Well, I would like to save the best for last, but I really can’t wait. We started teaching at the Bible Institute today. Tommy Walker and John Ashworth went out to share the gospel with Arlen and Pastor Tommy. The first person they met trusted Christ.
Tommy, John and Arlen went with Pastor Tommy to the Bario where his church is. The first man they encountered was weaving a fishing net on the porch of his house. He was a rough-looking man (John thought he may have had some knife wounds) who had lived a hard life. A couple of Gringos walking around opened the door for a conversation just by our presence. Arlen eventually asked him about the net he was making. They connected the purpose of the net he was making and the purpose that God has for us, who He made. God made us for a relationship with Him. Arlen said, “God knows how much you can handle in your life and when you get to the breaking point, God will be there. But, do you want to wait until you get to the breaking point?” John and Tommy said they could see this hard man starting to soften right in front of them.
Then they asked if they could come inside. Arlen said that God is also asking if He can come in and have a relationship with him. The man started to tear up and Arlen told him what God had done for him in Christ, who died for him. Arlen asked him if he wanted to have a relationship with Christ and start growing closer to him. He said yes, and Arlen led him in a simple prayer of surrender. Pastor Tommy was there and said the man is new in the neighborhood and he is going to follow-up with him. He is planning on coming to church Wednesday night while we are there. Now that is the way to start a week!
Meanwhile, back at the Bible Institute, we taught our fist full day on Bible Study Methods. The course is very hands on and practical with a lot of group assignments. Jim, Luke Ferguson, and I taught. Two quick stories from the first day. We teach from 8:30 to 3:00 with a break for lunch. One lady was walking out at 2:30 and stopped to tell me that she had to leave early because she had to walk to get there by 4:00. She was going to work until 1:00 a.m. but that she would be back in the morning. I was pretty humbled. Another man told us of taking a long-boat right down the coast, then walking three hours so they could catch the bus to get to the Bible Institute. We had about 135 present and the pastors and church leaders are all very attentive. This material requires a lot of diligent study because we are teaching skills and not just content. Pray that God would use us to equip these leaders well.
The first day went well but I would ask you to pray for Jim. He has some kind of rash, infection thingy that is causing him to have very stiff joints and be tired. Jim is at a clinic now with Cairo getting a blood test to see if he has Zika or Chikungunya. Both has similar symptoms and neither one is very pleasant. Pray for strength for him and health for the rest of us.
We are so glad we are here and involved in such a great work. Pray for God to bless the work and bring glory to Himself.
Update from Nicaragua Team (Ken, Tommy Walker, John Ashworth, and Luke Ferguson) –
As I (Ken) sit at the Bible Institute on the morning of the third day I notice that our crowd has gotten bigger every day. Little by little more people are hearing about the Institute and making the effort to come. We have more than 150 present and the students are working very hard at learning the principles of Bible Study Methods we are teaching.
One of the challenges of teaching in this setting is the reality that many, if not most, of the pastors and church leaders here have very little education in general. As we are encouraging them to make observations about he grammar of the text in their Spanish Bibles we are having to teach Spanish grammar as we go. This is something Jim has learned in the past seven years of teaching the material in many settings. We have been teaching the basics of nouns, verbs, adjectives, and even gerunds. The idea of seeing the connections between verses and sections is so new to them. Most of these servants for our Lord see the bible as individual verses that each stand alone. Seeing the sentences and paragraphs and even larger sections of Scripture connected to each other is such a new way of looking at their Bible. It is so fantastic when you see them grasp how the bible is written in a way that really communicated specific thoughts and ideas within the themes and structures of the books of the bible.
Today we focused on many exercises that give them practice in making observations in the text. Jim is leading a session on the four miracles that Jesus performs in Mark 4:35-5:42. Luke will lead an exercise on Romans 12:1-2 and I will lead a sessions on Deuteronomy 6:1-3. Guiding them to see these verses in the context and then giving them the time to make many observations is a long process but it is very rewarding to have them express their gratitude for teaching them. They are working very hard.
Yesterday, Pastor Oracio, one of our two leaders here, gave the entire crowd a very strong exhortation to make the most of the time here. He highlighted how rare it is for anyone from the Pacific side of the country, much less anyone from the United States, to make the trip over here to the Atlantic side of the country to invest in the church leaders.
Tonight I will be preaching at an evangelistic meeting in Pastor Tommy’s church. John and Tommy will be spending the afternoon inviting people to come to the service. Please be in prayer that the weather will break (it has been raining all morning) and they will have the freedom to be in the neighborhood to invite people. Also be in prayer that my message will be clear and that God will use the meeting to both draw people to receive Christ as their Savior and to encourage Pastor Tommy and his church.
Update!! Just got this text – Tommy and John just returned. They led ten to Christ. All fishermen. A likely possessed man was mocking them the whole time. Praising God!!
