Teammates

I lived in St. Charles county, Missouri for several years before my journey to Nicaragua. Because of sheer proximity to St. Louis, I have adopted the local sports teams as my own. I will always have a soft spot for Reds of the “Big Red Machine” era and the Tim Horton and Dave Keon Toronto Maple Leafs. They have been, however, mostly supplanted by the Cardinals and the Blues. Side note … I used to follow both the Colts and the Rams before an owner of the Rams, who shall remain nameless, bolted for the bright lights of L.A.. Now I only root for the Colts.

Also, many people do not know that Nicaragua is really a baseball country. While most Central American countries follow their “futbol” (soccer) teams with unrivaled passion, baseball here in Nicaragua regularly trumps the “beautiful game” in terms of enthusiasm and team support. So when I tell them I have been to several Cardinal and Reds games. They want to know all of the details and are keen to listen.

Great lessons can be drawn from sports. I often use sport’s references as a tool for getting through to some of the young men and women in my classes.

Recently I had the opportunity to touch the heart of one kid by the analogy. Paulo (his mother preferred the Italian version of his name to the Spanish Pablo) comes to classes intermittently. He is a sharp young man and uses his brains for good endeavors as well as bad. When he is in class, he is often disruptive. Unfortunately he has a keen sense of humor and I find it difficult not to laugh at some of his comments.

Three weeks ago, I knew that I needed to have an old fashioned heart to heart with him. His commentary during class has become so pervasive that he was preventing the other students from concentrating on their work. So I asked Paulo to stay after in order to speak with him. He told me that he had a baseball game and he couldn’t stay.

I had a dilemma. Allow this boy to go away without the talk or force him to be late to his precious game. I compromised. I asked him if I could go to the game as well on the condition that afterwards we would have a conversation. He agreed.

So I went to the game. It was pretty good. He was the second baseman and performed well in the field. He is fast for his age but he has the same disease suffered by many young players in that he chooses to swing for the fences instead of using his speed to his advantage. That’s a whole other story. They won so he was in a good mood. After I said it was time for our talk and I bought him a “fresco”, the Nica version of sugary Koolaid. Then I confronted him about his behavior. I gave the typical speech about being a team and even a star player has to work with the whole team in order for everyone to be successful … yada, yada, yada … Blah, blah, blah.

He didn’t seem impressed and I was pretty disappointed that I had resorted to banal cliches in trying to reach Paulo.

The next day, I heard that his father was ill. He had contracted dengue. His fever was high and not very healthy to begin with, so he was in pretty bad shape. I visited the family and brought some mosquito repellent and food. They were grateful.

After a bit of time Paulo asked me why I had come. I told him that when you join God’s team you have a lot of teammates. And teammates help each other. I read him some scripture and we prayed together and that was that.

He came to the next class only to tell me that his dad was still not well and asked if I would come over again. I said that of course I would because “we are a team.” He nodded and left to go back home.

I returned to his home, prayed with the family, and talked a long time to the family about God, comfort, and hope.

The good news is that his father has recovered. The whole family came to church last Sunday and said that they wanted to be a permanent part of the community. Paulo was beaming with pride. God once again used a few minutes of time and a few prayers to begin writing a regenerative chapter in this whole family’s history.

But wait. There is more. The next class Paulo was one of the first to arrive and did not interrupt once. During class we had a lesson where each student had to write 3 full sentences describing themselves. I then noticed Paulo had gotten up and assisted 4 of the other students. When class ended I stopped Paulo again and thanked him for his help. His eyes twinkled and he smiled that smile and replied, “of course coach… we a team.” Bad grammar not withstanding, I admit there was a tiny bit of pride welling up inside of me.

I then looked at his work from the day’s lesson. I teared up. He had written:

“I learn English.

I play baseball.

I love Jesus.”

What more can be said. God is good!

Thanks, as always, for your prayers and encouragement. God is doing great things here in Nicaragua.

Dios los bendiga

Jeff.

The One Lost Sheep

I know that many of us are familiar with the parable of the lost sheep told by Jesus. We can find them in both Matthew 18 and Luke 15. Quickly told, there is a shepherd with one hundred sheep. One of them is lost. The shepherd then leaves the ninety-nine other sheep and searches for the one. He rejoices when he finds the single, lost lamb.

