6:45 a.m. Slept like a baby and woke up at 6 a.m. fully rested. Another awesome rain storm in the middle of the night! So strange to sleep so deeply, so long, and get up so early feeling so rested. Wondering if this is achievable at home.
10:30 p.m. Wow! What a full,hot, muggy, sweaty day! This morning Sarah shared a great devo over breakfast, and then we headed out for our first of three ministry locations for the day. The first stop was in El Progresso which was about an hour-and-a-half away. When we got within a mile of the church we knew we were in for a challenge. It had been raining a bit, and we faced two major hills that were nothing more than a few pebbles and a lot of red clay. Reminded me of driving down the clay hills to our camp in Georgia, but with much less developed roads. Our bus driver Danny was nervous about getting the bus stuck. The first hill he could make it down but was uncertain about making it back up, but he went for it. The second hill was another story. In Latin America I have noticed frequently that they have a very different philosophy when it comes to overcoming slippery hills. In the states we would try to build up speed on the decline to make it up the incline. Here they get all the way to the bottom; stop; then try to gun it only to get stuck. This is what happened to us. I tried to convince him that he needed to build up his speed, but he was nervous about losing control. Add to this that this bus is his livelihood and it is understandable why he did not want to risk it. He ended up backing his bus back up the hill, and we let Kent attempt the hill with his van. He made it by building up speed as suggested, so he headed up shuttling the team in two groups up to the church and Danny parked the bus at the top of the hill about a half-mile from the church.This was by far the poorest church in terms of a building our kids have ever seen. It was a wooden shack basically on stilts. The pastor proudly showed Bobby a pile of 50 bricks that the church members had paid for in hopes of one day building a brick church. Talk about a humbling perspective on a building campaign! It will take around 500 to do what they are hoping. Inside our team - all of them, not just me! - were sweating in the heat. The church members brought us all coconuts with straws in them so we could have something to drink and they were really great! Through the sweat we did the Banana Race, the Dr.'s Office skit which everyone got a good laugh out of, “I Can Only Imagine”, Lauren shared her testimony, I shifted from my original message to the story of David & Goliath when I discovered that the majority of the people there were small children, we did “Everything”, then we prayed for the people. When we finished our presentation the pastor, with a huge smile on his face, thanked us for coming all of the way out to be with them. We then did face painting, made balloon animals, distributed balls, toys, candy, and some clothes, played parachute games, then took a picture with all of the folks from the church.
We then drove back about 20 minutes and ministered at another church in La Colonia. The place was packed with over 200 people, mostly children and youth. We did almost the same routine as before less the Banana race, and with Justin giving his testimony and Giovanni preaching. Afterward I did some quizzing to decide who would get the 8 or so basketballs we had to give away, asking them questions from the service. We then did our best to spread the kids out by sending some outside to play Parachute, some up to the front for balloons, some to the back for face painting, and others to the side to make a faith bracelet. Try as we did to spread them out, we were still mobbed by the children who were pushing their way to us, pulling on our clothes, etc. I walked around giving away some small balls, toys, and candy. When we were sure that everyone had gotten at least something - most several things, we finally had to just pack up and go because the children would not go until we did. When we left we went up the street to a small store so everyone could get a drink and a snack. We then drove a few blocks to a park so the kids could play a bit. The entire area is banana fields for Dole and Chiquita, and is filled with government houses for all of the people who work the fields, mostly Nicaraguans. We found that we were only a half an hour from Nicaragua. There were some teens playing soccer, so our kids went out and ended up playing a game with them for about a half an hour. A few muddy clothes later we loaded up and drove to Los Lirios, our last ministry stop of the day.
When we arrived at the church, Andres, our local guide for the day, took Ady & I behind the pastor’s house and showed us so many incredible plants and trees. It was so tropical and incredible to see all of the fruits and such that we pay so much money for in the States. We ran the entire service doing “I Can Only Imagine”, Peter shared his testimony, then I preached a message from I Thessalonians 2. After the message we did “Everything”, then David & Tiffany sang “Rescue” and I gave an altar call. Perhaps 7 or 8 people came forward to receive Christ and we prayed for them, gave the Bibles and some literature, then I gave an invitation to come forward and almost the whole church came up for prayer. For over an hour there was intense prayer and worship happening which climaxed in celebratory singing and dancing. It was awesome! Then the pastor invited our team to the front, had the entire church come forward to thank us, and prayed over us. After a pic with the pastor and his family we loaded up and drove back to camp. Along the way Andres was pointing out the drug problems in the area, especially among teenagers. Cocaine is big here, and he pointed out drug houses, dealers, and lookouts as we drove. He also told us that there is a house of child prostitution in which 12-13 year old girls, and some boys, are in. They are given tiny bits of cocaine as payment for their services. So sad! As we drove through the streets, our team began to pray for these situations and for the churches in the area. When we got back to camp John and Lynette had dinner ready for us and we had a good time debriefing our day. It was truly humbling to experience the people and situations we did today.