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Nicaragua from My Perspective

When the plane’s tires hit the runway, I immediately knew that I had landed in a special place. This past January, my family had the privilege to travel to Nicaragua with Drs. Paul and Delia Nüesch-Olver. Our church, CrossView in Snohomish, WA, is praying about developing a long-term partnership with the Nicaraguan churches. My family was invited to go and meet some of the people who minister there. While in Central America, I made several observations about the people, the food, the city, and the schools.  

 During our time in Nicaragua, there were a few things that stood out to me. First, can we talk about the food? Some were shocked that I liked Nicaraguan food, but it was seriously some of the most delicious food that I have ever eaten in my life. I especially enjoyed the Gallo Pinto, which is a simple dish of rice and black beans, and the Fried Plantain Chips. And while we are talking about starches, can I just tell you how much I enjoyed the potatoes! For a teenager like myself, this was my kind of food! 

Even though it was obvious they were facing various hardships, I was taken aback by how joyful the people of Nicaragua were. Their homes are tiny, food is scarce, but they are joyful. Although we may have more material resources in the USA, the people of Nicaragua (at least the ones that I met) are rich in other, more significant ways. Their faces were rarely without a smile, their eyes shone brightly, and they were very welcoming to me and my family. 

The schools in Nicaragua are quite different compared to the schools in the USA. First, their school days begin much earlier. Due to the heat, their classes start around 6AM and end at 1PM. Why do the schools end so early? Well, many of the teachers work second jobs, so they have to be able to get there. As well, we were told it’s not safe to be out after 4PM, which is another reason for the different school schedule. 

When we visited two of the FM schools, I noticed the classrooms are much smaller than what I had expected. I was shocked to discover that 30 or more students and their desks are in one tiny classroom. A typical classroom is only about three times the size of my bedroom––and I have a rather small bedroom. Plus, the classrooms are very hot. There is no air conditioning and very few fans. And the schools are made of metal with very few classrooms having drop-ceilings, which help to manage the heat. I cannot imagine being able to stay focused to learn in that environment, but the students in Nicaragua do. 

 Speaking of learning, the schools in Nicaragua may have fewer resources than ours in the USA, but they are equipping leaders for tomorrow. Recently, Pastor Jenny Orozco’s school had their first graduation. If my memory serves me correctly, they graduated 22 students. Of those 22 students, twelve received full-tuition scholarships from the Nicaraguan government, which was based upon their grades, formal tests, and face-to-face interviews. In my opinion, that’s pretty amazing!  

Sitting on the plane waiting to take off, I recalled the last five days that I spent in Nicaragua. They were very meaningful to me. I am grateful for the people that I met and the experiences that I had. As the plane sped down the runway, we ascended into the clear blue sky and soared above the city. I looked out the window and said to myself, “This is so beautiful, and I will be back here one day.”

 

written by Jadon Swanson

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Pause To Pray

We got in the car at 6:00am Sunday for a three-hour drive to a church in the interior of Paraguay where I was to preach. Pastor Ceferino said, “Let’s pray before we set off.” He prayed fervently for safety on the trip. Later, as he was passing a long line of traffic on a narrow two-lane highway with no side berm, I was really glad we had prayed!

Travel in other countries is a real trip! Although some places in Latin America have good highway systems – at least in and around the capital city – many roads are poorly designed and poorly maintained. Even international routes can be just two lanes. Roads are clogged with bicycles, motor scooters, pedestrians, and the occasional horse cart. Cars break down more often; accidents are frequent.

When requests are shared in church, people often ask prayer for friends or family members who are traveling. Drivers often pause to pray when they get behind the wheel before starting the car. It is a habit something like asking the blessing before eating a meal. The sense of danger heightens a sense of dependence on God. We really need His help and protection to get where we are going. I admit that some taxi rides in Latin America have been good for my prayer life!

The thing is I’m old enough to remember when people used to pray before driving in the U.S. Even though our transportation infrastructure needs an overhaul, the U.S. has made great advances in the quality and safety of our highways. There are many fewer old cars on the road; the reliability of cars has improved; breakdowns and accidents are not as frequent. The upshot is that we no longer need to depend on God for our safety. So we no longer pray before starting to drive.

The issue is not the design of the highway, but our sense of reliance on God. In our comfortable culture how many other things do we now take for granted that people used to ask God for? Let’s pause to pray before we set off on whatever we are about to do.

