Club Cristiano la Esperanza July 2014


Open Hearts Ministries, which ran a school inside Managua’s garbage dump (La Chureca), had to move when the dump was transformed into a landfill in the spring of 2013.  The ministry lost its building in the former  dump, but, with the help of Austin  Samaritans, a property in the new community of Villa Virgen de Guadalupe close to the reclaimed dump, was purchased.  In addition to one large functional building, the sizable lot also had the beginning of a second building.  It had four walls – but no roof, no floor, and no windows.
future kitchen

Austin Samaritans’ mission teams this year have painted the wall surrounding the site, installed ceiling fans in the larger multi-purpose building, and helped plaster the wall of the unfinished building.  The smaller building, when completed will become a kitchen, dining hall, and tutoring area.  Mission participants this coming October will help install a vegetable garden on the property and plant fruit trees.  The garden’s produce will be used for the feeding program and to help the ministry become self-sustaining.

The ministry itself underwent a transformation, when it moved from the old dump site.  Instead of a school, Open Hearts has formed Club Cristiano la Esperanza (Christian Club of Hope), a multi-faceted program to strengthen and enrich the lives of children living in poverty, many of whom lived in La Chureca, the former dump.  The ministry now consists of a Christian pre-school with 98 children, a mentoring program for 200 grade-school students; a twice-a-day feeding program for these children, and more.


A scholarship program has been created, as well as a high school youth group and a La Crosse team which plays in a local league.  Guitar and art classes are also offered.  It is a place full of activity, learning, and joy as children are helped to succeed in school, encouraged to continue their education, and offered a variety of extracurricular activities to explore, while learning how much God loves them.

Adios to Tom


Tom Lye, second from left, completed his three-year Board term with austin Samaritans this summer.  The only reason we let him go was his promise to keep working on our annual Golf Scramble.  Tom has been an invaluable member of the Golf Scramble planning committee, as well as an enthusiastic and faithful Board member.
Beginning first as a player in the golf tournament, Tom became more involved with Austin Samaritans and graduated to service on the Board of Directors, serving as the liaison to the golf fundraiser committee.  In 2013, he was awarded the first ever “Sponsor Magnet Award” for recruiting 16 sponsors for the tournament.  He deserves much of the credit for the 2013 tournament raising significantly more funds than previous tournaments.  He has recruited others to serve on the committee and has a lifetime job as far as we are concerned.  Thank you Tom!


Farewell to Claudia and Bill!


It was with a mixture of sadness, laughter, and deep gratitude that Austin Samaritans bid good-bye and God bless to founding board members, Claudia and Bill Biel.  Claudia and Bill were part of the original group that returned from a mission trip to Nicaragua in 2006 and  felt God was calling them to do something about the people suffering in poverty and deplorable conditions.  After helping to found Austin Samaritans, they devoted themselves to our cause for seven years, including numerous mission trips to Nicaragua.
Bill, a general practitioner in Elgin, Texas, shared his medical skills and expertise while Claudia helped run vacation Bible schools, worked with women coming out of prostitution, loved abused and abandoned babies, and did anything else she found that was needed.  Both of them were willing to dig in and help, whether it was working in the hot sun to build a home in Nicaragua, sharing Austin Samaritans’ story with others, or registering golfers at our annual fundraiser.  We miss them very much, but our prayers are with them as they move on to new challenges and family responsibilities.  They will continue to promote Austin Samaritans and volunteer. They are gone from the Board, but remain in Austin and in our hearts.

Hill Country Bible Church Dripping Springs July, 2014 Mission Trip


Austin Samaritans hosted a family mission trip for Hill Country Bible Church Dripping Springs July 26 through August 2.  Lead Pastor Jason McNutt, Executive Pastor Steve Isgitt, and 13 others from the church, including three family groups, spent a week in Nicaragua.

Their hearts were deeply touched by the plight of many women and children, who are not only living in poverty, but who are wounded by physical abuse, sexual abuse and exploitation, abandonment, and malnutrition.  As one team member put it, “God has shown us some things that are hard to bear.“  He also reflected, “we see plenty of grace and mercy in action, in the work of people living out their lives to serve ‘the least of these’ “.


We pray for this church as they seek to follow God’s leading in discerning if ministry to the people of Nicaragua is in their future.

May, 2014 Mission Trip


Following the medical mission trip in May of 2014, thirteen people joined Dr. Doty and Peggy Gentry, Board Chairperson, for a general mission trip.  This enthusiastic group ranged in age from 19 to 75 years and included a recently retired fire chief; a psychiatrist; two breast cancer survivors; four employees of Coursetrends, an online marketing solutions company for all things golf; an environmental consultant; and a budget analyst.  What did these people, most of whom had never met each other, have in common?
Mixing plaster at Club Cristiano

Mixing plaster for building at Club Cristiano.

