By Marvin Gómez


Marvin Gómez Otero, M.A. (Central American Adventist University, Alajuela, Costa Rica), is director of youth ministries, education, and chaplaincy of South Central American Union Mission and has served the church as district pastor and department director in Nicaragua. He is the author of the book La historia de un pueblo. He is married to Esther Fley and has three children.

First Published: September 11, 2021

Territory and Statistics of Nicaragua

Nicaragua is located in the Central American isthmus. It covers an area of 130,375 square kilometers, its capital is Managua, and it is comprised of 15 departments as well as two self-governing regions, the North Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region and the South Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region. It shares borders with Honduras to the northwest, the Caribbean to the east, Costa Rica to the south, and the Pacific Ocean to the southwest.1

Nicaragua has three natural geographic regions, the central highlands, the Caribbean lowlands, and the Pacific lowlands. Within these regions respectively are the Amerrisque Mountains, the Mosquito Coast, and valleys which are fertile and have soil enriched by ash from nearby volcanoes. Nicaragua is both a volcanic and a tropical country. It also hosts two large lakes, Lake Managua (Lago Xolotlán) and Lake Nicaragua (Lago Cocibolca). Nicaragua is attractive to tourists particularly for such activities as ecotourism, sport fishing, and surfing. Nicaragua is rich in languages, culture, and traditions as its ethnic groups include mestizo, white, black, and indigenous people who speak Spanish, English, and the indigenous languages of Miskito, Rama, Sumo, Miskito Coast Creole, Garifuna, and Rama Cay Creole.2

Guatemala enacted the Act of Independence of Central America on September 15, 1821, which gave Central America independence from the Spanish Empire. The country of Nicaragua became an independent republic in 1838.3 Negotiations to integrate the Mosquito Coast into Nicaragua began in 1894, and Britain recognized the absolute sovereignty of Nicaragua over the Mosquito Coast in 1905.

The official language of Nicaragua is Spanish. However, the Miskito people along the coast of the North Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region speak the widely-spoken indigenous language of Miskito, English and English creole are spoken in the tourism sector and widely throughout the Caribbean coast respectively, and the indigenous languages of Sumo, Rama, and Rama Cay Creole (to a lesser extent) are spoken by the Sumo and Rama people respectively.4 A 2019 estimate numbered the population of the country of Nicaragua at 6,486,201 inhabitants. Although Nicaragua is considered a religious country, it has no official religion; rather, the country’s constitution has guaranteed and protected religious freedom ever since 1939.5 A 2019 census placed 44.3 percent of the population as members of the Catholic Church, 38.1 percent as Protestants, 15 percent as having no religious affiliation, and 2.6 percent as belonging to some other religion.6

The Adventist Church in Nicaragua has three administrative units: Central Nicaragua Mission with 11,623 members; Northwestern Nicaragua Mission with 19,963 members; and South Atlantic Nicaragua Mission with 5,656 members. This means that the total number of Adventist members in Nicaragua is 37,242, meaning that one out of every 174 inhabitants is an Adventist. The three missions of Nicaragua are parts of South Central American Union Mission.

Origins and Growth of Adventism in Nicaragua

The Adventist message arrived to Central America through the spread of Adventist literature. Mrs. Elizabeth Gauterau converted to Adventism in California while attending a camp meeting. Upon her visit to her friends in the Bay Islands in Honduras in 1885, she took with her a trunk full of books and magazines to share her new faith.7 The interest that the literature generated resulted in the International Tract and Missionary Society sending T. H. Gibbs to Honduras. The society also sent Pastor Frank J. Hutchins and his wife, Cora Ella, to Honduras. Soon after, Pastor Hutchins baptized the first eight converts in Central America in 1892.

The Hutchinses established themselves in Honduras, the first country in Central America with an Adventist presence. From there, they began to visit the rest of the territory of Central America bordering the Caribbean Sea. In 1895, the Adventist Church approved the acquisition of a missionary schooner measuring 15.5 meters in length. It was named the “Herald” and, in turn, became the floating home of the missionary couple.8

In Central America, religious intolerance for Protestantism was widespread until the end of the 19th century. At that time, political and religious changes began to favor the entry of different Protestant churches into the region.

