Saturday, March 6, 2010

Final Concert Done and Gone....

It's almost 10, Danny and I are just sitting in the lobby of the hotel relaxing after dinner. The final night of concerts is done and now it's time to think about coming home. Just about 48 hours till I'm sitting in the house and telling Debbie all the experiences of the trip: the ones that haven't made it on this blog. And their are several to tell. But that's for another time.

Tonights concert went very well with about 1,800 in attendance. We started everything late tonight which gave the crowd a better chance to form. The New Generation or Nuava Generacion band did a great job. And the bike guys were as crazy as ever - lots of jumps and no spills tonight. Then we started our set. Crowd was into the music, but there wasn't quite the noise level as usual. Found out later that many were filming the band with their cell phones. Crazy.

We also had a visit from David's rapping angel. The story goes that when David and Kim were at a church here in January, doing their scouting visit, David was asked to play some music. He was in the middle of a song when this guy came out of the crowd, grabbed the mic and starting rapping to the song David was playing. And he was good, really good. So David let him do his thing. As soon as the song was done, the guy put the mic down and left the church just as quickly as he had arrived. David started calling him his Rapping Angel. He was wondering if he would ever see him again.

Sure enough, on Friday night the guy showed up. So we gave him the slot that the drama team was to fill for Saturday night. And he hit it out of the park. The crowd really loved him and his music was a solid, spot on message. Then we did the same song he first did with David at the little church, and he nailed that, too. And just as quickly he was gone again. What a blessing. Must have been an Angel.

So since Danny is sitting in the lobby with me, I asked him his favorite memory about tonight: he said it was the ability to really feel the Lord's presence in the crowd, something that wasn't as strong on the previous two nights. There were many that came forward, but even if just one made the decision for Christ, it would be worth it. And he is so right on that issue.

However not just one or two came forward but several dozen. When Marvin finished his message, a local pastor jumped in and started doing the alter call. First one man came out of the crowd, tears running down his face. A few minutes later, a couple more. Then a few more... and so on, and so on. Awesome. And almost all males. Even one point where a wife led her husband down to the front: I thought, great, a couple. But then she turned and left him there. And he was one of the very serious ones, a tough commitment for him, not something to take lightly. So a great night and definitely a positive finish to the troubles of the local churches. One of the best festivals ever.

Tomorrow we head to HOPE Central and relax for the afternoon, then off to the airport early Monday morning for a full day of travel. Tomorrow I'll bring you up to speed on a few of our daytime activities.

Can't wait to see everyone....

The Struggle with Legalism

Legalism - Webster defines it as strict adherence to the law, especially to the letter rather than the spirit. Our group would probably define it a bit differently: its more of a stumbling block, a challenge for us to overcome when sharing the love of Jesus to the people in Nicaragua. It always seems to rear it's ugly head when we are working with local churches or pastors. The times Philip has taught classes to the pastors of any area in Nicaragua, the overcoming of legalism is always a priority. For example, the last time Philip was teaching here a pastor commented that women should not be allowed into church wearing pants. He quoted a verse that states that women should not dress like men. Philip did an excellent job pulling all sorts of other verses in the same book that were being ignored by this same group of pastors: wearing clothes with blended cloth, planting fields with more than a single type of seed. Why were they ignoring these verses and focusing only on the one about women's attire?

We have the same issue attacking us here. In one of the other posts in this blog you learned of Pastor, a young man who's band is the warm-up act. He also sang a couple of songs with us on Thursday night. Well, last night the elders from his church told him that he should not sing with our band because we played secular music, which means that we are not Christians. They also pulled the drama team that performed on Thursday for the same reason. Their comment was that if we were a Christian group we would play only Christian music.

Anyway, the Festival goes on. We still had great night with over 1500 in the crowd and many making decisions for Christ. Mark had the sound great on stage and we had a good set. The bike guys did an excellent job as always, except Joey had a spill at the end of the night. Doing a flip, he made it all the way around but lost contact with his bike and came down on his elbow. Nothing broke but a bit of skin is now missing.

More later on our visits to the chocolate farm and the coffee production facility...

Friday, March 5, 2010

Extreme Silliness...

We were thinking about expanding the program to include a dance group. These guys were doing a bit of a try-out last night. Thought you all should be able to judge for yourselves...

One Down, Two to Go...

A great night of music, bicycle jumping, soccer ball dribbling, and message. We had about 600-700 by the time we started playing, but it's hard to tell because of the open setup: a big soccer field and a road with a community right on the other side.

The opening act is a band called "New Generation", a group made up entirely of pastors kids. Pretty good group, with a lead singer named "pastor", who sang a few songs with us as well. The guitar players, of which there where 5, had obviously studied Van Halen a bunch. Two of them totally shredded some awesome solos. One played only on five strings. He had removed the D string from his guitar for some reason. Maybe he grew up learning to play without the string and never changed. And the singers, the drummer, bass, and keys all did a great job.
The bike guys did their stuff and wowed the crowd. They were signing autographs for quite a while after the evening was done. The band did a good job, although the on stage sound was a bit of a challenge. The subs (speakers the produce the bass) are extremely loud and one is right under the stage. It caused a significant vibration and roaring sound. People wonder why I'm loosing my hearing: just stand up on that stage for an hour and listen to the volume of music. You'd be loosing your hearing, too.

