Sunday July 13, 2014
Our last day with Fortin and Torre Fuerte already. Sunday is a favorite day here in Granada as everyone looks forward to the worship at Torre Fuerte that is led by Lester.
We started out the day by taking vans out to Fortin to join in the children’s program. On Sunday mornings, the kids are led in a time of singing, then a craft and message, followed by a meal that Pastor Manfredo’s wife Coney makes.
We headed home to get some lunch. After lunch, many of the team then went to the market in Masaya. The market is a true Nicaraguan experience that one can understand only by being there.
We then grabbed another great supper prepared by Aunt Betty and then headed off to Torre Fuerte for church. The church was full and worship once again was special. The music and energy and the Spirit combine for a powerful service.
After the service we returned home and had a few of the members of Torre Fuerte join us for ice cream at Doug and Betty’s. Pastor Flores asked us to share about the house visitations, since he hadn’t been able to be a part of that.
Here are a few of the comments:
Alan – so appreciates the willingness of Nicaraguan people to allow us to just show up at their house and spend time with them
McKenzie – loved praying over the grandmother and grandchild during the chalk ministry and seeing them come to church
Tara – loved the fact the the house visitations seemed to bond the team together. She also mentioned that she was “freaked out” about talking, but found herself pouring her heart out in prayer for one of the families.
Carole – seeing the younger people learn from the older people and being able to share
Ashton – coming to the house and seeing the frowns on their faces, but when I gave them the bandana bracelets that symbolized the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, their faces just lit up
Hannah – not planning on saying anything, but then pouring her heart out when talking to a teenage boy about struggling with his faith and going to church.
Andrew – stopping by the house on the way back from Fortin and being touched by the generosity of that family buying us beef soup.
Angela – inspired to see how much Pastor Flores’ family is being used by God throughout the city of Granada
Caroline – very nervous about doing this, but was inspired by a father’s story and she was struck by the fact that God can use anybody at any time
Brianna – sharing her story at the girls night and then hearing how much her story touched one of the girls there who grew up without a father.
Jenna – Realizing that God puts the right people in the right place at the right time.
Shaylee – saddened by the fact that some of her friends in Nic were no longer going to church, but was inspired by Jesenia’s heart and love for the people.
Abbi – just plain excited to see people actually come to church as a result of the house visitations.
Aspen – praying for the mother that hadn’t been able to get the meds that she needed.
Rick – Reminded once again of what a big God we have.
The house visitations were a powerful time of sharing and yes, we do have a big God that loves to see people love other people.
Saturday July 12, 2014
What does it mean to be blessed? A google search will turn up many different angles on this concept. This word is introduced in the creation story and is used throughout the Bible. We sees many examples of God blessing us. Each of us has experienced God’s direct blessing in some way. But when God uses other people to bless us there is something special.
Tonight we experienced that at a very emotional level.
We had an early morning rise, a quick breakfast and then took a can ride out to Pantanal. Pantanal is a very poor barrio at the North end of Granada at the base of the volcano Mombacho. Just north of the barrio, adjacent to it is a piece of property that is absolutely beautiful. El Puente, a church, has been working in this barrio for a few years now. There currently are plans being drawn to build a PK-11 education center on this piece of property.
We played softball and soccer, then shared our skits with the kids from the barrio, and had a great time. Lord willing, we were a small blessing to these folks.
We then enjoyed a lunch at Cathy’s-an Amerio/Nico style restaurant. The most popular menu item ordered? A hamburger. It was a great time of fellowship and enjoying time with 25 people around a long table. In the afternoon, we walked the town and visited the artisan tables looking for a few souvenirs and items to bring back to family.
During supper, Charles ( Doug and Betty’s friend that leads El puente and the Granada Education Center) gave some history behind Pantanal and the Education Center. It was a powerful story of God’s blessings being played out in providing for making the vision of a Christian school in Pantanal happen.
We were then kicked out and told to go back to our houses because Torre Fuerte had a surprise planned for use. When Ashton heard heard the word “surprise” he double fist pumped and did a happy dance. He loves surprises.
Up returning, we were individually blindfolded and led through through the house, purposefully bumping into many things, and finally led to a seat. Once everyone was seated, Ezekiel explained that this was a metaphor for God leading us, and the bumping into things was to represent the obstacles and things that were overcome in order to make it down to Nicaragua to serve. Read Romans 10:14-15.
One of the many things Ezekiel said was “When you visit a house here in Nicaragua, it is like God sent an angel.” He talked about us being the feet of Jesus in just coming down here and being part of them even if it is for a short time.
And then they blessed us like I have not been blessed before. They individually lead us to a wash basin and proceeded to wash our feet. There are no words for this. It was an act that crossed language barriers, that crossed cultural differences. An act that says I love you. Period. I know that everyone of us tonight probably felt the thoughts of “I am not worthy of this”. “I have done nothing in these 7 days that warrants any of this”. And those thoughts are in some way correct. We haven’t really done anything extraordinary. None of us deserved that. But that is what blessing someone is. To be blessed is receiving something we don’t deserve. And the people at Torre Fuerte poured blessings on us tonight. An experience that words will never do justice for.
To God be the glory.
Friday July 11, 2014
Today, we again had a phenomenal start to the day with everyone’s favorite breakfast, egg sandwiches.
