Inclusivity vs. Exclusivity

We live in a neighborhood with a lot of kids,  kids who often times play at our house. This is what Dave and I have always wanted. We figure that if our house is a fun place to hang out, a safe and welcoming place for our kids’ friends, then not only can we protect and care best for our own children, but we have the opportunity to get to know, love and serve their friends as well. Almost daily we have neighborhood kids jumping and playing games on our trampoline and on our vast wrap-around tiled porch. We are happy when our own children want to get drinks of water for their friends or share snacks with them. With their parents’ permission, we welcome them inside with our kids to play board games, do arts and crafts, and maybe even watch tv. All of this social activity does not come without conflict. I am consistently reminding my offspring to be kind, make sure everyone feels welcome, to treat others in such a way that they know they are included. While this is not a perfect process, I believe the lessons learned are valuable.

Today one of my children went out into the neighborhood looking for friends to play with. She returned rejected, turned away from a group of kids playing together. I, maybe like you, can think of other similar examples of times when I and my children have been excluded. It hurts. And it got me thinking, and wanting to take action. So after I try to encourage my child, I pray, and I write.

What are exclusivity and inclusivity, what does the Bible say about these, and what does that mean for us?

Let’s start with a definition from Merriam-Webster.

Definition of inclusivity

  1. :  the quality or state of being inclusive:inclusiveness

Simple Definition of inclusive

  • : covering or including everything

  • : open to everyone : not limited to certain people

  • : including the stated limits and everything in between

Open to everyone: not limited to certain people

To be thorough, let’s look at the definition of exclusive as well.

Simple Definition of exclusive

  • : not shared : available to only one person or group

  • : only allowing in people from a high social class

  • : available to only a few people because of high cost

 

We have all been included, and we have all been excluded. We’ve all included, and we’ve all excluded. I am especially sensitive to the conditions of being included and excluded. Inclusion feels good. Exclusion feels bad.

What does the Bible say about it?

We can read about inclusivity in the book of Romans, chapter 12, verses 15-18 (ESV):

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

In James 2 (ESV), we can read about what is called, “The Sin of Partiality”:

My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory….If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

So what does all of that mean for us?

You may be thinking, but we need to have healthy boundaries. Well, that’s what I am thinking. I certainly believe in healthy boundaries. And maybe those boundaries are different for different people. Our boundaries, however, should coexist with God’s Word. Can we have healthy boundaries but still celebrate and mourn, live in harmony and peace with all others, to the best of our ability? Can we maintain our boundaries while we love others as we love ourselves, love others’ children as we love our own (a tough concept for any parent to grab a hold of), and show mercy to all? Well, I am not saying this is easy. As individuals, as couples, as parents, as friends, as brothers and sisters in Christ, we all need to go to God for wisdom.

My hope and prayer is that we will step away from this message freshly awakened, each to our own ability to include and to exclude, and to how such choices might impact others.

Lord, help me to love others as I love myself.

Why Would a Loving God…?

We have all heard or asked questions beginning with, “Why would a loving God….?”

Why would a loving God send people to hell?

Why would a loving God take my loved one from me?

Why would a loving God allow people to live in peril, in poverty, in pain?

I’m sure you can come up with more examples, some that may be very personal to you.

Through my study today I am reminded that we aren’t God, nor can we apply our standards and expectations to Him. Maybe you question the existence of God, or the extent to which He is sovereign. But if He is real and sovereign (which I believe), then it makes sense that, as the Bible says, His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts higher than our thoughts. I think we can all agree: I don’t know everything, and neither do you.

I find this quote from Seamless by Angie Smith to be impactful:

I have seen the way pride and power can corrupt the purity of the Word of God. Many times, I have spoken out of a place that was more concerned with being right before men than it was of being right before God. And many times, I just wanted to know the answer so I would feel like I had it figured out. That’s my safety zone right there – control. But above and beyond any of my lofty desires is this unshakeable reality: I do not and will never know everything there is to know, nor was I created to understand all the mysteries of God.

We see people suffering and dying and we wonder why God would allow, or even cause, these things to happen. For example, why would a loving God send a flood to wipe out so many people and animals from the earth?

