REAP GRANADA Nicaragua Base

HUMILITY AT THE CORE

“Be completely humble and gentle: be patient, bearing with one another in love.  Make every effort to keep the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace.”  (Ephesians 4:2-3)

 


I feel like I always say this, but it has been extremely busy in the ministry.  We are waiting for it to slow down a little.  But it would actually be better if we simply had a bigger team to do all that is happening.  We rarely give a report on all that is happening, and I will continue in that tradition.  While the details of the happenings at our community center, in our sport program and in many of the smaller discipleship relationships are extremely exciting, the most exciting development is the continued growth in the unity of the pastors we have pulled together and their rapidly growing use of the conference center we have been building on the farm, with your help.  This is something so much bigger than us, so we are excited to give you a closer look at the power of humility and the Holy Spirit.

We started about 6 months ago when we pulled together a small group of pastors from 5 churches, all of them struggling in their own ways, yet fully committed to their call.  Over time, we have selectively allowed two additional pastors to join us for a total of 7.  We actually have about 10 wanting to join us but we are holding off on enlarging the group as we first want to solidify the group that we have.  Nathan, Alvaro, Ezekiel and I have made a huge investment in time and energy to encourage, pray for, pray with and otherwise support these pastors in so many ways during this time of growth.  We have organized several activities, some of which I will describe below.

I hate to admit it, but pastors, of which I am called one, struggle with the same issues of pride, insecurity and self-preservation that almost everyone does.  So getting pastors to work together has been an insurmountable challenge until now.  Every year we try to pull them together to see if we can get some momentum, and then drop it until the time is right.  Well, this year has been different.  We started in March with a humble meeting as we invited them to the farm for lunch and to talk about the possibilities.

Every single one of them expressed their doubt on it being able to work, simply based upon their lack of trust of each other.  Funny isn’t it that pastors can’t trust each other.  And many people feel they cannot trust them either.  Why is that?  This reflects the problem in the church today, both in Nicaragua as well as the United States.  If a pastor reflected the love of Jesus to his congregation above all else, and they reflected this into the community at large, there would be no lack of trust.  Unfortunately, love is the not first work people think of when they think of the church.

Second Step

In order to get over this trust issue, we had to challenge them to follow the command of Romans 12:18  “as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”  We held a conference for the 5 pastors and invited their wives.  Now that was something new as well.  Their wives were never involved in anything and were not an active part of their ministry.  Gosh, how contrary this is to our ministry where Jennifer is the heart and soul of everything we do.

At this conference, we taught and discussed the 4 main themes we teach in our ministry:  Humility, love, forgiveness and unity.  If you have humility, love, and forgiveness among any group of people, you cannot keep them from being unified.  The initial meeting was electrifying.  They embraced the need for these qualities in their lives, their ministries and amongst themselves.  So they agreed to move forward.

Step Three

Now what.  There is so little creativity among the churches.  So we suggested some very simple activities.  We first held a unified blood drive at the community center that attracted 55 donors from our churches.  Journey mentioned this in her last update.  The Red Cross told us they never had an event where they did not have to walk to streets in the neighborhood and solicit donors.  They were so excited to work with us because we had such eager donors.  What a great way to show the love of Christ to the community!!!!  This was a simple little win together that gave us a shot in the arm.  (Get it?)

We are now gaining momentum.  In the last 2 months, together we have:

  • Hosted a youth conference on the farm
  • Hosted a marriage conference on the farm
  • Begun praying together weekly
  • Had a successful blood drive
  • Done two combined church services with all members from their churches
  • Shown 6 movies in several of their churches
  • They have now each preached at least one of each others’ churches

All of this in less than two months?  Could you ever think this is possible? Over the next month we have planned another combined church service, a leadership conference this coming Friday and then an evangelism workshop and another marriage conference in October.  We will be doing a talent show and other activities before the end of the year.

So where are we now?  To start with, these pastors are extremely excited.  What a change!!!  They are now experiencing the benefits of this group.  If one can’t preach, they call each other or myself to fill in quickly.  There have been some serious problems among them and they show up at each other’s houses to pray with and encourage each other.  In other words, they have friends.  Trusted friends.  They never had friends like this because it is very hard for pastors to have friends.

And guess what, their churches are growing.  The love and humility they now show to each other is naturally flowing into their churches as well.  In all honesty, some of these churches were already growing.  But now they are exploding.  They are no longer worried about competition among each other.  They are eagerly helping each other, demonstrating a servant’s heart, love, and humility once again.  Their people feel it and notice it.  Things are changing.

