Stories from Nicaragua
The following were written by each of our Team Members as they returned from Jinotepe, Nicaragua. They are our “God Moments,” small moments in which we saw God working and in which we were able to join Him!
At the beginning of the week, we all prayed for God to give us a glimpse of the opportunities He has set up for us. Visions, and thoughts, soon came to mind and throughout our time there, we recognized them. People were given hope, many accepted God’s grace and my mind was blown away once again by His awesome power and sovereignty. Secondly, at a youth rally we did with the youth from La Roca church, God put it on my heart to share my testimony. I was insanely nervous, but I kept praying for Him to speak to me. To my surprise, He answered my prayer. As I started speaking, all my anxiety went away, and I spoke with confidence I never thought I had! At the end of the night, after more dancing and Dan’s message, 11 people accepted Christ for the first time. God showed me how powerful testimonies are, and I am comforted by the good that came from the hurt my family has experienced.
At the beginning of this week, we were challenged to pray and ask God to show us why He brought us here. We were instructed to visualize what God was saying to us, and then share the pictures with the group. In my mind’s eye, I saw two stone staircases. Now, there is a set of these near our hotel so I kind of figured that was where this vision came from. Little did I know how wrong I was. The next night, we went out to do small groups. My team walked for 35 minutes to arrive at the house we would be meeting in. As we were walking up, I looked and beheld a set of stone staircases. I knew that God brought me to the very place to share my testimony. We had about 25 people come from the neighborhood. Each of the people from our team shared something, and at the end, 15 decisions were made for Christ. Don’t be afraid to ask God to show you His plans, and don’t dismiss what He gives you, or you may miss it!
My God moment was when we went to the Pastor Areli’s house and ate dinner and had to say goodbye to the youth from La Roca. We all started crying and hugging. When we were praying for them I was crying and Kevin Morales turned around and hugged me. That was a time when I felt God powerfully. I felt His love through the youth group from La Roca.
On Monday we did a small group evangelism service where we all split up into groups of 4 or more and went out on the streets of Nicaragua and invited people to a small group we were having that night. In that small group was the first time I had spoken my written devotional to more than one person out loud. It was one of the hardest parts of the trip but one of the most rewarding!
The next morning I was sitting outside of the hotel room waiting for to coffee to be put out (haha) and decided to document some of the stuff that we did the day before and when I got to writing about the small group we did, God told me that that is the stuff that really mattered. All the other stuff I was thinking about back at home had nothing to do with God or the big picture! And in that moment I truly felt God tell me what was really important.
My “god moment” was on Wednesday at a feeding center in Jinotepe. We went there to help feed the kids and pray for some families in the community. It really amazed me to see how God provided for these kids and worked through our team and the people at the center.
It is really difficult to choose just one “God moment” from our week in Nicaragua, I personally felt Gods presence every day and everywhere we went. But getting out of the bus at the Arms of Love orphanage, and getting hugged by all of the little girls before they even knew our names, felt like being home. After playing on the playground for a while, a few of the little girls brought me inside and wrote my name on the crafts they had been working on, just to see me smile, seeing that selflessness broke my heart. I will never forget my first missions trip, or the relationships built while serving there in Nicaragua. It was honestly the best week I’ve ever had, and I am excited to see what else The Lord has planned for me there.
My God moments were actually during the evangelizing portions of the trip. For the pray and go’s, we wrote down people or things we thought God was calling us to. By the end of the week, 90% of the things on the list were accounted for, which is incredible. One of my God moments was when my evangelizing team and I came across the cutest little 5-year-old boy named Hector. We evangelized and prayed over him and he accepted Jesus into his heart! Another God moment was at Rachel’s Feeding Center. Just seeing all those kids’ happy faces and being able to feed them was such a blessing!
I have so many “God moments” in mind. All the opportunities to share Gods message of grace and mercy we’re awesome. Seeing 7 people receive Christ as their personal savior in about a half hours time was incredible. Then God led us to a Pastor to follow up with them. Wow! Working with the Nicaraguan youth group was incredible also, but for some reason the moment that sticks out for me is when we stopped to talk to a young lady and her mother who were making tortillas. We learned that they were strong Christians. We prayed with them and continued on our way. Then they sent their daughter/granddaughter to catch us and bring us back to pray for a sick relative. It struck me how much they valued our prayers and knew how powerful prayer is. I felt so humbled that they would catch us and bring us back to pray again for them. It was a real blessing and it taught me a lot about the Nicaraguan people. They may be poor in possessions and money but they are much richer than we are in their relationships.
I had some real reservations about going with the teens and young people, but they completely turned my reservations into great pride in the way they handled themselves and represented God and our Church.
I’m sitting on the plane awaiting take off for return to the USA and I’m having my most memorable “God Moment” of the week. I’m remembering the hearts of the Pastor/Leaders we taught in our Bible Institute, and of course the people in their small community churches as we worshiped with them in the evenings. Church buildings that were small, poorly equipped, and one with a dirt floor but all with people that were few in number but overflowing with the Love of God and a real sense of welcome for our team. They loved us, appreciated us, and treated us like family. The Holy Spirit has never given me a truer sense of “Here I am, Lord; Send me,” as I look forward to a return trip.