The first recorded Protestant activity on the shores of Nicaragua happened in 1760 with the Anglicans. The Methodists attempted to establish work in Bluefields in 1830 but were unsuccessful. Then, in 1849, the Moravians arrived in the Caribbean followed by the Baptists settling in the Corn Islands. Generally, before 1900, Protestants had done very little among the Spanish-speaking populations of the Pacific and the central area of Nicaragua.9

Around the time Pastor Frank J. Hutchins and his wife arrived to Nicaragua, General José Santos Zelaya López was the president of Nicaragua. President Santos Zelaya initiated important political changes such as the negotiations of the integration of the Mosquito Coast into Nicaragua, the separation of church and state, the establishment of both public and compulsory education, the secularization of cemeteries, and civil marriage among other important changes and new constitutional rights. In this providential way, the social and political environment in the country of Nicaragua was prepared for the entry of the Adventist faith. These changes were important since religious intolerance in some countries such as Colombia and the southern part of Mexico led to Protestant missionaries facing religious challenges.

In 1898, Pastor Hutchins began a missionary trip to Bocas del Toro in Panama and Puerto Limón in Costa Rica. However, while sailing through the Caribbean near Nicaragua, he was caught by a tropical storm that forced him to seek refuge along the river bank in the town of Prinzapolka in Nicaragua. While docked in Prinzapolka, Pastor Hutchins provided medical and dental services to the town’s population of mostly Miskito and Creole people. He also offered Adventist literature and magazines to the people, among whom were Charles Brooks from Jamaica and his wife, Susana MaClaude, from Honduras.

The Herald sailed to the Corn Islands of Nicaragua, where Pastor Hutchins provided literature and medical services and shared the gospel. He and his wife were well received by one of the islanders, Dixon Hodgson. From there, the Herald continued its route to Costa Rica and Panama. Meanwhile, Charles Brooks and his wife read the booklets and literature they had received from Pastor Hutchins with great interest and accepted the Adventist faith. They and their family suffered opposition and threats from local people and were therefore forced to emigrate to the Yulo community in the North Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region. The Brookses gathered a small group with whom they shared their faith. For the next 12 years, they maintained communication with the publishers of the literature they had received.10 In 1912, President H. C. Goodrich of West Caribbean Conference traveled to visit the Adventist believers in the Yulo community and baptized the first ten converts. Through this, the General Conference recognized that there was an Adventist presence in Nicaragua.

Foreign and Local Pioneers

Joseph Watson from Nicaragua accepted the Adventist faith while working in a timber company in Panama, was baptized in 1912, devoted himself to colporteuring, and met and married a Colombian lady named Morrice Brayan Robinson. In 1914, they emigrated to Pearl Lagoon in Nicaragua and established the second church in Nicaragua.11 In 1916, they went to the Corn Islands to tend to a small church that resulted from the publications distributed by Pastor Frank J. Hutchins as he passed by the islands. George Lucien Downs and his family emigrated to the city of Bluefields that year and conducted evangelistic meetings in the Poiteen neighborhood. In 1920, Doctors N. M. Brayshaw and C. E. Nelson established a clinic in Bluefields to serve the community and share the gospel.12 In 1943, Pastor Arthur Morgan founded a missionary school in Bluefields that Wilbert Oliver helped develop up through 1950. The Adventist work along Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast prospered, establishing a chain of English- and Miskito-speaking churches.

Adventism was slow to reach the center and west areas of Nicaragua. In 1926, Pastor Ellis Peter Howard and his wife, Perla, began missionary work in Managua. In 1927, he baptized Zoila Castro and Antonio Guzmán, the first converts in the area. With this missionary effort, the Iglesia del Bóer was established as the first church in the capital of the country. Due to the growth of the Adventist Church in Nicaragua, Nicaragua Mission was officially organized in 1929.13 Pastor C. P. Kregger held an evangelistic campaign in 1933. As a result, a large group of converts was baptized. Also in 1933 in Bóer, a small Adventist school was established under the direction of Teacher Julia Rodríguez. For many years, the school continued operations without government recognition.

