"Preach the Gospel to all creation" Mark 16:15
|Beacon in the Barrios--The 1997 Nicaragua Crusade Testimonies|
Our crusade to the poverty plagued "Barrios del Pescadores" in Managua Nicaragua was touched by God. GoodNews International's first crusade into Central America was one of faith in what our Lord will do if our will and our ways are aligned with His. In August of 1996 we began to trust in Him to raise up money, evangelists, interpreters, and construction workers. We also asked Him for the wisdom and patience to put the whole crusade together while trusting in Him for His results. God's Word says we can "do all things through Christ who gives us strength" and that "we can do nothing without Him". This is a testimony of the practical reality of these eternal truths. God supplied every needed penny for construction and expenses through His people who graciously gave to Him with thanksgiving in their hearts. He took our initial team and purged it of it's members and then constructed His team. The seven evangelists and five construction workers personally called by Him for this mission represented youth and experience, layman and minister, Anglo and Latin, man and woman. They became a God-trusting team in the adversity of lost luggage. Construction materials, tools, evangelism tracts, and clothes were stripped away in God's providence in order to resupply us with a dependent, trusting faith in Him to accomplish His work through us. What a work it was! We saw over 611 cement blocks laid, 92 sheets of tin roofing erected, 500 screws driven, 11 cement pillars poured and countless amounts of sand, gravel and concrete prepared and mixed by the constructionists with help from the evangelists as well. The work that was to take ten men six days but was accomplished by the Lord through six men in only five days. This simple structure is standing tall as a beacon of Christ's love in a totally unlovely place.
The evangelists saw 190 professions of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. They had only a limited number of interpreters but an endless supply of God's grace. The gospel was proclaimed in nearly every street and alley of this poverty stricken "barrios" and the church was filled to capacity with over 140 people during the dedication service. God was working in the lives of these forgotten people as they heard and received the good news of eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ. Many, however, recognized the gospel as truth but would not let go of the religious legalism, cult doctrines, and communistic indoctrinations that they have been poisoned with over the years. Pray that they will seek our Great Physician.
In my life I saw a heightened awareness of the Lord's workings all around me and in every situation. I developed a deeper trust in and appreciation for His craftsmanship. As the leader of this crusade, I learned to follow Him as my brothers and sisters in Christ came alongside into a harmonious step in our Lord's work. As an evangelist, I saw the powerful power of one's testimony. As a construction worker, I deepened my realization of the fruit of physical sweat and pain in our Lord's work. To God be the glory for great things He has done!
This was my first mission trip and I don't think it will be my last. As I sit here on the airplane flying back to Houston, it is hard to imagine what the lasting impact of this trip will be on my life. Only the passage of time will determine that. I can, however, safely say that there will be some lasting memories that will be forever etched in my mind. I will never forget the beautiful faces of the children...God's special creatures... who laughed and played, who loved to have their picture taken and who broke my heart countless times each and every day. The hope for Nicaragua rests in what we as Christians allow God to do through us to impact their world for Christ. I will never forget the abject poverty of the Barrios del Pescadores. From the cardboard walls and dirt floors to the horribly polluted waters of the nearby lake, survival takes priority over anything else. I suspect that my personal definitions of "needs", "wants", and "luxuries", as they relate to material things, will be permanently changed.
Gratitude to God for all of my blessings should be a dominant theme of my future prayer life, because it certainly dominates my current prayer life. I will never forget the expressions in the eyes of many of the people who were touched by God through the gospel message. Some eyes reflected tears, some reflected hope and some reflected joy. Virtually all reflected gratitude. I just thank God that he allowed me to experience this with Him.
Finally, to say that these people live in poverty is a great understatement. But rather than dwelling on the negative, I choose to focus on the positive. There is something much worse than being in material poverty. It is being in spiritual poverty. It is my prayer that the spiritual seed that was planted this week would ultimately produce a spiritual crop so large that only God can count the harvest. I know that I've already received far in excess of what I've given this past week.
Our mission to Nicaragua has left me with many memories of it's people. I knew before hand that we would minister in a very poor neighborhood but nothing in my past prepared me for what I saw. One of these memories is of a three year old boy. He wandered the streets almost naked. He was dirty with matted hair, his stomach was enlarged from parasites. He asked me for half a Cordoba which is less than a penny.
Despite the poverty and ignorance, God is at work in the Barrios del Pescadores. They now have a church and a young Pastor who knows Jesus Christ. There is hope. God was faithful to answer our prayers and to call people to Himself. One hundred ninety prayed to receive Christ and the church was full for it's first service.
As an added blessing, God has given me a way to continue to have a link with this ministry. I visited a small Christian school in which the students have American sponsors. I am excited to see how God will change a child's life through a Christian education as I "adopt" one of these children. God tells us in Hosea 4:6..."my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge." There are thousands of children living in poverty in Nicaragua but God wins His people one heart at a time.
