Monday, August 31, 2009

Nicaragua 2009: Josh's Story

I asked the team members to submit stories that were particularly touching to them during the trip for inclusion as a guest post. Today I would like to tell Josh's story. As I mentioned before, Josh is the lead pastor at New Life. I talked about church leadership previously and I am just very thankful for the example knowing that our pastor was not asking us to do anything that he would not do himself. It was really quite fun watching and listening to Josh preach the word of God through a translator and see Josh and our translator Oscar start to work well together and even develop a style. The following is Josh's story:

"Ok so among many things that happened on this trip, I will never forget the late night, rainy drive into a town called Tipitopa. After a long day of feeding and evangelizing, we pulled into this town and I felt a sense of refreshment and excitement. I really should have been feeling worn out and tired but something was happening. I was slated to preach this night to a group who was meeting in the pastor’s home. A lady had started this church after having a desire to see her community evangelized. Eventually, her brother took the church over and is now pastoring here in this community.

When we rolled in to this town, as usual, things were well underway and we could hear the music a great way off. It was very common for us to show up 30-45 minutes late and the “party” was just getting underway. I was still in my shorts and I waited for everyone to get out before I changed in to a pair of khakis and a collared shirt. It was only appropriate to respect the pulpit where I would be preaching and while the pastor donned a pair of jeans, I felt very good with what I was wearing. We walked down this muddy, dark alley for about 20 yards before I could see right there in front of me was a church that was packed to the gill. No more seats, so the windows on the side were lifted up and people were looking through the windows. The music was very loud but yet very good. Kids were everywhere playing outside in the mud having a good time.

The atmosphere was festive and I had asked God earlier what passage He wanted me to preach from that night. He immediately took me to Ephesians 6:10-13 and I encouraged the body to stand strong against the wiles of the devil. I felt lead throughout the service to challenge men to guard their families against the demonic forces that were so active in this country. I’ll never forget the lizard over top of my head devouring a bug as I preached. Kim was checking it out the whole time, waiting for it to drop on my head in the middle of the service.

As the message ended, the altar call was given and it seemed as if the Holy Spirit reached in and took over the whole service. There was conviction of sin and I will never forget one young man who just became a father came forward and received Jesus into his heart. Yes he was now saved and able to lead his family to the throne of God! Immediately after the service, his wife came up to us and surrendered her heart to Jesus! Yes that night the whole family was saved and beginning a new life in Jesus Christ.

I will never forget that little town and all that God did that night. I will never forget William and his wife who spent most of their wage to hire a taxi to bring them there that night. William, a former whiskey dealer, got born-again and the Holy Spirit led him to burn his whiskey dealership. In front of the whole town, William lit the building up and all of those drunks, who used to buy whiskey there, witnessed this event. I am reminded in the book of Acts 19:18, “And many who had believed came confessing and telling their deeds. Also, many of those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all”. That is exactly what William did! Oh friend, when you are converted, there is a change that overcomes your heart and the evil way of the devil become no more in your life. This is just one story of how God showed Himself strong to me and I appreciated the Holy Spirit ministering to me while I was there."

Friday, August 28, 2009

Nicaragua 2009: Carried on Eagles Wings

The following are some of the people that are part of the ministry down there in Nicaragua, I did not have pictures of everyone so I posted who I had. On Monday I will continue posting stories from the team members, Josh's story is up next.



Billy


A worker from the farm and Oscar


Miller and Kelli


Edipcia


Beverly


Pedrona


Margarita and Milena


Michael and his mother

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Nicaragua 2009: Doing Hard Things


Going to Nicaragua was not easy, going into the Managua city dump was not easy. In fact I would like to step out on a limb here and say that whenever we follow God, whenever we tell others about Jesus, whenever we live how He wants us to live -- it is not easy.

It is not easy telling strangers about Jesus, what if they do not like what I am telling them? What if they get angry?


It is not easy telling and showing my friends, what if they do not like me anymore? What if they ditch our friendship
and walk away? What if they laugh at me and call me names?

It is not easy telling and showing my family, what if they
discard me? What if they refuse to acknowledge me? What if I become an outcast?

