A Long Flight Home

Mission Trip to Nicaragua - Day 13

We knew what we were in for, but hearing it and seeing it laid out on an itinerary is not the same as the experience.  I never could have imagined the toll it would take on us to get home.  Four countries in twenty-four hours.

We awoke early Wednesday morning to depart for the airport in Nicaragua.  It wasn’t just early, it was military morning early.  We got through customs easily and flew out or Managua without any troubles.  The flight to San Jose, Costa Rica about an hour later.  Then we settled in for an eight-hour layover.  Then it was another customs process, another ticket gate, and our flight to Guatemala City, Guatemala.

The customs official in Costa Rica noticed the seashells we had collected on Sunday, at our day in the beach in Nicaragua.  One member of our team lost a very beautiful shell, because it could have been used as a weapon.  Then it came to my bag.  The customs official asked if I had any shells.  So, I quickly showed him my bag.  He took most of my large rocks and threw them into a bucket under the table.  Why did I have rocks?  Well, because my little girl collects rocks.

Anyway, he stated that I did not have permission to take those on an airplane.  I was afraid that all of Erin’s shells would follow the rocks into the bucket, but instead he smiled at me, handed me the shells, and said, “souvenirs.”  We had most of the conversation in Spanish, and I really enjoyed being able to communicate with this nice man.

That’s when it happened.  Then I got to put back on my shoes, watch and other items.  As I went to put my Gospel bracelet back on my wrist.  The plastic snapped in half, flew up in the air like a rubber band weapon, and was launch over the custom agent’s head.  It landed unnoticed in the chair behind him, as I stood there in shock. I was torn between being afraid of being detained and busting out laughing.  Instead I quickly got my stuff together and moved off as soon as I could.  I may have been the first person charged with assault of the Gospel.

Our flight from Costa Rica to Guatemala was the worst flight I have ever been on.  We hit major pockets of turbulence the entire way.  The plane moved side to side, shook and would drop suddenly. We were rattled the whole way. When we finally landed, we had just enough time to depart the plane, get through bag check, and then get back on.  Then it was on to our flight to Los Angeles.

We arrived in Los Angeles at 11:30 PM to find the terminal closed down.  The only area we had access to was the ticket counter.  So, there we were, lying on the concrete floor or ledges trying to get some sleep.  It was uncomfortable, almost painful, but I caught a few minutes of sleep until everything opened and we could get through to the flight gates.

We are now about to board our last gate for our final flight, which will take us to Kansas City.  Project HOPE will be two vans waiting to take us on to Springfield.  Four countries in one day.  That’s a new record for me.  We are ready to be home.  We are ready to be surrounded by our families.  We are ready to rest in our own beds and get some rest.

It has been a difficult two days of travel.  However, if that is the price of what we had to go through to spend that final day of ministry in Nicaragua, it was worth it.  I would do it all again, just for a chance to be a part of God’s work there.  We are so grateful God for being with us on this mission journey.  He was there with His grace, His mercy and His strength. We all felt it, and we rested in it.

Delivering Hope and Love

Mission Trip to Nicaragua - Day 12

Today was our final day of ministry here in Nicaragua.  We will depart in the morning for a very long route home that will take us through Costa Rica, Guatemala, Los Angeles, Kansas City and finally into Springfield.  We will be traveling by car, airplane, and bus.  It’s over two days of travel to get home.  Wow!

However, I couldn’t have asked for a better day of service to end our mission trip here.  God had a purpose for us being here.  We have been inconvenienced by the delay getting home.  We miss our families, but it is all worth it.  Project HOPE didn’t have a team scheduled to come and help with this project today, but God did.

Today we served at the Center of Hope, which is the ministry center that Project HOPE facilitates at the dump in Managua.   This service today is a project that has been in the planning and had been envisioned for years.  Today it happened.  Today we delivered cook stoves to over 100 families.

When we visited their houses, which is a term I use loosely, you quickly see how simply these people live.  There are no kitchens, no appliances and no modern conveniences.  Many people cook over an open flame or on improvised surfaces with firewood.  The result is multiple burn injuries, especially to young children.  The family is also at risk from the smoke inhalation.  Many people set up these make-shift stoves right inside their homes.  As we placed these new stoves into their homes, we watched their quality of life increase exponentially.  For $55 dollars US, lives were changed.

We were the first team to enter the homes of the people in this location.  In the past, this area had been considered too dangerous, and the locals are very private.  As I entered house after house, God gave me the opportunity to pray with families.  I am so humbled by the experience of today, and by the requests for prayer that I heard.  They did not ask God to change their circumstance.  Their prayers were focused on what they knew to be important, the salvation of unsaved friends and family.  Their prayers were for sick children.  They did not ask God for wealth or happiness, because they know they are blessed.

What I figured out today was that even though we thought we were delivering stoves, we were really delivering hope and love.  We got to be the hands and feet of Christ today.  We got to be the answers to prayer.  We thought we were visiting ramshackle housing, but we were being invited into homes.  The homes of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Now we turn our eyes to the future.  Tonight, we will pack to head home.  I don’t want to miss this moment.  I want to appreciate what God has done for me, and what He continues to do here for these beautiful people.  I want to hold onto what I have seen, heard and felt.  I want to bring this home to my church and my local community.  I want to remember the lessons of joy and humility that these people taught to me.  I thought I was coming here to change lives, but it is my life that has been changed.

Be Flexible

Mission Trip to Nicaragua - Day 10

Be flexible.  While that is the motto of any mission, it has definitely defined ours so far.  If you know me, flexibility is not my strong point.  I am always the man with a plan and I do not like when my plan is thrown off course.  I believe God is teaching me a valuable lesson in this area.  I trust Him.  I bend to His will and He is showing me that I can place myself fully into His hands.

This morning we participated in the staff devotion time, with the long-term missionaries.  Part of our team went out to work today at Hope Central, the facility that ministers at the local dump.  Joe and I went to the village to do some construction work.  Our work this morning and this afternoon consisted of digging the footing here in this village.  It was kind of neat to be a part of one of the last houses for this area.  This village is nearing completion and when I return again a new village will have begun.

We dug twenty-four-inch-deep holes for the footings and placed the 4×4 posts into them.  Then we mixed all the concrete with a small mixer, and used a wheelbarrow to move it to each hole. Since I used to be a building inspector who specialized in concrete inspection, I had to let go of the modern techniques used in the US and work with the way things are done here. It was hard work, but very rewarding.  The work we performed today has placed a mother and her children one step closer to a completed home.

As for us, we are taking it day by day and have no set schedule for what we will do each day.  Be flexible, remember?  That is our new team motto and one that I need to adapt to my own life and ministry when I get home.

Please continue to pray for the mission team, the local community here in Nicaragua, and the many people affected by Hurricane Harvey.

Be Still…

Mission Trip to Nicaragua - Day 9

Another Sunday in Nicaragua.  The team seems to be in good spirits this morning.  We awoke with a plan and a purpose to use the additional days here in Managua in God’s service.  Since the staff is usually off, we are taking care of a few household duties ourselves.  Travis and Tammy Stearns are doing an incredible job taking care of us.  They are both wonderful and have given up what I believe may have been some days off to accommodate us and serve us selflessly.

This morning, after breakfast, we headed out for the church service at the International Christian Fellowship.  This is the church where the local missionaries gather for worship and fellowship.  We were welcomed back and felt very loved and cared for.  We all really enjoyed our time of worship and a great message was delivered.

After the service, we were treated to a special day by Project Hope.  We took a nice long bus drive to the coast.  We went up and over a mountain range and then down to the Pacific Ocean.  It was neat to drive through some new areas and see some different houses and villages along the way.  We descended down a thin long road that ended in a private resort.  Iguanas were everywhere as well as some exotic birds and other wildlife.

As we walked up to the cabana, the view of the ocean was breathtaking.  It was a testimony to God’s glory.  There were straw-covered cabanas, hammocks, tables and rocking chairs dotting the landscape before us.  It was like something from a movie.  The sound of the ocean waves was a pleasant music in the background as we spent time in fellowship.  We had a great lunch and there was time to just sit, rest, and reflect.