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. While you are at it, pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ.... Pray that we will proclaim it clearly, as we should.” (Paraphrase of Colossians 4:2-4)

written by Paul Olver

 

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Things I learned from the Church in Paraguay

I recently had the privilege of traveling with dear friends Pastors Paul Olver and Delia Nüesch-Olver, as well as Dr. Tina Chang, to Asuncion, Paraguay. Paraguay is a beautiful, green, and hospitable country with a rich, layered personality. It was truly an honor to spend time in Paraguay! 

I experienced great hospitality from the Free Methodist Church in Asuncion and an unforgettable opportunity to witness God at work in Latin America. 

Here are three things the FMC in Paraguay taught me.  

ONE: There is refreshing joy in watching God prepare an entire conference of leaders for the harvest.

In the church today we talk a lot about how God is preparing hearts to follow Him. We pray for the Lord of the Harvest to send out workers. We pray for the seeds being planted in the lives of those we’ll meet to be fruitful. 

But there is something unique and beautiful about watching the pastors of an entire conference being prepared by God to move into a season of harvest. In fact, more than unique, it’s refreshing and brings joy to any soul passionate about seeing people fall in love with Jesus. The church in Paraguay is being prepared by God to reach the harvest. 

TWO: A sense of urgency is restoring.

Pastors are called by God to the work they do. Much of that calling is founded in an urgency to share the hope of the gospel with those who are truly lost without a savior. That urgency, over time, can be replaced by duties, lists, procedures and policies. Witnessing a group of pastors who share great urgency, years beyond their calling, restores others who are working for the Lord to their personal place of calling. The church in Paraguay has an urgency to reach people for Jesus. 

THREE: Being teachable is mission critical.

Being willing to learn from every situation and hear from the Lord in each new encounter is a truly valuable trait. Watching so many people eager to learn more about leadership, conflict management, and church planting and growth was a reminder that we all need to be willing to learn in every phase of our walk with God. When we are learning from the Lord, and those sent by the Lord, our ministry will reflect that. The church in Paraguay is willing and eager to learn, as to benefit God’s work. 

John 14:26: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He willteach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.”

I believe the Free Methodist Church in Paraguay will continue to see God do great things. I leave this encouragement for all pastors. Galatians 6:9 says, “And let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”

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What about Nicaragua? 

God is at work in Central America! The Nicaraguan Free Methodist Church is on the cusp of a great move of God! After nine years of fervent prayer and leadership development, the Nicaraguan church is healthy, thriving, and ready to explode. They have a powerful Holy Spirit-anointed vision to reach their country and a church multiplication strategy to match. Under the leadership of the Latin American Area Director, Dr. Delia Nüesch-Olver and the District Leader of Nicaragua, Pastor Hiuberth Zapata, Nicaraguan church leaders are being identified, equipped, and empowered to do the work of ministry.

 

Recently, Pastor Jada, our children, and I had the tremendous honor to spend a few days in Nicaragua. We were particularly honored to attend a Sunday morning united worship service, where all the Managua Free Methodist churches gathered and worshipped together as one body. During this service, Dr. Delia Nüesch-Olver formally appointed four Nicaraguan pastors as Conference Ministerial Candidates (CMCs). 

 

Not only did our family have the opportunity to interact with many pastors and provide some leadership development sessions, Pastor Jada and Dr. Paul Olver led a spiritual renewal retreat for the teachers of the Nicaraguan Free Methodist schools. We are so proud of Pastor Jenny Orozco who not only effectively pastors a church, but also gives leadership to the El Mesías FM School in Rene Polanco. Pastor Jenny oversees 425 students. The El Mesias School graduated their first class of eleventh graders this past year. Many of the graduating students made such high scores on their college entrance exams that university professors wanted to know more about this school (El Mesias) of which they had not previously been aware. 

 

As you can imagine, we came back from Nicaragua thinking a bit differently about life, ministry, and our role in the global world. Personally, I was inspired as a leader by Dr.Hiuberth’s vision for the church in Nicaragua. In addition, I was moved by the deep sense of community among the people and overwhelmed by their generosity. After sharing our experiences with CrossView’s Leadership Board and congregation, as well as spending time in earnest prayer and discussion, we feel led by the Holy Spirit to partner over the next five years with the Nicaraguan Free Methodist Churches. 

 

Do we have it figured out? Nope! But we are committed to the journey. We are committed to send teams, raise church planting funds, and gather support from other churches to fuel an apostolic movement in Nicaragua. What about you? What about Nicaragua? Would you join us? Would you consider coming alongside us? What role might your faith community have in helping Nicaragua become a hub for spiritual renewal and Kingdom outreach that extends throughout Central America? I trust that if you prayerfully ask these questions, God will provide answers. And I would welcome the opportunity to share more with you about how we can collectively work together to encourage and support our brothers and sisters in Nicaragua. 

