FORGET NONE OF HIS BENEFITS,
volume 13, number 46, November 13, 2014
. . . that repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name, Luke 24:47.
I returned on October 31 from four days in Esteli, Nicaragua, a town of 180,000 people, two hours north of the capital, Managua. I had been to Nicaragua forty years ago, just after finishing my time at the University of Alabama, where I played baseball for five weeks with college players from around the United States as part of an evangelistic ministry called Sports Ambassadors. I loved the people then, and nothing has changed. They are delightful-very friendly and gracious. A great movement of God began sometime after the horrific earthquake which struck Managua in December, 1972, killing 6000 people, leaving 80 percent of Managuans homeless. The Hall of Fame baseball player, Roberto Clemente, was killed in a plane crash upon take off in Puerto Rico. He was delivering relief aid to the ravaged and suffering people in Nicaragua. The evangelical, or more precisely the Pentecostal church, began to grow rapidly from that point forward. Today some thirty percent of Nicaraguans are Pentecostal or evangelical Christians.
Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship (PEF) team member Emerson Wilson came to Esteli, Nicaragua in 1996 with Young Life, working with young people in that community. Within a few years Emerson had a powerful ministry established with several hundred conversions. During this time he met Martina, a Nicaraguan, who also was working with Young Life, and they have been married now for seventeen years. As Emerson studied the Scriptures he became convinced of the doctrines of grace in Calvinism and believed God was leading him to establish a Presbyterian church in Nicaragua. He attended seminary in Merida, Mexico through the Presbyterian Church of Mexico and in the last few years three Presbyterian churches have been planted in Estelli. Tom Cheely, the missions pastor at Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Alabama, who went to be with the Lord Jesus in May, 2014, was a key man to help move the Presbyterian Church in Nicaragua forward. Richard Fuentes, who pastors the Gracia Salvadora Presbyterian Church and Juan Salvador Reyes who pastors the El Shaddai Presbyterian Church have been accepted by PEF as international workers. The Shalom Presbyterian Church is pastored by Juan Carlos Gutierrez Cordoba. I spent three full days with these men, listening to them, asking questions, seeking to teach them and give them a sense of what God can do through them. They are very eager to see a great church planting movement take hold in their beloved country.
So here’s an obvious question-what does Nicaragua need? After all, there are countless churches in the country, some of them are Biblical and effective in ministry. To work toward planting numerous Presbyterian churches in this country may seem unnecessary. Why seek to do it? When considering the history of the nation, its difficult existence during the Anastasio Somoza regime from 1967 to 1979 when there was untold corruption, suffering, and poverty; its turmoil during the Sandinista revolution of Daniel Ortega in 1979; the hurricanes, earthquakes, and structural depravity that breeds injustice which keeps the people in poverty; then perhaps we are justified in wondering why the present brand of Christianity has not brought societal change for the better. What Nicaragua needs, what any nation for that matter needs, is a Big God and a Big Savior. So much of modern evangelicalism is entertainment and event driven. The message tends to be a psycho-therapeutic, prosperity gospel fueled by legalism and emotionalism. There is little preaching on the utter and total depravity of mankind, which alone explains the corruption, racism, genocide, and poverty which is so prevalent in the world. The Nicaraguan people need to hear of the Sovereign One who directs and disposes all things after the counsel of His will, the Holy One who will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, but who, nonetheless has entered into a covenant of grace with His elect, promising to be their God and to make them His people, the very apple of His eye. They need to hear of the sinless Savior of sinners, the God-Man, the Lord Jesus, who willingly came to this earth, lived a perfect, sinless life, and who offered Himself without blemish to His Father as the propitiating, expiating, reconciling, redeeming, justifying, sanctifying, and glorifying sacrifice. These dear people need to hear that the rule and reign of Christ ought to be evident in every area of their lives-their family, church, work, community, and government. They need a strong, robust theology that will sustain them when the suffering and hardships of life come their way. They need to know they have a Savior and Redeemer who sticks closer than a brother, who will never leave them nor forsake them, who loves them with an everlasting love, who promises to strengthen and sustain them, who promises to take them to heaven when they die, who promises to right all wrongs and injustice, who promises to re-establish the earth to its original, pre-fall beauty when He comes again in clouds of glory with His saints.
What is the plan? I challenged the young pastors to the same things I challenge church planters in Alabama or wherever else I go. They must first gain an intolerable burden, an intense agony, grief, and alarm at the status quo in their personal lives, in the church, and in the world. Only this will drive them to true, fervent, revival prayer; and only revival prayer will bring down Holy Ghost power upon their ministries. Neither they, nor we, are able to effect change in anyone. Those without Christ are dead in their sins. They have no appetite for the word of God or His Christ. And this prayer must fuel an insatiable desire to preach Christ to everyone in all the barrios of Esteli and the surrounding cities of their nation. They must find, equip, and deploy evangelists to go door to door and evangelize in whatever way they can, fully trusting in the Holy Spirit to lead them to the elect for whom Christ died. Then they must begin immediately and intentionally to disciple their people in the Biblical and practical disciplines of the Christian life-how to pray, how to have a devotional time, how to evangelize, how to be a father and husband, how to be a wife and mother, how to work, how to handle money, and many other things. They must multiply disciples by intentionally moving those recently trained and discipled to do the same thing with others, following Paul’s command to Timothy (2 Timothy 2:2).
These church planters, just like us in the United States, ask, “Where will we get the money, the resources?” I tell them that resources always follow vision and ministry. God will supply what they need. They do not need to look to the North American church long term for help. This will only weaken them, making them ever dependent on us, like a thirty year old child who still gets a hefty allowance from his father. No incentive to work and pray! Perhaps a little financial support for a season is acceptable, like what we do with so many of our church planters in America, but there must be an end to the financial help, sooner than later. They must make it on their own, and if God is in it, if God is blessing their work, He will provide. Faithful is He who calls you, and He will bring it to pass (1 Thessalonians 5:24).
There is so much potential in Nicaragua. Please pray for Emerson and Martina Wilson, Richard and Sandra Fuentes, Juan Reyes, Juan Cordoba and the many others who are, and will labor with these saints in the months and years ahead-that the glory of the Lord will cover Nicaragua as the waters cover the sea.