Archive for December, 2010

This past Sunday we looked at some of the places where the Bible spoke to how we should act and treat "one another".  Here is a link for a list of Bible verses that include the words "one another".

Please know that some of the verses may not fit into the category of a command, but there are plenty of verses of the 100 that will challenge the way you live.  May God grant you courage as make these instructions the habit of your life.



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One more meal of gallo pinto (rice and beans) and fruit, then we were out to do some site seeing in Leon.  The cathedral in Leon is the largest in Central America.  The large murals have been restored since the last time I was there and look incredible!

Julio was there to take us through the market as Justin and I did a little souvenir shopping.  I am always amazed at the different fruits and vegetables.  Usually grossed out by the meat aisle, but it is always interesting to see people selling raw meat just sitting out on the counter.

Loaded up our luggage back at the hotel and headed into Managua.  After a couple hours we arrived at the airport.  Checked our bags and picked up our boarding passes.  The airport has a Tip Top, which is the Nicaraguan version of KFC.

After making it through security and a pat down, we settled in for a 4 hour plane ride to Atlanta.  Darwin was the gentleman beside me and he is pastors a Spanish speaking congregation in Tennessee.  Amazing testimony about how he escaped Nicaragua as a boy when all the kids his age were being sent to the front lines.

Our second flight from Atlanta to Charlotte was very smooth.  It was hard to go from temperatures in the 80s to the 30s, but it brought us back to reality.  God was incredibly faithful to Justin and I the whole week.  We look forward to going again soon.

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Friday was a full day. We met our interpreter for the day, Alvaro, and enjoyed our last meal from Antonia. Then it was off to a meeting with Jorge from Living Water. Living Water is an organization that organizes church groups to build wells in villages like Santa Matilde. The church property had been approved as a site for the well and drilling would start on Monday. (Update – today, Dec 10, the well will be completed) So it was great to meet Jorge and thank him for his ministry.

In the village the children about 100 children were gathering. We had bought piñatas, candy, drinks and a cupcake for the children. We played musical chairs and I shared a Bible story.
What I am about to describe to you next is the most terrified I have ever been in Nicaragua. Piñatas are a big deal. I mean really big. So we have 100 children, four adults, candy filled shapes and one kid blindfolded swinging a stick as hard as he or she could.
How someone didn’t end up with their head cracked opened is reason to praise the LORD. The children would slowly creep closer and closer towards the piñata as we tried to hold them back. And when the candy would drop, they would dive onto the dirt in hopes of candy glory.
After the two piñatas and my blood pressure when down, we handed out several pieces of candy to each child. That was fun. Then the children enjoyed their drink and cupcake. There is something beautiful about those children that words can’t express. Their bright eyes and smiles will grab hold of your heart.
Big news! The baseball equipment arrived today!!! Justin was thrilled. The leader of the local youth team just happened to show up at church. Justin was able to show him all of the equipment. They even found a couple of other guys and went and played for a while. You could really tell they were excited to be able to come to the church and have the equipment available for use.
That afternoon we prepared for a large outdoor rally on the basketball court. Chairs, sound and video were set up. A group from the New Song ministry in Candelaria showed up to help. Well over a hundred people from the village came out to sing, see a drama and watch a movie. Great night.
Under the cover of night, we said our goodbyes. You feel like you connect quickly in such a small time that it is hard to go. But after many hugs we were on our way.
Our last night was spent in the city of Leon. La Bloquera was hosting a group from a local church of about 70 people. So Justin and I thought we would rest better before our journey home if we weren’t stepping over mattresses on the floor and sharing the two showers with everyone.
Ate a wonderful dinner in Leon and then made our way back to the Hotel San Juan de Leon. This is where our groups stayed prior to La Bloquera. It is clean and comfortable. There is a beautiful rooftop patio where the stars explode out of the sky. We kept up our habit of talking, praying and just sitting in silence for one last time.
It was bittersweet knowing this was our last full day of the trip…

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It really is hard to describe the beauty of Nicaragua.  It is a rugged beauty, but it always impresses me.  I haven’t mentioned this yet, but Santa Matilde is in the shadow of the highest volcano in Nicaragua, San Cristobal.  It is active and smoke rises from it all day.  Incredibly majestic.  So between the volcano and the omelet Antonia fixed that morning, Justin and I were inspired.

