Rotarian pairs service with faith

Published 7:48 am Friday, March 4, 2011

Kathy Stutzman explains to First Congregational Church of Austin some of the events that happened on her trips to Nicaragua. - Matt Peterson/

Although Kathy Stutzman has lived in Austin for 22 years, it took her a long time to find a suitable church.

Stutzman has done service work in Africa, Argentina, Haiti, Jamaica and the U.S. as a Rotarian. But finding a church with views like hers wasn’t easy.

So when she discovered First Congregational Church of Austin, she found a home. She said it aligns with everything she has been doing.

Kathy Stutzman explains everything she brought back from Nicaragua was bought from the impoverished regions in which she helped make a difference. - Matt Peterson/

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“I believe I was put on this earth to serve,” she said.

To her, churches and people both have an obligation to fill. And as a 22-year member of the Austin Rotary club, she wanted to find a service-based church that helps other communities and countries, just like she does.

“My belief is that we have an obligation as human beings to be compassionate and caring,” she said.

Stutzman’s recent trips to Nicaragua through Rotary gave her an idea: get her church involved.

“My Hope is the church will engage in missions to Nicaragua to develop relationships with others,” she said.

Stutzman gave a presentation to her church Wednesday afternoon. It showed the poverty-stricken regions of Nicaragua and how she and others have helped. And building relationships has been an important part of that help.

Stutzman said many organizations will do service work in impoverished regions, then simply leave. However, volunteers can make more of a difference if they continue the same projects and serve the same people. Instead of only sending money, they are trying to provide a sense of hope.

“It’s a one-step-at-a-time process,” Stutzman said. “We always want to send familiar faces, so they keep going back.”

For that reason, Stutzman wants members of her church to go to Nicaragua, where continuous help is needed.

People from many regions of Nicaragua survive on less than $1.50 a day. The infant mortality rate is 11 percent, and the female population is 85 percent in some regions, according to Stutzman. Many of the nation’s men have left to work in other countries, and the illiteracy rate is also very high. Now, part of fixing the problem begins with the kids.

Because a large part of First Congregational Church’s work involves youth ministries, it could be an opportunity to build lasting relationships in Nicaragua. Stutzman’s teenage daughter is just one member who has started to build relationships through work in Nicaragua.

Now, a young girl from Nicaragua will get the opportunity to visit the Stutzmans in the U.S. and attend First Congregational Church.

A lot of missions may come to fruition thanks to a Nicaraguan school, which coordinates efforts with international missions groups to bring kids to Nicaragua to help out. Stutzman sees it as a great opportunity for her church and is confident it will help out.

“The kids really connect with them,” Stutzman said. “If our children can learn they have nothing to fear from people of Nicaragua, then we are really looking at a just society.