Day 8

by LeAnn Woodard

Catholic Church Carnival/ Festival
Community Outreach in Busto Mante

  • Group from Nicaragua did some fun stuff with the kids and a dramatic piece, BMXers did their show, Benedicts did their show, and Ripe 4 Life’s Paul Durham preached.
  • Catholic Church Carnival and Festival happening at the same time

Church Services at Pastor Juan’s Church

  • This church worship was incredible. They had a female youth choir that closed their eyes the entire time they sang worship songs and only opened their eyes to sing praise songs.
  • We had an incredible dinner afterwards, just me, Paul and Frances as our CA and TX friends had gone to Pablo’s church where Ben Alva preached.
  • This church is home to most of Pablo’s family and Juan I believe is related to Pablo.
  • Met Pablo’s beautiful mother.

Spent the night in the Mountains

  • So nice to be in Pablo’s home
  • We had an ice cream dessert and then snuggled into our beds.
  • It was super nice to be so welcomed in Pablo’s home and he invited us all and our families back any time.

The Freedom of being a Christian: My personal testimony

As I think about the things that happened today I am reminded of the festival that we were
invited to participate in today. It was a festival put on by the Catholic Church here in Busto Mante. They invited us to come along and do our thing and we happily obliged. There was a great festival and carnival happening on the street and in the park adjacent and we were given the concrete practice field. It was kinda off by itself and it the sweltering sun, no shade, no seating, but it would work fine to at least have an audience only if it was an audience of one. It felt somewhat strange to me as I know there is some discord amongst the Catholics and the born-again Christians. I have always struggled with this as I have known many amazing people of God that are Catholics, some close friends and some relatives by marriage. I have always been perplexed as to why there is animosity and why exactly can’t we see the truth of God’s word as it is written.

I have never been a Catholic so I cannot profess to understand what it is like to grow up Catholic, but I will say that it seems very stressful to me. I know there all sorts of things that one must do at certain stages in their lives and certain regulations that must be followed. Anyway, as I was thinking about the possible lifestyle of a Catholic and my perception of their traditions I was reminded of my own up-bringing in the church and the constriction of my own traditions as a Baptist. Do not get me wrong, I see nothing wrong with the Baptist denomination, I am only making a reference to the traditions in which I was raised.

I was saved at ten years old and I absolutely felt the Holy Spirit pushing me forward. I knew that something beyond my own physical ability was at play when my reluctant body seemed to float up to the front of that small Baptist church. Right there, in front of all those eyes that had been watching me grow up, I made the decision to follow Christ. I was whisked away to a room at the back of the church where I was explained exactly what it was I was doing. I knew what I was doing, I understood perfectly as the Holy Spirit said to me very loudly that it was my time. I had come to the time in my life where I had to be accountable to my Father and the sacrifice of His Son. I had to make public a decision to knowingly follow Him and turn from my wicked ways and my life of sin. I was ten. Did I mention that? I understood what I know was the Holy Spirit calling me unto Himself but I suddenly felt unworthy and scared to fail.

I felt constricted by this decision I had made. I didn’t think that I could do it. I felt overwhelmed, closed off and hopeless. Now I know for many of you the revelation of a savior and a new life was something totally different but because I was so intent on making this decision stick that I was going to do my best to get it right. I was going to be perfect, do nothing wrong for the rest of my life, so help me God.

Needless to say, I settled into my mediocre existence, living my lukewarm life, following as many of the rules as I could bear, trying to be “good” and never being fulfilled in my Christian life. I would sing in the choir at a very young age and play hymns on my flute when I was asked as I knew this is what I should do. I never felt a calling on my heart to do this, I just did. I never felt the Holy Spirit calling me to a particular hymn, I just picked one that I thought I might be able to play, I sang whatever the choir sang. I was just going through the motions, following the rules, falling short, racking up guilt and finally I gave in. I gave in to the temptation that I should just do what felt good as nothing I was doing really felt good. In fact, I was always so worried about falling short that it actually felt bad. So, entering into the freedoms of being a college student, I took liberties where I might because I knew God had my back and that He was always there when I needed Him.

Even in my lowest moments He was there. He protected me, He loved me, He sheltered me, He showed me love and grace like only a father could. Fast forward a few years and I have graduated from college, working full time and all my friends are getting married. I knew that I had to do something. I was obsessed with the fact that I wasn’t even dating anyone and all my friends were in serious relationships and getting married and here I sit with no one. I was so depressed and desperate that I became someone I had never been before – Unhealthily unhappy. One night, while crying myself to sleep I suddenly remembered something from my days in that Baptist church. It had something to do with being worried and that it was a sin. We shouldn’t sin therefore we shouldn’t worry. And what should we do if we worry – pray that God would take away the worry and ease our minds because we as Christians should have faith that He is taking care of our every need. I prayed that night that God would deliver me from that worry, that I would have faith in the plans that He had for me and that I would no longer dwell on “when” and “if” and “Who,” but just abide in Him.

I should just trust that He is working all things out for my good. I did just that. I instantly fell asleep and slept peacefully for the first time in several nights. God took it away; the pain, the fear, the worry. All of it was gone. This was the first realization that there was freedom in being a Christian, that there might be more to this than just following rules. Maybe there was more to this faith thing. Maybe, just maybe I should talk to this Jesus guy more often. It seems like when I talk and when I ask Him things - He talks back, He answers me. This was also my first realization that there was more to this than abiding by the rules, maybe it was more about having a relationship with the one who lives within me.

Two weeks would pass and I would meet my first serious boyfriend. We were set up on a blind
date – a group date with friends where they would proceed to plan our wedding that same night. The second date, the next night, we would decide to have 4 children and then six weeks later we would become engaged. So, a little more than a year after I asked God to take the desire to have a husband and children away from me, I was married to the man of my dreams and pregnant with our first child.

I tell you all of this because I want you to understand that this was a pretty big thing in my life
and that it took this for me to figure out that our Christian Life is not about the “rules and regulations,” the “dos and don’ts,” the “must and must nots.” It is about laying it all before a Savior that is eager to have a relationship with you. He has the power to do anything for you – all He wants for you to do is ask…talk to Him, pray with Him, praise Him, worship Him. These things are so easy to do. When you seek Him and He does a work in you, day in and day out and you see the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life, you become hungry for Him and His righteousness. It becomes so easy to do those things that please Him because you are so in-tuned to who He is and what He has done that you want nothing more than to live for Him. Freedom. There is freedom in that. There is freedom in having a Savior that will never leave you nor forsake you. Freedom in a Savior, a Father that has His daughter’s back no matter what. There is freedom in knowing that you shall not want, that you will fear no evil, that you will never be alone because He is with you.

Psalms 121:1
I lift my eyes up to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord.