My Experience

September 24 2009 / ShareHim in Nicaragua B, Jul. 17 - Aug. 1 '09 #389
by Grant Iverson

Personal Testimony of Grant Iverson.

I made the decision to come on this trip with the Evangelism Resource Center (ERC) at Southern Adventist University rather spontaneously. I had been praying for an opportunity to evangelize to people, since I felt this was hard in our little “Southern bubble” of Adventists, when one day in my Last-day Events class with Dr. Martin, I heard about a trip to Mexico. I was interested because I have been to Mexico twice before and love the country! This also caught my attention because it seemed like such a prompt answer to my prayer. I went to the ERC to find out more information.

I struggled with knowing if this was the way God was trying to lead me, so I prayed and prayed. I had began reading Exodus around that time, and after praying specifically about this, worried because I am not a preacher, I came across Exodus 4. The very night that I asked God if this was what He wanted for me, even though I did not feel capable, I read Exodus 4:10-12. I read how Moses pleaded with God in fear: “O Lord, I have never been eloquent…” And how God responded with a promise: “Who gave man his mouth? … Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” When I read this, after praying specifically about it, I knew God wanted me to do this.

Well, we are finally in Nicaragua. (The trip was changed from Mexico to Nicaragua.) The journey has been long and frustrating, but we are finally here and we can relax a bit.

Thursday was our first day of class. We began the day with worship, as we do every day, and then moved into our meeting room. We began editing our first sermons, and Jeremy Wong preached the first one for us.

That day and the next day we spent preparing for the Friday night and Sabbath sermons. We were planning to preach three sermons essentially back to back to back. We were supposed to be ready for all three before preaching the Friday night sermon.

Unfortunately, I did not have time to do this; I was only ready for Friday night’s. After the service I prepared for Sabbath’s sermons. I was not sure what to expect exactly when I was getting ready for Friday night. You see, I have always had severe stage fright. I always get very nervous, my palms get sweaty, I get very warm, and I start shaking. I was worried that I was going to get nervous when I went up onto the stage. Well, the pastor came and picked me up, we got to the church and set everything up, I got to talk with my translator for a bit, and we all discussed the program.

The song service began, and I was to begin preaching immediately after. I began to pray and pray. I asked God to take away my nervousness. Finally, the time came to go on stage, and I wasn’t nervous! I began to preach, and my translator interpreted what I was saying. God took away my nervousness! The story was the same on Sabbath. I was worried about being nervous, but God took that away and I was able to preach from my heart. As the days went on, I didn’t even think about getting nervous. Later, I even sang! But we’ll come to that later.

That night, Stephanie, our mentor from Southern, told us that, because of problems with the hotel we had been staying in, el Conquistador, we were going to move the next morning. We packed everything up and the next morning jumped in a bunch of taxis and drove the half mile to the La Posada del Angel hotel. We unloaded our things and got settled into the hotel.

Tuesday, something very tragic, and yet powerful happened. After preaching, I was at the exit of the church shaking hands as the people were leaving when the pastor leaned over to me. He asked me if it was possible that we go somewhere before he returned me to the hotel. He explained to me that a lady, who had been coming to the church meetings, had just gotten baptized on Sabbath. Sadly, she died on Tuesday and the pastor was asked to speak at her funeral that night.

As I said, this was tragic. However, the idea that she had decided to follow Christ shortly before dying was immensely powerful. This story, that I experienced, testifies that we never know what will happen tomorrow—or today even!—and that we must make the decision to follow Jesus today—every day!

Sabbath, the sermon was about being a good steward; we talked about eating healthfully and paying tithes. After the church service, we had a baptism. It was a special blessing. Four people got (re)baptized and the pastor told brief stories about each one of their journeys to reach that point. After the baptisms, the pastor made a call for anyone who wanted to be baptized to come forward—seven came to the front.

Later, the topic for the evening sermon was about baptism. After I finished speaking, I explained the decision cards, and pleaded with those in the church to be baptized. When I finished my part, the pastor came up and continued to encourage them to be baptized. Finally when he asked everyone to stand who wanted to be baptized, ten or fifteen people stood up. I was so amazed!

I have seen the Holy Spirit working so much since I got here. Sabbath just seemed to be a great sequence of events that “fell together.” I think the Holy Spirit has been my master of ceremonies. After our health talk, the church happened to serve good, healthy fruit. And just after seeing friends baptized, we talked about the meaning and the reason for being baptized. The Holy Spirit has been showing to these people here God’s word put into practice. They can see how the things we talk about every meeting affect the lives around them. And I know that the Holy Spirit is working here, because I am not a good preacher. Every night, I feel like the sermon could be better, but every night, people make a commitment to follow God. It shows me that it’s not the preacher, me; it’s not the pastor; it’s not the pretty music that is played (because we don’t have any); it is the power of the message itself, and it’s the power of the Holy Spirit working on their hearts.

Sunday night’s topic was about death and the state of the dead. I think the sermon went really well and I could see it on the faces that most everyone was listening intently. I knew this is a topic that is sometimes not received well, and that the devil tries to make sure it isn’t presented, so I prayed before hand for extra protection and for extra help from the Holy Spirit.

