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New Year, New Perspective

by Joshua Easters from Tampa, FL (used with permission)

One hundred excuses and reasons not to go is what I started with when originally asked if I wanted to participate in a disaster relief trip up to Panama City over the new year. With many pending projects at work, I just didn’t think the timing was right, but I decided a few days before that I really felt like I needed to go, and I am so glad that I did.

I arrived on the first of the year to a team from my church that had been there since Sunday assisting Samaritan’s Purse with recovery efforts in the area. Samaritan’s Purse has been stationed in Panama City since November and will continue to be there until at least mid-March. I was in shock after arriving at just how much damage remains. Streets are lined with piles of debris and trash, businesses throughout the area are in ruins, and buildings all around are completely flattened. The fact that this much destruction remains just hours north of us in Tampa was eye-opening and shocking.

I was quickly integrated into one of the teams upon my arrival where we spent the day removing trees from the home of a man who weathered the storm on his property. The team was able to remove the trees from his home, remove countless loads of debris from his yard, and make the property a much safer place to reside. Days 2 and 3 contained more inside work where we removed walls and ceilings from homes that had been badly damaged and treated the homes for mold where the contamination had rendered the homes uninhabitable. The renewed hope on the faces of these homeowners as they saw the work that had been completed was humbling and empowering.

Serving does something within us that is hard to articulate with words. It grants new perspective and clarity not necessarily expected when deciding to go serve. Serving helps remove focus from our own work, our own problems, our own insufficiencies. It gives a greater view of the big picture, the significance that kindness and compassion can have, and the importance of loving people well. I came back tired and sore, but also refreshed and empowered. I returned to my own work with a renewed sense of vision, and a desire to find ways we can serve better in our own business. I highly recommend going and serving. You will have an impact that will change lives, and you might be surprised at how much it changes your life as a result.

Lastly, serving alongside other people, whether you know them or not, will result in new friendships made and old friendships strengthened. I cannot say enough what an incredible organization Samaritan’s Purse is. Samaritan’s Purse is providing hope to thousands of families throughout Panama City and the world by providing disaster relief completely free of charge. Their organization operates with the utmost of integrity, and their leaders are filled with love and compassion. Our team from Fishhawk Fellowship developed great friendships with the Samaritan’s Purse team, and other volunteers that joined from across the country.

There is much work to be done in Panama City, but there is hope in the midst of ruin. Seeing that hope gave me hope for 2019, and there is no place I would have rather been to start off the new year.

GOD’S HANDS, GOD’S VOICE

by Donna from Panama City, FL (January 14, 2019)
(Pictured: Jody, Trisha, Donna, Kenneth)

I often think about the day I was born. It was 10:19 A.M., December 17th, 1953, at Sheppard Air Force Base, Wichita Falls Texas.

I imagine the moment I was wrapped in the hospital blanket and placed in the nursery. Could God have had a conversation with me? Did I hear him say, “One day, little one, you will seek me, and find me, when you search for me with all your heart. Then, I will hear you and place you on the path I have called you to walk.”

Could that conversation have continued like this, “Little one, wait. For in about twenty-four hours, there is a blessing coming your way that will take a while for you to receive.”

Then, on December 18th, 1953, at 10:48 A.M., a little boy, was also wrapped in a hospital blanket, and placed in the same nursery. I cannot prove it, but he must have been placed right next to me. Could the conversation have, again, continued when God may have said, “I have given life to this little one next to you. He has been placed in this world to be a light for me. Many will be recipients of my love, mercy, and grace through his hands, and his voice. I have prepared a path for him and his help mate, to cross paths with you one day when you need me most.”

On October 10th, 2018, around mid-day, the worst storm to hit the U.S. coasts came ashore in the panhandle of Florida. Thousands of homes, businesses, schools, hospitals, and even churches were damaged or destroyed. The city, county, and surrounding cities of where I live were at the mercy of first responders. They came quickly, but the devastation was so severe, it took a long time for some of us to get the much-needed help, and we waited.

On January 10th, 2019, three months to the date of the catastrophic event, a big bus, loaded with Samaritan’s Purse volunteers, arrived at my cousin’s house next door. There was a U-HAUL truck loaded with equipment to rake, shovel, and clean debris.  A pickup truck with a sign on the door that read, ‘Billy Graham’, was another beautiful site.

