Friday, February 1, 2013

Nicaragua 2013

Wow!  what a great week !!!  Just returned from my 5th annual trip to House of Hope in Nicaragua, and thought I'd try to capture a few highlights while the memories are still fresh...

On Sunday, January 20, I met up with my teammate, Ana Rich, in the Houston airport - I'd met Ana on Global Celebration's "Steps of Paul" mission trip to Bulgaria, Greece & Turkey in 2011 - her flight was delayed, but United got her on another plane in plenty of time, and she arrived full of peace and joy.  I'd had a half-caf mocha while I was waiting for her in Houston, so when we arrived at Quinta Shalom in Managua around midnight, unpacking & organizing our supplies for the week (in our big 4-bunk room) was a breeze... Monday we started our week of classes & activities on multiple but related themes:  Culture of Honor, Supernatural Ways of Royalty, & Restoration of our True Identity in Christ.  House of Hope residents ages 10 and up attended for about 2 to 3 hours of ministry every day, except for Tuesday morning, when I spoke for about 40 minutes on "Identity" to about 350+ women who come to HoH on Tuesdays to make greeting cards & jewelry.  For more information about House of Hope (including testimonies, projects, how to donate or order products), please see their website

On Monday, we talked about what it means to "Honor all people" [from I Peter 2:17a] and how unity is not sameness - that God created us all different and He enjoys diversity!  We closed the class by sharing Communion, and asked God to help us see ourselves and one another as He sees us (forgiven, accepted, loved) and to appreciate our God-given differences as unique individuals, created in His image and likeness.  Tuesday's message focused on how our behavior flows from our sense of identity, and asking God to paint HIS picture (of ourselves & one another) on our hearts and minds - I posted this cartoon image of an ordinary cat painting himself as a tiger to illustrate the idea that God's vision for us is more beautiful and powerful than we have yet seen or realized.

On Wednesday, we talked about humility and honor, focusing on the fact that true Biblical humility is not putting ourselves down, but serving one another through being secure in God's Love.  Jesus knew who He was, where He came from and where He was going, and He received glory and honor from the Father by laying down His life for others and setting us free.  We closed this session with footwashing - complicated by the fact that the water was shut off on HoH campus that day (interruptions to water and power can happen unexpectedly at any time in poor countries) - Brittany, my friend and HoH dorm mom, provided us with 3 gallon jugs of water that she & her girls had saved for bathing... Each member of the group took turns both giving and receiving, washing another person's feet and speaking positive encouragement to each other, which continued building our sense of community and willingness to "love your neighbor as yourself." [Lev 19:18, Mt 22:39]

Thursday began with a short skit by two of the dorm girls to illustrate a teaching on conflict resolution, then we did a second session on "royal robes" with scriptures that show how special clothing (including "putting on Christ" and wearing Love) can be an outward expression of the worth and dignity of the person wearing it.  We passed out beautiful fabrics in assorted colors and encouraged each member of the class to use them to dress creatively for our "royal banquet" (chicken dinner).  The girls far surpassed my expectations and looked outstanding in their glamorous "gowns" that evening!   A few of my favorite photos are attached - a beautiful 8 year old, who would barely smile for a picture on Monday, truly stepped into her identity as God's Princess as she paraded her long train of satin butterflies... who doesn't feel more wonderful wearing a necklace, bracelet, crown or tiara?  a few young boys (who live with their mothers or grandmothers at House of Hope) really enjoyed pinning fabric to their shoulders like superhero capes - what a transformation!   :)  

Friday's last class was on "Following Your Favor" - I began by telling a story from last year's trip (see 2/22/12 blog posting "Buttery Steps!" ) - then explained how, when we follow what God has truly put in our hearts, we find that His grace opens doors and we feel His smile upon us.  Although we will encounter challenges and opposition, we have what it takes to overcome obstacles when we are walking with God in His will for us!  Again we encouraged one another to seek God for how He sees us, and what He wants to do with us in our lives day by day.  Then we invited the younger children to join us for an art activity - each person decorated their piece of a posterboard puzzle with colors & pictures expressing their unique identity & God-given talents or dreams - and celebrated the end of our week together with ice cream for all... :)

"Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart." Psalm 37:4 NIV

Saturday was a relaxing outing for me and Ana with our "guide" Laura (House of Hope staff member who coordinates team visits, along with many other duties! :)), who drove us about an hour southeast of Managua to Laguna de Apoyo - a small volcanic crater lake just west of Granada (we also visited the Granada marketplace for souvenirs before heading home).  I loved seeing signs declaring "Everyone has a right to relax" and "Please respect others' right to rest" at the lakefront restaurant & guesthouse called "La Abuela," where we enjoyed an hour of sunbathing on the deck after lunch (the water looked refreshing, but we decided not to swim and then have to drive home wet).  It was a beautiful day that allowed us to appreciate a bit more of the Nicaraguan countryside, since the rest of the week we mainly shuttled between House of Hope and our nearby lodging at Quinta Shalom, with a few side trips for supplies & groceries.

My strongest impression and greatest joy on this trip was seeing so many familiar faces and spiritual growth among the residents, staff & women who come on Tuesday mornings - I still find myself rejoicing at their continued progress in faith and life.  After 5 trips since 2009, visiting House of Hope is more than a "short term mission trip" for me - it's a spiritual investment in many lives, and I am privileged to see the rewards of sowing God's Love unfold before me year after year.  As on previous trips, we left behind most of our supplies, clothing, a couple of suitcases and several backpacks as donations to House of Hope.  I was also thrilled to "plant" about 30 copies of my 16-page teaching notes in Spanish in the lives of spiritually hungry women who will study the scriptures, share with their friends, and continue to listen as Holy Spirit speaks to them personally about who they are becoming in Christ.  I know the Lord keeps sending us each year to refresh and encourage the hard-working House of Hope staff as well.  Ana's spiritual sensitivity, sweet spirit & prayers were a great blessing - God was faithful to keep her safe and well in spite of some hip pain and lots of bumpy Nicaraguan roads!  Please keep all of these precious people in your prayers.  As for me, I fell more in love with the place and people than ever - each year, life in Nicaragua seems a little less hard and a lot more beautiful - I can hardly wait to return...

Source books & teaching CD's available at
Danny Silk, Culture of Honor & The Practice of Honor
Kris Vallotton, Supernatural Ways of Royalty

For a complete album of photos from this trip, click here:

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