Julio was back with us again for the whole day.  That did two things for me.  First it gave me an opportunity to finally spend some time with him and hear his story.  Secondly, it allowed us to talk through transitioning him out and a new liaison in.

Our first stop was the rice processing plant about a mile down the road in Chichigalpa.  Pastor Walter wanted to process some rice and use it for two things.  First, to sell some and buy packages of oil.  Secondly, to bag up some and give to those from the church who worked in the rice fields.

On mission trips you have to bring your most flexible self and today was no exception.  The machinery to process the rice was not working.  So what should have been 30 minutes, turned into three hours.  The rice is dried with the husk on it and must be removed before it can be used and this isn’t something you would want to do by hand.

So in addition to learning about rice, I was able to hear Julio’s testimony.  He was abandoned by his mom after his father died and grew up in an orphanage.  But time after time, God put the right person in his life to not only meet his physical needs but also his spiritual needs.

While they were fixing the machinery, Julio and I were also able to walk through his responsibilities as our liaison.  This was very helpful to me as our church will begin to work with a new liaison.  So as was the pattern for the whole week, God worked everything for good.

When the machine started running again, we were able to process our ten 50lbs bags of rice.  Let’s just say the machine was not up to OSHA standards and was actually a little scary to even stand beside.  But it was fun to pour the rice in and watch it come out ready to eat on the other side.

We loaded our rice back in the truck and rode in the back to Santa Matilde.  When we arrived, it was past lunch time.  Once again we were able to share our lunch with everyone who was around.

That afternoon I was able to meet with Linda Gable and Jim Bob “Diego” Norman.  Diego serves fulltime with New Song and is from Boone.  He oversees all our financial details on the Nicaragua side.  Barbara Coop, fresh to the New Song team, was also there.

I brought a list of questions so that I could obtain a clear picture of what was happening on the administrative side of our ministry.  Those few hours we spent talking through what has happened in the past and planning for the future were invaluable.  I truly believe that time spent will reap benefits for our ministry for years to come.  And in the short term, Barbara will be our temporary liaison as Charlie will be coming to the US for the month.

The last thing we did that afternoon was to bag up the newly processed rice into ten pound bags.  We then put the rice and the newly bought oil into a larger bag to distribute to the 35 families who helped with the church’s rice harvest.  It was a powerful time as Justin handed out most of the bags.  To see the gratitude of those families receiving rice and oil was humbling.

Antonia was quickly becoming my favorite person as she cooked for us again.  And the evening wrapped up as usual.  Talking, reading, praying and just sitting enjoying the silence.  Justin and I have some great memories that always accompany mission trips.  It was a pleasure to serve along side him.

One more day to go in Santa Matilde…

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I know this seems trivial, but sometimes the small things really get your day off to a great start.  So I have one word for you – PANCAKES!  That’s right, Antonia cooked us up some pancakes and we even had Aunt Jemima syrup.  I don’t even buy that stuff for my house.  We always get the cheapest syrup on the shelf.

So after a good breakfast, we got our stuff together for the village and waited for our taxi.  Charlie was to be our interpreter again for the morning.  Honestly, I was bothered that Julio would join us later.  I expected Julio to be with us everyday, but God will show His perfect plan very soon.

We took the sowing materials into Santa Matilde that day and the other trunk had showed up as well.  So now we had all the sowing trunks, but we were still waiting on the baseball equipment.

Pastor Walter and his wife, Claudia, were waiting for us at the church.  The name of the church is Fuente de Vida (Fountain of Life).  It sits near the center of the village beside a large open field.  There is a school across the field as well as a basketball court (more soccer is played on it than basketball).  It is in a great location and is easily accessible to the whole village.

We unloaded the three trunks full of sowing materials and three sowing machines.  Claudia took a meticulous inventory of everything in the trunks.  There are about 10 ladies in the village who want to take a sowing class.  There is a lady from another village who can teach them to make clothes.  Claudia was very excited.

Like the rice harvest and chicken coop, sowing will be an opportunity to create some income for those in the community.  The sowing class will be open to those who attend the church as well as those who do not.  We are trying to find ways to create employment and raise the morale within the church and the community.

Then we gathered up our backpacks and headed off into the village.  The first home we stopped at was the stick and plastic variety.  But you should have seen their garden!  All kinds of fruit growing on their 40ft by 80ft piece of property.  Vines suspended off the ground and small cloth hammocks to hold what looked like watermelons.

