Monday, February 25, 2013

Contrast between 8-10 year old girls in Honduras and USA

Overnight Camp-out with our church's Sunday School class of 8-10 girls
Listen in to this conversation as Alfredo and I ask the girls gathered around our ping pong table:
Jesus is your BBF but what is your friendship really like? 

"Jesus protects me from getting robbed like what happened to my cousin. The other day she was on a bus and some guy held a knife to her and took her cellphone."
"I prayed to Jesus for Him to save my friend who had been kidnapped. He answered my prayers and really the whole school's since we were all praying for her. (another chips in and says, oh so-and-so, yeah, we heard about it in our school and prayed for her too.) Yeah, after a couple of weeks, she was returned to her parents."
"I know Jesus is with me because when the robbers came into our home, we were gone and they didn't take much."
"One time I felt like Jesus hugged me, but it was so real that I thought for sure that it was my dad. So the next morning I asked him if he had come in during the night to hug me. But, no, he said it wasn't him, so it had to be Jesus." (she hugs herself to show us how He hugged her.)

Several more shared, interspersing stories about Jesus as their BFF, robbery, kidnapping and other security issues.

Alfredo leaned over and whispered in my ear: "Can you imagine hearing stories like this with a group of 8-10 year olds where you grew up in Pittsburgh?"

I said that at their age, that world was unknown to me. But, his observation got us all thinking, together with the two other Sunday School teachers who were present. The gest of our discussion was:
"The dangers in Honduras are so obvious that an 8-year old can figure it out. They depend on God to protect them from robbers, kidnappers and the like. But, in contrast with children from the USA, the dangers are not as obvious but no less dangerous. Sure, depending on where they live, most kids are not worried about robbers and kidnappers, but are their parents aware of the need to protect them from the dangers of materialism (thinking that the more you have the better off you are), consumerism (thinking happiness comes from what you consume like technology, entertainment, stuff), and moral decay where God is less and less part of the picture and "what's in your heart" is trusted more than "In God we trust?"

So many Hondurans, even several families from our church, have immigrated to the USA for security reasons. No doubt it's a relief to be able to drive your car with the windows down, to walk without looking over your shoulder, to let your kids play outside, to not have to hide your purse under the driver's seat, etc. 

But, what new dangers do they need to be on the look-out for?

I would love to hear your thoughts, you may have a new perspective to add, please take the time to share it by clicking below on "observations."

(This conversation formed part of our first "Over-night Camp-out" for each Sunday School class. I will share with you in my next blog some images from the camp.)

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Don't panic. The perspective of Rixy, a Salvadorian serving in Christian camping in Niger

Rixy Leiva serving in Niger, Africa

I have known Rixy Leiva since I arrived in El Salvador in 1993. God used her to open my eyes to post-civil war El Salvador. We built
a strong friendship during the two years I lived there and since then have continued to walk together. Today, Rixy serves as a short-term missionary in Niger, Africa. 
She has been helping another fellow CCI/LA instructor (Juanita Rivas) teach our camping courses. (CCI/LA= Christian Camping International, Latin America). Last week, Rixy wrote this letter to her supporters due to their concern about the civil war in the neighboring country of Mali. (She has given me permission to share.)
Rixy describes how the gospel of Christ contrasts with the Muslims religion. I found Rixy's perspective to be particularly insightful, filled with confidence in Him who called her to serve in missions. 

I encourage you to take your time in reading this and discovering God's great world. 

