June 2007

June passed much differently than other months since our return. We didn’t have any training seminars scheduled, so we hit things pretty hard close to home with the congregation in Granada. I started classes with the young leaders here on Monday afternoons and a series on the Gospel of Mark on Tuesday evenings. We have some young men with great gifts but there is never any shortage of immaturity and personality conflicts to keep a church from growing. So far, we have been studying dynamics of leadership, Biblical interpretation, sermon preparation, and some pastoral issues. I think that they are beginning to realize that the work of sheparding a church is pretty serious business and we have to get beyond some petty personal junk pretty quick if the church is to do well.

I finally got my workshop together enough to start some metal fabrication classes with some of the young men in the neighborhood. We have two groups of three who come in three times a week. One is a new Christian, some are considering and some are not. I like this hands-on part of the work in the shop setting as it brings me into contact with young men fresh off the street, some searching, some not. So far, we have been just tackling the basics of welding, cutting, measuring and the guys are doing ok, not great, but ok. Could be that the teacher is a bit rusty? We will work with them through about mid-August.

One of the focal projects that they are building is a new design of a bio-gas digester. The previous bio-gas digesters we built were essentially big plastic bags (originally designed to store silage) filled with cow manure. They are very simple and work most of the time with a fair amount of babysitting. The new design is a bit more resilient and should hold up better long term. With some key components made of steel, it is a good test project for our newest apprentices. The digester is located on the church property and will fire the stoves that cook the food for the kids’ program noon meal. The goal is to have the new digester up and running by late August in time for a regional competition of renewable energy projects.

With energy prices constantly rising, renewable energy sources are a hot topic everywhere. It is good to remember that God’s people are in fact the original environmentalists. Part of Adam and Eve’s instructions were to care for the garden. The “be fruitful and multiply” came later. We have done pretty well with the second but not the first. Many parts of the Old Testament law had to do with care for the land. It was to lie fallow, or unplanted every seventh year. Fruit trees were not to be harmed in time of war (Deut. 20:19). Actually, I have found that concern for the earth is a good point of contact to build relationships with non-believers. We respect and care for the planet because we recognize that it is a revelation of God’s character and the means by which he provides for our needs.

In June we took time out to take some fertilizer up to a group of preachers in the mountains of northern Nicaragua. This group of leaders come together every month for fellowship and teaching. They represent a group of twenty five congregations, many of them in very inaccessible areas. The fertilizer will go on the corn they have planted. It is good to encourage these leaders, their life is not easy.

The rainy season is here in force now. The temperatures are more moderate but the humidity is much higher than the dry season. Electricity is off for a few hours each day too due to rationing. This has a general slowing down effect on everything, especially with the government, anything you need can’t be done because there is, was or will be no electricity.

The kids just had a two week break from school. The transition back to school wasn’t too bad. They have friends that they were glad to see and they really like their teachers. My mother is visiting too and so the kids look forward to playing with grandma after school.

Managua Moments:

I was riding along on my motorcycle the other day leaving Managua when the police pulled me over. That is not unusual, since the police here have no vehicles to speak of, they just set up roadblocks at certain points and stop people at random. Usually all they want to see is your drivers license and registration, and insurance (seventy dollars a year). It's strictly routine and usually there is no shakedown for bribes or anything like that unless you really have done something wrong like not put on your seat belt, are not carrying a fire extinguisher or something like that.

Well, the policeman was about was about eighteen, weighed less than the gun he was carrying, and said with the full force of the Law of the great and honorable Republic of Nicaragua behind him, “follow that truck!” and proceeded to get on the bike behind me. At that point I noticed two things:

1. There was no truck in sight.
2. There were three older, heavier policemen laying in the shade off the side of the road with huge grins on their faces.

Since it was obvious that my passenger wanted to go, I took off. At that point he discovered that my bike has no footpegs for a passenger which left him doing the bareback Indian pony balancing act behind me, one hand on my shoulder and the other on his weapon. He didn’t complain to his credit. I said, “I don’t see any truck, do you really want me go as fast as I can and try to catch up?”

“Yes, he wouldn’t stop when we flagged him down, catch up!”

“Hold on.” Most Nicaraguans are used to small motorcycles and are not accustomed to going fast on a bike. My old XR600 won't go all that fast anymore, but soon the rear end of a white box truck appeared.

“You want me to pull up along side?” as if there was anything else to do.

"Yes, catch up!", my passenger said, producing a whistle from his shirt.

As I pulled up along side the truck watching for oncoming traffic, he started to blow his whistle and the driver looked down surprised from the open window of the cab. He pulled off the road and I did too, my passenger hopped off, said a terse thank you and climbed up to cab window to carry out his sworn duty to uphold the law. I hope that he got a favorable review from his peers for devotion to duty. At no point were we going more than fifty MPH, open road, little traffic, daytime, so it was actually a bit humorous to me, something like you would see in a movie. Had the truck driver done some horrendous crime that made him not want to stop? I doubt it, my guess is that all the cops were in the shade on the side of the road when he passed and he just didn’t see some halfhearted signal to stop they made.

I suppose if I was more spiritual I could find some parallel with the Roman soldiers obliging the Jews to carry their packs one mile, since we went about five, but nothing really comes to mind. All I can really think of is, hey how about giving me a "get out of jail free card” or a token that says “this guy helped us with a high speed pursuit of a suspect, give him a break”, like I can cash it in next time I forget to carry my driver’s license or I pass an ox cart on a hill, or forget to put on my seatbelt.

In Christ,

Marcus

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