The Grace Blog
Andy Dozier reminds us that God wants to help us understand the signs and seasons of life.
Amy sings “Your Great Name” and “Remember”.
Amy sings Prophesy Your Promise.
The lights on the houses are all glowing brightly at night and reflect in the glittering snow, the town tree in the town park is lit up, and everyone is rushing like mad to mail out gifts. It must be that time again—Christmas. For Christians, it is a time to celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus. The world has a little different take on the holidays, but Christmas is a time that is universally thought of as one of miracles, hope, and kindness. Most of us have seen the movies “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “A Christmas Carol” and we love them because their message is one of hope.
At a time when Israel was occupied by the Romans, God brought together His divine plan for man’s redemption as foretold, and a virgin, Mary, gave birth to a son. A group of humble shepherds were keeping watch at night over their sheep as they had done many times when suddenly the angels of the Lord appeared and spoke the greatest words of hope that any peoples on earth have ever heard, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:8-11
The angels told the shepherds where to find this baby hidden away in a manger. The shepherds were filled with awe at the angels’ words and went immediately to find this child. When they found Jesus with Mary and Joseph, they repeated to them all that the angels had said to them and all those there were filled with a sense of wonder at God’s promises. The shepherds returned to their flocks “glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen.” Luke 2:20
That message of hope and joy for all peoples continues to this present day and our hearts should be overwhelmed with a sense of wonder and joy, especially believers. Unfortunately, life can dull our senses to all but anxieties, hurts, disappointments, and losses we experience in our day to day lives. Preserving our sense of wonder at God’s message of “peace on earth and goodwill toward men” requires purposefulness. There is so much to distract us, including the pursuit of success, money, family, work, and preoccupation with social media. With all this to keep us occupied, it is easy to lose sight of the joy that is ours.
We must be intentional about meditating on that historic, angelic proclamation of joy and the sense of wonder that God could love us enough to send His only son that we might have a personal loving relationship with Him. The world is full of sadness, famine, disasters, and oppressive governments even as it was at the time of Jesus’ birth, as it has been in every age. Yet, God has promised us that He is with us through all difficulties and all joys.
This season as we prepare to celebrate the birth of our Savior let us do more than watch another Hallmark movie or send out the obligatory gifts and cards. My prayer is that in the midst of the chaos that is modern life, we will take time to allow those words of hope and joy to resonate in our thoughts and our hearts until they fill us once more with that sense of wonder and reverential awe that the shepherds and those in the stable experienced that night. And may that joy and wonder that is ours through Christ send us out into a world that is starving for love and kindness to be a blessing!
God Bless Us Everyone
The time for our departure from the beautiful country of Nicaragua and all of our friends there had arrived, but not before one more significant celebration. This was Christmas Party day at Oasis de Esperanza school, and the last big event of the school year before graduation, takes place this coming weekend. All of the kids return to school on this day for a specially-prepared meal and receiving of gifts!
When our van arrived, the elementary kids were just beginning to gather for a major assembly in the cafetorium, many of them decked out in red elves’ hats. Their excitement was palpable as they knew what was coming! After some brief opening remarks by Alvaro, several of the classes sang Christmas songs, and some of the students recited Bible verses. A silly race was played, and then the kids were dismissed to their classrooms.
Once back in their classrooms and with their teachers in attendance, it was time for our team to spring into action with helping to distribute gifts, candy, and meals! Marcia and Caron helped hand out the excellent chicken meal prepared by the kitchen staff, and Todd and Lyn got to play Santa and Santa’s helper.This was especially appropriate for Todd, sporting a new white beard. The kids were great, and many expressed thanks and gave hugs for what they received. In the sweltering 90 degree heat it may not have felt like Christmas, but the Christmas spirit was certainly there.
When the elementary kids were dismissed, we had a brief break in which we and the staff were able to sit down and eat, and then shortly after the upper grades appeared. This group was smaller than the 250 elementary aged kids, perhaps numbering about 150. They, too, had a few musical numbers and then the school’s Vida Joven leaders gave an effective pitch for Young Life., The surprise of this assembly, however, was the presentation of a special gift to Wayne and Elaine. A large wrapped cylinder was brought in and placed at their feet, which was revealed to be a red carpet, and was unrolled before them. Other than the obvious honor to them (especially significant on this their 37th wedding anniversary), the carpet will be used in the future for other school functions, such as graduations. Wayne and Elaine were both obviously touched, and Wayne expressed a few words of heartfelt thanks and a sharing of the Gospel.
