Mateo, was born in 1963 in Masaya, Nicaragua. When he was a kid he decided he was going to become a pastor. At age 13 his brother gave him an Icthus manual someone else had given him. His pastor motivated him to start work with the kids in the neighborhood around the church. So without training Mateo rounded up the kids and started one of the first Icthus groups in Nicaragua. At the age of 13 he was the youngest Icthus guide on record.
However, the situation was turning bad in Nicaragua in 1977. A revolution against a dictator had started and this would be followed by civil war. The chaos would continue for 10 years. As an adolescent, Mateo was in danger of being drawn into the war, as were all young men. They were being forced into the army (they just took young men right off the street). Even scarier was that one side or the other might harm him just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. His parents were very worried. They had to get him out of the country, but how?
Since he wanted to be a pastor, they thought they might be able to send him to a seminary in Honduras. However, the seminary said he was too young. Mateo’s family didn’t give up. They continued to plead their case with the director of the seminary. Weeks passed. Then by the grace of God, word came. He could attend as a special case. Mateo left immediately for Honduras. He missed his family terribly, but he was safe.
He lived at the seminary and interned at a local church for 3 years and receive a degree in Theology. They called him “Little Pastor”. One of the first things he did was to start Icthus in that church. Later he learned that there was another Icthus group. He made contact. That began a whole new adventure of helping and training other churches to have Icthus. World Vision contracted him for a year to continue that work. Eventually he opened the first national Icthus office in Honduras. He did all this by the time he was 18!
Later he was invited to go to Icthus in Guatemala to develop materials and train Icthus leaders in other countries. Through a scholarship funded by Icthus friends here in the USA he graduated with a degree in education and psychology. He was also ordained as a Presbyterian pastor. Over the last 20 years he has worked in schools and churches but has always been ready to help Icthus to train and do special projects.
This past December he visited his mother in Nicaragua. While there his niece asked if he would train her and her friends to start Icthus in their church. He did that and the group started. In February he had a chance to go back to Nicaragua to make a speech at a conference of teachers and psychologists. He extended his stay to promote Icthus more. He talked to a number of pastors and was greatly surprised at how interested they were.
In all his years of visiting Nicaragua after the war he had never seen such interest. He asked us at the International Office if we could help him go back to Nicaragua in March. We not only said yes but urged him to go for a long trip. That trip in March was a big success and Mateo trained 190 people.
Returning from the March trip Mateo said, “I couldn’t have imagined in December when I visited my mother in Nicaragua that so many people would be interested in starting Icthus groups. Only God could do this.”
As of May first 10 groups had been started. Now we are planning for him to go back for one month on May 15th. He has made extensive plans for follow-up with those who were trained to help them start their groups. Also, he will do 9 full-day training workshops in different parts of the country. Our prayer and goal is that by the end of June there will be more than 20 Icthus groups in Nicaragua.
Mateo Gonzalez is a pastor, educational psychologist, and a long time Icthus leader living in Guatemala. His story of being forced to flee his home as a teen and how the Lord protected him and used him to bless so many people though Icthus is amazing. Mateo frequently says, “I love Icthus. It changed my life. Whatever you need me to do for Icthus, just let me know.”
We have a wonderful opportunity to help in Nicaragua. There is such an eagerness in the churches to better equip the next generation.
We need Icthus Friends to join us in sending Mateo back to Nicaragua and to continue this work during May and June. Your gift will provide for transportation, training, materials, and visits to each church to help them start their Icthus groups. Click here to find out how to make a donation.
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