Mission Trip to Nicaragua 2017

March 31, 2017

A day of tourism and good-byes!

We said our good-byes to the mission house staff early in the morning and departed for our 3.5 hour trip to Masaya volcano.  Most of slept for the majority of the drive there, but once we arrived the view was stunning.  Masaya does not look like what someone would think of when describing a volcano.  It does not have a distinct peak like most volcanos do, but rather a large, deep pit that tourists can look in to (see pictures).  We could see a sliver of moving magma at the pit of the volcano, an unnerving yet amazing sight to say the least.  To the right of the Masaya volcano is a prominent cross standing atop a hill.  Unfortunately, the stairs leading up to it were closed off, presumably because of some airheads that ruined the privilege to go up and see the spectacular view.  We only received about 10 minutes and then had to return to the bottom of the volcano per safety reasons.

After the volcano, we headed over to Bucanero restaurant that is known for its gorgeous view overlooking Lake Masaya (again, see pictures).  The food was decent, but the view could simply not be beat.

For our final tourist destination, we visited a market about 30 minutes away from Granada, Nicaragua.  While there, the team scoured the various open stores for some gifts for themselves and their families.  Our translator, Walter, mission leader, Kevin, and head of Uno Mas ministries, Jeff Thackston, all helped us haggle with the sellers to get the best bang for our buck.

Once we were satisfied with the items we bought, we drove for about an hour back to the hotel we stayed at last Saturday night.

What an amazing trip.  All of us saw the power of God this week as we witnessed His Word working in the hearts of the people of Nicaragua.  I think I can speak on behalf of everyone on the team when I say, we cannot wait to come back to Nicaragua and, also, to go on our next mission trip.  It is singlehandedly one of the best experiences in my life and I thank God for the opportunity and the blessing of being able to go on this trip.

Some special thanks are in order to some special people that made this trip doable and a truly unbelievable experience…

To God- Without Him this trip would not have happened.  He gave us all the courage and ability to leave our families at home and come to a foreign country to help Pastor Douglas out while at the same time spreading His loving Word to those who needed to hear it.

To Kevin Gambill- Thank you for all that you did preparing us for this week, keeping us safe throughout our trip and showing us the beautiful people and places of Nicaragua.  Words can truly not express how thankful my team and I are for your leadership and the friendship you formed with all of us.

To Deanna Leimbach- One of the members of Mission Team 1713 and the one who really made this happen for Campus Lutheran Church and the students of Mizzou and Stephens College.  There was a point in time when the chance of this trip happening looked slim to none, yet Deanna persisted in recruiting people who were willing to go and be of service to the Lord.  To be quite frank, I think she, along with the help of God, assembled one of the best mission teams I could have imagined.

To Walter Landero- Our fearless translator.  Without Walter, we would not have been able to clearly and effectively communicated God’s Word to the people of Nicaragua.  Furthermore, we probably would have painted Pastor Douglas’ house the wrong color without Walter’s help.  Thank you, Walter for helping us get the best out of Nicaragua ever day and especially for helping us haggle and deal at the market! You will forever be in our team’s prayers and hearts.

To Hamilton Payan- Our tireless driver.  Granted I haven’t seen many people drive a stick shift vehicle, Hamilton can whip it and turn it with the best of them.  He woke up very early every morning to get us to and from our destinations, drove to get us lunch and dinner, and helped us load and unload our luggage and supplies.  When we did not think a motorcycle could fit into a particular parking spot, much less a van with 8+ seats, Hamilton proved us wrong time and time again.  Oh, and he never once killed the engine and that is extremely impressive considering the terrain and the bonkers traffic here.

To Jeff Thackston- The Wildcard.  One of Kevin Gambill’s good friends and leader of Uno Mas ministries, Jeff provided us with some much needed laughs and auspicious direction during the beginning and end of our trip.  Thank you Jeff for welcoming us to your country and being an extremely valued and approachable friend.

To those who deserve our thanks, but are not named- You know who you are.  Sincerely, there are too many people to name that played a crucial role in our journey here, but we nonetheless thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Galatians 1:5-7 – “To God be the glory forever and ever! Amen.”

 

 

 

March 30, 2017

Finished painting Pastor Douglas’ house!