The story sums up our mission at UnoMas. We are a very personal enterprise. We, on Christ’s behalf, seek the one disenfranchised person who has been lost by society. Then we look for one more or “uno mas”.

Today, I want to share with you the story of one such person.

This is the story of Magda. She is around twelve years old. She comes from one of the poor barrios here in Granada. She is intelligent, witty, and full of life. She has been in my classes for almost two and one half years. I have developed a fatherly connection with her over the years. Her English has improved tremendously and she could make it in the hospitality world. That is, if she were old enough, if she had a certificate from the school, and if there were hospitality jobs to be had. She is not. She does not. There are not.

In the United States we take for granted that most people try to stay in school at least until it is time to graduate. I have heard many stories of people who did quit school to follow a dream or to escape a particularly horrible situation. But usually those stories involve folks 16, 17, or even 18 years old. Years ago my own grandfather left school at 11 to help the family on the farm. But in recent years, with child labor laws and social pressures, we don’t see as much of this in pre-teen children.

Magda has not been in classes since I returned from my brother’s funeral. So, I went to her neighborhood and asked where her family lived. I was shown and found no one at home. So I returned the next day, saw one of her brother’s and asked about Magda. He wasn’t immediately forthcoming, but finally told me that she was at the market. I did not find it strange, because it is normal for us in Nicaragua to make trips to market on a daily or every other day basis. Unlike North America, we don’t make the weekly supermarket trip. We rather, usually, go past the market often and pick up the few items we need for the next couple of days. I told him that my house was near the market and asked if he would tell Magda that she and her family are welcome to stop by anytime.

Five or six days passed. I was busy and didn’t think much about Magda or her brother. Then I heard from one of her classmates that she was working at the market. Not just going to the market. So I was off to find her. The city market is laid out in a few buildings just south of the center of town. Shops are packed along the streets beside the buildings with food, watches, small household goods, and the lot. Inside the buildings, there are many vendors selling all sorts of items. While you can find there many of the same items to be found outside, it seems as if there are many more clothes and shoes inside as well. There is also the fresh fish market inside the building. The sights, sounds, and smells overtake you as you wander through the aisles of kiosks.

I looked and then looked more for this little girl. On the first day, I had no luck. The second was much of the same. Finally on the third day, I found her. I was shocked. She still looked like the little girl I remembered but her face and hands seemed to have aged 30 years.

She was working in a tortilla booth. If you can call it that. It is a small table where she rolls balls of masa, sticks them between an old wooden press, while her grandmother swats at the gathering flies, mosquitoes, and gnats. Though her face seemed stress-worn and older, her eyes still held the twinkle of youth. When she looked up and saw me, she yelled, “Profe”, an endearing form of professor or teacher. I smiled and greeted her with a big hug. Then she told me her story.

Her mother had died while I was in the States. I didn’t even know she was sick. She was, by our standards, rather young. Twenty-seven or twenty-eight, not an unusual age for a Nicaraguan to be the mother of a twelve year old. Her mother had left Magda with seven brothers and sisters. All of them were younger. All of them were fathered by three different men. None of those men are in the picture now. All that was left was a grandma who was already suffering from the complications of diabetes and looked much older than her fifty-five years.

Magda was now left to care for her family. Twelve years old, scared, and poor, relegated to the roll of mother even though she herself was merely a child. She told with tears the agonizing story of her mother’s illness and death. She told me how she had to seek help from her neighbors to even get her mother out of the hospital and bury her. She apologized that she had not explained her absences from our classes before now.

I, of course, reassured her that I was not angry, but simply worried about her and her family. She said that she could not continue her classes, but she prayed everyday and read her bible when the other children were asleep. I was dumbstruck. I had no words. I could not fathom that kind of responsibility thrust upon me at such a tender age.

I asked what I could do to help. She replied, “nada”.

I wasn’t satisfied with that answer, so I contacted some of the government and charitable organizations to see what could be done. She was eligible for a little help. I also arranged to go to her house for an hour a week so that we might resume classes. In the market, as she told me her story, she continued to cry, and I am sure all the other vendors and passers by were quite intrigued by the scene.

