Nat’s First Trip to Nicaragua

A typical home near Jinotepe, Nicaragua

I was asked to share a testimony about about the trip I took with Red Tree Church to Nicaragua this February, which I did in the service on Sunday, April 7. Here is what I said:

When Ted asked me to share my testimony about Nicaragua I was very stressed out. Not because I hate being up here in front of you, which I do, but instead it was because God did so many awesome things leading up to this trip, while we were there, and even now that it is hard to pick and choose what to share with you. If it were up to me, I’d share every single detail because I believe I saw God work in many amazing ways and all of these things have changed me and continue to do so today. Because of time though, I have picked one thing that continues to stick out in my mind as most significant, and God is continuing to use it to mold and shape me even now.

So, if you have spent any amount of time at all with either me or my husband I’m pretty sure you have heard us share our passion for Bulgaria. Bulgaria is the country that we like to call our second home. It is the place that God has allowed us to travel year after year and lead teams that serve in many different capacities, and our hearts long to get back so that we can once again be with our Bulgarian family. We believe at some point God will tell us to sell everything and go and we are anxiously waiting for this day. Over the years we have had the blessing of watching many young children grow up to become amazing adults, witness both young and old come to know Christ, celebrate as new life has entered into this world and weep as young lives have been taken away suddenly. We walk alongside our brothers and sisters and pray as they are radically transformed by the Gospel and are obediently serving in the mission field around them.

So you’re probably wondering why, if this testimony is supposed to be about Nicaragua, I’m telling you so much about Bulgaria. Well here’s the thing. Bulgaria has been a part of my life now for over ten years. As a leader I am blessed to be used by God to disciple our younger students both here and around the world. I’m that dreaded call each week to the students on our team, holding them accountable, challenging them to walk faithfully as God leads, and walking with them in those areas of sin that God is calling them to lay at His feet. Please hear me say, I don’t tell you these things in a prideful way. I am simply a tool God has chosen to use and He alone is in complete control over all of these circumstances. I simply tell you these things because I also thought I was the person who was doing it all right. I mean I was serving obediently, I was “willing” to go anywhere God called, and I was faithfully seeking to follow God anywhere he would lead. Or was I????

So then October came. Only two short months into our family’s journey here at Redtree. This church family, the teaching of the Gospel each week, and the passion for us to understand that mission is not an option but what we are each called to as Christian’s was everything that my husband and I were praying for. We were hungry for the truth that can only be given to us through the Gospel and finally we found a church that recognizes it is only the Gospel that can transform lives. It is our foundation here at Redtree. It is beautiful because it is truth. I’d sit out in the seats and root on Jeff and David as God used them to challenge His people to recognize our call to missions in every aspect of our lives. I got so excited when I heard about the Nic. team that just returned from their trip in June. I would get in the car after church and tell my husband that I felt to blessed to be a part of body of people who finally “got it”. That was until that one dreaded Sunday in Oct.

I remember sitting there and Jeff got up and made the announcement about the upcoming trip in Jan. to Nica. At first I was so excited for all the people who were going

to be called to be a part of this team. I mean, of course, God was going to do amazing things in them and through them. That challenge, that dependence on only Him, its a beautiful thing right? Embrace it, I thought, God is going to do awesome things. Of course that was until I clearly heard God say it to me. This was one time I was glad God wasn’t speaking audibly. Thank God no one else heard Him. I mean surely He wasn’t telling me to go. He must have forgotten, I already go overseas and I’m willing to move there today if He wants me to. And then there’s the fact that I have a five year old who could not possible survive without me. Who’s gonna kiss his boo boo when he falls. Sure daddy’s great but mommy’s just better. And then there’s that little fact that we’ve only been a part of this church for maybe two months. You really want me to get on a plane, go to foreign land and trust these weird bearded men leading our church?

These are all the things that quickly flashed through my head. But again I thought, well, thank God no one else heard Him. That was until the great Godly husband of a man I have turned to me on the way home that day and said “What do you think about applying to go on that trip?” Are you serious God? He cant even hear me when I’m asking for help with the laundry. I thought I was in the clear with this one. And of course I reacted as any great Godly women would. Quit attacking me Shawn, you don’t know what God’s called me to do so get off my back, you go on the stupid trip if you want to. Now I don’t recall what I actually said to him that day, but I do know these were all the things going through my head and I also knew without a doubt God was convicting me.

