Saturday, March 14, 2015

Our Last Day in Nicaragua

We had another early start today by 8 am. Our team was beginning a program at a Christian School for Children ages 5-17. We began with the same fun songs and skits we have been performing at previous venues. Although the children were hesitant to participate at first, the more we connected and reached out to them, the more they responded.

After a story about Daniel and the lion’s den and a powerful dance and drama, we had an alter time. Many of the children came up to the front for prayer for different needs and others for salvation. It was such a great sight to see these children receive Christ as their leader and forgiver of their sins.

Seeing them run to the front for prayer filled me with such joy. In the Bible Jesus says, “Let the little children come to me, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.” Today I saw the Kingdom of Heaven in the closed eyes and bowed headed of children who were trusting God for everything.

After lunch, we were able to do another program; this one for mainly elementary aged students. As a person who is studying to be an early childhood educator, these services that are focused on young children bring me the most joy and fulfillment. My heart was full as I watched them sing along to Jesus is my Superhero! I thank God for churches like this one that invest in the lives of their children.

We ended our last day with the children at the orphanage. We did a mini version of one of our programs, ate ice cream, made bracelets, gave away headbands to the girls, gave soccer balls to the boys, and took lots of photos.

These were the hardest goodbyes to say because these were the children we spent every morning and evening with. I am so sad to say goodbye. As we head back to the United States, we leave a piece of our hearts with them just as they leave a piece of theirs with us. I truly have Amor por Nicaragua.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Raising the Next Generation of Disciples

Like most other days this week, we started our day with a time of devotion. However, today we pressed in even deeper to God. We had an amazing time of prayer and worship as a team that I can truly say has made us more unified. As the first few days of our trip unfolded, I felt as if we had begun to lose sight of the true purpose we were here and were allowing our own annoyances and problems distract and ununify us. I am so thankful for the opportunity to pray as a team once again. God really moved this morning and definitely touched my heart, reminding me of my purpose here, to be a humble servant for Him. I can truly say that I am thankful for this team that God has placed together to serve and love Nicaragua. 

This evening we had the amazing opportunity to visit Pastor Abdias’s church. His church was like none other that we have gone to so far; the congregation felt more mature in their walk with the Lord. As soon as we got there, children we have never meet came running up to hug us. It always touches my heart to see God’s children so filled with love and joy, They were all so joyous and free and their laughter brightened the night as we chased them around and played with them all.

Those who attend Pastor Addias’s church, Iglesia Vida, were mostly young adults. It was amazing to see young teens on stage leading us all into an intimate time of worship. The children loved our skits, lessons and songs; they all laughed and sang along. I stayed in the main service with the young adults while one of the local ministry interns preached; his sermon reminded us all that our goal as Christians is not the gifts of God, nor is it His miracles, but our ultimate goal as sons and daughters of Christ is to seek, find and abide in the presence of Jesus Christ.

After his sermon, our team came up to pray with the people of the church. It was incredible to see the hunger in these young adults for more of Christ. It was such a blessing to be able to pray with these people. These young people are the next generation to be raised up as disciples of Christ. As I was praying I was filled with such hope for these kids, that they would raise up and stand up for Christ and make a difference here in Nicaragua.

The biggest thing that was laid on my heart during our time of prayers with these young people was that they would never seek the approval of the world, that they would never try and fit in with the culture that surrounds them, but that they would be bold, confident and strong in Christ to be different and make a change in the lives of those around them. It is always a blessing to come up alongside the people of Nicaragua and be united as one in prayer. It doesn’t matter the distance or differences between to people, for we are all sons and daughters of Christ, unified in His name. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Hiking Through the Mountains of Madagalpa

Tuesday had a lot of ups and downs. Literally. We started the day with a program at a Children's school. Then our team hiked through the mountains of Madagalpa, Nicaragua and visited families homes that we’re living in deep poverty. We prayed over these families and the different heartbreaking situations they were going through and and gave out food, toothbrushes, and other items, but they gave us so much more. What an eye opening experience to see the effects of poverty on an individual level. The homes we visited were made of make-shift materials and dirt floors, no electricity and oftentimes had six or seven family members living together in one room. Health problems were rampant and the lack of resources is what drew me back the most.

One woman was suffering from serious infected sores on her feet and this had been an issue for many many years, but the medicine was too expensive for her to keep purchasing it and the health center near her home did not have any. The Lord has been showing me the possibilities of more I could be doing because the need truly is great. He has called me to do bigger things, and continues to reveal the possibilities to me.

My heart has been touched and changed by this trip so far. There have been so many twists and turns but they’ve all been purposeful and directed by God. There has been one specific thing God has taught me and He has continuing to teach me throughout this trip: Levante las manos (Lift your hands.)

Walking around the orphanage, one of the boys favorite games is playing a sort of “cops and robber”. When they yell “Levante los manos” you know you have two choices; either lift up your hands and surrender, or try and fight back. Oftentimes, there is no use in fighting back, it’s better to surrender. This phrase has been extremely impactful in processing this trip and ministry. If your being chased by someone and you lift up your hands, it’s a sign of surrender, saying “I have nothing in my hands to offer”. That’s the heartbeat of God, surrender to His purpose. Nothing I do is my own, but God is working in me. Surrender. Levante los manos.

Worship. We have been involved in many church services and had opportunities to see God worshipped in many different mays while here in Nicaragua. The commitment of the people to church services and worship is incredible, it reminded me of the woman in the Bible with the alabaster jar of perfume poured on Jesus’ head. God deserves so much more than I could ever give, and there is nothing that deserves worship apart from God. So, lift your hands. Levante las manos.

Giving and Serving. I’ve always thought that my giving and serving was adequate. I try to give when I can, even giving sacrificially, but my heart was shaken when I experienced the giving of some of the poorest of poorest. Both in church services as well as buying our group sodas, water or snacks. It was radical, and could only remind me of the parable of the women with the giving of the two mites (all that she had) and I could only think of myself as the rich young ruler. I had never really thought about myself that way until recently. I always just considered myself living moderately, but if the Lord asked me to sell all of my belongings and give it all to the poor… would I hesitate? I’m sure. Would I do it? I hope so, but it would be hard. God calls us to give recklessly, not moderately. He calls us to worship passionately, not ashamed. And He calls us to surrender completely, not just half-heartedly. Levante Los Manos!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Meeting With the Elders at the Feeding Center

Our team rode for an hour and forty five minutes until we reached our destination. We entered a small cement building with red dirt in its surface, there were no tiles, or wood and carpet for the flooring like there is in the states. The room was full of elderly women and men, i was initially blessed by their diligence.

I recall thinking to myself, wow…all  of these elderly people are packed in this building an hour before the service started ready to receive from God. It made me stop and reflect on my own life, how there are times when I am thirty minutes early for church or five and other times i show up a few minutes late. Why do I show up late, how could I show up 5 mins before praise and worship starts? But there they were sitting in this small (hot) building with their hearts prepared to hear from God. Their commitment opened my eyes to see how easily we take for granted the opportunity we have to meet with God, how church has become a recreational activity in the U.S, where people are moved by the titles and roles they have within the church more than meeting with God, communicating with Him. 

Thankfully we serve a relational God, who longs for us anyway whether we serve Him or not, He loves us enough to create us in His image, sent His only Son as a sin offering for us that we would be forgiven, transformed and reconciled unto Him. One thing I will never forget from this particular service is the way the Spirit moved. There was no denying that the presence of God was there before our team arrived and as the service progressed it only grew stronger.

I was moved to tears as our team made our way around the room to pray with every individual. We laid hands on them as we prayed and they touched us and interceded for us as well. As a team, I am certain there are several people in our lives such as relatives, friends, coworkers, even our pastors and members of our churches who believe we are the answers to someone’s prayers by doing missionary work in another country, and serving those who are living in poverty and struggling, but that concept is not always accurate. 

For an example, the men and women that we embraced there were the answers to my prayers. I longed to grow deeper in my relationship with God and being able to connect with them has stretched me for the Kingdom of God. Not even a “language barrier” could rob us from what God had in store, none of the elderly people understood english and I am not fluent in Spanish but the Spirit moved the same. I walked away enlightened, realizing that their expectations from God wasn’t based on tangible things, though we served them spiritually and physically by providing food for them, they hungered and thirsted for God and He filled them. I want that same hunger and thirst for God. I pray that we all will desire that hunger and thirst for righteousness, Jesus is enough for us. He should be our only expectation. 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Our First Day in Nicaragua - By Jacqueline Brinzo

Today we woke up really early (3:45 am) to travel to Nicaragua. Although we had to delay a day due to a winter storm passing through Pennsylvania, this did not affect the work God has for us here. We arrived to Nicaragua at about 2 pm. As we were driving to the orphanage, I was overwhelmed with compassion because of the poverty I was seeing. My heart started to break as I praised God for giving me this opportunity. When we arrived at the orphanage, a lot of kids ran towards the bus. Right away, My team and I were able to build friendships with them.

Once we were settled, we went straight to a local church. While sitting there I asked God to intercede in my prayers for these people. We were welcomed with open arms. Our team ministered through a skit, human video, and sermon. I was able to share a piece of my testimony once we were done ministering, God told me to pray for health. During an altar call, someone translated to me that people were coming up for prayer to be healed.

After the service, my team and I played with the kids and a few did balloon animals. When it was time to go 3 of the girls would not let go of my hand and stated by the bus until we drove away yelling “te amo.”

In just one day, God has done so much. I am amazed by his love and consumed by his grace. Within a few hours, God spoke through our team and touched everyone we came in contact with.

I cannot wait to start an early day tomorrow and see everything that God will continue to do.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Destination: Nicaragua 2015

Excitement is in the air! We are on our way to Nicaragua for our 2015 missions trip! Keep our team in your prayers! Team members from left to right: Steve Thurston, Bethanne Milton, Rebekah Rosenberg, Juan Delcid, Shaunna Delcid, Loren Metallo, Samantha Restituto, Limaris Mendoza, Kiera Lee, Kelsey Morrison, Jacqueline Brinzo and Jacqueline Day. Not pictured: Amy Thurston.