Praying for Peace in Nicaragua

Many readers of this blog have recently seen the news and are aware that Nicaragua is in crisis.  Thousands of protesters have marched in the Nicaraguan capital Managua and other cities to promote democracy.

Demonstrators blocked main roads, waving placards and chanting slogans.  Weeks of anti-government protests have led to at least 76 people being killed in clashes with security forces.  Four people were killed in clashes on Saturday, police and witnesses say.

Yesterday and today I have been in contact with Rev. María Antonia Ponce, District Superintendent of Nicaragua Central.  Although I had heard reports of persecution of our Nazarene churches, she assures me that as of today there have not been any attacks on our congregations.  Still, the situation is critical.  “Each day we wake up with uncertainty,” Ponce says.  “Many have died, almost all youth, and the majority of them are students in different universities.”  One month has passed since the first conflicts erupted and the superintendent urges Nazarene members in the Mesoamerica Region and around the world to intercede for them and their country.Pray for Nicaragua

“We feel very sad, because for more than a month we have been under great pressure due to the disturbances in Nicaragua. Sadly, today for the first time, with tears in our eyes, we have closed the district office. We remain under the protection of the Most High and wise God. We do not wish to continue risking our lives and so we have chosen to leave since we had found ourselves in the crossfire between the police and the students. There are many people injured and we do not wish to join the list of the deceased. This situation brings us great pain. We ask that, as the Body of Christ, we would unite in prayer for peace in Nicaragua.”

In spite of all that is occurring, Ponce rejoices in the generous spirit of her fellow Nicaraguans.  In the midst of pain, unemployment, and even cancelling of worship services (in Managua, Masaya, and León, all services other than those held on Sunday mornings have been cancelled for security reasons), the Nazarene churches are collecting offerings for their Cuban brothers and sisters affected by the plane crash two weeks ago.  “It’s an honor and a blessing for us to be able to help in the midst of our own crisis,” she declared.

Our brothers and sisters in Nicaragua need our encouragement and spiritual support.  Even though they have felt alone in these days, they know that they are connected to a global denomination that is lifting them up.

Let’s pray for the peace of Nicaragua.  Let’s pray that God’s will be done in this nation as it is in heaven.  Nicaragua, we are with you!

Dejected…and Rejoicing

By Scott Armstrong

As many in the Nazarene world and beyond are aware, a week ago a Boeing 737 airliner with more than 110 passengers and crew crashed Friday near Jose Marti International Airport in Havana, Cuba, shortly after takeoff. The plane, Cubana Flight 972, was on its way to Holguín, Cuba, when it went down about 12 p.m. local time.

On board the aircraft, 10 couples from the East District were on their way back to their home Province of Holguín after being part of a National Conference for pastors from the Church of the Nazarene. In the days after, expressions of grief and solidarity were expressed from the General Superintendents and brothers and sisters around the globe. On May 21, Dr. Carla Sunberg dedicated her message at the Global Ministry Center’s chapel service to the couples who were killed and the family members and Cuban leaders who are picking up the pieces after this tragedy.

In the Dominican Republic the missionaries and National Office leadership met, as we do every week, for devotions and prayer.  This time the mood was somber.  We knew the right theology: God is sovereign.  He has a plan.  He offers eternal life to those who die in Him.  However, the questions remained: why did this happen? Why didn’t God stop this? What about the ten orphaned children who are now weeping and will not see their parents on this side of heaven?

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In the midst of such struggle, the Nazarene Compassionate Ministries’ Coordinator for the Central Field (Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Panama, and Puerto Rico), Paquita Bidó, began to read from Psalm 100.

“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.

Worship the Lord with gladness;

come before him with joyful songs.

Know that the Lord is God.

It is he who made us, and we are his;

we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

 

Enter his gates with thanksgiving

and his courts with praise;

give thanks to him and praise his name.

For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;

his faithfulness continues through all generations.”

Worshipping with gladness? Joyful songs? Thanksgiving and praise? Clearly, this is not a lament Psalm!

Paquita acknowledged that we mourn with our Cuban family, and we recognize our bewilderment.  We must not explain away this devastating loss with trite words of affirmation or theological maxims.  At the same time, she explained that she brought this psalm to us as an expression of faith in the very midst of sorrow.  The Lord is God; we are not.  He is Creator, and we are his creation.  As sheep, we enjoy the care of the Shepherd and obey his voice.  What a privilege to serve him for as long as he gives us breath.

Paquita continued.  If we proclaim that God is faithful only in the good times, then what good is that? Our trust would be based merely on circumstances going our way and not on a loving Father who allows pain in our lives because he knows best.  However, we do, in fact, declare that He is good, and His love endures forever, even in – or especially in – this bitter reality confronting us.  And his faithfulness is promised not only to us, but it continues through all generations.

In the light of this reality, and even in the midst of sadness, we shout for joy!  Our tears co-mingle with thanks and praise.  God is good.  Still. Even now.

Our entire region is devastated. We have mobilized to give and pray for Cuba.  And as we weep, we also rejoice that we serve a good and faithful God.  Yes, his love endures forever.

Hope in the Midst of Grief

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On May 21, 2018, 
General Superintendent Carla D. Sunberg delivered the message at the morning’s Global Ministry Center chapel service. The Nazarene pastor couples killed in Friday’s plane crash were honored as their names were read aloud, and Dr. Sunberg reminded us of the hope we have in Christ even in the midst of grief.