After our first term in Nicaragua we almost left. We came to a crisis point in our ministry and were frustrated. We arrived just after Hurricane Mitch in 1999 and saw many being converted. Evangelical churches were growing, but they were messy. Opportunities were abundant but difficult and fragile.
There are massive challenges in evangelism, mission and ministry in Nicaragua. I enjoy one-to-one, personal evangelism but I have had to rethink everything. “Do you know Jesus?” or “Would you like to receive Christ?” are phrases that just don’t work here because most people have a friend called Jesus, and many receive Christ almost weekly at mass! Syncretism is the big spiritual issue. Many people are very religious, but love to “pick and mix”, very much like the Athenians in Acts 17.
A new generation
As we prayed about our future, God put it on our hearts to invest in evangelising and discipling children, establishing a firm foundation for the next generation. So in 2002 we started a Christian school.
We have freedom each day to share the gospel with the children. Some have been converted and have reached their families.
“Where are the men?”
The big cultural issues in Nicaragua society are family breakdown and leadership. Family structure is weak, and leadership is matriarchal, because of the prominence of Mary in traditional religion. Men are seen as lazy and unreliable, and machismo is the male survival response.
A few years ago, a mission team came from my home church. This included one of the elders, on his first cross-cultural mission team. He asked to visit a local home so I took him to see Corina, our housekeeper, a Christian lady about 50 years old. Her husband had left her and their four children a few years earlier, and had since died. When we arrived, three women were preparing food in the small tin house with a dirt floor.
“Where are the men?” the elder asked. To his surprise, Corina started to laugh, “Thank God we don’t need any of them here!”
“Where are the men?”… Corina started to laugh, “Thank God we don’t need any of them here!”
The work can be hard and slow, but is very rewarding. Corina’s son Denis was in his late teens, and had missed out on education due to being hospitalised. I helped him to get a qualification and start work. We worked together and I discovered that he had accepted the Lord but lacked assurance of salvation.
After a year or so Denis started talking about peers who had left the faith. We talked and studied Bible passages about forgiveness and salvation. Then one day Denis spoke of his assurance in his salvation. However, his recurring health problems remained and sadly he died – a very difficult time for me.
Recently I visited Corina, after not being in contact for a few years. Her house had been turned into a small shop to support her family. She now has 4 grandsons – there are men in the house again! She is confident that her son Denis is in heaven.
The Lord is building his church in Nicaragua and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. Strong forces are arrayed against the church, but we are confident of a good outcome.
Barry and Susana Davis work in children’s ministry in Nicaragua
They have been joined by Anya Serdyuk on a short-term mission placement.