The story of how Greg and Sam Elam got to the mission field of Nicaragua is a story of testing, striving, perseverance, and God’s miraculous provision.
Greg originally came to Nicaragua on a mission’s trip in ’99. He returned to the states shaken to the core by the poverty and desperate needs of the Nicaraguan people that he had encountered. Greg immediately began sending monthly donations through a mission’s organization that organized feeding centers across Nicaragua.
Seven years later, almost to the day (Feb 2006), Greg returned to Nicaragua on a business exploration with several other business persons researching property investments and development. He was again stirred in his spirit the moment his feet stepped off the plane onto Nicaraguan soil. He knew God was doing something special in him in Nicaragua. In the next few months, he would return to Nicaragua a few more times. With each visit Greg became more and more captivated and excited about the various opportunities for business and ministry in Nicaragua.
Greg decided to help a friend with a condominium project on the beach. Additionally with the involvement of a few others they opened a millwork factory. The factory was equipped to produce all the wood products (cabinets, shelving, doors, furniture, etc) for several condominium projects along the beach. Both business ventures (the condominium project and the millwork factory) would be dependent on the sales of the condominiums which would fund the construction of the projects. It was exciting to be able to teach and train people in a trade where they would be able to generate income. One thing for sure, Nicaraguans lack training and education opportunities in even the simplest of vocations.
Greg’s original plan was to commute back and forth from Atlanta to Nicaragua as the business ventures were formed and developed. It was exciting to think of the jobs and opportunities that the business ventures would offer to many Nicaraguans. Some of the biggest contributions to the poverty of this country are the lack of businesses and jobs.
After much prayer and seeking counsel from faith believing Christians including family and friends, Greg and Sam decided that the commuting life style was not what they were looking for. The family being separated for long and regular periods of time did not seem like God’s best for their family. They decided that they would sell all that they had and move to Nicaragua.
At this time Greg and Sam were living the American dream. They had a new dream home on 14 beautiful acres north of Atlanta, a cute little farm house, and a lake lot. Sam was the Risk Control Services Manager for Lockton Insurance Brokers (Atlanta office) and Greg had a small construction and remodeling company. They both made great money, had comfortable savings, and good looking 401k’s ! Tiffany was going to a private Christian school. They were surrounded by family, friends, and an awesome church they had attended and served in for 14 years! But they could feel God loosening their ‘grip’ on all these things that they cherished as God prepared to transition them to Nicaragua!
Sam gave a six months notice to her company and Greg began wrapping up his
construction company. At last, in December 2006, they listed their farm with a
realtor at $1.4 million (their total properties had a combined appraised value of around
$2.2 million). The Elam’s knew that by selling their properties they would be self sufficient and sustained in Nicaragua for a long time- no worries! Their dreams and hopes of all that they could do in Nicaragua would be accomplished…..when their properties sold!
In the summer of 2007, the Elam’s purchased a 47 acre farm outside Managua and they prepared to begin their new life in Nicaragua. There were so many intimate things that God did to assure them that they were doing the right thing. The farm was a cash purchase so they celebrated that their new life in Nicaragua would start out debt free. Determined to remain debt free they invested in two
vehicles, paying cash for both.
By the middle of 2008, rumors of a world-wide property market crash began to hit the news and business chronicles. Greg and Sam knew that their God was in no way subject to this world’s economy and they held fast to their faith pushing forward with their plans and transitioning to life in Nicaragua.
Time was passing fast and none of their properties had sold. They had no money coming in and their new life required a lot of money to sustain the properties that they still had and to attempt to create businesses in Nicaragua. The weight of the situation began to weigh on them physically, emotionally, spiritually, and financially. They saw no way out and had no solutions. After a year and half in Nicaragua, the Elam’s could almost feel the noose tightening. No answers to their prayers. What appeared to be no results from their fasting. Every day was a new day to encourage each other and believe that God would move, that day!
The recession would quickly affect economies all over the world and Nicaragua was no exception. The Elam’s liquidated everything they had to provide the necessities of life and to maintain their various properties state side. They sought to honor God and loan commitments and told God as long as He would provide they would do everything in their power to pay their debts. After 1 ½ years of struggling to maintain their life in Nicaragua and debts stateside the reality came crashing down, to continue to eat and drive in Nicaragua, they could not continue to pay their debts stateside.
The property crash of 2008 quickly affected those people willing to invest in international property and sales of the condominiums were scarce. Because the sale of condominiums was so slow, construction of the three beach developments tied to the millworks company did not provide the guaranteed customer base that the factory was built for. Additionally, Greg realized many hurdles in trying to manage employees, market the millworks products, and handle the expense demands in a culture he didn’t know, with a language he struggled to navigate, and little consistent cash flow. The partners decided to close down the millwork factory which meant that the Elam’s would lose close to $100,000 investment there and the hope of future income from the factory.
As of Resurrection Day (Easter) 2009, the Elam’s were jobless, almost penniless and totally leaning on God for every breath. Everything that Greg and Sam had come to Nicaragua to do had come to an abrupt halt. They sought God for answers, strength, hope and provision! Deut 4 says to love the Lord with all your heart, all your soul and all your strength! The Elam’s never knew that it would in fact take all their strength to ward off fear, hopelessness, doubt, offense and bitterness!!! Sam comforted by very specific dreams God gave her to prepare them for this huge event, looked at Greg Easter evening and said, “Go God!!!” God does not close these kinds of doors without opening others. They continued to pray and seek God.
The Elam’s again turned to their prayer partners of family and friends and began to share and discuss what options they had. It was inevitable that they would look back to their life in Atlanta, considering what waited there for them, friends, family, their church, long work histories, and business connections. Were they supposed to return to the states? In some ways that felt like the easiest, most secure, most encouraging and friendly option available was to return state-side. The Elam’s were sure if they returned to Atlanta, surrounded by our friends and family we would get a comfortable fresh start and in no time be back in the ‘game.’
Over the next weeks, God sent amazing missionaries and friends to sit with, pray with, and share their personal stories of transitioning to Nicaragua. Surrounded by so much encouragement and such a deep sense of peace, the Elam’s forged ahead to hear from God! The Elam’s also realized, as other missionaries that have gone before them will testify to as well, (and let it be a warning of encouragement), when you head to the mission field, Satan will lead a full on assault against your plans and all you put your hand to! And just like when the Israelites came out of Egypt, God allows our trials, to get the ‘old’ out of us and prepare us for the new, richer, deeper walk that is necessary for a successful life in the ‘promised land’!
After much prayer and seeking God, we knew that God was saying stay in Nicaragua. We knew that God had used all the plans of business and investment potential in Nicaragua to get us here and now we were free to do His work, full time!
While God had shut down everything the Elam’s thought they were coming to Nicaragua to do, they still were stirred in their soul to stay, serve God, to walk this new life of complete faith He had orchestrated. Through the difficulties, one thing was sure, they were ‘charged’ in their spirit to stay and see what God would do now! Convinced that even though the past two years had been difficult, they knew that they had grown in their spirit and knew that God needed Sam, Greg and Tiffany in Nicaragua!
Sam immediately went to work for Nicaragua Christian Academy teaching a variety of Bible and art classes. They had already been involved with the youth group for the International Christian Fellowship (ICF) so they were in a position to increase their commitment there. Since beginning on this new pathway, it was miraculous how God met their needs. God financially sustained us through the generosity of family, friends, a few churches, odd jobs, and Sam’s teaching position. But the real story is the sense of purpose and fulfillment that the Elam’s knew with each and every day of serving God and the people He had put in our sphere of influence. God miraculously gave us such favor on the NCA campus. There was bond of love between us and the students that only God could allow and create.
In August of 2010, the Director of NCA asked us to revitalize the student street ministry called Ignite. God had already told us that it was time to get “dirtier.” We knew this was what God had already put on our heart and we determined to reach out into the poor communities around Managua and love who ever God brought our way. It was exciting to open the eyes of our students to how God would use each of them if they would only be available. We went to poor communities to pray, play, serve, and bless with food, clothes, glasses, and fun!