For the Only Cause that Matters,
Update Three and Four:
Nica Update # 3 – Spring 2016
The last day teaching at the Bible Institute was a grand finale. The entire day was spent with them practicing what we have taught all week. What a blessing to see the students making observations in the text of scripture and seeing the meaning come out for the first time. One of the great challenges in this setting is that the Nica Pastors (most of them with little or no training) see the Bible as a collection of unconnected verses. To see that an entire book can have a consistent message and that paragraphs fit together is huge.
I led an exercise on Philippians 4:10-14. Seeing that the famous Philippians 4:13 verse (“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”) is written in the context of Paul thanking the Philippian church for their financial support and that he is confident that no matter what his circumstances (poverty or prosperity) he will be content, was both exciting and significant. In a culture where the prosperity gospel is rampant the clarification of this verse is very important. In the process the students were taking note of the lists, contrasts, comparisons, reasons, results, and purposes seen so clearly in the passage.
After our time was finished we had a flood of people expressing gratitude for our time, travel and teaching. Many people have sent back notes to those of you who supported them and prayed for them. They have been blown away by what we have done and our own partnership with them.
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.
For the Only Cause that Matters,
Journal of experiences in Pastor Tommy’s Bario while in Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua. October, 2016
It is difficult to fully describe Bario Aleman (named for a former President of Nicaragua) without pictures or being there. It is clearly the poorest area I have experienced in my 12 years of visits to Nicaragua. The Bario has a long history of gang activity and drug and alcohol abuse. Before going we were told to only take enough money for the cab fare and leave all other possessions at the Hotel. While Pastor Tommy says the Bario is safer from gang activity than it once was, theft and fighting are common. It is a densely populated area made up almost entirely of Moskito families. Pastor Tommy’s church is on the main road through the Bario, a muddy dirt road full of potholes. His house is being built next to the church and they hope to move in this year.
The Bario is located about 3 miles south of town and right on the coast. A typical home is all wood and built on stilts, 6 to 8 feet off the ground. They are just one room about 12 feet square with a hammock or 2, and maybe a mattress on the floor. These homes may have stairs but some only have ladders for access. They are built on small lots with only a mud path access from the main road. The areas we went to were 4 to 6 lots deep from the main road and we would walk from one yard to the next down the mud paths.
Monday afternoon, October 10th
Pastor Tommy met John, Arlen, and me (Tommy Walker) at the hotel and we took a cab to his church. After showing us around the church and new house under construction, we walked further down the main road and soon met Joel who was in his yard (along the main road) making a very large fishing net. He had taught himself how to do this. Joel appeared to be in his early 30s and gone to the school of hard knocks. He was very friendly and easy to engage. Arlen asked if we could come into the yard and visit with him and he invited us in. Arlen proceeded to share the gospel with him using analogies of fishing, with the message of grace. Joel prayed with us to receive Christ. Pray that he will seek Pastor Tommy’s help and the church to grow in his walk.
We then went to the home of Carlos and Maveo who are members of the church facing difficult life challenges. They also live on the main road. Maveo was in bed recovering from recent heart failure. She had been in the hospital in Managua. Her faith was very evident but she was also very discouraged. She shared that one of her daughters had died during child-birth a year and a half ago. She and Carlos were raising the baby along with 2 other grandchildren. We prayed for her recovery and strength.
From there we left the main road and went to the home of another church member, a lady whose two sons had recently been fighting with one stabbing the other. Drinking and drugs were an issue. Family members who were there gathered on the porch while we shared. Our conversation was primarily with Randle (one of the brothers appearing to be in his mid 20s., the other not being present). While we shared with Randle another young man laughed and mocked us from the yard. Randle was very attentive and promised to consider receiving Christ. Pray that he makes that decision and connects with Pastor Tommy in the near term.
We then went to the home of Bernice who is also in Pastor Tommy’s church. She has 3 children including a 15 year-old son who has regular seizures. Her husband had recently left the family and she was very discouraged. We shared that while her husband was not a perfect father, God was and she could take hope in him. We prayed with her and she was very appreciative.
Wednesday afternoon, October 12
Pastor Tommy met John, Chico, and me at the hotel and we taxied back to the Bario. Our first visit was in the home of a church member (middle age woman) who was the only Christian in the family. Bachner, a young man in his 20s, was the only adult male present. There were several young moms and children there. John asked Bachner if we could share with them and we were invited to do so. Through questions and answers John shared the Gospel with Bachner. When John asked if anything was keeping him from receiving Christ, he told us that he was living with a lady out-of-wedlock and that kept him from church and God. John told him that God would receive him just as he was. He said he was leaving the next day for 12 days of fishing at sea. We prayed with them and encouraged Bachner to talk to God while and sea. Pray for his salvation.