I eventually found myself wrapped up in a hammock with my Kindle in my hand.  I was able to finish one book and start another.  I must have fallen asleep for a while, and then woke to find most of the team members walking along the beach and gathering shells.  I quickly joined in the hunt.  I found some beautiful shells.  There we were in the stillness, gathering our treasures along the shore without another person in sight.

One of the young ladies that was with us found a nice small sand dollar.  When she learned that I was searching for one for my daughter, Erin, she gave it to me.  It was so special to me, and it just shows how much we have bonded as a team.  Here we are stranded in a foreign country, and it should be difficult, but instead we are joined together in friendship.

We had a great time at the beach and a well-needed Sabbath for all of us. Now, we are back at base camp and we are planning our areas of service for the week.  We are going back out to perform some construction work tomorrow at Hope Central, the facility at the dump.  The ladies will be going out door to door.  Tuesday, we will be delivering stoves to the same houses.

I am ready for what God has in store for us in the wake of our extended stay.  He has kept us here for a reason, given us a day to rest and now we will once again step out in service.  We are prepared to be the hands and feet of Christ to these amazing people of Nicaragua.  Thank you, Lord, for this additional time of service.  We are so grateful for this chance to finish what you had us start.  Please join us in prayer for the coming days, that the Spirit would move in this community, that hearts would be changed, and that Christ would be glorified.

Hurricane Harvey

Mission Trip to Nicaragua - Day 8

Today was another incredible day here in Nicaragua.  Wait, you might ask… aren’t you supposed to be home now?  Well, God had some other plans.

This morning I was asked a hypothetical question.  If I had the chance to stay another week, would I?  My reply was that I could.  I miss my family, and really need a day of rest, but yeah… I could stay.  Well, guess what?  Hurricane Harvey moves into Texas, and our flight into Houston was canceled.  Now, we learn that we will be here another day.

Well, then it got even more interesting.  Our flight for the next day was also canceled.  So, the next available flight out of Managua to get home is on Thursday, and I am scheduled to go out on Friday.  So be careful what you wish for.  At the same time, I am reminded of Isaiah 6:8.  I pray that my heart always responds to God’s call in this way.

So today we got back to the work God called us to.  We spent some time putting together monthly care packages for the men of the Furia Santa Recovery Home.  It was a blessing to be able to assemble bags of clothing and hygiene items, to be a part of the powerful ministry that is happening there.

The staff at Project Hope were also surprised that the mission team is staying, so some adjustments have been made.  Since there is ministry happening every week with Project Hope, there will be more opportunities for us to serve.  I’m so relieved that we didn’t end up sitting in an airport somewhere and that we will be able to minister to the people I have come to love so much.

This week we hope to be able to minister at the dump or serve food at Hope Central.  We will be going door to door and be able to deliver new cook stoves to many houses.  It will be a huge blessing to be able to provide what they could not otherwise purchase on their own.  A stove in such simple accommodations will change their standard of living dramatically from this day forward.

We will also participate in some construction projects around the feeding center at Hope Central and will be able to organize some of the areas at base camp.  We are all willing to do whatever needs to be done here for the next week.

After we completed some projects at base camp, we visited the boardwalk on Lake Managua.  We were treated to a fabulous dinner.  The boardwalk is a neat area.  Lots of music, people walking, kids playing, and an overall nice atmosphere.  The weather cooperated so we had a great time.

I am growing more confident in my Spanish as I have chances to use it.  I was surprised by the number of opportunities I have had to speak to the locals and even do some translation for other team members.

So now we will end another day on our mission.  We are sad to not be home with our families in America, but still happy to be in God’s perfect will in Nicaragua.  We had the choice to bend to His will or fight against it.  I choose submission because I know that it was not the weather that kept us here, but God and God alone.

Saturday Morning

Mission Trip to Nicaragua - Day 8

Matthew 6:33 (HCSB)
But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.