Through many God ordained events, we have been connected with several churches that have seen the need and responded to God’s prompting to help the work in Nicaragua. Those churches include Grace Family Church in Tampa, Countryside Christian, Journey Church (Franklin, TN), and others. Greg still helps Pastor Dale Brooks (DBI Ministries) lead teams to Nicaragua several times a year.
So this is our story in short. We are convinced that like Job, God strategically allows the trials in our life to purify our walk, purpose and love for Him and each other. There was a time when Sam was seriously worried for the health of Greg and the stress that he was under. In 2008, as we “lost” the properties that we had, Greg began to fall into deep depression from it all and I wondered if we would be able to pull him out of it. But my footnote in my Spirit Filled Life Bible under Job 1 says:
"Job is declared by God Himself to be blameless and upright, and yet he is tried, not because of his unrighteousness but in spirit of his righteousness. His trial was to establish his righteousness, as well as to give him deeper insight into his relationship with God and a greater understanding of his own nature. While Satan’s goal was to prove Job to be a sinner; God’s goal was to establish forever the sincerity of Job’s faith. God does not allow trials to see if we will fail. He allows trials to strengthen our faith. The trial is, in fact, a statement of God’s faith in our faithfulness and integrity."
I pray that our story has touched your heart and encouraged you. I pray that no matter what you are going through, you know that you know that God is with you, leading you, and allowing you to walk through, perhaps, dark places, only so that you will know His love greater! Yes, yeah though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death (a time of stress, grief, sickness, hopelessness and worry), I will fear no evil; For God is with me His rod and staff, they comfort me! (Psalm 23).
Philippians 4:6 and 7, “Be anxious for nothing but through prayer and supplication, let your request be made known to God, and the peace that passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus!”
Isaiah 55: 1-8- For my thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord! No matter what you are going through, you are not alone. Please contact us with your comments and prayer request. It is our honor to stand with you and believe for a break through and that you will know that you know that God is there to lead you through whatever you are going through!! We are over comers! We are more than conquerors through Him.
Through all these events in our lives we have had the honor of being part of God changing lives, families, communities. The beauty of joining forces with God is that the change is positive, permanent, and generational. Our slogan disciplining a generation to change a nation. We believe that God has the power to change. We know that we are responsible for those God puts in our sphere of influence and then the Holy Spirit will continue to move from there.
Our goal and current focus has been to continue to raise awareness for the need of clean water in the poor communities outside Managua. By providing clean water, life is given. And by partnering with the communities for various needs education, training, Bible Studies and fun, you get to see first -hand dreams come true. To date we have worked in five poor communities in and around Los Cedros, Villa El Carmen area. In partnering with Pastor Fernando of Los Cedros we have been able to support pastors in each of these communities. In some case we have supplied teaching, provisions, land purchases, and always love! In four of the five we have been part of installing deep clean water wells. One of the communities, San Jeronimo, took it upon themselves to run plumbing from the deep clean well to a nearby school. By doing so, you see the communities organize and raise funds to provide this life giving clean water to the students in the community! How beautiful!
In 2016, we have plans for more wells and more communities. Below is our list of communities that we would like to begin assisting or continue to assist:
1. Aaron Sequida – Construct Kitchen, Construct Bathrooms, Concrete floor in church
2. Santa Rita – Install well(starting December 2015), Construct Kitchen, Construct Bathrooms, Concrete floor in church
3. El Canejo – Purchase property, Install Well, Put up roof structure for church
4. Chinandega – Purchase property, Put up roof structure for church, Install well, Construct Kitchen, Construct Bathrooms, Concrete Floor in church.
Additionally, we would like to continue to support three children in NCA for the 2016-2017 school year, and continue to meet nutritional needs of families as they are presented.
Would also like to continue to identify homes that need roofs or help with reconstruction.