 

written by Jon Swanson

Lead Pastor 

CrossView Church

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First Impressions of the Latin America Area

That Latin American Leadership Summit was my first opportunity to see the region’s leadership first hand.  I sat in the back next to JR Crouse, who was translating for me. My vantage point offered a prime position for observing the goings-on discreetly, and what I saw overwhelmed me with hope and possibility. 

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Would you like an adjective with that?

Remember the Burger King commercial from decades ago?  Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun!   These days my favorite drink at Starbucks is a grande, sweetened, shaken, iced, black tea lemonade.  In each case, there is a particular order in which to place your order!

What we’re ordering up in Latin America is a healthy, autonomous, indigenous, reproducing, Free Methodist Church in each country.

That’s a mouthful and quite a string of adjectives. In English, adjectives come before the object; you start with the modifiers and wind up with the most important thing. Spanish grammar puts the most important thing first and the modifiers come after. Let me explain it in the order of Spanish grammar.

Church. Our primary goal is to establish local groups of believers who are committed to following Jesus and living out the Great Commandment and the Great Commission together. Church is not just one local group but also an organic interrelated network of groups and congregations. This is the most important thing: we are the Church, not an NGO.

Free Methodist. Although we partner with others and understand that the Kingdom of God is broader, we have a particular theology, heritage, and connection. We work with and through recognized leadership and submit to authority/accountability. While we may appreciate and borrow from other groups, our theology and polity determine our identity.

Reproducing. We multiply disciples, leaders, groups and churches. Every “mission field” also shares the responsibility to send missionaries and reach other people groups or regions with the Gospel. Reproduction is in our DNA.

Indigenous. Our communication of the gospel and the way we do church must be contextualized -- or tropicalized – to take root in local culture.  Our message and our structures must be translated into each country and into the different ethnic groups, social classes, and geographic regions that make up each country.

Autonomous.  We believe that decision-making should be moved to the lowest possible level so that church leadership comes from within. With appropriate training, coaching and guidance local leaders need to determine their own destiny.

Healthy.  We do not want to foster dependency on outside resources or perpetuate dysfunctional patterns of relating.  Our goal is to see churches and networks that are spiritually and emotionally clear and vibrant, whole and holy.

For years we’ve been saying our mission is to fuel and sustain a biblical movement to reach Latin America for Christ by developing leaders, planting churches, and creating healthy sustainable systems.  That will result in a healthy, autonomous, indigenous, reproducing, Free Methodist Church in each country in Latin America. Others can debate which states our mission and which is our vision. However you slice it, this is what we are about.

This means whatever we do -- including sending missionaries or VISA groups, sponsoring ICCM children and giving to Extra Mile Projects – should contribute to fueling and sustaining a biblical movement to reach Latin America for Christ and should ultimately result in a healthy, autonomous, indigenous, reproducing, Free Methodist Church in each country.

Now would you like a grande, sweetened, shaken, iced, black tea lemonade to go with your two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun?

written by Paul Olver

 

Youth Serving Youth

The youth from the Carmen de Areco FMC in Argentina worked all year to raise funds for a youth camp. They made and sold empanadas in the town square. They served meals at Annual Conference and the tips went towards the youth camp. So many signed up to serve that they had to set up a rotation to accommodate everyone. They had so much fun serving they were disappointed they couldn’t do it at more meals.

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Expanding Horizons


Eunice dreamed of becoming a nurse one day — until the sight of blood made her want to become a flight attendant instead! As one of eight daughters in a pastor’s family, resources were few, and it was difficult for her parents to make ends meet. International Child Care Ministries, a children’s ministry of the Free Methodist Church, offered Eunice new

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Divided by Distance, United by Prayer


A severe earthquake struck the northwest coast of Ecuador on April 16, 2016. Measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale, it was followed by 700 aftershocks, some measuring 6.7 or 7.2. It was the worst natural disaster to hit that country since 1949. Over 600 people lost their lives, almost 30,000 people were injured, and damage to property is estimated to be $3 billion.

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Determination and Perseverance

It was a sticky hot evening. People slowly gathered at the church after work. The small storefront chapel was located on a main street just two blocks from the market in Masaya, Nicaragua. The long side of the rectangular room was

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