But that wasn’t the fruit Pastor Walter was looking for.  Today we found the man of the house actually there which evidently is a rare thing.  Pastor Walter had been praying for him and declared to him, “Today salvation has come to your home.”  When asked if he was ready to become a Christian, he responded “Yes”.  Then I was asked to lead him in the prayer to ask Jesus to forgive him of his sins and lead him for the rest of his life.  He prayed and became a Christian right there!

Talk about the fruit of the harvest!  The Bible talks about the different roles in the harvest.  One person plants and another waters with God making things grow.  I had the joy of picking the ripe fruit off the vine and walking him into the kingdom.  We also prayed with the wife who had some things that were heavy on her heart.

So we spent the next few hours walking through the village, stopping in homes and praying at each one.  We found one of the wells that no longer produced good water.  Justin was brave and drank some of it just to see how bad it was.  I took their word for it.  (More about wells on Friday)

We made our way back to the church property around 1:00pm.  Antonia had packed lunch for us like she did each day and we shared what we had with those who were around.  It wasn’t exactly like when Jesus fed the 5000, but it was very cool to see how we had enough to share with everyone who was around.

Linda Gable drove up shortly after lunch.  For those who don’t know, let me explain how Independence Hill connected with Tommy and Linda Gable.  In 2004 a small group of members interested in an international mission trip started looking at options.  We went to mission fairs, called other churches and started gathered information, but nothing seemed like a great fit for us.

Then we met Linda Gable.  Linda and her husband Tommy were ministering in a village called Candelaria.  Tommy had pastored in Charlotte, but was currently in Ashville.  For two years, Tommy and Linda had worked to plant a church in a village called Candelaria under the name of New Song Mission Nicaragua.  She came to IHBC and presented their ministry to our group in the summer of 2004.  We had found our opportunity.

Independence Hill’s first trip was in 2005 as we partnered with New Song working in Candelaria.  During our 2007 trip, we made our first visit to Santa Matilde and returned to pray about our church helping to plant a church there.  We felt that was how God was leading and have focused our church’s efforts there ever since.

The beautiful thing about New Song is they are able to provide us with a local presence.  They handle any money we send and keep up with receipts for accountability.  They also provide weekly training for Pastor Walter as well as assist the ministry when needed. 

New Song also helps us find people like Julio.  Julio isn’t just an interpreter; he is also our church’s liaison to Pastor Walter.  He sends us updates and coordinates ministry while we are not there.  He also makes the arrangements for our groups went they visit.  So Julio’s job is very important to us.

Tommy and Linda Gable moved to Nicaragua June 2007 and they are so vital to our effectiveness.  We are able to learn from them and they are excited to multiply the ministry by starting churches in other villages.  Now you know some of the history.

As I am catching up with Linda, Julio arrives.  He informs Linda and me that he will be taking a job in Managua in a week.  When I ask Linda, who should we consider as a replacement she says without hesitation, Charlie.  God knew exactly what He was doing by having me spend the first two days with Charlie.  I was able to see his heart and his skill.  And I remembered when he stepped out of the cab our first day in the village he said, “I love this place.”

I was sold.  Here was a young man – recommended by Linda, proven very capable to me and loves Santa Matilde.  God really does “work all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose” – Romans 8:28.  That verse summarizes our whole trip.

I know I haven’t talked much about Justin, but during these first two days he was right in the middle of everything.  He quickly connected with members young and old.  Never timid, but woke up excited each and every day.  But today had been the day, he was looking forward to.

Pastor Walter wanted us to connect with a group of young people in the village who played baseball.  And even though the baseball equipment had not arrived, the afternoon we had planned to play baseball did.  So Justin and I made our way over to the baseball field.

Let me describe the baseball field.  It was a flat patch of weeds with a worn path to outline the infield.  There was a pitchers mound, but that was it.  The field was littered with trash, but those guys didn’t care.  They loved to play ball.  They played in their flip flops or even bare feet.  And they were good.

Justin stepped in and played.  I was content to play catch with kid who wasn’t old enough to play with the bigger kids.  I’m not saying I was scared to step up to the plate (or in this case dirt with some lines in it), but they were throwing heat and the batters didn’t have helmets.  I concluded a game of catch with the smaller kid was exactly where God wanted me.