From: Rixy Leiva, Feb. 1, 2013
To: "My beloved co-pilgrims"

The regional situation: 
Indeed, the news of the civil war in Mali is not encouraging. This week the government here in Niger have stationed groups of 6-8 soldiers to stand guard in the Christian churches in the capital, especially where foreigners attend. The official word is that it's a precautionary measure. But the soldiers presence at church generates insecurity in all of the community. There's a noticiable increase of military vehicles in the streets and more military check-points on the highways. The homes of the public figures are also heavily guarded. You can also hear more sirens as important officials are escorted by the police to and from and the war planes can be seen criss crossing the skies. 
The mosques which normally announce with loud speakers prayer 5 times a day, now are announcing prayer more frequently. The tone of the discourse on the news (which I can't understand) has gotten more tense and bellicose. I asked a former Muslim who is now a Christian what they were saying in Arabic and he told me that the Niger government is upset with how foreigners have intervened to foment the war in Mali. There's a general sense of anger towards foreigners. 
The NGOs (Non-governmental org), one of which I serve under, LINK, have asked its members to respect a 6pm to 6am curfew. They fear attacks against foreigners and the French Embassy is asking its people to "go on vacations, visit some family member back home," etc. They are not evacuating anyone but are encouraging their people to leave until things calm down. 
Yesterday some of the soldiers were heard to say that the rebel groups from Mali have crossed over the blind spots along the border into Niger, as they flee from the Mali armed forces. The government armed forces have re-taken the capital of Mali. The government of Niger is allowing weapons and arms to be transported through it in support of the Mali government. The response of the rebel groups in Mali has been to threaten Niger with attacks, saying: "Niger is no longer neutral. Niger is now part of this war." 
We were given a list of instructions which indicated the basic things we needed to have packed in our bags in case we needed to be evacuated quickly to a nearby country. They recommended keeping a bag  packed and ready with your personal documents, cash, water, names and phone numbers, a phone, and keeping your tank filled and ready. That means I have to have my moped bike filled and ready to go! hahahahaha
That being said, I ask you not to worry. In spite of all the warnings, on one hand everything continues as normal and in peace. This type of news really is heard and paid attention to only by the NGOs, Embassies, and foreigners, for us to take precautions. 
Churches are scheduling days of prayer and fasting. All the missionary community here are praying for this situation and we all came to the same conclusion: What should be do? Leave the country? Stay tucked in safely in our homes? No.
We need to redeem the time since the days are evil. We have the opportunity each day to be in Niger, we need to take full advantage of this time. Sure, we'll take the precautions that have been indicated, for example, not to travel alone. But the work of God must continue as always. 

The work:
Today, Sunday, I met with several co-workers Beatriz, Roberta, Wallace (Brazilians) and Midge (a North American). We traveled 30 min. outside of the Capital Niamey, to a very poor village where we had a beautiful worship service with 15 adults and 50 children. We sang. Prayed. Preached the gospel!

When the teacher asked: "What's the most important book in the world?" A very enthusiastic Nigerien (native of Niger) quickly stood to his feet, raised his hand, and shouted with all his strength: The Koran! Everyone shouted in agreement, "yes, yes." 
But you  know what? All of us (and I mean you as well since you are there with me since I would not be there but for you my supporters) would say: "The most important book in the world is the Word of God, the Bible." 
We explained that this Book, the Bible, speaks about Jesus Christ, the Son of God who loves us and gave His life to save us from the wrath of God for our sin, so that we might live eternally with Him, in heaven. The Bible speaks of the love of God through Jesus Christ.
The love of God is the strongest attraction for a Muslim, because their religion does not speak of love, but rather of condemnation and punishment. But we are here (you and I) to tell them: The God of the Bible loves you and gave His Son to save you; He is a personal God, He is your friend."
The god of the Koran is not just mad, but also far. 
But God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ loves you and is near, He wants to be in your life, through the Holy Spirit....

In conclusion:
Sure, war is in the air here, but it's a spiritual war, and maybe in the future, the door that is open right now, in the heart of Africa, might close. But today, the door is open and therefore we must do our work (the work is all of ours). Please, pray with me that the gospel would take over Niger, be heard, and many would come to repentance and give their lives to Christ. 

With deep joy in my heart, your ministry companion,


Psalm 118:6-7: The Lord is for me, so I will have no fear.  What can mere people do to me? Yes, the Lord is for me; he will help me.
Rixy has had lots of new experiences in Niger

These are the women of Niger with whom Rixy lives and works.