But more than anything with all the opportunities I have to share Jesus, what if I fail them? What if I mess up and tarnish the name of Jesus? What if they reject Jesus?

These concerns are very normal and very prevalent, this is my confession, I feel them every day. I have a very strong desire to be accepted and liked. I enjoy my working relationships, my friendships, and my family....putting any of those in doubt is not fun nor appetizing to me. Stepping out and telling others about Jesus puts me at risk of many forms of rejection, many forms of ridicule. These feelings are not from God.


2 Timothy 1:7-8 (New American Standard)

7For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. 8Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God,


Jesus never says that it will be easy following Him, Jesus never says that our problems would go away when we put our faith in Him. In fact in Mark, Jesus tells us to let Him lead and not to run away from suffering but to embrace it. Jesus tells us that self sacrifice is what He wants from our lives. Jesus does not intend for us to create an easy Christian faith that costs us nothing except an hour or so on Sunday morning....He wants everything, He wants our all.


Matthew 22:37 (New King James Version)

37 Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’


Think about loving the Lord with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind. What does that look like? How can we achieve that? I think it starts with relationship, our relationship with Him. He never wants us to be ashamed of our relationship with Him, He wants us to be bold in telling others about Him.

So why follow Him? If it is going to cost us so much, if it is going to be diffic
ult, if we are going to endure suffering why would we want to give our lives to Jesus? Oh, there are so many answers to these good questions and they all lead back to The Answer, Jesus. But there is more, God uses these trials and difficult times to refine our character and redeem so much good out of our hardships. I love the way The Message phrases Romans 5:3-5:


Romans 5:3-5 (The Message)

3-5There's more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we're hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we're never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can't round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!


It matures us and develops us, notice in James 1:2-4 James says "...you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way". The New King James phrases it "...that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing".


James 1:2-4 (The Message)

2-4Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.


But wait there is even more -- a reward:


James 1:12 (The Message)

12Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life.


And we don't have to do it alone:


Matthew 11:28-30 (The Message)

28-30"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."


Please hear my heart here, God does not wish evil or cause evil to occur in our lives. That is a consequence of living in a fallen world. God simply redeems what satan intended for evil. My reward is life and more life, I see it in the faces of my friends and family and I saw it in the faces of the children in Nicaragua....this is such a wonderful reward. If my time in Nicaragua has done anything for my walk with Jesus, I pray that it has given me a heightened level of boldness. I for so many years have failed to unashamedly claim the name of Jesus. I do not know why I have consistently valued the opinion of man so much that it has hampered me from fully expressing my relationship with Jesus. I hope and pray that I can live and love reserved, no longer. This is just the beginning...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Nicaragua 2009: Chelsea's Story


I asked the team members to submit stories that were particularly touching to them during the trip for inclusion as a guest post. Today I would like to tell Chelsea's story. Chelsea is a teenager with a wonderful heart for God and children, I am astounded that at such a young age she has already been fortunate enough to gain this experience. I know that what she saw and did has created a depth in Chelsea's life few experiences can equal and will become a permanent memory in her mind and held dearly close to her heart. The following is Chelsea's story:


"I still have a hard time believing I went to Nicaragua. I look at pictures of the dump, and all the houses, and I say “I was there; I walked those exact streets...” The pictures look horrible and sad but it doesn’t feel that way for me. When I think of Nicaragua I think of loving, hospitable people who love Jesus Christ and are willing to hear God’s word. I think of all of the smiles on every single person’s face (including peoples’ in the dump). I think of the children, and the joy they had when handed their bowl of food. I think of the beautiful mountains. I think of each hug I received. I think of the worship and how awesome it is to praise God for 2 hours and not have anywhere else to be. I think of how sad it was for me to leave.


While in Nicaragua, God reminded me that no situation is too big for Him, His love is the greatest thing, and I had never had one problem in my life. I have had dinner every night of my life and I have had clothes on my back. I have absolutely no reason in the world to complain about anything. I am blessed beyond measure.



