Before Iglesia Resurreción y Vida had an actual church building, its original 25 members would carry wooden benches back and forth between various meeting places for worship.
All were young and without jobs. Romero struggled to shepherd his flock as well as maintain a job to earn income to support the church.
Twenty-nine years later, those benches still are used by this church as a reminder of God’s faithfulness.
Twice a year now in Chinandega, Nicaragua, Pastor Evaristo Romero opens the church to more than 80 pastors and leaders to be taught sound doctrine. For four days in June and again in November, people sit on the benches, plus a few white plastic chairs, in the one-room building with open windows.
The Bible Institute in Chinandega goes beyond simply teaching rural pastors and leaders fundamental doctrine. People take the doctrine that they learn and apply it to their lives. The truth of the Gospel impacts their lives in ways that make them grateful.
Seated on one of those benches is Pastor Martha Bonilla. As worship concludes, Bonilla steps forward from the front row of benches to lead her family of faith in a prayer filled with passionate thanksgiving.
Pastoring a church in El Viejo, a small city near Chinandega, Bonilla faces her own difficulties. For 13 years, she has cried out to God for her own husband. After 10 years, some of her anguish was swept away as her husband became a member of the church. Bonilla says that although her husband has been going to church now for three years, he does not want to commit himself to serving in the church.
“He helps a lot but he doesn’t want to sacrifice for the church,” Bonilla says.
She keeps wait for the day when her and her husband will work together in pastoring this church. She says that she knows the woman was made to be man’s helper and hopes someday for this to describe her relationship with her husband regarding the church.
Bonilla is not a stranger to heartache. Even as she attends the Bible Institute with seven other members from her church, she longs for more people from her church to come and study in Chinandega for the four days Iglesia Resurreción y Vida hosts this institute.
There are two explanations for why people from her church do not want to come, she said. Leaving for four days would mean they would not work for four days.
“Not all people want to come because they have work, families and can’t just take these days off. They don’t want to,” explains Bonilla.
And, as much as she tries to motivate them, many of those in her congregation do not like studying, she says.
One regular attendee at the Bible Institute who loves to study God’s word Pastor Reynaldo Acuña, who has been attending the Bible Institute since it first began in 1998. Despite already attending and receiving his degree from seminary, Acuña continues to return to Chinandega for the Bible Institute.
“In seminary I learned how to meditate,” Acuña says. “At the Bible Institute I learned biblical application.”
Looking back at other ways they Bible Institute has impacted their lives, both Acuña and his wife, Brenda Barahona, speak of the relationships they have today that have come from the fellowship here. During one of the most difficult times in their lives, Barahona quickly recalls how ReachGlobal missionary Melanie Wilson came alongside her in prayer in her time of need.
For 12 long years, Acuña and Barahona waited and prayed for a child. After two years of treatments and plenty of visits to the doctor, they were told that they would not be able to have children. Nevertheless, Acuña and Barahona continued to pray for a child.
Acuña recounts when his wife told him how when she read the Bible story of Hannah’s barren womb, Brenda cried because she knew how Hannah felt when she desperately cried out to God for a child. Smiling, Acuña says God heard their cries and two years ago blessed them with a son. They named him Samuel.
“He is only 2 years old but has the energy of a 12-year-old,” says Barahona with a laugh as she watches Samuel chase a ball around the dirt courtyard outside of the Bible Institute.
Though the lives of Romero, Bonilla, Acuña, and Barahona bring different difficulties, the strongest thing they have in common is their faith. And, thanks to this ministry of sound doctrine teaching, the Bible Institute has helped shaped their faith so that they are able to face difficulties with hope.
“It has been a great blessing and a great impact because we have taken a lot of what we have learned and we are teaching it and applying it in our own churches,” Pastor Romero says.