramon, Nicaragua, was first proposed in 1999 by Tanya, although Papa Beto’s (Nelson’s Dad, Alberto’s) serving heart and benevolent ways are what paved the way for Corner of Love to begin. He had planted the seed for the creation of a ministry in Nicaragua after Tanya returned home from a mission trip to Cuernavaca, Mexico. In the spring of 1999 she had accompanied teens from their church to conduct Vacation Bible School and evangelize in Mexican border towns. “I could help you if you might begin a work for the Lord in San Ramón,” Papa Beto said, while visiting his grandchildren.

After thinking about Papa Beto’s suggestion for almost a year, Tanya brought this desire to her pastor, Reverend David Sorensen in 2000. By the time they spoke, God had transformed the idea into much more than a distant dream and Tanya asked David to help. Over dinner, Tanya and Nelson Amador and David discussed the needs of impoverished people in Nicaragua and how God might be glorified there.

Another family trip to Nicaragua that year helped get things moving. Tanya and Nelson saw poverty spreading. Record-low coffee prices had made for a devastating economic year and poorly-dressed, hungry children were begging everywhere in the streets of Matagalpa. Papa Beto proposed that the house donated by Eulalia & Anita Castro to the San Ramón Catholic Parish in 1975 be used for the new mission. A special story was behind that gift, he explained to Tanya. It was the same adobe house he and Menita had lived in, and he had never forgotten the request the two sisters asked of Menita and himself to make sure something special was done there for the good of the townspeople.

Tanya and Nelson returned to Washington with the recommendation to begin the ministry by building a Soup Kitchen to nourish the needy both physically and spiritually. The name “Corner of Love” was chosen because the two considered San Ramón a little corner of the world that they have much love for.

Pastor Dave was quick to help and fundraising began immediately. The very first event was an after-church offering of homemade oatmeal where members gave donations for their warm breakfast. Many small-scale, homegrown fundraisers followed as Tanya tried to collect the first amount needed for the land-clearing and foundation of the new building. Then, a miracle happened.

A family friend and member of their church became ill. Faced with a poor prognosis, Gordon Schiff and his wife Kim decided to trust in the Lord and release all worry about his future to God. As part of this decision (and in the midst of medical treatment for his disease) he decided to donate all of the funds needed to construct Corner of Love’s building.

On a summer evening in 2001, Pastor Dave called to tell Tanya of the man’s gift. Tanya and Nelson were overjoyed and construction got underway immediately. Nelson’s Dad, Papa Beto, acted as volunteer foreman of the project and local contractors were sought to erect the 3,000 square foot Soup Kitchen.

In 2002 and 2003, the Amadors’ church spent approximately $25,000 U.S. to complete the project. The feeding program quickly expanded into a pre-school, but in the end, one thing was missing; water. San Ramón’s outdated cistern system was routinely leaving the town without potable water for days at a time and the need for clean drinking water was growing more pronounced each day.

Just after opening the building in 2003, Tanya got busy trying to find funds for a well at the new ministry site. A church in the North Seattle area stepped in to help. They provided $7,000 U.S. to drill an industrial-capacity well that would offer a solution to the problem.

By 2004 Tanya and Nelson had led numerous mission teams to serve in San Ramon and the ministry was expanding rapidly. The Family Sponsorship program had grown to almost thirty needy families and teams distributed hundreds of Spanish bibles through home and church visits. Elisa Lewis was named co-director as Tanya continued to carry out all the mission activities as a ministry of her church. A need for medical and dental mission was seen and more trips were added to begin helping in this way.

Housing the teams was becoming an issue, as Nelson’s elderly parents welcomed the seventh team into the family home in 2005. That same year the well, donated by Corner of Love with funds from Trinity, produced more than 155 gallons of water per minute.

Because of unsatisfactory housing arrangements and frequent power and water outages, the mission founders decided to build their own dormitory for Corner of Love teams. This decision came about partly because the Catholic Church in San Ramón reneged on their agreement to provide bathing and drinking water to the teams at the Amador Residence from the well water. (The parish priest also negated a verbal contract to distribute water to the people from the building Corner of Love built on Catholic property.)

These events produced a very difficult time for Tanya and Nelson, as they changed course and began visioning and planning for their re-invented ministry as an independent 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Given the size that Corner of Love had reached, they would no longer be a ministry of their church and would seek to build new relationships with Evangelical churches in North Nicaragua.

The name “Corner of Love Ministries” was adopted in 2006 and the organization held its first charity auction in Renton, Washington, which raised more than $100,000 U.S. for the organization’s start-up. With the help and strong commitment of two special dentists, Dr. Richard Quinn and Dr. Michael Campbell, Corner of Love also invested in outfitting a Dental Clinic on Main Street in San Ramón. By late 2006 several mission teams were coming per year, serving roughly 8,500 Nicaraguans per year through village clinics and evangelization missions.

Orders for antibiotics, anti-parasite treatments, and other supplies for use in Corner of Love’s clinics surpassed $45,000 U.S. annually as the mission broke ground on a new, 18,000 square-foot dormitory in rural San Ramón.