I could talk about Nicaragua for hours.
I now have 8 friends whom I love so much, and can talk to about anything. We learned a lot about each other on this trip and all of us grew closer to God together. One night we were riding in the micro bus and me and Josh were talking, he had said something about our age difference and then he said here you are 15 years old hanging out with me, a 37 year old, we have Jesus in common and that makes us real close. He is so right. I have friends in school, some saved, some are still a working progress, but those are completely different relationships. There is something amazing about a friendship with a brother or sister in Christ. I became very close to my “hermana en Cristo”, Edipcia. We don’t even live in the same country, yet, we share Jesus, and she is one of the greatest friends I grew close to. As I said before, nothing is greater that God’s love.


Chris asked us all to share a specific
story that changed our lives; my story is about a little boy at a feeding program. We got to the feeding program and we were all talking with the children, playing a game with them, or teaching them how to play the guitar. After the kids had been served their food, Oscar pulled out a suitcase full of used clothes and toys. There wasn’t enough for every child to get something so he made it a competition and started throwing clothes out to them, and whoever caught it got to keep it. Kids were going crazy over the smallest things. Oscar had thrown out a pair of old socks and a little boy caught them. He immediately fell to his knees and guarded the socks with his life. Kids were pulling at his clothes, grabbing his arms, and he would not move. He began to cry, and this broke my heart. His friend kept repeatedly trying to help him up but he still would not move. I walked over to him, wrapped my arms around him and tried to help him up. He still would not get up. I then told him that I loved him, Jesus loved him, (that is all the Spanish I knew without an interpreter) and he stood up. I led him away from the crowd, and he wrapped his arms around me, buried his head in me and just wept. I also began to cry.

This experience just reminded me that I am so blessed! This child cried over a pair of socks, and I sometimes throw old socks away! In the U.S. if someone threw old socks out into a crowd of children, nine times out of ten they would laugh or not even pay attention. This showed me how little Nicaraguans have yet it also showed me that they have everything! They have smiles on their faces 24/7 and they have a community where the majority is hungry for Jesus Christ! They have the most loving hearts. They have freedom. They don’t have a busy schedule to work around, and they can worship God for hours on end (might I also add in 90 degrees). If only we all could live as free as Nicaraguans. We may not have the same lifestyle as they do but we do have the same Jesus, and we can share him just as freely here in the U.S. as we can there."

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Nicaragua 2009: John's Story



I asked the team members to submit stories that were particularly touching to them during the trip for inclusion as a guest post. Today I would like to tell John's story. As I mentioned before, John is the associate pastor at New Life. While I was worried about leaving a wife that was 4 months pregnant, John went on this trip with a wife that was almost 8 months pregnant. The story John tells is an event that impacted me deeply in Nicaragua, through John's actions I saw his heart and his heart is good. The following is John's story:

"Chris asked me to put some thoughts down about a specific event or time in Nicaragua that really impacted my life. There are too many to mention here but since this is his blog I will share with you a moment that we had together in the local dump.

For those of us who have trusted Christ as our Savior we have the great honor of calling the God of this universe "Father"-- we are His children! This is such a special relationship, my relationship with the Father in heaven has grown to be the sweetest thing I know! I am a father of 3 boys and will soon have a daughter!

God has used these children to show me how much He loves us!

Many times I have watched my children running and playing without a care in the world and then all of a sudden down they go "ouch"! It doesn't take long before they are in my arms and in the midst of the tears, dirt, and blood all they can say is "daddy!" Why do they do this? Because they know their "daddy" is going to take care of them and make it all better and it usually only takes a kiss and a band aid and they are back in full swing.

With this thought in mind I want to share with you what I experienced in the dump with my "brother" Chris!

We were in the this dump and words alone can not describe just how bad this place was, the smell was horrible ,the people were covered in dirt and filth and it was obvious that they were probably all infested with disease from living in this place! It is probably the closest thing imaginable to "hell on earth"! There are pictures and videos of this place on this blog, take a minute to check them out.

Anyway, the group had moved ahead a little further in to the dump. Chris and I had begun to fall behind about 50 yards because we were taking pictures. The place where we were walking was full of trash and it was difficult to walk in because were literally walking on mountains of trash! As we were walking, Chris lost his footing and fell; breaking the skin and drawing blood on his arm. In any other situation we wouldn't have given it a second thought but in this dump I took this very serious!

The team immediately gathered around Chris and helped him get his wound clean. Thank God we had a nurse (Kim) on the team!