Here’s what Angie Smith says about this: “I want you to consider this mental perspective shift. Instead of wondering why He did something as drastic as killing an entire world of people, ask yourself a more pressing question: why did He let anyone live?”

Now if you are someone who does not believe what the Bible says about all people being sinners, if you see yourself and people in general as basically good, then you probably find such a question to be ridiculously harsh. I get that. At the same time, I know my own flaws. I know the ugly things I have thought and done. I clearly fall short of perfection. I need the grace of a loving God. Without that grace, I would be destined for destruction. To the core of my being, I know it’s true.

Thankfully, God has made a way for all people to come into His presence, now and for eternity. All we have to do is humble ourselves, acknowledge our need for Him, and place our trust in Him, our Creator. He promises us, His children, abundant life and a share in His heavenly glory. If a person rejects Him, though, that person rejects all that He has for His children. He is a loving God, but He is also perfectly just.

If our perspective is that this life is all we have, then our trials and losses may seem unfair, undeserved, maybe too difficult to bear. If, however, our perspective is that this life is a blip on the timeline of eternity, then we know our suffering is temporary.

Have I answered the question, “Why would a loving God…?” No, I haven’t. I can’t. I am not God. But I trust that He is sovereign, and that he is loving. I believe that He has made a way, through Jesus, for me to be with Him for all eternity. He offers this opportunity to every person. I hope that you have placed your trust in Him, or that you will. Trust Him in the abundant life, and trust Him in the suffering. Then we can rejoice in all things. That is my prayer for you today.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.  Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand;  do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:4-7).

Nicaragua Christian Academy: The Ministry of Education

 

Education quote Nelson MandelaEducation is important. It is important to the well-being and future of a nation. Even more important than the education of a nation, however, is the spiritual condition of its people. Nicaragua Christian Academy provides the opportunity for children in Nicaragua to receive an excellent education while learning the good news of Jesus Christ.

 

Nicaragua is the second poorest nation in our hemisphere. Mission teams flock here from the United States to serve in varying capacities. Dozens of missionary families abide here along side the Nicaraguan people, working diligently to make a positive impact on this country and on the Kingdom of God. They work with organizations such as Forward Edge International, Compassion International, World Vision, Young Life, New Life, Grace Ministries International, House of Hope, Mission to the World, Missionary Ventures, and the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism (ABWE), and the list goes on.

n-NICARAGUA-CHILDREN-large570

Though we are here through ABWE, our primary ministry is to teach. We are not Church planters. We do not do community development or oversee an orphanage. We do not provide medical care or clean drinking water. We do support all of those ministries, though, by educating the children of missionaries. We also help to provide an essential tool to many Nicaraguan young people – an excellent, Christ-centered education. We teach, disciple and lead at Nicaragua Christian Academy.

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers….   (1 Corinthians 12:28).

Consider the value of education, then peruse the statistics below.

Education in Nicaragua, Statistics courtesy of nicafund.org:

  • Nicaragua spends 3.7% of its GDP on education (avg in Central America is 7%)
  • 25-year-old curriculum used for primary and secondary education
  • Very limited basic materials or supplies available to teachers for instruction
  • Inadequate books and desks available to students
  • 79% of primary school-aged children are enrolled
  • 29% of children complete primary-level education
  • Only 45% of students who enter primary school go on to high school (one of the lowest in the world)
  • 10% of students pass the basic math requirements, and 20% pass the Spanish-language requirement to attend university
  • 67.5% literacy in the country

Nicaragua Christian Academy (NCA) has this mission:

NCA schools partner with Christian parents in forming active disciples of Jesus Christ, equipped to impact society through the development of their spiritual discernment, moral courage and academic excellence.

The identity of NCA can be summarized as this:

NCA students on campus

The primary and intentional ministry of NCA International is to provide a Christian education for the children of expatriate evangelical missionary families. To the extent that it is consistent with the primary ministry, our secondary ministry is to equip Nicaraguans for future positions of leadership to impact their country and the nations for Christ. The program of study follows the North American school calendar year and provides an accredited North American liberal arts English-language education that prepares students to enter institutions of higher learning worldwide.

