In our first four weeks here, we have visited 8 of the 10 congregations in the Managua area. Each church has greeted us warmly, and every time we (or any other visitors) are introduced in the service, everyone waves and says together "Bienvenidos y Dios les bendiga!" ("Welcome and may God bless you!") For me, it is a powerful moment of welcome each time. The welcome continues in the many warm handshakes and personal greetings, the delicious home-cooked meals we are served after almost every service, the offer of every pastor that "we are at your service for anything you need while you are settling in," the hopes so many have expressed for our time here.
I told people, before we came here, that I was anticipating that we would be receiving a lot of hospitality. Even though it's not surprising, the experience of this welcome continues to be humbling and amazing. All this love makes the immense adjustment easier, and worthwhile.
I have certainly had moments of doubt -- when my two year old daughter had heat rash for the first week after we arrived. As I continue to struggle to learn Spanish -- we went to a training for Sunday School teachers at one church last weekend, I sat in a group's heated discussion and thought I was following the thread reasonably well until someone clued me in that some members of the group were disagreeing with the methodology being presented -- a detail that I had not previously noticed. As I looked at photos from my nephew's first birthday party and wished I could have been there.
But these small doubts are swept away in the love and faith of the people of the church. They love us and believe in us, without even knowing us. Every time we meet another leader of the church, they tell us how they see our presence here as a blessing. They are convinced that together, we will accomplish a great work in this place. In this hot place where everyone speaks Spanish that is far from our families. This place to which God has called us -- and the place where God has provided us with welcome after welcome. We have been truly welcomed, and truly blessed.