So 4 Mexicans, 5 Americans, 4 Nicaraguans, a Swedish woman, and a Swiss man walk into a Young Life Camp…. It sounds like the beginning of a bad missionary joke, right? In truth, it is the beginning of a divine encounter that I shall now attempt to describe.
Six weeks after returning from Nicaragua for the FX Missions Young Leaders Intensive, it feels like a wonderful dream that was too good to be real – the kind of dream where everything in ministry “works the way it should,” which anyone who has done much missions work knows is not common.
Ministry is often messy, because missionaries, and Christians in general, are imperfect, highly-flawed people who just want to serve God out of love and gratitude. So when a bunch of Christians get together to “do something for God,” it can often look much less-than-perfect.
This, however, was not my experience with my first FX Missions trip. Although I have served as a full-time missionary in different ministries in Mexico for the past 12 years, I had never done missions work in a “foreign” country. Since Mexico is my adopted country (my husband and son are both Mexican nationals), it often feels more like “home” than the U.S., but Nicaragua was something totally different. (What a beautiful country that smells like yummy coffee everywhere you go!)
One of my many reasons for participating in this missions trip was to get out of my “comfort zone” and serve God in a completely different setting – one where I was unsure of myself and my role in ministry. It was one of the best decisions God ever pushed me into.
Being a missionary and having worked hosting short-term missions teams to Mexico, I was aware that God might move in me more than through me, because His agenda in missions is not always focused on the “receiving” country or group. And He didn’t fail to surprise me. Only God would plan to take me from Mexico to Nicaragua to have a Swedish woman to pray for Him to heal emotional wounds that I acquired in the U.S.! (Whoever said God is boring obviously hasn’t experienced His sense of humor.)
Our “host” team for the event was composed of the diverse group of nationalities mentioned above, which also had a good mix of genders and a wide age range. We spent 3 days teaching, eating, sleeping, and playing extreme sports with the young Nicaraguan leaders, and it was intense and relaxing at the same time.
The goal of the Young Leaders Intensive was to provide basic, deep leadership concepts and experiences for 25 young people who are passionately serving the Lord in their home churches in Nicaragua. We ended up with 27 “students,” but then the motto of FX Missions’ founder Scott McClelland always seems to be “the more the merrier.”
Scott has been making divine connections and doing leadership training in Nicaragua for a number of years, and his unique style of bringing people together in the name of the Lord was what marked this particular event. The “Nicaraguan” members of the “host” team for the event are amazing Christians who obviously love serving the Lord, albeit in very different ways. Pastor Jairo Miranda and his wife Claribel (who couldn’t join us for the Intensive because she was at home in Ciudad Dario overseeing the expansion of their church building) run a school for more than 100 children in their community, as well as their local church. Ixil & Adrian Borter (she is a native Nicaraguan/he is from Switzerland) have a local coffee export business that links local producers directly to coffee shops overseas, and they help run a ministry school and house of prayer. Earl Rutledge and his wife Beverly (who also had to “hold down the fort” at home but made several trips to the camp to help our team with ministry and organization) are U.S. missionaries to Nicaragua, who over the past twenty-some years have planted churches and done what seems like every type of Christian training for pastors, leaders, and youth. Joe D’Lope is a young man who had attended all of FX Missions’ previous Young Leader Intensives and this year transitioned to be part of the host team; he serves God in a Christian school and seems to go about spreading joy wherever he goes. And last, but certainly not least, is our Nica-Swede, Anna-Sara Bergwall, who is a full-time missionary from Sweden running her own school of ministry in Ciudad Dario, where she trains young people from Sweden and Nicaragua in missions.
I believe that each of the Mexicans, Americans, and “Nicaraguans” on our host team made an impact on the students through teaching and ministry times, but I have a sneaky feeling that those who learned the most were the ones who just observed the quality of leadership on our team and the almost-seamless teamwork as a group – and I haven’t even shared details about the Americans and Mexicans!
Scott has infused FX Missions with a team-oriented style of leadership that is unusual and effective. When we arrived on-site at the Young Life camp, our host team looked to Scott to tell us exactly what we were going to do over the next three days. He turned it right back on us, and asked the team, “ So… what do you want to do?” Within 2 hours, we had a detailed schedule that included 4 different workshops (deliverance, prophetic ministry, worship, and “transitions in ministry”) that would be taught by eight of us working in teams of two; students rotated through their choice of three workshops over the three-day event. We also had scheduled seven main teachings, times for students to work on team projects, and several hours of extreme sports (rock wall, zip line, etc.). Looking back at the schedule, I wonder how we all found time to make the connections we did with one another and with the students. GOD.
I believe we all walked away from this experience better for it, and more importantly closer to God and with a slightly wider view of His kingdom and purposes than before. I saw inner wounds healed in myself, my teammates, and the students. I noticed God uprooting some long-held concepts that are not in accord with His Word, both in me and in others. I also felt Him confirming identity in many. But the greatest blessing for me was just making new friends – something I have never found easy, much less in under 10 days together. I hope to maintain and deepen each of the relationships that God opened up for me during this mission trip, and I hope that I was as much a blessing from God for others as they were for me.
The greatest desire of Kate and her family, missionaries to Mexico, is to bring Glory to God by bringing others closer into His loving embrace.
Visit NevarezMissions.org to see more!