Just show up

I know I am a little hypocritical about cliches. I say that I don’t like them and I purport to be against their usage in spoken or written communication. However, I know that most have you heard an old adage come out of my mouth. I don’t always remember who told it to me. Maybe I read it or picked it up in a conversation. But pithy little statements sometimes can say succinctly what otherwise might take paragraphs to explain. I think the reason for my disdain is that I had a couple of old professors who always marked papers down for two stylistic details. One, the use of the word “thing” when you can actually use the word that “thing” is describing. And two, the overuse of cliches. So with apologies to them here is the thing I want to say…

God is more concerned about your availability than your capability!

In short most of the successes in my life can be attributed to just showing up. And many of the failures were when I showed up with the wrong attitude or didn’t show up at all.

I have a story to illustrate. As you are all aware, before I came home last time I wasn’t feeling the greatest. I was invited to a church service to preach. Man, I was dreading it. I did not want to go. I didn’t want to preach. I just wanted to rest. But I went anyway.

Let me tell you… I was terrible. I wasn’t thinking clearly, my Spanish was off, and I was tired and it showed. I still ended the sermon with the familiar phrase straight out of the Joy Community Church handbook on preaching, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. He wants to have relationship with you. If you want to hear more about this relationship see me after the service.”

Well, this guy came up to me afterwards. He reeked of sweat, glue (his drug of choice), and other aromas that I don’t care to get into. He walked up and said, “does God love me”? I said, “of course.” So we talked and don’t really remember everything we talked about, but ultimately I told him that I was going to the U.S. and would see him when I came back. I gave him one of the Bibles I keep in my backpack, went home, and the next week I came back to the States. And you all know how that turned out.

So fast forward 4 months. I am back in Nicaragua, walking to the market and I hear someone calling, “pastor, pastor”. It was that man. I honestly didn’t recognize him. He wasn’t all spiffed up, but he didn’t stink and he wasn’t high (as far as I could tell). I asked him how he was and he told me that the night I had spoken to him changed his life. He started reading his Bible, starting in John. I really don’t remember telling him that. But it is possible because that is where I tell everyone to start reading, especially if they haven’t read the Bible before. He also went back to the church I had visited and the regular pastor there started to mentor him. He got him in a rehab program. And now one day at a time he is trying to grow in his relationship with God.

Why do tell you this. Is it so you can pat me on the back or admire my skill at motivation? No!!! Of course not. I didn’t do anything. The only thing I did was show up. God did the rest. My capabilities were zero. But God used simply the one thing I could not mess up. My presence. And I almost messed that up. I almost didn’t show up.

I am telling you this because you make it possible for me to show up. Your prayers and your generosity allow me to be here. God handles the rest.

A friend of mine often reminds me that our job is to introduce people to the God who wants to have relationship with them. It is the Holy Spirit that draws all men and women to Him. We make the intros and He does the rest.

So thank you for giving me the ability to show up. My capabilities may be overshadowed by many. But I will, with your help, be available.

I guess cliches and adages aren’t always that bad. Thanks again. Please continue to pray for Oscar. And on a personal note pease continue to pray for my brother.

Until next time, Dios los bendiga, Jeff

Eternal impact!

One of the greatest needs the folks of Nicaragua face everyday is the lack of jobs. As many of you are aware, the fall in tourism here has had a ripple affect throughout the entire population. To make up for this there are many who have turned to crime or begging to be sure… however, one of the other sources of revenue is vending. There, of course, has always been a large street vendor community here. One cannot walk from the park to the lake without encountering people who want to sell you everything from sunglasses to pottery to cashews and every conceivable item in between. And this has only increased.

Along my street alone, there must be at least 15 or 20 new vendors selling fruit, vegetables, water, or bread. If I am home for more than an hour or two and leave my gate closed but my door open, I will hear a minimum of 5 people yelling “Buenas” (the preferred method of announcing yourself).