God does awesome things on mission trips. On this trip we prayed for weather, power plant noise and people. God provided the weather that we prayed for the night before. The power plant made so much noise the first day that one could not hear himself talk. We prayed that night for the plant to be quiet so we could witness and have a service. We did not hear the plant after that night. Then one day we witnessed to a man that was evidently convicted. With tears in his eyes he refused the Gospel. That night we prayed for Eugene to receive Christ. The next day Roger and Caroline visited him and he prayed to receive Christ. Answered Prayer!!
God has done mighty things on this trip to Nicaragua. In my life I have learned to wait on God's timing and God's will. We arrived in Nicaragua with no luggage yet God provided. I realized we really don't need all the stuff we have. We had planned on starting construction Monday but without our luggage, which had our tools and gloves, we decided to do some sight seeing at the start of our week. God worked miracles and we were able to witness to five people and one lady gave her life to Christ. God intended for us to be away from the construction sight...where we thought we were supposed to be...and to be out "sight seeing".
When we finally started on the building of the church, it took half a day to build a bathroom. I did not see how we could possibly build four walls and put up a roof in 6 days. But again God provided and the church was finished in 5 days and there were many days we didn't get started until 9:00 am!! God gave us what we needed and he built the church the way he wanted it done. Instead of me worrying about time and about things working out the way I think they should, I sit back and see what God is doing and enjoy being a part of His work here on Earth.
For some time, even though I had been planning on this trip, it appeared that I would not be going. After completely turning the situation over to the Lord, I was on my way. As usual the Lord's plan was perfect and He had the right people to do the job. When we got to Managua, our bags didn't, but the team distributed what they had and everyone got by for three days until 19 of the 21 bags arrived. The 2 bags that didn't get there were mine and again everyone shared with me so that my needs were supplied. I am enroute home and haven't seen my bags since I checked them in Houston. The Lord says He will supply our needs and He did that. The greatest aspect of the trip is how God worked through each one of us, not only to accomplish the complete job in less time than expected, but to use each person to lift others up when they got tired or feeling they were not getting through to those they were witnessing to. This was God's love working through each one to get the job done, to finish the race. We were not two teams riding the same bus, but one team doing God's work and witnessing in whatever way was necessary at the time. When God is with us who can stand against us!
Early in our work camp to Managua, Nicaragua a group of six or seven boys became "regulars" on the work site. These eight to ten year old Latin American Huck Finns became our friends and or everyday companions. They didn't ask for anything other than the chance to hang out with us - even though their poverty was obvious.
The last day at the site was Sunday morning. As church service began in the newly constructed church building, the group of little rascals sat down behind me and assumed a level of quietness that was totally out of character. The time came for the offering and it seemed improper that the offering plate pass through seta of empty hands. I gave each boy a one "Cordoba" note (about 11 cents of worth) and immediately saw the flood of understanding in each boys eyes. Seven Cordoba's in seven grimy hands, seven heads held high as all was given. Surely the perfect nature of this scene was orchestrated by the Lord. May He closely watch over our seven little amigos.
This was my first mission trip to Nicaragua. My heart is broken after seeing one of the worst poverty stricken places on this planet. People were living in cardboard homes in the midst of Managua's sewage. One day I was sharing Jesus with a poor family and was informed that the husband came back from a days work with only 75 cents worth salary. He bought some beef bones to make their day's only meal with. I cried when I heard this story. The mother received Jesus as her Lord and Savior.
I thank the Lord for the miracles that he performed in the "village of the fishermen" . Many people were touched by the power of the Holy Spirit as they came out of hell and went into the Kingdom of Heaven. We praise the Lord because He is great! I really enjoyed sharing the Good News of Jesus with the Nicaraguan people. I am praying and hoping that the Lord will continue to bless the 190 hearts that received Jesus as Lord there. I am also very glad to be part of this wonderful missionary team. I have never seen such a unity and love for Christ like this before. To God be the glory!
This mission trip to Nicaragua has been one of the greatest moments of my life as I served the Lord and saw a church start up and many people receive the Light of God. I always knew God did special things and now I have first hand proof ! He healed my injured finger and made me able to carry my load on the construction crew. We saw some of what God can do on this trip. This mission did me a lot of good also. I got to work with a great bunch of true Christian men and women. This was truly a God-sent group. I thank the Lord that He allowed me to be a part of this team.
I came to Nicaragua for two reasons. First, to give something back to the Lord and secondly to get back to the basics with God. I wanted to give back to the Lord with my time and effort. As a member of our construction team, I knew I would be giving Him physical labor and energy as we worked with antiquated materials and methods. The back breaking labor and heat took their toll. I also renewed meaningful times with the Lord that had been missing of late.
I received a new perspective of the poverty, filth, and hopelessness of the Nicaraguan people living in the barrios. God showed me that He was and is the only hope these people can hold onto. He is their only hope for a future. I came away from Managua a better person, a better father, a better husband, and most of all a better Christian. God lives in Nicaragua as well as in the rest of the world!