By Shannon Baker

In answer to a 20-year prayer, a member of a Hispanic church plant, originally from Mexico, partnered recently with a multi-cultural church to go to Nicaragua on a mission trip. The result was life changing.

BOWIE, Md.—Javier Herrera, a member of Iglesia Bautista Communidad de Fe, traveled in August with a team from Cresthill Baptist Church, Bowie, Md., on their semi-annual mission trip to Nicaragua.

Herrera’s pastor is Julio Mejia, of Germantown, Md., who often assists the Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network with painting and other construction projects. While at the Columbia office, Mejia heard about Cresthill’s upcoming mission trip from Margot Painter, wife of senior pastor Jimmy Painter.javiered

Mejia immediately knew Herrera would love to share in this experience. And as it turned out, God had already made provision for that to happen, shared Jimmy Painter.

“Providentially, we had a couple of people that because of work-related situations had to back out of going,” he explained. “They weren’t able to go, so there was a spot that was freed up for him.”

And even more—“through a series of what just had to be miraculous events, Herrera’s trip was paid for!” he said.

Cresthill has been involved in outreach and humanitarian aid to Nicaragua since 2000, after Hurricane Mitch devastated the Central American country.

At that time, mudslides and swollen rivers “took out villages and barrios on both sides of river. It was just horrendous,” shared Painter.

Situated on the seasonal thermal equator, one of the hottest places on Earth, Nicaragua also had been through a civil war that devastated the nation. The people were just in a place of great need, he said.

Accordingly, the church goes to Nicaragua twice a year: in March, oftentimes with a medical team, and in August, focused primarily on evangelism.

Painter explained their strategy is to go into new communities, meet physical needs (food, medicine and so on), share Christ, and in partnership with the local pastors, plant new churches.

On this trip, the church moved into an area new to them: Corinto, a major port city on the Pacific Ocean in northwest Nicaragua.

“We went into three brand new communities where there was no evangelical outreach and worked to establish three new churches,” Painter said, explaining the team went house to house, prayed for people, shared the Gospel, and did work in the schools.

Working with local pastors, they also held crusade-like events, preaching and leading worship in the open-air markets. Painter, with his guitar, led worship in English. Herrara followed, leading in Spanish. And the results were amazing.

“I think there was somewhere between 12-15 people who gave their lives to Christ that first day,” Painter said. Over the course of the week, many more people became Christians, many were baptized, and the team witnessed several healing miracles.

Instrumental to all the efforts was Herrara’s ability to speak Spanish and to speak directly into the hearts of the people familiar to him.

“The people in Nicaragua are gentle, beautiful,” he described. “When we saw their living conditions, we cried. In our country, we have cars and bicycles. They need too much.”

Herrera said he felt a special burden for the people. He often found himself explaining how hard it is to get established in the United States. And he saw first-hand how hard it was for families who stayed behind in their home country.

Over and over he heard how many people had gone to America with dreams to find work. But in the process, they lost their families. “It’s very hard. Women are separated from their husbands,” he said.

Herrera prayed for many people who found themselves alone. He also helped lead others to Christ.

“He was like an evangelistic machine,” Painter observed. “I’ve never seen anything like it before.”

Oftentimes, when the rest of the team were in the van ready to leave, Painter had to search for Herrara, who was tucked away in someone’s home, praying deeply with them and listening to their hearts.

“It’s amazing how Jesus worked in their broken hearts,” said Herrara, who had prayed 20 years to go on a mission trip.

“It was very wonderful how the Holy Spirit touched people.”

He paused before emotionally adding, “I prayed hard! I feel excited again. I want to go back!”

Pastor Mejia is also excited. Since this experience, he can see that Herrara’s mind is more open, and he responds promptly to the needs of people. “He is ready for new opportunities and is available to serve every time,” Mejia said.

Herrara’s excitement has affected the whole church. “This mission trip challenged us to serve more like the Master shows us to do—teaching, preaching and healing” (Matt. 9:35), Mejia said.

“We focus more on people now. We have to do whatever Jesus does for those he loves the most… and according to the Bible, Jesus loves people at the most. People have to be the most important in our church above music, buildings, money, plans, programs. We love people as we love Jesus,” he said.