This past week was the first evening that we met at her home. She invited a number of her friends and so we had about nine people in our first class. I gave her a voucher for the weekly feeding and even her stoic grandma smiled and thanked me. This story is not over. We pray that this little child has many years ahead of her to thrive. I will keep you informed as her saga unfolds.

This to me proves the value of seeking the one. Jesus, in his parable, stressed that searching for the one who was lost was far greater than tending to the ninety-nine who were safe. There are all too few who are safe here in terms of security and certainty of their future. But this little one was certainly lost. And by the grace of God, Magda will sleep better tonight.

You are the ones making a difference here in Nicaragua. You are supporting me as we seek for the one. I thank you for your continued encouragement as now we look for uno mas. We had several folks here in country who read last week’s blog and gave to support mosquito repellent. I thank you all for your prayers in this venture. It is still a great need and prayers are still needed.

You make a difference. One person, one life changed, one life committed can do an army’s work with God’s help.

Dios los bendiga.

Jeff

Prayer Request

I want to take this week’s blog and share with you an urgent prayer request. According to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Dengue Fever has surged in Nicaragua to epidemic levels. The MINSA (Ministry of Health) here in country has issued a epidemic warning and the U.S. Embassy has reiterated that warning. The latest figure show Nicaragua the highest rate of new dengue fever cases per capita in the region.

To further explain let me say, dengue fever is a virus spread through mosquito bites.  The most common symptoms of dengue are fever and one or more of the following symptoms: headache; eye pain (typically behind the eyes); muscle, joint, or bone pain; rash; nausea and vomiting; or unusual bleeding (nose or gum bleed, small red spots under the skin, or unusual bruising).

There is no cure. Pain relief, hydration, and symptom relief are the only viable medical answers currently available. The embassy suggests that mosquito bite prevention is the only significant step one can take to minimize risk. Just so you know, I supply myself and utilize plenty of mosquito repellent. While this is not foolproof, it has proven to be an effective deterrent. So personally, I would be considered low risk. But to those who are at risk (Children, the sick, and the aged) are, of course, more prone to greater suffering and even death.

The reason I bring up the matter in what normally would be a informational blog on the work we are accomplishing here at UnoMas Ministries is, I know that you have come to care for the Nicaraguan people as much as I care for them. Now is the time for you to take that caring and put it to practical form.

I need you to take time from your busy days, everyday, and pray that this epidemic is contained. I take spray to all my classes and services with me and use it on all my students. But that only works for a few hours in a given day. We need an intervention. The faith of our fathers and mothers has bound together in the past and quelled great plagues visited upon our ancestors. We are serving the same God and have the same power available to us.

If you would like help financially, you can write in the memo section of your check or electronic transfer “UnoMas repellent”.

This, however, is not a plea for money. This is a plea for prayer! Pray that the epidemic ceases. Pray that those suffering may be relieved. Pray that those caring for the ill can thwart the progress of the symptoms. Pray.

Let me stress again that I am well. In fact, I am stronger than ever. If not for your prayers I would not be here. If not for your encouragement I would not go on. But prayer does work and I am asking again for those prayers. I am excitedly anticipating the prospects of seeing God’s hand at work in miraculous ways.

I will keep you all up to date as new information is available. Thank you, as always, for your continued support.

Dios los bendiga, Jeff

De Nada

There is a story told in the Gospel of Luke about ten lepers. I think many of you raised in Sunday School have heard the story. If you attend church a lot, you have probably heard about the ten lepers who were healed by Jesus and they all went away. Only one came back to thank Jesus for the miracle. And he was … of all things … a foreigner … a Samaritan … the worst of the worst. Yet he came back and showed gratitude. The account is found in Luke 17:11-19.

I believe it is all too easy to forget the root of our favor when everything is going well. There are some who are too busy for their parents or their children or their spouses when times are great and we are enjoying the fruits of our many blessings. When they are gone, however, either the blessings or the loved ones, we inevitably think of all the chances we missed to enjoy … really enjoy those blessings. I know I have experienced that regret. But today, I will not pass on the opportunity.

