In-Country News

rich in faith—common ground blog #2

This trip has been extrememly fulfilling already, and we’ve only been here a few days.  My favorite experiences have

been the times spent with the children.  Unexpectedly, after church on Sunday morning, we spent an hour or so doing

crafts with the kiddos from the community.  It was rewarding to see their smiling faces as they posed for pictures

and showed how proud they were of their newly-created crafts.

A second opportunity to hang out with kiddos happened during the soccer tournament.  One station was for

team-building, and we enjoyed activities like a trust circle, a teamwork ladder, and the human knot.  Giving

directions to them was challenging due to a limited Spanish vocabulary, but they all caught on fairly quickly.  God

was certainly calling us to have patience through this experience when the kids weren’t working together as a team.

Thankfully by the end of it, though, they were really able to trust each other through a bit of practice!

Soccer Camp Kids

Lastly, we spent an afternoon in a village called Ensayo.  Ron and Marty began and have continued a relationship

with the people of the community, and the rest of the group was excited to jump in with support and love.  We

crafted balloon animals, blew bubbles, flew paper airplanes, enjoyed a pinata, and handed out beans and rice to the

families.  James tells us in 2:5 that “God chose the poor people of this world to be rich in faith and to possess

the kingdom which he promised to those who love him.”  This verse seems very fitting for our friends in

Ensayo because their love for the Lord shined through their dusty feet and tattered clothing.

El Ensayo

Also, we’ve been serving alongside a World Race Team while we’ve been here….check out the link to the video they put together while  we were in Ensayo. I think you’ll enjoy it!  Click Here to Watch

Words cannot begin to encompass everything that we are experiencing, but I hope that these few stories paint a

small picture of the beauty we have been able to enjoy.

Meg Perryman

Common Ground Heads to Cerro Negro

Cerro Negro

Today we journeyed to Cerro Negro, the site of the most active volcano in Central America.  The drive up was long and bumpy.  We had to wait for cattle and pigs to cross the dirt road but we received cheers and smiles from every Nicaraguan child during the trip.  Even when we were being jolted around and ducking to miss branches that brush past, God sent His message of love in the most beautiful ways.

We arrived at the base of the volcano excited and nervous.  We had sleds and knew we were going to get very dirty but had no idea what would lay before us on our ascent to the top.  The crest to the top was 2200 feet.  It was
hot and there were loose rocks everywhere but we were ready to begin. I took my first step, ready for the challenge.  It didn’t go well.  I sprained my right ankle and went down hard, bruising my left knee as well.  A brief
scream and then the tears came.  Some were from pain, most were from the realization that I would not be able to hike the volcano which I had been anticipating greatly.  Immediately I was surrounded by my group in prayer.
I realized that I would not be climbing the volcano but God would be my entire strength in getting to the top.  He appeared in Marty as she immediately prayed for my strength.  He appeared in Nora as she taped my
ankle and helped practically carry me up the entire ascent.  He was with Jen as she encouraged me and carried my board.  He was with Jared who carried two boards so others could help.  He was with Ryan who ran down a third of
the volcano to retrieve tape and bring it back up.  I saw Omar with his encouragement and selflessness to keep me motivated.  He was with Meg who was taking pictures to capture the joy of our journey.  He was with Ron who
came up last to make sure everyone was taken care of.  God was in so many moments today that we could sum up our day with one word, Awe.

Common Ground Team

When we ascended to the top of the crest, we were absolutely breathless taking in the scenery.  The land was lush and green with beautiful peaks all around.  Smoke billowed up from parts of the volcano letting us know it was
safe for now but immense power and destruction loomed close enough to fear the power of God and appreciate His provision.  We knelt down to feel the intense heat from actual lava which was just underneath the loose layer of
rock.  God absolutely blew our mind today.  His glory was beautiful and we were truly grateful to behold it.