On the last day of the Bible Institute, I introduced myself to Don Arturo, a Pastor attending the study. Through an interpreter, I explained to him that before I left the U.S., I had thoughts of someone with his name and I did not know anyone else. We spoke briefly and each offered to continue to pray for the other one. The spiritual connection had been made with tears of joy.
Our first trip to Nicaragua once again proved God’s faithfulness. The day before leaving, we received the name of a young American girl named Kaeli, living in Jinotepe. She graciously joined us for the week, taking us to many places for ministry opportunities, not only for this time, but for future trips. He always provides just what we need when we live our lives on mission.
As a professor, it always thrills me to see students eager to learn. This past week at the Bible Institute I saw pastors thirsty to learn more about the Word of God. I saw pastors and church leaders given tools to help them lead the people of their respective congregations and communities. I saw people filled with the love of God, overwhelm-ingly grateful for the opportunity to learn, and hungry for more. I witnessed true joy in the “classroom.” We were blessed to be able to help “till the soil” (parable of the sower, Matt. 13) for seeds that had already been sown and needed to establish deeper, farther reaching roots. We ALL grew!
This was my first mission trip. Before coming to Nicaragua, I decided to let go of my desire to have a schedule or feel in control of the circumstances that I may face. I was pleasantly surprised with the accommodations and the friendliness of the people we encountered. We had made one contact with an orphanage called Arms of Love, but was completely depending on God to lead us where He wanted us to serve. I have been on a journey, for a few years now, to let go of needing to know and plan for the moments of my life. God continued to prove on this mission that He is trustworthy. As I allowed Him to guide my path, He introduced us to an American, Kaeli. She has a devoted heart to Christ and a love for the people of Nicaragua. She completely depends on God to meet her every need. She loves on those who appear unlovable. As the Lord pours into her life, she pours into others. Kaeli is the hands and feet of Jesus. I was encouraged by her faith and her fearless, courageous way of loving others without enabling negative behavior. I will not be the same, and for that, I am grateful.
My God Moment this week was when we traveled to the school to talk to the children. I was a little nervous of how the kids would accept a big group of white folks all the way from Alabama. We began to play games and sing with the kids and I had a great time. Then we began to teach the kids about God and salvation through the Evangecube, and they were very responsive. Probably what touched me the most was after we were done, they all came up and gave us hugs. We had only met them five minutes before and they were all willing to come jump in our arms. The kids were so loving and I think God just illustrated His love to me through those kids.
This was my 2nd trip to the beautiful nation of Nicaragua, and if i learned anything form my first trip it was to expect a mighty move of the Lord in my life and the lives around me; when you dive into the Lord’s will expecting something life-changing, often times that’s exactly what you get. This moment came to me when we we went to a local orphanage on the third day of our mission. Joseph and I played a rowdy game of soccer and taught them how to celebrate a goal by doing the ‘Tebow’. After the game I gathered them around and started telling them why we were there. I shared about God’s love for them and our mission to spread that love and bring glory to our Father. I handed out bracelets as I told them that they were created to love God with all there hearts, love others as themselves, and serve obediently. I wrapped up by telling them to always remember Joseph and I when they looked down at the blue and white bracelets that they now proudly wore.
Over the course of our night at he orphanage, I made an effort to hold my wrist out to every boy and say “Hermanos en Jesucristo”(Brothers in Jesus Christ), pointing to our matching bracelets. It was during that time with the kids that I realized that all they wanted was someone to give them time and attention. So many times we Americans tend to bring gifts, money, and food, which are often needed. But the most meaningful gift we can give is our time. And when we give our time, we receive the richest, most meaningful blessing in return–a relationship. I believe it’s the truest picture of God’s love and the most effective from of Kingdom work. Knowing what I know now, I will never underestimate the value of my time in someone’s life. And that realization will forever shape how I Love God, Love Others and Serve in my community and to the ends of the earth.
A true God Moment for me was when I got up to teach on Thursday and before I began I asked the over 80 something Pastors present had they ever heard this material before. Over 80% said NO. I knew then that we were doing the right thing. And then to see their faces and their new-found confidence in the Word. When they received their certificates of course completion at the end of the week, I was so blessed to be a part of that. God has just allowed Friendship to be a part of this work!
“Flexibilidad”… That was my word for this week in Jinotepe, Nicaragua; a theme the team had adopted long before we left the States. I knew from past missions trips that “flexibility” would be required of me every day. On previous missions, there had always been a fairly strict schedule of activities. This Jinotepe trip was different. As part of the scouting team, we went with one goal: to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit to identify future opportunities through which to serve over the next 6 years.
Our gracious and all-knowing God provided us with a young woman named Kaeli through whom our goal was not only accomplished, but went well beyond our expectations. Through Kaeli’s introductions and partnerships, we met a Youth Pastor with whom we hope to partner with our youth as we serve together in Jinotepe. We met a young woman who is opening a baby orphanage in the beginning of 2013 and who would love to have teams come serve there alongside them. We also saw needs and opportunities to feed children in the poorest of circumstances.
