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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Nicaragua Outreach!

Hola!  Buenos!

What a fun-filled, touching, and humbling 2 week outreach!  First of all, it must not go unsaid: Nicaragua is a BEAUTIFUL country!  It goes unnoticed many times on travelers minds because of past civil war, extreme poverty, and little developed tourism.  However, its a beautiful place to visit, and it has all the natural beauty of say... Costa Rica (maybe even more).

Brandon and I joined the team already there in Nicaragua at a house in the town called Ticuantepe.  Its a rural, smaller town outside of the capital, Managua.  The contact we had for Nicaragua has a home where teams can comfortably be hosted.  And it really was comfortable!  Its hot there, VERY HOT, but compared to how most of the locals live, we were practically in a 5 star hotel.  It was humbling to have to focus our hearts on ministering to people with tin houses when we were in a gated home with running water and electricity.  Brandon and I were both uncomfortable living in such a nice house, it just didn't feel right.  

But, due to other contacts falling through, we actually did not work in La Chureca the way I thought we would... instead we spent most of our days walking around Ticuantepe and praying for families.  We quickly noticed how HORRIBLE our broken spanish was, and Brandon and on of the students, Andrew, decided to ask God to send us a translator.  After praying for a while, they felt like the Lord was telling them to "follow the wind", so as silly as it seemed, they did.  After about an hour of walking with the wind, and asking everyone if they spoke english, still no translator had been found.  Then finally a woman ran up to them and told them to come with her, they did, and she led them to a young, 18 year old girl named Veleska.  Veleska had taught herself english, and was not only able to translate, but when Brandon explained who we were and why we needed help, she was excited and willing to help!  Praise the Lord!   His provision for translation was more proof for us all of how much we can trust God to provide what we need.

Veleska went with us every day, translating our conversations with locals, and also our prayers.  She was a huge blessing to us, and we were able to really minister to her and encourage her too.  Our prayers for the families of Ticuantepe were centered around making sure they knew who Jesus Christ is, and that they would believe that He does love them and care about their needs.  We prayed for healing of sickness and injuries, and also for God's provision for the families.

For us, one of the most touching encounters was with a family of a grandmother, two moms, and two little girls.  The older of the two (8 years), walked with a terrible limp.  After visiting with them a couple of times, we learned that she was born this way, and wasn't given but a few days to live.  They doctor tried convincing the mother to give up and go home, but her mother had faith to trust that her daughter would live, and after a month of being in the hospital, she was finally cleared to go home.  The little girl had a smile like the sunshine, and although she struggles to walk, she had more joy than any of us did.  It was very touching to realize that simple things, like walking, can mean so much to someone like her.  We had a chance to pray together with the little girl, and her whole family, holding hands, and we asked Jesus to protect her joy, and heal her body.  She had said that she really wanted to be able to run and keep up with her little sister, and we had faith to believe that one day she will.  Before we departed, we gave them clothing, coloring books, and toys.  My heart still longs to see God heal her... and I am still praying for her even now.

I personally had a tough time, for 2 reasons: 1. I got REALLY sick for about 3 days and 2. I learned that I have a prejudice towards spanish (the language).   The sickness beat me down quite hard, probably a flu.  I had a very high fever, body aches, and more... but, as with most flus, 3 days, and it was gone.  But as for the prejudice, THAT was something I struggled with a lot while there.  God had to keep teaching me and revealing to me my bad attitude, and grow within me a love and appreciation for the culture.  

We did go to La Chureca for 1 day, to help out at a school on the dump for a few hours.  We didn't go very far into the dump, but the part I did see, was heartbreaking...  Families, living in trash, eating trash, wearing trash.  It was a very disgusting and hard thing to see.  It reminded me of the verse, James 2:5 "Has God not chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he has promised those who love him?"  The people of La Chureca may seem to be the poorest of the poor in Nicaragua, but many of them know Jesus, and love him, then they are more rich than a king! I wish we would have had more time there, because there is so much love to be given to La Chureca.

The last 3 days of our trip, Brandon and I (and staffer, Cat), left the team, to scout for future surf ministry opportunities.  We first traveled with a friend we met randomly in Managua one day, to San Juan del Sur.  We stayed at a rugged and tiny little surf hostel.  And there was a local surf contest being hosted just north of the town, in Maderas, so we took a van ride up to it.  It was very "off the beaten path" and for Brandon and I, it couldn't have been more perfect.  As much as we loved the populated city/town ministry, we were dying to get back to the ocean, and back to the less-traveled roads.  The contest was amazing, Nicaragua has some stellar surf breaks, and even better surfers.  We foresaw a chance to bring a team down the the future to help host the contest, and instead of bikini contests for entertainment, we would give a gospel presentation!  Brandon had the chance to surf Maderas, and caught a much needed "warm water stoke"!  

The next day we traveled 3 hours on a dirt road in a school bus to Las Salinas, or better known as Popoyo.  The bus dropped us off at a 3 way stop, with no one in sight... a local told us he'd go up the road and try to find us a ride... so while we waited, we figured, might as well start walking.  

To our relief, JJ Yemma picked us up (we had almost walked the WHOLE way, haha).  He runs the famous Popoyo Surf Lodge in Nicaragua.  And he moved down when he was 18 years old, got married, became a believer, and now he not only runs a successful and unique surf camp, but he is constantly ministering to the locals.  We were welcomed with love by his wife Kim, and two friends, Dawn, and Mike.  Shortly after arriving, Dawn and Mike showed us the break, and Brandon paddled out with them.  Even on a choppy and bad day, it was some of the best surf I've seen in a while.  Cat and I took the longboard out and had a blast.  Before walking back up to the houses, JJ met us on the beach, and we all circled up to pray and thank God for bringing us YWAMers together with them.  Mike let us stay at his guest house, and Dawn cooked for us.  We didn't stay but that one day and night, but it was they most amazing time of meeting a group of people with the EXACT same vision and passion as Brandon and I.  We were able to briefly discuss sending more teams down to partner with them.  They have the ability to build homes for the locals, hand out rice, teach english, run bible classes, and work at nearby orphanages.  Combine that with the world-class surfing, and lets just say, Brandon and my little missionary mouths were frothing at the chance to return to Popoyo and bring teams with us.  

The last day of our scout-trip was spent traveling back to Managua and debriefing our outreach.  God opened a lot of doors in those last 2 days, and Brandon and I are over-excited to begin stepping forward into them!  This fall might hold some surprises!!!  We'll keep you posted!!!

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