The 9 of us along with 9 from First Baptist Baldwin are packed and ready to go.
We are home.
There were over 500 professions of faith this week. The 32 folks from the States worked with the folks from El Salvador, to encourage and support the Nicaraguans.
Each of our team members have grown spiritually.
Friday we saw a couple of easter parades while traveling to share a neighborhood near a university, and that we had never visited. It was a beautiful evening and many folks responded. This was followed by the sad good byes.
First to leave around 11:00pm were some folks headed to North Carolina, next the El Salvadorans bus left around 2:30am, we left at 5am, and the final group headed to North Carolina left around 10am. Pastor Felix and Pastor Rodrigo are responsible for shuttling everyone to the airport, so they didn’t get much sleep.
Our travel was uneventful, and we arrived back in Jacksonville around 4:30pm.
It was a good week.
Today is our last day, and about a third of the gringos left last night, so the breakfast area is less crowded. The pastor needs to be back and prepared for Easter Sunday, so that group is gone.
The pool area is being prepared for a busy day. Many folks are on holiday, so they spend the day at a local hotel. For one price, they have use of the pool and get a great lunch. When we return this afternoon the place will be packed, with parents sitting around talking and kids churning the pool water.
Turns out that 71 folks professed faith last night. They will be called by church members, invited to a reception this Sunday, and visited over the next few months.
Today the streets will be crowded, and there will be parades later this evening. We are headed to a neighborhood to share the gospel.
This morning we went to Wimbliss market. I have described it before, so will not repeat again now. Afterward, we enjoyed lunch at Pizza Hut with the translators. This is always enjoyable as we have become one big family of 80 people. Noone knows everyone, but everyone knows many. All have been working together as a team. There is so much laughter and smiles, it is hard to imagine the “diversity” in the room.
After a short break, we headed to the neighborhood where Luis lives. This is a suburb just out of town. All of the lots are about 40 feet wide and 60 feet deep, with a concrete home and driveway. They each have a patch of grass about 10×25 across the front.
For those worried about numbers, more than 60 yellow cards had been collected, and they were still coming in. What a pleasant evening.
The first half of our time here was focused on the Los Robles campus. The remainder of the week, we are helping the Bologina campus. Pastor Rodriguez and Pastor Felix will spend the next few months leading their church on follow up. In fact, one of the Nicaragua men told me last night that he had already been calling folks from the first couple of nights.
Eventually, every person will be called for a time to have a visit. The goal is to begin a weekly bible study.
We talked with a man that had lost his wife a couple of years ago. He knew a lot about the bible, but was angry with God. He was not ready to accept Jesus. He clearly understood the importance, but was honest about not being prepared. He is struggling and agreed to having a Nicaraguan followup for bible study. Please pray for Josie.
Another man, Alex, has the appearance of a stereo type drug dealer. Long white tee shirt, tattoo on his neck, close cropped hair that includes a design, and a bit of bling in his teeth. As we talked with him, we learned he is 34, spent 4 years in prison, and is a salesman. We did not ask what he sold. While we talked, several of his friends came by…all apparently under the influence of something.
Alex is standing at a crossroad. He clearly understands he is going to hell, why, and how to change directions. He “wants” to change, but was not prepared to do so when we talked. He had several convient opportunities to politely end the conversation, yet each time he returned to the topic. Alex also needs your prayer.
I’ve just described a couple of interactions. But following a trip like this the question is always “how many were saved?” We can answer the number of people that professed faith, but we do not know the number saved. Neither of the men above professed faith during this encounter. But both will be contacted and have the opportunity to study Bible, just as those that did profess faith. The evidence is a changed life.
Listening to our folks describe gospel sharing episodes continues to be enjoyable. Sometimes it is with a group of teenagers, sometimes it is with an elderly person, sometimes an individual about their age. They describe the person and much of the conversation. They will remember this encounter for a long time.
Except they do not. There are so many of these episodes, that names, faces, what was said, who was around…. it all starts running together. You can remember the last couple, but the earlier encounters all becomes a blurr.
But it never gets old hearing and watching them tell how folks have responded. Ocassionally there will be a situation that is truely amazing. When that occurs, it remains in focus and the story is told multiple times. Those do not get old, either.