Today is departure day.  It will be tough.  Some may be ready while others may not be.  The thought of coming home to my family will invigorate me.  The thought of leaving the people I have been given the privilege to serve will sadden me.  It will feel like leaving lifetime friends.  It will require me to leave a piece of myself there as I have done so before in Brazil.

There will be urgency.  Can I have one last gospel conversation?  Can we do one more thing?  We will look back and be both satisfied with what was accomplished and be worried that it was not all done.  We will be a team united and ready for anything, but leaving at the same time.  Friendships will have been made or strengthened.  And for some, it will not only be goodbye to Nicaragua but goodbye to one another.

God’s work is not easy.  He never promised that.  But it is worth it.  Every minute.  Every drop of sweat.  Every tear.  Every heartache.  Jesus Christ is worth it!

Prayer points for today.  Pray for the team as we travel.  Pray for safe flights, connections made and on time arrival.  Pray for the days to come as we integrate back into society in the United States.  It will be culture shock once again.  Pray for me, as we arrive very late and I will not get home until after midnight and will be back in the pulpit Sunday morning to preach God’s Word.  What a joy it is!

This post was written – August 18

Sábado por la mañana

Mateo 6:33 (HCSB)

Buscad primero el reino de Dios y su justicia, y todas estas cosas os serán proveídas.

Hoy es día de salida. Será difícil. Algunos pueden estar listos, mientras que otros pueden no estarlo. La idea de volver a casa a mi familia me revigorará. La idea de dejar a la gente a la que me han dado el privilegio de servir me entristecerá. Se sentirá como dejar amigos de por vida. Me obligará a dejar un pedazo de mí mismo allí como lo he hecho antes en Brasil.

Habrá urgencia. ¿Puedo tener una última conversación del evangelio? ¿Podemos hacer una cosa más? Vamos a mirar hacia atrás y ser ambos satisfechos con lo que se logró y estar preocupados de que no todo estaba hecho. Seremos un equipo unido y listo para cualquier cosa, pero saliendo al mismo tiempo. Las amistades se habrán hecho o fortalecido. Y para algunos, no sólo será adiós a Nicaragua sino adiós el uno al otro.

El trabajo de Dios no es fácil. Nunca lo prometió. Pero vale la pena. Cada minuto. Cada gota de sudor. Cada lágrima. Todas las angustias. ¡Vale la pena!

Puntos de oración para hoy. Oren por el equipo mientras viajamos. Oremos por los vuelos seguros, las conexiones hechas y con tiempo de llegada. Oremos por los días que vienen al integrarnos de nuevo en la sociedad aquí en los Estados Unidos. Será choque cultural una vez más. Ore por mí, ya que llegamos muy tarde y no llegaré a casa hasta después de la medianoche y estaré de vuelta en el púlpito el domingo por la mañana para predicar la palabra de Dios. ¡Qué alegría!

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New Friends and Family

Mission Trip to Nicaragua - Day 7

Today was an exciting day at the village, and yet a sad one at the same time.  We got to celebrate with the locals in the work we had accomplished together.  We celebrated those who were baptized.  We also said goodbye.  We walked to the homes we had built this week with each family.  We talked, we prayed and then we presented them with a few gifts brought from the USA.  I had the opportunity to present the Gospel through an interpreter and give some Spanish Bibles away.  It was a great experience.

We then loaded up on the bus and had some tourist time.  We ate lunch at the Nicaraguan equivalent of KFC called Tip Top.  It was good.  The ketchup was different, more like a tomato paste.  I was told that the coleslaw was very different from back home. Afterwards we headed to an indoor/outdoor market.  It was similar to a swap meet or a flea market back home.  There were multiple vendors selling anything and everything you could think of.  I had a chance to use my Spanish negotiating skills to pick up a couple things for my girls back home.

Then a bus ride back to base camp.  Now it’s time for dinner, farewells to the other team, and repacking bags for the trip home tomorrow.  It will be a difficult day as we depart from old friends and new friends.  We also are leaving a nation that feels like home to me, and a people that I love as my brothers and sisters.  I have a lot of new friends and families to pray for, and I pray that God brings me back to see them again.

