Sunday, October 4, 2009

Day 5 in Matagalpa

We started our morning off by going to church in Matagalpa at Iglesia Bautista Nueva Jerusalem where Mike was asked to speak by Pastor Victor Hugo Morales Altamirano. Dave Waters translated Mike's sermon on the Good Samaritan. Not only did Mike get a chance to speak, he also had the opportunity to dedicate two babies. The worship included dance and songs by the children's ministry with solos performed by pre-school aged girls, one of which was Pastor Victor's daughter.

In the afternoon we got ready for our fifth and final distribution at the school which we had painted the day before. During this distribution, there were several dance performances prior to the 43 packs being distributed. Emotions ran high as we realized our mission was coming to an end and our hearts had become full with such a personal connection to the people and the children of Nicaragua. In just a few shorts days it felt like we made friends that will last for a life time.

Thank you all for being part of our mission...

The Foothill Vineyard Mission Team

A Divine Appointment...

The plan for Saturday night was slightly different for 3 members of our team.  Joe was asked by both Pastor Mike and Dave Waters to preach at the youth night on Saturday for Pastor Victor's church, the church we would be attending Sunday morning.  They came to Joe before our afternoon distribution to see if he was interested in speaking. Joe knew that it would be an opportunity of a lifetime to both trust in God to break the language barrier, and to speak to kids who have an enormous place in his heart, so he gladly agreed to speak that night. Karla was more than willing to translate for him at the service and sarah was more than happy to go along for support, and to join the local youth.  Upon getting back from the distribution, Joe took the half hour he had and dedicated half of it in prayer, telling God that he was in a place where God was the ONLY way he would be able to deliver a message efficiently.  The remaining time he used to put together a general outline of what he wanted to talk about, focusing on 1 Timothy 4:12, reminding youth to not let anyone look down on them because of their youth, and to encourage them to set an example to others, and reminding the youth of other scriptures of the promises of God to always be with them wherever they go (Joshua 1:9) and that God has an amazing plan for their lives (Jeremiah 29:11).  

In getting to the church, we joined in with them in incredible, spirit-filled worship where every voice could be heard, continuing with what Pastor Victor called an encouraging and uplifting message from Joe, and concluding with prayer for their youth leader and the youth of the church.  What was most eye-opening for us during the service was their hearts for worship. The voices sounded like 200 people when there were only about 25, and the kids shout, clap, dance, and so obviously express incredible love for our Lord.  After the service, while we talked with the youth, their youth leader told us how they meet EVERY morning at 3:45 am to pray for themselves, their family, their church, and their country. They began to beg us to join them and all three of us felt led to sacrifice the sleep to join them early in the morning. We arrived at the church at about 4 am to a circle of youth on their hands and knees crying out in their own prayers.  We happily joined their circle of prayer and all felt God's spirit working on each person in the room.  After about a half hour, we continued in prayer for the church itself, praying over the chairs, the offering basket, the foundation, and the musical instruments. We concluded the prayer time with emotional messages from some of the youth to us, and some messages from us to the youth; as well as the youth gathering around the 3 of us and Pastor Jerson to pray over us and our mission. What an incredible way to start our sunday!