Devotions for the day was from John 14 which began with the short, but difficult phrase to really apply in daily life – “Trust in Me”. It’s a great reminder to all of us, even when we aren’t in a completely different country, out of our comfort zone. In fact, I actually think it is harder to really live this out at home than it is here in Nicaragua. When we are comfortable, we tend to trust much more in ourselves. We have much that can be learned from the Nicaraguans in this area.
After breakfast we packed up and started our 45 minute walk out to Fortin to do some house visitations and invite people to our program in the afternoon. We split into two groups and visited about 10 homes. We visited with some families, some homes with just children, some homes with just a mother or just a grandmother.
During these house visits, we just chat with them about their family, share a favorite Bible verse or a verse of encouragement, ask them for things to pray about, and then pray for their family. In just about every house I have been in, the mother or grandmother asks for prayers for a family member that has walked away from the faith. Additionally, in many of the homes, the family is working though health issues too – a pregnant mother with a beginning stage of cancer that can’t be treated because she is 7 months pregnant, mental illness and can’t get the meds she needs, etc. In my group, it was neat to see the confidence growing in the high school students. Hannah, Brianna, and Todd shared verses and personal examples with many of the families.
It was also great to see four of the families walk in to the church around 2pm to attend the children’s program and the Bible Study. We pray that the seeds that were planted through that time may root and grow. We also pray that God may sustain this church in the incredible effort that it takes for a church to continue to minister to the people in its barrio.
Children started showing up early and another soccer game broke out. The younger kids somehow conned all of the high school kids to give them piggy back rides. There was a train of about 10 kids with one and even two kids on their backs. One time when I looked over there, I think that they might even been drag racing…
The program went smoothly, and then we celebrated Veronica’s (Pastor Manfredo daughter) birthday. Cake was brought out for everyone. Francisco thought it would be humorous if he smashed frosting on Veronica’s face and before you know it, a cascading reaction happened. Frosting and cake everywhere… Francisco said to me on the way back, I may have been the one that started it, but “you can’t tell me that everyone didn’t have fun”. I agree.
We got back in time for men’s and women’s youth group nights. The men were hosted in one house, while the women were hosted in another house.
There were over 30 men that showed up to swim in the pool and eat pizza and have fun. At the one if the night, different people shared and it was amazing to see how much they appreciated this simple time of just getting together with a bunch of other men and enjoying fellowship, something that men here generally aren’t accustom to, and they want to do it again. A really great night!
For the women, they also had a great night. I think they did some more sharing at the end of the night, and a few of the girls from our team were put on the spot by Aunt Betty to do some sharing. One of the highlights was when Bri shared about not having a father around and growing up in a single mom household. It was a powerful testimony to those in attendance as many of them are growing up without fathers in their own homes. Aunt Betty reminded them that they do have a father – our Heavenly Father. This is where our trust needs to be placed.
Day 6 – Thursday, July 10, 2014
Devotions started this morning with the passage from Luke that talks about hating your father and mother if necessary in order to be a follower of Christ. God wants us to be all in. He doesn’t want fans, He wants participants that pick up their cross daily. Today we saw that first hand as we were able to join Pastor Manfredo and Pastor Mitchell as they work to build a new church in the San Jose de Gracia area.
Following a late breakfast (everyone got an extra hour of sleep last night), we loaded up in two micro buses (28 people including drivers) and headed up the mountain to this new church that is starting. It takes about an hour to drive there. We had lunch with Pastor Manfredo’s in-laws, and then walked slowly toward the house that we were going to worship at. Along the way, we stopped at many houses inviting them to come to church and their children to a game of soccer.
We had an hour before the service started so we played soccer with the older children while the younger kids jumped rope and played other games.
The soccer game was a highlight for a lot of us tonight. Ashton just can’t get enough of it. For only being 8 years old, he is a brick wall as a defender – he took quite a few shots back there and kept on going. (He told us his low today was getting hit by the ball “in the special spot”…). He is a special kid with great energy. Tiara finally scored – assisted by Caroleena – after repeatedly getting the ball blocked or taken away by Jenna, Shaylee showed some undiscovered soccer skills as she scored twice and Todd basically was a one man show for our team. Personally, I tried not to move too much. Rick and Andrew were stellar in opposite goals.
Meanwhile Hannah, Abbi, McKenzie, Aspen and Brianna were loving on the younger kids. Every time I looked over there from the soccer game, I saw the hands and feet of Jesus being brought to those kids in a simple but powerful way.
We then gathered for worship. It was a smaller group in number, but not small in passion. Lester led us in worship and it always stirs my heart to be part of that. The skits went very smoothly. You can tell we are becoming a well-oiled machine as people quickly work together to make it happen. I spent a little time talking with the adults about the story of Jonah while the kids did the craft. We then prayed for the family that was hosting the service and piled back into the micro-buses.
I pray that we were an encouragement today for this young church. Sometimes we can get caught up in wondering what we really “accomplished” by showing up for 4 hours, playing a little soccer, singing a few songs, doing a couple of skits and making some crafts. But this isn’t about what we do there; it’s about just spending time with them. I think just having a team of 20 plus people show up and enjoy being with them has to be encouraging, and communicates a message that what they are doing is important for the kingdom of believers.
I want to go back to where I started – being all in. We had a beautiful example of what it means to be all in. Pastor Manfredo and Mitchell are taking the time and resources to go up to this area and do a service 2 days a week. This is in addition to the work they are doing with their own churches – Fortin and Cana Castilla. It was a real blessing to see them go house to house asking people to come and be so passionate and enthusiastic in gathering these people in a time to worship the Lord. Pastor Manfredo and Mitchell are all in. They are NOT spectators and are answering God’s call and jumping in whole-heartedly. They will be needing our prayers to sustain this. I hope that the example they set before us today can give us inspiration to emulate that back home when we return.
More from Day 6, Thursday, July 10, 2014
Hi from Carole. Makenzie’s Mommom. Kenzie took a vacation day from her bloggingJ
Yesterday was another exciting day bonding as a team and seeing God’s amazing work within the communities here in Granada through FOAM and their associated churches. The teams were driven by (2) vans up to San Jose de Gracia, which is located in a higher elevation area. Yeah, that means lower temps! This is a community where Connie (Pastor Manfredo’s wife) parent’s live. Pastor Manfredo and his family started coming to this area about a year ago after her parents were saved holding bible weekly bible studies. This ministry requires Pastor’s family to take (2) busses and (1) motorcycle taxi to get to this area. Yes, a motorcycle. The road is so long and in such poor condition that motorcycles taxis are sometimes used to bring people to their homes. Our vans were able to take us to where we needed to go. Although really cute, the two puppies were very upsetting to the girls because of their size and the unknown whereabouts of the mother. The kids were holding fast to Mrs. Betty’s rule about not holding stray animals.
About an hour later, we all came together for skits and worship. The children then left the adults and worked on the Jonah message with crafts. Mr. Bill (aka Coach) then spoke to the adults about Jonah and how we all have Ninevahs in our lives that we try to run away from. Before leaving our kids did get to hold a friend’s parrot that was such a treat.
We ate Betty’s delicious chicken Mirabella and rice for dinner then went over to the Whalen’s house (it has the largest pool out of the three houses) for debriefing and ice cream. It is always so awesome to hear how we each saw God work in different ways throughout the day.
Bye! Carole Hughes
Day 5, July 9, 2014
One of the things I have learned to appreciate here in Nicaragua is our interpreters. I was reminded of that tonight as we shared highs and lows at the end of our day. Francisco, one of the interpreters that spends a lot of time with Uncle Doug and Aunt Betty, was sharing about how his high was having the group do an outreach in his neighborhood.
Francisco has been a real light in his neighborhood that has had much darkness in it. He shared his heart as he was telling us how important it was for the boys in his neighborhood to have men (and other adults) just play with them as their parents (especially their dads) don’t take time to just play with them very much. Aunt Betty reminded us of what an incredible service that Francisco and the other interpreters do on a daily for us. It’s true. Without them, the frustration in trying to communicate would have tower-of-babel like consequences. We ended our evening tonight by us all laying hands on Francisco and Ezekiel and praying for them and the work they are doing for The Lord here in Nicaragua. Most of us will be leaving in 6 days, but they will stay here, continuing to shine their light where they go.
It was an early start to the day with breakfast by 7:15 a.m. The majority of the team left for bible study at El Puente, while the Postma family headed off to see the family that they sponsor through World Vision.
It was a real special time as the Postma’s renewed our relationship with Michelle (13 years old) and her family in Nundeimhen. Last year the family seemed to be completely scared to be there and any conversation was nothing but dental work (like pulling teeth….). This year was completely different. They ran up to us and hugged us and were immediately more comfortable. We had a great day with them as we got to see a few projects that World Vision was doing in the area, and had an incredibly delicious lunch/feast with them. We learned that Michelle is now going to church with her Grandma, but that she is the only one in her family going. We prayed for them and headed back to Granada. Gustavo, our interpreter and chauffeur through World Vision, was instrumental in making this a great day and he too is letting his light shine by what he does for World Vision.
Meanwhile, the rest of the group enjoyed some great worship and great teaching by Charles Kaye at El Puente for Bible study at 8am. Following Bible study, they split up into two groups and each group visited two houses.
Just listening to the reports of how these house visitations went, I can tell that people are getting more comfortable with this and enjoy this time. In fact I think that those of us “doing” the house visitation often seem more blessed after the visit than those living at the house. I do know that these visits can be a great blessing to the Nicaraguans as they are encouraged by people taking the time to sit down with them and talk with them about their lives and their faith.
After the house visitation and lunch, the Postma family returned and we all headed over to Francisco’s neighborhood for an outreach to the children that lived there. A lot of children were able to come because they are currently on break from school. We ran the comedy skit, followed by Jonah and then spent the next 2 hours just playing with the children. A huge bunch of them went to play soccer. We had a “World Cup” game in that it was the Nicas vs the Americans. It was a hard fought battle and to be honest I don’t know that anyone truly knows what the final score was.
It was a really fun game, and I learned why the high school girls from Michigan play basketball… Hannah and Shaylee actually had some skill, while you could tell that Todd and Alan had played some soccer on this concrete court before and knew the tricks to playing there. I think there was a couple times Rick got lost in the moment cheering, thinking he was back in the states watching a hockey game. It was great fun.
The younger kids spent time coloring, and doing crafts with Brianna, Abbi and Kenzi. Pam took at a parachute game that the children absolutely loved and I could hear them laughing all the way over at the soccer court.
The team has been going non-stop the last two days and it’s amazing to see how the energy comes back just as it is needed. God is providing.
Tomorrow we are taking a couple of mini-buses out to a newer church in a much more rural setting. Pray for safe travels and that we can be an encouragement to them as it is hard work to get a church started.
