Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas is Coming Soon!

Christmas is coming very soon! Are you excited? I can't wait! We have every reason to be excited about Christmas... In fact, Christmas is all about Christ. I'm afraid we sometimes complicate the simplicity of Christmas. The world tells us we must spend lots of money, buy lots of presents, and do so many things that it crowds out the simple message of Christmas.

At the time of Creation, mankind was created in innocence. Adam walked with God in the garden of Eden. Through the sin of Adam, we all have been separated from God. But then God made a promise that the seed of woman would defeat Satan once and for all. For thousands of years, men have trusted in the promise, that God, through the seed of woman, would defeat Satan and save us from our sin. Through the prophets, God told us what to look for. "Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." Immanuel means "God with us," for this child would be God Himself, born as a little baby in a place called Bethlehem.

Hundreds of years passed, and surely many began to question God's promises. Then, one day, the angel Gabriel announced to a virgin named Mary, that she would conceive the Son of God, and that he would be named JESUS. The name "Jesus" means "Jehovah Saves." This Jesus, is the fulfilled promise of God, that He would come live among us and ultimately save us from our sins! This Jesus, was God almighty, born as a little baby. This Jesus, loved us so much that He willingly gave His life on the cross, and shed his blood as a perfect sacrifice for OUR sins. Jesus is now at the right hand of God, making intercession for us. Jesus is coming back for us before this world is judged.

This is why we celebrate Christmas. It is the story of God's love for us. The story of our salvation. The story of Satan's defeat. Do not get so caught up in Christmas activities that you forget about the reason for Christmas. Let Christmas be a time when we remember the lost who need Christ. Let us remember why Christ came. If you do not know Christ as your Savior, know that God will save you from your sins. It's not about how good you can be, it's about how good God is. If you turn from your sins and place your faith in Christ, He has promised to save you, and He will change your life forever. For those of us who know Christ, let us remember the meaning of his name, "Jehovah saves" and remember that there are still so many who have not yet been saved. Let us show this world the love of Christ, and may God use us to do many wonderful things!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Safety in Nicaragua

One of the questions that people ask us about Nicaragua is this- "What do you have to do to ensure you and your wife's safety?" Good question. While I can easily admit that I've got a lot to learn, I did a little research just to find out some good tips to help keep safe. I found a great article on the website. I have simply summed it up in 6 brief points:
  1. Avoid Political Demonstrations- These demonstrations often result in riots and violence. Even demonstrations that appear to be "peaceful" can easily escalate in violence. Avoid them at all costs.

  2. Be Careful at the Beach- Strong currents have resulted in drownings, and powerful waves can break bones. Stingray injuries are common, and lifeguards and medical equipment are rare or non-existent, even in popular "tourist" beaches.

  3. Avoiding Violent Crime- Violent crime is rising in Nicaragua. Avoid poorer neighborhoods. Gang activity is rising in Nicaragua, but it is still lower than nearby Central American countries. Most crime is a result of criminals who want your money. Many robbers have weapons, so do not resist them. Most violence against US citizens is a result of resistance. Keeping money and travel documents in a belt under your clothes helps keep them safe.

  4. Choosing the Right Taxi- If a stranger approaches you offering to help you locate or share a taxi, this is often a trap. There have been many cases of this with US citizens, and upon entering the taxi, they are threatened with a weapon, and forced to drive around to ATM machines until there is no more money, then left in a desolate area. When choosing a cab, only get an official taxi with a red bordered license plate with legible plate #. Note the driver's name and license #. Instruct them not to pick up anybody else. Agree on fare before departing, and make sure to have small bills as most drivers will not make change. When driving, make sure the windows are up, and doors are locked, as robbers can target you at stoplights.

  5. Choosing the Right Hotel- Choose a hotel with strong security elements. One with a safe is a plus.

  6. Use Common Sense- Always travel in groups of two or more, do not display valuables (jewelry, watches, etc). Use common sense as you would in a high crime area of a large city in the US. Don't look "touristy." This not only tells criminals you are out of your element, but also tells them you probably have money... money they want.

I am sure there is much more that we will learn when we get there, but this is just a few simple things you can do to have a much safer trip or stay in Nicaragua.