NCA high school students

The statistics demonstrate this commitment to education:

About 60% of NCA graduates enroll in four-year universities in the United States, including both public universities and private colleges. About 30% of graduates continue their studies here in Nicaragua. The remaining 10% attend universities in Europe or Asia, enter military service, or begin their careers.

NCA International is currently the only school in Nicaragua (and one of only two schools in all of Central America) to have dual accreditation in the United States.

We teach. We are missionaries. NCA is our venue for education, evangelism, discipleship, and mentoring, all for the glory of God in the name of Jesus.

Dave teaching

 

Please prayerfully consider supporting this vital ministry.

To give online, please go to abwe.org/give and use account number 0190443.

 

Our Hope

What troubles you today? Maybe you are depressed. Maybe you feel anxious about something. Financial worries. Your child’s behavior. Tension in a relationship. Loneliness. A decision to make. Aging parents. Sickness. Maybe your body, like mine, doesn’t work the way it did when you were younger. Maybe someone has wronged you. Whatever the challenge you face today, there is hope.

In Psalm 73 I read, “When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you” (vs. 21-22). If you have never grieved, have never experienced bitterness, have never behaved like a senseless beast when angered or discouraged, then you are a better person than I am. I can certainly relate to the psalmist.

Then I read what follows: “Yet I am always with you; You hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory” (vs. 23-24). Yes! God is with me (have you looked for Him today?). God holds my hand (and yours, if you let him). He guides me with His counsel (all we have to do is ask for it, seek it). Afterward (when this troubled life is over), He will take me into His glory (eternal joy in the presence of God)! This is my hope.

There is more: “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (vs. 25-26). Wait! What if I do desire something besides God? God knows your desires, my desires. In fact, He wants to give us the desires of our hearts; first, though, He wants us to take delight in Him (Psalm 37:4). Delight in Him today! Does your flesh fail you? It will. Does your heart fail you? It too will fail. But God, He will never fail you.

I considered leaving this next part out. This is the dark side of this passage. “Those who are far from you [God] will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you” (vs. 27). I can’t leave it out, because God didn’t leave it out. Maybe you are thinking that a loving God wouldn’t destroy anyone. But a just God would. Don’t get me wrong, He loves every person; every one is His creation. In 2 Peter 3:9 I read that “He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish.” Ultimately, he gives us a choice. We can choose Him for all eternity, or we can choose the alternative. I choose God, and I desperately want the same for you.

“But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds” (Psalm 73: 28).

If you believe this with me, if He is your Hope, go today and tell others of what He has done for you, you child of the Most High God.

1 Chronicles 16.8

 

Seeking Support

Psalm 138.8

 

According to God’s Word, He will fulfill his purpose for each one of us. I love that this promise is immediately followed by the affirmation of His enduring love. At a time of some uncertainty, I am reassured of what I know to be true. God’s will prevails. I can rest in His love and in His perfect plan for my life.

Three years ago our family was preparing to move to Nicaragua to serve at Nicaragua Christian Academy with the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism. We made a three-year commitment, and now we are nearing the end of that time. This week, we officially made the decision to continue in service at NCA with ABWE. We have made this decision thoughtfully and prayerfully. This was not an easy decision. We miss our loved ones in the United States, and they miss us. There are many challenges that come with living in a third world country. Why, then, would we stay? We believe that this is where God has us. We see the fruits of our ministry here. We see God at work here. We do not sense that God is calling us away just yet. He has more work for us to do here in Nicaragua.

We are so thankful for those of you who have supported us with prayers, encouragement, and financial contributions. We could not be here without you. Please know that we spend money carefully, knowing that every dollar  comes to us at a cost to you. We hope that you will continue to partner with us.

For some time now, we have been operating under budget. Our health insurance costs have gone up. Our income has gone down. As we look ahead, we acknowledge that we need to raise more financial support. Our least favorite thing to do as missionaries is to ask others for money. Humbly, we are asking. Please prayerfully consider what you might give, or how God might be calling you to increase your giving.