What does that have to do with Uno Mas, you may ask? Well one of the men who I have known from almost the beginning … we’ll call him “Juan” … because he does have Facebook and does read my blog. Well, Juan, has been studying English with me and was one of the first men able to find new employment because of his new skills. He was a success story. He is married and has two small children and he lives in the north part of town.

Juan was laid off a year ago. He has been a stalwart friend and his family has been instrumental in helping me and the ministry when I was sick in spite of his personal struggles. Juan came to me when I first returned to Nicaragua after my unexpected 3 month furlough. He said he needed some help. I told him my standard… “if I can then I will”. He said that his wife makes the best empanadas. He even brought some with him and he was right. They were delicious. Then he said he wanted to take his wife’s empanadas and sell them on buses. This is a normal activity, especially on what everyone calls the “chicken buses”.

He asked me if I could help him with supplies … corn meal, meat, cheese, potatoes, etc. He also told me that his water and light bills were overdue because of the layoff. Now, I have to admit something to you. I actually tried to dissuade home from this enterprise because I have ridden the buses to Rivas and San Juan del Sur and never been without a food vendor who pops on the bus at some point in the trip… sells his wares… then gets off the bus and hails one going the other direction. I really didn’t think it would be profitable.

I also get these stories of despair all the time so it is difficult to discern sometimes who should get what. But because of our relationship over the years I decided to help him. I lent him enough money to pay off his bills, went shopping with his wife, and as a gift I bought him a thermal container to carry the product and keep them somewhat warm.

The last thing he asked me before he left that day was if I would pray for him and bless him. I said, “of course.” We prayed and he walked away smiling.

It is now less than 30 days since I helped Juan. And I received a ring of my doorbell. It was Juan. He had the money I lent him. I must have looked shocked, because he asked me if I was busy and should he come back later. Wow… 30 days … and he was already at my door. I asked him if he had enough to restock his supplies and pay the bills. He said, “no”. So I told him to keep the money until he could.

Why am I telling you this? It is because when I first arrived in Nicaragua we all agreed that the mission was to share the love of Christ in any way we could. And when we did that … we would reach “Uno Mas” or “One More”. That is what we are accomplishing together. One person at a time … one family at a time. Because of you there is a family who can eat and stay in their home. Because of you there is a man and a woman who can stand with pride knowing they are providing for their family. Because of you the cause of Christ was furthered.

Just for an update… we are still ministering to 3 different congregations… two of them are the “Jeff, a guitar, and a bible under a tree” types that we had in mind when this all started. School is gearing up again. Once word was out that I was back in town we are now up to almost 100 students. A few less than when I left in March… but I think that will come back as well. We fed 27 families this week. I also met with some local pastors to talk about working together.

It’s all because of you … the loyal supporters of Uno Mas. Your support is making eternal impact … everyday. Thank you.

Continue to pray for Pastor Guillermo’s family especially Oscar. Also… I will send a prayer request via Maggie and the Joy email…but suffice it to say … be in prayer for my brother and his family.

Until next week. Dios te bendiga, Jeff.

Reparto San Juan

One of the joys of this ministry is hanging out with folks and just singing and praising. There is a little area called Reparto San Juan not very far from town. It is distinctive in that there are some very nice houses … I guess because it is off the main highway to Managua. There is even a very fancy “Jockey Club” … sort of a country club without the golf course.

But, there is also some a poorest areas in the Department (read state or province). The little shacks, muddy road, and animals in the way wherever you go. That is where we have one of our services each week. Cut-tree pillars and a tin roof … not much … but it serves well

I just got back from services and MY INTERNET IS WORKING!!! So I thought I drop some photos. I hope the movie plays for you. These four boys (and usually a girl as well) make up a new “praise dance” every week.

It is soooo cool

Dios los bendiga, Jeff

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Hope

If you are a faithful reader of this blog or if you know me very well personally, then you are expecting the first line to read something like… “what a great week we had” or “I am so excited about” or something similar. Today I cannot do that.