Need to talk to Mark about doing a little preventive maintenance on the stage as well. Was doing a little jumping (yes, the old guy does like to bounce) and jumped right on a soft spot on the stage - felt like it gave about 5 inches, but it was probably only two or three. Image how it would look: bass player jumps up on a big crescendo and goes right through the floor of the stage! Now that would be funny!

Marvin gave an excellent message and several came forward during the alter call. Great stuff. His story is such an inspiration. Kim met him at the age of 15, a skinny young boy that was not on the right track. What a change God has made in his life. He is so driven and passionate. Nothing is impossible to Marvin and he will go anywhere to witness and bring the love of Jesus to others.

A late dinner of the most interesting club sandwich in the world. They took a slice of cheese, a slice of what we would call bologna, and a piece of fried chicken all sandwiched between three slices of bread. It was odd looking but delicious. And no rice and beans... amazing.

Friday we are heading into town to see the church and then walking around a bit to the shops, etc. Then another sound check and a bigger concert tonight: we should be seeing a larger group. Based on the size of the crowd last night I expect we will see around 1500 or so tonight.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Festival Begins Tonight!

Another hot day in Matagalpa and I'm talking about the temperature not just the skills of the bicycle trick guys and the band. The location of the festival is a large soccer field, wide open for many to come, listen, and receive the word. It also gives us plenty of room to set-up the stage and all the sound we need. We are using the same crew/company from last year in Leon and they have done a nice job with excellent sound and lights. Should be a great time for all!

Today we rehearsed at 10:00 - which if you know the schedule of a band trying to rehearse and do a sound check means we started playing at 12:00. And especially when you are on Nicaraguan time. Mark - our sound guy for those of you who don't know him - does an exceptional job tweaking and mixing the sound of the band. It's really an art and he is definitely an artist. But it is a slow and painstaking process. Kind of a hurry-up-and-wait thing.

While this excitement was going on, we did get to see the Bicicross (bicycle trick guys) do their stuff as they tested out the new ramp built just for the festival. What a show just to watch them practice! I've posted video for you to see. This is Ricky warming up. Kim was a bit worried and asked the guys to make sure all was well and take it easy if they felt uncomfortable in anyway. They laughed and said that their normal ramps are twice as big, giving them twice the air. This one is no problem for them. Pretty amazing stuff.

Well - back to the stage later this afternoon and running sound check at 4:00. Then we start at 5:30 with the warm-up band, the drama team, the Bicicross show, the band, and then Marvin and his message. Should be a great night!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Lost in the Woods ....

After the excellent time at the school this morning, we headed to a coffee plantation which is also a hotel and a restaurant. Great stuff. The place was wonderful with a beautiful view of the mountains and an excellent menu. Established by a German family years ago, the place is a working coffee plantation that had just gone through it's harvest. But the other attractions are the best part. Wonderful food and lots of walking trails through the mountains, some that went for miles up the slopes and through some serious jungle. The trees were huge and you could hear the animals making all sorts of noises: from the birds, to the monkeys, to who knows what. The trails were challenging but absolutely beautiful.

Ok - you may be hearing from some of the team that I was lost in the woods with Courtney and Sarah. Well, after walking around for a couple of hours, up a slope to the highest part of of the plantation, part of which was in the dark, I can honestly say that we weren't lost. We were doubling back down the trail we traveled up the mountain and were almost back to the restaurant when the search party found us. Actually about 5 minutes from reaching the parking lot. Yes - they had just sent out a search party.

Anyway, it was so dark that we had to use the only light we had: my camera. It didn't do too bad. Sarah was a bit nervous, but we started singing and made so much noise, we even scared away the insects.

Once we made it back to the restaurant there was a significant amount of well deserved ribbing, something that will last for a few days - or as Roger said, for a long, long time. Then we consulted the map and realized that we had climbed to the highest point on the trails: and it stops about the place we turned around. 1500 meters above the hotel/restaurant.

It's late and I'm headed to a bed....

A little Frustration

Nicaragua is a place of the unexpected - where plans that were carefully laid turn out to be a total waste of time. Usually this happens when someone doesn't arrive for a meeting on time or for an appointment as scheduled. Often it happens that someone just changes their mind.

Our advance team of Jerson and Marvin had been working on the penitentiary located in Matagalpa as a location for a couple of concerts, a trick show by our bicycle guys, a bit of skill from the soccer guy, and a good message by Marvin. We arrived at 8:15 as planned but the wardon was behind closed doors. He was the only one that could authorize our entrance into the prison. And since he was behind closed doors he could not be disturbed. So we sat. And we sat. And we sat some more. Eventually he came out (around 10:30) and said no, he had changed his mind and we could not enter the prison and deliver the program.

What we did find was a group of young ninos (children) that were playing in the lot where we parked the bus. Some lived near by, some where with family members that were there to see someone in the prison. So we played an impromptu concert for them. David sang and Ron played his guitar. The kids danced and clapped and sang along. David gave a little message and then we moved over to a storage area where the bicycle team did a bunch of tricks. Then the soccer guy showed off his skills and got them all involved.

So maybe God had a different plan, something bigger than ours. Maybe we were there for the children - for the young boys that had probably not experienced something like that in a long time, or maybe not at all.

Eventually we finished with our time at the gates of the prison and moved on to a school where we spent a couple of hours in the hot sun playing to the kids, playing a little basketball, and overall enjoying life.

God is good - all the time.