Last week, I had the extreme privilege and honor to participate in a mission trip to Nicaragua with over 50 people from my church family.
I am wrecked, and I am reeling … in completely good ways for which I don't even have words yet.
We were hosted by the ministry Voice of Hope; and through the combined efforts of all our team members and with the help of the Holy Spirit, we saw 1,785 people give their hearts to Jesus.
This is my story about my week. I've included some pictures below, and you can also hop over to my Facebook page to see videos and tons of additional photos from me and others that I shared there.
Day One: Saturday
Saturday was a travel day. We had warfare over our travel, but we made it just fine anyway. We flew from Atlanta, Georgia into Managua, Nicaragua. Then we loaded vans and buses for a 2+-hour drive to the mission station in Leon.
I stayed in a hotel in Leon since there wasn't enough room for all of us at the mission station. The hotel was clean and simple. I was grateful for it.
We arrived very late, although I'm not sure of the exact time. It was somewhere around 1:30 AM Eastern time (Sunday morning), but Nicaragua is on Mountain time. So it was about 11:30 PM Nicaragua time, Saturday night, local time. Our group checked in and crashed, exhausted but pumped. 🙂
Day Two: Sunday
On Sunday morning, our team split up into three different groups and went to three different churches, where we were the featured preachers/ministers. We had a translator with each group, and each person who preached used a translator. (You say a few words, pause while the translator translates into Spanish, then continue with a few more words.)
The group that I was with visited a nearby Pentecostal church. One of our pastors–my friend Angie McGregor–preached, then we ministered with altar calls for salvation, healing, and more.
I prayed for a few people during that service, but I felt that God was asking me to just be an armorbearer and help with the flow of the altar ministry. So I helped back up other people as they ministered in the altar.
I also translated some for the altar ministers (I speak some Spanish) and acted as a catcher when needed (when the Holy Spirit sat on people and they fell to the ground in rest).
Sunday afternoon, we went back to the mission house when an uh-oh happened.
Just before we were to leave again to minister, I was walking across the grounds and was wearing flip-flops. I walked across some dirt that didn't look slick, but it was. My foot slid out from beneath me and my foot rammed into a concrete wall toes-first.
It was agony and I realized why when I looked down. The impact had actually ripped a toenail out of my foot. It was totally ripped out of the nail bed and only hanging on by a thread of skin at the very back of the nail. I literally cannot describe the pain.
One of our team members is a nurse (and also an incredible worship leader; check out her album on iTunes here). We weren't equipped to cut the toenail off or out, so my sister the RN bandaged me up (thanks, Abby!).
Although I could have stayed behind at the mission station, I was determined not to let the enemy steal from me. I wanted to do everything God sent me to do. So I went where I was supposed to go anyway … just limping for a few days.
On Sunday night, we again split up and went to three different churches. All of us ministered that evening and prayed with people who wanted to be saved. My group was at a very fired-up Baptist church in the town of Nagarote.
The thing I remember the most from that evening at the Baptist church is that there was a beautiful young girl, maybe 16 years old, who told my pastor during the ministry time that she had been raped. My pastor asked me to take a translator and pull her aside and minister to her, praying for God to heal her life. We prayed with her, and we talked with her about forgiving the perpetrator. We asked God to heal and restore her life. The Holy Spirit ministered to her in a powerful way.
Day Three: Monday
On Monday, our team went out into various places in the city with the Voice of Hope staff and translators, where we held fiestas (“parties” in Spanish). Here's what a fiesta looks like:
- We would arrive in a neighborhood and walk through the neighborhood yelling, “Fiesta! Fiesta! Venga, venga! Cinco minutos en el parque!” which means, “Party! Party! Come, come! Five minutes in the park!”
- People would come out of the woodwork–mostly kids, but lots of adults came with the kids too.
- The translators officiated the fiestas. They started with games for the little kids–games like “who can twirl around fastest and get dizzy” or “which team of little girls can burst a balloon first.”
