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Keep Calm and Hurdle On!


Marathon Leg #2: Nicaragua

The mind of man plans his way,
But the Lord directs his steps.
-Proverbs 16:9-

Map of Nicaragua overlaid with a 'Keep Calm' meme.…and that's just what we did!1

“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…

Quilali pastors awaiting the distribution of Bible-study reference booksPastor Norlan addresses the pastors
about the upcoming study-book distribution2
Pastors Nelson and NorlanPastors Nelson Cardenas & Norlan Avila helping prep the books for distribution3

Remember when we were challenged with getting basic Bible-study materials for 40 pastors in the Quilalí area? That was our Sacred Treasure House Initiative, begun last July. Your donations were all in by December and the order was placed in early January. Despite the early order date, only the Bible commentaries and dictionaries were delivered in time last month, with the concordances delayed until May (this month). In fact, the concordances are now in country and through customs, but still can't be delivered due to ongoing fallout from Hurdle #3 (see below)!

I knew there were two Quilalí-area pastors who had concordances, so I wrote ahead asking if they could bring theirs. Only one of those two could attend, but he brought his. I packed my teaching-prep concordance in my baggage (along with my commentary and dictionary, all of which I left in Quilalí) and lugged those with me. And I ordered yet another concordance for a fellow LendAHand team member Inés Vargas-Archila to carry with her, since she had room in her luggage.

Believe it or not, the Lord helped me to figure out a way to share three concordances among 151 attendees (~30 pastors and ~120 leaders) during training. On the mission field, the operational imperative is “Go with the flow, adapt, change gears, and trust the Lord for the best outcome.”

Hurdle #2: How many people? Which days?

Quilali pastor with his new Bible-study reference booksThe books you gave have been delivered!5

Because of Denise's “sidewalk smackdown” last month, and other factors, I lost a lot of prep time and couldn't finish up my presentation materials the way I usually like to have them prepared. Yet the Lord kept urging, “Lean on Me.”

I needn't have worried. Once we arrived in Quilalí, we learned that we would only have pastors with us on Friday and Saturday, but not during the Sunday training sessions. (There is always the language barrier in pre-trip arrangements, and some venues don't communicate as clearly as others.) Plus, because of the civil unrest (see Hurdle #3), about a dozen bi-vocational pastors (government employees) couldn't attend the first day's sessions. So if I had come with a full-on three-day set-in-stone presentation, I couldn't have used it without serious adaptation. I re-organized my materials on the fly (as did the other three teachers), crammed everything into two days, and the Lord Jesus helped us to successfully complete the training on how to use the new study books. Another hurdle jumped.

Jim Kerwin with Quilali-area pastors in break-out groups during trainingOur “small group sessions” were rather large — but they succeeded.6

What a blessing to hear enthusiastic pastors beginning to realize what these tools would be able to do for them!

Hurdle #3: The trip was a riot. Literally.

Nicaraguan police action around university in Managua on April 19, 2018Police action against Managua protesters.
(The trails of smoke are from fired tear-gas grenades.)7

And, no, I don't mean the laughing kind. The morning after we arrived, the capital of Managua ignited into civil unrest. If you live in the USA, it's likely you heard nothing about it, neither the death toll (around 200 protesters), nor the looting, nor the chaos that reigned in some of the major cities. As we left the capital on Thursday April 19th, traffic slowed to a crawl as we passed the front-row-seat scene of riot-gear-clad police besieging a local university and lobbing teargas grenades on the protesting students. (Later, rubber bullets and real bullets were used.)

Another Quilali pastor with his study booksAnother pastor with a book-set you provided8

By our last day in Quilalí, we were urged by local Christian leaders to abandon the Wiwilí portion of our teaching trip and to head for the Honduran border. The violence was spreading, and it was unsafe to return to the airport in Managua. Team leader Denise Abner made the decision, so we pulled up stakes, staying Sunday night in the safe town of Ocotál (where we taught last year) at a small retreat center associated with one of our interpreters, Francisco Zeledón.

Around 10 am the next morning we crossed into Honduras, where we were met by Honduran ministry members associated with our other interpreter, Guatemalan Dany Mejia. They took us on to the capital city, Tegucigalpa, and helped us with accommodations. The Lord gave us favor with Delta Airlines, and we four Americans were on the next day's plane back to the States, at no additional charge. Denise Abner, Karen Al-Chacar (our children's teacher trainer on the trip) and I had dinner at the Atlanta airport before we parted ways.

Another Quilali pastorPray that the pastors would grow in their confidence in using these reference books!9

Other than our university drive-by, we were never in any immediate danger, in spite of the ever-present possibility – no doubt because you were praying. Thank you! Now please pray that the concordances can be delivered, because they need to “jump this hurdle,” too. Pastor Norlan Ávila-Huerte wrote me yesterday (5/15) to say that he had spoken with the Bible Society in Managua, that they were ready to ship, but that they were waiting for “the transportation situation to be normalized.” You can interpret that euphemism, now that you know what Hurdle #3 is all about!

Leg #3 of the Marathon: Guatemala

The LendAHand teaching teamSometimes it's fun not to travel solo. Left to Right: Karen, Dany, Denise, yours truly, and Ines – the LendAHand team10

Please keep praying. I leave today (5/17) for Guatemala. I'll be ministering in various churches, fellowshipping with some of my leader-friends / co-laborers / comrades in arms; and I'll be one of two teachers at the pastors' retreat 5/25-26. My Denise's arm is healing up nicely, but she's still under some restrictions until I return on 5/30, when we visit her orthopedic surgeon one more time. And then there's Leg #4: Iowa, a trip on which we leave just 7 days later. I'm out of breath just thinking about it at the moment, not a good thing for a marathon runner!

Map of Guatemala, courtesy of Operation WorldNext marathon leg — Guatemala!11

Much love in Jesus,

Jim

 


Image Credits:

  1. Map courtesy of Operation World. “Keep on” overlay graphic is copyrighted and used under license from miceking / 123RF Stock Photo. Final product by Jim Kerwin
  2. Photo: Jim Kerwin
  3. Photo: Jim Kerwin
  4. Underlying image copyrighted, licensed from bluebay / 123RF Stock Photo. Final image: Jim Kerwin
  5. Photo: Nelson Cardenas (on my camera)
  6. Photo: Nelson Cardenas (on my camera)
  7. Photo: Still frame from a video by Dany Mejia
  8. Photo: Nelson Cardenas (on my camera)
  9. Photo: Nelson Cardenas (on my camera)
  10. Photo courtesy Dany Mejia
  11. Map courtesy of Operation World.

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