Anyway, as they cleaned him up the Spirit of God kept urging me to pray for my brother!
I saw something on my friends face that said he needed his "daddy". So I pulled him to the side and together we prayed! There are few times in our lives when we pray that we recognize that the Spirit of God is praying for us and through us and this was one of those times! I can tell you that there was not a lot said and I honestly can't remember much about the prayer but through the tears I do remember saying "Father protect him" over and over in my mind!

As we finished praying I immediately felt the peace of God and I knew my friend would be fine.
Looking back I can not help but imagine God holding my brother in His arms, cleaning him up and putting him back on his feet!

I praise my "daddy" in heaven for His love and compassion!"

Monday, August 24, 2009

Nicaragua 2009: Pictures



Children at a village feeding program


Oscar getting the children to sing "Levantate Juan, Levantate Juan..."


A typical village kitchen


Waiting for a meal


School Days


Kindergarten

Friday, August 21, 2009

La Chureca (Video)

video

Here is a video from our trip to La Chureca in Managua, Nicaragua. For a larger video (without the audio) visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PN-lu0EMClE..

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Nicaragua 2009: Us


One of the neatest things about the trip was to see the team ditch their social chains and just enjoy serving. The women were not worried about how good their makeup looked (or if they were wearing any at all), no one was worried about the tags on our clothes. We did not care about the minor discomforts and the short cold showers, the heat, the long hours. We were there for a purpose, we had a higher objective. The children, the people, the ministry, they were our focus....they were our priority.

Miller and Kelli

On our first day in Nicaragua we fed at a program where one of the translators, Miller began to ask questions about our faith. We could see the wheels turning in his head, we could see how much he was searching for truth. We began to individually talk with Miller, sharing our hearts and minds and why we follow Jesus and answering Miller's questions about faith. We prayed for Miller, discussed Miller, talked with Miller....and on Monday the 3rd we rejoiced with Miller as he accepted Jesus as his savior. His transformation really served to unite us as a group.

Oscar, Miller, Josh, John, Chris, Edipcia

We came together as a team. Prior to the mission few of us knew everyone on the team intimately, but through this process we became very close. We cared for each other, we prayed for each other, we saw in each other a heart for Jesus. We had a common goal, we served a common purpose, we came back from Nicaragua good friends.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Nicaragua 2009: La Chureca (Pictures)

this boy was sifting through a huge pile of garbage


this little boy was grasping three ketchup packets


a little girl walking up between the homes


children living at the dump


houses at the dump


these homes were built on an old section of the dump, right on top of the trash


Josh looking out over the dump


this man was washing his face and DRINKING from this water

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Nicaragua 2009: Chris' Story


I asked the team members to submit stories that were particularly touching to them during the trip for inclusion as a guest post, so I thought that I should also do one myself. The following is a portion of my story:

I decided to go on this mission trip because I felt God's calling to do so. What do I mean by "calling"? The meaning of the phrase "God's calling" has always been one of those things that is slightly elusive to me. What does God's calling look like? What does it feel like? I don't know the specific answers to these questions in the context of each person's individual life, but what I do know is what it looked like in my life. I also know that when God calls you to something, He often makes it clear and evident....we just have to listen.

When our church announced the mission trip to Nicaragua, like many times before, I felt God calling me to go. However, like the many times before I largely ignored the calling. I have a pregnant wife, two small children, animals to look after, a farm. I did not have time to go on a mission trip. If God had allowed me
to stay in that place I would have missed out on so much. But of course He did not....about 4am one morning my wife wakes up, wakes me up and says "God says go to Nicaragua, He wants to meet you there".
See what I am telling you? He was quite clear.

I feel like I have been woken from my sleep, I feel that God has opened my eyes and I thank Him for that. The experience that I had in Nicaragua, as I have stated pr
eviously, is indescribable. I loved the work, I loved the children (we fed more than 500 children during our time there), I loved the people (I cannot count the number of people we came in contact with), I loved the country.

Several things struck me while I was in Nicaragua:

The Children
The children touched my heart. My favorite part of the trip by far was feeding, playing, and talking with the children. Carried on Eagles Wings Ministry (along with many others) is providing these children with the sustenance necessary to help keep them from falling into malnutrition. God filled my cup to overflowing with these experiences and just when I felt my heart could take no more God gave me a bigger cup and filled it up again.