The afternoon wore on and the suns started to get low on the horizon.  We gathered the players together.  I shared a devotion with them and asked if I could pray with them.  We prayed and then I shared with them about the equipment Justin had collected.  It would be kept at the church for them to check out and use.  Yet another way for the church to connect with the community.

We headed back to La Bloquera for another great meal from Antonia.  I don’t know that I ever felt really clean during the week, but it was nice to rinse the dust off.  It was even nicer to have no television.  So once again we read, talked, prayed and then called it a day.

Each day was becoming better than the last…

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If you sleep in a room with air conditioning you miss something about Nicaragua.  But where we stayed, La Bloquera, we experienced Nicaragua in full.  It is noisy in the morning!  Roosters, birds, cars and horns all scream at you to wake up.  So wake up I did at 6:30am.

Even though our windows had screens on them, there were plenty of spaces for animals to crawl or fly into our room.  The noise was everywhere.  Some animal scurried up the tin roof.  I choose to believe it was a bird and not a rat.  I spotted a mouse later in the week though.  The noise that woke me up initially sounded like a bird trying to get out through the screened window.

So I had plenty of time to take a shower, read my Bible, pray and look over the day’s schedule before our 8:00am breakfast.  Speaking of breakfast, it was great.  Antonia was our cook and she prepared gallo pinto (literally means painted rooster, but is rice and beans), fruit, eggs with bits of ham and toast.  Nicaraguan pineapple is white, but it is delicious!  I actually lost two pounds while I was there.  Not because I ate any less, but because I ate better.

Julio was unable to accompany us Tuesday, but he arranged for another interpreter, Charlie, to join us.  Our taxi arrived on time, but Charlie didn’t.  After waiting about 10 minutes we decided to head to Santa Matilde anyway.  The village is located off the main highway between Chinandega and Chichigalpa.  From where we were staying it only takes about 2 minutes on the highway, but about 5 minutes to travel a mile back to the church over a bumpy dirt road.

The village of Santa Matilde is home to about 3000 people within no more than 2 square miles.  Some live in homes with concrete floors and walls that have been built by outside groups in the past.  But many aren’t as fortunate.  Their homes are pieced together from plastic, rice bags and whatever else they can find over dirt floors.

Most homes have some kind of electricity and a sink of some sort, usually outside.  There are no indoor toilets.  Furthermore, the community water system in Santa Matilde is only operational for an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening.

Unemployment is staggering and kids wander the streets all day long.  And yes, there is the random naked two year old walking the streets.  Usually with a mom or an older child.  But even in the midst of their poverty, the children of Santa Matilde are so beautiful.  Their smiles and dark brown eyes capture your heart.

Our interpreter, Charlie, caught up with us at the church and the day began.  The church is basically a shelter with wooden posts and a tin roof.  They have a storage facility on the site where they keep their plastic chairs and other needed supplies.  Much of the space is filled with the rice from the recent harvest.

Our day in the village was spent reconnecting with Pastor Walter and his wife, Claudia.  We talked through the recent events and future needs.  Pastor Walter and Claudia expressed great thankfulness to Independence Hill for all the support.  They were extremely grateful for the assistance that was given them for their home.  To hear her speak, you would have thought she lived at Biltmore House.

Much of what we discussed was the planning of a chicken coop that is to be built.  This would allow the church to have opportunities for members to work raising the chickens.  These would be raised for their meat, not for their eggs.

Our desire is to equip the church in Santa Matilde to be self-supporting.  Opportunities to harvest rice, raise chickens or make clothes have a dual effect in such a poverty stricken area.  First, it gives individuals an opportunity to create income while giving them a sense of purpose.  Secondly, it becomes a blessing to the community because the church is able to sell those products to residents of the village for a lower cost and without the travel cost.  It is a real win-win.

The rest of the day was spent making home visits and praying with those in the village.  Justin met a young man who was struggling and spoke into his life with such power and clarity.  I just stood back and watched as God brought that divine appointment together.

The afternoon sped away and we headed back to La Bloquera.  After another wonderful meal from Antonia, we had some time to talk, read and pray as we processed our day.  A couple from Idaho, Daniel and Kathleen, had arrived there that day.  It was great to get to know them and his Spanish was fluent.  Which turned out to be helpful in understanding Antonia.