We currently need to raise an additional $600/month. While this sounds like a huge sum of money, we believe that God will provide. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 30:10)! If 30 individuals, families or small groups can each commit to giving $20 a month (or an additional $20/month), our needs will be met. If you are interested in making a one-time or annual donation, that will be a great blessing to us as well. I can give you a list of specific expenses, too, if you prefer to meet a particular need. You can donate online at abwe.org using account number 0190443.

For regular ministry updates, join our Facebook group, “Weigand’s Nicaragua News” or send us a request for e-mail updates.

For relevant links, check out our Blogroll to the left.

In conclusion, we believe that God’s plan will prevail. If it is His will for us to continue in ministry here in Nicaragua, then He will provide for all of our needs. Let us look to the future in eager anticipation of all He will do.

 

 

 

 

More About What We Do in Nicaragua

Dear Friends, Family, Church Family,

                For the past one year, six months and thirteen days, Dave and I have been committed to our ministry here in Nicaragua. Many of you have supported us with words of encouragement, prayer, and financial contributions. You have loved us, trusted us, and made sacrifices in order to be an active part of what God is doing in Nicaragua.  Please know how grateful we are to you. Without the involvement of the Body of Christ, missionaries like us would not be able to serve in developing countries like Nicaragua. So much is being done in Nicaragua, not only to reach people with the gospel message, but also to disciple new believers and to meet the serious physical needs which are so prevalent here.

                Our primary ministry in Nicaragua is at Nicaragua Christian Academy. Currently Dave teaches Homeroom, Geography, English, and AP English Literature. During first semester he also teaches a Careers class which includes every senior student at NCA. This year I am teaching Math 7 and Accelerated Reader. These positions allow us into the lives of the over three-hundred NCA students and their families. Through this connection, we have been able to establish and develop relationships and have had numerous opportunities to evangelize and disciple.

Dave serves not only as a teacher, but also as the leader of Ignite, our student outreach group, and as a mentor to a group of senior guys. As the small group leader of several seniors, whose beliefs range from born-again Christian to adamant atheist, Dave has been able to communicate the truth of the gospel as he continues to build relationships with these young men. As Ignite leader, he plans, organizes and leads a large group of students and adults to serve in various locations in and around Managua. Through this ministry we are able to stay connected with Rosario Murillo, a very poor barrio where we serve in cooperation with an ABWE Church-plant. The last time we took a group to Rosario Murillo, the students talked with and prayed for numerous physically and spiritually impoverished families, gave them rice and beans, and put information in their hands about a program happening later that same day at the Church-plant nearby.

My role as a teacher has been part-time here, but the opportunities I have to reach these students are seemingly endless. Last year I met regularly with two senior girls who both admitted that they were not ready to commit their lives to Christ or even to accept His salvation. I continue to meet with one of these young ladies to love, encourage and disciple her as she is now learning and growing in her faith. This is my second year now co-leading Bible study for a group of girls who are now seniors at NCA. I love that my interaction with them is not limited to this once a week study time, but that I am able to interact with many of them on almost a daily basis. One young woman in particular asked me if I would mentor her individually, and we have been meeting for several months. In addition to these special opportunities, Dave and I both love sharing our faith in the classroom as naturally as we would at Church.

NCA is a Christian school, but we are reaching students of varying beliefs. A surprisingly high percentage of NCA’s students are Nicaraguan and Korean and attend NCA for the excellent education, and to learn English. With the exception of the Spanish department, most of NCA’s classroom teachers are missionaries from the United States. This, among many other things, makes NCA unique among schools in Nicaragua. Graduates of NCA are accepted into colleges in the U.S., Canada, Nicaragua, South Korea, and beyond. When these students go forth with an excellent educational and spiritual foundation, NCA’s mission is spread around the world. Many of these students return to Nicaragua to glorify God as they work toward making this country a better place. NCA is literally changing the world. We are so honored and excited to be a small part of what is happening here.

Now you know some of the ways God is using us Weigands, and your resources, to expand His kingdom in Nicaragua and around the world. May God bless you richly for your love, generosity, and your faithfulness to Him and His Kingdom.