I grew up watching Billy Graham crusades on a black and white television, feeling conviction when the choir sang Just as I Am. Oh, how I wished to be among the thousands to come forward and receive what they did. That wish was granted one day, but not at a crusade. I was invited to a vacation bible school at a little Baptist church on a hill, in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina. God saved my soul as I listened to the familiar choir song, Just as I Am.

And here in my front yard, walking towards my husband and me, were Billy Graham Association Chaplains Jody and Trisha. What a welcome greeting from two precious people I thought were about to drive away, never to see them again.

Chaplains Jody and Trisha listened as we told our story. When we told how my cousins from Texas, had brought their RV for us to live in, that is when memory lane began to replay. During our conversation I learned that Chaplain Jody was born December 18th, 1953, at Sheppard Air Force Base, Wichita Falls, Texas. This was a mouth dropping moment for me. When I shared my birth place and date, his mouth dropped.

Sixty-five years had passed, and here we met, side by side. God’s hands, His voice, extending help and comfort at a time when I needed him most. We did not plan it, but Chaplain Jody and I, stood, joining hand in hand, making a prayer circle with Kenneth, and Chaplain Trisha, and with the voices as angels, they prayed for us. God’s hands, God’s voice.

What a reunion. We had the privilege to see one another briefly, for the three days they were in our area. We were also blessed to share the evening meal with about two hundred other Samaritan’s Purse volunteers at the church who hosted them.  Information for future communication was exchanged before they left. By the way, the same doctor that helped to deliver me, also helped to deliver Chaplain Jody. That information was verified on our birth certificates. What an awesome God!

Dear God, I thank you for directing our paths. I’m so thankful for the day that I sought after you with all my heart, and found you, and you took me in, just as I am.

(Used with permission)

Advent Is Upon Us

Celebrate, love, fellowship, share – action verbs that reflect the themes of Christmas, but God reminds us to also be busy about His business and keep watch.  Our prayer is that this letter finds each of you right where you should be in relation to our Lord, Jesus.  We are so very grateful to the Lord for each of you that helps us along our way in missions.

Mark 13:32 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard! Be alert[a]! You do not know when that time will come. 34 It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.

   35 “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back-whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. (NIV)

Merry Christmas from Jody and Trisha Kennedy

Alert from U.S. Embassy in Managua, NI

From: STEP Notifications <STEP-Notifications@STATE.GOV>

Nicaragua Travel Advisory, Level 3: Reconsider Travel, July 6, 2018

Reconsider travel to Nicaragua due to crime, civil unrest, and limited healthcare availability.

On July 6, 2018, the U.S. government ordered the departure of non-emergency U.S. government personnel. The U.S. Embassy remains open to provide emergency services for U.S. citizens.

Heavily armed, government-controlled paramilitary forces in civilian clothing, sometimes numbering in the hundreds, operate in large parts of the country, including Managua. They are often in vehicles that don’t have license plates, and they may be escorted by uniformed police forces. These groups are attacking blockades, kidnapping and detaining individuals, taking over privately owned land, and committing other crimes.

Rallies and demonstrations are widespread and occur daily with little notice. Government-controlled forces have attacked peaceful demonstrators leading to significant numbers of deaths and injuries. Looting, vandalism, and acts of arson often occur during unrest, including in tourist areas. Government authorities detain protesters, and some people have disappeared. Human rights groups have documented credible claims of torture of detainees.

Road blocks, including in Managua and other major cities, may limit availability of food and fuel. Road blocks may also limit access to the Augusto C. Sandino International airport in Managua. Criminals are in charge of some of the road blocks.

Hospitals around the country are inundated with victims of violence and lack the capacity to respond to other emergencies. Other hospitals have denied treatment to people wounded in protests.

Violent crime, such as sexual assault and armed robbery, is common and has increased as security forces focus on the civil unrest. Police presence and emergency response are extremely limited.

The U.S. Embassy in Managua is limited in the assistance it can provide. U.S. government personnel in Nicaragua must remain in their homes and avoid unnecessary travel between sundown and sunrise. In Managua, they must avoid Rotonda Metrocentro, Rotonda Universitaria, and the vicinity of universities, particularly UNAN.

U.S. government personnel are prohibited from using public buses and mototaxis and from entering the Oriental Market in Managua and gentlemen’s clubs throughout the country due to crime.

Additional restrictions on movements by US. government personnel may be put in place at any time, depending on local circumstances and security conditions, which can change suddenly.

Read the Safety and Security section on the country information page.