Lauren Crafton

Tuany

Hey everybody! Ashley Jenkins here, writing from the mission center in Nicaragua! Here’s a few of my thoughts about the trip so far.

Friday night when we arrived, I was so exhausted and I didn’t feel well. The flight seemed so long and boring. I was a little anxious about arriving at the airport knowing there would be 15 Nicaraguan youth so excited to see us, but most of our team had  no energy. When we finally arrived, I think all of us had a second wind when we got to hug our Nicaraguan friends.

Although we kind of got thrown into the youth retreat, it turned out to be a good thing because we were able to create relationships with the Nicaraguans right away (I guess being packed in the back of a cattle truck with 30 people forces bonding). This experience allowed me to create friendships more so than last year because we spent so much time with them, whereas last year we got to see them here and there for a few minutes in Bethel. I also think this was a really good opportunity for the Nicaraguan youth to get away and do things they normally don’t get the chance to do. For example, ZIP LINING THROUGH A CANOPY RAINFOREST. This was such an awesome adventure and everyone had so much fun.

Zip Lining

It was also good to grow in our faiths together. Several of the youth really opened up and it was a time of refreshing for all of us. One thing that I thought was so cool was that on Sunday morning, the Nicaraguans sang a song in Spanish and then we Americans followed by singing the same song in English. It’s so cool that we serve and worship the same God in different languages.

Since we’ve been back at the mission center, it has been a time of re-charging and spending time with the people of Bethel. I’m excited for the rest of the trip!

P.S. “tuany” means cool 🙂

The “hands” of Vision Nicaragua

One of our first groups this summer was the Butler University Team, from Indianapolis, Indiana! Butler’s team helped pave the way for a packed summer of teams. They were a tremendous help with making cosmetic improvements to our Mission Center. One of those “cosmetic” changes or improvements was placing a fresh coat of paint on the Mission Center’s walls.

Many times we have groups come and go and a lot of you never get to hear or see each other’s impact. God really is moving, here, in Nicaragua! He is using so many people to bring glory to His Kingdom!

So, we’ve decided to change that – to make a statement! Butler University’s Team set out with an idea, one that leaves a mark. They decided to paint the Vision Nicaragua logo (Thanks to Beth Werge!) with the words: “The Hands of Vision Nicaragua” inscribed above it. Whenever a person or group stays at the Mission Center, they are asked to paint up their hand and leave their mark – their handprint on the wall of the Mission Center.

We are so pumped about this idea! It brings to light Corinthians chapter 12, verses 12-14. In this passage Paul depicts for us the unity and diversity within the body of Christ: “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free —and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.” (NIV)

It will be such a beautiful picture to look back a year from now and see the handprints of people that the Lord has brought to Nicaragua! Each handprint tells a story….it might just be time for yours to be written!

Arms Held High

Wow, it has been a week since my return to the States. As I walk up and down the halls of my school (teaching summer school) or hang out with friends, I feel as if there is a fog invading my vision. I just can’t seem to get a clear picture. Meditation, prayer, and continually delving into God’s word are the things that bring me to a place of
peace and thanksgiving. Since returning home I have found myself reflecting over the book of Philippians.

We call it a book, but to Paul (I like to think) he would consider it more like a journal or a letter to friends. The pages of Philippians are a mere documentation of his relationship with the church and its’
congregation. By no means, was Paul simply preaching the “Good News”. Paul was not just preaching! No, Paul was carrying out a love relationship with the people he encountered. He was counseling, giving
advice, serving along side, carrying out Christ’s message, and building relationships with the people of Philippi. Which eventually lead to them supporting him in prison. Which is another story, one about his faithfulness and patience. In Philippians 1:14,

“Because of my chains most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to
speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.”


A life without fear – finding full contentment in Christ…

In Philippians 4:11-13, we learn that Paul’s contentment was in Christ. He states,

“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be
content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need,
and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of
being content in any and every situation, whether will fed or hungry,
whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him
who gives me strength.”