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

December Prayer Letter

Dear Friends and Family,

November has been a busy and exciting month for us. As we enjoyed Thanksgiving, we remembered that this is a time when we thank God for all that He has given us. Throughout last month, God has blessed us abundantly and given us many things to be thankful for.

For Thanksgiving, we were able to take a trip up to Georgia to spend time with family. We thank God for the family that He has given us. Many of our family members were able to be an encouragement to us.

Throughout November, we had the opportunity to share our ministry with several local churches. Our desire is to share what God is doing in our lives so that we may be an encouragement to others. These churches have been very encouraging to us. We have seen many old friends and have met many new ones. One church even gave us a very nice projector! We prayed that God would provide our needs, but don't recall telling anybody that we had need of a projector. Yet our Father in Heaven knows exactly what needs we have, whatever they may be. "For your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask Him."

To every church, friend, and familiy member that has given to help us bring the Gospel to Nicaragua- Thank you! To every person that has given prayers to help us and encourage us along the way- Thank you! May God bless you tremendously as we approach the celebration of our Lord on Christmas Day!

In Christ,

Jeremy and Michelle Blanz

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

November Prayer Letter

Dear Friends and Family,

Time is flying by and Thanksgiving is approaching quickly. This last month was an exciting month and we are excited about all that the Lord is doing. October was our first month that we were able to mail out our ministry packets. We were quite pleased to have been invited to share our ministry with churches in three different states. One pastor friend had us come to a fifth Sunday singing and fellowship service, which we thoroughly enjoyed.

This last month, much of our time devoted to deputation was in following up with churches and mailing out packets. We made many calls, and have even met one pastor whose son serves as a missionary in Nicaragua! We have put together our display table and we have built a temporary display to last us until we have a more permanent one. We have dropped in a new church nearly every week, and we have met many new friends and pastors who have committed to praying for our ministry.

As we move into November, we are getting closer to full time deputation. Starting today, November 1st, Jeremy will be working part time, and will be able to spend much more time on our deputation ministry. He will be focusing on setting up meetings to share our burden for Nicaragua with churches over our area. We are now having to demonstrate faith more and more as we trust in the Lord for our daily needs. God is good and He will provide! Please pray that He will direct our steps, and that He will use us to touch hearts and win souls for Christ. Pray that the work of God will prosper in Nicaragua, and that He will allow us to raise our support in a timely manner and bring glory to Him!

In Christ,

Jeremy and Michelle Blanz

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Here are some pictures we took while we were in Nicaragua. More pictures and information coming soon!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Great Week!

This last week or so has been a good week for us. Last week, we scheduled a meeting for next year at Grace Baptist Church in Georgia. Yesterday, we scheduled a meeting at Seven Oaks Baptist Church in Virginia. Sunday night, we dropped into Central Baptist Church of Orange Park, FL and to our surprise, they already had a scheduled missionary come to speak. We enjoyed hearing about the Hawkins' ministry to Brazil. We also were pleased to have dinner with pastor and Mrs. Thrower and the Hawkins'. We were able to hear about some experiences from veteran missionaries.

Right now, our goals are to continue to build a solid prayer and support base for our ministry, as well as set up meetings for the rest of 2010 and 2011. As beginning missionaries, there are so many things to learn. I've never realized how organized missionaries have to be. We are learning to put in practice processes now that will help us tremendously in the future. Please keep us in prayer as we gain momentum and expand our deputation ministry.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

October 2010 Prayer Letter

Dear Friends and Family,

Another month has now passed by, and we are inching closer and closer to beginning full time deputation. As we have spoken to various pastors, nearly everyone has asked: “Can you send me your packet?” Just recently, we completed our information packet and we plan to send it out to nearly all of the pastors we have met thus far. We hope that will open doors and provide opportunities for us to share our burden and our ministry. Our display table is also coming along nicely as well. Our website is also coming together as we have added some new pages with more information.

This last month, we were able to spend a few nights at our home church during our annual missions conference. We were encouraged by the preaching and challenged to reach people wherever we are. God is doing great things all over the world and we all have an opportunity to get involved. He has called some to become missionaries to other parts of the world and others to share the gospel right here in America. It is amazing that God would use us to do His work! What a privilege!

