Even though most of you receive my email updates, I wanted to share a little more specifics as to what has been going on with us as well as include a few pictures of my trip to El Rama. By the way, if you are not receiving our email updates and would like to do so, please send me an email at email@example.com and ask me to add you to our list.
We have had some hard weeks, but thanks be to God that He is seeing us through and giving us the strength to persevere. The mission field is a battlefield…not a holiday vacation. Whether its battling through major culture shock or battling against spiritual warfare…its still hard, but through the hardship however we see God at work in some great ways, both with regards to what He is doing in our own hearts as well as what ministry opportunities He is leading us to.
Recently I got back from a 4 day trip to a very rural part of Nicaragua called Wapí. There, we had the opportunity to preach and teach the Word of God, both to the church as well as the community. The church there shows a lot of outward religious expression, but very little true passion and desire to know God and grow in His grace. So, the messages that I preached addressed issues such as religiosity and the extreme danger of it. I also preached a message on Suffering and the Sovereignty of God because there are so many false beliefs in the church that state that Christians should not suffer…they should be healed. So, my message on Sunday night spoke straight against such false beliefs. Our pastor also preached a message that encouraged the church to stop focusing so much on mere outward religious expression and more on growing in our relationship with Christ. So, it was a very powerful four days. Below are some pics:
It was a great trip and I pray that much fruit is born as a result of what we shared. They have invited us to come back soon and continue to help encourage and equip the leaders of the church.
Also, my friend Guillermo, who wants to be a pastor, told me about a ministry that he just started up in his neighborhood where he is trying to reach out to the kids and teenagers by sharing God’s Word with them on a regular basis. So, after spending the 4 days together in Wapí and talking much about the Gospel, I told him that I would like to come and help him with his ministry. He was super excited and told me that I am most welcome to come any time.
So, yesterday I went to his house to join with him in this ministry. We walked around his neighborhood for about 30 minutes just meeting different youth and families and inviting them to come to church with us on Sundays. Then, we met back at his house where about 8 or 9 kids showed up. I thought that I was just there to check things out and maybe support him in whatever way. So, I was absolutely shocked when he tells the kids to all gather around because Cody is going to lead us in a teaching from the Bible! Ok, I love to teach and share from God’s Word, right? And God’s Word tells us that we must always be ready to give an answer for the hope that we have. So, I’m ok with that…if I was speaking in English! But, here I am totally put on the spot and these kids are now expecting me to share a teaching from God’s Word in their spanish language. Wow! I had no time to prepare notes…no time to even go through the Scriptures to get an idea of what I was going to share…no time to even think what I would want to say and perhaps go over in my head how I might say it in spanish. But, there was only time for one thing…to start speaking and teaching from God’s Word. And by His grace, that is what I did.
I shared with them about the importance of knowing God’s Word. I challenged them that if they call themselves Christians, then it would only be right that they are learning what God’s Word says about God and about them. I gave an example to help drive the point. I asked them what would be the first thing that they would do if they received a new video game, but did not know yet how to play it. They all understood that the best thing to do would be to read the directions that would tell them how to play the game so that they could get the most enjoyment out of the game. So, I shared with them that God’s Word is the same way…it is the directions for a Christian…and it is only through knowing God’s Word in which we come to understand who God really is and what it is that He asks of us. So, even though my spanish did not come off flawlessly, they all understood what I was saying. I also shared with them the Scripture that says, “Your Word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path” and I expounded more on what that really means.
At the end, my friend Guillermo thanked me for sharing and then told the kids “Dale una aplausa a Cody por enseñarnos” (Give Cody a round of applause for teaching us), but just as they began to clap, I stood up and told them to stop. I reminded them that I too am just a man who is in need of just as much grace and truth from God. I told them that to give an applause is not what is most important to God…or to me, but rather the thing that is most important is that we put into practice the word that we just heard. So, I think I shocked them when I completely interrupted their standard applause, but this is what needs to be done. We need to rock the boat! We need to boldly and truthfully (in love) speak against the mere outward religious expression that these people have grown so accustomed to.
So, not only did I interrupt their applause, but I also took it a step further. I did not just encourage them to start reading the Bible, but I challenged them and told them that I will come back next week and that we will each go around the room and share something that we read this week from God’s Word. Each one will have the opportunity to share for a few minutes something that they will have read from God’s Word and what it means. I’m telling you…the group was wide-eyed, but they received it. So, for starters, we had to make sure that every kid had a Bible. Several did not, so we gave out new Bibles to some kids and told them to start coming each week with their Bible.
Then, a girl showed up just at the very end because she had something going on after school. Guillermo told me that this girl normally comes and is very interested. So, rather than telling her that she missed out on what was taught, I called upon some of the other kids and asked them, “Who thinks they can share with Johanna what I just shared with you from God’s Word?” Again, shock! This is not something that they are used to doing. They are used to simply going to church or Sunday School or youth group, hearing a teaching, giving an applause, and going home. So, I really put them on the spot. But they rose to the occasion and a few were able to articulate well to the girl what the teaching was about. I was so happy to see that they got it!
So, I told Guillermo that I will come regularly because it is very much on my heart to teach the Word of God to these kids. I shared some ideas of what we can do so that we are very specific in how we teach them. He is very excited to really start a plan of teaching and discipleship.
I also spoke with my pastor about our vision for training and equipping pastors so that they are better able to shepherd and teach their own congregation. I told him about our partnership with reaching and teaching and how I can help bring teams down on a regular basis specifically for teaching and training pastors. He is thrilled about it. So, we have already started to put this in motion and hope to have our first team some time later this year. It will be a three year training program, meeting three times per year for specific biblical training. I am excited to be a part of helping bring biblical training to many pastors here in León.
Also, I was sharing with my pastor about the need to really have the leadership team of the church better equipped so that they can better lead the people into biblical truth. I suggested to him the idea of starting a small group specifically for the leaders of the church. I shared with him that Maria and I could help lead it or facilitate it or whatever. So, I’m so glad to see that he has really agreed with this idea and the first leader’s small group will be this Saturday. Please pray that God will give guidance and direction for how this group can be led so that the leaders of the church can be fed, nurtured, and equipped for the work of the ministry.
Also, the ministry at El Anexo continues to develop with the computer classes. We are starting to connect more with the guys on a personal level. Both Scott and I have visited with some of the guys outside of class. Scott took a few to lunch with him the other week just to spend some more time getting to know them. So, we will probably launch a Bible Study with them within the next few months. Please pray that we can reach the hearts of these guys.
Maria has been getting more and more stirred up by God to get involved with ministering to women and young girls who are caught in the very dark world of sex trafficking. She met a woman through a connection in our church who also has a heart for this ministry, and they are getting together this Saturday to talk about ways and strategies in which they may be able to reach out to these women and bring them the hope of the Gospel. Please pray for her. The world of sex trafficking is very dark and I’m sure she will encounter a lot of struggles and obstacles along the way.
So, that’s some of what is going on with the ministry side of things here. Please pray for these different things as the Lord prompts your heart. As you can see, what is most important to us in our mission work is the proclamation of the Gospel. Everything that we do will have that specific aim. And not just a one time simple message, but rather continuously teaching the people what the Gospel is and how we live it out in our daily lives for the glory of God.
Please pray for us. Pray that we can push through the opposition. Pray that we are provided with the financial support that is needed. Pray that the Lord opens the hearts of the people. Pray that the Lord sends more workers into the harvest. Pray that God gives us wisdom and discernment in these various ministries. Pray that our marriage and family remain strengthened so that we will not give the enemy a foothold in our lives or ministry. Thank you so much for your prayers. Que Dios les cuide por siempre.