Paul’s contentment was not found in buildings, clothing, a personal checkbook or savings account. Paul declares that contentment is found in God’s loving embrace and a relationship with Him alone. Whatever
our circumstances or situations it is all manageable knowing: “Greater is He that is in me.” (1 John 4:4) Whether the situation is a literal prison or the chains of our personal bondage, with Christ we can come
through it and be in light. …But, we can’t do it alone!

Before returning to Nicaragua in May I was visiting with a close friend and his family. As we were preparing dinner, his son was in the kitchen floor planning with some pots and pans. The kid, very content with this “loud” activity, was matching the lids of the various pots and placing them a-top their rightful owners. He was very
successfully; he had fit five lids to the appropriate pots. One pot and one lid remained. I sat there watching the kid as he took the last lid and placed it on top the pot. It didn’t fit! The kid realized
this, so he took the lid and continuously striking it on top of the pot – trying to get it to rest on the lip. It wasn’t working! I watched the kid turn the pot a hundred different ways and use all his
strength attempting to make the lid fit the pot.

…Yet, nothing seemed to work.

Finally, the kid lifts up his arms and with a single cry pleads to his father for help.

It was one of those moments in your life, an “A-ha!” moment. I realized this is us as Children of God – this is me! I need to lift up my hands, surrender it all to God, and cry out for His undying mercy, grace, and blessed assurance. God has a plan, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to
harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11) This declaration is restated by Paul in Philippians 4:19, “And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”

God has a plan for me, for each of us, which will bring glory to His Kingdom. We often want to get ahead of God’s plan and we often forget how much we need HIM. We need to remember, whether we are in chains or
defending and confirming the gospel, all of us share in God’s grace. God can testify how I long to be in Nicaragua again, to be with each of the people there by the affection of Christ Jesus. Let us serve God
wholeheartedly wherever we are. All glory be to God, my blessed redeemer.

Vaya con Dios,

Derek Voiles

*Below is a link to a song by Shawn McDonald that really puts into song what God’s been teaching me.*

Shawn McDonald “Open Me”

Growing Pains

Sometimes the Lord calls us to difficult things. Situations that don’t quite make sense and don’t “fit “our plan.” I’m convinced that these are not without purpose, but rather opportunities that the Lord orchestrates to deepen our trust and dependence on Him. Where we’re challenged to grow and step out on faith… growing pains.

Although we may not always now the “why” behind these situations that come our way we can know the “who.” The “who”…the ONE that promises to never leave us or forsake us and whose steadfast love endures no matter what circumstance we find ourselves in. That’s really the best way I can recap my most recent trip to Nicaragua.

Our team of five set out April 2 with a few goals in mind: to scout out some new possible sites for future ministry and to visit some new outreach villages that we were praying about joining a local pastor in Nicaragua in a church plant. It wasn’t very long into our trip that we knew the Holy Spirit was moving in another direction.

There are countless places in Nicaragua that need help. The poverty that surrounds you can become overwhelming at times because everywhere you turn there’s someone that needs help and you simply can’t meet every need. As a team we were brought back to square one and began to ask ourselves “why do we come here?” Seems like an easy enough question, but it’s definitely one worth asking. With all the need that you face in any third-world country it would be very easy to make yourself busy while never making any sort of eternal impact for the Kingdom of God.

So, why do we go?

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Matthew 28:19-20

That’s it! There’s no other reason! There should be no other reason. The Gospel is enough! That can be exhibited in so many different ways. There’s no limit to avenues that the Gospel can be shared. But if there’s not an intentional effort behind what we do than it becomes nothing more than events and projects. Hungry people need to eat and sick people need to have doctor’s visits, but if we don’t use these moments (lead by the Holy Spirit) to share the Gospel than we’ve missed an opportunity.