Each of them had a spirit of adventure and a desire to love and help, in some small way, those who struggle in poverty.  Walls were plastered at Club Cristiano, which runs a kindergarten, feeding program, and a grade-school mentoring program.  Vacation Bible School was provided at Colegio Cristiano Presbiteriano (CCP) and at Club Cristiano; Spanish Bibles were delivered to Club Cristiano, breast cancer patients were visited and given gift packets made by the Bosom Buddies cancer support group in Austin.   In addition, 15 lucky children from Club Cristiano made a trip to the zoo.  Each team member felt they had something to give and all received the satisfaction that comes from giving and serving.


Delivering Bibles in Spanish



Cinderella Story Unfolding for “the Clinic in the dump”


Pictured: Manna Project International staff members  Christina, Kate, and Javier on the clinic building site
Fundraising to build a new facility for the former Clinica Base de Salud, which was located inside Managua’s city garbage dump, and served the residents in the dump, has been going very well.  The clinic has been renamed Villa Guadalupe Clinic after the newly constructed community it serves just outside the dump turned landfill.  Manna Project International, which supports the clinic, has purchased the land.  Manna Project and Dr. John Doty took on the challenge to raise funding for the clinic’s construction. 

The fundraising  goal is close to being reached, and it appears that it will be possible for the groundbreaking to take place sometime this year.  According to Lori Scharffenberg, Executive Director of Manna Project, “the momentum for the clinic has really taken off …, and we are all really excited to finally start seeing everything begin to take shape.”

Clinica Casa Base de Salud had to move suddenly in early 2013, when the dump was transformed into a landfill.  All of the former residents of La Chureca, the community living inside the dump, were relocated to the new community of Villa Virgen de Guadalupe (Virgin of Guadalupe Village) just outside the old dump.  The clinic has been operating out of tiny quarters in this new community.   To make matters even more challenging, the clinic is serving a population three times as large, because other groups were also relocated here.  It is apparent a new facility, adequate for the increased demand, is needed.

The Waiting Rm_Casa Base de Salud

Many patients, little room.

We are happy to report that each day is bringing the clinic closer to its “Cinderella” transformation.  The clinic hopes to break ground later this year.  Read more about the clinic.

Villa Esperanza Celebrates Their First High School Graduates



                       Families in the U.S. celebrate their children’s and grandchildren’s high school graduations .  However, for the young women who participate in Villa Esperanza’s program for at-risk girls, girls who come from poverty and abusive situations, high school graduation is an even more significant achievement.

Perla and Katherine were two of the first participants to come to Villa Esperanza when it opened in 2007.  Through its provision of a loving and safe home, education, healthcare, encouragement, and exposure to the Gospel, Villa Esperanza has helped re-direct the lives of these girls.

Katherine and Perla are the first girls at the Villa to graduate from high school.  They are now living in a transition home at the Villa, where they are taking on more responsibility to prepare for supporting themselves and living on their own.  Perla is preparing to be a teacher and Katherine has just taken entrance exams to be admitted to a university.  She hopes to study English and work as a translator.   Another young girl at the Villa, Marta, has entered the teacher training program, while continuing her high school education.  What a great example all three are providing for their younger “sisters” at Villa Esperanza – Congratulations Katherine and Perla!  Read more about Villa Esperanza…

It’s a trip! Learn….Serve….Love

If you have never gone on a mission trip, here is your opportunity.  The dates for Austin Samaritans’ spring trip are May 10 – 17.  It is only a three ½ hour flight from Houston; the cost is reasonable; the accommodations are lovely; and the experience – priceless.   May Trip Application
Austin Samaritans has been leading mission trips to Nicaragua for six years – you are in good hands.  If you have been with us before, we invite you to join us again and bring a friend.  Every person’s experience is different, but we can promise that your eyes will be opened to the hardships and challenges faced by many around the world, and your heart will be touched by what you see.

Sue reading with children

The activities vary from trip to trip, but often we assist our mission alliances through doing construction or maintenance work, offering Vacation Bible School for school children, teaching English and hygiene, sharing cancer packets and prayer with women suffering from this disease, holding and feeding malnourished infants and toddlers, and visiting and interacting with young women at high risk of sexual abuse and exploitation.

Steve Keith CCP

The most important thing we do is bring our love – for the people we serve and our mission alliance leaders who are “boots on the ground” every day.  We share the love of Christ through our smiles, our service, our prayers – by the very fact that we are there.  Learn more…

Students at CCP Receive Letters from their Sponsors

sponsored children 4_203
Fifteen children received correspondence from their sponsors last spring.  This is always a very exciting time for these students.  In turn, many of them wrote Christmas cards to their sponsors.  There are over 200 students at Colegio Cristiano Presbiteriano.  If you are interested in being a sponsor, please contact us at the Austin Samaritans office: or 512/465-2073.

