Dear family, friends, and co-laborers,
Another very busy year of ministry in Nicaragua has all but come to a close. This was number nineteen for Cathey and me. Our anniversary date with BMDMI is June 20th, 1996, so, the Lord willing, we will complete twenty years of full time service next June. We returned to Nicaragua in early January to help get things going, knowing that we would be returning to Oklahoma at the end of January for my surgery. The surgery turned out to be more than we expected as I lost the use of my right, upper arm. Fortunately, I retained the use of my right hand and wrist. I began physical therapy about a week after I returned home from the hospital. When I returned to Nicaragua the middle of March I was not sure I would have the strength to be able to drive my five-speed pickup. At first I had to “help” my right arm with my left to shift into third and overdrive but after a couple of months I could shift using only my right arm.
The return of strength and flexibility to my right arm has been much slower that I had hoped but I continue to make progress almost eleven months later. Due to the weakness in my arm and the continued healing of the bone grafts in my neck, I did not go out with any teams to the field, except for one-day visits. This was the first time in thirty years that I had not spent at least one week in a village in either Honduras or Nicaragua. What I have learned through this “bump in the road” is that God’s timing is perfect; He knows what we need; and, His grace is sufficient. Thank you to those of you who prayed for me and encouraged me in different ways.
We had fewer teams in Nicaragua this year than we had in 2014. (The Lord knew that we could not manage as many.) Not going out with teams allowed me more time to be involved with our Bible Institute and our Association of Churches and especially our pastors and their families. Our 2016 schedule has several more teams coming than we had this year. (God’s timing.)
The Team Ministry in 2015 distributed more than 27,000 Bibles. This was possible in great part because of a program by Mardel’s Christian Bookstores that provided these Bibles for only the cost of shipping, or $0.34 per Bible. (Our BMDMI president, Jason Green, is the former president of Mardel’s.) More than 9,000 eyeglasses were fitted and distributed by our teams to help people read these Bibles.
In addition to passing more than 42,000 patients through our teams clinics, giving out 195,000 free prescriptions (This is the real Affordable Care Act. ha), and screening for cervical cancer on 611 women of whom 188 were treated on the spot with cryotherapy, a new addition was added to the team medical clinics this year in the form of a portable ultrasound unit. Our newest missionary in 2015 was Amanda Hill who, in addition to her language studies, went out with several teams and performed 711 ultrasound exams.
Still another blessing that our teams provided was the purchase and distribution of $68,000 worth of rice and beans to the poor people coming to our clinics. Four-thousand, eight-hundred and sixty-seven animals also received antiparasite meds, vaccines, and vitamins. The cattle, horses, mules, and hogs are a key part of the survival of the Nicaraguans living in the small villages.
It is amazing the amount of ministry that our teams do in a relatively short, but very intense, time. Everyone hears a Gospel presentation and is extended a personal invitation to receive Jesus as Savior and Lord. More than one-half of those coming to our clinics in 2015 also received a complete Bible.
The BMDMI ministry in Nicaragua is in the beginning stages of opening up ministry in the northern autonomous region or RAAN in 2016. Missionary Josh Moudy has made several visits to the RAAN, established contacts, purchased team equipment, and secured a village for the first team that will arrive in February. This region is a logistical challenge because of the distance and lack of facilities but we have seen the Lord open a lot of doors. There are many indigenous people living in this region, mainly form the Mayanga and Miskito tribes.
Cathey will have her school newsletter coming out soon but I will note that she had a record enrollment for 2015 with three-hundred and eighty students. She graduated her largest “senior class” two weeks ago with twenty-six graduates.
The Dwight Carr Bible Institute (DCBI) has new leadership after long time director Joel Chavez resigned. New director, Jose Maradiaga, has made changes in the curricula and student recruitment outreaches that are necessary for the institute’s effectiveness and growth. Another big change at the DCBI is affiliation with Louisiana Baptist University (LBU) that will allow our students and graduates to receive a B.A. degree and even work on a Master’s degree through the STEP Program directed by LBU.
We recently received 100,000 pre-packaged meals, rich in protein and vitamins, that only need to be combined to boiling water and served. Our pastors will be distributing this food through their churches to children and the elderly in 2016.
Our seven sewing schools had ninety-six students this year and offered three different levels of instruction. As with all of our ministries, the Gospel is presented. Before every class, a Bible study is taught where Christ is presented. A big need that we have for all of our sewing schools is material for the ladies to use to make their clothing items. You can either send this material to Nicaragua with a team or ship it to our Hattiesburg office and they will ship it to Nicaragua. One of pastor’s daughters learned how to make clothing at the sewing school in the church where her father is pastor. She just completed her first year of nurses training and earned extra money by making the uniforms for her classmates utilizing the skills she had acquired in this BMDMI sewing school.
The Estes family, Shane, Kerri, and their four children, will be arriving in Nicaragua as career missionaries in early January to begin language studies and working with the youth in our twenty-nine churches. As early as March, a second career missionary family, Mark and Diane Shade, will also be arriving. A third family may also be arriving sometime after the end of May and possibly a fourth near the end of the year. Missionary pharmacist Jack Ogden has transferred from Nicaragua to Nepal.
Recently, we were blessed to receive enough donations from folks like you to buy gifts for the one-thousand twenty children (1,020) that are faithful in our churches. Our national staff did an incredible job of shopping for these gifts in the huge Oriental market in Managua. They were able to buy a nice gift for each child at an average cost of $4.50. Our staff delivered these gifts to each church where our pastors distributed them. We were also able to buy gifts for all of our pastor’s children and wives. Due to the generous giving of many of you, the Mission also gave the equivalent of $100.00 cash to each pastor. Someone has said that we are never more like God than when we give. Thank you for being like God.
Cathey and I want to thank you for being a part of this amazing ministry! Whether your support was through prayer, financial giving, or actually coming to Nicaragua and serving hands-on, you are part of the ministry. It is so much bigger that anything we imagined nineteen years ago. We serve a great God and He is doing great things. As the Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 3:20, …Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think…. We serve a missionary God who has always who said through the writer of Psalms 67: That Your way may be known on earth, Your salvation among all nations.
In these troubled times our prayer is that you may find true peace in the Prince of Peace. Blessing and honor and glory and power are to him alone.
Darrel and Cathey Johnson
BMDMI missionaries to Nicaragua