Pastor Howard contributed to the establishment of the church in Diriamba in 1931 and the church in Jinotepe in 1936. Two of Pastor Howard’s first converts, Rubén Ruiz and Luis Antonio Rocha, became the first Nicaraguan Adventist pastors. Rubén Ruiz was known for his melodious voice, passion for poetry, and missionary commitment. He became a dedicated promoter of the La Voz de la Esperanza ministry. In 1939, Pastor Ruiz teamed up with Pastor Eduardo Rebelo, a colporteur originally from El Salvador, to plant the seed of the gospel in the city of León located in the western part of the country. As a result of this effort, Ernesto Espinoza, Argentina Parrales, Benita Téllez, and Vicente Dávila were baptized.14

New churches were established in Nicaragua’s principal cities mainly due to the commitment of colporteurs selling books in unentered territories. In 1940, Pastor Rebelo was conducting colporteur work in the city of Matagalpa. He came across the home of Mrs. Paula Fley, who eventually accepted the faith and became the first Adventist in the north-central area of Nicaragua. Later, Antonio Cervantes, Lupario Zeledón, Julio Acevedo, and others joined the Adventist Church. From that city known as Perla del Septentrión, the gospel spread to other places.15

In 1948, Remigio Castillo, a former Pentecostal pastor, and his wife, Irma Mercado, both accepted the Adventist faith in the city of León and established the first church in Malpaisillo. For many years, they labored to advance the Adventist work in the area. In 1974, they moved to Matiguás in Matagalpa, where they then established a series of churches.16

In 1957, a group of brethren that included Hope Noble, Antonio Selva, Salvador Kavistan, and Adán Abarca built a church to serve the east neighborhoods of Managua. In 1958, under the leadership of Pastor Luis Antonio Rocha, the church of El Paraisito was built. This church became the main Adventist church in the capital city of Managua in the aftermath of the 1972 earthquake that destroyed most of Managua.17

Spread and Development of Adventist Message

In 1938, Nicaragua Mission had six churches and 288 members.18 There were 275 Sabbath School members and an elementary school with 120 students supervised by a missionary couple. Nicaragua Mission reported 421 members in 1952 and 692 in 1955.19 Between 1960 and 1966, the mission’s membership almost doubled from 828 to 1,586.20 Seventy years after the Adventist faith was introduced in Nicaragua, Pastor Robert Elden Ford requested the Nicaraguan Senate to recognize and grant legal status to the Adventist Church, which was accepted on November 24, 1967.

After the 1972 earthquake in Managua, new churches were established in Managua’s neighborhoods of Santa Rosa, Monseñor Lezcano, San Judas, Reparto Schick, and La Fuente. By 1978, Nicaragua Mission had 21 churches and 5,978 members.21 A church was established in Chinandega in 1971 and another in Estelí in 1973. In the Chontales area, the Gatica brothers established churches in Socorro, Guanacastillo, Las Vegas, Samaria, El Peñón, Corocito, Luz Eterna, Jerusalén, and Buena Esperanza. Meanwhile, Luis Carrero and a group of laymen in the 1980s established churches in Juigalpa, San Carlos, Nueva Guinea, El Almendro, and other new territories.