Revival

People talk about revival all the time.  We have been talking about it for 5 years that we felt the Lord would bring it here one day.  But most misunderstand the word.  They think revival means church growth.  It does not.  By definition, it means to revive.  Which means it was alive and is now not doing so well.  That was the state of the local church.  Revival begins within the church.  It begins when the Holy Spirit touches and changes hearts.  Then when the church is alive, the natural effect is that it will naturally grow.  We believe that we are in the beginning stages of a revival.  We have a saying in our ministry.  God needs to “work in us before he works through us.”  And that is what the Lord is doing.  He is working in the pastors’ hearts first, then working through them into their churches and the communities.

These men and their wives allowed the Holy Spirit to humble them first, and then teach them to love and serve.  As the Holy Spirit fills us up, we now truly reflect Jesus Christ to each other and the community in which we serve.  Praise God.  And thank God for the team that we have here.  Nathan, Alvaro and Ezekiel have been instrumental in this work.  Our own team being united has helped us to love, serve and guide this team of pastors.  We are excited to see what the Lord has for this city over the next year.  With many pastors waiting to join and work in loving unity, this could “infect” the rest of the churches, most of which are still struggling in the way our churches were just 6 months ago.

Did I mention that we are all praying?  Our whole team is praying.  The pastors are praying.  We pray individually every day, and we gather together many times a week to pray together.  None of this would have happened without the Holy Spirit directing everything in response to prayers that humble and open our hearts.  We are excited about the future and we are grounded in prayer.  Today and every day.

So what about you?  Do you need to examine your heart?  How is your humility?  You can do good things without being humble.  You can do acts of service.  The humble and loving heart is not only the prerequisite that Jesus calls for, but it also empowers those acts of service to have a lasting impact.  We want to encourage everyone towards humility, love, forgiveness and, prayer.

God bless you all.  Please pray for us and please let us know how we can pray for you.

Scott and Jenn

Building Growth Developments

From Scott Esposito:

 

Some of you might be following us on Facebook or through our newsletters and have seen the exciting developments on the land with our new dormitory and conference center.

 

We opened our first dormitory this March and began using it to host American short term teams.  Beginning in May, we began to host conferences and meetings with and for the local church. We started with a small, extremely successful pastor meeting and then quickly grew into hosting a conference every single weekend.  We have worked with the local church to coordinate youth and women’s conferences, as well and marriage and pastor retreats and church leadership training. The “conference center” has quickly grown far beyond our capacity as pastors want to increasingly include bigger groups.  Our dormitory has a capacity for 60 people. We are now getting requests for 80, 100 and as many as 200 people. We anticipate that this growth will not slow down. As our local pastors brim with excitement, they have been eagerly inviting pastors from outside of Granada to our events.  We even have an event scheduled for December 16 and 17 where 50 pastors from several cities outside of Granada will attend. When these pastors experience our facilities, combined with our extremely affordable pricing (we only charge for food in order to make it affordable and to serve the local church) they line up to use it.  We are expecting explosive growth after this December meeting as more pastors from around the country will want to return with their respective churches.

 

We have already outgrown our capacity.  And the growth with continues exponentially.  We need to add another dormitory to handle this growth.  We estimate the total cost of a dormitory that can house 100 people to cost around $100,000.  We have a modular design that allows us to build this dorm step by step. We are trying to raise the initial $20,000 that will initiate construction on the dorm and provide the bathrooms and first dorm rooms.  With this additional capacity, we will be able to better meet the quickly increasing demand from the local church.

 

An example of our how our lack of space has become an issue is an event we are hosting November 24-December 1.  We will be hosting 50 boxers from the national boxing teams from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. They will come to our land to train for a week and then put on an exhibition.  We will be using this activity as a draw for the youth for evangelistic outreach. At the same time, we will be hosting 35 missionaries from Guatemala who are coming to help us with this event.  We do not have the capacity for all of these folks. In addition to the evangelistic outreach, these missionaries will have extensive time with the boxers themselves and will, therefore, be evangelizing to them as well.

RECAP VIDEO of Our Time with REAP

Nicaragua from 1558 Visuals on Vimeo.

“My name’s Jon and I’m currently spending my last month of the World Race at the Nicaraguan AIM Base, REAP Granada. Right on the outskirts of Granada, Nicaragua there is a farm. This isn’t just any farm that raises animals or grows vegetables and fruits. This farm is constantly working to unite and equip the community through God’s mission. This farm has provided a home and safe haven for those in the community in more ways than one. It seems like every area of this land is used for a different, specific purpose.  Through the recent political unrest and economic crisis, REAP Granada seeks to unify and equip the local pastors, providing hope for the future of Church. The ministry vision long outlives the AIM Base. This ground will hopefully become a thriving ministry, run by solely the Nicaraguan people. I could elaborate on the captivating stories of each individual ministry here at the farm, but, instead, I would like to invite you along for the ride. This is your typical day on the farm.