On a separate note, we are also currently uncertain about our situation of flying home.  Our travel arrangements are being impacted by Hurricane Harvey as it moves closer to Texas.  We are scheduled to fly into Houston before returning to Springfield.  This is an area in need of prayer.  Not just for us, but for all the residents and travels affected by the weather in Texas.  We may not know until tomorrow what to expect for travel, or if we will be able to travel at all.  Either way, God is in control and we will arrive home at His appointed time.

Adios mis amigos!


Friday Morning

Mission Trip to Nicaragua - Day 7

Ephesians 2:10 (HCSB)
For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.

Today will be our last day of work here in Nicaragua.  We will finish up any outstanding projects and interact with the families who will be given their new homes.  We will also be presenting our families with a supply of hygiene items that have been purchased by the team for them.  Each of us have also purchased some gifts to give.  I am excited to give the gifts to the kids I have purchased.  I also purchased an RVR Spanish Bible for the parents as well.  It will be exciting to present it to them inside their new home.

What we take for granted, is a special event for other people around the world.  I want to take notice of this and remember that we truly live blessed lives here in the USA.

Today will be a tough day for the team.  It is goodbye in some areas.  Then tonight we will begin to pack our bags and realize that tomorrow we depart from these beautiful people.  People we have fallen in love with in so many ways.  For some it may be the last time in Nicaragua, and for others it may be only “See you later.”

Prayer points for today.  Please pray that we have finished up all projects and have had an amazing time with the families in their new homes.  Pray that we have been changed by this event.  That we will no longer look at the world or our lives the same.  Pray that the people of Nicaragua have left a lasting impact on our lives and our walk with Christ.

This is post was written in advance.

Mañana de viernes

Efesios 2:10 (HCSB)

Porque somos Su creación, creados en Cristo Jesús para las buenas obras, las cuales Dios preparó antes de tiempo para que andemos en ellas.

Hoy será nuestro último día de trabajo aquí en Nicaragua. Terminaremos cualquier proyecto pendiente e interactuaremos con las familias que recibirán sus nuevas casas. También presentamos a nuestras familias un suministro de artículos de higiene que han sido comprados por el equipo para ellos. Cada uno de nosotros también ha comprado algunos regalos para dar. Estoy emocionado de dar los regalos a los niños que he comprado. También compré una RVR Spanish Bible para los padres también. Será emocionante presentarlos dentro de su nuevo hogar.

Lo que damos por sentado es un evento especial para otras personas en todo el mundo. Quiero tomar nota de esto y recordar que realmente vivimos benditas vidas aquí en los Estados Unidos.

Hoy será un día difícil para el equipo. Es adiós en algunas áreas. Entonces esta noche comenzaremos a empacar nuestras maletas y darnos cuenta de que mañana saldremos de estas personas hermosas. Gente de la que nos hemos enamorado de muchas maneras. Para algunos puede ser la última vez en Nicaragua, y para otros puede ser sólo “Nos vemos después”.

Puntos de oración para hoy. Por favor oren para que hayamos terminado todos los proyectos y hemos tenido un tiempo increíble con las familias en sus nuevos hogares. Oremos por haber sido cambiados por este evento. Que ya no miraremos el mundo o nuestras vidas lo mismo. Oremos para que el pueblo de Nicaragua haya dejado un impacto duradero en nuestras vidas y en nuestro caminar con Cristo.

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A New Life in Christ

Mission Trip to Nicaragua - Day 6

Today the team had a later start than usual.  We started with breakfast, and then the entire team was off to an orphanage called Blue Bird.  I will not be able to share much about the orphanage.  I can tell you that it is a special needs orphanage with ages ranging from birth to older adults.  We were not permitted to take pictures, and there was a sanctity about it that would have prevented me from taking pictures anyway.  God is there.

To put it delicately, without this type of facility, these children would have had no other option.  Most children with disabilities are abandoned at birth, not all, but most.  The facility and the staff here are doing amazing things for the community.  They are the voice for those that cannot speak for themselves.  They are the love of Christ for those who have no hope.  Visiting the Blue Bird will be an experience that will impact me for the rest of my life.