Today, we didn’t evangelize because we wanted to make sure we finished Pastor Douglas’ house before we left, so after breakfast we headed over there and got to work.  While most of the team painted, Deanna and I along with our driver, Hamilton, and our translator, Walter, headed to a local market to pick up some items for Pastor Douglas and his family to use in their house.  Walter and Hamilton struck the best deal and we ended up with 4 chairs, one table, a blender, a toaster oven, and two fans.  All of which Pastor Douglas had mentioned on his wish list!

When Deanna and I returned, we joined the action and focused on finishing up the bathroom, the trim, and the iron bars on the windows.  We all worked hard and ended up finishing before 3pm.  As we all gathered in the church to officially say our goodbyes and thank-you’s, a few of the kids that had been routinely coming to the church after school had us sit down as they sang “Father Abraham” to us.  After, a little girl stepped up and presented a poem to us as a thank you. We were blown away by the wonderful surprise and their passion.  Then it was our turn, we had Pastor Douglas wait in the middle with his family as we went to the van to grab his gifts.  When we brought them in, his face lit up and we could tell it meant a lot to him.

We wanted to make our mark on the church, so we each dipped our thumbs in some paint and placed our thumbprints on the front porch to make a cross.  Finally, we took a team picture in front of the house along with Pastor Douglas’ family.

It was tough finally saying good-bye, but we made an effort to say “Hasta luego!” or “See you later!” because we know that we will be back to see them again.

Here are some before and after pictures of Pastor Douglas’ house…

 

Matthew 22: 37-39 “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”

 

 

March 29, 2017

Evangelized to a school full of children!

Once breakfast was in our tummies, we headed over to Lamb of God church.  This time we drove past the point that we ended at yesterday.  When we got out of the van, we saw that a local school was nearby.  We went over and asked the teachers if it would be ok to tell them about Jesus and give them all a bracelet with beads.  The teachers told us we could do the bead presentation, so we wasted no time in getting into it.  The children’s eyes widened and they could not stop smiling as we told them all about Jesus’ love for them.   All of us took a lot of pictures with the kids.  They were so photogenic!  After the school, we continued down the road and found a house that wanted us to pray for a sick relative that could not leave her bed.  We asked that God would place His healing hand on her and watch over her in her time of need.  It felt good to let the family know that even when we return home to the United States, we would all keep her and her family in our prayers.

Returning to the church, we ate a quick lunch and got right to work on Pastor Douglas’ house.  While most of our team focused on the inside, Pastor Douglas, his wife, and his niece together painted the outside.  All of us were so surprised when we walked outside and found that all of the walls outside were completed!  Sharon worked hard painting the gated windows and door.

Tomorrow we plan on finishing his house!  We are also pooling some money together to buy a couple of gifts for Pastor and his family because we want their home to truly feel like a home that they can comfortably live in.  I will post before and after pictures tomorrow night!

Matthew 19:14 – “Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.'”

Si se puede!

 

 

March 28, 2017

Nearly finished painting the inside of Pastor Douglas’ house!

This morning, again, was filled with delicious food.  We didn’t waste any time once our van arrived.  Once we arrived at Pastor Douglas’ church and picked him and his family up, we traveled a few miles to a neighborhood that he wanted to evangelize to.  We were able to see so many people, tell them about God’s love for them and pray for them.  A woman even came up to us and asked us to pray for her as she was not feeling well.  She asked us if we could take her to a nearby hospital.  Because we weren’t using our van, we had our driver, Hamilton, take her to get the help she needed.  Another woman said her business was struggling, so Pastor Douglas bought some tomatoes from them and gave them to his son, Isaac.

Along the way, we saw a variety of animals.  A heard of cows, a couple horses, some dogs, and even a turkey!  Nicaragua is full of beautiful scenery and animals that we might not see daily in the United States.

Around 11, we headed back to the church to eat some excellent teriyaki chicken and rice.  We tried to rest while eating as quickly as possible because we knew we had a lot of work to do for Pastor Douglas’ house.

The primer that we put up yesterday helped us put the peach colored paint on with ease.  The house is really coming together and looking better each day.  While most of us painted the inside, Sharon used a sponge brush to delicately paint the iron bars of the window a dark burgundy color.

Valentin and his sister were back today, so some of us went over to ask them what they learned in school.  They showed off their skills by counting to thirty in English!  By the time we got back to the mission house today, we finally found Valentin on Facebook, so we all sent him a friend request.

