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Leah Sweetman exploring the Nicaraguan mountains

Leah Sweetman served as a Resonate Global Mission volunteer with Cohort Central America—and now she’s serving as a long-term missionary with Nicaragua Christian Academy. We chatted with her about what made her volunteer experience meaningful and her life in Nicaragua today.

Resonate: You served with Cohort in Central America. What drew you to that experience?

Leah: There were a few things that drew me to serve with Cohort Central America. First, I was looking for an internship opportunity to complete my cross-cultural ministry degree from Trinity Christian College. My degree was in the theology department and I appreciated the in-depth study of scripture and doctrine, but I always felt the call to action that accompanied my faith and theology. Cohort seemed like a great opportunity to jump off of what I learned and have an opportunity to live it out at the same time.

Second, the location. I had visited Central America before and spent some time in other Latin American countries so it felt somewhat familiar but I knew that the program was designed to be immersive where I could more fully capture the language and engage in the culture of Central America. 

Finally, there were a few connections to Nicaragua specifically. Growing up, the church I attended supported a Resonate missionary in Nicaragua, so I got to visit while I was in high school. By the time I graduated college, that same Resonate missionary was—and still is—in Nicaragua, so I actually got to serve alongside their family after supporting and visiting them so long ago.

Resonate: What’s one memory or take away from your experience with Cohort that has stuck with you.

Leah: My time living with my homestay mom. She had an incredible testimony and shared that with her family members. I appreciated her authenticity and willingness to invite me into her home and share the way that God worked in her life and continues to guide her today. Living with her helped me to better understand those who I was serving—both in the unique challenges and gifts that the Nicaraguan culture entails.

I think the most rewarding part of serving for me has been the opportunity to enter a new place and continually learn and be challenged. It has been so fun to hear about the history of the country and see evidence of God’s continual presence. I love being able to meet and build community with so many people and hear their testimonies.

Leah Sweetman wearing a typical Nicarauga folklore dress

Resonate: You decided to stay in Nicaragua. Why?

Leah: I labored over my decision to stay in Nicaragua. As my Cohort year was ending, I was looking for job opportunities in the States and got pretty far in an interview process but felt a variety of emotions after working so hard for the last year to learn the culture and settle into life. Moving would mean starting all over again. My dad was actually the one who asked about opportunities to stay in Nicaragua. I had not initially thought that there were, but I began to put together what I would realistically need in a job to make staying in Nicaragua sustainable. That same week, a friend approached me about how she felt called somewhere else—meaning she would have to leave Nicaragua and her job mid-year. Her job at the school seemed to fit exactly what I was looking for, and my community affirmed that it seemed to be God opening a door for me.

Resonate: How was God working in your life during the decision making process?

Leah: The decision making process for me has felt like a blessing and a burden at the same time. My life up until my time with Cohort was always marked with clear beginning and end dates like graduations and having a “next thing.” Now, my life feels a bit more like a continual discernment process where I have to intentionally listen for God’s call. This has proven to be especially hard when God seems to be silent at times. However, it has also been one of the most amazing things as God has provided some exterior indicators and fruit of his work where I can look back and say, “I know God was keeping me here for that.” Right now, I feel like I am in Nicaragua until God makes it clear that he is calling me to something or somewhere different. 

Resonate: What is your favorite part of working with volunteers?

Leah: I think my favorite part about being a volunteer was the availability it gave me. When we are tied down to a load of responsibilities and lack of flexibility that comes with full-time employment, it can be difficult to just say yes to various activities. My year with Cohort allowed me to give my time in ways that many others, even amongst the missionary community, couldn’t. I also think working with volunteers was a unique opportunity as a recent grad. I felt like I got to try out a variety of roles and better refined what my gifts and talents were along with figuring out how those fit into a professional setting. 

Resonate: What has been the most rewarding part of serving for you?

Leah: I think the most rewarding part of serving for me has been the opportunity to enter a new place and continually learn and be challenged. It has been so fun to hear about the history of the country and see evidence of God’s continual presence. I love being able to meet and build community with so many people and hear their testimonies.

Plate of gallo pinto and fried plantains

Resonate: What’s your favorite food in Nicaragua?

Leah: I LOVE gallo pinto! It is the national dish of Nicaragua and it is literally just rice and beans. 

Resonate: What is your favorite way to pass time while you’re in Nicaragua?

Leah: Honestly, my life on a daily basis looks pretty similar to many of my friends in North America. In my free time, I try to visit new coffee shops, hang out with friends, and play or coach volleyball. I love to visit Laguna de Apoyo, which is a crater lake, or Lake Nicaragua, the largest lake in Central America.

Resonate: How does your past experience with Cohort still influence you today?

Leah: The ability to learn a new culture and share that with others. I am blessed to have a strong support network of churches and individuals who help make it possible for me to serve. Many of my supporters will not have the opportunity to visit Nicaragua, but I am able to witness to them how God is working. I have seen the way that God remains the same even across cultures, borders, and languages.

Resonate: What do you pray for in your future?

Leah: I pray that God continues to use me to serve his purpose and share his love with others. I pray that the joy of the Lord is evident in my life and that I can continue to grow closer to him. I pray that the people of Nicaragua would know the same hope I have in Christ. A Dios sea toda la gloria.