Monday, July 9, 2012

Guitars and Bars

Steve donated his two guitars to the pastor of the Parcelena church - Lilly of the Valley. When we sat down with the pastor and asked him of some of his needs for the church, he shared how someone broke in, and the musical equipment was stolen.

With the money raised at First Baptist of Frostproof, we have ordered bars to be installed on the doors and windows to help keep the church secure.

The pastor has shared that his long term goal is to open a soup kitchen next to the church to help the community who all live in poverty. This will be the next task for us to pray for and focus on for the Parcelena community.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Pastors' Conference report

This is my third trip to Nicaragua. My first time, I was only involved with the VBS activities. My second trip, I was only involved with the pastor's training. And this time, I've been involved with VBS and pastors' training.

So, what's the point of the pastors' conferences? The mission team is trying to address a need for theological education among local pastors. The Gospel Coalition calls it a "theological famine." Here in America, we have so much theological education. We have plenty of seminaries. We have seminaries offering online classes. We have pastors' conferences that last a weekend and have the the BIG names speaking.

Theology, good theology, so available in America, that just a week before our trip, Jennifer attended the Gospel Coalition's Women's Conference in Orlando, where she could hear from Noel Piper, Tim Keller, Nancy Guthrie, Don Carson, John Piper, Carolyn Mahaney, and so many more. Yet, in much of the world, this is all unimaginable. In the city of Nagarote, only one of the local pastors has any formal theological education. Their personal libraries are sparse. 

The pastors want to know more. And that's what the pastors' conferences are all about.

This week, I had three opportunities to teach a group of pastors and other churches leaders. The first meeting was about discipleship. The second was about the church's role in the world today. And the third was about church leadership. These were all topics that the pastors had said they wanted me to teach. They also had a few more topics, but those will have to wait for another time, or someone with other areas of expertise. ;-)

For example, everyone seems interested in prophecy. Even before the first meeting started, while we were all gathering together, someone asked about symbolism in Revelation. I explained that Revelation is not my expertise, but I also tried to give some basic answers. And then I decided to address it at the start of class, too.

I explained that John Calvin once noted, some things in the Bible are more clear than others. And more importantly, the most important things are the most clear. And that's how I would begin thinking about Revelation.

There's a lot of disagreement when it comes to Revelation. But, what's the main point? What is the book about? I asked for their ideas. And, sure enough, we all agreed. Revelation is about the future return of Christ, when he gathers his church and will judge evil. No matter what view you have of Revelation, you should get the same main idea.

And everyone agrees, in the end, God wins. That's important for our lives today, because as we see a world of chaos, as we suffer, as we wonder what will happen in the future, we can rest assured, God is winning, and will win. That is a message we can all see in Revelation.

After talking some more about Revelation, I talked about discipleship. We discussed the primacy of God in changing hearts. We discussed the purpose of discipleship--to become more like Christ. We discussed the necessity of church community in discipleship.

That was a great segway into our later meeting about church leadership. I didn't teach how to be a leader. I taught what the Bible tells us about the leadership of the church. I discussed the role and qualifications of pastors, and then I went through the same issues for deacons. And we talked about how pastors and deacons are both essential to a healthy church.

Now, here are a few pictures.
This is some of the pastors' conference attendees near the end of a break.
I can tell it was during a break because I was taking a picture.

 This is Karina (Juan Bautista's daughter, who was in charge of snacks)
getting some food for Carlos (my translator)

This is Juan Bautista speaking at the end of a break. He had told me he
wanted to talk to the group for a minute, but I have no idea what he said,
since Carlos, my translator, was in the restroom.

 Bicycles are a common form of transportation.

This is my dry erase board (which the mission team had given the church
last year). This is after I talked about discipleship. I had asked if Jesus is
Savior or Lord (Salvador o Senor)? Of course, he's both. But, people who
claim salvation but aren't interested in discipleship are saying they want
Jesus as Savior, but not as Lord.

Culture Day 2012 - The Masaya Volcano

We were fortunate that this visit to the volcano did not smell as sulfur-y as in the past. The wind was definitely in our favor! Unfortunately, due to an eruption in April, not only did we have to wear hard hats, but we also were unable to climb up to the highest observatory. And in case anyone is curious... in case of another eruption, we were instructed to crawl under the bus for maximum protection.

All vehicles must park backwards for a quick exit.

There was a slightly elevated lookout. To the right, you can see the smoke rising from inside the volcano.

The high look out we were unable to get to.

Our group. Complete with hard hats.

There is also a museum at the entrance to the national park that we explored before we went up to the volcano.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Parcelena Party

Wednesday night was our first really big event. We hosted a block party/revival style meeting in Parcelena, the same area where Ranchos de Dios is being built.

To prepare, each team member created a cardboard testimony to share. It was a way for us to relate to those in attendance personally, even though a language barrier exists. Here is an example of one of the testimonies shared.

There is video of the actual sharing, but that upload will have to wait for faster upload times.

The chairs waiting to be filled...

Before the music and message, the team members all shared their crafts or talents with all of the children waiting around. These beaded bracelets were a huge hit every where Jennifer L brought them out!

Stephanie's balloon flowers and animals were also very popular!

Ever heard of ladder golf? If not, here it is! The player tosses 3 sets of balls onto the ladder and tries to get them to stay. This was a definite favorite among both adults and children alike.

Members of a local church brought their musical equipment and speakers out to lead a time of worship before Bruce S delivered a message.

As part of the evening, salvation bracelets were passed out to nearly all of our guests. Some of them included numbers on them for a raffle. Each raffle winner received a yellow Rancho de Dios backpack that included a Spanish Bible, a poster of the 10 Commandments, a pen, a toy, and other random items as we had them available, such as aprons, hand towels, or stuffed animals.

This was the first event of its kind in this location and it went very well. The message was from Zechariah and focused on everyone's need for salvation.

Culture Day 2012 - The Bus Ride

To understand more about the country we've been serving in, and to learn to appreciate it's natural beauty all the more, we spent Thursday on a little tour that included a visit to a volcano, Monkey Island, a 3 1/2 hour lunch (!), shopping in a typical Nicaraguan flea market, and dinner at a western-style fast food place.

Before we could get any where though, we had to take a ride on the bus. These are in no particular order.

Riding a bus in Nicaragua is an experience like no other! People rarely obey the red lights or stop signs (especially once you are out of Managua, the capitol). There were a few close calls (at least to those of us used to drivers obeying traffic laws), but none of the Nica people on our bus even seemed to be phased by it.

There are also many vendors selling trinkets, food, and drinks in between the lanes of traffic. At one point, we even saw a street juggler tossing some flames around!

Come back later for photos of the other cultural activities we participated in!

More Photos from Jenny G

Joel gave Manuel, one of our favorite bixi drivers, some solar lights for the front of his bixi.

Mary Ruth enjoyed some time this week chatting with school girls in the afternoon. She was teaching them a little English and I think they were helping her improve her Spanish. Mike, Mary Ruth,  Richard, and Jenny attended Spanish language classes at the Frostproof Care Center with teacher Muriel Mikealewicz.

Another of Cheyenna's projects were these laminated butterflies at the 2nd Baptist Preschool. The back of these also have a verse about becoming a new creation in Christ. Before we left the preschool on Wednesday, the ladies hung these up in the classroom for the children to remember.

Darlene, a music teacher, and Josue were working on some music.

The story from this next picture comes from Jennifer L herself.
"Today a father rolled his 18 year old daughter to the steps of our hostel. As she began to have a seizure my heart broke as I knew I could do nothing as a nurse to help her! So we began to pray and her seizure stopped! I know that God was with us on that breezy Nicaragua street, filling her body with comfort from his hand! Please continue to pray for strength and mercy!"

Friday, July 6, 2012

Pictures from Jenny G

I've been getting many pictures from the team to share. These are from Jenny Grenke and cover a wide variety of activities this week.

This is David and Joel doing electrical work at Alfa y Omega. The whole job was finished Wednesday even though they had to stay later than expected and missed our revival/block party in Parcelena.

This is a picture of Alfa Y Omega, our sister church.

The Volcano at Masaya

We've all enjoyed watching Alice paint the children's faces. They sit so still and if you didn't know better, you'd think that she was wrenching their necks into these positions!

Cheyenna created this bookmark project for our time with the children. It has 2 Corinthian 5:17 on it, which is about becoming a new creation in Christ.

The preschool of 2nd Baptist Church asked for some help decorating their school room. The children played with some new education toys while some members of our team helped with the decorating.

While delivering food bags to the Dream of Louisa families, it got very dusty in the back of the truck.

Jenny made hair bows with the girls.

I have more of Jenny's photos to share, but time is short at the moment. We are leaving for our final VBS meeting with 2nd Baptist Church!