When the older kids were dismissed to their classes, they, too, were served the meal and age-appropriate gifts such as watches and diaries were handed out. The party broke up at about 3:00, and the kids filtered out the gate, leaving mostly the staff and our team alone in what now felt like a very empty space. What life-changing events had occurred over many years within the walls of Oasis de Esperanza! Kids have received love and nurture here, been fed nutritious meals, have experienced the fulfillment of performing to their family and community, have graduated with a solid Christian education, and have come to faith in Jesus.
As we bid “hasta proxima año” (until next year) to our friends, none of us could doubt that the impact of the school extended beyond the students, and into the lives of those who, like ourselves, visited even for a short while. Dios te bendiga, Oasis de Esperanza!
Our flight for Florida leaves at 2:30 AM, in about four hours. We are scheduled to arrive in snowy Denver at 12:45 tomorrow afternoon and then drive back to Lake City. Prayers appreciated! It has been an encouraging trip, both for us and for our friends here. Thanks for participating with us.
Making a living in Managua.
Legendary traffic on the way to the school.
Our lifeline in Acahualinca Barrio for water, Gatorade, and all sorts of exotic snacks!
The kids gather for the Christmas assembly.
Brian and friend.
Wayne and Elaine get the red carpet treatment.
Caron helped serve meals in the classrooms.
Todd, aka Santa Claus.
The smile says it all.
Wayne handling a full tray of meals.
Gerald and friends.
Sarah, Jedidah’s daughter, who graduated a couple of years ago.
Juan Carlos, 10th-grader friend of Karen and Hailey, and Lyn.
We could not have done any of this without our translator Jhonny Flores. Thanks, Jhonny, for all of your hard work!
The team receives a farewell prayer from Alvaro.
Day 6 of our trip to Nicaragua began with sleeping in! After a series of early starts, we took advantage of a leisurely morning and headed to Oasis de Esperanza at 10:30. Once there, most of the teachers were engaged in end of year report cards and busy in their classrooms, but we found Flor and Diana free and were able to have good conversation with them. Diana, in particular, was effusive about the opportunity to go ziplining with us on the past Friday. Significantly, though, while we mostly thought of it as a fun recreational event, she saw it as profoundly meaningful to her as a lesson in overcoming fear. And in a country with citizens facing various fears on a daily basis now, the lessons from a zipline have real-life meaning. We all agreed that keeping our focus on Jesus is the only way for any of us to overcome fear, either on a personal or a national level.
Soon two of the Oasis guys arrived with a car full of candy, and we had real work to do. Our task, staged in the new computer room of the school, was to sort candy into 500 bags to be part of the presents for kids at the party on Tuesday. This we did in assembly-line fashion, and soon had all four of us busy, along with Jhonny, Nate, Elaine and Angel’s daughter. After a break for lunch, we finished this task in short order, complete with much laughter and fun camaraderie.
Next on the agenda was bagging gifts for over 400 kids. Lots of staff jumped in to help as we sorted and bagged dolls, trucks, watches, balls, and other toys for the kids. Each student will receive a gift plus the bag of candy, for many perhaps the only Christmas gifts they will receive this year.
We had offered to take Wayne and Elaine MaGouirk to dinner, so we headed out to Rostipollos (Lyn’s favorite Managua restaurant) at 5;00, about 5 miles way. We arrived 90 minutes later, for an average speed of about 3 miles per hour. The culprit: legendary Managua rush hour traffic! Just incredible, like nothing we had experienced before. Kudos to our driver Eddie who kept us on track and safe through the hoardes of cars, trucks, buses, motorcycles and pedestrians!
Eight of us finally entered Rostipollos with a huge sigh or relief to be finally off of the streets. We thoroughly enjoyed a leisurely dinner and rich conversation, centering around the story of the MaGouirk’s coming to Nicaragua. It was also a prelude to their 37th wedding anniversary, coming up tommorrow. Congratulations, Wayne and Elaine, on 37 years of marriage and 15 years of Savior’s Tear. May you have many more years of God’s blessing on both.
Tomorrow is our last day in Nicaragua! We will help serve a special meal and deliver the gifts to the kids, and then say some sad farewells to our friends. Look for one more blog tomorrow night, and then we begin our long trek home.
A foot dip this morning was as close as Marcia and Caron came to swimming in the pool at our hotel.
The former Presidential Palace of Nicaragua, on our route to Oasis de Esperanza school. It has been transformed into a cultural institute.
Diana, Flor, and Caron enjoying a nice chat.
The new counseling and computer addition, where we packaged bags of candy in preparation for the big celebration tomorrow.
The candy assembly line begins!
After lunch, the candy assemblers graduated to gift oackaging!
Group Pepsi Cola break!
Fernanda, Sadia’s daughter, was 7 on our first trip to Nicaragua. She is now 14.
Our fearless driver Eddie.
Dinner at Rostipollos! Happy early anniversary, Wayne and Elaine!