- Then they added a game for adults, usually “who can drink this cold Coke first.”
- The winners of each game got a Ziploc bag full of things our team brought–household items, toys, candy, etc.
- They sang songs with the kids too–songs with motions and dances, like the chicken dance, etc.
Then the translator introduced a skit. We all took turns playing the parts of this skit, and we used the same skit over and over.
- In the skit, one person stands in a box with the Spanish word for “sin” written on it. The translator tells a story about how this person got stuck in sin and couldn't get out.
- The person in the box keeps yelling “help me!” in Spanish.
- The translator then introduces three different types of friends–drunkards, singers, and the strongest man in the world–who all try to help the person get out of the sin box, to no avail, of course.
- Then someone who plays the role of pastor comes over to the person in the sin box and shares the Gospel with them. They pray the sinner's prayer together, and then the pastor helps the person easily step out of the sin box.
- They give the sin box a good kick and celebrate their freedom!
The skit is super-simple, but it really works.
After the skit, the translator divides the group of observers up into three groups: little boys, little girls, and adults (mostly women). Then one member of our team talks (with a translator) to each of the three groups. We share our testimony and then ask them if they would like to receive Jesus as their personal Saviour. Then we lead them in the sinner's prayer.
I had the privilege of sharing parts of my testimony twice: once with a group of little girls, and once with a group of adults.
During those two times I got to share, 32 people prayed to receive Jesus as their Savior for the first time. Praise God!
Monday night, the local host church organized a parade for us in the city of Nagarote, where our crusade would be held.
That meant: They hired bicycle taxis (open-air carts for two people, propelled by a bicyclist behind the cart) for us and drove us through the streets.
Our translators walked beside us with microphones and bullhorns, announcing the crusades that would begin the following night, with time and location. A truck drove in the front, playing very loud praise music.
Why the parade?
They said that North Americans don't come to Nagarote very often. Basically, the fact that we were Americans was a walking billboard/invitation to come to the crusade and stare at us some more, and hear our pastors preach. So they paraded us through town as visibly and loudly as possible, to drum up interest and attendance for the crusade.
Click here for a brief video clip of the parade. (And by the way, the sirens were sound effects the translators made with the bullhorns–not sirens from emergency vehicles.) 🙂
I did not make it through the whole parade, as one of our brothers in our group became suddenly and violently ill about halfway through, and I stopped to help, which ended up taking the rest of the night. That was ok, though. We were all working together and there were plenty of us parading around, so I was happy to be able to help do what we could to help our sick brother. We were all very much a team down there, and we just all did what was needed at whatever time we were needed. 🙂
Days Four, Five, and Six: Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday
On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, we did so many different things. Our team split up into multiple groups. We held lots more fiestas during the day.
One group held a conference for first responders–firefighters, police, etc. There was warfare over that. They had been invited to address these government officials, and after they got there to speak with them, there was an emergency in the next town and all the first responders had to leave. The emergency? A bee attack! Swarms of bees were attacking people. But our team made the most of it and ministered to the people who were left.
I went to additional fiestas. I was doing ok, but at one of the schools, a kid stepped backward and stomped on my foot (the one with the toenail ripped out–that one).
Yeah. It hurt like crazy. So after that fiesta, I tried to walk more on the foot, but I had to sit one fiesta out while I sat in our bus, removed the bandages on my foot, cleaned the wound, and rebandaged it. 🙁
Wednesday during the day, we held two separate women's conferences at two local churches. I was privileged to preach the Gospel at one of them.
Five of us ladies went from our team. One of my sisters shared her testimony, then one of my pastors preached, then two more sisters shared testimonies, then I preached and led into the ministry time.
It was crazy how all of our stories led into the next. My pastor opened with her testimony about healing from father issues. The testimonies flowed together along similar lines–healing from abuse and so on–and then I closed.
