FIA and the Miskito People
The night after we poured the concrete floor, the family moved into their new home. Even though there were no doors, windows, or wood on the gable end, they could not wait. “Thank you! Thank you!” they repeated over and over again with tears dripping down their cheeks. FIA works alongside the Miskito people of Nicaragua to help build hurricane-resistant housing. Through construction efforts on a community church as well as summer children camps, FIA’s efforts are also helping to speed the Gospel to this tiny group of indigenous people.
Learn About the Miskito
Plans were then made to assist in rebuilding their homes, as only four out of 87 homes remained after Felix. At the invitation of the Miskito leaders, FIA provided a block press and taught the people how to make cement blocks and use rebar to provide solid homes that will be able to withstand the severe storms. By May of 2010, short-term volunteer teams and indigenous workers had completed 60 homes. Twenty more homes were built in 2011. In the spring of 2014, a church in Boom Sirpi began and then was completed by January 2015. In 2017, concrete floors were added to existing homes with dirt floors, and a slab was poured to create a children’s church area at the missionary’s house. In addition, bathrooms were added in both the church and missionary’s home.
To meet and ensure long-term program sustainability, we have formed “Amigos en Acción Nicaragua” as a NGO (Non-Governmental Organization). The organization is led by a Nicaraguan Board of Directors and the development activities are led by the FIA-Nicaragua NGO, national pastors, and Tim Johnston (FIA-USA Executive Director).
The Miskito people lead a simple life of subsistence farming and hunting due to the incredibly high unemployment and poverty rates in the area. Although their traditional beliefs include shamanism, many of them claim a works-based Christianity. The Miskito attend FIA-hosted church meetings in the hundreds and have open hearts to hear and receive the Gospel. They are grateful for FIA’s ongoing efforts to help them acquire new life in Christ and the supplies and masonry skills needed to continue rebuilding their communities.
The population of the Miskito people in Nicaragua is approximately 80,000 with less than 800 in the village of Boom Sirpi.
Miskito (Mískitu in the Miskito language) is a Misumalpan language spoken by the Miskito people in northeastern Nicaragua. Miskito has a large number of loan words from English via creole. Most Miskito are multilingual, speaking Spanish in school and their native language at home.
Prior to contact with European missionaries, Miskito people practiced a type of Shamanism where the shaman (known as Sukya) was seen as a healer by the community. The Sukya discovered cures by dreaming about them and blowing smoke on injured areas of the body. Group traditions included ritual dancing and drinking of a beverage known as mishla. Funeral traditions included a commemorative ceremony one year after death called Sikro. Only one leading shaman, known as Supreme Sukya or Okuli, could exist at a time and was revered by neighboring tribes as well. The Okuli existed as a representative to evil spirits, called Lasas. In the 1980s, shamans and group ceremonies took place in private.
Although some Miskito claim Christianity, many of them are confused by a works-based salvation. Belief in dreams, in strange and inexplicable omens and occurrences, and in the power of the moon persists.
In the Miskito subsistence economy, women tend to the agriculture, while men clear land, hunt, fish, and work in wage labor when available. The area is characterized by “boom and bust” trade in which markets develop to exploit specific resources, such as green sea turtles, precious lumber, rubber, bananas, and logwood only to collapse when the world market busts leaving little long term development. More recently, many Miskito men worked diving for lobsters. Although the industry has become controversial due to lack of dive training and death and injury resulting from staying down too long and diving too deep to maintain their income levels. When markets bust, Miskito rely on subsistence agriculture and fishing for support.
The Miskito have always eagerly participated in trade with Europeans, exchanging coastal raw materials for manufactured goods. They have readily adopted English styles of clothing, home furnishings, foods, tools, and weapons.
Although the Miskito have access to free, required primary education, the educational system is inadequate, with low enrollment and graduation rates. Consequently, adult illiteracy is near 80% in areas where the Miskito live. Schools are understaffed and undersupplied, with as many as eighty students per classroom.
Drug traffickers from Colombia, hoping to use Nicaragua as a place to ship drugs, have been actively resisted by the Miskito.
The Miskito people are a minority ethnic group of people in Nicaragua. They have been oppressed, misused, and deceived by their government and others. Because of these experiences, they have grown to mistrust the government authority figures that rule the rest of the country.
The Miskito eat two main meals each day. The morning meal is eaten shortly before dawn. The late-afternoon meal is eaten after people return from work. Most of their meals are taken from root crops, such as sweet manioc (cassava) and yams, plantains and green bananas (boiled or baked), rice and beans, and fish. Corn is pounded to make tortillas. A fermented beverage called mishla or wasak is made from ripe plantains and bananas mashed together with corn, palm fruits, and other ingredients, then mixed with water. Fish and wild game are eaten when available.
FRIENDS IN ACTION INTL-USA (FIA) is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization firmly committed to good stewardship. Our work is supported by and dependent on the continued faithfulness of God’s people. Tax-deductible donations can be made using this secure site.
You can volunteer and get engaged in the work that God is doing among the Miskito. For more information and future dates, email Daryl Heller.