This was a hard post to write. But not because there isn’t plenty to say.
I journaled through the week, to record all that happened on our trip.
But the trouble is, seeing the facts in black and white just seems so…well, matter-of-fact.
And the truth is, this trip was so much more than the sum of its events.
It was life-changing, faith-growing, best-trip-of-a-lifetime kind of stuff.
And I just don’t know if I can do it justice in a blog post.
What made this trip so special?
I think it was a number of things, but definitely one factor was having the opportunity to serve alongside some awesome team members.
These kids have my heart.
This team just clicked. And I know it wasn’t by chance. God put us together, and then we had a chance to bond through weekly meetings, group prayer and Bible study for months before departure.
Some team members I had the pleasure to serve with before, others I barely knew.
But now, I love every single one of them dearly…they’re like family. And that is how it should be. We’re all part of the family of God. And now, we share a common experience with life-long heart ties.
And speaking of the family of God and heart ties…we also have such a precious family in Nicaragua.
Darby with Natalie and Sophia.
We had chance to catch up with old friends and make some new ones too. My heart just overflows with the love I feel for these people. And I know they love us, too.
Saying good-bye at the end of the week is heart-wrenching. But I still wouldn’t take anything for the time we have together.
It’s all about eternal relationships. Two cultures. One church. Serving alongside each other. Supporting each other. Learning from one another. God-ordained partnerships that little things like distance and language barriers can’t hinder.
Scout with her babies, Natalie and Sophia.
So, without words to adequately describe it, here goes…
Day One (Friday):
17 hours of travel. Met at the church this morning at 1:30 a.m. Drove to the Atlanta airport and flew to Miami, FL. Changed planes in Miami and boarded a plane for Managua, Nicaragua.
After a two-hour delay due to weather and minor mechanical issues, we flew into Managua. Looking for the God moments. After a brief lunch, we set out for Chinandega, arriving at 7:00 p.m.
In looking for the God moments, we got a chance to have prayer with a really sweet lady who was traveling from Miami to Nicaragua to visit with family,
If I’m honest, at that point, I wasn’t really looking for a God moment at all, but sitting there frustrated with the delay and wondering what I was doing there in the first place.
But God saw the big picture, and for some reason, He opened a door to encourage someone along the way,
Now, after being up for almost two days straight, it’s off to shower and bed.
The team arriving in Managua, Nicaragua.
One of many hot, loud bus rides, courtesy of Jose, our driver.
Day 2 (Saturday):
After breakfast and morning orientation, we stopped off at Mount of Olives to greet and pick up some church members to accompany us to the area where we would be working.
Our little friends, Natalie and Paulo were there at the church, and Natalie cried when she couldn’t go with us.
Natalie and Baby Sister Sophia.
Rode the bus to the Guadacastal area, which is 5 miles outside of Poseltega, but deep in a jungle-like area. We rode up the dry riverbed as far as we could go and then walked up a steep incline to the area where we would have VBS. We were divided into groups and went out for door to door evangelism. The terrain was pretty rough, and we had to hustle to keep up with our translators up and down steep hills and over roots and ruts and though barbed wire fences. (We later learned that if the barbed wire was higher than a fence should be, it was the power line.)
All the time we were following hard after our translators, I thought about what would happen if we were constantly focused on following that hard after God. There was no room in may mind for anything but the task at hand, and I thought about all the times I have so much on my mind and vying for my attention that I lose focus of what should be the constant task at hand. Knowing God and making him known.
Tony helping Pastor Felix up the first slope.
Amanda and her little friend in the church yard.
Had a chance to share the Gospel with a young lady who prayed to receive Christ as her Savior. We later found out that she had recently survived a truck accident where 5 people were killed. God spared her life that she might come to know Him.
Any doubts about whether I should be on this trip evaporated before the day was half over.
Pastor Michael preaching in Guadacastal with Silvio interpreting.
SO blessed to be back here in Nicaragua.
As always, completely blown away at the reception we received at Mount of Olives. They form a receiving line to greet us, and it is mind-blowing.
They treat us like celebrities or something, and I just feel so unworthy of such a reception. Reminds me of how undeserving I am of God’s love and how He lavishes it upon me anyway…even more so than our sweet Nicaraguan friends.
Day 3: (Sunday)
Back at Mount of Olives today. We learned that the area we were in yesterday was actually on the side of an inactive volcano. No wonder the going was rough. In talking with several of the team members, it seems that many of the people there were not familiar with Jesus and did not understand who He is.
Such a privilege to take the Gospel to them. Praying that this new church on the side of the mountain will grow and flourish, winning the entire community to the Lord.
Good worship service at Mount of Olives this morning.
On the street in Candelaria headed to King of Glory Church.
Had an opportunity to say a few words and thank the congregation at Mount of Olives for what they have meant to me over the past few years. Also, had a chance to pray with Natalie’s mom after the service. Love that sweet lady and her precious family.
I know I promised we wouldn’t come back next year but…
We will just have to see.
Free afternoon with a visit to the Maxipali.
Late this afternoon we traveled to Chichigalpa to the new church plant of King of Glory Baptist Church.