As for our divine appointment...On our saturday night youth meeting, following the service, we were approached by Pastor Victor who introduced us to a 16 year old young lady named Carelia. This young lady simply looked broken spirited. Pastor Victor asked if we could pray for her, so Karla asked what it was she needed prayer for.  She was very hesitant to tell us what she needed prayer for, so we talked to her and prayed uplifting words for God's spirit to fill her. The language barrier was non-existent as both Joe and Karla did not need to wait one moment for the other. After about 10 minutes of intense prayer for this girl, we came to realize what was tearing her apart. She had lost her father a while ago, and just recently lost her mother.  She has no one left! She was left some property, but does not have enough funds to keep it. Now, she is between locations and feels all alone, and has nowhere to call "home". We reminded her of the promises Joe talked about in his message, and gave her many other scriptures to encourage and lift her up.  One scripture in particular that we reminded her of is when Lazarus had died and the book of John says that "Jesus wept." This verse was perfect for her to hear in this instance because it showed her that Jesus knows the struggles we go through in losing those we care about. Most importantly about this divine appointment is that we were told she was contemplating suicide that exact night, and in her coming to church that night, God was able to remind her of His promise of ALWAYS being with us, and that He has an incredible plan for her life.  She is a beautiful young lady with a beautiful heart. She is the one who choreographs all of the children's dance performances, and we were able to show her how much she means to the kids and the way the kids smile when they see her. Also, she did not have a bible of her own, and it just so happened that we had 1 bible in Spanish with us that night that we were able to give to her! Normally, she does not go to the 3:45 am prayer meeting, but we persistently asked her to come. When we walked in the doors at 4 am and saw the circle of youth, the only space to kneel was right next to Carelia! We were so blessed to continue to get to know her this morning! God be with you Carelia! We all love you so much, and are now a part of our family!

Joe, Karla, and Sarah 

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Day 4 in Matagalpa

Our plan for today was to go to a local school, Escuela Ruben Dario, and paint some of the classrooms. We arrived around 8am and painted until noon. We ended up painting 4 classrooms with the teachers of the school, and some of the children. Painting in Nicaragua is a little different than the painting we do in the USA. They water down the paint so much that it runs down the walls, forcing us to go over it a few times, still showing some of the underlying graffiti in some spots. We did, however, have a competition to see who got the most paint on themselves rather than on the wall. Your winner is....Sarah Heralda! Congratulations Sarah! haha...Oh, and the winner for "Teachers Pet" is Senor Gregorio Scantlin! Nice job Greg, i think! Overall, it was an exhausting morning of hard labor. However, it was totally worth it and rewarding to see the smiles on the teachers faces.

The next plan on our agenda was another Pack distribution. This distribution was in the most depressing area so far. We even had to drive by the local sewage treatment plant to get to this community. After navigating through the off-road terrain, we arrived at our location on the side of a street where a mass of both children and parents gathered to wait for our arrival. Unfortunately, the need for these Packs was far greater than what we could provide. It made us all realize how huge the need is here, however, we were extremely blessed knowing it was the neediest children that received a Pack. The photo of the little boy with the water bottle is just one of the many familiar faces we saw who were unable to get a pack. Lets pray that this boy, or others, will be one of the children that receive one of our Packs in the near future.

The last thing that happened today occurred tonight while most of the team was at dinner. Dave Waters and Pastor Mike approached Joe this afternoon asking if he wanted to go to the church we will be attending in the morning, to speak to the youth. It was fairly last minute but Joe decided it would be an incredible opportunity. Karla joined Joe to translate, and Sarah went along for support, and they experienced things that cannot be summed up in this blog. They got back to the hotel with enormous smiles and what Joe calls "Spirit Bumps". :) Joe will be writing a separate blog tomorrow along with some photos from his experience so make sure to check it out tomorrow!!!

We would also like to give an extreme shout out to our ministry leaders Dave and Pam Waters. This couple is simply amazing, and this trip could NOT have been achieved without their incredible leadership. God bless you both so much!!!

Good night all! Thank you for all of your continued love, support, and prayers. Keep the comments coming! Buenos Noches!

Courtney "CoCo", Greg "Gregorio", Joe "Chepe", and Craig "Craig-O"

Friday, October 2, 2009

Day 3 in Matagalpa

Today we started by driving from Managua to Matagalpa which was about a 2 hour drive...and man do we have some great hosts. Our driver is Elias and our connection to the schools is Pastor Jerson.

Once we arrived we put together 36 paks to take to a local school. We prayed and sang with the children and handed out numerous amounts of candy to those who did not receive paks. The children are chosen by the local leaders based on necessity. We met dedicated teachers as well as the principal of another local school in Matagalpa. Once we handed out the paks we then drove to the principal's school that we will be painting tomorrow with the help of parents, teachers and pastors. We had the opportunity to see the conditions where the students learn. The school goes from preschool to 12th grade and they have over 2000 students but can only house 400 at a time. They have 4 different shifts to meet their needs which range from morning, afternoon, evening and Saturdays. We look forward to working with these families tomorrow to make their school a more welcoming environment.