Pastor Alvin J. Stewart began the construction of a hospital in the city of Puerto Cabezas in 1948. The hospital would be directed by Dr. C. J. McCleary. The hospital’s nursing school would be run by Marjorie Bell. In 1953, Dr. Fred B. Moor became the administrator of the hospital. The hospital was located far from populated areas, so it was decided to transfer the hospital to a more accessible location in the city of La Trinidad 122 kilometers north of Managua.22

The new hospital began operations in 1960. Among its directors were William Shea, Vernon Spark, and others who contributed to the development of medical work in Nicaragua. On January 2, 1960, the church of La Trinidad was organized with mostly hospital employees as members. The Hospital Adventista de Nicaragua became a pinnacle of light for the church and contributed to the establishment and growth of many churches in the northern area of Nicaragua. In 1981, the hospital was overtaken by the revolutionary government that began to govern the country in 1979.23

The Adventist Church in Nicaragua in 1980 had 9,220 members and 28 churches.24 The political situation in Nicaragua became tense in 1981, distancing the government from all local churches. Nevertheless, the Adventist Church established numerous churches and primary schools in the principal cities of Nicaragua.25

Institutional growth became evident after 1990. Radio Adventista de Nicaragua was established, forming a chain of radio stations and radio repeaters throughout the country. Hospital Adventista de Nicaragua reopened in the city of Estelí. Adventist education was strengthened with 29 primary and middle schools as well as a boarding vocational high school named Colegio Vocacional Adventista de Nicaragua (COVANIC). In 2003, the government authorized COVANIC to offer university-level courses; in 2019, these courses were recognized to be offered by the Universidad Adventista de Centro América in Costa Rica. These institutions assist in the spreading of Adventist values and the preaching of the gospel throughout Nicaragua.26


Elementary Schools

There are primary Adventist schools operating successfully throughout the country of Nicaragua. These schools were built in the communities and cities of Bluefields, Puerto Cabezas, Matagalpa, El Paraisito, Jinotepe, Granada, Reparto Schick, Chinandega, León, Monseñor Lezcano, Estelí, Malpaisillo, Las Maderas, Tipitapa, Motastepe, Nueva Guinea, Waslala, Laodicea, and Almendro.

Secondary Schools

The Adventist Church in Nicaragua operates the following secondary schools in the city of Managua: the boarding school Colegio Vocacional Adventista de Nicaragua, founded in 1982; the Colegio Reparto Schick, founded in 1998; and the Colegio Metropolitano, founded in 2001. The following secondary schools operate elsewhere in Nicaragua: Colegio Adventista Porteño, founded in 1966; Colegio Maranatha de Estelí, founded in 1992; Colegio de Matagalpa, founded in 1994; Colegio de Bluefields, founded in 2000; and Centro Educacional Adventista Chinandega, founded in 2001.27


In 1960, the Hospital Adventista de Nicaragua was established when the Adventist Church in the municipality of La Trinidad in Estelí, Nicaragua, had the vision to establish a medical missionary facility. In 1981, however, it was closed by order of the revolutionary government. It eventually reopened in 2003, and its new, modern facilities were inaugurated in 2018.

Radio and Television Stations

The need to establish means of communication to spread the gospel in Nicaragua resulted in obtaining a radio frequency to be administered by the Adventist Church. Therefore, Radio Adventista de Nicaragua 92.7 FM was established, and its first program aired on May 14, 1997, and reached 60 percent of the country’s territory. Other local radio stations are managed by Northwestern Nicaragua Mission, which include: Stereo Salvación in Matagalpa, Radio Adventista in Chinandega, La Verdad Presente in La Trinidad, and “Cross to Crown Adventist Radio,” which broadcasts in Miskito, English, and Spanish in the North Caribbean coast of Nicaragua and in Juigalpa in the territory of South Atlantic Nicaragua Mission.28 In addition, a cable television station with a channel named La Verdad Presente is financed by the district of La Trinidad.

Administrative Units

The Adventist Church in Nicaragua has three administrative units: Central Nicaragua Mission established in 1928, located in Managua, with 105 churches and 11,623 members; Northwestern Nicaragua Mission established in 2003, located in Matagalpa, with 125 churches and 19,963 members; and South Atlantic Nicaragua Mission established in 2014, located in Chontales, with 58 churches and 5,656 members.29

The Church and the Community

Three church ministries have proven valuable to the growth of the church: the radio ministry with the program La Voz de la Esperanza, specifically with its radio Bible study program to the Nicaraguan community since the 1970s; the printed ministry, specifically through the distribution of the missionary magazines El Centinela and Prioridades; and the medical ministry with the social work carried out by the Hospital Adventista de Nicaragua from the 1960s to the present.