We then walked further into the Bario off the main road to see a man that Pastor Tommy knew, but was not a Christian. We were told that he was working down at the river. We walked a little further and found the man sitting with 9 other fishermen along the riverbank talking and drinking what appeared to be moonshine. The river is how they access the Caribbean fishing waters a short distance from where we were. We asked to share with them and they said yes. I shared why we were there and then explained the Gospel to them. When I asked if they had questions they shared that their drinking and lifestyles were keeping them from the church and a relationship with the Lord. I explained that they could receive Christ just as they were. When I asked if they wanted to receive Jesus they all stood and said yes. Chico led them all in a prayer for salvation. One of the men asked if we could get them Bibles. Pastor Tommy is going to help us try and do that today. These men are living the typical adult male lifestyle. Pray that they will now pursue what it means to walk with the Lord and eventually become male role models in their community.
From there we went to the home of one of the men who we had just been led to Christ. There we found his wife and another couple in their mid 30s. The ladies and Pastor Tommy shared that there was a lot of conflict with both couples due to the men’s drinking and lifestyles. Both women felt that the men were on the verge of leaving them. John shared the Gospel with the couple who only spoke Moskito. Chico translated to Spanish and Pastor Tommy translated to Moskito. After some questions, they both prayed to receive Christ. We then shared and prayed with the other lady and encouraged her to be hopeful in Christ. Pray for both couples and that the men would be diligent in their new relationship with the Lord and restore harmony in their families.
Thursday, October 13th
The Bible Institute finished around 12:30 and after eating we headed back to the hotel and then to the Bario. This visit included Pastor Tommy, John, Ken, Luke, Arlen, Chico, and me. We took two cabs and they dropped us off just as we reached the edge of the Bario. Pastor Tommy introduced us to a family that he knew but were not members of his church. There was one male and 4 to 5 females along with several children. We were told that they were Moravian. I presented the Gospel to them and all indicated that they knew Christ and were followers. Pastor Tommy later told us he is not so sure. Most in the Bario believe they are Christians and it is important to specifically define the true meaning of following and trusting in Jesus as Savior and Lord. We asked for prayer requests from the family and they shared that there was a cousin who struggled with alcohol addiction. We prayed for him and the family.
We then walked a short distance and met a middle aged man relaxing on his porch. Ken and Arlen visited with him. He had a good testimony and appeared to be a follower of Christ. They prayed with him and Ken encouraged him to be involved in a church.
Pastor Tommy then took us to the home of a lady who was one of his church members and had attended the Bible Institute. Her mom and several other family members were sick. We prayed with them for healing, recovery and strength.
We then met a family of 4 that included parents and 2 young men in their late teens or early 20s. They were very open to hearing the Gospel. John did a great job of sharing with them and all four trusted Jesus as Lord and Savior. We gave all of them a New Testament Bible. I have learned so much and gained valuable experience this week while watching John, Arlen, and Chico share the Gospel.
While Chico, John, and I were sharing with the family above, the others met Herman Hudson. Herman was a very interesting man who grew up in the Bario when there were only 17 homes and the environment was pristine. Very different than today. Herman is 65, speaks fluent English and traveled the world for many years as a merchant marine. He now lives back in the Bario and was out cutting grass on the edge of his property with a machete. The guys had a good visit and prayed with Herman.
We then headed toward the river to deliver bibles to the fisherman who received Christ the day before. Ken and Luke stopped along the way to visit with 2 teenage males. Luke shared the Gospel and gave them bibles but their understanding/acceptance was not clear.
Pastor Tommy, John, Chico, and I walked on to the river and met up with 5 of the fisherman who had trusted in Jesus the day before. They seemed very happy to see us. We gave them all New Testament Bibles. The boss of the guys asked for 10 more to give to others they worked with and we were happy to do that. John encouraged them to begin reading John and I asked Chico to read Philippians 2:1-18. The men seemed grateful and this was a very encouraging second encounter with them.
Tommy’s closing Thoughts:
I have had many very rewarding ministry experiences in Nicaragua but none more rewarding than the time spent with Pastor Tommy in Bario Aleman. It was very exciting to see how open the people were to the Gospel. However, I am not naïve and do understand the challenges ahead for these new believers. The oppression of poverty, drugs and alcohol seem overwhelming in the Bario. Please pray for Pastor Tommy and his wife Lourdis who have made great sacrifices to move into this community to share Jesus and his redemptive grace. Pray that these new believers will not be distracted by the oppression of the environment and allow Satan to distract them from growing in their walk with the Lord. Pray that others who heard the Gospel would soon experience the grace of salvation and that all would be a part of changing lives in Bario Aleman.
John’s closing Thoughts:
It has been said that there is a “God-sized” hole in our hearts that can only be wholly filled by our Savior. We were designed for relationship with God. If it is not filled by Him, we naturally tend to fill it with something else. Our observations in Puerto Cabezas and the surrounding communities confirms that this is true here, as it is in America. We particularly recognize the lack of hope within many members of the community. As you pray, please include the following:
- Pray that the lack of hope would be replaced with our one true hope, Jesus Christ.
- Pray that the church leaders and church members proclaim Christ with boldness in their communities.
- Pray that the men of Puerto Cabezas and the surrounding communities respond to the gospel and the pursuit of the Holy Spirit, and that this response allows them to grow in Godly leadership in their homes and community.