A 30th Anniversary “God Story” from Nicaragua
Our final 30th anniversary “God Story” of 2022 comes from Tim Johnston, whom God used as field leader in Nicaragua to work among one of the last indigenous tribes in Central America, the Rama Cay people. In a culture where stubbornness, in-fighting, and competition are commonplace, Tim tells a story about the great patience of our God whose kindness and forbearance lead each of us to repentance (Romans 2:4).
I struggled through jungle brush and vines as I slowly made my way uphill to the only area where I could catch a spotty cell phone signal. Layer upon layer of jungle growth stubbornly resisted my every movement, but sending an update and pictures back to the headquarters was important. I felt a bug bite my skin through my pant leg. I stopped to check it and saw a small bump that would need tending when I got back to the guest house. Although the way was difficult, it wasn’t impassable. I thought, what a metaphor for God’s work among this people group!
As I hiked, I reminisced about the close to 20 years I’ve gotten to know the beauty, mystery, and challenges of the tiny island and its people. The blue jungle lagoon, vibrant Caribbean colors, and underdeveloped conditions were charming from a distance. But a closer look revealed horrendous sanitation issues caused by overcrowding and contaminated water sources. These issues, along with the deep spiritual needs of the people, brought FIA here in 2004.
I remembered how we were invited by the elders and tasked with developing a new village on the nearby mainland to provide a healthy, safe place where all generations of Rama could remain in the local community. I thought about how much construction and witnessing have taken place since then! Twentyfour hurricane-resistant homes, a boat dock, a walking bridge, a playground, a baseball field, a guest house for visiting teams, and a laundry/shower facility were all constructed to benefit the people and stand as a visible testimony of God’s care for them. But just like the slow, painful hike to the hilltop, it was a slow pathway to reach the hearts of the Rama.
Planting Seeds Of Faith
I thought about those early years-how at every construction project, the Gospel was shared and the villagers were invited to attend Bible teaching sessions. Despite outreach after outreach from missionary partners, many of the villagers seemed content to stay in their deteriorating homes and continued to hold to traditional superstitions or works-based methods to receive God’s favor.
There were times I questioned our impact and thought about reconsidering our involvement. But each time, I was reminded of our Lord who “is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy” (Psalm 145:8). If God was patient with me in my sinful stubbornness, then I could also be patient as He worked in the hearts of the Rama people.
I walked and remembered until I finally reached my destination and caught the signal. The bite on my leg was itching and starting to bother me. I texted back an update along with the day’s pictures and turned to stomp my way back. As I walked, I smiled remembering the day a breakthrough came for the Rama people.
The Seeds Take Root
In 2016, after years of building and Bible teaching, four Rama believers came to ask for more formal training to evangelize their own people! It took two more years after that (2018) to see the first believers baptized. I thought of how many people had prayed, given, and visited the Rama and how almost a dozen years passed before they took a genuine interest in the things of God. It seemed
like a long, even painful, journey at times.
Thinking of those times, I realized how badly my leg hurt. At the guest house, I cleaned the swollen bite hoping a good night’s rest would remedy the now festering wound. Sadly, that wasn’t the
case. What started as a tiny scratch would grow to be a septic infection running from my ankle to my knee. I would require medical attention and be immobilized for the next five weeks in Nicaragua unable to return home due to the infection.