For dinner we ate at a restaurant that is set up similar to a school cafe, but with food that tastes much, much better.  After desert we walked over to a nearby ice cream stand.  Nicaragua has the best ice cream I have ever had.  I tried a delicious combo of coconut and chocolate ice cream.  Among other flavors that we picked were cookies n’ cream and coffee.

Tomorrow, we have the same schedule: evangelize in the morning and paint in the afternoon.

I will try to post more pictures tomorrow. I just need to collect them all from the various phones we are taking them on!

Graciás to Dios! (Thanks be to God!)

Matthew 7:24-25 – “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.”

 

 

March 27, 2017

Evangelized and started painting!

For breakfast we ate some fresh piñas (pineapples), sandía (watermelon), and huevos (eggs).  Shortly thereafter, we loaded up our van and drove about 10 minutes away to the church we are helping out this week.  Turns out, we’re actually painting the pastor’s house! It was constructed in September of 2015, but its walls are still bare. We’re going to fix that, though!  Kevin, our mission leader, says you have to be ambiguous on mission trips because the schedule is always changing and never set in stone. First, we met the pastor, Pastor Douglas, and his family.  They explained to us through our interpreter, Walter, what they needed help with.  Before we started painting, though, he wanted us to go around the surrounding area, talking to the locals about God’s love for them.  We brought a couple bags filled with bracelets, each of them having 7 colors that we used to explain who God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are.

Gris (Grey): In the beginning, the world was perfect. God saw what He had made and said it was good.  Adam and Eve lived in perfect harmony, for God said eat from anything except the one tree.  But then Satan appeared to them in the form of a serpent and tempted them into eating from that one forbidden tree.  Now, we are all born sinners and are by nature separated from God.

Rojo (Red): God was sad when he saw this.  He loves us so much that He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross and rise again to save us from our sins.

Blanco (White): As a result of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are truly forgiven and washed clean by His blood, so long as we repent and turn away from our sins.

Azul (Blue): When Jesus ascended into heaven, He left the Holy Spirit with us and within us to guide us in our journey of faith.

Verde (Green): Much like a seed that is planted in the ground and needs water and sunlight to grow, we too need to immerse ourselves daily in God’s Word, pray to Him, and worship with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

Oro o Amarillo (Gold or Yellow):  If we run the race and keep the faith, God promises that when we die, we will receive the ultimate reward: eternity with Him in paradise.  In heaven there will be no more pain, no more crying, and no more dying.  All of the believers in Jesus Christ will worship His name forevermore.

Claro (Clear):  This bead is positioned by the knot that holds the bracelet together.  It symbolizes the fact that God holds all of these things together.  He is here in Nicaragua with His people and back in Missouri with His people.  He is everywhere at all times.

Along with presenting the Gospel and handing out bracelets, we conversed with the people we met.  All of them were the most down-to-earth people.  They invited us into their houses, gave us a place to sit, and listened to God’s Word with open ears.  One gentlemen even let us take some of his fresh mangos from his mango trees!

After evangelizing for much of the morning and into the early afternoon, we returned to Pastor Douglas’ church for an appetizing lunch.  Lunch featured fried fish (my first time legitimately eating some form of fish and I have to say, I enjoyed it very much), fried plantain chips (phenomenal), and rice (a staple food down here that I need to incorporate into my meals more back home).

Once our hunger was appeased, we buckled down and got to work painting.  Today, we focused on getting the primer up to allow it to dry for tomorrow.  During our breaks, we played with Pastor Douglas’ dog, Luna.  I think she appreciated all of the attention we gave her!

When we finished painting, we stored our supplies in the Pastor’s house and made our way over to some children that we noticed were watching us.  We mustard up the courage to try our Spanish and asked them their names and ages.  We found out they were some kids that go to the local school and hang out at the church after class.  Valentine, one of our new friends, asked us if we had Facebook! After smiling from ear to ear and telling him yes, he retreated into a room and returned with a notebook and a pen.  We wrote down all of our names and are anxiously waiting for him to send us a friends request!

We returned home, showered to clean all of the paint off, and enjoyed a fantastic chicken and rice dinner.   Devotions were led by Michelle tonight.  She emphasized that, as Christians, we are called to emulate God’s love through our actions, so that others may see His love, too.

Good night from Nicaragua!