As we move into the coming months, we still have a lot of work to do. Please pray for us as we continue to branch out and visit more churches. Our desire is not only to share our burden for the people of Nicaragua with others, but to encourage others in fulfilling the Great Commission of Jesus Christ. Also, keep our Nicaraguan brothers and sisters in Christ in prayer. Tropical storm Matthew just passed through Puerto Cabezas this last week. I haven't heard of any damage. Pray that God will keep his people safe during this hurricane season.

In Christ,

Jeremy and Michelle Blanz

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

September Prayer Letter

Dear Friends and Family,

It’s official! We have our prayer cards printed so now we are official missionaries! All kidding aside though, we are so glad to have that part of the process finally finished. Now that we have them in hand we have begun branching out and dropping in at some churches in our area so that we can start meeting people and introducing them to our ministry. So far we have been in the Sunday evening services of three great churches and each one has blessed and encouraged us.

We are currently working on our introduction packet. Our packet will include an introductory letter, a recommendation letter from Pastor Kelley, a brochure, and a ministry resume. Our full-color brochure should get printed this week! The rest of the packet should also be completed soon. To see all of these plans and ideas coming to fruition makes us feel like we are really starting to gain momentum! After the packet, we will put together our display table. Our church family is helping by giving us a table, as well as a Nicaragua flag! We also have some interesting things from the last time we were there. The main thing we will need is to design a backdrop to help present our ministry. Pray for us as we tackle this new design challenge!

In conclusion, we ask that you would also pray for us as we start making final decisions as to how and when we will transition to full-time deputation. We know that time is coming soon, so pray for us as we pursue God’s will as to when we should take these next steps of faith. We also ask that you would pray that God would keep the burden of Nicaragua heavy on our hearts.

In Christ,

Jeremy and Michelle Blanz

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Animals of Nicaragua

As we have been preparing mentally, emotionally, and spiritually for the Lord to use us in Nicaragua, we have been learning as much as possible for what to expect. One of the questions that has come up, is "What type of wildlife are we going to see there?" Are there going to be snakes, monkeys, jaguars or what? So, today's topic is on the "Animals of Nicaragua," which gives us an excuse to do a little research on the topic.
Iguanas- From what I gather, green iguanas are quite common (not the little ones in pet shops). An average adult green iguana is about 6.5 feet long and can weigh up to 20 lbs! In various places, there are "iguana crossing" signs, because the iguanas will lay on the warm road at the end of the day. People say they can be aggressive if you approach them on foot. On our honeymoon, I found some big ones in the Bahamas, and I've actually fed one a hot dog! The Nicaraguans hunt them, eat them, and sell them. They are popular to eat during the Nicaraguan "Holy Week," which is a week long festival of Nicaragua.
Illustration: Green iguana compared with adult man
Jaguars, Cougars, Jaguarondis, Margays, and Ocelots- The largest cat found in Nicaragua is the Jaguar, which is the largest, most powerful feline in the western hemisphere (3rd in the world behind tiger and lion). They are supposed to be extinct on the pacific side, and mostly found in the protected rainforests. Then there are cougars, which I'm a little less concerned about. The jaguarondis are even smaller, followed by Margays (which look fairly cute), and the Ocelots, which have even been kept as pets! Maybe it would keep the rodents away?

Monkeys! Nicaragua is home to at least a few different kinds of monkeys. The type I have found the most information on is the mantled howler monkey, referred to by some as the "loud-mouths of Nicaragua". These are found throughout Nicaragua. Monkeys are considered the loudest animals on earth, only behind the blue whale. These monkeys live in families of up to 50 and howl, grunt, and bark like you wouldn't believe. I've also read that the indigenous Indians weren't interested in keeping them as pets because of their noise level and melancholy attitude after being captured. Then there are also white-faced Capuchin monkeys and black-handed spider monkeys. I doubt I would run into any of them.

Birds- Nicaragua has some really cool birds. There are many types of eagles, owls, parrots, toucans... the list goes on and on. I would like to come across some of these...

