In February of 2000, while a member of First Baptist Church, Valley Center, KS, I learned of David who lived in El Dorado. David had been a member of the first ABC mission team to travel to Nicaragua following Hurricane Mitch. Hurricane Mitch had parked itself off the coast of Nicaragua and didn’t move for five days. The devastation it caused in Nicaragua, Honduras and as far west as El Salvador was immense. American Baptist Men – USA, had partnered with ABC-International Missions, to send teams of volunteers to Nicaragua to assist with the reconstruction of communities served by our ABC mission partners in Nicaragua. This all led to my asking David to come to FBC, Valley Center and be the guest speaker for our men’s breakfast.
Our Saturday morning men’s breakfast was 16 months after that disastrous hurricane and the rebuilding of communities served by our ABC mission partners was far from complete. American Baptist had sent a volunteer mission team to Nicaragua to assist with the reconstruction every month since Hurricane Mitch.
As David was preparing to end his narrative, he told us that the mission team that was to go to Nicaragua in April 2000 had backed out. He challenged our church to form a team to fill the vacancy and he made this challenge while looking directly into my eyes.
It took me only seconds to dismiss David’s challenge. Twice in the previous year I had said that I would never be a member of an international mission team. My father-in-law had passed away the previous week and we were still dealing with his passing. Our high school aged son, who had an early interest in foreign missions, was to travel to the former Soviet state of Latvia with an ABC-International Ministries X-Tream Team during the same period of time of the challenge to go to Nicaragua. I didn’t even have a passport and the departure date was only nine weeks away. I had my reasons for not wanting to go but the biggest was that I simply didn’t want to go.
That Saturday evening I was home alone. Helen was with her mother, helping out after the loss of her father. Our daughter was away at college and our son was spending the night with a friend. I went to bed and fell asleep almost immediately.
Somewhere around 2:00 AM I found myself wide awake and had a feeling that I should be in prayer rather than sleeping. So I laid there in quiet prayer and Nicaragua came to mind. The debate began with something like, “Lord, I can’t go to Nicaragua. You know my reasons and they are all valid reasons.” The word Nicaragua kept returning, just the one word, and I continued to argue my position for over an hour.
Feeling a little frustrated, I followed Gideon’s example and laid out a fleece. (Judges 6:33-40) “Lord! If you want me to go to Nicaragua then somebody will have to come up to me and say, “if you want to go to Nicaragua we will help you get there.’” Feeling safe, I considered the issue resolved.
I arrived at our church a couple of minutes late that morning and went directly to the sanctuary. It was our practice for the deacons and pastor to gather on Sunday to join hands and to pray for our church before Sunday School began. They had already started but as I approached two of them separated their hands to allow me to enter their circle. Having stepped in, the person on my right finished his prayer and squeezed my hand to let me know it was my turn. When I completed my prayer the men began breaking the circle. But Bob, who was standing to my left, continued to hold my hand. I turned towards Bob and he spoke. “Les, if you want to go to Nicaragua we will help you get there.”
It was obvious then that the fleece on my threshing floor was damp. I hung my head for a moment and then raised it and looked at each of the four men who were with me before I replied. “Gentlemen, I don’t have time to explain as I have a Sunday School class I am to be teaching now, but it looks like I am going to Nicaragua.”
It was a moment of surrender. I had heard God and had only a moment before resolved to respond to his wish and was silently giving him praise for making his wish so absolutely clear.
Now my question was, how am I going to tell my wife I was going to Nicaragua?