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 like I expected. Disappointing? No, just different — and probably better.
Last summer’s Honduras visit brought in pastors from a variety of villages and small towns surrounding Yoro (the first location), plus pastors from suburbs surrounding Tegucigalpa (or Téguz, the second location), including a group of eight pastors who live five hours away in an area along the Nicaraguan border. Hardly any of those came this time! Illness and family issues sidelined the Yoro-area village pastors. And Tegucigalpa? For a number of them, what I’m teaching is very disruptive to their legalismo (legalism), which is the focus of their preaching. And the border-area pastors? It is very far and expensive for them to come to Tegucigalpa, and the trip just wasn’t feasible for them this year.
So was the visit a bust? Far from it! In fact, I’d say that we “medal-ed.” Consider:
the double elephant eater of Yoro
- The ranks were filled with enthusiastic young people, up-and-coming leaders — those in their late teens, early twenties, young married couples, etc. And the audience grew each evening.
- Even though there had only been eight months since my last visit, six believers in Yoro had already fulfilled their first-round commitments as “elephant eaters” (i.e., those who read the Bible through every year). One brother had been through twice in eight months! There were similar numbers in Téguz. Without a full year’s time — and without the original attendees to compare against — I can’t give you stats on completion. Nevertheless, it’s clear that the Bible-reading discipline has taken root in good soil, and the superintendent and the lead pastor in Téguz are setting the examples!
Sara I., one of the elephant eaters of Tegucigalpa
One of my translators from last year, Joel Aguilera, went hundreds of miles out of his way (literally!) to translate for me in Yoro. He had been blessed by the teaching in 2017 and didn’t want to miss it this year. The evening after our first day of teaching, I couldn’t help but overhear him on several phone calls, excitedly sharing what he had learned during the first session. And twice during the other two days of teaching, I heard him spontaneously exclaim (in English), “Oh, wow!” before he even launched into his translations of the relevant points.
- We repeatedly saw that special spiritual gift that every Bible teacher longs to see in his or her ministry as a sign of Divine favor: the Holy Spirit ministering as “the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of [Christ], the eyes of your understanding being enlightened…” (Ephesians 1:17-18).
Spring Olympic Wrestling:
Sidewalk Smackdown Event
In his teaching about spiritual armor, the Apostle Paul makes clear why we are to wear it: “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12). Spiritual warfare is a subject that most Bible Christians acknowledge as existing, but they seem to live in relatively blissful ignorance about it. A few obsess over it. But the closer one gets to front-line Kingdom assignments (like missions trips), the more it becomes a daily reality and struggle.
for a rematch!
Most often, for us attacks center around computer problems, financial challenges, and weariness. Those problems aren’t new; we pray, fall back on the Lord, put our heads down, and plow ahead. Wrestling wouldn’t be wrestling if it were easy, now, would it?
But last Tuesday — just eight days before the this week’s upcoming Nicaragua trip — was different. I was on the phone with one of our daughters and I heard Denise calling me from the front door. She stepped through our portal with four streams of blood running down her face from a gash in her forehead. She’d been out on her daily health walk (note the irony!), had tripped on an uneven sidewalk crack, and knocked herself out on the sidewalk. Toll: 8 stitches above her left eyebrow, broken left elbow, a colorful “shiner” around her left eye, badly bruised (but not broken) nose, two full days lost, to the emergency room and to visits to an orthopedic surgeon and and ear-nose-throat specialist. Not to mention needing help in all manner of daily activities that normally require two hands.
Short version of the wrestling score: Sidewalk: 1; Denise: 0. A random accident at such a strategic time? If you believe that, I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you! Obvious analysis: More warfare prayer needed for protection, not just during the missions trips proper, but before and after the trips, and for family members who stay behind.
Quick Look Ahead: Nicaragua:
Marathon Part 2:
Jossari N. of Yoro.
Most of the Sacred Treasure House Initiative: Quilalí pastors’ Bible-study reference books are going to be delivered. But more wrestling is needed. Despite being ordered three months in advance, only the commentaries and dictionaries will be available this week during training. The Strong’s Concordances are still on backorder, and aren’t expected until mid-May. I think I have enough copies of Strongs available from which to teach if I do it by groups. Final-week materials preparations have been derailed from the original track, but my “nursing” role in Deni’s life has been more important than a few pretty handouts for class.
So please pray as I am away in Nicaragua with LendAHand Mission Teams from Wednesday, 4/18 through Friday 4/27, after which we’ll have an 11-hour drive home from Jacksonville, Florida. We’re still looking to the Lord and expecting His blessing — if you will pray, God will bless! We thank you!
Much love in Jesus,