Pastor Carlos and his beautiful wife were so friendly and welcoming, as were the rest of the congregation, and we had a beautiful service. Before Brother Michael preached, Tony gave his testimony, and a 5-year-old boy named Fernando preached a mini-sermon and quoted Psalms 91.
Fernando quoting Psalm 91, with Pastor Carlos' wife, Belen standing behind him.
There was also a drama of Mark 5:21-43, where Jesus heals a sick woman and raises a little girl from the dead.
Also, Pastor Carlos’s daughter and 3 other beautiful young girls dressed in pink and white did an interpretive dance to a Spanish worship song .
As we closed, Pastor Felix explained that the new church has rented a building, and they are saving up to buy or build a place to worship. We were invited to come and see the place they have rented and we walked through an alley to a building no bigger than my bedroom. They said they have people who stand outside during services because there’s no more room.
Pastor Michael and Pastor Felix talk outside the church at Candelaria.(Rey de Gloria Iglesia/King of Glory Church)
Again, humbled to my very core. At home, we sit on padded pews in a beautiful, climate-controlled building with plenty of room for anyone who wants to come to have a seat, and still we complain.
While we walked through the alley, someone was singing “Open The Eyes Of My Heart” , so we sang it in the new building after our pastor Michael prayed and explained that we will be partnering with them, as well as with Guadacastal, to see their church grow and flourish.
We sang worship songs on the bus on the way back. Supper and team meeting. Women’s conference meeting, showers and off to bed.
Day 4: (Monday)
Door to door ministry and lunch in Chichigalpa at the First Baptist Church of Chichigalpa. After that, we dropped part of the team off at the park for VBS and we went back to King of Glory Church for women’s ministry.
Gene and Forrest share in Chichigalpa.
Scout blows bubbles to keep the children occupied as the women work on their craft.
At first, no one was coming in, but eventually, we ended up with a good crowd. While we waited for them to arrive, we talked with our interpreter and the ladies who lived in the houses nearest to the church and had a good time of fellowship.
After supper, had a discussion with the van driver, about how it is better to be poor than rich because you can have a happier life without always wanting more.
I think he’s right. It’s alright to have nice things, but we should keep possessions in their place and not place more importance on them than makes sense in light of eternity,
Most of the people here live in poverty, but they have joy in their hearts. We can learn a lot from them.
Day 5: (Tuesday)
Another great day of ministry in Chichigalpa. During door to door evangelism, had the opportunity to lead a young man to Christ this morning. He was probably 18 or 19 with a baby just a few months old. There is no greater blessing than to be able to lead someone to faith in Christ.
After lunch, some went to a local school for ministry and we returned to King of Glory church for women’s ministry.
Shelia, Kaye and Cynthia preparing for women's ministry. These ladies serve hard and do a great job!
Led the women in singing Digno y Santo (Revelation Song) in Spanish, then assisted with the craft and made lots of pictures.
Polaroid pictures were made of each lady as they arrived and then they made a frame. The theme was “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made”.
The ladies were so excited for a picture. I am pretty sure they don’t have a lot of them, and we think that a few of the ladies may never even have seen a picture of themselves.
Pam teaching with interpreter, Leslie. I have learned so much from this lady!
Kayleigh using her talents to bless others in Candelaria.
We were supposed to go back tonight for a movie in the streets, but the decision was made that we should probably not be out late in the town.
We were disappointed because we had invited people to come and told them we would be there. We also knew that we would probably not have an opportunity to say goodbye to most of the church members, so it was sad.
Day 6: (Wednesday)
This was an easier day physically, but tough emotionally.
Pastor Felix’s wife, Jamilet, had told me earlier in the week that her brother was very sick. While we were there at the church this morning, they got word that he died.
Besides that, just knowing that today was the last day of ministry for this trip is really bittersweet. Of course, we are ready to see our families.
But leaving behind our Nicaragua family is so hard.
I don’t understand how God knits hearts together in such a short time, overcoming language barriers and time limits, but He does.
Meg and Friends after VBS.
These eternal relationships must be a part of His plan. Each time we leave, I know I may not see some of these people this side of Heaven.
But praise God, I know that someday, we will see them again, in a place where there is no parting, no sorrow and we will worship the One who made it all possible around His throne.
Cuties in Candelaria.
Today we did door to door, inviting the women to the afternoon conference, the children to VBS and everyone to the service tonight.
Bailee, the baby whisperer.
Church members from King of Glory accompanied us, and one man played the guitar and he and a couple of others sang softly each time we prayed with someone. (At the time, I didn’t know that this man spoke English pretty well, but he had a surprise in store for us later.)
Encountered many who believed, but did not have assurance that they would go to Heaven if they died. Tried to give them some sound doctrine, but without much success. We just have to remember that all we are called to do is share the good news, planting seeds.
Bailey, Mia and translator, Leslie with a group of children from the neighborhood.
The Holy Spirit takes it from there, and ultimately, each person must decide for himself whether or not to follow Jesus.
Someone on the street offered us something like a tortilla, but with something else in it. It tasted a little like cornbread, with maybe onion, squash and a little sugar.
Meg with our "special tortilla", served hot on banana leaves!