Not only did we scout and explore, we had opportunities to serve. We played with children in an orphanage and a daycare center and a school. We prayed with families for their sick children in a hospital.
The LORD guided and provided and we came away most blessed.
Walking into the Mustard Seed Mission was extremely awkward. Not speaking the language is one thing, but relating to the physically and mentally impaired; It’s not a situation I run into everyday. God knew how I would feel. He placed in my path a young lady named Emira. In a short amount of time, I learned she liked to sing and dance. I told her through an interrupter that I did as well. Across the room a radio was turned on. I remembered that music is a universal language (was that a God thing or what?). I held out my hand and asked if she wanted to dance. When we stepped out into the middle of the room and started. The tension changed as others joined us on the floor.
God took two people in two different countries, used music as a common denominator and drew them together. He used us to break the ice in an unusual environment.
It broke my heart to leave her that day. I can’t express any reasoning for the connections we made that day except, God. We stepped out in faith and he showed up time after time!
It’s the last day of the Jinotepe Bible Institute and our team is finishing up with presenting certificates to the 120 pastors and church leaders we had been privileged to teach during the week. I was happy with the response in attendance, and with the apparent success we could see through the happy faces and questions and comments that were being exchanged through our translators. We were all ready for a time of hand shaking and neck hugging so that each of us, the Nicaraguans and our team, could express our appreciation and love for each other. Then a God moment happened and overwhelmed me. The six or so pastors that were leaders of certain groups of churches that had attended the Bible Institute came forward with a gift. They gave Friendship Church a wooden communion cup set. It expressed their love for us, it gave thanks to us for coming to them, and it symbolized the feelings all the churches have about our relationship with them in Christ. Wow!! with tears in my eyes, and a very humbled heart, the Holy Spirit was showing me what being a disciple, and bringing discipleship to others is all about. It was true communion and true fellowship. At the end, the learners were teaching and the teachers were learning.
We’re told to write our “God Moment”. One moment where we felt like we saw Him. I can’t break it down to one moment. God was everywhere, with us all the time; showing Himself in various forms. From the beauty of the Earth I saw from the plane to the instantaneous embrace of the children. I will, however, point out one moment, a moment I feel for sure I saw God’s face. We were at the Mustard Seed, a home for mentally disabled children. We all were definitely out of our comfort zone. I was just starting to feel better from being sick the past few days. I had taken malaria prevention pills and my body was rejecting them. I was getting migraines and was nauseous all day. At the Mustard Seed there was a little girl, probably around age 10. Her name is Meyline. She is skinny and has scars on her arms and legs. She just wandered around with a blank stare on her face. She didn’t talk. The other kids started to dance and I wanted her to be included. I don’t know why, but I took her hand and spun her around. She immediately grasped it and didn’t let go. After the first spin, she wanted to spin again and again. Faster and faster. My head was pounding and the nausea was coming back. But Meyline was smiling…right at me! Then Meyline was laughing! That image is forever imprinted in my brain. We spun on and off the whole time I was there. I physically felt terrible but would do it a thousand times to give her a reason to smile and laugh. I feel like our week in Nicaragua was a tiny glimpse of what heaven will be like. All of our brothers and sisters united by Christ from every nation serving our Lord; bonded by our love for God.
I can’t get over what a commitment and one return visit can make in relationships.
Before Friendship’s Glocal Team ever formally made the commitment to return to Nicaragua for 6 years to provide the Bible Institute for the Pastors, we had heard that believers in Jinotepe had seen North American ministries come, promising to return, yet never to be seen or heard from again.
So, when we came a 2nd time (December 2012), there was a tangible difference in our relationships with the Pastors at the Bible Institute as well as with the ministry leaders in the orphanages. From the moment we stepped into the church that Sunday, with three of our team embracing those we remember from July and calling their names, I experienced with them a true sense of fellowship as believers. We each knew that we were all there to used by God to further His Kingdom TOGETHER. As we went back to the Arms of Love Orphanage, we recognized children and called them by name and their trust in us and our purpose grew.
We can easily see why the Lord impressed on us to develop areas in the world where we would return again and again so that both believers and those who do not yet know Him can experience the faithfulness of God through His people. The investment of time and money we make is so small compared to the joy of being in His will, doing His work in and through relationships! Please – come go with us some time over the next 5 years!!
It is really very difficult to choose just ONE “God moment” from our time in Jinotepe. God’s presence was undeniable in every moment we spent there! However, if I have to choose just one thing, my biggest God moment took place in the home of a beautiful lady named Sylvia. We had the honor of going door to door to share the gospel in a rural community along with local church members. I was amazed to see God use each member of our team to reveal the truth of God’s grace found in Christ. Sylvia came to understand that she does not and cannot earn her salvation; she received the gift of grace and eternal life with God through Jesus on Thursday December 6, 2012! This was a pivotal time for me because it showed me that God can use ordinary people to do extraordinary things for his glory. It reminded me that God changes hearts. It told me that my story matters. It blessed me beyond measure. It changed my life.