Thank you for your continued prayers,

Greg, Courtney, Karla, Sarah and the rest of the mission team.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Precious Moments Day 2

Can you say HOT! It's winter here and some are putting on their sweaters but the gringos, well, we are just sweating!

We delivered paks today to some pretty special kids. It's amazing how when you walk into the group, that has gathered to see what we have brought them, there will be that one child that catches your eye first and then your heart. For each one of us, and at each location, there is "that one" that you want to slip into your backpack and take home. We get to know them for a very short time hugging, praying and sharing bits and pieces of our lives and then it's time to say a teary "adios".

So tonight I don't want to say adios but rather, Jesus te ama to Jessica, Alejandro, Jesus, Stephanie, Angel, Victor, Ruth, Maria, Rose, Kaylee, Africa, Juan, Miguel, Luis and to all the others that we loved today. I will be praying for you all and God bless you, beautiful children.

We miss you Nicolle, Nathan, Christian, Aiden, Pam, Mom, Dad and everyone else. We love you, and know that you are very precious to us.

Debra Walters (Mom, Nana)

10-1-09 Updates!

Where do we begin....What a day it has been. We started off by doing a quick devotional and prayer time in the lobby of the hotel. Courtney shared 1 Peter 3:8 about love, compassion, and humility, which summed up the previous night's emotions and Pastor Mike shared from 2 Corinthians 5:11-21 about how we are Christ's ambassadors and how we are here solely because of the work God has done in each of our lives and in our hearts. We then left to our distribution in the city of Masaya. We unloaded and began to gather in a museum and began with some worship. Karla translated for us as their pastors talked about Jesus and the importance of being a good parent. They said it takes three things to make a good family: a mom, a dad, and God. Also, they talked about how the decisions that the parents make, affect the children and their futures. Pastor Mike also shared about the importance of first, loving God, and second, loving our neighbors. We then began to hand out the boxes to the children one-by-one. We waited until everyone had received their boxes and they opened them all at once. The looks on their faces were amazing. For a majority of the children, it was the first gift they have ever received. Each team member had a unique bond with a child, or parent.

The plan was to go straight to the orphanage after our morning distribution. However, we stopped at a small village just outside the town and realized a lot of the kids and families that lived there were families we met at the distribution. This allowed us to further continue our ministry to these families and kids. Two families that we especially connected with were more than willing to show us their "homes". Although most of us have bathrooms the size of these homes, they were so honored to invite us in. These houses varied in the way they were made from plastics, to aluminum/tin panels, and trash bags. One family in particular housed 5 people with 3 beds, actually...cots! For today, this was definitely the most eye opening experience, and emotion packed event. We got back into the van and a number of us reflected on the afternoon and were brought to tears because of the relationships we formed and the lives we touched.

We then arrived at the New Life Nicaragua orphanage and met its founder Christine. She explained that they carried 32 kids ranging from birth to six, with two boys at age 8. The orphanage takes in children removed by child services mainly as a result from malnutrition, as well as children who were simply abandoned. Although the kids were extremely stranger-anxious, they eventually responded to us and opened up. Adoptions are not an option in Nicaragua except through the Government, therefore, none of us came home with new children :(

Well that was our Thursday everyone! We hope you enjoyed reading about our day and we especially hope that you feel a little more a part of this trip. We encourage you to become "followers" on our blog and even more, post comments about what you think! We love you all and thank you so much for your prayers! Talk with you tomorrow!!!

Joe, Greg & Courtney, Sarah, Karla, & Pastor Mike

ps. Debra might have been slightly exhausted/sweaty because in her post, the little girl "Africa" is really named Kenya (A country of Africa) but close enough...We love you Debra :)
Kenya is the little girl wearing Greg's hat.