This time, Corner of Love was careful to build on property that they fully controlled, using acreage Nelson Amador had owned since he was a teenager. “As a young man I grazed cattle up and down this land that my Papa and I named “Las Malvinas,” Nelson said when the land was dedicated on Feb. 13, 2006.

Private and public funds were used to erect the wonderful new home for team members and the name Quinta El Misionero (the Missionary Quinta) was chosen for the facility. At one of the first official Board of Directors meetings in 2007, the directors and the owners signed a $1 per year, long-term lease.

2008 was another year of growth and development for Corner of Love with the creation of its first formal support group (later called a Chapter) from Central Florida. This handful of mighty Christian friends helped Corner of Love add numerous mission activities and sped up the dormitory construction and décor.

In January 2009 a U.S. Headquarters office was opened in Maple Valley, Washington after nine years of operating out of Tanya’s home office. A ribbon cutting at the new dorm in Nicaragua followed in February.

Shoes distributions, grants for education, and clean water projects increased in size and frequency in the coming months, making 2009 another important year. Teams as large as 80 people partook in humanitarian projects that reached out to more than 15,000 impoverished people. Almost all the work was being done through mobile clinics, without any real mission base to care for patients.

Having identified a need for a public place for medical and optical clinics, as well as education programs and church development activities, Corner of Love next began seeking land to build a mission plaza.

Hopeful that God would provide acreage within a kilometer or two of Quinta El Misionero, Nelson and Tanya placed three offers on properties nearby. When all three contracts went unaccepted they were left wondering if it was God’s will for them to build again. A second miracle brought the answer to them in a dream.

In the dream, a clear vision of the finished mission plaza revealed three beautiful ministry buildings situated next to a river.

When the next opportunity to purchase property presented itself, imagine the surprise when the seller said it was on La Lima River!
The transaction closed swiftly and in February 2010, Corner of Love was visited by U.S. Ambassador Robert Callahan for the land blessing and ground-breaking ceremony.

The three building plaza was designed to include a Leadership School, a Church & Development Center, and a Clinic with medical, dental, and optical exam rooms. Initial bids for the 17,000 square-foot project totaled $271,000 U.S.

Sustainable Income Activities were added in 2010 offering ways for Nicaraguans to take measurable steps out of poverty through three new programs; “PEQ EMP” – aid to small business owners (pequeños empresarios); “Nativos” – help for native artisans and performers seeking to turn their love of culture into steady employment; and “Sowing Seeds of Hope” – a cottage industry sewing program for women. (The latter with help from a group from Lynnwood, Washington.)

At the end of 2010, $1.6 million worth of medicine and supplies had been distributed to the poorest of the poor in North Nicaragua and the Dental Clinic, Quinta, U.S. Office, and Chapters were all being used and expanding exponentially.

Additional teams filled the calendar again in 2011 and Rimrock Foundation granted Corner of Love $45,000 to purchase a mission vehicle and trailer for hauling medicine and clinic supplies. Construction at La Lima River continued, with the main floors of two of the buildings nearing completion. In June, when Corner of Love hosted its largest team ever, made up of 138 volunteers, the monumental group held a school shoes distribution event at the new riverfront facility. Approximately 1,550 school-aged children received new shoes and supplies.

By winter 2011, Corner of Love prepared for its 6th annual dinner gala, Winter Dreams. A decision was made to move the event to a magnificent hotel in Downtown Seattle. For the first time, multiple out-of-state (and out-of-country) chapters were represented at the function and the event’s collection provided abundantly for ongoing construction at La Lima River.

Before the passing of Menita in 2011, Corner of Love announced that the new Leadership School would bear the name of Alberto and Menita Amador, recognizing their unwavering willingness to help and lead the citizens of San Ramón.

Going into the 2012 year, Nelson and Tanya focused on strengthening Corner of Love’s clean water operations, Church Development program, and developing their Nicaraguan non-profit (this status is called personeria juridica). Approximately 25 villages began managing financial donations from Corner of Love to improve potable water systems and Corner of Love supported twelve church plants and construction projects.

After the first four brigades in 2012, land adjacent to Quinta El Misionero came on the market and The Amadors found themselves needing to quickly raise funds to purchase the neighboring tract. God’s timing once again proved different than their own, but God’s provision meant that they were able to complete the purchase.

Four level acres to the North of their home in San Ramon will someday be the site of Corner of Love’s future Water Center, where they plan to centralize all water and environment projects and plans, as well as storing a well-drilling rig and constructing native water “filtrones” (filtration systems).

Thirty years after leaving war-torn Nicaragua in 1983, Nelson Amador retired from his journeyman meat cutter position at Safeway to serve God through Corner of Love full-time. The next stage of the mission will undoubtedly include many more adventures as he and Tanya commit to spending more time in Nicaragua and transition into the mission’s Global Directors, beginning the process of turning over the U.S. reigns to Regional Directors and Chapter Leaders.

Finally, Nelson is back in his home country and the two are doing what they love most; serving others.