In the summer of 2010, God planted the seeds of 516NOW when John Barrett and David Rhodes from Milestones Church in Spartanburg, South Carolina took an exploratory trip to Nicaragua. They met with Jaime Blandon, an old contact with whom David had worked in prior years while serving at another church. David and his Florida church had worked with Jaime to build 10 buildings for churches in communities near Condega, Nicaragua. As they toured those buildings, they noticed that several of the churches were closed or the congregation numbers had dwindled dramatically. The message from God was that construction of church buildings was insufficient. Jaime introduced David and John to the pastor of a church in Palacagüina. The church’s future was uncertain as they were being forced out of a tiny, rented house in which they met.
After hearing the report of this initial trip, the sponsor, Milestones Church purchased a plot of land on which to build a meeting place for the church in Palacagüina. In 2011, John and David led a Milestones Church group to Palacagüina. During that trip, major progress was made on the construction of a new church building. A dental clinic was conducted, local pastors were trained, and a children’s program was conducted. This multi-pronged effort was the first step in the journey that became the foundation of the broad-based ministry 516NOW.
In January 2012, John, David and Scott Votey met with community leaders (see our Mission and Vision for details). They met with the mayor, superintendent of schools, chief of police, and director of the medical clinic. In those meetings, John, David and Scott stated that they were followers of Jesus Christ and wanted to share the gospel message with the community. They wanted to do so through action that would improve not just the spiritual life of the community but also the education, health, economy, and recreation. All welcomed the offer of service. The mayor shared a list of 100 goals she had for the community and invited help with any or all of them. The trip opened the eyes of the Spartanburg church team to the huge needs and the incredible opportunities for ministry in this struggling community.
During a layover in the Atlanta airport, David, John and Scott discussed the opportunity that God was offering. Each noted that core ideas expressed in the book When Helping Hurts were confirmed by the recent trips to Nicaragua. They agreed that Matthew 5:16 (Let your light so shine before men that they see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.) perfectly described what they wanted to do. A sense of urgency was also evident and the new organization was named 516 (to recognize the verse) NOW (to reflect the sense of urgency). The organization was incorporated as a 501(c)3 not-for-profit in South Carolina and, later, a sister non-profit organization was incorporated in Nicaragua.
God’s blessings over the work of 516NOW were immediate and visible.
• A box of 516NOW t-shirts was stolen in 2012 and the shirts began appearing all over Palacagüina (Genesis 50:20 You intended to harm, but God intended it for good).
• The clinic painted the 516NOW logo on the side of the building and the local baseball team (former national champions) had the 516NOW logo put on their jerseys. It will soon be painted on the baseball stadium. (Psalm 64:9 All people will fear; they will proclaim to works of God and ponder what He has done)
• Other organizations visiting Palacagüina (World Race Teams, churches from Nebraska & Canada, and college student groups) now operate under the 516NOW name. (Psalm 20:5 … we lift up our banners in the name of our God)
• In the summer of 2013, a 516NOW mission team was welcomed to the city by a parade through the center of town. (Psalm 84:11 … the Lord bestows favor and honor…)
Operating as independent organizations in the U.S. and Nicaragua has allowed 516NOW to create a sustainable model that can be replicated in other countries. The mission of 516NOW continues in Palacagüina, Nicaragua and has expanded to Diriamba, Nicaragua (2017), the Dominican Republic (2020), and El Salvador (2020). We have established contacts in Columbia and Belize which could provide new target communities for us in the near future.
The mission of 516NOW continues to develop based on the core ideas birthed in the Atlanta airport in 2012. We believe that the pattern of development that is being implemented in Palacaguina is vital, sustainable, and transferable to other communities within Nicaragua and around the globe. While 516NOW is still in its infancy, we believe that future possibilities are as wide as the needs of the world and as unlimited as the grace and faithfulness of God.
“God has provided 516NOW a large vision. We move by faith knowing that if we are faithful, God will always lead and provide.” John Barrett, President 516NOW