Each day at the farm begins in the driveway. Locals pour into work in the kitchen, the fields, and in local ministry. Trucks pick up kids along the way that have come to know the farm as a safe haven. People pack up to leave for the many ministries that happen outside of our gates. This includes the community center, located in one of the more dangerous corners in the neighborhood, which needs hope now more than ever. It has become an area for kids to gather and build community in a safe environment while learning more about who God is. Other daily ministries may include visits to the dump to encourage and participate in a feeding program for the families that live there. This provides an opportunity to evangelize alongside local pastors.

Upon return, my squad and the long term team make our way to the kitchen and dining area, where we are fed by local women. These ladies are employed to not only feed hundreds of people on any given day but also to pour into one another spiritually. Some of those that sit down for lunch may be the local men that put in the hard work on the farm. These men start their day in the fields bright and early, working to create a sustainable farm in the future. They are discipled by the long term team, calling them higher into living above reproach. As the afternoon begins, I can hear cheers from the neighborhood soccer, kickball, or softball league. Fields on the property host hundreds of people and devotionals are held before each game. Unity is established as kids learn how to engage in the community through healthy activities. These fields have become a safe place to play, bringing in dozens of kids and families in on any given afternoon.

One of the goals of REAP Granada is to unify pastors across all of Nicaragua, starting with those they can physically touch in the neighboring barrios. Pastors tend to view each other as competition. With the level of influence each pastor carries individually, REAP has recognized the potential of overall community impact that could stem from their unity as a whole. Ephesians 4:2-3 says ‘with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.’  This is extremely necessary in the current political and economic state of the country. To create a culture of unity, the farm holds pastoral conferences and retreats in the pavilion and dormitory. This gives the pastors the opportunity to come together as the body of Christ, not just working as individuals in a suffering community. We just witnessed a conference on the Holy Spirit that involved 8 of the churches and had over 200 people in attendance.  This is now the new normal. The churches unifying themselves and their congregations to come together, learn together and grow together.”

Favorite Day of Ministry

One of my favorite days of ministry was when we visited the local dump in Granada. Initially, when I heard that a possible ministry site could be visiting the local dump, I honestly hoped I wouldn’t be placed there. I was surprised when I heard other teams returning from it raving about it. The day we were assigned, we met with Jesse and Andy, who have been volunteering at the dump for many years. They both have incredible stories of how the Lord led them to serve in Nicaragua. We picked up fresh food from multiple areas and arrived at the dump, which is a huge hill of garbage that looks over Granada.

Andy and Jesse began to tell us that the people that go through the garbage are the third set of individuals to go through them. People go through trash cans, the people who come through on garbage trucks go through it and lastly it arrives at the dump for these individuals to search through to find anything valuable left. We were expecting to see men searching for garbage but were surprised to see both women and young children searching as well. It was heartbreaking to see some of the young children that we encountered at REAP’s community center working at the dump. With the unemployment rate so high in Nicaragua, many of them walk for miles to the dump in hopes of making something off of the valuables they can find. Unfortunately, on average the workers make under a $1 a day.
My teammates, Cameron and Michael gave a 5-minute message and prayed over the food as everyone lined up to get their meal. As we began serving food, we began to notice that people were bringing up containers and pieces of plastic that were in the dump. We used water to help them rinse out whatever was in it before. We had plates yet some of them still chose to use their containers to receive their food in. As everyone in the line went people came quickly came back for seconds and some people with extra containers for their family.
Working at the dump gave an eye-opening reality to how blessed we truly are. Many times back home it’s a huge ordeal if we receive a dirty fork when eating out or part of the meal is not the way we wanted it. It’s surreal to see how desperate these people were for a meal to use something from the dump and not even know what they would receive. I remember as a child hearing that “I wasn’t that hungry then” if I rejected a food that I didn’t want in the house but only wanted what I was craving and was humbling to see how grateful of some of the young children we served were.
After leaving the dump my team and I went to serve at Addie’s Backyard Bible program. Addie is a young woman who has such a passion for children, who runs a feeding program and an hour long devotional for the local children. Her children absolutely love her and we’re so sweet. We prayed, went over a bible story, memorized scripture, sang songs and played games with them.
We later on had the opportunity to go to a local nursing home. Jesse visits at least once a week to bring coffee and a small meal to the elderly. Earlier in the day, Jesse told us that it was someone’s birthday so we pick up a cake for her.
The elderly at the home were extremely loving and sweet. We served them tortillas, beans, and cheese with coffee and after singing happy birthday to Teresa, we served cake as well. Teresa is a sweet 76 yr old woman who has been in the home for multiple years due to her being disabled. Many of the people at the home have such a kind spirit and it was heartbreaking to hear about many of their stories about how some of them ended up at the nursing home.