Fortress of Hope is a children's home located in Managua, Nicaragua. Known as CINAFE in Managua (Centro Integral para la Niñez y la Adolescencia: Fortaleza de Esperanza), the organization provides a safe place for orphans and children who can no longer live at home. Some children are at Fortress of Hope to escape abusive situations, some arrive because family can no longer afford to care for them, and some simply have no family to take them in. Fortress of Hope strives to provide a place where these children can grow and learn in safety and love.
With capacity for up to 20 children ranging from age 6 to 18, this ministry operates because donors feel it is important to do this work in light of God's love for all His people. The staff shares God's love through every interaction with children, even working with families to mend broken situations. This results in children being able to return to a loving family when things have been made safe.
Staff and children attend church together and share daily in devotions, prayer, and song. Numerous children have gone through classes resulting in baptism, and the children take an active part in worship services through dance, sanctification, and singing. Even after children finish high school, Fortress of Hope helps them find employment and stays in contact. Some students even continue to live at Fortress of Hope as they take college-level classes, acting as assistants to CINAFE staff and leading the rest of the children in Bible studies and other activities.
In January 2008, a work group from Maple Grove Mennonite Church arrived in Managua, Nicaragua with the primary purpose of building a meeting house in the mountain town of El Crucero for a small group of believers. Part of the trip included visiting an orphanage to spend an afternoon with the children. Duane and Karen Schlabach had helped organize the team's visit because they had concerns about the children and had seen many needs at the orphanage. When the group arrived, they provided a meal for the children and played games together. The language barrier was not enough to keep the team and children from having fun and shrieking with laughter. The evening was completed by gathering around the children and offering up prayers to God on behalf of the children.
After leaving the orphanage, conversation soon began among the group. After witnessing firsthand the living conditions of these children, the team felt a need to respond. The children were in a place that the team felt was unsanitary and too small, and the staff did not appear to provide adequate attention and care for the children. Wondering if it was simply cultural differences, the team talked with others who knew more about the orphanage, and unfortunately their fears were confirmed. These children were in a dangerous situation, and the group felt that they could not just walk away. They needed to do something to help the children they had shared time and love with.
Conversation continued between the work group, a Nicaraguan lawyer, and the leaders who helped schedule the visit to the orphanage regarding what they had witnessed and the need to respond. Even before leaving Managua, the group had created a tentative goal and expected to move forward once they returned home. They weren't sure what would result, but they placed themselves in God's hands and continued following in what they believed He was calling them to.
In the next three months, God moved in ways that could never have been imagined or dreamed of. Today, a board of four Americans and two Nicaraguans directs an organization called Belen Ministries that grew directly out of this group's desire to continue ministering to these children. The first initiative under Belen Ministries is Fortress of Hope.
Fortress of Hope is currently leasing a property and buildings that was a former hotel. Local Nicaraguans fill the positions needed to operate the orphanage which provides a home to twenty children in need. Although these twenty children include none of the children who first sparked this dream in the hearts of the work team, Fortress of Hope is proud to provide a place of safety and love to those in need in Managua. A child who lives at Fortress of Hope has love, hope, safety, and the ability to dream while surrounded by the love of God. What could be greater than giving these things to a child of God?