Other animals- there are way too many to count, but what I am gathering is that there is a whole lot of things we're not used to, such as tarantulas, three-toed sloths, anteaters, strange frogs, and boa constrictor snakes! That being said, a machete will be one of the first things I buy when we get there! Realistically, I probably won't come across most of this stuff, but doing this post has helped me realize what can be found in Nicaragua!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The "other" side of Nicaragua

While we were in Nicaragua, we stayed in 2 very different parts of the country. First, we stayed in the capital city of Managua. Managua is relatively developed. While Managua is still a very poor area by American standards, it has many modern conveniences. For example, there are at least a few different McDonalds throughout the city (which is how Americans measure how similar a place is), other fast food restaurants, La Union (which is a modern grocery store), and Michelle even pointed out that they had a Payless shoe store (which she made me visit). The second place we stayed in was Puerto Cabezas (Caribbean Coast) . Puerto Cabezas was much less developed. The people here seemed much poorer. I don't believe there were any McDonalds or fast food restaurants. There was a relatively modern grocery store (similar to an old, dim lighted Dollar General store). Most houses probably didn't have running water, and the houses were built on poles to keep them off the ground. These 2 sides of Nicaragua were very different.

When we returned to Managua from Puerto Cabezas, a guard in the hotel began to ask Michelle questions, such as "Why were you in Puerto Cabezas?" and "What were you doing there?". I think brother Dayton cleared everything up. Later, we discovered that these two sides of the country are politically separate. In the map below, there are two large pink regions: North Atlantic Autonomous Region (R.A.A.N) and South Atlantic Autonomous Region (R.A.A.S). Both of these regions have their own autonomous government with governors and regional councils. Defense is the responsibility of the Central Government of Managua.

Much of the R.A.A.N is called the Mosquito (or Miskito) coast, named after the Miskito Indians that reside here. You can see this area highlighted in red in the map above. The R.A.A.N. has never fully been incorporated into the nation of Nicaragua. It is isolated from Western Nicaragua by rugged mountains and dense tropical rain forest. There are no paved roads from coast to coast. The Miskito Indians are a different people from the Mestizos of the West, whom they call "the Spanish." The primary language is Miskito, and many speak Spanish as a secondary language. Traditionally, the natives do not regard themselves as Nicaraguans, and some see Nicaraguan rule as a foreign imposition.

The five major cities of R.A.A.N. are Puerto Cabezas (capital), Waspam (by Honduran border), and the "mining triangle towns" of Bonanza, Rosita, and Suina. There are also many towns and villages along the rivers. As we learn more about the geography and people of Nicaragua, we can gain a better understanding of which of these areas do and do not have a gospel witness. The picture below is one such town called Layasiksa, which in 2004, was described as having no running water, electricity, or phones and having 136 families. It is easy to get so caught up in our own world, and forget that there are those who still have not yet heard the name of Christ. They do not know that there is a mediator between God and man who has shed their blood for their sins. "How then shall they call on Him whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe on Him whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?"
Entering Layasiksa

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Miskito Role of Shamans

Throughout my research, I haven't found too many good sources on the religion of the Miskito Indians. Many sources seem quick to categorize them as evangelized. From what I have gathered, this is not exactly the case. While there was a Moravian missionary movement in the 1800's that "reached" a good potion of Miskitos, they now acknowledge both the Christian God and parts of their indigenous religion as well. I know that shamans are an important part of their society, and I have always wondered how this ties together. I came across an excellent article explaining this, and I will try to summarize the issue.

First, as I said, the Miskito people recognize the Christian God. In their language, He is called "Daiwan" or "Dawan," which means "owner" or "master" in an unlimited sense, as in "Owner or God of everything." This is the God of the Bible. However,they believe that between man and God/"Dawan" are mythical beings called "Dawanka." Dawanka are masters/owners of something specific such as fish, game, cotton, etc. For example, Duwindu is master of game animals and Merry Maid (Liwa Mairin) is master of animals of river and sea. In fact, I've read that Miskito children often wear amulets to protect them from mermaids/liwa who might drag them into the sea. Anyways, these Dawanka (who you could think of as spirits) are believed control the things of nature. Interestingly, Dawan/God blesses the good/upright and gives misfortune to the bad/sinful. Dawanka/Spirits, however, give out their blessings much more randomly.

