When we arrived in Nuevo Guinea that Monday morning, we were greeted with a slight change of plans. Rather than the women’s conference being held in the afternoon, it would be in the evening, concurrent with the men’s conference. We would instead spend the afternoon going door to door, doing evangelism, passing out tracts and inviting people to come to the conferences.
So, after our unexpected and surprisingly good lunch at the restaurant, we met up with some members of the church hosting the conference and divided into teams to go out. Amy and I were in a group of five: the two of us, our translator, and a man and a woman from the church. We learned something of Nicaraguan social customs: if the door is open, visitors are welcome; in fact, you can walk right in. If the door is shut, most likely no one is home. Not many were home on the stretch of road we were assigned. I talked to some children in one home, asking them (through the translator) if they knew of Jesus. “He’s an angel,” one of the children told me. Despite their assurances that they had never lied or disobeyed their parents or done anything wrong, I told them about Jesus, God’s Son, far greater than the angels, who loves them so much that He died to pay the price for their sin. They looked at me like I was crazy and, looking back on it, maybe I appeared so to them, me a white woman from America speaking a strange language.
We stopped at another home, larger than the rest, back off the road, surrounded by a gated fence. Here the woman and the man from the church were engaged in conversation with a woman who claimed faith in Christ yet no longer attended church. While we listened to their conversation, our translator whispering English summaries to us, I was struck by several things unrelated to the necessity of church attendance: chickens and chicks having free range of the porch and yard, what appeared to be an open cooking area off from the main house, and sheetrock inside the house. Most of homes we saw were small, very small, constructed of concrete block, ironwork on the windows, a door with a padlock. Little or no furniture, save a few plastic chairs which were everywhere! If we sat anywhere in Nicaragua, we sat either on our bed or in a plastic chair (and the rockers at the rancheros in Masaya). So sheetrock surprised me somewhat.
They asked if I wanted to say anything to this woman who had fallen away from church fellowship. I shared with her that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. We need to hear God’s Word preached, I asserted, and we need the accountability and encouragement that comes by not forsaking meeting together. She nodded but I don’t know if she agreed. Time and the Holy Spirit will tell, I suppose.
As we walked further down the road, we saw children playing soccer, a fairly common sight though we were told that baseball is the favorite sport in Nicaragua. We also greeted a precious little boy pushing and chasing a tire. He was such a cutie; I had to take a picture.
In some of the homes we saw young men reading Bibles. Jehovah’s Witness, the woman from the church told us. We handed them a tract and invited them to the conference.
We shared the gospel with another young man, maybe early 20’s. He was friendly and polite, as was nearly everyone we spoke to. No one was ever rude nor unwilling to listen; I don’t know if that’s because we were Americans, because the Nicaraguans are by nature courteous, or a combination thereof. He was attentive but ultimately uninterested in the call of the gospel to repent and believe. Amy and I turned to go on our way when our translator erupted in a torrent of Spanish, her passion evident by her hitting her Bible with her fist for emphasis and occasionally pointing toward the young man as her volume escalated. She told us later that her anger is ignited when someone says they want to just wait to decide (we kind of noticed that). “They are saying Christ is insufficient!” she exclaimed, her fervor mounting all over again.
I will never forget her fiery intensity. I emailed my husband that afternoon: Door to door was good . Our translator is a passionate evangelist! Her passion humbled me.
The conference began at 6 that evening. Or, somewhere thereabouts. Nicaraguan time is, shall we say, flexible. My classroom was just that, a classroom in a Christian school located there at the church. It was, like nearly everything else in Nicaragua, open air, with ironwork on the window and door. There were school desks in rows, very similar to any American classroom.
About 15-20 women were in attendance that first night. I was so nervous I thought I would die and as such, I don’t remember much about our first evening together. I do remember the heat and the sweat rolling down my back. I remember realizing that teaching with a translator requires a rhythm that is much more difficult to establish than it appears. I remember engaging the women in the lesson through questions and some discussion, something I like to do when I teach but wasn’t sure I could given the language barrier. I remember being surprised and humbled by their eagerness to learn.
I know that last statement sounds elitist but it’s true.
Perhaps, if I am honest, I will admit that part of me assumed I was doing those precious women a favor by journeying so far and at great expense to teach them the truth of God’s Word. Maybe I was. But I think the greater reality is that they did me a favor in their humble desire to learn and then live what God’s Word says, a desire that would grow even more evident as our time together progressed…
That first evening, after the conference was over, we were approached by one of the women wanting prayer for her rebellious teenaged daughter. She was heartbroken, tears spilling as she confessed her fears and worry. We encouraged, we sympathized, we prayed.
That night I wrote in my journal: Women’s conference: awkward at first. Women seem interested, intrigued, thankful. Asked questions. Difficult teaching with a translator. Miss home. Miss my husband. Tired. Overwhelmed. Insecure in my ability to share the gospel.