Jesus healed ten people of leprosy. Nine of the recently “clean” folks ran off to the priest for their ceremonial stamp of approval, as it were. But one … one single individual … one whose life ahead was still a mystery. Knowing only that he could not fully re-enter society as an equal because of his origins. One whose prospects of a happy life and a full belly were slim. Yet he was the only one to return and give thanks. A short snippet from the life of Christ. Happening 2000 years ago, while echoing a familiar ring centuries later.

While I certainly don’t do what I do for the praise in adoration. Amazingly, while not surprisingly, I have found that those who have less. Those who are acquainted with hardships unimaginable to most of my readers. Those who are the poorest of the poor. Those are the ones who tend to be the most grateful when you are able to help them. This is a story about one such person.

There is a young man who was in one of my English classes. I knew he came from a family that was dealing with unemployment, illness, and constant flux in their living conditions. I invited him to bring his family to one of the feeding days. They showed up and we were able to provide them with some rice, beans, and vegetables. They all thanked me profusely and as usual I smiled and replied “de nada”. We usually will tell folks “de nada” is used as “your welcome”. As it is. However, “de nada” is actually the Spanish for “it was nothing” or “of nothing”.

A few days later the teen returned to my house. When I answered the door, I was in a bit of a rush and I hastily assumed that he wanted more. I explained that I only was able to do this once a week. And that he would have to come back. He politely waited until I through rumbling and bumbling and as it turned out … getting it totally wrong. He had not come to ask for more. He had come to see if I had any work for him to do at my house. I said that I did not have any extra money to pay him. Again getting it wrong! He then said the most remarkable thing. He said that I had already payed him. That I gave food to his mother and family. He said that he wanted to thank me in the only way he knew… trimming some shrubs or watering the plants.

You see… it wasn’t “nada” to him. It meant something. And he was grateful.

I just want you to know that I thank you all for the support and prayers you give to me. I want you to know I am thankful for your partnership in this endeavor. That it is not “nada”. It is something very special. Very needed. And most of all, very appreciated.

Do we know what happened to those nine other lepers? Do we even know what happened to the one who came back? No. All we know is Jesus’ reply. “Go, your faith has saved you.”

So from the bottom of my heart. Thank you. Thank you for your prayers. Thank you for your support. Thank you for your encouragement. We all have been so blessed. And now you are blessing others. And I also pass on the thanks of all those that you have blessed. It isn’t “nada”.

Dios los bendiga

Jeff

Be Love.

I wanted to let everyone know that the work here goes on. As many have probably heard has been a lot of changes in the Nicaragua to which we first came. I will not for obvious reasons not get into the politics of it all. But I did want to share a story about one of the consequences of those changes. Whether or not there are direct correlations to be drawn is frankly up to those who study these types of things. It is, as they say in the military, above my pay grade.

One of our staunchest allies in the work we do is a local pastor and his family. We met them on the first trip we took here and they have been invaluable in the continued ministry of Uno Mas. And beyond that they are good friends.

They endured a tragic loss in their family as well while I was in the U.S attending my brother’s funeral. The pastor and his wife were visiting the cemetery as a remembrance of their lost son. They were on a motor scooter. While inside the grounds they were approached by muggers. They threatened them and tried to rob them of what little money they had. The pastor gunned the scooter and they got away for a second. The would be villains ran off but our friend lost control of the bike and ran into a tree.

The results of this were that a man who already has back problems re-injured his spine and required two days of hospitalization. His wife, who is responsible for the running of a large family, broke her foot. There were other injuries but those were the biggest.

Why do I bring this up? Well first, of course, is that you hold the family up in your prayers not only for their loss. But also for their injuries. Secondly, this event speaks to root of why we are here. Why I am in Nicaragua. Why you are so important to the work. It speaks to the heart of our mission.

Why are we here? What are we doing?

The ministry approaches the issue in two different directions. We have a feeding program, we help facilitate potable water systems, and we teach English to the forgotten of Granada so they can get better jobs that allow them to feed their families. Hunger and thirst can prompt people to do wrong. Even if they know it’s wrong. This is how we try to fulfill Christ’s command to feed the hungry, heal the sick, give water to the thirsty. This our effort not only to help the poor, but also follow Jesus’ mandate.

