Marathon Leg #2: Nicaragua
The mind of man plans his way,
But the Lord directs his steps.
…and that's just what we did!
“The hurdles? Jim, last I heard, your analogy for the 50-day Spring Olympics was the marathon.” Yes, well, somebody altered the rules and started putting up hurdles (guess who!?) and even a detour (guess who again!) throughout our Nicaraguan adventure last month. As my dad used to say, “That ain't kosher!” After last month's round of spiritual warfare, it was to be expected, right?
Nevertheless God blessed and that trip is now stamped and filed as “Primary Mission Accomplished.” Here are the hurdles and what the Lord did to help us jump them.
Hurdle #1: No concordances delivered, but…
Pastor Norlan addresses the pastors
about the upcoming study-book distribution
Pastors Nelson Cardenas
& Norlan Avila
helping prep the books for distribution
Remember when we [click to continue…]
The first portion of my “Spring Olympics” marathon is in the heavenly record books. Honduras played out differently than I had thought, but even better than I could have planned. I’ll give you a report on that and cover an “Olympic event” that gets very little “sports coverage” — wrestling, specifically the “Sidewalk Smackdown.” (Spoiler alert: Sidewalk: 1; Denise: 0.)
Marathon: Part 1: Honduras
Before we consider this wrestling event in the Spring Olympics, let me report on how “Leg One” of the Spring marathon turned out. This marathon portion was run in Honduras. It didn’t turn out anything [click to continue…]
The Honduras Event
“Run in such a way
that you may win!”
What's that you say? There are only Summer and Winter Olympics, and the Winter Olympics just finished. If only you knew! There's the Kingdom Olympics, where we “compete” to honor the Lord, by doing “my utmost for His highest.” (Thank you, Oswald Chambers, for that unforgettable phrase!) Thus, under the counsel of Coach Paul (1 Corinthians 9:24-27) and the discipline of the Holy Spirit, I've been training for my “events.”
I will be doing a “marathon” of sorts all through Spring, traveling about 50 of the 90 days of the season [click to continue…]
Mulling major milestones
The world says that “time flies when you're having fun.” Yes, time is passing swiftly, but for a Christian walking in the ways of the Lord, that “flying time” affords the perspective and opportunity to see multiplied examples of God's faithfulness. As this new year starts, I am filled with thankfulness over the milestones that 2018 is bringing:
Our 46th wedding anniversary. As we greet January 29th, “suddenly” Denise and I are within four years of our 50th wedding anniversary! “Whoever finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord” (Proverbs 18:22).
- My 50th spiritual birthday: My soul's sentiments are best expressed in Charles Wesley's anniversary song. (Follow the link to one of my favorite hymns if you dare!)
Flag of Guatemala
Guatemalan 10-year anniversary: Last week it suddenly struck me-my first visit to Guatemala was in 2008. Lord willing, this May will see my 9th visit to teach these sold-out-for-Jesus leaders.
Pastors' Book Sets
36 book sets ordered! Remember The Sacred Treasure House Initiative? Six months later, just this past week, we sent a check for almost $3,700 to the Nicaraguan Bible Society via the American Bible Society for the Nicaraguan pastors' reference books. As the Lord supplies for travel (see below), I will be delivering these books on April 20th and training the leaders in their use. Add these to books in hand and 40 leaders will have their first Bible-study library.
Thank you to those who pray for us and our family. Thank you to those who have prayed for me over the years as I travel. And thanks to you who contributed towards the blessing of these books for pastors. I don't give thanks enough for being allowed to successfully challenge leaders in developing countries to read and and study and marinate in and devour the Scriptures…
How Are They Alike?
Here's a Peru question for you: What do these three men have in common – the son of a Japanese immigrant, a young American missionary, and a former Marxist guerrilla? Answer: They all love the Lord Jesus and each one pastors a church where we ministered in Peru. Another question: What do the three of them have in common with you? Answer: You helped make ministry to their leaders possible!
Listening to the teaching in Lima
Thank you for [click to continue…]
Not Too Hurried to Be Thankful!