Wednesday, July 9th
Everyone was excited for visitation again today, but first went to El Puente for a Bible study. Pastor Charles had a great lesson that was easy to follow along to because it was in English, translated into Spanish.
After the Bible study was over, our team stayed at El Puente for a special tour of the Jicaro (Hick-a-ro) Project. The Jicaro Project is when people who need money for school, or something else, make items out of Jicaro fruit (which is a larger sized round nut shape). This can include bowls, belts, necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and more. I thought it was so amazing how they did everything with just big bumps on trees!
Now it was time for visitation! We met back at the house and filled up our water bottles. Then Mrs. Betty got us into two groups. We talked a bit between the groups but then we were off! Lester led us to a house where the mother was a Christian, but not the two daughters. Carole AKA my Mommom, told the two women about how she became a Christian and how great it has been since. Our group prayed for the two girls, and then we had to go to our next house.
Lester led us to our next house, which was luckily around the corner from the first! These people were Christians, but most of their other family living all around them was not. Tara and Caroline shared their inspiring stories, which seemed to touch everyone’s heart. The teens also gave advice for the 14 year old son for pointing his life away from bad things that he may encounter. The father of the family shared how he was into alcohol and how his wife was a light to him and the children when he could not be. Even though it was really hot having about fifteen people cramped in a small room, everyone really enjoyed visiting with this family.
About 3:00 we headed to Francisco’s neighborhood to do a Bible study with the kids and to play with them. It was so nice to meet Francisco’s family and to see the place that started it all…
In 2008, Rick (my papa), Bryan, and RB were looking to meet new people in community, and decided to walk through a neighborhood with a soccer ball. That day was the start of a great friendship and multiple ministries throughout the years. Francisco (age 26) has such a big heart for his community and for God; he has started new programs such as churches and bible studies. He also became FOAM’s #1 interpreter. All because of three men’s willingness to go.
Anyway, at the Bible study we put on our two skits (Our funny doctor icebreaker and Jonah). We had quite a tough crowd. They didn’t really get the icebreaker, which was supposed to be a comedy (they were quite young). The kids did participate a lot in the lesson because they were all taught well by the amazing Francisco.
After the lesson older kids went to go play soccer, but the younger kids stayed to do a craft. Both groups had tons of fun and really seemed to enjoy us there. The craft group also played jump rope, used the parachute, and did fun cheers! Time flies when you are having fun with kids, so soon we had to leave.
Our whole team agreed that we had an awesome day! Every minute of it was enjoyable and worth it. At night we all got together, had our debriefing time, and ate ice cream. Tomorrow we get to sleep in which made everyone happy. J
Day 4 July 8, 2014 Granada, Nicaragua
This was a day The Lord had made. We rejoice and are glad in it. Our team has tired feet, our bodies are a “sweaty mess”, and our energy needs to be renewed as we head off to sleep, and yet we rejoiced in it.
Breakfast was awesome -egg and bacon sandwiches never tasted so good in the morning. After breakfast, while waiting for some people, a game of hot potato randomly started by one of our interpreters. “That was just good clean fun, Dad” Aspen told me. Later on in the day she tried to start one up again but it just didn’t happen.
We then split up into three groups to do some home visitations of past and present church families from Torre Fuerte. This can be fairly intimidating for many people – especially those in the Northern culture. And yet, all groups came back “rejoicing in it”. Each group came back with powerful stories. One group stopped by a grandmother whose grandchild had just left for the hospital a few hours before. She also broke down in tears as she talked about losing her sister recently and also as she talked about two of her sons that were not walking with Lord. Another group visited some families who were really struggling with other family members that were rebelling against the faith and Hannah got to share deeply with one of them who was very open about his struggles with faith. Seeds were definitely planted there.
During these visitations, we invited the families to come to the Bible study at Torre Fuerte at night. Three different families ended up attending that night! We definitely rejoiced in that! Some of them were even the people that were open about their struggles with their faith. Bri said to me she was shocked that the gal we visited showed up because “it didn’t seem like she was connecting with anything we were saying”. And then it hit me. It wasn’t about what was said. It was about someone all the way from a country far away, taking the time to stop by their house, and just visit. I am confident that these families today were encouraged by just being there. We rejoiced in that.
We battled the heat by walking back to Uncle Doug and Aunt Betty’s to quickly fuel up with grilled cheese.
After lunch, we headed down to the bus station to ride up to another church that FOAM works with – Cana Castilla. Now, much has been written in previous team blogs about the level of heat that one experiences while sitting in the bus waiting for it to proceed out of the lot and onto the road. As Aunt Betty says, the sweat just pours out of your body – literally. Today I watched the sweat beads develop and grow to the point of breaking water surface tension and fall off my arms like a waterfall. Uncle Doug actually pulled out a thermometer and it read 98 degrees. And that is with absolutely no air movement whatsoever and humidity levels rising meteorically as all 40 plus bodies inside that tin can continue to pour water out of their bodies. 10 minutes that definitely doesn’t seem like 10 minutes. This was much harder to say “and we rejoiced in it” – and yet in a way we did, once that bus started moving faster than five mile an hour…
We arrived at Cana Castilla which is up the mountain a fair bit and a little cooler (88 degrees on Uncle Doug’s thermometer and YES we did rejoice in that!!!!)and we were greeted with the sound of children songs as they were already gathered together.