Currently, we are planning to take a short furlough during this coming June and July. We will be visiting our home Church, as well as family and friends in Michigan and Ohio. We would love to visit other Churches and anyone who is interested in learning more about our ministry in Nicaragua. If you would like to have us come and speak this summer, please let us know.

If you are not currently supporting this ministry, but would like to join us, please send us an e-mail to daveandsarahw@yahoo.com, or you can donate at http://www.abwe.org/give. You can also join our facebook group, “Weigand’s Nicaragua News” at https://www.facebook.com/groups/203861326384172/.

 

Love and Blessings,

 Dave and Sarah Weigand

                

He is no fool…

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

These are the words of Jim Elliot, American missionary to Ecuador, who gave his life to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. We may not have the strong and lasting impact on God’s kingdom that Jim Elliot has had, but we hope to be used by God for His glory in whatever way He chooses.

About six years ago Dave came home from a mission trip with our Church’s youth group and announced that he had heard from God. He believed that it was God’s plan for us to leave Ohio for the mission field overseas in the year 2012.  Much needed to happen for this to be possible. At the time, we were in financial debt, we did not know to where exactly God was calling us, and I was not even sure that I wanted to go.

Sure, Dave and I had agreed early in our relationship that we would someday do overseas missions. We’d both felt “the call.” Before we had children, we’d led several short-term mission teams to Mexico and even one to India. At one point we were even seriously considering a move to Mexico. But then we received a life-changing answer to innumerable prayers. We were gifted with our first baby.

Thus we entered into a new phase of our lives together. With our new baby boy we moved from Michigan to Ohio and settled in. We became actively and comfortably involved in a wonderful Church, FBC Vandalia, and added two sweet girls to our growing family. Friendships were formed, a lifestyle established. I was in no hurry to leave. The former passion I’d felt for giving my life into His service became misplaced. 

Then, one Sunday sermon spoke to me; God spoke to me. Our pastor preached about Mary, the mother of Jesus, and her sacrifice. Through the following passage, the Holy Spirit spoke:

Luke 14:25-27 (ESV) 

25 Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

My eyes were opened to the Truth, that I loved my children more than God. I loved my life in Ohio, the life I lived as a mother of young children, the routine and places and people with which we were so familiar. This is when I surrendered my life (again) to His will. I told Dave, “I’m in,” and I could see by the tears in his eyes that he knew.

God had already taken care of our financial debt and had answered the question, “To where?” Nicaragua, a place we had never been, is where we were going. When other doors had been closed to us, literally and figuratively, Dave found an International Christian school on the Internet and e-mailed the school’s director, Liam Starkenburg, who responded immediately with interest. Around that time, we came into contact with Bruce and Laura Edgar, ABWE missionaries to Nicaragua. Next, our Church’s missions committee asked Dave where we might go. When he told them about his connections in Nicaragua, two of the couples excitedly told Dave that they had been not only to Nicaragua but also to Nicaragua Christian Academy, the very school we were considering. Believing this to be orchestrated by God, we planned for two teams to visit Managua, Nicaragua that summer.

Being in Nicaragua, meeting the Starkenburgs and the Edgars, and visiting NCA, served to validate for us that we were in fact meant to move to Nicaragua and teach at NCA.

For most of the next two years, we prepared, and were prepared, for this move. While the process of raising financial support was challenging, it also proved to be a faith-growing experience. Many of our family, friends and Church family supported us and loved us throughout our time of preparation. At once we were at the airport in Dayton, hugging and thanking and waving. And then we were here, at our new home.

It has now been just over one year since we moved to Nicaragua. While the transition has been a difficult one, I cannot say we were surprised by this. We knew we were sacrificing much. We left behind the many conveniences of North American living. We left behind all that we knew. We left behind most of our material belongings, trusted friends, and loving family members. With God as our navigator, we journeyed forward in full trust. And while we have at times felt the pain of these losses, at no time have we regretted the sacrifice. We gave what we could not keep to gain what we cannot lose. There is much to share about what God has been doing in our lives here in Nicaragua, but I will save that for next time.

Thank you for your continued remembrance of us, as well as your prayers and support.

Love and blessings,

Sarah Weigand