From 1973, the work of OFASA (Obra Filantrópica de Asistencia Social Adventista) was a great blessing to the Nicaraguan community. In October 1988, under a new name and with the same philosophy to serve as OFASA, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) provided assistance to the victims of Hurricane Juana. In 1990, ADRA implemented the Development Assistance Program, benefiting over 300 communities in the departments of Nueva Segovia, Madriz, and Estelí.30 ADRA has provided assistance and support to the victims of the Cerro Negro eruption of 1991, the tsunami of 1992, the floods in the south of the country in 1996, Hurricane Mitch in 1998, the drought of 2001, and Hurricane Felix in the Caribbean coast in 2007. ADRA also helped build houses and repair infrastructure destroyed by hurricanes that affected Nicaragua throughout the years. Also, the Supervivencia Infantil project (a child survival initiative), Niños saludables en comunidades saludables, implemented in six municipalities of the department of Madriz was successful in benefiting 10,212 children under five and 31,965 women of reproductive age.31

ADRA Nicaragua had the training and unconditional support of VRED, a volunteer program specializing in rescue, emergencies, and disasters, as well as the support of young people from the Master Guide ministry. The church provided support for government programs such as Venta Social de Medicamento, NICASALUD, and Programa de Salud Integral Comunitario, which was implemented in 25 communities of the municipality of Waspán, Río Coco of the North Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region, and benefitted over 10,000 people. In 2008 and 2009, ADRA donated books and audiovisual materials to the Ministry of Education of Nicaragua and gave support to around 260 schools and public libraries, which would benefit the districts under Managua’s city hall.32 This was a significant contribution valued at more than $400,000 USD.33 ADRA’s excellent and continuous work has been recognized by the Nicaraguan people.

Challenges for the Mission and What Remains to be Done

The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Nicaragua grows healthy with a vision toward the future and a strong sense to fulfill its mission. It pursues the following:

  • Encourage church members to actively participate in the discipleship program and equip and motivate each member and pastor to adopt a healthy lifestyle.

  • Establish churches in each city and municipality, build new churches, reorganize groups and companies into organized churches, build and remodel educational campus infrastructures, and strengthen educational institutions through continuing professional faculty training.

  • Strengthen the fields’ finances, increase the number of pastors, and reorganize the missions into conferences.

  • Renovate radio stations and create more local programs, share the message with Nicaragua’s ethnic groups, prepare professional pastors from the Miskito population, and implement strategies to increase Adventist presence in the country’s capital targeting the middle class population.


Arellano, Eduardo. Historia básica de Nicaragua. Vol. II. Managua, Nicaragua: Fondo Editorial CIRA, 1997.

Eduardo Arellano, Jorge. “Valiosa donación de libros al Mined.” El Nuevo Accessed May 31, 2021.

Fley, Elías. “Apuntes de la historia de la Iglesia Adventista en el Departamento de León, Nicaragua.” Unpublished document. September 2003. Author’s personal collection.

Gómez Otero, Marvin. La historia de un pueblo. Matagalpa, Nicaragua: self-published, 2013.

“Languages of Nicaragua.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Accessed May 31, 2021.

Nicaragua Mission First Quadrennial Session minutes. “ADRA Report.” 2000. Accessed 2020. Central American Union Conference archives, Alajuela, Costa Rica.

Nicaragua Mission Second Quadrennial Session minutes. “ADRA Report.” 2004. Accessed 2020. Central American Union Conference archives, Alajuela, Costa Rica.

Nicaragua Mission Third Quadrennial Session minutes. “ADRA Report.” 2008. Accessed 2020. Central American Union Conference archives, Alajuela, Costa Rica.