So we wrapped up our first day and were about as tired as we were from the day before.  Justin and I decided to call it a day around 9:00pm.

Sleep came quickly…

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Travel Day

Justin Locklear and his brother-in-law, Kurt Hahne picked me up at 5:00am and we headed towards the airport.  For those of you who don’t know Justin.  Justin has been attending Independence Hill for a few years.  He has a big heart and I was so thankful he decided to join me.

 The man at the curbside luggage counter loaded up our four trunks on a cart and led us to the Delta counter.  The line was longer than expected, but he walked right past everyone and put us in the much shorter “Special Services” line.  So don’t tell me I’m not special!

As we moved closer to the front of the line, a Delta employee asked us why we were in this line.  I informed her that this is where the skycap brought us.  I was nervous she was going to ask us to move ourselves and our four trunks back to the long winding line.  But she didn’t and we checked our four trunks and proceeded to the gate.

The four trunks were not carrying our clothes.  All those were in our carry-on luggage.  Three of the trunks contained sewing machines and fabric.  The last trunk was filled with baseball equipment Justin had collected (more details on how these would be used in the days to come).

We boarded the plane and pushed away from the gate, but had to wait for a while before we were given clearance to take off.  After almost an hour, we returned to the gate and had to deplane.  One of the terminals in Atlanta had lost power and created a domino effect of issues for us.

Back in the terminal, I knew we were already behind schedule and I called Delta to check about our connecting flight to Managua, Nicaragua.  The agent agreed we would miss our next flight and put us on a 2:45pm flight from Atlanta to Miami and then we would take the 7:00pm American Airline’s flight from Miami to Managua.

So instead of arriving in Managua at 1:00pm we arrived 8 hours later.  Keep in mind that Nicaragua is an hour behind us so we spent 16 hours in three different airports that day.  Other than me almost walking into the ladies restroom in Atlanta, not a lot to report.  Lots of walking, sitting and talking.  Which was great for us to catch up and talk through our expectations for the week.

We exited the plane in Managua, cleared customs and waited for our trunks.  Two of the four trunks arrived.  The one with baseball equipment did not.  Bummer!  We filled out the paperwork and they said if they show up they will deliver them to us.

The baggage claim area is my least favorite place in Nicaragua.  The airport employs men who once they see you have trunks or multiple pieces of luggage start loading the cart you are holding and will not take no for an answer.  Then they just start walking off with your stuff towards the door!  Happens every time and this day was no different.

After they scanned the trunks, the man took them over to be hand searched.  Once again, my least favorite place.  My Spanish is minimal and I never completely understand what they are asking me.  So I am really careful and try to make sure I don’t answer a question wrong.  There is nothing that sounds fun about being detained in a foreign country.

The search ended only finding two sowing machines and a lot of fabric and we headed out the door.  Once you are outside the door, you are free game.  There are new men with official looking uniforms who want to help with your luggage in addition to the one who grabbed them in the first place – all for a fee of course!

And on top of that you have kids who are working the crowd asking for money.  Have I mentioned this is my least favorite part of the trip?  So we waited for Julio, our interpreter, to arrive.  After about 15 minutes, Julio shows up and takes us to our van.

Julio and I catch up on schedules for the week as we leave Managua.  Managua is crowded, dirty and sad.  You can feel the poverty.  There is no mistaking that you are not in Kansas anymore.  After a while, Justin and I both stretch out and nap the rest of the two hours to La Bloquera

La Bloquera is a facility operated by another ministry.  It looks a lot like something you find at a youth camp.  In the main building there is an open air large group area with a guy’s and a girl’s side.  Both containing bunk beds to sleep around 30 each with two sinks, two showers (cold) and a few toilets.  Its basic, but it’s clean and we were tired.

We say goodnight or “buenas noches” to Julio and our driver.  It didn’t take long to fall asleep.  As I am lying in my bunk, I remembered the stories of spiders and specifically tarantulas.  I wanted to see one, but on my own terms.  But after being awake for 19 hours on about 3 hours of sleep, I was done.

We made there.  God was faithful and had answered prayer.  And even though we had prayed throughout the day about our luggage, there were still some prayers to pray before we would see those other two trunks.  God had only begun to show His faithfulness to Justin and I.

more to come…

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