One child that impacted me more than any other was Maribel.
Maribel was a little girl we met at a feeding program on Tuesday. She stood there and talked with me for about 25 to 30 minutes and made a real effort to understand me through my broken Spanish.

The People
The people of Nicaragua on the whole have very few material possessions, the typical house we entered had lots of chairs, a table, and pictures on the wall. There were televisions in many homes but all in all they had very few possessions, and they did not seem to mind. They were not held down or imprisoned by their possessions. They were open, inviting, hospitable, and very giving. We were given fruit, places to sit, dinner...all by a people that have very little compared to Americans. One family served us all (18-19 extra people!) a chicken dinner, even though they probably only ate chicken themselves once a month. I was blown away by their, and others', generosity.

The people are also very hungry for the word of God. There were several instances when we were giving out Spanish New Testaments that others saw what we were doing and came running to receive what were were giving. They wanted the Living Water. It reminded me of the story of the Samaritan woman at the well with Jesus:

John 4:7-14 (New King James Version)

7 A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” 8 For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. 9 Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. 10 Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”
11 The woman said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? 12 Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?”
13 Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”
Spiritual Warfare
Spiritual warfare is real and prevalent, there were several events that strengthened this realization before, during, and after our trip to Nicaragua. We saw events that showed us the reality of the enemy and his diversions and distractions while people are hearing the word and while people are following and doing the will of Jesus. We often explain these events away as coincidence, but when you put them together in context you see the warefare of the enemy.

Worship
Worship is different and amazing in Nicaragua. Praise and worship went on for about an hour to an hour and a half before the pastor even began to teach. We danced and sang uninhibited by the garbage smell wafting in from the street, the intense heat, or the social restraints that may affect us in the States. It was pure, it was true, it was beautiful.


If He is willing, this is simply the beginning of my story...


Monday, August 17, 2009

Nicaragua 2009: Yo Estoy Libre (I am Free)


One day in Nicaragua, while at feeding program, the Lord led us to a house nearby where we visited with a local woman. The first thing that struck me was how hospitable she was, she set out chairs for us and made certain that the chairs were set in the shade and remained in the shade throughout our visit.

We began a cordial conversation about Christ and what He has done for us, she too expressed her faith in Christ. However, throughout our conversation with her we began to understand that she was in bondage to a works theology. She believed that her salvation came from Jesus plus her good works and that without her good works she would lose her salvation.

We agreed that our works show the fruit of our faith in Jesus, but insisted that our works are not required for our salvation. We are free from the bondage of works because Jesus death on the Cross was a gift. We have freedom in Christ Jesus, and we invited her to also experience that freedom.

Ephesians 2:8-9 (New King James)

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.

We talked at great length with the woman about her salvation, her works, and her security. She knew and trusted the Bible as the word of God but continued to return to her works mentality. She was obviously thinking about James:

James 2:14-18 (New King James)

14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 18 But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
This is potentially another theological debate in itself, but James was referring to our living faith not our saving faith. He was referring to the fruit, the outward evidence of our faith in Jesus. We continued our conversation showing evidence from the Bible that we have no hope of working our way to heaven. We cannot elevate our position by ourselves, it is elevated by Jesus through His Death on the Cross and our faith in Him.

Galatians 2:16 (New King James)

16 knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.
We followed the conversation to it's logical conclusion and decided to say goodbye, with seemingly no change in the woman's thoughts. Billy (Carried on Eagles Wings Ministry) expressed that before we left he wanted to leave her with one more word, and that the word of God will not return void. He then simply quoted John 3:16 and started praying. During the prayer she began to cry and afterward gave each of us a hug. As we walked away back to the feeding program she leaned out the window of her home with tears streaming down her face and yelled, "Yo estoy libre!" (I am free!).

She got it, it clicked! God's word did not return void, she was free from the bondage of a works theology. God does not want to put us under this type of bondage, our works are like filthy rags to Him. We can never work our way to heaven, the debt is too great. That is why He sent His son Jesus, to cover the debt that we cannot pay. God wants us to be free.