The ministry of discipleship and church planting in Nicaragua under the direction of Oscar Gaitan has been a major influence in my life for many years. Shortly after graduating from college I took my first trip to visit the Central American country where I met Oscar and his wife Tami. Over the years, I have returned to visit and serve with various friends and mission teams.
During my years of pastoring, our church’s exposure to Oscar’s church changed our ministry forever. I frequently explain that the Nicaraguan church discipled my church. Likewise, without realizing it, Oscar had influenced me as well. My recent trip to Nicaragua brought this into greater focus for me.
I was thrilled to take my son Bryce with me on this trip. We enjoyed a great bonding experience together as we visited mission pastors, swam in a river, hiked around a volcano, and enjoyed a scenic lagoon. My heart was blessed as I watched Bryce play along with other children who treated him with love and affection despite the language barrier.
On our first evening, we visited Oscar’s new mission church in Masaya. Although the church is young, it is full of energy as we met people who had recently come to Christ and were being intentionally discipled. Oscar and Tami have been practicing one-on-one discipleship for many years. It is a part of the DNA of their church plants. The idea is simple: people reproduce, small groups (they call action centers) reproduce, and congregations reproduce. Over the past eleven years, Oscar has overseen the planting of seventeen churches throughout the country. Every time a new church is planted, it is just a matter of time before they reproduce and plant another congregation.
This does not happen without great effort. During our week in Nicaragua, we joined Oscar on visits to various pastors. Each pastor can sense that Oscar cares for them and is available for anything they need.
As a byproduct, all of the mission churches share a special bond. It is not uncommon for churches to meet together for special services meetings, or camps. There is no competition –only teamwork. These churches understand that kingdom work is better together.
As an example, near the end of the week, several mission churches held a camp together. I was privileged to speak during the camp services and enjoyed the strong sense of unity among the people. Their unity, however, was not merely relational, but even more, their unity was anchored in a common goal –to make disciples and plant churches throughout Nicaragua and beyond.
The commitment to Great Commission work is displayed in the people’s willingness to give of their homes, vehicles, food, time and resources for the sake of the mission. On Sunday morning I witnessed the use of homes for childen’s Sunday school classes. Later in the week, they were used for action centers. Many churches even start in homes.
Further, church members often go out of their way to provide transportation to those whom they are trying to reach. And when needed, they are given meals and lodging.
It is normal to attend a church service and be introduced to a new believer who had trusted Christ in one of the members’ homes during the week. For most churches in the states, if we experienced what Nicaraguan churches consider “normal,” we would be shouting “revival!”
Throughout our week, I was reminded of the great talent in which God has blessed Oscar. He displayed skills in caring for the mourning, counseling leaders, organizing strategies, providing music and leading corporate worship, and casting vision. All of these talents he exercises with unusual excellence. It is easy to see that God has equipped him for the ministry to which he has been called.
Beyond his talent, Oscar is also humble. Along with his wit, charm, and charisma, lies a gentle servant’s heart. For example, this week I learned that earlier in life, Oscar had an opportunity to play for the national soccer team of Nicaragua, but turned it down because they played on Sunday. He never boasts about the honor.
Likewise, Oscar recently was given the opportunity to meet the president of Nicaragua. The president asked him if there was anything Oscar wanted (he was referring to money, a new house, etc.) Instead of asking for any material goods, Oscar simply asked the president to let him offer some advice: Read the Bible, talk with God in prayer, and remember God has placed you in this position to care for the people of Nicaragua. Before the end of their meeting, the president asked Oscar to pray for him before he left. It reminds me of how God gave Joseph, Daniel, Ester, and others opportunities “for such a time as this.”
The night before we left, Oscar asked Bryce, “Are you ready to go home to your country?”
Bryce replied, “Um, we live in the city.”
I guess you could say something got lost in the translation. However, what was clear was that God is using Oscar’s leadership in a powerful way to reach Nicaragua for the gospel. It is my privilege to call him “friend!”