What a great reminder! I’m so thankful that the Lord took this trip to refocus us as a team before leading our church trip this summer and for years to come.  Truthfully it can be overwhelming to think about the task that Lord has placed in front of us. But intertwined with those feelings there’s a joy and a renewed purpose that the Lord is revealing to us! There’s restoration, healing, and freedom that the Lord wants so desperately for the hearts of the people in the community of Bethel that we’ve grown to love and it’s so close I almost taste it! We can rest in the fact that it’s Christ who does the work! We’re just called to show up, be willing and obedient.

The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”

John 6:63

Myself, Massiel, & Lenin

Please continue to be praying for us as we follow the Lord’s leading in developing more refined and focused ministry and what that looks like.

Back in the States

I am back in the States!  I arrived last night in Birmingham, Alabama where my wife Sharon is visiting her mom.

The trip was a grand success in many ways; I got many of the photos taken for the kids needing sponsorship, and spent time in the village and at the project with many people.

About 10 minutes ago, I made my very first phone call to Mario in Nicaragua.  In the past, it has always been email, as I have had the help of the computer to translate my English into Spanish.  Anyway, I just called Mario to find out about my friend Martin, who is dying of the kidney disorder from the pesticides.  He is still alive; about the same as he was yesterday.  Amazing.  But he is a young man in his 30s and very strong.  I left money with our highly trusted friend and helper Mario for Martin’s funeral expenses.

I will send a full report in the next few days.  Thank you for praying.

Last day in Nicaragua

Friends,

I look forward to coming home, but am sad to leave at the same time.  I have been here without an interpreter, and have done fine, although I understand less than half of what my friends here say.

Martin Matamoro rallied last night in the cool of the night, and is sitting in his house.  But he is unable to drink, and has not for the last day.  Today will be very hot, and will be a critical impact on the body.  Doctor Michael was surprised that he lived through the night, as he had many convulsions and was dillusional.  Thank you for your prayers, as he is not going through the agony that others have had in the past.   Vision Nicaragua will help the family with the funeral expenses, as they are unable.   I cried last night as I saw Martin´s 12 year old son embrace him in tears, knowing that he is dying.  It is very hard for a young family. 

Thank you for your prayers and support.  I will be back in Birmingham with my wife Sharon late tomorrow night, and then drive back to Asheville on Sunday.

God bless you all.

Doug Van Wirt

Tuesday in Nicaragua

Doug, here, from Nicaragua.  The mood in Bethel is a little bit somber as the knowledge that our friend Martin is dying.  He spent a second day in the hospital, but the doctors said there is nothing else they can do.  His creatin level has raised to 38, and he has only a few days left.  Martin is going home to die.   Many of the Vision Nicaragua people here at the project land are friends with Martin, and are spending much time helping with the family.  It is good to see God at work in difficult times.  Doctor Michael leading in prayer.  Seferino helping Martin´s mother.  Juan Carlos and Mario visiting much. 

This morning I took a ka-jillion photos of people at the school.  The school administrator Nicolasa and her helper Alba wrote the names of the kids on a mini white board, and they held it at waist height while I took their photos.  I also did many sick men and widows.  But I probably only got 60 percent done.  I will return in the morning.

We had a big lunch together at the project with all the project staff.  It was very well received.   While we were waiting for Seferino to return from helping the family, several of us washed (in the hot Nicaraguan sun) the right side of the front wall that says “BLOQUERA BETHEL” which advertises our concrete block enterprise.  It looks almost new!  When Seferino returned, we had a class on stewardship and bookkeeping, and did a practice session with pencil and ledger paper.  Not my cup of tea, but God gave me the grace to teach it, and they were very thankful.  This is the “Year of Accountability” for Vision Nicaragua.  We are raising the bar everywhere. 

It is hot here; I don´t know how hot – probably in the mid 90s.  I probably drank 3 gallons of water today.

In our meeting today I was thinking aloud with the group about why God chose me to help in this way?  It is amazing where I find myself.  May His name be praised!

More tomorrow…..   Doug

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