I think we can all agree that my ability to keep up with the blogs has not gone very well lately…I’m so sorry about that. It’s been almost 6 months since all of you who read the blogs have heard anything (on this blog and almost a year on journal of a missionary wife). I’m so far behind and so much has happened I don’t even really know where to begin…so I decided to tell a recent story…and try to catch you up slowly.
First let me say that February 9th was our 1 year anniversary of being a church. My parents happened to be here and my dad preached. We bused in the guys from the rehab we work with in, and the pastor from the baptist church we have a close relationship with was there as well.
It was a great day that ended with prayer, pizza and cake…who wouldn’t LOVE that day 🙂
Since the anniversary we have made quite a few changes in the church. We changed our time from 3pm to 10am and laid out a clear vision for the attenders. Our vision changed from “how are we going to reach people?” to “who are we reaching?”. Instead of focusing on projects, we defined where we are going as a church and WHO we are reaching. The answer is the least, the lost, and the lonely. Once we know WHO we are reaching and begin to actively go after them in love, grace, and compassion…ministries or projects are a natural byproduct of that. Also, it allows people in church to decide whether this is the type of church they want to attend or not. Do they see themselves being comfortable in a church with this vision or do they want to find another church. Okay, now that I’ve caught you up a little I have an example of what I mean…
For the past three weeks Preston and I have felt a change. We have made changes in the church as well. Preston now preaches in Spanish only and if someone needs a translator he asks the translator to sit next to the person who needs him. He has changed his preaching style to listening more for the Lord to speak through him and less about being overly prepared. He reads the bible and thinks on it throughout the week, but essentially on Sunday morning he allows the Holy Spirit to speak through him. Often times this means he LOOKS unprepared, and sometimes he isn’t sure what he’ll be speaking about until he’s standing in front of the church. Let me just say, this has worked! He has passionately preached about a great many things and I see the Spirit of God moving on him while he’s doing it…it’s completely changed service.
In the past few weeks we have gone from a couple homeless attending church, to about 70% homeless attending church. The funny thing is each one of those homeless people tithe and are amazing people. Some of them show up drunk, but my thought is, “hey, at least they’re in church”.
So a couple weeks ago Preston was speaking about Jesus washing the disciples feet. During this sermon there was a drunk man by the name of Eliesser being quite disruptive. He was cussing, saying vulgar things and just generally being disruptive. Eliesser had tried to leave during worship, but Preston asked him to stay for the last song, and he stayed for the rest of the service. While he was being disruptive Preston did a great job of including him in the sermon and stopping when necessary. At one point four other homeless men stood up and said they were leaving because this man was too disrespectful. Prestons response? “If you have to leave, go ahead and leave. I can walk into any church in Managua and be respected and welcomed in with no questions asked…but where can this man go if not in this church? What other church will welcome him in?” The men left and Preston continued preaching, using Eliesser as an example. He said things like, “who will wash Eliessers feet?” and “it’s not always easy loving like Jesus, is it?”
At the end of service I felt the Holy Spirit on me quite strong. I asked Eliesser to come to the front and hand picked three other people to come and lay hands on him, one of which was a homeless man named Edger. The Holy Spirit spoke through me in a powerful way. When service was over we asked all the homeless men to sit on the patio while we brought them lunch (We take lunch to the homeless in our area every week after church). Eliesser served every one of the bowls of food, even to the men who had left during the service and came back for lunch. He was the last one to eat because he wanted to make sure everyone had a bowl.
The next day Joseph and Edger came to my house saying they wanted to change their lives because they believed the Lord had plans for them. I directed them to the church. They were extremely drunk, so Preston told them to come back the next day if they were serious about wanting to change their lives. They did. Preston and Marlon set up some bunk beds for them and allowed them to sleep off the alcohol. When they were sober, they explained the rules and gave them a detailed schedule of what their day would look like. During this time a man from the neighborhood by the name of Carlos came in and asked Preston what was going on with these men who were in here. Preston let him know that the church was rehabbing them. Carlos then said that he knew one of them from childhood and would like to volunteer time to counsel them every week. He also told Preston that he had an AA program, but the men had to make the choice to go on their own, they couldn’t be taken there by anybody. So every day Joseph and Edger have a bible study, counseling session and go to AA…they also clean and get the church ready for events…and play chess in their free time.
Last week Eliesser was at church again, and he was not disruptive. Again he served everyone before serving himself. Again, during the week a homeless man by the name of Basko came and said he wanted to get his life together. Marlon had gone to a meeting at the Baptist church that we have a connection to and they had taken up a love offering for us…they handed Marlon an envelope with money. We now had enough money to buy another set of bunk beds to get Basko into the rehab.
We see a lot of changes happening in a big way here. Preston and I are paying to feed and provide for the men in the rehab out of our personal bank account, but we have not been without. Thank you so much to all of you who financially give to us, we could not do this without you. Also, thank you to everyone who regularly prays for us…it’s such a necessity. This church is shaping up to be exactly the kind of church I’ve dreamed of…and I know those dreams are from the Lord.
Here is a picture of Preston, Joseph, Edger and Marlon. Quick note: Since starting the rehab program Joseph has gotten in contact with his family and was able to visit his son and other family briefly last week with Marlon and Preston. It looks like he will have a great support system.
Here are some pictures of Sunday service and the feeding after church. Quick note: Most of the homeless people attending church are not ones we normally feed on Sunday, this means we are having to make twice the amount of food on Sundays. If you would like to help us with this or any other expense please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or message me on facebook. Thank you.