I preached about father issues from Romans 8:15, Jeremiah 1, and Psalm 139. Specifically, I spoke about:
- How God planned your life before the foundation of the world;
- How you are God's dream;
- How He knows all the days of your life and wrote a book about you before you even existed;
- How He is a good, good Father–Abba Papi–and
- How people may have abused you, but God never will.
At this conference, we gave an altar call for salvation just because we knew we always need to invite people to come forward for salvation. However, no one came forward for salvation.
Nevertheless, when we opened the altar for ministry for father issues, the floodgates opened. The altar was suddenly swarmed with ladies who needed prayer for abuse, maltreatment, and other types of father wounds.
This broke my heart. These precious ladies live in a culture of machismo, where women are looked upon as inferior–as property, really. Nearly every lady in the house came forward for ministry and prayer for healing from abuse of various kinds.
But you know what? The Holy Spirit ministered to them powerfully. Tears coursed down their cheeks even from the simple message of the love of Abba Father. Many were touched, encouraged, and experienced the power gifts of the Holy Spirit–crying out “Abba! Papi!” and receiving the Holy Spirit of adoption.
I was devastated, in a good way. Seeing Holy Spirit minister to these precious daughters wrecked my heart.
I saw Papa minister to sons in the same way at a pastor's conference on Thursday.
On Thursday, I went with my pastors to a pastor's conference. I went just to be an intercessor, but my pastor asked me and the other ladies with us to also help minister in the altar at the end of the conference.
So when our pastor gave the altar call, another lady and I first began to minister to the women. Papa God touched many ladies, but when we were done praying, there were still men who hadn't been prayed for. So we began praying for the men as well.
One of the conference attendees was a youngish man, maybe in his early 20s. One of my brothers prayed for him first, but we were often praying for people more than once. (You would pray for them and it was like they would receive everything they could, but then the Holy Spirit would tell you to go back and pray again, as He had more for them.)
So my brother prayed for this young man, and then after a few minutes, the Holy Spirit highlighted this man in my field of vision. I felt like I was supposed to pray for him.
So I went over to him and began to pray, and the Lord gave me a very simple word for him:
“Usted es un hijo muy precioso.”
It means, “You are a precious son.”
As soon as I told him that, he crumpled. He cried and wailed. Literally wailed. You could feel the pain in his heart. It was heart-rending to watch. But the Holy Spirit ministered to him. And I told him that he has a Papi God who loves him with all His heart, that he is a precious son (over and over), and whatever else the Lord gave me for him.
And that man bowed down on his knees on the floor, all by himself, and the Lord just wrecked him with love. It was incredible to see. After he was done praying, the Lord told me to tell him that he had been mistreated, but Father God was going to restore his life.
It was powerful–and it was proof that it's not just women who needed the precious message of Abba Father. Both men and women need to hear this message of God's love.
The ministry continued at the crusade every night.
(Click here for a video of what the crusade setup looked like. I took the video before the meeting started, but you can get a good idea of where we were.)
Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights, we held an open-air evangelistic crusade. The local churches handled most of the worship, but our student choir of middle-schoolers and high-schoolers also sang. (They all did an amazing job.) Our pastor preached, and we did altar calls for salvation, healing, and more each night.
And every night, people came forward. People were saved. People were healed. Our students prayed for a little girl who was confined to a wheelchair, all shriveled up. As they prayed, the girl's daddy lifted her out of the wheelchair to see if she would be able to stand …
… and she walked.
They helped her a little bit, but they weren't helping her much. That little girl slowly walked back and forth across the altar area! Praise God!
Another student prayed for a deaf person, and God opened their ears and they heard for the first time. (Other deaf ears were opened during street ministry during the afternoons too.)
Many received salvation each night, and the local churches obtained their information and distributed free Bibles.
I was very relieved to see that the local churches would be following up with these folks, because salvation without discipleship may get you out of hell, but you need discipleship and the fellowship of believers in order to advance and thrive.
What did I do during the crusades?