Learn about our child sponsorship program.

The Miracle of Adriana

Six-year old Adriana came to the Matagalpa Re-Nutrition Center in April of 2013.  Due to an intestinal disorder and her parents’ limited resources to help her, she weighed only 20 pounds when she entered the Center. She was anemic and unable to eat without severe pain.  She could not even sit up by herself.  Adriana was taken to a pediatric stomach specialist, where she was treated and put on a strict diet.  
Steve Reed with Adriana

Adriana being carried by mission trip participant in April, 2013.

With many prayers and lots of loving care and good nutrition, little Adriana, now seven, has steadily improved.

She can eat anything now and has a very healthy appetite.  The Center purchased a pig in the spring to be ready to eat at their Christmas celebration.  In October, Adriana told Brenda, the Center Director, that she would not leave the Center until she ate the pig at Christmas!  And she did exactly that.  We are grateful to God and to the Matagalpa Re-Nutrition Center for the miraculous recovery Adriana has made.

Adriana eating pork_Dec. 2013

January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month!

Cervical cancer is the leading cause of death in Nicaraguan women who are between the ages of 30 and 60 years.  It is SO preventable and treatable if detected early!  But, in Nicaragua, so many women lack the information and financial resources to access prevention.
Austin Samaritans is helping address this situation.  Dr. John Doty, our Founder, was instrumental in initiating a program to screen and treat women in Nicaragua for cervical cancer.  In 2009 Dr. Doty worked with one of Austin Samaritans’ mission alliances, Fundacion Ortiz Gurdion, or FOG, to add the cervical cancer program to their existing breast cancer program for women whose annual income is less than $2,000 a year.  Read more here.

From left: Dr. Ortega, Gynocological Surgeon; Patricia Ortiz, Founder of Ortiz Gurdion Cancer Clinic; and Dr. John Doty.


Hooray for Adriana and the Matagalpa Re-Nutrition Center!

Adriana_Dec. 2013Adriana with her mother just before Christmas 2013.

Austin Samaritans received a Christmas thank you letter from the Matagalpa Re-Nutrition Center, one of the missions we support in Nicaragua.  We were thrilled to read about how well little 7-year old Adriana is doing after being at the center for six months.  An excerpt from the letter reads:

Children all over deserve a healthy happy life but that isn’t always possible. The center provides a shelter for children to help them feel safe and return them to a healthy state.

Your faithful donations you have made the center a reality for these malnourished precious children. They not only receive food but also but are shown the love of Christ through the nannies who care for them.  The nannies are so good to sing praise songs with them before their meals and teach them to pray.

One young girl Adriana, was severely malnourished. One of the nannies told me that one of the first nights that she was there she heard someone singing and when she went searching to find out who it was Adriana. Adriana was singing ‘Lift My Arms Because I don’t have the Strength’. It is a song of someone very weak wanting to praise God. God has healed her and she is a happy healthy little girl.

Read more about Adriana.

Innovative Program Teams Doctors From Austin & Managua


Enrique can walk with more ease now.

He always had great difficulty walking. That was until Dr. J. Brannan Smoot, an Austin orthopedist, traveled to Nicaragua with an Austin Samaritans healthcare team to perform the reconstructive surgery that helped Enrique gain his balance.

Enrique, 18, has cerebral palsy, a neuromuscular disorder, which affected the tendons in his ankle and foot. Dr. Smoot, working side-by-side with his Nicaraguan colleagues, performed the surgery which transferred a tendon, fused two toes, and rebalanced Enrique’s ankle.

Dr. Smoot is part of an innovative healthcare program which teams medical and dental professionals from Austin and their counterparts in Managua, the capital of Nicaragua, to deliver medical services to those in need.

“Our program is based on a different model than the type many organizations use to deliver medical services in developing countries,” said Dr. Smoot. “Rather than sending doctors into another country to provide services independent of the medical professionals there, we collaborate with the doctors and nurses in Nicaragua.

“We learn from each other.  We learn about the challenges they face so we can teach techniques to them.”

The collaborative healthcare program is one of the initiatives of Austin Samaritans, an Austin non-profit, that supports established missions that deliver services to people in Nicaragua in the areas of health, education, and social well-being.

“Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere with 76% of the population living on less than $2 US per day ,” said Dr. John Doty, Founder of Austin Samaritans. “Nicaraguans face immense challenges.”

According to the World Health Organization, the Nicaraguan government spends only $254 per capita per year for health care. That compares to health expenditures in the US of $7,960 per capita per year.

As a result, many Nicaraguans suffer from untreated or inadequately treated disease or early death.

After seeing the desperate poverty and needs in Nicaragua when they made a mission trip there, a group of Austin citizens dedicated themselves to finding sustainable ways to make a difference. They started Austin Samaritans in 2007 to support effective, on-the-ground ministries, churches, and non-governmental organizations in Managua.

