Have you ever stared at the map of your country, state, or province, and wondered how you can make some sort of lasting impact on what you see? Have you ever looked at the names of the cities, towns, and villages, and wondered if the gospel will ever reach those places? What about all the people who find themselves without a Savior, and you wonder how they will ever hear if nobody tells them? The questions I have asked are just a few that we all should contemplate as we go about our daily lives. These are questions that I have pondered many times as the door to reaching the lost slowly closes with each day. Glancing at a map of Nicaragua, one would see many "spiritually" named towns; names that mean trinity, the light, the hope, holy cross, holy faith, and peace. Sadly, however, the names of these cities do not reflect the reality of the hearts and souls of the Nicaraguan people, with millions who are far from the spiritual awareness that they might claim to have. We are constantly reminded that the spiritual needs of this country are great as we try to faithfully serve the One Who has called us to this land.
Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America, comprised of almost six million souls. It is a country that has been ravaged by natural disasters and civil war. We are thankful, though, that we enjoy a relative calm and the full ability to preach the gospel wherever we go. The assembly work of the Lord, which began in 1997, has grown over the years, and, at present, there are 11 assemblies and a number of other new and growing works. We enjoy unity within the various assemblies and the 16 missionary couples. Although we enjoy seeing the work advance and grow, a quick glance of the map brings us back to the reality we face. It seems as though we are just little specks on a map, praying to God to do a work that we cannot do alone.
Sometimes it feels as though we have made little impact on a country blinded by many religions and sects, and full of immorality. We see the power of the god of this world who has blinded the minds of them that believe not, and we feel our weaknesses as we work among those whom God has placed in our care. We often feel short-handed as the ratio between the laborers and the nationals grows. Who will take the gospel to places we cannot reach? Who will stare at the map of Nicaragua and say, "I will go?"
My wife, Allison, and I do not find ourselves serving the Lord in a busy metropolis. He has not placed in our hands (at this time) the difficulties of reaching out to a busy, crowded, and congested city. Instead, we find ourselves working in the remote area of El Valle de la Laguna. The main attraction where we live is a crater lake called La Laguna de Apoyo, which draws mostly backpackers to the area. Before one travels down to the lake, you have to pass through El Valle de la Laguna. All that is seen by the naked eye is sporadic houses lining both sides of the road. It looks rather inconspicuous and really does not seem like the ideal place for gospel work, but it is exactly where the Lord has guided us to serve, alongside Mark and Brenda Bachert.
As we approach the third anniversary of the assembly, on the 24th of February, we are able to look back with grateful hearts for what the Lord has been and is doing. We are thankful for a work which first began in a tent, was moved into a temporary building, and has now been replaced with a beautiful hall. We are grateful for the three faithful brethren who take their place in the assembly, alongside the 12 committed sisters. Although the assembly might not be huge in numbers, we are grateful for the 15 believers who have taken a stand for truth amidst all the religious confusion surrounding them.
We are thankful for each believer who has been preserved, when the wickedness of this world seems to be calling so many away. We are also thankful for the many children in the area who have come for nearly three years to learn about Christ and His work on the cross. There are many more who have been saved, baptized, and are slowly growing in their faith. We can acknowledge that although we have not been able to make a mark on each city, town, or village covering this republic, the Lord has guided us here to this remote part of Nicaragua and an impact has been felt.
We desire to continue reaching out to new areas to see what doors the Lord will open. As workers in this country, we love to see new dots marking different works appearing on the map of Nicaragua. Although they may just seem like "dots" to mans eye, they are bright shining lampstands to the Lord.
I close, pondering the same questions with which we began. Have you ever stared at the map of your country, state, or province, and wondered how you can make some sort of lasting impact on what you see? Have you ever looked at the names of the cities, towns, and villages, and wondered if the gospel will ever reach these places? What about all the people who find themselves without a Savior? Have you ever felt the burden to reach out and tell them about Christ? Where does an impact begin? Who will go and put their lives down on the altar?