We also spend a lot of time in evangelism and bible study. Why? Because no heart has ever been changed with money, or a job, or a meal, or a sip of cool water. No, lives change when they are renewed from within. A person will only change if that person is willing to submit to change. Fear is replaced by peace. Evil is replaced by good. Anger is replaced by love.

Now I know that we cannot change the fact that mugging will always occur. We cannot feed every poor person in Nicaragua. We will not stop all that ails the society here, any more than we can expect to change every heart and stop every crime in the U.S.

What we can do is what we were commanded to do. Be love, not just show kindness or sympathy or even empathy. Be love. Be love in a world engulfed in hate. Be love to the most unlovable. Be love even when it goes against every instinct and sense that is in our being. We are called to simply … be love.

Thank you for helping do that. I will keep you informed on the progress of our friends. Until next week…

Dios los bendiga.

Jeff

Reparto San Juan… part 2 … the sequel

Let me set this up properly. I want to give you some background so you understand how truly exciting the finish of this story is to me.

The church building in Reparto San Juan is as I have told you before, not much more than plastic chairs and a podium. Cesar, Julia, and Santos are three of the leaders in the church and have been working very diligently with me to grow both spiritually and in numbers. I think most of you remember me mentioning them before.

Secondly, one of the main goals of most missionaries is or at least in my mind should be, to train and develop leadership for the ongoing life of the church. I am not discounting evangelism, humanitarian efforts, and other such activities. But when it comes to church life. One of you goals should be to prepare the next generation. You can’t allow people to be so totally reliant on you, as a missionary, that if something happens to you and you leave… they are in a manner then orphaned.  I know this all too well with the events of the last six months. However, it is difficult because in a poverty stricken area, the greatest contribution a foreign missionary can often give is financial. And that is also the most difficult hurdle to overcome.

So we all know about my recent illness and then the untimely loss of my brother, Mike. So effectively for the past 6 months I have been in country and hard at it for about 30 days since March. Más o menos … as we say here. More or less in English. When I came back from my quick trip to Indianapolis and O’Fallon, the folks at the churches and all my students, of course, were amazingly gracious and kind to me.

But within a few minutes of arriving at the congregation in Reparto San Juan, I had noticed that the roof had been damaged in one of the storms I missed. I asked about it and my friend Santos told me that they were repairing it when they could afford it. He then asked if I could help. I said that my money was tied up in feeding programs and printing costs for the classes and all the other things that come up in ministry. But I said that I would put out a plea through my blog and Facebook site. I also said that I couldn’t promise them anything.

DON’T STOP READING NOW… THIS IS NOT THAT PLEA!!!

Then one of the others asked how much would it be. I said that I had a relationship with one of the hardware/lumber yards and I would find out for them. Ferretería La Fe is a great little place and the owner always gives me discounts. So we spec’d out the building, I went to the store and the owner gave me a price. I brought the budget back to the leadership and saw how little it was. Compared to U.S. construction costs … it is nothing.

The whole time I was silently thinking… maybe if I cut a corner here or there, I might be able to pull this off. But then I said, ok… let’s pray about it. We did and afterward one of the leaders said… “we can do this!”

And they did!

They gathered up all of the pennies and cordobas that they could muster, they gave it to me, and asked me to arrange the purchase. While they were a little short, I was able to cover the extra… it was less than a lunch out for me. But for the most part… they fixed their own roof. I don’t know if I can express how cool that is! I don’t know if we can ever understand how sacrificial that gift was. How many hours of sweat under a hot Nicaraguan sun did it take to earn that money. How much faith did it take to know God would bless them for their sacrifices and effort. As my uncle Wally would say, “if that don’t fire you up…then your wood is wet.”

Now, we have 2 other churches to get to that level, but I wanted you to know how gratified you should feel about being a part of growing a church in Nicaragua. We still have a lot of work to do, but I wanted you know that we are making a kingdom difference here. I say it often…but I couldn’t be here without you. If you are part of this ministry already… thank you. If you want to be a part of reaching Nicaragua with the love of Christ one person at a time… then contact me at jeff@unomasministry.com .

Sunday night… be looking forward to a video on YouTube that I will post here and share on Facebook. I want to show you the construction and some of the service.

Dios los bendiga, Jeff

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