If you decide to travel to Nicaragua:

  • Consider arrangements to depart the country. There are no plans for a U.S. government-assisted evacuation.
  • Avoid demonstrations. Foreigners, including U.S.-Nicaraguan dual nationals, may risk arrest or expulsion if they participate in protests.
  • Restrict unnecessary travel.
  • Do not attempt to drive through crowds, barricades, or road blocks.
  • Maintain adequate supplies of food, cash, potable water, and fuel if sheltering in place.
  • Ensure your U.S. passport is valid and available for a quick departure from the country, if needed.
  • Use caution when walking or driving at night.
  • Keep a low profile.
  • Do not display signs of wealth such as expensive watches or jewelry.
  • Be aware of your surroundings.
  • Visit our website for Travel to High-Risk Areas.
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program(STEP) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
  • Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Review the Crime and Safety Report for Nicaragua.
  • U.S. citizens who travel abroad should always have a contingency plan for emergency situations. Review the Traveler’s Checklist.

Recipe for Gallo Pinto

One of the great pleasures of travel is to experience the taste a lot of different national dishes.  One of the favorites among our short-term missionaries is one of the national dishes of Nicaragua.  Variants of this dish are found all over Central America, but Nicaragua (and Costa Rica) claim to have originated the dish.  Almost every household has this dish everyday and many for every meal.  It can be the main dish or a side dish.  Enjoy!

A lot of people have asked for a recipe, so here is one.

Gallo Pinto Ingredients
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups cooked white rice
2 cups cooked black beans, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 –3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
fresh cilantro (optional)
sliced or chopped green onions (optional)

Directions
Note that the beans and the rice should be cooked and ready before you start these steps.

  1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add onion and sauté until it just begins to soften and turns color.
  3. Add garlic and sauté for about 5 minutes, or until onion is golden.
  4. Add spices and Worcestershire, and stir into onion and garlic.
  5. Next, add the beans and then the rice.  Combine the rice and beans evenly and cook until mixture is heated through.
  6. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve hot.
  7. Garnish with some chopped cilantro or green onions as you like.

1,2, 3, What Are We Fighting For?

This “oldie” reminds me of my youth in Commerce, Texas during the 60’s and early 70’s when the hippies were doing their thing, college students protested the war and those of the so-called “enlightened generation” were ruining their minds with anything they could set on fire and suck through a pipe.  Commerce was somewhat insulated from a lot of that, yet the small campus of East Texas Teacher’s College (later East Texas State University and now Texas A&M at Commerce) had its share of civil disobedience and hippies.  

The song goes on to answer the question with “I don’t know and I don’t give a (care)” (expletive omitted).

Does this have anything at all to do with today?  As Christians, we should be asking this question of ourselves – “What are we fighting for?”  Another way to phrase it might be, “What are we striving for?  We should know the answer, yet so many of our Christian brothers and sisters (bound for Heaven for sure) can’t answer the question and what’s more, don’t really care.

Can you answer?  You should know for what you are striving.  

In some of the modern translations of the Bible, you might find “effort” instead of “striving”.  Try both words and take a look at a good concordance, use the internet or your Bible software and do a quick word search of the New Testament.  I think you’ll find the answer(s).

Clearly, we are instructed to “strive”, which means “make an effort”.  When was the last time you “made an effort” to impact the Kingdom of Christ?

Travel Tip – Keep it simple, keep it safe, keep it close.

“That will be 6 Euro please”, said the
cashier at the food counter.  Bill reached for his wallet to retrieve the cash he had just received at the money exchange 30 minutes ago.  A short trolley ride later, Bill’s group was ready to experience some local cuisine.

 Unfortunately, Bill’s wallet was missing, along with his cash, credit cards, immigration papers and the address of the small, little know hotel in which he had registered.  Shocked at this discovery, Bill confessed his problem to his traveling companions who readily paid the food bill.  The immediate problem was solved, but Bill’s day, if not the entire trip, was ruined.

Thinking back on the trolley ride, Bill remembers the normal looking “local’s” that crowded around him on the packed trolley car.  He now recalls that as his attention was diverted by the historic buildings along the way, one of the “local’s” bumped into him, apologized in their own language and then exited the trolley car at the next stop.  A victim of a pickpocket’s skill, Bill wishes he had put his wallet in his front pants pocket as he had been instructed to do. 

Our mission teams almost never experience issues of security or safety.  We do our best to educate and train our teams on how to keep their stuff in their possession and control.  

