“What is it you like to do?” Patti Bunk asked Gustavo as they sat visiting. She looked around his home noticing the badly damaged walls and roof. A boy of 12 years, Gustavo is one of 48 children currently sponsored in Nicaragua through Patti’s child sponsorship program.
“I love growing vegetables and flowers,” he said with a large smile. Patti’s heart did a twirl. As an agriculturalist who loves to grow food, she was excited to discover this common bond with Gustavo.
Before encountering Patti and her ministry, his was surviving off just one tortilla a day. And in addition to being severely malnourished, Gustavo was also unable to attend school because he lacked the supplies he needed. In Nicaragua, if you don’t have school supplies, you don’t go to school. End of story.
Since entering the sponsorship program, Gustavo and his mother and three siblings have gone from barely eating to having three meals a day. He also now has the supplies he needs for school. His gratefulness was evident to Patti in a thank you letter he wrote sharing about how much the program has impacted him and his family’s life.
Patti had wanted to learn more about the wonderful children in her program and had started by setting up a time to meet with Gustavo and get to know him.
“So,” said Patti, thinking about the little garden she had noticed outside when she had arrived. “If I give you books about agriculture, would you study them?”
“Absolutely!” Gustavo beamed.
Patti gave Gustavo a hug. Sometimes it felt like her heart might burst from the love she felt for these children. She knew Gustavo didn’t have access to the things he needed to grow a successful garden, but she was feeling a spark inside her to change that.
A Holy Discontent
Patti has always been deeply burdened for children who are not eating. Long before she began ministry, her mind and heart would often ponder hungry children around the world. So when Missions Door missionary Rigo Reyes came to her church and shared about his ministry in Nicaragua, Patti knew she wanted to start helping people.
She began by leading short-term teams to Nicaragua. With each trip, she found herself awakened to the extent of poverty there as she witnessed children living in horrible conditions where many weren’t eating or receiving an education. In fact, poverty effects about 58% of the population. Every time, Patti returned home broken-hearted, asking God, “What are we going to do?”
In 2013, after two years of leading teams, Patti was appointed as a missionary with Missions Door. Today, she serves as an advocate for people living in poverty and has developed the Nicaragua Child Sponsorship Program.
Making a trip to Nicaragua every four months, she spends her time there learning the culture and connecting with people. You could ask Patti about any one of the children in the sponsorship program, and she could tell you all about them because she knows them each personally. She deeply values the importance of building trusting and on-going relationships with the children and families she works with.
“I’m not just sponsoring children. I want to be in their lives, teaching them the Bible every day,” says Patti.
A Sustainable Dream
Patti’s courage to follow God’s call is creating a tremendous impact in the lives of hungry and hurting families in Nicaragua. But for Patti, it’s about more than just meeting one need. She wants to see more and more of these precious children have full bellies, an education, and a relationship with Jesus.
Partnering with Missions Door indigenous missionaries Rigo Reyes and Juan Carlos, Patti is connected with children in the greatest need. She not only works to provide the essentials they deserve but is working to develop a way to teach skills for sustainable living and present the life-changing message of the Gospel on daily basis.
“I want to see women and children grow in their faith in Christ. And I want to help educate them and teach them how to grow food,” says Patti. By teaching sustainable living, Patti knows there will be less and less children and families going hungry every day.
But to make this possible, she has to ignite the vision in others. Right now, Patti can’t continue ministry without more partners supporting her financially. She is working hard to share her dreams of reaching more and more children, most of whom live in extremely rural areas of Nicaragua that have not been reached by any other mission’s organizations. She prays more people will join her in impacting Nicaragua for Christ by giving to the sponsorship program, or witnessing the need for themselves by joining a short-term team to Nicaragua.
“If I can share the passions I have, then maybe someone else will find that passion too,” says Patti.
Through it all, Patti is trusting God to take care of the details and she never could have imagined the journey He would have for her. She only knows that she must advocate for hungry children in Nicaragua and share her vision with as many as she can.