1 John 3:17-18 – “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?  Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” 

 

 

March 26, 2017

Arrived in Chinandega!

This morning was very relaxed.  We all woke up around 9am, ate a delicious breakfast filled with unbelievably fresh fruit, and sat by the pool as we read our morning devotions.

Around 1pm, our driver, Francisco, and his brother picked us up in a van and drove us about two and a half hours to Emmanuel Lutheran Church (not the church we are painting this week) in Chinandega to worship there.  The pastor there, Pastor Cesar, was extremely kind to us and even helped us find which hymn number we were singing (numbers in Spanish were never my strong suit).  We worshipped together as brothers and sisters in Christ in their beautiful church.  Afterwords, we talked to the children and took lots of pictures with them.  They gave us their absolute best smiles and were tickled to see the photo we had just captured on the camera screen.  We thanked Pastor Cesar and the rest of the congregation for their hospitality and were on our way.

We made one more stop at a store similar to Walmart called Maxi Palí.  We stocked up on the essentials: fresh fruit, coffee, and bags of milk among other things.  Yes, I said bags of milk.  Here, in Nicaragua they sell their fresh milk in bags about 900ml big (about 0.24 gallons for those of you who are still using U.S. customary units).  Other than the milk, the packaged food here is not too unordinary.  Typically, among the various Spanish-named brands, we would see a few familiar brands like Coke and Pepsi.  Checking out was the best part.  We probably got the equivalent of $100 of groceries in the U.S. for a little less than $50!  I attribute that to the fresh fruit that is grown locally and, unlike when it is transported all the way to a faraway place like the U.S., is much cheaper to sell it here.  The cashier converted our total from the Nicaraguan córboda into U.S. dollars.  She had to make sure the dollars were crisp and there were no writings on them.  Apparently, as per our mission leader, Kevin Gambill, the banks here will not accept any dollars that are obviously worn.

Finally, after packing all of our groceries into our van and driving some 10 minutes down the road, we arrived at our mission house.  We absolutely love it! We have everything we need here to be successful servants of God.  A few of the members at the local church (again not the church we are painting this week. I promise we’ll get there!) prepared a delightful  3-course meal for us.

Once we all got settled into our designated rooms, we rendezvoused in the main area of our mission house to do our evening devotions, sing a few songs, and go over our bead presentation that we are using for evangelism throughout the week.

Tomorrow is the day we have all been waiting for! Tomorrow, we are blessed to be able to share God’s loving Word with the people of Chinandega, Nicaragua.  As always, prayers are much appreciated!

Hasta mañana!

Matthew 18:20 – For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

 

 

 

 

March 25, 2017

Landed in Managua!

After a brief flight from Lambert International Airport to Dallas Ft Worth and a short layover in Dallas, we hopped on our 3 and a half hour flight to Managua and landed around 6pm local time.  As we exited the plane, we were greeted by the warm humid air Nicaragua.  Honestly, I don’t think any of us are complaining about the ample warmth.  With Missouri being indecisive about what season we are currently in, we are welcoming the consistency of the 7-day forecast here.

Our hotel for the night is wonderful, featuring open air hallways, several restaurants, and a lovely outdoor pool.  We had a team dinner at one of the restaurants here and dusted off the cobwebs of our high school Spanish vocabulary by talking to our friendly waiter.

We aren’t planning on getting too comfortable here because tomorrow we plan to leave around 1pm for Chinandega where we will get settled in our mission house.

That’s all for today! We thank God for our safe travels and pray for another successful day serving Him tomorrow!

Isaiah 6:8 – Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

 

 

Campus Lutheran Church is sending another mission team to Nicaragua!

Our team is excited and working on last minute preparations before we leave in less than two weeks!

Here is some information about the team and our trip:

  • We will be in Nicaragua from March 25th – April 1st.
  • Our project will be painting a local church and doing evangelism in the community.
  • We will be serving in Chichigalpa which is about 10 miles southeast of Chinandega where we will be staying in the mission house.
  • Our team consists of 3 Mizzou students, 1 Stephen’s College student, 2 adult members of Campus Lutheran, 1 adult member of St John’s Lutheran in Mexico, MO, and our team leader from MOST Ministries.

We ask that you keep our team in your prayers during our preparation as well as while we are serving in Nicaragua.

Please keep checking this blog for updates, pictures, prayer requests, and specific information about this trip!

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