The physical security and safety of our team is always a priority.  The mission leadership will take every precaution to assure the team’s physical security, for both person and property.  While you probably will not encounter any violent crime, petty theft is a real possibility.  Unsecured property will disappear in seconds.  Pickpockets routinely target foreigners, especially North Americans. Simple and common sense precautions will reduce the risk of your property being stolen.

Common Sense Pays Off
We ask our team members to  use common sense when traveling internationally. We typically travel in a group and we ask that you please stay with the group. Even in familiar airports we ask that you tell another team member if you leave the group to get a snack or go to the restroom.  There may be a few limited times that you will be free to walk around near the mission site.  We ask that you identify a partner to accompany you during these times.  Please do not go anywhere alone.  Never leave the mission site without coordinating with the mission leadership.  

Keeping Money, Documents and Valuables Secure
Hidden pockets or money belts are your key to peace of mind during travel.  Keep only a typical day’s spending money conveniently located in a pocket or backpack and put the remainder in your money belt.  You will only need to get into your money belt when you need to replenish your “pocket change”.  Your mission leadership will advise you on what to do with your important documents while at the mission site. Remember to make a copy of all important documents to keep in a separate location.

While at the mission site, living quarters, or host home be sure and utilize any locks that are provided.  If the door to your sleeping area and work area can be locked, lock them whenever the area is unoccupied.  It takes only seconds for someone to slip into your work area or living area and remove your belongings.

Pickpockets and Other Thieves
Pickpockets target travelers, especially in airports, on public transportation and in markets.  Thieves often team up (even children) and create a distraction such as causing the person behind you to bump into you or some other type of commotion.

Wallets, purses, backpacks and belt bags should be kept in front of you when in public places.  Wallets should be kept in the front pocket.  Cell phones, cameras and other valuables should be continuously secured.

Never leave your cell phone, camera or anything valuable lying around. Always keep valuables on your person or zipped up in your luggage safely out of sight.

On Planes and Trains
Always keep any slips of papers or claim tickets that you are given at an airport or on the train no matter how small or insignificant they appear.  It is best to keep them with your passport so that you can find them later.

Don’t Think It Can’t Happen to You

Academia de Música Asaf

Academia de Música Asaf (Asaph Music Academy)

La inspiración para tu talento (Inspiration for your talent)

Declaración de fe y práctica, Español  (statement of faith, English)

Director Juan Ramon Rodriguez
8421-2650
AcademiadeMusicaASAF.ni@gmail.com

Centro Educativo Rubenia, 1/2 cuadra arriba, casa B-20
Managua, NI

Ofreciendo lecciones para voz, piano, guitarra para todos los niveles y todas las edades.

(Offering lessons for voice, piano, guitar for all levels and all ages.)

Travel Tip – Did I Leave the Iron On?

Travel Tip – Always arrange for someone who can check on your home while you are away.

Ever leave for an extended trip, or even a short one, and have that funny feeling that you’ve forgotten something?  I remember sitting on an airplane at 35,000 feet and realizing that I could not remember putting down the garage door.  As soon as I landed I called a friend who lived near our home.  Sure enough, I had not lowered the door.

On another occasion, our “automatic” pet watering bowl began to leak and a catastrophic flood and water bill were avoided because our friend caught it before a lot of damage was done.

A trusted friend who can check on things while you travel is invaluable.  Always make arrangements to have someone do the lawn, water the plants and generally check on things while you are away.

It’s a Twister!

That iconic, classic movie “The Wizard of Oz” yielded more than its fair share of memorable quotes. See if you can remember who said these and why*.

“Unusual weather we’re having, ain’t it?”
“A heart is not judged by how much you love; but by how much you are loved by others.”
“I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas any more.”
“I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too! ”
“I don’t know… But some people without brains do an awful lot of talking… don’t they?”
“…there’s no place like home! ”
“It’s a twister. It’s a twister.”

Trisha recently used that last quote to describe the many challenges, opportunities, and constant changes that we face as we continue in full-time ministry. Often, life’s events and situations swirl around us, kicking up dirt and debris that make it difficult to know what direction to take or where to put our feet for the next step.

Yet, God is our shelter in the storm. He hides us in the cleft of His hand, protecting us from destruction. We might get scratched. We might lose some possessions and maybe some relationships. Nonetheless we are protected and kept toward the work that He has in store for us.

God is also the lighthouse, drawing us into safe harbor where we can get about His business and deepen our relationship with Him.

No “twisters” are surprising to God. No matter how violent or unexpected in human terms, He raises His mighty hand and says, “Peace, be still.

 

*To check your answers at IMDB.COM (click here).