Arise Ministries Collective’s mission is to equip women in the church in Bible study so they are prepared to take the Good News to others. Most often Arise does this locally in Vancouver, Washington but this May seven women had the chance to travel to Nicaragua to equip the global church to be his hands and feet.
The first thing to hit us was the heat. The air conditioning at the fringes of the Managua, Nicaragua airport, where people stood waiting, couldn’t keep up. The people in the waiting area were packed together like chaotic sardines, some asking if we needed a taxi, others with written signs.
After a full day of traveling from Portland, Oregon, we wearily wandered into the crowd looking for a familiar face. William, our Villa ride found us first, guiding us outside to Susie Miller and the two Forward Edge/Villa Esperanza vehicles parked on the overcrowded curb. After loading our bags in, we piled into the vehicles, thankful for the weak air conditioning, and absorbed the sights and sounds of Nicaragua on the long-ish drive to the Villa Esperanza.
The Villa isn’t a mission trip you may envision – it is a mix of serenity and exhaustion.
Once you pass the gates of Villa Esperanza you enter a peaceful space of mango trees and flowering bushes. Birds sing. The team homes have bunk beds and bathrooms with cold showers and blowing fans.
May is hot. So those fans do very little. The cold showers are nice though. And this may be one of the only times to rejoice in cold showers. Sleep can be hard to find but the food is always served with a gracious smile.
Getting settled in the Villa we began the process of figuring out what we were doing over the next four days. We planned to pack a lot into our four days on the ground. The main focus of our trip was to equip women in Bible study.
Holding Our Plans Loosely
We went prepared to do a two-day conference for women in local churches. Our conference theme was “Stand Firm.” We had workbooks printed in Spanish and English. We had our teachings about God’s sovereignty, faithfulness, holiness, and mercy prepared. We were as ready as we could be.
We also went with our expectations held loosely.
We had prayed for months for this trip so we knew that God was in control of how things would go.
We had a plan but God was going to be in charge.
It is hard to know what will happen on mission trips. I have been traveling to Nicaragua since 2008 and each trip has its own challenges, its own lessons, its own beauty, and tears.
Sometimes the lessons learned don’t really hit you until you are back home and can reflect.
In the last few weeks home, I have been thinking back over our six days in Nicaragua, reflecting on what God was revealing to me.
I think much of what God was using our team to do is reflected in a little home situated down a small street in a Managuan neighborhood.
Kenia and Sarah
We had been told the story of Kenia and Sarah before we piled into the bus that would take us to their home. The tragic events that led us to Kenia’s door pulled at all of our hearts.
Two years ago, Kenia was a normal mom. She had a husband, a twelve-year-old son and a three-year-old daughter. Kenia’s daughter, Sarah, was a normal, active three-year-old when she needed some dental work done. Kenia and her husband were told they would need to have their daughter sedated and they saved money to afford the best dentist they could find.
At the dentist, things went horribly wrong. Sarah was very young and during the procedure, she was over sedated. The dentist and staff waited too long to call for help. Tragically, Sarah now suffers from permanent brain damage that has left her needing 24-hour care.
For Kenia, the loss of her healthy child was compounded by the loss of her husband who abandoned them, her job, and her home. In many ways, Kenia is no longer able to be a mom to her older son, who lost his family as it broke apart.
It has been two years and Sarah is now five. Kenia and Sarah now live together in a room in her mother-in-law’s home. The mother-in-law graciously took them into her small three-bedroom home – probably less than 1000 square feet – after Kenia’s husband abandoned them. The now fourteen-year-old son also has a room in the house along with two other family members.
The God of Comfort
While she lives in her mother-in-law’s home, Kenia still has to provide for Sarah and she has no time to work. Sarah now needs full-time care. She requires a complex array of medications along with other needs – diapers, syringes, formula, physical therapy and more. Sarah’s father provides a little support but the fourteen-year-old son must also work to bring in money.
