What Else Can We Do?

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We finished painting the inside of the new school in the Palos Negros barrio in Rivas…we painted the tin roof, and we painted the wrought iron window and door guards. We cleaned up the floors of all the spilled paint, and left a special gift to the congregation that worships there to help them paint the outside…now it’s time to kick it and relax, right? Not with this group. Finishing a day early doesn’t mean they have an extra day to relax and hit the beach, they asked me, “What else can we do while we are here?” Such great attitudes, such great young people.

Freddy and I asked our hotel owner, Onedia, and her nephew, Eddy if they knew of a family near the hotel that could use some help. Onedia immediately told us of an older woman and her two daughters living on a plot with a dry well and two shacks that serve as their living quarters. We went out to check it out and to visit with the family. When we told them what we wanted to do, the woman asked us, “What is this going to cost me?” She didn’t think anyone would want to help her for nothing. We explained that our gift to her was to help repair her home because Christ compels us to love our neighbor. She was very appreciative and told us that we could do anything we wanted. We noticed that most of the walls in their shack were termite-eaten and were not providing any protection from the elements. So we decided to replace that rotted wood with cement board, which is impervious to termites and water; the main cause of damage to homes in this part of Nicaragua.

As we got back to the hotel to discuss our plans, Onedia came up to Freddy and told him that she was very impressed with our team. She is Catholic, and was very moved by our devotionals, singing, politeness, and friendliness that had been shown to her and Eddy. Eddy loves hanging out with us, and has become one of our group. Onedia wanted to do something nice for us, and told us that she would make a special Nicaraguan snack for us for our workday at the neighbor’s home.

I think this is what mission trips are for; cross-cultural opportunities to share our faith, show our love, and make new friends. This group from New Mexico State University is really showing what the love of Christ is.

Maybe you will want to join us next year as we have already made plans to build a house for a family here!

Nicaraguans: 1; Gringos: 1

We didn’t damage Nicaraguan – US relations today during the soccer game, or even during the pick-up softball game that followed. Today was a mixed day of work and fun for our team from New Mexico State Univ. We started the day early, so we could get a coat of paint on top of the school. The galvanized metal roof needed a coat of paint to help reduce the oxidation from the hot Caribbean sun. 4 of the guys volunteered to do the roof, while the rest of us added a second coat of paint on the walls and trim. It is starting to come along. It looks beautiful and clean in the classrooms. But whenever you have a big group of painters, messiness is an unfortunate outcome. We put a little more paint on the floor (and on ourselves) than we intended. We worked solid from 9 am to 1 pm, then we broke for another delicious lunch. The woman who cooked lunch for us today gave me an extra treat…Armando told her how much I love plantains, so she gave me a double helping.

The kids started gathering around 1:30 patiently waiting for us to finish our lunch. They wanted to play soccer with us and just hang out. I was so impressed with the crew as they did their best to communicate with the kids…I think fun is a universal language.

Another crowd started gathering closer to the church as the kids played with our kids from NMSU. This crowd kept inching closer to the field…we knew what they were here for. The soccer match that was promised yesterday was gathering momentum. It didn’t take long before two teams were fielded; a group of Aggies + 1 of the Nicaraguans in our group, JJ (our nickname for him because we can’t pronounce his real name). The locals had their dream team, including a boy of about 12 years old that handled the ball like a magician. The first game was a good challenge, and the Nicaraguans actually were impressed with the soccer skills of our team. But we still lost 2-0. The second game was a shocker…the Americans won! We even had two women on our team, which further impressed the local boys. The rubber match was won by the Nicaraguans 1-0. Lots of back-slapping, high-fiving and hand-shaking afterwards, which is a good sign. Someone suggested kickball, and we ended up hiking to the local baseball field to teach them a new game. Unfortunately the kickball was deflated after it hit a barbed wire fence. So the locals playing softball offered a game. Again a team of gringos was quickly formed including two of our new friends from the soccer match. This time we won 10-9! We invited the team to worship with us, and they offered a rematch on Monday, which was quickly accepted by “El Capitan” Greg Bowles. I hear he is slightly competitive…

I think this is a good trip…we are doing some good while having some fun. We are looking forward to worshiping with our new friends tomorrow.

3 Hardware Store Trips

My father-in-law always says that a good project requires at least 3 trips to the hardware store to get those parts that are always forgotten, or needed because something got broken while being fixed. Well, that is holding true for us here in Nicaragua. We started out a little late this morning because we wanted people to get a little sleep after our long day and night of travel, but we still got a lot of painting done…after the third trip to the hardware store.

We landed in Managua last night around 9 pm, and after clearing immigration, collecting our luggage and passing through customs, we found Freddy and our driver, Antonio waiting for us. It took us a while to load all the luggage on top of the minibus. Our drive to Playa Marsella took almost 3 hours, so it was close to 1 am when we finally arrived. The owner of the Villa Mar hotel was waiting for us, and we all crashed in our rooms.

This morning our task was to get to the Iglesia del Cristo in Rivas and get started on our project of painting the new school building. The church in Duncanville, Texas started the building and completed the shell before running out of money in 2008. So we were going to help finish it by painting the inside. Armando the preacher was very optimistic that we could get it all done in a week…apply a coat of primer on everything, then a coat of white on the bricks, and a coat of blue on the trim…oh, and don’t forget to paint the roof, refinish the doors, and paint the metal window guards. Whew! As we started looking at the supplies, we noticed paint roller covers, but no rollers. Also not enough brushes for the 18 of us. So in my weak Spanish, I told Freddy to go into town and buy the handles for the rollers. Poor Freddy misunderstood me and came back with the long handle extension poles for the rollers…but still no rollers! We would need the roller extension poles to paint the upper walls, so no harm done. We sent him back out to get the rollers. He came back with the rollers and a surprise…extra roller covers…smart guy Freddy is.

Everyone from NMSU painted in the high humidity and heat for six hours. We made some friends as well…the neighbor kids wanted to help, so we handed them sandpaper to help sand the doors. They took a few of the team to visit their home down the street. The home was crowded with people, and some older boys challenged our team to a soccer match…tomorrow, 2 pm. They looked serious, and the Aggies from NMSU shook a little in their boots at the challenge. We ate a delicious lunch prepared by some of the women from the church. We wanted to help in as many was as we could, so we hired them to cook us a hot lunch every day. No sandwiches for us, we wanted traditional Nicaraguan food. Today’s lunch: Delicious chicken cooked in a Jalapeno cream sauce with rice, beans, fried plantains and salad.

This is a great group of students and staff from University Church of Christ in Las Cruces, New Mexico. They have great attitudes, want to serve and love on some of our CRF kids. I can tell because they brought an entire duffel bag filled with treats for the kids here. A Church of Christ in a Roman Catholic dominated country like Nicaragua faces an uphill challenge, so any help we can provide is welcomed. Armando is excited that we want to reach out to his community, so he is planning some time for us to meet his neighbors. We are also hosting a giant fiesta after worship services on Sunday. We will invite the community to join us for worship and lunch afterwards. The kids are looking forward to breaking open some pinatas with us.

So far, this project is worth the 3 trips to the hardware store.

If you are interested in organizing a team to travel to some of our sites, go to our website and let us know!

Find What Works

This is a guest post from CRF President Milton Jones’ blog, Through Orange Colored Glasses.

Sean Penn has made a lot of headlines at the Cannes Film Festival, and it is not a movie that he is promoting. He is calling for the film industry and any sympathetic heart to finish the task in Haiti. The poverty and the crisis are still there. Others will argue that enough is enough. Too much money and effort went into the Haiti crisis and not nearly enough relief actually happened. They will spin stories of governmental abuse and poorly spent relief money.

I think I can argue both sides. (more…)

Will You Tell the Bad News

This is a guest post from CRF President Milton Jones’ blog, Through Orange Colored Glasses.

People are always on my case because I know so many bad things. Maybe it is because the first thing I do when I wake up every morning is to read “The Poverty News.” I keep being asked to change the subject. “We are tired of hearing of famines and drought,” they say. But sometimes you have to tell the bad news. I have found that there are so many messengers who only want to talk about the pleasant events. But would you tell people bad news if people really needed to hear it? Or do you avoid the negative simply to circumvent conflicts or pain?

How would you like to always be the one to break the bad news to people? Agabus was that way. Maybe you don’t remember him. It’s probably because we try to forget bearers of bad news. But every time we see in him in the book of Acts, he has bad news.

The first time Agabus tells the bad news is in Acts 11.

27 During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.) 29 The disciples, each according to his ability, decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea. 30 This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul. (Acts 11:27-30, NIV).

Some people get to announce the good news of the coming Messiah. Agabus gets to announce a drought. But it is still God’s message. And it is the message of the moment. And God’s message needs to be told whether it is the one you want to tell or not.

The second time we see Agabus is in Acts 21.

10 After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11 Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, “The Holy Spirit says, `In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.’ 12 When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. 13 Then Paul answered, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” 14 When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, “The Lord’s will be done.” (Acts 21:10-14, NIV).

Ananias gets to tell Paul of the good news of his salvation. Agabus gets to tell Paul the bad news of his arrest. But once again, it is God’s Word.  It must be told. And it is the message of the moment.

God’s Word always leads to good news, but there is often some bad news to be told before the good news occurs. In the case of the famine, God was going to use it to bring healing of bad relationships between Jews and Gentiles. The famine was going to create an opportunity for the Gentiles to give to the poor brethren in Jerusalem. Paul’s arrest was going to eventually take him to Rome where the gospel was going to penetrate the powers of the world with the power of the gospel.

There is nearly always bad news before good news. In fact the bad news makes the good news seem so much better. But will you tell it?

Before there is redemption, the bad news must be told. If you don’t know you are a sinner, you will never understand why you need to be saved.

Before there is restoration, the bad news must be confessed. Unless you confess how you have wronged someone, they will never be able to forgive you.

Before there is revival, the bad news must be declared. Unless corporate sin and misplaced priorities are confessed, the stirring fire of revival never ignites.

Now I know a few people who make it their goal to tell bad news. They are the Eeyores of the church. I don’t think that is your calling. But along the way in putting in a good word for Jesus, you may have to tell the bad news too. When it is your turn to be an Agabus, don’t retreat. Put in the bad word knowing the good is not far behind. God caused some powerfully good things to happen after Agabus told of the famine. He can still do that with famines today.