In the 1970s, political instability forced Christian Reformed World Missions (CRWM) to stop planting churches in Nicaragua.
When CRWM returned in 1996, it realized that Nicaragua’s Protestant evangelical churches had the real potential to transform the nation. One thing, however, was holding them back.
“Their impact on society and culture was limited by a dualistic worldview,” said CRWM missionary Joel Huyser.
Evangelical Christians separated their faith from the rest of their life. Churches shared the gospel but did little else in their communities. What happened in church largely stayed in church.
So CRWM and local and international organizations began challenging Nicaraguan Christians to embrace a more fully biblical worldview. They formed the Nehemiah Center and began training people to integrate faith into life.
One of the center’s offerings is the Healthy Church Initiative, which trains church leaders in healthy relationships, word-and-deed outreach, accountability, God-centered worship, gifts-based ministry, expository preaching, servant leadership, and strategic planning.
Denis Cienfuegos, a pastor in Leon, Nicaragua, is part of the Healthy Church Initiative. He’s been involved in several Nehemiah Center training events over the years. Each one gives him more tools for helping his church worship and follow God. Since participating in the Healthy Church Initiative, he’s made some significant changes.
Cienfuegos now writes Scripture-based sermons and trains others to do the same. He also has helped his church form gifts-based teams for worship and administration. People no longer are doing something simply because it’s their turn, but because they’re skilled in it. The church’s music ministry has improved, and administrative tasks are completed accurately and on time.
The church also has started reaching out to the community. Some members offer counseling services to church and community members. Others minister to inmates, showing them Jesus’ love through their care. Youth have started inviting non-Christian friends to study the Bible with them.
The church’s outreach has drawn many newcomers. Around 20 people have either returned to church, committed themselves to Christ, or are close to putting their trust in Jesus.
Cienfuegos has shared the training with other churches in his denomination too. While some people are unhappy with the changes, most are eager to see how God might work through them.
“In the past [churches] maybe knew of a need or problem, in or out of the church, but they didn't know how to respond,” said Henry Cruz Sandoval, facilitator of the Healthy Church Initiative. “Now they have the tools to respond.”
With thankfulness to God for his work, CRWM missionaries continue encouraging believers to live out their faith, dreaming of how God may use the believers to expand his kingdom in Nicaragua.
Church @ Prayer
- Pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to guide CRWM about when, where, and how to engage in ministry.
- Pray for missionaries to encourage and walk alongside their ministry partners wisely and humbly.
- Pray that God will work through local evangelists to bring people to himself.
- Pray for the gospel to make inroads in Japan.
- Thank God for the hundreds of former and current CRWM missionaries and volunteers.
- Thank God for Christian Reformed churches, donors, and prayer warriors who have been partners in missions with CRWM.
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