We have had something brand spanking new occur. Not to our folks, but to others here with us. Three of the men are runners. So after a few days of traveling they are feeling the need to run.
Yesterday morning they left for a run to the lake and back. It is a run that has been done multiple times before. There have been dogs that have barked, but little more. This time a pack of dogs confronted them. The details are unclear, but all three were bitten.
They were taken to the local medical facility, and the wounds were cleaned. They were given antibotics, but no rabies vaccine. The remainder of their day was spent acquiring the vaccine. Apparently, each clinic has a single dose. At some point, a call to the “director at the embassy” was made and the problem was solved.
All three men are fine. As a precaution, they will get a second shot on Friday, and then a couple more after they return home.
One of the gentleman from North Carolina was born in 1940, and another in 2003. This seems to represent the age range of folks here from the States. Some have been before, and some are hear for the first time.
I overheard a couple of the teenagers talking. One commented on how she comes here and experiences this for a week, but then gets to returns home. I wanted to ask what “this” is. Is it the warm air? Is it the spirtual growth? Is it seeing how these folks live versus how we live? Is it the multiple cultures working together? Is it the interest folks here have in spiritual matters? Is it the afternoon siesta? Is it the sights, sounds, and smells?
The devotion this morning was on Genesis 14 and explained so clearly. You can go read it, but I doubt you will understand as we now do. But for me, verse 21 sums up the whole thing: “give me the souls and you keep the stuff.” Stuff is not the problem… “thyself” is the problem. Abraham was extremely wealthy with lots of stuff. But he is an example of faith and trusting God. Lot is an example of someone with an eye towards “thyself”.
It makes me think about whether I am doing “God” things or “Self” things.
The normal lunch is at the food court. Recognizable fast food places, along with some that are familiar to Central Americans is the norm. There is variety, easy ordering, and the ability to handle the infux of folks all at once. The automated cash registers make accepting dollars easy, so this is a good solution for lunch.
Yesterday for lunch, three of us expanded our lunch options. We chose to eat at the deli in grocery store. Now “deli” probably gives you a different image than what is here. This is a local “restaurant”, that only takes local money, only speaks Spanish, and the small seating area ensures you will interact with others. The food is good and cheap…two large grilled chicken breast with the wing, two french fries, two handfuls of banana chips, and 2 16oz cokes cost just under $8. Of course, we were the only pink skins in this area.
Across from us was Nicaraguan named DeeDee. He spoke good english, although his wife only spanish. He is studying to be a pastor, and works at an orphanage/school. He is very interested in having someone come share the gospel at the school. We will make the connection with Pastor Rodrigo. Maybe in August, we will go there.
After many years of telling of events, the description of what is happening here sounds redundant. I struggle to tell you something new. You can read entries from past trips and learn about how we sleep, eat, and travel. You can read where we have shared the gospel to a variety of types of folks. You can read of various adventures and funny events that have occured. There is no reason to repeat those here, you can just click here to read them.
I will tell you the number of people accepting Jesus and changing their eternal destination is greater than you can imagine. I will tell you that we are accomplishing 3 of our 4 goals. And, I will tell you that the church of Nicaragua is growing. There are new faces working with us, and there are old faces taking more of a leadership role.
People often ask: Why do you have to go to Nicaragua? Why not so the same thing in Northeast Florida? This question is always asked by someone who has never been, so answering it is difficult. For folks that have been, they understand but still struggle to explain.
So, here are my thoughts. We are here to deliver a message from the bible to people that are interested. We enjoy spending time and getting to know people…some from Florida, some from elsewhere. We are revived, as in “revival”. Internet access and Facebook have reduced the isolation, but we are still away from most distractions. We are reminded of how thankful we should be in many ways.
I guess the real answer is there are many ways and many places to serve God.
One of the joys of coming on these trips is seeing the excitment in the eyes of folks from home. Whether young or old, there comes a time when they have a divine appointment. Sometimes it occurs early in the week;sometimes later.
Every one of these appointments are both unique and similar. The similar part is the surprise. Even though we came here expecting something, we are not really expecting something. When it happens, there is a sensation of disbelief. As they excitedly tell the story, the big smiles are contagious.
I heard two of these tonight. And, yep, I too have a silly grin on my face.