I just returned from five days in Central America, where I joined a team of four Coloradons to minister together to hungry pastors in Spanish-speaking Nicaragua. Eighty-one pastors showed up for our conference, and many more would have come if they could have afforded transportation, but they live in the Western Hemisphere’s second-poorest nation, devastated by years of civil wars and natural disasters, such as hurricane Mitch. Those pastors who came represented at least seven denominations, from Mennonite to Baptist to Assembly of God, and some traveled as much as eight hours to be with us.
While we Americans stayed each night in a local hotel, the Nicaraguan pastors slept on large shelves in one big barn at the “Christian retreat center” where our conference was held. It reminded me of concentration camp barracks, but the Nicaraguan pastors were full of joy. We held plenary sessions in a primitive “chapel” that had a roof but no walls, and workshop sessions under palm trees. The four Coloradons were all great teachers, and I had many hours of fun teaching and answering lots of questions from the pastors, the subjects ranging from divorce and remarriage to spiritual warfare to speaking in tongues.
Speaking of speaking in tongues, the primary Nicaraguan organizer of our conference, Arturo Castro (no relation to Fidel) told me that last year, as he was waiting in faith for a hard-to-get visa to the U.S., an old man in his church who speaks only Spanish said in English during a prayer meeting, “Your visa to go to the United States is ready.” Then a twelve-year-old girl, who also does not understand English, said to Arturo in Spanish, “What that man just said was a message to you”! That is the first time I’ve ever heard a first-hand report of someone speaking in tongues in English. (Arturo’s visa arrived a few days later.)
One other interesting story involving Arturo that will give you some insight into the state of Nicaraguan culture: When Arturo was eighteen, his fiancée took him to meet her mother and stepfather. When her stepfather asked Arturo about his family background and Arturo gave him the details, the man said, “I’m your father!” It was the first time in his life that Arturo had seen his father. Arturo confessed that his first thought was, “Oh no! I’ve fallen in love with my sister!” But he quickly realized that the man was his fiancée’s stepfather, not her actual father.
There are lots of people like Arturo in Nicaragua. One of my interpreters (who was 31 years old) told me he had children by four different women prior to his salvation. He, however, is now trying to be a good father to them all.
Thanks to Global Connections, the sponsoring organization of our conference, twenty-one of the pastors left with brand new 18-speed bicycles, a great luxury for pastors who normally walk, or if they can afford it, catch a ride in the back of a pickup truck. In the past forty years, the evangelical church has grown from 2% to over 20% of the population, so those bicycles will help to plant more churches and bring in the harvest. That harvest is so ripe that the first man who interpreted for me began our conference as an unbeliever and left the conference as a new believer in Christ! His countenance had noticeably changed. Please pray for Charles.
Thanks so much for your help, in different ways, that made it possible for me to spend many hours last week equipping leaders in Nicaragua. In the year 2002, we have many wonderful opportunities to equip and strengthen pastors in over 40 developing nations—through shortwave radio, literature distribution, the internet and on-site pastors’ conferences. Our shortwave radio broadcast is now in its third year, and we’ve received letters from pastors in well over 30 nations requesting our literature. Our website, where pastors with internet access will be able to read or download all of our books, should be up and running within weeks. And just a few weeks ago I was contacted by a man who has connections with some of the most influential leaders of the house church movement in China, asking me to be involved in underground leadership conferences next year. The various opportunities are so great and numerous that we must trust God for the resources to meet the needs. Please trust God with me!
Again, thanks so much for your interest.