Bendiciones a todos en el bendito nombre de Jesús! I am so very excited to share with you this update and all that God has been doing in our midst as of recent.
As I wrote last time, we were really facing some struggle and adversity in so many ways such as: major culture shock issues, spiritual warfare, wondering what in the world we were doing in Nicaragua (true!), and really trying to learn to press in and be used by God no matter what we were feeling.
Well, since that last update, the Lord has really worked in our hearts and is teaching us so many important truths about remaining in Him no matter how difficult the situation. You would think that I would already know such a lesson having walked through the loss of my daughter and, by His grace, steadfastly remaining in Him through it all. But, I am a slow learner, so I guess God still has a lot more lessons to teach me.
Anyway, by His grace, we have been learning to push through and trust Him no matter what comes our way. And we have taken steps of faith to commit ourselves to Him, to stay the course, to trust Him no matter what. We have created a Family Missionary Covenant and have prayerfully entered into a commitment before the Lord as a family which will be a visible and tangible reminder of our commitment to remain steadfast where He has us for a period of time.
And the truth is that as soon as we entered into this commitment before the Lord, the culture shock issues have vanished, the personal internal struggle went out the door, the wondering what our purpose is took a flying hike, and the peace of God settled upon our hearts like a warm blanket on a cold winter’s night.
And…within mere days…the ministry exploded! In a great way, of course! I mean, opportunities just started popping up right before our eyes, and we just availed ourselves completely to His service. And by His grace, He is being glorified as we have been reaching many people with the Gospel message of Christ. Here’s what has been going down:
We have gotten on board more with the leadership of our church. I had suggested to the pastor about the desire and need to start up a Leader’s Small Group in order to equip the leaders of the church to effectively know, understand, and share the Gospel. Well, he liked the idea and so we set the plan in motion. Well, last Saturday was our first meeting at our house and we had 17 people come for this small group! It was amazing! I shared with them what the purpose of the group will be and also what kind of format it will take. We also have started this small group to serve as a model for small group ministry so that it can be reproduced throughout the church. So, we are teaching them how to have small groups so that the church members can be strengthened and encouraged in their walk with God and have a place where they can truly share what is going on in their hearts. This is not very common in the church here in Latin America. At best, a church will have a mid-week Bible Study or an evangelistic Bible Study. So, when we shared with them that we were going to break up into small groups for a time of sharing and prayer, they were a little surprised. But let me tell you, as soon as we broke into these small groups, the floodgates opened. The guys in our group said that they were so thankful to have this opportunity to share because these are things that people just normally don’t share. Maria told me that the women in her group could have gone on for hours just pouring out their heart and asking for prayer and counsel. Many of them were crying as they were sharing things among other fellow believers for the first time ever. It was fantastic! The leaders said that they are so excited to be part of this group and can’t wait until next Saturday. I am so excited that God has given me the opportunity to lead these leaders into deeper Biblical truth and growth in their lives. This is seriously pushing my spanish speaking to the limits!
Also, Scott and I continue to lead our computer ministry at El Anexo for the at-risk youth and young men. Recently Scott shared a word of truth with them at the end of the class as we often do. He spoke about the importance of seeking God rather than wasting life on things that don’t satisfy. The following week, I shared with them about the need to realize that our boat is sinking and that Christ is our only hope to save our souls. I also shared with them about our desire to start up a Bible Study with anyone who has interest in learning more. Some seemed receptive to the idea. Then, just a few days ago, Scott called me and told me that one of the guys there named Juan just accepted Christ as their Savior and Lord. Juan’s sister invited him to church, and based on the things that Scott and I have been sharing with the group about our need for Christ, he decided to go to church with his sister. And at the end of the service, he asked Jesus to forgive him of his sins and he surrendered his heart to His Lordship. Awesome!!! Yesterday, Scott and I went to visit him and encourage him. We asked him if he would be interested in getting together each week with me for discipleship and Bible Study. He said that he definitely wants to do that. I also invited him to church with me this Sunday and he told me that he wants to come. I actually was just down there a few minutes ago just to say hello and introduce him to Maria and Jake. (We were visiting with another person and happened to pass by his house.) So, he confirmed again that he will be coming to church with us. So, I am going to start meeting with him every Sunday at 4PM to teach him the Bible and teach him what it means to follow Christ. Please pray that his roots will grow deep immediately so that he does not fall away to the world around him.
Then, just a few days ago, we were meeting with a family whom we have come to love. They are going through some seriously difficult times with their teenage daughter and we have agreed to meet with them each week to provide counsel and support to them. Our first week was last week and it went great. I felt like I was a Social Worker all over again, but this time I was able to provide the Word of God as the basis for the solutions to the problems. It was a very emotional time for the family and they told us how thankful they were for our willingness to meet with them each week. By the way, this is the same family who we had over for dinner when we first moved here and the husband out of the blue just started telling me about his need for some religion in his life because he felt so lost and empty on the inside. That night we shared the Gospel with them and since then we have just been trying to encourage them and live out the Gospel in front of them. Anyway, we met again this week for the second time. They shared about their continued struggles and frustrations that nothing is changing. So, suddenly the Lord fills Maria with great boldness and she starts telling them that only the Gospel can truly change them…and the Gospel is not so that the other person can change, but so that they themselves can have a changed heart by God. So, since she was being so bold, I jumped in the conversation as well, and for the next hour we shared with them the entire Gospel. We shared it with the whole family. We told them not to accept the Gospel because they think it will help change their family situation, but rather only accept it realizing that they are totally lost and incapable of saving themselves and realize that without Christ they remain enemies of God lost in their sins.
