The Church Friendship Program exists so that Nicaraguan and North American churches can be in a committed, long-term relationship based on prayer, communication, mutual learning, visits, and teamwork. They exchange ideas for ministry. They pray for the leadership of each other's churches. They spend weeks with each other in ministry and personal settings. The Church Friendship Program exists to help people understand and appreciate the body of Christ, diminishing our narrow views of the world and God's Kingdom.
There are three churches in León who participate with one church in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. When we asked a León pastor about his experience in the program, he said that it has been refreshing to him to have monthly meetings with the other Nicaraguan pastors. He always leaves that time having learned something new, laughed a bit, and prayed with his fellow pastors. They are a support network for him. When I asked a leader from the church in Canada why they are part of the friendship, here is what he said:
As we continue to explore what this friendship looks like some things have become very evident. At first we had no idea of how this would work, but now we are seeing the impact on individuals who have been part of visits but also our Church as a whole. As individuals it has been a journey of discovery for all involved, a journey of seeing God at work in a different country and Church. It has been a growing in the understanding of how big our God is. As a Church we have grown in our prayer. We continue to exchange prayer emails with each other to stay connected and are very intentional about sharing those with the congregation. On our last trip we brought some hand prints members of our congregation had made to the Churches and then brought back hand prints their members had made. These were put up in our fellowship hall along with some of the hand prints we had left. In the middle of this were the words Together In Faith. The words speak to why we are involved in this friendship.
The Church Friendship Program brings this out for churches and their members - together in Faith. We hope that it will be a support network for those pastors who are involved, both locally and globally. The spiritual retreat aims to help Nicaraguan pastors and their families grow closer together as well as be able to relax as families and reflect on God's Word. The visits from North Americans - and hopefully one day Nicaraguans - aims to help them appreciate each other and be able to discuss ministry together better. As they get to know each other better, these churches become friends - and family in Christ.