Austin Samaritans works directly with Nicaraguan health care providers to understand the culture, context, and constraints of medical and dental practice. Shared goals are identified and steps are taken to provide financial, material, and educational support.

“Austin Samaritans endeavors to make a difference by coordinating efforts and pooling resources for maximum impact,” said Dr. Doty, who closed his successful medical oncology practice to devote full time to the organization.

“We connect assets and talent at home to the needs abroad.”

An example of how Austin Samaritans connects assets and talents is the trip Dr. Smoot, Dr. Ted Held, Dr. John Harkins, and Dr. Brad Parker, all of Austin, made to Managua last April.

“Because of a lack of medical equipment in Managua,” said Dr. Smoot, “doctors have to make do with what’s available. The equipment we take for granted here may not be available there.”

Dr. Harkins agreed.

“We Americans don’t know how good we have it,” he said.  “The highest functioning hospital in Nicaragua may have three ventilators that help keep babies alive, but only two of the ventilators may work. Compare that with the main Seton Medical Center here in Austin that has 75 ventilators.

“In the US, a woman who has had a Caesarean section doesn’t particularly like to share a hospital room with another woman. In Nicaragua, there may be two post-surgical patients in a bed. And that bed is not in a room.  It’s in a hallway.”

Dr. Harkins, whose specialty is obstetrics and gynecology, said another critical difference between healthcare in the US and Nicaragua is the lack of good medical training for doctors.

“Medical education is at minimal levels,” said Dr. Harkins, who lectured on medical techniques in Nicaraguan hospitals. “When we return to Managua this fall, we hope to gain access to the medical school so that we can help train the next generation of doctors.”

In addition to the doctors returning to Nicaragua, others from Austin who have a heart to help those in need will participate in a mission trip which is conducted by Austin Samaritans each October and April. Volunteers making the trip, most of whom are not medical or dental professionals, will assist the organizations Austin Samaritans supports in meaningful ways.

Austin Samaritans assists efforts in three major areas:

  • Healthcare: supporting existing clinics in some of the poorest areas of Managua and connecting U.S. doctors, dentists, and other healthcare workers with their Nicaraguan counterparts for the purpose of sharing knowledge and expertise.
  • Education: supporting two schools, student sponsorship, and a tutoring program for elementary students.
  • Rescue: supporting programs that lift the most vulnerable members of society (malnourished children, young girls at risk of sexual exploitation, women desperate to leave the sex trade, and the homeless elderly) out of a cycle of sickness, poverty, and depravity.

One of the ways Austin Samaritans raises funds for its efforts is an annual golf tournament. This year’s tournament will be held Sept. 30 at the Forest Creek Golf Club in Round Rock. The shotgun start at 1:30 will be preceded by lunch.  After the tournament, there will be a post-game celebration and prizes.

To register for the golf tournament or be a sponsor of it, go to Registrations for players are due by Sept. 21 and sponsors signups are due by Aug. 30.

All donations to Austin Samaritans, including the golf tournament registration fee, are tax-deductible to the extent allowable by law.

For information about Austin Samaritans, including participation in the Oct. 19–26 mission trip, go to Mission trip registrations are due by Sept. 21.

Keith on the April 2013 Mission Trip

Board-of-Directors-Photos-Keith MartinsonWhy would someone go to Managua, Nicaragua just to paint a building?  Well – every time I go to Nicaragua I am overwhelmed by the poverty of the country, yet surprised by the joy that I see in the children I meet.  These children, mostly of grade school age, just ooze enthusiasm and are full of love, like children everywhere. However, I know that one day they will grow up, become teenagers, and then adults, and realize how limited their opportunities are.  This may cause them to fall into a life of despair and to begin developing destructive habits – taking drugs, engaging in prostitution, stealing.
That is why Austin Samaritans supports certain organizations in Nicaragua.  The support consists of providing grants to the organizations and bringing mission trip teams to do construction, facility maintenance, or provide relational activities for the children.   We work with these organizations to improve the children’s chances of having a wider range of opportunities when they grow older.

On our most recent mission trip we painted the interior of a facility that serves as a preschool and study center for children that live next to the Managua city dump.  I know this isn’t that much of an accomplishment, but it is rewarding to know that even our little contribution helps keep this oasis alive in an area of abject poverty.  It gives one hope that these children will have the chance of a better future.

Austin Samaritans has a New Website!

After months of planning, designing, writing, re-writing, and lots of talking – we are so proud of our new website! We were fortunate to have an excellent website for our first six years – but it was time for a fresh look.  Take a look and give us feedback on Facebook. Kudos to our wonderful professional web designers from Leap to Success – Scott McCreight, Carleton Britt, Katharine Kimbriel, and Ya-Chen Chang (Badin). We recommend them highly. Take a look!