Trust me, we don’t share easy believism here. We trust that God’s Word proclaimed is exactly what He uses to awaken the hearts of those He is calling. And so, after an hour of sharing, and seeing that God was opening their eyes, I asked them point blank if they realized their need for Christ to save them and if they wanted to confess their sins to God and ask Him for forgiveness and receive Him into their lives. And all three of them said YES!!! Amazing God!!!! So, we prayed with them right then and there and saw them confess their need for a Savior and place their trust in Him alone. It was awesome!!! I just sent them an email yesterday encouraging them and asking them if they are interested in getting together weekly to start studying the Bible together. We are so excited to see what God is going to do!
Also, I have joined with my friend Guillermo (one of the leaders of the church) in his neighborhood where we have a group of young boys (about 9-14 yrs old) where we are teaching them the Bible each week. There are about 10 kids so it is a great opportunity to really speak into their lives, challenging them, teaching them, encouraging them, and just walking along side of them to help point them in the right direction. Yesterday I taught from John 17:3 and taught about what it really means to have eternal life. We spoke about the importance of knowing God and that He has given us His Word so that we might know Him. It has been a great opportunity to really connect with the kids. Guillermo is doing a fantastic job just reaching out to these kids, spending time with them throughout the week, and many of them have already started coming to church. Last week, the mother of one of the boys also came to church. So, we are hoping to reach the kids and also reach their parents. Because many of these kids parents are totally lost. There is a lot of alcohol and drug abuse in these areas. Many of these kids have a really rough life. But what a joy it is to teach them the Scriptures and see it start clicking in their minds when they start grasping Biblical truth. Next week, we are going to have a meal and invite all the mothers of these kids to come out and have a time together to celebrate Mother’s Day and share with them from God’s Word. Please pray that the Moms come and that their hearts are opened.
What else? Well, the last thing for now is something that Maria is really starting to connect with. She has been getting more involved with learning about all the sex trafficking that takes place right here in our city. As a matter of fact, we just learned that there are several bars within a block or two from our house where all of this activity is taking place. She has been going out with a woman who also has a desire to reach these women and young girls and try to help rescue them from this dark world. So, Maria has learned so much and with everything that she continues to learn, her heart is stirred more and more to do one thing…bring these women the truth of the Gospel! Some of these younger girls (ages 12-15) are being trafficked in the sense that they are being forced to work by their own mother who is also a sex worker. The women sex workers are not necessarily being trafficked…they don’t have anybody forcing them into this, but the reality is that many of them are in it because they were forced into it when they were a child and now it is all that they have ever known. Many of these sex workers take their little kids with them when they are working in the bar or on the streets, so these kids are growing up in this horrid dark world. Is it any wonder that they prostitute themselves when they get older. So, it becomes more and more apparent that all of these women and girls are indeed victims to some degree or another whether they are being forced to do it or not. Anyway, Maria and I have been talking about the idea of starting up an after-school program a few times a week for the children of the sex workers. Our hope is to teach them the Gospel and encourage them to not pursue that way of life. We would also just provide a safe environment where they can learn and grow, but the ultimate goal is that they can hear about the amazing love of God and that their hearts can be set aflame for greater desires. So, please pray as we take steps in this direction.
And finally, we are taking steps forward in our partnership with Reaching and Teaching where we are planning to start a three year pastoral training program for about 20-30 pastors and leaders in the area. We are so excited to be a part of providing Biblical training to the pastors so that the Word of God is being rightly divided and that people are hearing the message of truth and grace. So, please pray as we begin this three year program. We are so thankful for David Sills and the work that his ministry “Reaching and Teaching” is doing all over Latin America. It will be such a blessing to work with him as we prepare to start a program here in León, Nicaragua.
Ok, that’s it for now. Our schedule is jam packed at this point. Just last month it was so painfully wide open. Now, the truth is that there is not much more that we could take on even if we wanted to. But the reality is that we have a healthy balance between our ministry and our family…and we will carefully protect that balance because it is so important to have our time together as a family.
Please please please pray for us! God’s Word is going forward in a powerful way to so many different people. We know that the enemy of our souls will throw everything at us to try to bring us down. We need your prayers.
Most likely, I will be coming back to the states within the next month so that I can meet with people and churches to share with them our vision and ask them to partner with us with His kingdom work in Nicaragua. Please, I would love to meet with any of you. I also would so much appreciate those of you who would be willing to host a group of people (friends, neighbors, family) so that I can have a night to share all that God is doing. Also, we are very interested in partnering with like minded churches. So, I would love to talk with you if your church might be involved in hearing about our ministry. Please get back to me and let me know so that we can plan a time that is best.
I know this update is long, but there is so much that we wish to share with you so that we can rejoice together in all that God is doing. May God’s great name be praised in all that we do! Bendiciones!!!!