After we went to the village to finish up our construction projects.  We finished the last house for this trip.  I do not know how many total, but construction will be continuing in this village with the next team.  It sounds as though construction in this village is ending, and a new location is already being considered for another village to be started.  What Project Hope is doing is building communities.  Not just a collection of buildings, but a community of peoples depending on each other.  That type of community is not the standard here, so these villages are beacons of hope and change for the families blessed with new homes.

After we completed our construction today we went to a local lake to perform some baptisms.  We baptized two women and seven men from the men’s home for addiction, which we had visited yesterday.  As I stood in the water up to my waist, I was filled with emotion for these men.  These men were declaring Jesus as their Savior and being born into a new life.  While we were performing the baptisms it began to rain, with thunder and lighting, but nobody cared.  We were going to give our new brothers and sisters in Christ were having their time to proclaim Jesus and we all knew that we were standing on holy ground.

It was a very wet ride back to base camp.  I really enjoyed my shower and washing off the dirt and sand from the lake water.  I am so grateful for another great day as I continue to be blessed and impacted by the work Project Hope is doing here.  Thank you, Lord Jesus.

Tomorrow will be our last day of ministry, and our last day to be here among God’s people in Nicaragua.

Thursday Morning

Mission Trip to Nicaragua - Day 6

James 1:2-4 (HCSB)
Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.

Today we begin the few final days we have in Nicaragua.  There begins to set in a sense of urgency.  Have we done enough?  Have we talked to enough people?  Have we shared the gospel enough?  What more can we do?  All questions that I think we should be asking ourselves on a daily basis regardless of where we are.

Today there is more opportunities planned for medical missionary work as well as the potential for the men to go to the prison and minister and the women to go to the shelter and minster to other women and children.  I am very motivated to go minister to men in prison.  What a great opportunity to share the gospel and see lives changed for Christ!  Construction will should be coming to an end today.

Prayer points for today.  Today begins a tough day for the team.  It becomes evident that our time is coming to an end.  Pray against sadness.  Pray that we concentrate on what has been done and the time we still have.  Pray that we have great times of ministry today in the various capacities.  Pray that we continue to have opportunities to interact with pastors and churches in the area to preach and spread the Gospel.  Pray that we continue to be great witnesses for Christ!

This is a pre-scheduled post

Jueves por la mañana

Santiago 1: 2-4 (HCSB)

Consideradlo un gran gozo, hermanos míos, cuando experimentéis varias pruebas, sabiendo que la prueba de vuestra fe produce resistencia. Pero la paciencia debe hacer su trabajo completo, para que usted pueda ser maduro y completo, sin nada.

Hoy comenzamos los pocos días que tenemos en Nicaragua. Comienza a fijarse en un sentido de urgencia. ¿Hemos hecho lo suficiente? ¿Hablamos con suficiente gente? ¿Compartimos el evangelio lo suficiente? ¿Qué más podemos hacer? Todas las preguntas que creo que debemos hacernos todos los días.

Hoy en día hay más oportunidades previstas para el trabajo médico misionero, así como el potencial de los hombres para ir a la cárcel y el ministro y las mujeres para ir al refugio y minister a otras mujeres y niños. Estoy muy emocionado de ministrar a los hombres en la cárcel. ¡Qué gran oportunidad para compartir el Evangelio y ver las vidas cambiadas por Cristo! La construcción llegará a su fin hoy en la medida prevista.

Puntos de oración para hoy. Hoy comienza un día difícil para el equipo. Se hace evidente que nuestro tiempo está llegando a su fin. Oren contra la tristeza. Oremos para que nos concentremos en lo que se ha hecho y en el tiempo que tenemos. Oremos que tenemos grandes momentos de ministerio hoy en las diversas capacidades. Oremos para que sigamos teniendo oportunidades de interactuar con Pastores e Iglesias en el área para predicar y difundir el Evangelio. ¡Ore para que sigamos siendo grandes testigos de Cristo!

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