Missouri Baptists proclaim Jesus in Nicaragua
August 26, 2003
Lives changed in that nation’s capital, here at home, too
MANAGUA, Nicaragua – Twenty-six Missouri Baptist missionaries from churches in Louisiana, O’Fallon, Mexico, and Jefferson City returned recently from Nicaragua.
The 10-day trip was organized by the East-Central Region Hispanic Ministry. Participating were members from First Baptist Church, Louisiana, First Baptist Church, O’Fallon, Fellowship Baptist Church, Mexico, and the Hispanic Church of First Baptist Church, Jefferson City. The missionaries helped with construction projects and held Vacation Bible School (VBS) at José Artigas Elementary School in the Nicaraguan capital of Managua. Revival services were conducted at a nearby church.
The trip was spawned a year ago when Luis Mendoza, a Nicaraguan native and pastor of the Hispanic Baptist Church, Louisiana, Mo., visited the elementary school he attended while living in Nicaragua with his then six-year-old son, Jacob. The initial purpose of their visit was to give Jacob an opportunity to compare the school he attends in the United States with the school Luis attended as a child. It was also an opportunity to share gifts with the students and teachers, but as Luis discovered God had a different reason for their visit.
Almost immediately upon his arrival, Luis realized it was as if he had entered a strangely unfamiliar place, not the school he attended as a child.
“It was deplorable," Luis said. “The school had not been painted for years, all the glass windows were broken or gone. There were no lights in the classrooms, the divided walls between classrooms were broken, there was no phone service, no brooms to sweep or mops to mop, and there was not a decent kitchen/break area for the teachers."
It was at this point that God changed the purpose of the Mendozas’ visit, Luis said, noting he felt compelled to meet with the assistant principal to inquire about the school’s dilapidated condition. As it turned out, the assistant principal had been praying for certain needs to be met.
“I was always sharing with the principal that it was my heart’s wish to see my school looking nice and have better conditions for the children, teachers, and administrators," the assistant principal. “To this, the principal would always answer, ‘To dream, dear teacher, is not bad.’ I have always had the conviction that with faith in God, the deplorable conditions of this school one day would change."
So she wasted little time in providing a list.
Luis took the list and made a promise: “I will talk with some churches in Missouri and will see what they can do."
Upon his return he met with members of several Missouri Baptist churches to discuss the situation in Managua. They began to pray. After a season of time they came to understand that God wanted them to go to Nicaragua. People responded with support and the trip became a reality.
Managua citizens gave the missionaries a warm welcome amid mid-July temperatures fluctuating between 85 and 95 degrees. They arrived early on a Saturday morning at the school and the Missouri teams began tearing down walls, building new ones and painting. The next day they were joined by 25 local volunteers and by the third day they were joined by 25 more.
“It was amazing seeing all those people working together to complete a common goal," Luis said. “It was normal to see children incorporated in the local teams. They helped carry blocks, transported sand and cement, threw away debris, swept and mopped.
“But in addition to the work, the missionaries had the opportunity of sharing the Gospel with the children through four days of VBS. Every day the number of children attending increased. During the last two days, hundreds of children came to hear the Gospel shared by the Missouri Baptists. Thirty-two children responded and asked Jesus to come into their hearts. Seven adults did the same during the revivals held in the church."
Once the work was completed, the school organized a special service to thank Missouri Baptists for what they had done. Luis noted that each person who spoke that night gave God the glory for the work completed. The Missouri missionaries also took the opportunity to recognize the volunteers who cooperated in fulfilling the task by providing 24 Nicaraguans with a small amount of money for each.
“This was decided by the team after realizing that most of the people helping were parents without jobs with families to support," Luis said.
While it was clear the Missourians made an impression on the Nicaraguans, it was just as clear that the experience left an impression on 26 Missouri Baptists as well.
“This is the first time we had been in a situation where we were totally dependent on God and people around us," said Paul ?????? of Fellowship Baptist, who was joined by his wife, ?????. “We were in a strange country where we could not speak the language, knew no one outside our little group and had absolutely no control over anything. For probably the first time in my life, I knew what it was to put myself completely in God’s hands."
Tania Buitrago, a Nicaraguan native that moved to Jefferson City when she was a little girl, helped as an interpreter for the Missourians.
“The trip was such a blessing in my life and it is an experience that I will never forget," she said. “To me it meant being able to lead my people, my culture to the blessings of Jesus Christ as their savior. We were able to provide hope for them and to let Nicaraguans know that somebody – including God — loves them."
Jean Williams, a member at Fellowship, said she has become more aware “of the many blessings that I take for granted each and every day" as a result of the trip.
Janet and Paul Carson, also from Fellowship, said the most important thing they learned is that with God, all things really are possible.
“I have always believed this, or at least thought I did, but on this trip I saw miracles," Janet said.
“The work at the school was also a miracle. That a bunch of strangers from two different countries and languages could … work together and accomplish so much in such a short time, it had to be God in control."
Bill and Nancy ????? of ?????? said the most difficult situation they faced was seeing a child whose face and legs were covered with sores.
“And we were not able to help," said Nancy.
Paul Traynor of First Louisiana said he was touched by “a little crippled lady who came to church every service. She had never had a Bible and she was given one by the mission team. She admired that Bible throughout the service."
Nancy Wyss of ????? said, “God spoke to me in such a way that no matter where I am or what I’m doing, I must not fail to share the Good News of Jesus".
Janet Carson of ????? said, “God showed me without a doubt there is always a way you can be useful in His service if you are willing. You may think you are not good in a certain area, but if that is where He needs you, He will enable you do what is needed".
Ruth Wood put it this way: “Not only did I learn more about myself and other people, but I learned what is really important in life and that is God and God alone. Nothing else really matters".
Judy Black of ???? said the trip was “a humbling experience. I am like so many other Americans in that I take so much for granted while those who have so little have shared their lives and their wherewithal with us. There is so much we can do to share our Christ, our wealth, and our time with those who need it in our towns, our country, and our world."
Said the assistant principle: ““This might sound untrue, but what I have been wishing for over a period of time is what the missionaries have accomplished, the assistant principal said after the missionaries had helped complete the project. “Through God’s help and the help of the missionaries, my dreams have become a reality. I thank our heavenly father that illuminated the minds and hearts of the missionaries to make this miracle happen."
Another mission trip to Nicaragua is scheduled for July 9 -17, 2004.