Yes, we're time-crunch busy in getting ready to leave for Perú next week, and, yes, more funding for that trip would be a blessing, and, yes, I need to be spending time on preparation of our new teaching modules. (Sleep is overrated anyhow, right?)
The three books in the Bible-study set for Quilalí pastors
How can we go running off to Perú in nine days without expressing a profound THANK YOU to all of you who have given towards the Quilalí pastors' reference book project?! If you'll recall, I shared about this back in July when I wrote about The Sacred Treasure House Initiative. (Check that link for the background.)
There are 37 pastors (representing over 50 churches, since not a few are responsible for more than one church), in the region of Quilalí, Nicaragua who don't have basic Bible-study tools in Spanish. And by basic, I mean:
- A Strong's Concordance for simple look-up and elementary word studies in Hebrew and Greek;
- An illustrated Bible dictionary for background. (Who were the Assyrians? Where's Jericho? What's an ephod? When did Solomon reign?)
- A one-volume commentary to shed a little light on difficult Bible passages.
To the best of my knowledge, none of these brothers has been to [click to continue…]
An Encouragement from Jorge
Pastor Jorge Pérez praying
As I was preparing to depart for my Honduras teaching trip in late July, I was surprised and blessed by a short, simple, and encouraging e-mail from Pastor Jorge Pérez in Guatemala. The fruit of all our investment of time, travel, teaching, money, and resources in Guatemala — including pastors' basic Bible study books; laptops; powerful, lightweight travel projectors for their teaching assignments; and helping to send the Guatemalan leadership-training team abroad — was summed up in that email:
I desire that God would give you a good teaching time in Honduras, and that the pastors there become lovers of Bible reading, just as it happened in Guatemala.
You and I have invested a lot in Guatemala over the last nine years. Have you ever asked yourself what return we're getting on the investment?
[click to continue…]
¡Un Viaje Exitoso (A Successful Trip)!
Thanks for praying! I’m back from almost two weeks in Honduras and the “prayer umbrella” was apparent every day — divine appointments, new friendships, unction in teaching, excellent translators, safety, perfect health, and lots of energy. Even two “almost missed” flight connections were just that — only “almost.” But the greatest success of the trip may be measured within a year’s time by the number of “elephants” eaten. Let me explain.
With translator Antonio Rodríguez [L] and Superintendent Javier Cruz [R]
Hermeneutics and Elephants
When I visit these Latin American countries, the initial invitations center around teaching hermeneutics, a fancy word that can be boiled down to this: learning how to read, study, preach, and teach the Scriptures in context. We spend time in the first seminar defining and demonstrating many aspects of context — text, history, language, culture. But my overriding goal is to have the pastors and leaders remember two things: [click to continue…]
Crazy? Guilty as Charged (I Hope!)
Where in the world is Honduras? (Map courtesy of Operation World)
Almost two months ago, once the dates were set for my first trip to Honduras, I asked missionary friend Bobby Hoyle of LendAHand Mission Teams if he had pointers about how to prepare for for my journey. “Yes,” said Bobby, who has been there. “Wear a bulletproof vest!” He was only partially in jest.
Yes, you can buy them on Amazon…
Now I don’t own, nor am I going to buy, a bulletproof vest. But it was Bobby’s way of saying that Honduras is a violent place. The United Nations ranks the country as having one of the highest murder rates in the world — 91.4 homicides per 100,000 people. (For comparison, the same report places the USA at 3.00-4.99 per 100,000 and Canada in the 0.00-2.99 range.)
“So why are you going? Are you crazy?” Well, yes, of course I’m “crazy” — I’m a follower of the Lord Jesus! I’m not brave or bold or macho; I’m going because the King is at work in Honduras, and He has called me to help His Church. I’m going in order to train pastors and leaders, men and women who are making a difference in the world, ministers who are part of the Kingdom advance that has raised the percentage of evangelicals in Honduras from around 10% of the population in 1975 to a projected 30% by 2025. I’m going to a country where half the population of over 8 million is under the age of 18. [click to continue…]
A Miner's Tools
TOOLS. If you forced me to distill my recent ministry trip to Nicaragua into a single word, that would be the one I'd choose — tools. Let me explain.