“Nicaragua.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Accessed May 31, 2021.

Parrilla, Jewell. El Rey de la Tormenta. Miami, Florida: Inter-American Division Publishing Association, 1998.

“Religión en Nicaragua.” Wikipedia: La enciclopedia libre. Accessed June 27, 2019.ón_en_Nicaragua.

Schwarz, Richard W., and Floyd Greenleaf. Light Bearers. Nampa, ID: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 2000.

Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia. Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1976. S.v. “Nicaragua.”

Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook.


  1. “Nicaragua,” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, accessed May 31, 2021,

  2. Ibid.

  3. Ibid.

  4. “Languages of Nicaragua,” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, accessed May 31, 2021,

  5. “Nicaragua,” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, accessed May 31, 2021,

  6. “Religión en Nicaragua,” Wikipedia: La enciclopedia libre, accessed June 27, 2019,ón_en_Nicaragua.

  7. Richard W. Schwarz and Floyd Greenleaf, Light Bearers (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 2000), 219.

  8. Jewell Parrilla, El Rey de la Tormenta (Miami, Florida: Inter-American Division Publishing Association, 1998), 83-84.

  9. Eduardo Arellano, Historia básica de Nicaragua, vol. II (Managua, Nicaragua: Fondo Editorial CIRA, 1997), 227-228.

  10. Parrilla, 115-120.

  11. Florence Watson de Moraga, interview by author, Masaya, Nicaragua, August 2012.

  12. Joan Casanova de Brooks, interview by Morlin Monroe, Bluefields, Nicaragua, April 2004.

  13. Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia (1976), s.v. “Nicaragua.”

  14. Elías Fley, “Apuntes de la historia de la Iglesia Adventista en el Departamento de León, Nicaragua” (unpublished document, September 2003), author’s personal collection.

  15. José Antonio Zeledón, interview by author, Matagalpa, Nicaragua, July 2003.

  16. Aura and Esperanza Castillo, interview by author, Matiguás, Nicaragua, September 2003.

  17. Florence Watson de Moraga, interview by author, Masaya, Nicaragua, June 2003.

  18. “Nicaragua Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Takoma Park, Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1938), 146.

  19. “Nicaragua Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1952), 130; and “Nicaragua Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1955), 111.

  20. “Nicaragua Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1960), 123; and “Nicaragua Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, DC: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1965), 153.

  21. “Nicaragua Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1978), 217.

  22. Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia (1974), s.v. “Nicaragua.”

  23. Corinth Brooks, interview by author, La Trinidad, Estelí, Nicaragua, June 2012.

  24. “Nicaragua Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1981), 231.

  25. Marvin Gómez Otero, La historia de un pueblo (Matagalpa, Nicaragua: self-published, 2013), 107-112.

  26. Ibid., 140-148.

  27. Central American Union Conference secretariat archives, accessed 2019.

  28. Gómez Otero, 159-160.

  29. “Central Nicaragua Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook, accessed May 31, 2021,; “Northwestern Nicaragua Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook, accessed May 31, 2021,; and “South Atlantic Nicaragua Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook, accessed May 31, 2021,

  30. Nicaragua Mission First Quadrennial Session, “ADRA Report,” 2000, accessed 2020, Central American Union Conference archives.

  31. Nicaragua Mission Second Quadrennial Session, “ADRA Report,” 2004, 101-105, accessed 2020, Central American Union Conference archives.

  32. Jorge Eduardo Arellano, “Valiosa donación de libros al Mined,” El Nuevo, accessed May 31, 2021,

  33. Nicaragua Mission Third Quadrennial Session, “ADRA Report,” 2008, 161-164, accessed 2020, Central American Union Conference archives.


Gómez, Marvin. "Nicaragua." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. September 11, 2021. Accessed June 18, 2024.

Gómez, Marvin. "Nicaragua." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. September 11, 2021. Date of access June 18, 2024,

Gómez, Marvin (2021, September 11). Nicaragua. Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved June 18, 2024,