From: April –
My dad travels with his church to Nicaragua every year to a jungle called El Tanque (The Tank). It’s just outside the city of Jinotepe. He has been going there for the past 15 years, and my mom for the past 10.
During their time there over the years, they have recognized individual needs of the people of El Tanque as well as for their community as a whole. A church building was built for the people to gather from all over the jungle. Some walk 5 miles just to come to church on any given day of the week.
Each year, they learn of new needs whether it be personally, financially, or structurally. The group has donated thousands of dollars and built countless roofs over what would otherwise be Palm Huts.
My parents, John and Sharon Brightwell, founded the Bright and Well Scholarship Program which allows both children and adults to go to school and get an education. Since it costs money to go to school there, If you cant pay, you cant go. Period. As a result of the program, there are now 4 nurses, a teacher and many others about to get a high school diploma. It is literally turning the jungle around.
To say that a strong relationship has been formed between the people of El Tanque and my parents and their church- would be the understatement of the century.
They are now family.
Their appreciation and gratitude for these “gringos” overflows and it shows in their love.
About six or seven years ago, my marriage was falling apart and life was spiraling out of control in every way possible. My husband battling addiction, me battling it for him, trying to keep our lives and future in tact, and with two very small children in the mix.
A cancer diagnosis came in 2010. Now there were 2 very sick people living in our home.
How do you hold up your end of the “in sickness and health” deal in marriage when you’re BOTH sick? Our marriage was just as sick as our bodies.
Who is taking care of who?
We were blessed to have a very solid support system in family and friends who helped provide care and basic needs but what we needed was much more.
Not just a mention of us at the dinner table or in Sunday school, but diligent, relentless prayer.
Few people can make that happen.
In America we have to schedule prayer. We have to fit it in to our day, and a lot of times it doesn’t make it onto our agenda. After all, it is at the bottom of our to-do’s. We don’t worry about our next meal (other than WHERE that might be), or shelter (which hotel this weekend).
Prayer has become a “just in case” net. Not a necessity. And in America, if we don’t need something we toss it.
Ever heard a story where some guy has a yard sale and sells something from the attic that was old and dusty? Only to discover that someone bought it for fifty cents and got it appraised at $50,000?
We are so busy, we can’t even find the value in treasures that are right under our noses.
Prayer is a treasure undiscovered and under-valued by so many.
In El Tanque, prayer is life. It is survival. It is the only treasure worth having. When there is no dinner, prayer fills them up.
You don’t need a life threatening disease to make it onto their prayer lists. It is no question to pray daily for their families and those they care about.
So when my dad asked for prayer for his daughter and her family 6 years ago, they didn’t just say they would.
And for the past 6 years, a group of women walk anywhere from 1-5 miles to the church in the jungle every Tuesday. They walk to the structure that my dad helped to build. The structure that allows them to congregate and worship together. They go there and they pray for one thing. Me. My family.
They pray for other people and their own families too obviously, but this specific time every week is/was designated to me and my family.
When my dad told me this years ago, I couldn’t wrap my head around it. Surely they don’t just pray for me. I was sure it was like a prayer meeting where they have an excel spreadsheet with a list of folks to pray for. I was sure they would take turns and use their church words and then squeeze hands at the last “Amen”. I was sure that I was not so important to deserve a prayer meeting all for me.
I was surely wrong.
Not only do they walk there and pray just for me and my family, they pray for hours.
The moment that I truly let that soak in- I cried. Like a baby.
It doesn’t matter what else they need to do on Tuesdays, or what time lunch is or even how far they walk. It’s an open ended time frame where they intercede on behalf of me and my precious children.
They never even met me…
They never. Even. Met me.
My parents were their family. So that made us family too.
At this point in my life, I didn’t even know what to pray. Or even how. I felt helpless and useless. But when we are helpless, that’s when the spirit intercedes. That’s when the Lords Prayer Warriors go to work.
I mentioned in a previous blog where I was one of 3 other women diagnosed around the same time with the same type of cancer. A very aggressive cancer with the highest rate of re-occurrence. A cancer which claimed the lives of the other 3 women. I am the only one left.
Did you read that?
I am the only one left.
I don’t believe that is a coincidence.
I’m not saying It’s impossible for cancer to return for me. But God heard my jungle warriors loud and clear. And maybe it will return someday, maybe I will die from it. Who knows? But NOT TODAY.
I have been given the blessing of time. Time that my husband didn’t get much of. But since I was the one who got to stay, that is confirmation enough that my work here is not done.
I may not change the world- or even a city. But prayer changes everything everywhere. And I can pray. If I can’t do anything else, I can pray.
Those women in the jungle considered my family their family as well. Not because the gringos brought them things or helped them. But because they did those things in the name of Jesus. Jesus makes us family.
In our towns and in our state- we are not competing among churches. If we love Jesus, then we are on the same team. And that makes us family.
Pray for your family.
Pray for the people who aren’t yet family but hopefully will be someday. Put aside the judgement, and disagreements on secondary issues. Those things are not what is important.
Those women did not judge me or my family by the chaos happening in our lives. It didn’t matter to them. It didn’t make us less worthy of prayer. It made us MORE worthy of it.
Satan isn’t just in America- he is in the jungle too. They know sin, chaos and brokenness. Perhaps thru different circumstances. Perhaps not. They recently changed their church time to an earlier hour so that the women and children could walk home in day light. The dark walks home at night were creating many open windows for rape. They know evil. They know fear. But they also know if 2 or more are gathered in Jesus’ name, that the Spirit is there. The devil will flee.
They were driving the devil out of our lives from all the way across the ocean. Satan had unpacked his bags in my living room and was certain he would break us. He didn’t.
I was blessed with time, while my husband was blessed with the ultimate freedom.
If they can do that from all the way over there, and in a different language, wow- imagine what we can do from right here, for our own town. For our own family.
Last year, My daughter and I got the amazing pleasure of finally meeting these women and all the people in El Tanque. When we were introduced, the tears were automatic.
Prayer is so much more than we can fathom. It is direct communication with God.
Prayer knows no borders.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for usthrough wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
Well what do ya know? It’s Tuesday!!