Apparently, humans have little or no influence over the dawanka/spirits, therefore needing a mediator to ensure they receive the blessings from the dawanka. This is where shamans come in. Shamans act as intermediates between the people and the dawanka/spirits. If somebody wants to be blessed with game, fish, or fortune with the opposite sex, they may consult a shaman, who will then entreat the dawanka/spirit. In this process, there is an understanding similar to a contract, that there is a price for this blessing. Sometimes this may be in the form of the dawanka's claiming of the persons next child, whom the person may care little about. This end of the bargain inevetably comes into play as the person is unable to keep their end of the bargain. If the person does not hold up their end of the deal, the dawanka can then come harm or kill a person. So essentially, the dawanka are viewed as having two natures- one of blessing which is necessary, and the other of opportunities for the greedy and unwise. They are viewed as dangerous- so dangerous that only the shamans can entreat them without being ensnared. Because of this, the dawanka/spirits are sometimes called "Setan nani" or "satans." The Dar, which is a vine or sometimes a bird, found in the legend of the invisible hunters (also posted on the discussion board), is also considered a dawanka. The dawanka/spirits are also believed to be able to take human form. Sometimes if a wealthy person has a sudden death, people will believe they have been dealing with dawankas/spirits.

As you can tell, this is very interesting and will present a challenge for reaching the Miskito people. The people acknowledge the God of the Bible, yet they still consult with shamans, who make deals with the dawanka, who are essentially called devils. This also reveals how important it is to reach them with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I am sure I will learn much more about all of this in the future.

If you want to read the article, I have attached a link below:

Saturday, July 31, 2010

August 2010 Prayer Letter

Dear Friends and Family,

It has now been about one and a half months since we completed candidate school, and we are excited that the Lord would use us to do His work. Right now, we are still laying the groundwork for our deputation ministry. We understand that by establishing a strong prayer support base, God will answer those prayers by blessing our ministry. We were encouraged to see how many people are supporting our ministry with prayer. We plan to keep our supporters up to date on our ministry.

This month has been full of blessings. This is now our second prayer letter which we are also sending out by snail mail for the first time. We also completed our prayer cards and they will be printed soon. Next, we are working on our presentation/video, display table, and information packet we can send to churches that are interested in our ministry. Michelle and I both received promotions at work, which is a blessing because it will help us to transition into full time deputation sooner.

While our hearts go out to those who need the Gospel in Nicaragua, we are still involved in reaching those who are here. We intend to minister to those around us- no matter where we are. Currently, we are involved in children's ministry at our church, and it's always a blessing to see children learn to love the Lord. We know that the Lord is preparing us now for the ministry we will have in Nicaragua. Please pray that we will complete our materials in a timely manner and that the Lord will keep his hand on our ministry.

In Christ,

Jeremy and Michelle Blanz

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Dreams and Goals

Dear Friends and Family,
As I sit down to write this it just thrills me that Jeremy and I are finally here. Our first prayer letter. I can hardly believe it. We have been looking forward to this since before we were married. As of tomorrow we will have been official BIMI missionaries for three weeks. There really is a lot to do! Jeremy has been working on designing our prayer card almost non-stop since we were approved. We started by gathering as many cards and we could find and then used some our favorite elements from them to create our own design. We hope the end result will be professional but also appealing. I am so proud of Jeremy as he has learned how to do all of this from scratch. He downloaded a free design program and then watched online videos that taught him how to use it. Every day he shows me something new and the card just looks better and better. Next up will be our presentation video, letter head, information packet and display board. We have some ideas for our video, but we may end up putting that into the hands of someone else. Pray that we can find the someone who can give it just the right touch.
When we went on our survey trip in March, we bought a lot of things for a potential display table even though we weren't sure we were headed there yet. We thought that if we didn't end up using them, we would at lease have some neat souvenirs! To complete our table we will need a table, table cloth and a display board that communicates what we are hoping to do. So as you can see we have our work cut out for us!
More important than all of the bells and whistles of our deputation presentation however, is the fact that we are headed for a needy country, and we are just so excited and ready to go! I have been searching the internet for pictures that we could possibly use. Oh, the children! The landscapes are pretty. The shots of the ocean are beautiful. It's the pictures of the children however, that keep gripping my heart over and over. So many precious faces that have never heard the truth about the gospel of Jesus Christ. We truly cannot wait to get there and get started. Pray for us that we will finish our materials quickly and professionally and also that God will keep stirring our hearts for the people of Nicaragua!
In Christ,
Michelle Blanz