Shortly after I was born again (July 31, 1968 – almost 49 years ago!) at age 16, I became an avid Bible reader. I learned that the words of Edwin Hodder's hymn were true:
Thy Word is like a deep, deep mine;
And jewels rich and rare
Are hidden in its mighty depths
For every searcher there.
Miners need basic tools to pursue their mining activities — a pick, a shovel, and a wheelbarrow, at the very least. Desiring to be a “Bible miner,” I discovered that the basic tools of mining the “jewels” of God's truth were:
An exhaustive Bible concordance;
An illustrated Bible dictionary; and,
A one-volume Bible commentary.
One of my new Christian friends pointed me to Sacred Treasure House, a small Christian bookstore in the town where I lived.
My old stomping grounds — Sacred Treasure House —
where I purchased all of my early Bible-study tools.
(Source: Costa Mesa Historical Society. Used by permission.)
Many of my part-time-job paychecks were spent [click to continue…]
He's Off Again…
Those of you who read our last newsletter (The Elvenking's Blessing) will remember Jim's request, “Please pray that what we teach in our upcoming teaching and discipling time in Nicaragua and Guatemala will be what's “most needed,” and, in the sense of deep heart needs, “least expected.”
National Palace, Managua, Nicaragua
The urgency of the needed prayer is now upon us. As this arrives in your inbox (May 5th) Jim is en route to Nicaragua. There he will be part of a team ministering to pastors in two out-of-the way locations, Quilali and Ocotal. But before the rest of the team even arrives, Jim will be making some strategic connections, solo, in Managua. Please pray with us for divine appointments, for facility in Spanish, for sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, and for ministry in and of the Lord – He is the one who touches hearts and lives with the reality of His empowering and life-giving Holy Spirit.
“Home” Defined by Mark 10:30
Map of Guatemala
Nicaragua is a fruitful field with many new friends, yet it isn't quite “home.” But in two weeks, we can say, “Estamos en casa” (“We're home”) — in Guatemala. [click to continue…]
Why We Go “There And Back Again”
My tattered copy of The Hobbit
It’s surprising the multitude of sources of inspiration the Holy Spirit can use. An unusual quote has guided a lot of my praying for ministry, especially over the last eight years of missions trips.
After the climactic battle in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, the victorious survivors (including, thank goodness, our hero Bilbo Baggins) journey together to their respective homes. Coming to a place where the Elven host turns off for the palace in Mirkwood, the Elvenking's farewell to Gandalf, like a benediction, has always captured my imagination. Here are his words as they are underlined in my delapidated, fifty-year-old hardback copy of the classic:
“May you ever appear where you are most needed and least expected! The oftener you appear in my halls, the better shall I be pleased!”
Thus I often find my heart expressing itself before the Throne in almost those exact words: “Lord, please [click to continue…]
We changed web hosting providers over the weekend, so if you could not access our sites for a few hours, the change is probably the reason.
The Guatemala-Peru Connection
Guatemala to Peru: What's the link between the two?
What were those strange noises coming from Denise in the kitchen? At first, I couldn’t make it out. Was she muttering to herself? Speaking in a tongue? Having a breakdown? Well, yes, yes… and yes, sort of, if you count “breaking down” sentence structure as a “break down.”
It turns out that she was beginning to practice Spanish, using a conversational Spanish book that’s been in our library for a long time. I was thrilled because it shows her level of commitment to our upcoming Perú trip (10/26-11/9), and Spanish practice bodes well for her return visit to Guatemala in 2017, Lord willing.
Our upcoming Perú trip will be exciting, no doubt, but perhaps not as exciting to me as another recent Peruvian training trip. Why? Because that recent 2 Timothy 2:2 training trip was the work of Guatemalan leaders!
Guatemalan “Go Ye” Gusto
Pastor Victor teaching in Palacagüina, Nicaragua
I’ll tell you a bit about my April ministry in Guatemala in the next “postcard.” But here’s the thing about these guatemaltecos (Guatemalans) – they not only hear, but they do! Guatemala has the potential to be a full-fledged Latin American “Antioch,” sending missionaries and trainers across Latin American borders and even overseas. Consider some of their recent activity: [click to continue…]