Kenia is stuck in deep sadness. She has lost her family and a vibrant little girl and her daily life reminds her constantly of her loss. She struggles to forgive. And she struggles to find hope. But in the midst of all this, she became a Christian searching for answers in the God who provides and comforts.
Kenia’s story was brought to the attention of staff at the Villa who are working to find out what she needs and how they can responsibly help. Our team came to her little street and into her bedroom with prayers, encouragement, and food but long-term Kenia needs the local church to encourage her broken heart and walk with Kenia on her journey with little Sarah.
Citizens of Heaven
And that is what God allowed our team to be a part of – equipping the local Managuan churches to stand firm in the midst of trials.
When 30-ish women from 15 churches showed up to our conference we didn’t know exactly what God was using us for – we didn’t know these women’s stories, we just knew we had been called to equip them to read Scripture faithfully.
Every believer is now part of God’s holy nation matter where they live (I Peter 2:9). We are citizens of another country. And we are called to proclaim the light of the gospel to the places we live.
Lisa said it clearly at the end of the conference when she stated:
“We stand firm because God and God alone in all of His sovereignty, all of His faithfulness, all of His holiness and all of His mercy has given us the prize of heaven. One day we will get the crown. We are no longer citizens of this world. We are citizens of heaven.”
When believers in the church know the Bible, study it deeply and let it change our lives it also brings practical hope. Soaking in God’s character changes how we live with others as friends, neighbors, fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters. We care about what God cares about.
God is the Center of Peace and Happiness
And God cares about human flourishing. We are created in God’s image to care for creation and each other. Scripture commands us over and over to love each other and Jesus’ earthly ministry provided spiritual hope and physical healing to the broken.
In Matthew 9:1-7, a paralytic is brought to Jesus and the first thing Jesus does is to forgive him of sins. He takes care of his spiritual needs first before he takes care of his physical ones.
Poverty is a result of broken relationships between God and us. Our spiritual poverty leads us to darkness and eternal death.
When we truly love God we love our neighbor and we want them reconciled with God. We want to bring light. In the light of God’s love, new things grow. Peace. Joy. Grace. Forgiveness. Mercy. We often want to take care of their material needs, which isn’t a bad thing when done correctly, but as C.S. Lewis writes,
God cannot give us peace and happiness apart from himself because there is no such thing.”
Ambassadors for Christ
When the people in the church are equipped to have a proper view of Scripture we are able to properly fulfill our call to be “ambassadors for Christ” (2 Cor. 5:20). It becomes natural to live lives filled with compassion for our neighbors like Kenia.
This means we serve outside of our comfort zone. We serve because Christ served.
When the church is equipped to read Scripture rightly it reminds us that all that we have is His and given to us by His grace – so, therefore, we can share it. Spiritual joy in God helps us abandon our comfort to serve.
We don’t live in Nicaragua. It is not our home. But God used us and our little conference to build the local Nicaraguan church and empower Nicaraguan women to more deeply understand God’s character and His word so they can bring light to the darkness in their own country.
The women who attended our conference had a lot to say about what they had learned and we were blessed by their prayers, their joy, their tears, their stories and their faith in the midst of trials.
Here are some highlights of how the conference impacted them:
“We are so grateful because God has chosen us to be his servants. Everything we have learned here is to respond to our merciful God and he forgives and is a good God to us.”
“When we know how sovereign God is, it’s easier to obey.”
“We know that the reward will not be here on earth. We can go through the fire knowing our reward is in heaven.”
“What I have learned is to be courageous and I have learned that from the word of God.”
“I feel so joyful because I have learned a lot. The Lord wants us to stand in the gap and be courageous and strong.”
We are truly blessed to be God’s hands and feet to strengthen the church globally.
Would you like to join us in our mission?
Please prayerfully consider giving to Arise Ministries Collective to equip and encourage women in the local and global church.
About the Author
Valerie Hooks: I like to write, read, drink tea, and research stuff. I am a passionate follower of Jesus. I have teenagers (pray for me) and a fantastic husband. I call Summit View Church in Vancouver, Washington the place I am loved, honed and challenged in my walk with Christ.