The slapstick skit was met with many laughs and I must say that Andrew does an awesome doctor. The Jonah skit went very well with a minor hiccup of dropping Jonah (Todd) overboard from a height of 12 inches to very hard volcanic dirt… He took it like a man though. More lifting for the basketball ladies… Despite that, the kids got to do some coloring, eat some smarties and learn about how Jonah points to the greatest messenger of all – Jesus Christ and how he takes on all of our ailments when we bring them to Him.
It was a blessing to be part of their worship today and we rejoiced in that. It’s just a powerful vision to see different cultures that can’t even really communicate, worshipping together, only because of how our Savior unifies us and makes us all one family in His name. I pray they were as encouraged by our time together as we were.
We made it home for delicious tacos and then headed out for Bible Study at Torre Fuerte. We rejoiced with the families that took our invitation and came. We rejoiced in the music that Lester led us in. There was an excitement in the church tonight with the new families that came. It was a great worship time. Rick led the Bible study tonight and did an incredible job. He shared his own personal testimony and the story of Nehemiah building the wall – the story of restoration. It was great to listen to how God worked restoration his life and I am sure it was equally powerful for all who were there. We rejoiced in that.
There is much to rejoice about here in Granada. We are A team that works incredibly well together. There is much behind the scenes work that is taking place – computer work for pictures and the blog, cooking food for 20-30 people at a time depending on who shows up, coordinating all the activities, and I am sure a host of other things I am not thinking about right now. Thank you!!!!!
This surely was the Lord’s day and we rejoiced in it. Praise be to God.
More from Day 4, July 8, Granada, Nicaragua
Tuesday, July 8th
This morning was very laid back and relaxing. We had devotions and a bit of free time. Then the other groups came over for a yummy breakfast; sandwiches, bagels, fruit, cereal and more. Everyone finished and we had a bit of time before visitation, so we played a fun game, Hot Potato – if you had the ball you had to recite a Bible verse.
Before long it was time for house visitations. This is when groups of people visit families in the communities and encourage them in whatever way needed, invite them to church, and pray for them.
My group was Abbi, Tara, Shay, my MomMom (Carole), my Papa (Rick), Francisco, and I. The first house we traveled to was a small house by Lake Nicaragua. It was a beautiful place. The water and the waves, the breeze that came with it, and just the whole scene. We were here to meet with the mother of the house and her son; a Christian who plays the drums Terra Fourte church. She does not believe in Christ though. Our group told our stories about how we became a Christian and how amazing our life has been since. Then we invited her to the church service that night, and she said that she would try and make it.
At the second house we had a very large family! A grandmother (she was a Christian), daughters, children, sisters, brothers, and a grandfather. It was hard to keep track. All were very nice. We started off introducing ourselves and just talking about Jesus. Next, the grandmother told her story about how Jesus had healed her. She was in tears over it. After a bit longer, we went with all of the kids to Lester’s front porch. It was only the house next to us, so his wife who was with us said that we could use it. Abbi and I both brought two pieces of chalk. That wasn’t enough for all of the kids so we broke them in half. The kids were so happy! They were coloring everywhere! The porch was all kinds of colors. The time went by fast while playing with the kids, and soon we had to leave, so Francisco led us back to the house.
We had little time to relax and share our stories, then we had to walk down to the market to get on a chicken bus! This was definitely an experience. Our whole team got on and had plenty of room. As a few more people got on, all of the bus seats were full. I figured that the bus would go now, but no! It waited until the bus was completely full. This meant people packed together in the aisle; it was a hot hot bus ride.
Where we were riding to was Cana Castilla. This was a church where feeding programs are usually held. Our team participated in the activities after the feeding program; it was for adults and kids. First off, we sang some songs led by Lester and his guitar. Next, the people/children did a dance routine for us. It was very good. After another song, it was our turn; we had been organizing a skit.
As usual, the doctor/Jesus skit was very funny and made the people laugh. Everyone did a great job in their roles and it came together great! Then, we had a lesson planned. It was the story of Jonah. Ms. Holly did an amazing job narrating the story, and a skit showing the story of Jonah was then conducted. Everybody did a great job on that skit as well.
Then we lead the kids to another place to color and make crafts while the adults stayed behind. The kids loved coloring the pictures and putting the stickers on their crosses. The kids were adorable. We also made some great new friends. Abbi and I met a few girls around our age who were so kind to us! They even gave us each a necklace! It was so kind of one girl that I bought her a necklace of her choice there. It was amazing.
After a cooler ride home on a different chicken bus, we walked back to the house and ate dinner. Then we all went back home to get ready for a church service at night. Our own team member, Rick, or my papa, was speaking tonight!
When we got to the church, we had a pleasant surprise! Both people from the two houses we visited came to church! We were so happy for them! We went over to talk to them and told them how happy we were. The church service went great, and Rick/Papa did a great job speaking! The message on redemption/recovery seemed to touch a lot of people. After a bit more music and singing, we began to head home.
Instead of doing one big debriefing at the main house, we decided to do smaller ones at each house. So a little after we got home, we got snacks and began. Most people had mainly highs today! After a good meeting/debriefing, everyone headed off to bed, exhausted! We had a busy week, today!
Day 3 July 7, Granada, Nicaragua
Where do I start with this day? It’s tough to summarize all that God is doing through 21 people. I guess I go back to Jonah – the story of God’s plan – and looking back on the day’s events, God’s hand was everywhere.
We wake up early each day and start with a time of personal devotions. Today’s devotional was on the great commission – Matthew 28: 18-20. An awesome reflection for all of us for beginning our day and for beginning this week – God’s hand. Much later in the day, prior to turning in for the night, Caroline (“Caroleeeena”) shared with me a note that her Mom had written for her to open for that day – her Mom had quoted the same passage as an encouragement for Caroline – definitely God’s hand.
After pancakes for breakfast, we had a brief time in which we we were able to practice our Jonah skit and a fun icebreaker skit. This was more good time as I could start to see our team of 21 getting more and more comfortable with each other. (It’s clearly evident that both Ashton and Aspen were made for Broadway – Ashton does a great broken leg walk and a phenomenal whale impersonation while Aspen can fake puke with the best of them…)
After working through the skits, we all prayed and the high school kids set off on a 45 minute walk to Fortin (a fairly new church that FOAM helped to plant and has been working with). Mckenzie, Abbi, Aspen, and Ashton stayed back to do some sidewalk chalk by Doug and Betty’s house as a means to minister to their neighbors. I’ll let McKenzie fill you in on the details, but they ended up praying over a small family, and inviting them to church. Later on that night, someone stopped by to talk with Betty about getting some Bibles for the small church they were in because they had heard about Doug and Betty through the family that had been prayed over – all through a little sidewalk chalk. God’s hand!
Back at Fortin…. After a good walk, we arrived at the church to do some cleanup. They had just added a good section of property with the help of FOAM and another team (there is a great God’s hand story behind that too, but no time here for that). It is a beautiful piece of property – room for kids to play soccer and other games while other things go on by a pavilion, kitchen, and even a full bathroom.
Within minutes kids were coming from all directions, and instantly the high school girls were coloring, carrying kids, and just being with them.
The adults and Todd got busy moving cacti from the old fence line to the new fence line, digging out stumps (Andrew, Doug’s brother, and Rick, Mckenzie’s grandpa, were professionals from their experience of digging out the ewe bushes that were popular in the 1970s), and “mowing” the grass with machetes.I got some time to stop and take the whole scene in.
Hannah and Shaylee were amazing playing soccer with the boys, while Bri and Caroline were carrying three kids at once and coloring, while Tara and Jenna swung the rope for a really long line of girls, while Carole and Holly were hauling buckets of dirt, while Rick, Andrew, and Alan were winning the war on the stump, while Doug was deep in conversation with Pastor Manfredo, while machetes quietly took down the grass, while Todd raked and carried the grass to the burn pit. It was a beautiful expression of God’s love as we worked in harmony together. I wish I had words to describe it. Truly, God’s hand was there.
After a quick lunch at Fortin, we headed back to Doug and Betty’s. But on the way back we were invited in to a home that Doug knew from people from Torre Fuerte. I think we were all feeling exhausted and beat from the heat, but we made time. Carole saw this as our first house visitation. And before we know it, the mother of the house was ordering beef soup for all 20 of us!!!! I am amazed at the incredible generosity of the Nicaraguan people and their hearts for other people – even when the world would describe them as not having as much. God’s hand was here too as she asked us to come back and do a worship service with her family later.
We had a little pool time to refresh. Meanwhile, Aspen and Holly got Francisco and Ezekiel (interpreters) and went back to where Aspen did sidewalk chalk last year. Yes those same kids and families were there, and they remembered Aspen and Holly! Aspen said there was about 8 kids that were doing chalk at the same time. A great time renewing an important relationship – more of God’s hand.
We gathered again for fajitas and shared some highs and lows for the day. It is very evident to me that we have a special team that has been assembled here. There truly is a great chemistry here and there is no doubt – no doubt whatsoever – that God has His hands all over the events of the day and has His hands all over all of us. We trust in that for tomorrow too.
more of Day 3 Monday, July 7
Today was such an exciting and enjoyable day for the whole team. No matter what the activity was at hand, it was a huge help or had an impact on people’s lives. Everyone was working very well together at Fortine, which added up to a lot accomplished in one day! Also the kids who stayed back at the house (Abbi-13, Aspen-10, Ashton-8, and I-12) influenced a few people’s lives.
Since I didn’t go to Fortine this time, I stayed back to run errands and do a ‘Sidewalk Chalk Ministry’ (kids come by because they are curious, so we invite them to come draw with chalk on the sidewalk and then talk to them and have fun). When everybody left to begin the long walk to Fortine, Mrs. Betty and Mrs. Angela stayed back with us. All of the kids immediately got the chalk and went outside onto the sidewalk. We opened the chalk and began drawing! Mrs. Angela came out with us as well.
Not many kids appeared, but within about 10 more minutes an older lady came by walking a baby. The young baby girl took a piece of chalk. Even though the woman apologized, we invited her and the baby to stay. The baby’s name was Valentina and the woman was Teresa, her grandmother. After a bit longer of drawing and chatting, Teresa and her granddaughter had to go pick up something from the store.
Across the street we noticed a few kids peeking at us from their doorways. Abbi and I called out “Hola!” to them and invited them to “Colour.” Soon, two brave girls came over to us from a house across the street. All of us tried to talk to them, but they were really shy and seemed to prefer to talk to each other. Sadly, within 5 minutes the two girls left and went back home.
