Last March, with the graduation of 3 new pastoral candidates, our Nicaraguan missionaries were freed of their congregational responsibilities and fanned out to begin new outreach ministries. In this report, I will share with you a new beginning initiated by Missionary Maximo in Gracios a Dios, a small community north of the city of Leon.
The name of the community is most interesting. According to one resident, there had once been a large farm in the area. The farmer in developing the land had taken out a rather significant loan. After a number of years he was able to pay off that loan and his wife heard him exclaim in joy, “Gracios a Dios (Thanks be to God!)” Later when he asked his wife what name they should give to the farm, she said, “You’ve already named it!” It’s “Gracios a Dios.” Over the years a community grew up around that farm and it took the name. The farm is now gone, but the community and name remain.
Missionary Maximo made his first visit to the community several months ago. He discovered that there was no church in the community, but that people were open to his visit and the message he brought. He began making regular visits to the community going from home to home sharing a little of who he was and the “Good News” that he brought. Homes opened to his visits; People responded to his message. Soon, one family invited him to use their yard and shade trees as a place for people to gather for study and worship.
On the day that I visited the community, over 30 adults gathered under the large shade tree. Missionary Maximo led them in Bible Study on John chapter 3, the story of Jesus and Nicodemus. Assisting him was Pastor Henry, the new graduate pastor now serving the two congregations that Missionary Maximo had formerly served. Together they shared the message of God’s grace and love for Nicodemus and for the world. They heard how “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son. . . .”
Under another shade tree in that yard were some 25 children gathered around Deaconesses Jyrll, Maximo’s wife and Deaconess Anna. Using a flannel board and felt characters, they were also telling another Gospel story. After the lesson, the Deaconesses joined with the children in play and then returned to review the story and have a Bible quiz and win little prizes.
Sitting under that shade tree with its large branches, I was reminded of the story of Zaccheus and the words of Jesus, “Zaccheus, come down for I must stay at your house today.” Given the chance to speak, I told that story and how Jesus wanted to stay in their homes too. It didn’t matter who they were or what kind of a mess their house or their life might be in. Jesus still wanted to stay. And you, dear reader, know the reason why? Because “God so loved the world. . . .” Give thanks to God for “Gracios a Dios” and remember these dear people and our missionaries in your prayers!