April 10, 2014 at 3:40 p.m.

Used baseball equipment goes a long way to Leon

Used baseball equipment goes a long way to Leon
Used baseball equipment goes a long way to Leon

Extraordinary things happen all the time. Sometimes, they go unnoticed, but sometimes the deed benefits so many people that it is better to be shared. A simple phone call in 2013 started a chain reaction from Taylors Falls to Nicaragua that ended with a large group of impoverished children being presented with baseball equipment like they had never seen before.

On Eagles Wings Ministry (OEWM), a national ministry dedicated to serving people all over the world, had a director, Oscar Corea in Nicaragua who needed baseball equipment for a group of less fortunate children. Corea had made connections with OEWM volunteers through previous mission trips, and he knew this would be something they could come through on. Lori Bjork, a Taylors Falls resident and OEWM member, shared the need with her friends in the Chisago Lakes area, and in turn, they shared it with their friends and families. It eventually made it’s way to Jackie Wojtowicz and she contacted the parents of her two sons’ baseball teams, and that really got the ball rolling. By February of this year, there were bags-full of baseball equipment that were ready for a trip down South to Nicaragua. “That was just awesome,” Bjork said. “The generosity of those families and kids made such a difference and we can’t thank them enough.”

An OEWM group took the trip down to Leon, Nicaragua to bring the two large bags of baseball equipment, as well as some kids clothing and toys. “The kids are so very grateful for the opportunity to play baseball and they smile the biggest smiles I have ever seen,” Bjork explained. “They all hug you and thank you in ways I have never experienced before. They appreciate the donations so much and they appreciate everyone who is able to give to them through the donation or delivery process. They know that without the help from people in the US most of them would not be able to play baseball.” The equipment goes to the baseball program, so it is meant to benefit more than just one group of kids. It’s meant to be passed along and used by different generations of kids as long as it will hold up. But, the program isn’t just limited to providing equipment to the children in the Leon. Bjork told the story of a child in October of 2013, “We spent some time watching a team practice and distributed gear that others had donated. One of the children on the team had been selected to be on the youth all star team and play a championship game in Managua in the professional baseball stadium,” she told. “This child was not able to play in the game because the parents did not have the money to send him or transportation to get him there. Thanks to donations and support from our supporters of OEWM this child was able to go. Making dreams come true is a reality when people become generous.”

The ministry doesn’t just deal in sports and baseball either. Bjork, who has been on four Nicaraguan trips, said they also bring donations of children’s and adult clothing, shoes, school supplies and kitchen equipment. “We have a group of supporters in the Chisago Lakes area and greater Minnesota that are very generous with their time and money,” she said. “People have been so generous to this ministry and we are so thankful for each and every person who has given in some way.” Bjork said sometimes, the itinerary can be tough simply because of the amount of supplies the missionaries have to bring down. “One of our trips to Nicaragua only had five members on the team but we were able to gather 19 large suitcases full of donations,” she said in an anecdote from 2012. “We each had a carry on bag with our personal items so we had five people moving 24 bags of luggage through the airport. That was a lot of work but so worth it.” Why Nicaragua? Nicaragua is the second poorest country in Latin America after Haiti.

Poverty is largely a rural problem. Close to 50 percent of the people live in rural areas. According to the United Nations Development Program, 48 percent of the population live below the poverty line, 80 percent of the population live with less than $2 per day. According to UN figures, 80 percent of the indigenous people (who make up five percent of the population) live on less than $1 per day. The average person in the U.S.A. lives on $90 per day. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations identifies 1.5 million people as undernourished. Forty-six percent of the population does not have access to sustained sanitation services.

How can people help? Getting involved is easy. Most of the donations come from private homes and garages where they have excess or unwanted items just lying around, Bjork said. “They can gather it up and give to us. We will haul it down to Nicaragua. We take all items new or used (in good condition). We haul the gear in suit cases and check it with the airlines. This gets expensive so we also appreciate donations for checked bag fees that are currently $40 - $100 per bag depending on the weight and airline we are flying.” There is a Facebook page called On Eagles Wings Ministry and they will soon be launching a website at oneagleswingsministry.org. Until the site is up and running, interested parties can contact Bjork at [email protected] or by mail at On Eagles Wings Ministry, PO Box 224, Taylors Falls, MN 55084.

“To know you are making a difference in the life of an innocent child is the most rewarding part of this endeavor,” Bjork said. “Giving them hope for a brighter future and doing it in the name of Jesus. Receiving the biggest hugs from little boys and young men who aren't worried about getting girl germs from an old lady. The only difference between the kids in Nicaragua and the United States is where they were born. We have a language barrier with these kids but we speak the same language of love. A hug, a smile, a hand shake all mean the same thing no matter where you live. It gives us so much joy to see the kids faces light up when they receive the gifts that were donated.”


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