Our small team was about to go back inside when Teresa and Valentina showed up again! They had finished their errands, and wanted to stop by again. We were all so excited that our friends had shown up again! Mrs. Angela got to know Teresa better by using her little Spanish booklet. Turned out that the two lived in the house next to ours!
Thankfully one more woman showed up. Her name was Roxanne, and she was 17 years old. Abbi and I were so bad at using our Spanish booklets to communicate, so Roxanne was nice enough to help us and to tell us how to pronounce some words. We learned a lot about her as well!
After a little while more, Abbi and I asked if we could pray for the girls. They eagerly accepted saying “Si! Si! Si!” So all of us gathered in a circle holding hands (Roxanne, Teresa, Valentina, Abbi, Aspen, Ashton, Mrs. Angela, and I). Abbi started the prayer, and I finished it up. It was in English, but the 3 girls were still so excited! The smiles on their faces were priceless. I have never seen something so amazing in my entire life!
We also invited the three of them to church and they accepted! They were so happy it is hard to describe. The small group of us continued to talk and gain a relationship for a bit longer. Then we had to go in for lunch, so we said our goodbyes and gave each person a track. A track is an explanation of salvation in a small booklet. All 3 girls seemed really interested in Christians, and God in general.
During lunch, we all felt a spot in heart that they might come to church. Maybe not this week, but eventually they would come. All of us felt like we made an impact, and felt really good inside! It shows what amazing things God can do with only kids!
Adios, or how Nicaraguans say it, Adio!
Day 2 July 6, Granada, Nicaragua
Today was a day of building and renewing relationships. Our entire team of 21 people headed to El Puente for morning church service, led by Charles Kaye – Doug and Betty’s fellow missionary in Granada. We were blessed to experience a service in which Jesse, an interpreter for El Puente, had his mother from the States, join him. This was special because it was the first time she had seen him in four years and even more special because it was the first time since he had become a believer. Jesse and Mom were able to hold the cups for dipping bread at communion. That must have been an incredibly joyous day of renewing relationship with a son – for there is no greater joy than for a parent to see their child walk with the Lord.
After church we gathered together at Doug and Betty’s for team bonding – good old fashioned relationship building. Betty divided us up in groups of 4 led by an interpreter, and gave us a scavenger hunt that took us to the major landmarks in Granada. Ezekiel’s (interpreter) group ended up winning. We learned a little about each other – one group was actually jogging in the intense heat (competitive), one group kept asking “how much further?”, one group was just plain slow. It was hot, and Ashton described walking around as “walking in burning sand”. Ashton (8 years old) was a trooper and I learned quickly that he takes life head on. He and Aspen make a great pair. The scavenger hunt was a great way to get to know the other team members, see a few sights in Granada, and have fun doing so.
We were then treated to an authentic Nicaraguan lunch of chicken and plantain chips. Afterwards, we went back to our houses to enjoy a little down time. Abbi, Aspen, Ashton and McKenzie got a little pool time at our house. We were also blessed by having Francisco and Ezekiel (interpreters) stop by. Ezekiel single handedly entertained us. He has a gift for just making people laugh and making people feel welcome and loved. He renamed a few of us. “Caroleena”, and “Tiara” are names that I think are going to last beyond our time at Nicaragua. It was fun watching new relationships being built with them and the high school girls from Michigan.
Right after the pool, Aspen comes flying down the hallway and says to me, “Dad, are you just so excited?” Not knowing where she was going with this , I asked her. She said “to see if Hailey and Ashley are worshipping at Torre Fuerte tonight” (girls that Aspen invited to church last year from the chalk ministry). And Abbi says ,”And I can’t wait to see Judith too”. This is what they were really looking forward to – to renew relationships that had started in previous years. We worshipped at Torre Fuerte (the church Doug and Betty have partnered with) and got to see a lot of people from previous years – it is great to see their excitement for us being there.
We finished with some highs and lows after church. Lows – heat, deflated air mattress in the middle of the night (sorry Shaylee and Hannah). Highs – Jesse and his Mom, seeing some people back in church after walking away for a little time, the scavenger hunt, meeting all the team members.
It was a great day. Every time I come down here I am reminded of how relationships are so important in our faith. I find it refreshing how the Nicaraguans place so much more value in that than we do sometimes. Our busy lives often prohibit us from really investing in each other’s lives. I pray that we all can bring some of that back to the States.
Pray for strength for us tomorrow as we head to another church, Fortin, and as we do some home visitations to encourage some of the church members, and as we do some chalk ministry.
In the main house, everyone woke up bright and early; eager to start the day. Before long, people from the other Michigan team began flowing in. Our first actual meeting with each other! Thankfully everybody was very nice, and made friends really quick over some yummy breakfast made by Mrs. Betty!
Once breakfast was over, we all headed out the door to go to El Puente (The Bridge). This was an outdoor church service. Luckily, the church wasn’t too far from the main house and we got there right on time! El Puente was a beautiful sight. Large wooden poles stretched up high, connected by more wood and some netting.
Gorgeous flowers of different colors climbed up the wood and covered some of the top, providing some shade. The good thing was that some was in English, or had an interpreter. After a few songs in Spanish, the kids went off to the back. Here we played a game, had a lesson, and then did a little skit to go along with the lesson. The adults stayed behind and listened to the message of John 15: 26-27 and participated in communion. At about 10:30am we began to head back to the house for a snack.
