Starting up in Nicaragua

So, we have been in Nicaragua for a little over a month now. It has been a great first month to get us settled, start making some friends, and prepare for our ministry. Our ministry partners just returned from the states yesterday, and now we are ready to roll. We are excited about the opportunities that the Lord has put in front of us. We just want to begin well…exercising wisdom, love, compassion, and commitment. I have learned much over the years (wow, that makes me sound old, huh?), but I was telling our partner Scott today that one piece of wisdom that I have picked up throughout the years is this: Slow and steady wins the race.

So, although I am super excited to finally be in the country where the Lord has called us, I must use wisdom and discernment with where our efforts are spent. Rather than just becoming “busy” with ministry, we want to set the groundwork of living a life that is ministry. And that is what we have been doing since we arrived: meeting people, making friends, living the Gospel out loud, sharing truth wherever the opportunity presents itself, and simply trying to live in a way that makes the name of Jesus beautiful. I pray that we are here for a long time. Therefore, there is no need to rush into anything and everything. We want to lay a strong foundation. Yes, I truly believe that slow and steady wins the race. And we want to win the race. We want to, in the words of Paul, “press on towards the goal for the prize of the upward call in Jesus.” (Phil. 3:14)

Now, the flip side to this is the urgency of the Gospel. We don’t want to lose sight of that. There should be a sense of urgency to bring the Gospel message to the nations of the world before Christ returns. This is the call of every Christian, and we must not take it lightly. Christ is coming. In the mean time, He has left us with the responsibility and privilege of making His name known throughout the world. May we take this call with a great sense of urgency and make it of utter importance. May we be found faithful.

So, my desire is to build a strong foundation for ministry, going slow and steady, with a sense of urgency for the Gospel to go forward. And by God’s grace, I feel that we are off to a good start. We have tried to reach out to people since we have arrived. We have made friends with people in the neighborhood. We have had people over for dinner. We have visited neighborhoods where we are planning to start reaching out to the people. We have connected with other missionaries. And we have put ourselves to learning the culture and the people. It is a joy to be able to communicate with the people in their own language.

Here is what some of our upcoming plans are:

Within the next few weeks, we hope to begin our ministry in a very poor barrio called el Anexo. This neighborhood reminds me of Haiti. There is a lot of poverty (lack of water, food, shelter, education, etc). There are a lot of at-risk youth. There are many children who are growing up in broken and abusive homes. So, we have met with the community leaders in this neighborhood and are developing a plan. We will be starting up a computer class for about 20 of the most at-risk youth. This will take place either once or twice per week. We hope that this can give them some knowledge and preparation, but most importantly, we will use this as an opportunity to get into their lives so that we can share the message of Christ with them. The community leaders are fully aware of our desire to minister the Gospel to them, so we are not doing anything shady. The community leaders are Christians (which everybody in Latin America would call themselves), therefore they are very open to us coming in and sharing the message of Christ with the people. So, while Scott teaches them basic computer skills, I will be assisting as well, and hopefully we can soon start up a Bible study and begin discipling them. So, today I spent the day helping Scott set up all the computers so that they will be ready to go.

The neighborhood also has a feeding program for about 35 of the children that are most needy. Right now, they only do the program on Saturday and Sunday because they don’t have enough resources to do it every day. The food comes from “Food for the Poor”, but all the extras that are needed (oil, vegetables, charcoal for cooking, juice, etc.) comes from the people in the community. This is the great thing about what the Nehemiah Center is doing…teaching the people not to become dependent on others, but to work together in order to come up with their own resources. So, though they may receive some support in order to feed all of these children, they are also working together and doing whatever they have to do in order to provide for their own. Some of the women have learned to sew and they sell cushions and use the money to pay for the resources for the feeding program.

I visited the feeding program this last Sunday. It was great to see what they are doing. It was a special day for them because they were celebrating el Dia de los Reyes (Three Kings Day). So, they had a little party with a few piñatas and little gifts for the children. It was great to get to meet some of the children and just look for little ways to bring the message of Christ’s love to them. I singled out three or four of the older kids and was teaching them the significance of Three Kings Day and where the story is found in the Bible. I just wish I was totally fluent in Spanish so that I could have shared more. But I know that day will come in time. I plan to return again this Sunday.

We will also be ministering once a week at a ministry in Managua called House of Hope. This is a ministry that rescues women and children from prostitution and sex trafficking and gives them a place to live and helps support them while they are trying to learn how to live on their own. So, Scott and Bethany have been teaching a computer class there each week. So, we will start assisting with that, which again opens the door to be able to share the Gospel and speak truth into the lives of these people who have been cloaked in lies and abuse for so long. Its so great to be able to take a child that has been filled with lies, pain, and abuse and begin to pour love and truth into them. You can actually see their eyes light up. May the Lord use us for His glory as we proclaim that God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.

We have still been attending the same church since we arrived. We will invite the pastor over soon so that we can hear more about the vision for the church. We pray that the Lord will lead us to be part of a church that we can minister out from under. This church has a new church plant in a rural area about 15 minutes away from our house, so maybe we’ll learn more about this church plant and see if there is need for us to get involved.

This Sunday will begin the first Missionary Fellowship Group here in Leon. It will be a time once a week where the different missionaries in the area can come together for teaching, fellowship, and fun. I’ll be leading the worship for this week, but the plan is to rotate each month with regards to who teaches and who leads worship. We’ll also have a fun night once a month. I’m so glad that we have connected with some other missionaries in the community. Maria and I have been getting to know our neighbors which is truly a blessing.

Isabela has made many friends. I thank the Lord that He has given her the gift of being able to make friends very easily. I believe He gave her this gift because He knew that she was going to lose her sister (for a time). So, it is wonderful to see that wherever Isabela goes, people want to be her friend. I have simply encouraged her to use this “platform” for the glory of God, not for herself. She just started back up home schooling today. Wow! My daughter is in third grade!

As a family, we have been studying through the Book of Hebrews. What an amazing book that shows the supremacy of Christ in all things! It has been great teaching this to Isabela and seeing her understand how all of these worship practices of the Old Testament (temple, high priest, sacrifices, etc) all point to Christ. So, I had her make a poster that says “Christ is greater than _________” and each time that we come across a new theme in Hebrews that shows how Christ was the fulfillment of the Old Testament practice, then she fills in the blank. Maria and I have been reading through “When Sinners Say ‘I do'” It has been a good book to really help us understand the root causes of marital issues and how to combat those causes. In a nutshell, the causes of marital issues is simply that we are sinners…and the only way to combat those causes is by grace. There’s much more than that, but that is a one sentence summary.

So, just a minute ago, my Nicaraguan friend from Managua (the first friend that I made the first time I came here) named Hector just called me. We are trying to plan to go to a baseball game soon. So, he just called and invited me to teach the youth at his church and also to preach on a Sunday morning! Wow! Time to really kick my Spanish skills into high gear!

Please continue to pray for us. Remember, we plan to visit back to the states some time in April or May. We plan to be in FL, NC, DE, and CT. If you are interested in having us come to your church or small group to share about what we are doing, or if you would like to get together with us, please let me know. Thank you all so much for your prayers and your support. We couldn’t do it without you, our partners in the ministry of the Gospel. Que Dios les bendiga!

P.S. Today is my wife’s Birthday!

Cody, Maria, Isabela, and Jake.