Flash forward, I finally said yes to God after weeks of playing games with Him. Actually, I just finally ran out of excuses. I applied for the trip, I put on my brave leaders face, and I looked forward to Feb. 8th. That was the day we would be home from Nica., life could get back to normal, and I could say I walked in obedience. In all honesty, from Nov. on I couldn’t breath. For reasons I didn’t understand at the time, I was scared to death. It wasn’t even until January that I finally found myself on my face being absolutely and completely honest with God. Up until then I told people that I didn’t really feel called to go to Nica. I was really just serving because I had the free time and could go. Finally, two and a half weeks before the trip God just shattered me. This brave face I was putting on,this heart that was denying that God did call me were all just things I was using to give myself an easy out. If it got hard, I just wouldn’t go. It was as simple as that. But as I sat there on the floor that day I realized that all of the things I pray for other people, the brokenness and dependance on God that I see as necessary in our relationship with Him, and our growth in Him that comes as our sins are revealed and we turn them over to God was everything He was trying to give me through this trip.

Two and a half weeks before the trip and I was finally sold out for what God was blessing me with. What He was allowing me to be a part of. He doesn’t need me, I know this. This opportunity was and still is a gift. Jan. 31st- 2:45 am. I wake up sick as a dog. The flu of course. I came down with it the day before but I thought surely God knows what He’s doing. there’s no way He’s going to allow me to be sick for this trip. I couldn’t be more upset. I was finally excited, I was packed and ready to go, and I felt that God and I were in good place. Did I mention I had to leave at 3:30. Only 45 short minutes and I didn’t know what the heck God was doing. This time I was upset because I really wanted to go. I remember getting out of the shower and crawling right back into bed. It was around 3:10 when Shawn turned to me and asked, “What are you going to

do?” Well I’m not going of course, DUH! I felt awful. Can this man not see how sick I am. Do I need to puke on him so he can get the full picture? Now, this one’s God’s fault, not mine I thought. He’s in charge of this flu thing, not me. Maybe I had this wrong all along. I don’t get Him, is all I could think. Then my husband turned to me and asked me a question that I promise you that I will never forget. He said, “Honey, I know you’re very sick. But do you think right now God is just asking you to allow Him to be God?” Now I’d like to say that my immediate response was, “Why yes honey. Your completely right. You’re such a Godly man and I’m thankful for you.” But honestly, after a lot of tears, a couple of I can’t stand you right now’s,and a you’re gonna feel really bad when I end up in a Nicaraguan hospital, I knew God was saying exactly what Shawn was saying. He was calling me to trust Him. I had already seen Him in so many amazing ways. And in this trip alone, He had revealed Himself in awesome ways. I had to trust and recognize His sovereignty over all things, even this stinking flu. I had to trust that this whole uncomfortable journey was not a mistake. God was reminding me that I had and have no better place to be than completely reliant upon Him and often times it’s not going to be comfortable.

I can personally tell you that our entire team saw God work in amazing ways. Things that I personally prayed for and ways that I asked for God to use me were blessings that God said yes to. I wouldn’t trade a single second for anything different from this entire journey in regards to this trip. God brought so many new people into my life and I pray God would allow my entire family to return soon. He used us to bring His love through the Gospel to His amazing children, and He has grown my love for my own church family here at Redtree. There is so much more to this beautiful story God has written in our lives and is continuing to write. Please, if you want to know all of the amazing things God allowed us to be a part of just ask us. I’m sure any one of us would love to sit and chat and talk your ear off about all the awesome stuff God has allowed us to be a part of. If you’re sitting here wondering today if God has called you to go, the answer is yes. The Bible is very clear about that. Don’t be stubborn like me, thinking you’ve got this all figured out because you’ve been doing it for so long. Let God be God, and rejoice in the fact that He chooses to use us even though He doesn’t even need us to accomplish His great work. I just want to end by reading this passage from Ecc. 3: 14-15. “I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away.” Thank you!