Some thoughts and observations regarding today:
Steve covered Counseling Unbelievers this morning. There were many "Amen!'s" from our brother Eddie. An interesting thing Steve shared with me this week has been that when Hope started teaching in Nicaragua, Eddie was very adverse and contentious with the theology being taught. This week, which may be our last teaching time here, Eddie has been our "Amen! guy." He shouts "Amen!" after nearly every scripture verse. He shouts "Amen!" in the afternoon, sometimes to just wake people up from the lunch and heat induced drowsiness. But today was special, especially for Steve. Eddie informed us that he would be unable to attend Friday's last session. He must return to his home about two and a half hours outside of Esteli. He had received a phone call that he needed to return home. He thanked us for coming and teaching and then he said, "I will pray that Hope Church will return to Nicaragua." For Steve, it was a very monumental moment. We had won over a brother. Eddie, in the beginning of Hope's involvement here had publicly argued with the teachers. And now, he was hoping that we would return again one day. That is Jesus stuff.
<----Eddie is the man sitting in the corner of this picture.
Today was also The Marriage Counseling portion of the teaching. We were able to put in their hands a notebook of one hundred and seven pages of Marriage Counseling material in Spanish. Steve and I will only be able to cover two sections of the material, a total of about eighteen pages. However, the students were so grateful for the material and were eager to follow along as they have everyday. There was a buzz in the room when I began my session on marriage. It seemed they were eager to hear how to have stronger biblical marriages.
A Side Note: I have struggled to keep my portion to just teaching the material. I have slipped into "preacher" mode on several occasions, however. There is just something about articulating the gospel of Jesus that I have to "throw down" and exhort and not just calmly go through the material. Today was no exception. In fact I think it happened more so today than any of the other days. End Side Note
Our translators had shared how marriage has been eroding in Nicaraguan culture and how the church here has similar problems even with the pastors (we aren't that different after all). So, I exhorted the men, especially the pastors to love their wives, to honor them, to cherish them and to care for them as Christ loved the church. I could not help but riff a little Mark Driscoll and call out the men to stop abusing the women. I challenged the young singles to grow up and take responsibility for themselves if they wanted a wife. It was a really great session. Chico shares his thoughts on it in "Back of the Truck Report" so, make sure you check that out.
When I taught the section on sexual purity in marriage, we had several questions during the break. One that we were unable to answer in mixed company. Some of the young men gathered a translator and myself for a private pow wow on the subject matter and soon Steve joined us for the little informal Q&A. It was good that the men were thinking the matter through and we offered the best biblical answers we could. At dinner tonight Steve remarked that this was a first time in all the years he has been teaching on marriage hat he got a question with a particular phrase that he had never been asked regarding sex. This is a family blog so you'll have ask him personally.
I got so worked up preaching, er I mean teaching that I was over heated at lunch time and couldn't eat my lunch. However, I was really feeling full from the encouraging "Amen's" that I was receiving. So I drank my water and prepared for my next session with prayer and thanksgiving. Chico, one of the translators, said that the students enjoyed my passion and intensity. Glory to God.
Most of the students are women and the sisters are encouraging with their attentiveness and laughter at my jokes about myself. However, there are a handful of younger men (twenty somethings) that have really encouraged me this week. To see them eager to understand Biblical Counseling and to have a better understanding of God's word has been awesome. To see young men nod and smile in agreement with God's Word has been uplifting. They are the future of the church in Nicaragua and that is exciting.
Jesus is in Nicaragua and His bride is radiant here.
I flew through the rest of my material in under an hour after lunch so that Steve could get into the Conflict Resolution session that he will finish in the morning. We then held a graduation ceremony for last year's students and it was a blessing to shake the students hands and see the joy on their faces as they received their certificates. Each certificate has a picture of the student (this is often the only picture they get taken and printed each year), their name and the teacher's names. I was glad Cairo was calling the names. Most of them were a mouth full. But each person who cam forward was smiling with gratitude and what seemed like an overwhelming sense of accomplishment.
My time here in Nicaragua has been brief but it has been rewarding. The people here are friendly and pleasant. The believers are filled with joy and radiate Christ. The translating team has been fascinating. I am wore out at the end of the day and I am only speaking and thinking in one language.
The thing that has stood out the most to me is the way the city has been full of life. There are always people walking from somewhere to get somewhere. The cars and trucks and buses, while fast and always beeping seem to have a system in what feels and looks like utter chaos. There is constant merging and vehicles are always moving here. Motorcycles and buses share skinny one way streets and Cairo seems to know his city like the back of his hand. I have been impressed with our translators, especially Cairo. He loves his country and he loves Jesus. He seems to love serving the gringos through translation and handling the ins and outs of us being here.
The Coca-Cola tastes the same, btw.
The pastor of the church where the onference is held has an unusual pet: