There are many things to say about my recent time in Nicaragua. I’ll try to be brief, however. Something different about this time is that I traveled to Nicaragua solo, which I have not done before. As a general rule, I don’t travel alone, and only remember ever doing it one time before. That trip was to Mexico in the Winter 2008. I have memories of it being cold on lonely. Fortunately, that was not the case this time. It seemed to be purposeful that I was going alone.
When I arrived, Victor and Angela Benitez picked me up from the airport, along with Timmy Ost, who had arrived a few hours earlier, also coming in for Identidad2013. The transition was immediate and we were on our way to their house in Masatepe. I was thankful for this and, with the conference starting the next day, I was happy to have a little down time before kick off.
The conference was back to back meetings for Thursday afternoon, Friday, and Saturday until the afternoon. Some of the others who had come to be on the team were also involved last year, and it was good to see them, especially Ariel Garro and Jorge from Costa Rica. This time they had already been in the country a few weeks, just coming down from Matagalpa with Erick Mairena, a youth pastor and emerging leader from that part of the country.
The line up of speakers was very strong, with many from outside of Nicaragua, and a powerful representation from within the country as well. Powerful preaching was not in short supply, and I am thankful that such a valiant effort was made on the part of all to impact the young people of this land, Nicaragua, which is one of the youngest countries in the world. Impacting this generation will bless and impact the future here in ways that are unique. Please pray for us as we seek to continue to bless and be a blessing to the emerging leaders here.
I would be remiss not to mention how thankful I am to have been reunited with so many others at the conference. It was a huge blessing to see many many familiar faces and get to have some time with them. After the conference concluded, we went to the standing after party, Youth Meeting at LaRoca in Jinotepe in the state of Carazo. This has long been one of my favorite places to come, and the welcome we continually receive here is extraordinary. Ulysses and his crew are doing something special, in partnership with the God of Heaven and Earth, and it seems to be working quite nicely. Along with Joe and a ad-hoc team rounded out by Jairo Miranda and some Swedish missions school students, we had a great night and were able to bless and be blessed. I wait with longing to be with these guys again.
Jairo's beautiful wife Claribell was so kind as to let him take the road with me after the conference, and our first stop was Dario, and their house, as we began to push north. Around 2am we ended the 3 hour drive and turned it in for the evening. These are sweet people. The love of Christ swells in my heart for them as I write this.
Our first stop on the road after leaving Dario in the early afternoon was where we would spend the next few days, in Matagalpa. We had the privilege of being received into the company of a family of renown in the faith, the Torrez family. They have always been so kind to me and the gringo parade I have brought into town, and it's a standing plan to see them when I am in country. Thank God in His grace we are privileged to know such comrades in arms.
The next day we took some time to visit with others from Matagalpa we know, talking about all sorts of things, drinking coffee, giving words of encouragement, and eating some really good food in good company. The day went well and we were able to see a number of friends and share time that passes so quickly in such settings.
The following day we were off to Jinotega to see Earl Rutledge and family, a missionary who left from Texas 20+ years ago and has been in Nicaragua ever since. He and I met a year or so back, and since then I have been planning to go see him. You know when a number of people, independently, ask you if you have met Earl Rutledge yet, you should find a way to make it happen. This guy is deep water, and I appreciated the beginnings of friendship that we are sharing. We stayed with Earl, Bev and family that night, and the next day headed south to rendezvous with a waiting plane. Grabbing the last few chances to say quick hello and/or goodbyes as we descended from the beauty and serenity of the mountains to the heat and flat of Managua, Jairo and I talked of the future and how it should be best be approached. Needless to say, a rich future of love and brotherhood awaits. Thanks be to God for the time we all shared.