Sunday, August 17, 2008

Day 7

Thursday, Day 7 – 8/14/08

This is our last day of direct ministry and in many ways it is a difficult story to tell, but not for the reasons you might think. You'll have to wait for that part of the account. Our group was a little slow in getting up (at least the guys) but we were able to be on the bus a little after 7am. It was another traffic-snarled drive through Managua, but the trip went well once we got on the open road. We had our customary bathroom / fluids stop at Navarote before heading down the 11k road to our work project at Salinas Grande. On the drive out there, Adrian confided in me that he was bringing some clothes for one of pastors including some shoes. Yesterday, Adrian had asked this pastor why he wasn't wearing shoes and was wearing pink flip flops (thongs or zorries). The answer was that he had none and he was working in construction.

Arriving there, we could see that the other pastors had been there for quite a while and had constructed scaffolding as the blocks were now at least 4 or five feet high. They had also started laying more blocks and the window openings started appearing in the walls. Various team members climbed the scaffolding and continued putting in filler rocks, more mud inside the blocks. Others picked up filler rocks, sifted sand, made the two different mortar mixes, and played with the children. Toward the end of our time, Dwayne and I helped Pastor Leonardo break into the wall of the existing building in order to create a way to tie in the rebar from the addition to the main building (over each of the doors). Let me tell you Dwayne is one strong dude. He could really work that 30lb bar above his head. It had to be at least a 2 Pepsi Light job (inside joke). For me it was a challenge to work with a light pickaxe. Alas, noon came all too soon and we needed to leave. One of the local church women had cooked up some fish so Dwayne and Racheal decided to sample it.

The plan was for all of the team to go to the beach and Adrian and Tim would return at 1pm so Tim could resume teaching on this final day. The others would stay at the beach for their normal recreational time. But as they say in Nicaragua, be ready for changes in plans.

Adrian, Dwayne, and Tim took a short detour to see the fishing village. Yes, it smelled of fish! When we got back to the work site, the pastors were still laying blocks and had some unused mortar to be used. So we helped them and waited for them to finish up. After assembling in the church sanctuary, the most INTENSE rainstorm hit including thunder and lightning. The sound on the corrogated metal roof was totally deafening: so much so that I needed to postpone my teaching time for a few minutes until the storm passed through. As I began my teaching, I really had the sense that something special was happening. As we worked through the final part on giving and transitioned into the section on borrowing / lending, several of the pastors contributed personal examples of practicing the principles, and it was so good. It was clear that the teaching was penetrating our hearts. As we came to my concluding remarks, I reminded them that we are warriors in a battle and not mercenaries. Some battles will be won; others will be lost. What is important that we set our course to an obedience in the same direction (quoting from the title of the book of the same name by Eugene Peterson). I explained that we are all living sacrifices and the major problem is that the living sacrifice keeps crawling off the altar.

As I shared with them my thanks for the opportunity to come share with them and learn so much, I became teary. I explained that it was hard to prepare as I didn't know them or their conditions or needs and how I had to rely on the Holy Spirit. Each man then voluntarily shared what the week had meant to them, and each was in tears as was Adrian as he translated. I looked each man in the eye as they shared. There was even one piece of sharing that was so personal that Adrian refused to translate it for me. It was so clear that God's Spirit was working. To a man they asked me to return and share more with them which I indicated I would as I would have opportunity. It was so humbling for me to have presented this material through a translator and have the power of God work so mightily. All of the glory belongs to Him.

After an emotional prayer time, I embraced each man as a brother and expressed my gratitude for what they taught me. One pastor later confided that he was going to change his behavior in a certain way during the coming year so as to be an example. More tears flowed. I now definitely have a greater personal appreciation for the passages in Acts where the writer records the emotions being displayed when Paul leaves certain churches.

While I was teaching, Melody led the VBS session and it was very well received. As a craft activity, they had them create the wordless bracelet from simple colored beads and string, Each of the beads represents one aspect of the Bible message we were teaching. I learned after returning to camp that night that we not only left our verse cards but our song sheets. The women who work with the children were so appreciative. The chidren also sang a special new song to the team that was especially moving. The leader then said that our team was different than the others in that a substantial number of team spoke and/or understood Spanish and that helped us connect with the children. Apparently many of the teams are not so blessed with this talent.

The ride back to the mission house was generally a quiet one as the team had given it their all and realized that our trip was nearly over. At our first stop, two members made a dash for the restrooms (remember the fish). Others purchased drinks or snacks as it was still 1 ½ hours of driving to get home. At our refueling stop in Masaya (near the mission station), there was a man selling pudding for 10 cordobas (less than 50 cents). Angela purchased one and we shared some of our pastry bread with his and Carlitos (the other driver) gave him a Bible.

t was just almost a week ago that we began our journey into the unknown. I am confident that God will use this trip to further mold all of us as His servants and especially among to poor and forgotten people. The Bible has much to say about caring for the poor, but there's nothing quite like experiencing it first hand. It is so utterly gut wrenching to see poverty first hand. I am so glad that I responded to Adrian's invitation to teach and I'm certain that the team is also glad to have made the choice to come and work with the children.

May we never forget the poor and forgotten people of the world whether they be in Nicaragua or anywhere else in the world.

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