Before any of you jump to conclusions… I am personally doing well. My health and ministry are fine. I am still walking everyday, feeling better everyday, blessed by more students in our English programs everyday, and I am amazed by the opportunities that come before me.

But this week has been horrible for other people in my life … both here in Nicaragua and the U.S.. At least 7 people that I either know well or am related to have had some sort of life altering news, personal setback, or major challenges this week. I am sure that there are probably 100, maybe 1000 more that I don’t know about. The last few months have cemented in my own life how difficult our existence here is. For most of the folks I know … even some who have a relative life of ease financially and socially… life is not for the faint of heart. It’s hard. It’s grueling. It doesn’t take prisoners. But read on my friends … read on.

There is a song written by Scott Wesley Brown and Gregg Nelson called “When Answers Aren’t Enough” that sums up the hope we have. It expresses the fact that sometimes the church words and hymns and “I’ll be praying for you” sentiments (while appreciated) just don’t fill that void or heartache or hurt. Fortunately for us, we have more than that. We have the promises of a God who loved us so much He sent us the ultimate comfort… the ultimate hope … the ultimate balm for all of our pain … He sent us Jesus.

So if you are one of the seven I know about… or if you are one of the thousands I don’t know about… I want to share these lyrics. I hope you get some comfort from the words of this great song….

“1. You have faced the mountains of desperation
You have climbed, you have fought, you have won
But this valley that lies coldly before you
Casts a shadow you cannot overcome

2. And just when you thought you had it all together
You knew every verse to get you “
But this time the sorrow broke more than just your heart
And reciting all those verses just won’t do

Chorus
When answers aren’t enough, there is Jesus
He is more than just an answer to your prayer
And your heart will find a safe and peaceful refuge
When answers aren’t enough, He is there

3. Instead of asking why did it happen
Think of where it can lead you from here
And as your pain is slowly easing, you can find a greater reason
To live your life triumphant through the tears.”

Dios te bendiga, Jeff 

Day of Joy

We haven’t done a whole lot these last 3 days. Today is another national holiday. It is the 40th anniversary of Nicaragua’s revolution. On the calendar it says “Day of Joy”. Like most holidays the fireworks start around 5:30 in the morning and the bands stop around 10 or 11 or even later.

Schools are on vacation and many of us North Americans keep a low profile. At least that is what the U.S. Embassy suggests.

I hope today is a “Day of Joy” for you no matter where you are. You know I have written and spoken many times about joy and how it is a state of being. At the same time happiness can be temporary and fleeting. It is more of a present state of mind. So even if today is not a happy day for you. Even if you have a lot of “stuff” going on… I hope you find joy today. Remember… Nehemiah 8:10 says “the joy of the Lord is my strength.” Or in Spanish… “Pues el gozo del Señor es nuestra fortaleza.”

Dios los bendiga, Jeff

FINALLY!!!!

It seems as if we finally (after more than two weeks) have our internet situation solved. So I’m not saying much I wanted you enjoy these pictures and one video. Some of them are in the small church outside of town. Others are from Pastor Guillermo’s church. The video is of kids worshipping. Also, I threw in another picture of Oscar because he still desperately needs your prayers.

If my carrier continues to cooperate… expect many more pics in the future.

Dios los bendiga… Jeff

This is Oscar…. the one we have been praying for
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Arrrrrgh!!! The Internet

I wanted you to know that I hadn’t forgotten you and it wasn’t for lack of trying that this post is so late. In fact I have rewritten this about six times and am finally giving up for the day. Please pray that the internet is better tomorrow.

For those geeks out there … I am “guaranteed” 2mbps by my provider. Today … when it worked at all… I ran a “Speedtest” and was averaging 0.17 mbps. That was download. My upload times were even worse.

Long story short…. I am going to try again tomorrow to upload some great photos which I have been wanting to share …. keep the prayers going for that.

Also, pray tomorrow is a peaceful day … it is called the “Repliegue “ March and it is an annual event. Many marchers and probably some counter marchers as well. Nicaragua has been doing relatively well lately (with the exception of Managua proper)… but it feels tentative at best and eerily calm at worse. We can always use your prayers.

Continue to pray for Oscar and rest of Pastor Guillermo’s family…. no real update there. Just pray for a miracle.

Hope to get the pics up soon… otherwise….

Dios te bendiga, Jeff

Prayer request

As we all reflect next week on our (U.S.) Independence Day, I believe it sometimes takes a trip outside the states to appreciate the freedoms we have. I am often reminded in my journey how fortunate I am to have been born where I was born and into whose family I was blessed to be born. I am amazed at how many take that for granted.

I guess it is the same for our very life itself. We sometimes take that for granted as well. I am deeply saddened by the news we received from the doctor concerning Oscar. He has developed another large mass on his neck and they are using the word terminal now for the first time. We don’t have a firm prognosis but we know it will be a difficult time for him and his family.

But Oscar is not one to complain. He has a perpetual smile that fills the room. He is such a gentle spirit. His attitude gives me pause and makes me look at my own. I have had some heath issues in the past year and I must admit I have questioned “why”? But then I look at Oscar and I think “wow, I have it made”.

So next week as you are eating your barbecue and enjoying your family or whatever it is that you do on “the 4th”. Pease take a moment and pray for Oscar. Pray for his parents Pastor Guillermo and dońa Daniela. Also pray for the rest of his family. Then thank God for all the blessings you have. Take inventory. It will do you good.

Dios los bendiga …. Jeff

An old friend returns

Another great week in Granada…. not as rainy as last so we were get out a little in the barrios. We are itching for all the preliminaries to be finished so we can fill up all of our classes.

I was able to spend time at church with pastor Guillermo this past Sunday and the doña Daniela graciously invited me for lunch… ok it was more like she threatened to the boys physically restrain me if I didn’t eat with them. We were able to have some good conversations about the future adventures UnoMas and the church Guillermo serves. I think you all will be pleasantly surprised at how quickly some of these plans can move forward. Keep watching the blog and Facebook for all the newest ministry opportunities we are pursuing.

Thanks to a generous donation by two of our Joy families… I got an old friend back today. Now I know many of you will be concerned… but rest assured I got clearance from all medical folks before I got her repaired. But the old war horse is back in service and ready for duty. Yes, my Dayun 125 is looking better than before. They were able to add new parts because of a program Dayun has had for years. And that is, except for improvements… they try to make many parts interchangeable from year to year. So like the old Johnny Cash song…. I’ve got an 2009, 2010, 2013, 2015, 2019 Dayun 125. Please pray that God protects me from the taxis and other beasts of the street. I really don’t want any more time at the doctor’s office. I think I have put my time in.

Of course, as always please be in prayer for our young brother Oscar. He continues with his treatment and is in a lot of pain. Ask God to protect him, Guillermo and Daniela as they travel back and forth to Managua. Thank you.

Otherwise, it’s been a glorious week…. can’t wait to see what is in store for us next week. Until then…

Dios los bendiga, Jeff

Home safely

It has been a crazy week. Mostly reconnecting with old coworkers and friends. As I said before I am trying to pace myself, but find that difficult because I am always thinking of new things and people I haven’t seen.

Three months doesn’t seem like a long time but in this culture where thugs change rapidly it must have seemed like an eternity . Especially to the children.

It’s sort of nice to have tears of joy shed when a title child sees you. Many told me the thought I wasn’t coming back. One even thought I was dead. But everyone is ready to get back into the class schedule again.

A little housekeeping…. as you know we suspended the blog while I was stateside, in the hospital, then subsequent recuperation… but be looking again for it every Friday, like before. I am going to try to bring not only relevant stories about the work, but many of you have requested more photos which I will endeavor to provide.

Please continue to keep Oscar (Guillermo’s son) in your prayer as he starts the cancer treatments soon.

Thank you for all your love and support, I couldn’t be here without it. Until next time….

Dios los bendiga…. Jeff