We got our snacks and went to go sit in the circle of chairs that Mr. Doug had set up for us. Once everybody was there, we began introducing ourselves and telling one thing we enjoy doing in the summer. It was a great way to get to know our team and their interests! Next Mrs. Betty reminded us of some basic rules in Nicaragua and then led us in a devotional. Mr. Doug finished it up with a great story about a man named Jesse who really turned his life around towards Christ. Finally, Mrs. Betty told us we were going to do a scavenger hunt in the city and told us the rules. She grouped us into four groups, each with an interpreter. As groups we each had to find 1 cucumber, 1 avocado, 2 carrots, and a kitchen towel. We also had to do things like taking pictures in front of a taxi, the lake, a bell tower, and a gazebo. Then, the groups were off!
After everyone made many memories doing this fun scavenger hunt, we gathered back at the house for some rest. People played cards, read the Bible and more. We ate some yummy banana bread and sandwiches. Mrs. Betty introduced something called “debriefing.” This is when after dinner, everyone will say their high and low of the day. It is just a fun time to bond and learn a bit more about everyone’s experiences! Then we headed back to the houses (there are 3 housing our large team) to get ready for the evening church service at Torre Fuerte
Thankfully for us, yet again, the walk was not very long. This church was indoor, but nice as well! Our team sat by the front and was very active in clapping along to the great music. I am sure if the songs were in English, everybody would have been singing as well! After a lesson and some more music at the end, the service was over. People came us to us saying “Dios Te Bendiga!” (God bless you) and we would respond by saying ‘Amen.’ It was pretty exciting when the electricity went out many times during the service leaving us in the darkness and with no fans.
By the time we got back to the houses, young or old, everyone went to bed!
Day 1 July 5, Granada, Nicaragua
The team from Michigan (Bill, Holly, Abbi, Aspen Postma and Brianna Longnecker, Jenna Bremer, Caroline Postema, and Tara Westveld – players from Bill’s basketball team at Unity Christian) left Hudsonville at 8:30a.m. and arrived in Granada, Nicaragua at 10:30p.m.
All of our flights went very smoothly, customs was uneventful in Nicaragua, and our taxi ride into Granada was, well, hot. For Brianna and Jenna, this was each of their first flight – and no ear popping issues and no turbulence made for easy flights.
We did meet up with Andrew McRoberts (Doug’s brother), his wife Angela and son Ashton (8 years old) in Miami. This is their first time in Nicaragua.
This past week I have been reflecting on the book of Jonah as I have read this story each day for the last week. (We plan on acting this out for the kids at the local feeding programs). In reflecting, I have come to realize that this is NOT a story about Jonah. It’s not a story about a whale. It’s a story about GOD. Jonah refuses to go to Ninevah and decides to execute his own plan. God intervenes with a storm. The pagan sailors, through this storm, end up making vows to God! God has worked HIS plan here, not Jonah’s. Jonah still does not call out to God in the storm and rather decides he is perfectly willing to die – he’s done running, but this is still Jonah’s plan. Not a real good plan, Jonah. But here comes God again. A big fish. And again, it’s HIS plan.
My wife, Holly, and I have been praying for this trip for months, especially for the four girls that are accompanying us and our own daughters. We want so badly for this to be a powerful time for them, but as our plane landed in Granada, I felt a peace physically overcome me and I realized that this is not our trip. It’s God’s trip and it’s HIS plan.
The girls and my family are tired. Tara says to me in the Taxi ride to Granada, “It’s amazing how exhausted you can get from sitting around all day.” A 3 hour drive to Chicago, a 2.5 hour wait in the airport, a 3 hour flight to Miami, a 2.5 hour flight to Managua and a 1 hour ride to Granada plus waiting inbetween, will do that.
We thank God for safe travels. We thank God for executing HIS plan. We have peace that He will continue to execute that.
Day 1- Arriving Day: Team members from Pennsylvania (Carole, Rick and granddaughter McKenzie)
After many hours of long flights, switching terminals and seats, everyone made it safely to Nicaragua. Everyone was a bit antsy during the flights because of how excited they were to arrive. The arriving town was Managua; all the people were welcoming and helpful. Customs went smoothly and we were off! Mr. Doug was waiting for us and took us to a van that drove us to the house.
Welcoming drivers is always nice, but one that would stop in the road to go buy some fruits called ‘Mamones’ is amazing! These strange fruits are kind of like a grape. You bite into the outside and take out an orange colored seed, which is covered in slime. Next, you put the seed in your mouth and suck off all of the slime. Shay and Mr. Doug said it was like sucking on an eyeball!
We then drove up a narrow path through some tropical woods up to a volcano crater. Here you could relax in hammocks, go swimming in the crater, or enjoy the beautiful scenery. But we were not there to relax; we were picking up some people from our team. Now we were ready to go and see the house.
After a bit more of a drive, we got dropped off at the house that will be ours. We walked into the gated house and into a large family room. From there you can go into the main living area. This includes a small pool, a large tropical garden, a kitchen, a sitting area, and tables to eat. The most amazing part of the house is that there’s no roof for most of the living area! Most of this section of the house is open, a fresh breeze always cooling us down. The bedrooms are great as well. They have air conditioning, comfortable beds, and make you feel at home.
Overall, everything has been going smoothly and as planned. All the team members have gotten along great! Playing card games is a must in this house. We have all adjusted and can’t wait for the activities for tomorrow!