After I wrapped up the sermon, I asked those who would like to follow Jesus to stand with me during prayer. Mostly everyone stood. Then I asked those who wanted to follow Jesus’ example to be baptized to raise their hands. I didn’t see how many, if anyone, raised their hands. However, after I finished praying, the pastor continued with the appeal. He talked about baptism and someone came up to be baptized that night. He then continued his appeal, calling people to be baptized. He kept calling and calling, and some of the church members were walking through the congregation encouraging the visitors directly. People began, one at a time, standing up to say that they wanted to be baptized. When there were three or four of them, the pastor called them to the front. After that, more and more people came up until seven were there. Seven people decided to be baptized! Wow, the Holy Spirit is powerful!

Something funny happened, too. There was a man there that looked like he had been hired to take pictures during the baptism. He was wearing a vest that said "Polaroid" like he works at a camera or film store. Well, during the pastor's appeal, he came to the front saying he wanted to be baptized! I don't know if he was there for the meetings or what, but I thought it was funny and amazing.

There are a few kids at the church that have grown to like me quite a bit. Besides my translator, Zacarías, who I get along with very well, some of the kids are Joe, Varesca, Beverly, Olga, and Jorge. Varesca is 14. She has brought me several foods as gifts. She has brought me bread, and she brought me guanabana. Beverly, 13, and sister of Varesca, was nice enough to take videos of me while I was preaching. It took her three days to get it to work, but she finally got some videos. Joe and Jorge are brothers and both very young. They like following me around and copying what I’m doing and asking me questions. Zacarías (my translator) and I joke around a lot. He is a fun guy. If he went to school at Southern, I would probably hang out with him quite a bit. The group is trying to get me to stay in Nicaragua and live with them. They said I can stay in their house and they will feed me. I like it here, but I don’t know if I want to live here.

Wednesday night a lady brought me a fruit called nancites. They were alright, but had a bitter taste to them like red grapes. Another lady brought me a tamale. The Nicaragüenza people are so friendly and so giving! Everyone keeps giving me things.

That night I decided to take a risk and sing a song. The suggested appeal song was “Take my Life”. I really like the song and thought it fit well with the sermon, but I didn’t think the Nicaraguans would know it, so I decided to sing it myself. Solo! I don’t know what overcame me to do this. I haven’t sung solo in front of people since I was 10!

I thought it went well, and I didn’t get nervous. I have it on video so I’ll watch it after I’m back in the U.S., but they must have liked it because they asked me to sing again Sabbath.

I found out something amazing on Thursday. There is a couple that had been coming to the meetings. The guy was Adventist, but he left the church, but the girl wasn't Adventist. I learned later that they have been living together for 10 years, but they are not married. They even have a 6 yr-old son. Recently, they made the decision to get baptized. The pastor spoke to them and explained that since they are living together, but not married, they aren't allowed to be baptized. Thursday night I learned that Sunday, they are getting married so the next Sabbath they can be baptized! Wow, the Holy Spirit knows what He is doing.

Also, Thursday after the meeting, a man that I have spoken with several times came up to me. He asked me if I could possibly talk to someone about bringing a group to do mission work. He told me that there are many youth that were in the church, but that they do not come anymore, and that there are about 200 members, but only 40 or so come every Sabbath. He asked me if I could try to find people who could help improve the church. I told him that I would talk to my pastors back at home, and whoever is in charge of missions at SAU.

I was actually somewhat excited about this idea. The night before, I was talking to my friend about going on a mission trip this coming year. How amazing would that be if it worked out so we could come back here and help the very church I have been preaching at for two weeks? I want to come back!

Our group leader, Stephanie, gave us an assignment for tonight to prepare for our final days here in Nicaragua: She wanted information about Sabbath and our baptisms. One specific piece of information we were to provide was the total number of visitors who have been baptized so far. When I went to my church, I asked the questions I needed, including the one about baptisms. My pastor told me that we have had fifteen baptisms so far. I was shocked! I didn’t realize that we’d had so many.

This really stood out in my mind because I know that the Holy Spirit worked on those people to be baptized. As I have said, I don’t think of myself as a preacher. Frankly, I don’t think I am good at “preaching.” However, I realized that much of what we are doing is not preaching, but teaching doctrines. Teaching I can do! Since I am studying to become a teacher, I really felt like I could use the strengths God has given me. I do not feel, necessarily, that my sermons, or perhaps lectures is a better word, are very convicting; however, I believe I can teach the people the information they need to know. I teach them, with the help of the Holy Spirit, and when it comes time to convict them to make a change in their lives; I try my best, but let the Holy Spirit do the rest. He definitely has!

This experience has definitely increased my faith in Jesus. I trust more in His ability to use me. He turned a non-preacher into a preacher. He turned someone terrified of being on stage into someone who sings on stage. I have never seen the Holy Spirit working as explicitly as I have seen here, and He is using me! The entire trip has tested and expanded me and now I am sure that God can use me to do anything! With Christ who strengthens me, I truly can do all things!
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