First, I worshipped. I had to mostly sit down during the music on the first and second nights. My foot was hurting really badly–but I still worshipped sitting down.
By the third night, however, something was different. We could feel it in the atmosphere. I felt by the Spirit that we were going to worship, praise, and dance, and God was going to break something open when we did.
And I determined that I was going to dance my heart out, foot injury or not. So I did.
And you know what?
When I began dancing during the pre-service sound check, the pain in my foot went away. Completely away. I danced through that whole praise service (and these folks know HOW to praise, I'm telling you) and I never felt a lick of pain the whole time.
And boy, oh boy, did God EVER break something open. There were heavenly lights there with us (supernatural beings) and angels, and I actually caught one of the lights/angels dancing on camera.
At the altar ministry time, the first night, I prayed with people. Many received powerful touches from the Holy Spirit as all of our team ministered to the lost, sick, hurting, and broken.
The second night, I prayed with a few and then backed up a few students who were praying for people.
The third night, I translated for a student who was praying with others.
The Holy Spirit always touches people, but it's so much easier if you can ask them if they want to give their heart to Jesus; if they need prayer for healing–and if so, what kind of healing–etc. And that precious student led someone to Jesus and prayed for several people who needed inner healing or healing for the body. It was awesome to see our young people stepping out in faith and power to minister the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Day Seven: Friday
On Friday, we left our hotel in Leon at about 3 AM and rode back to Managua–about a 2-hour drive at that hour. Then the entire rest of the day was simply flying back to Atlanta and the bus ride back to Chattanooga. We arrived back in Chattanooga at about 7 PM Eastern time.
I have many thoughts I want to share with you about the trip, but this story is too long already. So I'm going to continue with my personal thoughts about the trip on Wednesday.
In the meantime, I want to thank you.
I was able to go on this crusade because you, my precious readers, helped me do so. You helped by praying for me, and I could feel your prayers continually.
Many of our team had to deal with severe, violent gastrointestinal illness while we were in Nicaragua, but I was never sick. In pain some, yes, because I fell and hurt my toe–but not sick. And the toe thing has happened to me once before, when I was in a crowd of people and a little kid ran into my foot head-on and ripped a toenail out. At that time, I actually had to have foot surgery ASAP.
But you know what? This time, band-aids, anti-inflammatory meds, and a shoe got me through. I'll have to go to the doctor in the next few days, but I was fine on the trip. That's a miracle. And I believe it was because you, my precious blog readers, were praying for me. I could feel the prayers.
You also helped me pay expenses. The trip itself cost $2,200 …
… and that's not counting any of the special supplies I had to purchase to take with me for the fiestas …
… or the clothes I had to purchase to meet the dress code and help me survive in the heat (my jeans wouldn't have worked at all)…
… or the extra food I had to purchase and take with me because I don't eat meat and didn't know if I'd have food there.
It cost so much because all the costs of our airfare, plus buses, plus paying our translator/interpreters, plus hotel expenses, plus food, plus renting the field for the crusade, plus renting the stage and sound system, etc, all had to be paid for by the mission team. So the $2,200 was the cost of the trip divided among all those people.
But you know what? Papa God provided EVERYTHING I needed.
It was crazy how God provided. For example, many of you have been sending me partnership money. Friends gave gifts to help with the expenses. You gave one-time donations that helped pay for supplies I had to take.
It was crazy. God just PROVIDED, and for so much of the cost, He used YOU to do it.
You also encouraged me. You sent me notes and comments and messages of encouragement. And every one came at exactly the right time. Every one helped. Every one mattered and lifted me up.
From the bottom of my heart.
I am wrecked, and I'll talk more about that Wednesday. I am forever changed. And 1,785 people gave their lives to Jesus Christ–and many, many more received ministry they desperately needed–partly because of YOU.
In the name of Jesus Christ our Savior, THANK YOU.
And please check back Wednesday for more about my personal thoughts about what God did on this trip!