I know, I know…not supposed to eat the food if it’s not prepared to be gringo-safe…but it was great! I didn’t want to hurt their feelings, so I just trusted the Lord and that hot griddle to protect my digestive system.
Several in our group ate some, and so far so good!
Me with this little beauty, who told me "You understand some Spanish, but not too much." LOL!
While our group stayed behind at Mount of Olives, the men and some church members from Mount of Olives and King of Glory returned to the mountain at Guadacastal. They invited people to a church service there, Brother Michael preached and several were saved.
While they were there, they visited the home of the girl. who prayed to receive Christ on Saturday. At some point since then, she had some sort of procedure to insert a rod into her leg and they said there was a bottle of medicine attached.
One of our team members is a pharmacist, and he said it was a very primitive treatment, and it will be a miracle if she keeps her leg. Praying for a miracle.
We also got a chance to spend more time with the Mount of Olives crowd today, especially Natalie, Paulo and their little sister, Sophia. We love them and their mom so much and it’s very hard to leave.
Emma and children in Chichigalpa.
Speaking of hard to leave. The last church service is awful. Or wonderful. Or wonderfully awful. My tears began even before the service was over, when the man with the guitar from earlier in the day began singing in English during “Open The Eyes Of My Heart”.
Come to find out, his English is pretty good. And just as we were making new friends, it was time to go.
We are sad to leave and they are sad to see us go.
Pastor Felix's wife, Yamilet.
They called us to the front to form a receiving line and then various church members came up to present us with gifts. This is so humbling from these people who have nothing.
I was given a beautiful embroidered blouse. But when I saw what they gave to Scout and a couple of other team members, I was even more blown away. They had taken pictures of their children off their walls and given them as gifts.
Evan and Paulo...these two have a special bond.
Would I give away baby pictures of my children to people I barely know? Not a chance! (It might be different if I had a copy, but they almost certainly do not.)
But the people in these poor communities have such loving and giving hearts, they will give you whatever they have.
One of our translators even gave away his own personal Bible when we ran out of Bibles to distribute. To him, this is not just a job.
All our translators are amazing..they take such good care of us, give us tips on witnessing effectively and so many other things.
As the bus pulled away from the church, the people were standing outside the gate waving. I will never forget these people or this place.
Children enjoying their suckers at Candelaria.
And although I would love to hang onto these precious moments, I know that time never stands still. So we wait for the day that Christ returns for His church and we will be together forever.
Until then, I hold these sweet memories in my heart.
Day 7: (Thursday)
Day of travel back to Managua. Stopped at the market in Massaya as well but were only able to stay for an hour.
It’s so hard to transition back to this kind of atmosphere after where we have been.
Mickie loves to love on the babies!
Rhonda and Meg, chilling in the church window.
As we sat in the hotel restaurant last night, I thought about how most of the friends we left behind in Chinandega will never stay in a place like this. And while we were not satisfied with some of the accommodations, it would be luxury to our friends.
I feel very humbled when I think of all I have been blessed with.
We don’t choose where we are born, or whether into wealth or poverty. Right now, it’s easy to feel guilty about what we have.
But guilt doesn’t accomplish anything. So it’s better to just simply commit to using our resources to further His Kingdom whenever and wherever we can.
Day 7: (Friday)
Had a good breakfast in the hotel restaurant before check-out at 10:00 a.m.
The airport is just across the street from where we stayed so we walked to the airport and once we had our boarding passes, we had a little time before the flight to get a snack and look around in the airport shops.
Uneventful flight to Miami but had to wait a long time for luggage in Miami and almost missed our next flight.
After hustling through the airport to board, we were delayed on the runway for over an hour. Hurry up and wait and all that good stuff.
But eventually, we were on our way, arriving in Atlanta around 11:00 p.m.
Facebook post from just after we landed: “7 days, 21 hours, 3 airports, 6,000 miles, 4 flights (one almost missed!), 2 runway delays, 18+ bus rides, lots of sweat, quite a few tears, but more laughs, and we are back in Atlanta. So grateful to the Lord for time with old friends and a chance to make new ones. Our hearts are full and humbled, and we glimpsed a little of what Heaven will be like as we worshiped with and served alongside our brothers and sisters in Nicaragua.”`
We were picked up in the church vans at the airport and arrived at home just before 2:00 a.m. Saturday morning.
Those are “the facts”. But the fact is, none of us will ever be the same.
God has taught us so much through this week-long adventure, and we have built eternal relationships.
We are so excited about the new church plants in Guadacastal and Candelaria, and we pray for these churches to grow and flourish as souls are won and discipled, to win and disciple others.
Emma, making Genesis and Natalie happy!
Now the challenge is bringing what we have learned, along with the passion for evangelism that has stirred our hearts abroad back to the states and shake things up in our hometown.
For me, and I think probably for most everyone, it is so much easier on the mission field. But the truth is, everywhere is our mission field.
So it’s time to get going!
Nicaragua has changed us. Now it’s time to go out and change the world. Beginning right here at home..
Door to door evangelism.
Forrest and Omar, one of the translator's.
Some awesome young ladies.