We are over 7,000 turtle eggs and 79 nests. Our first clutches should hatch at the end of October. We will send along all the pictures of the turtles that hatch from the nests you have helped to sponsor.
We are very excited to announce that the research phase of the water project is complete and we are moving forward on bringing water 24/7 to our community. It has taken a long time to complete all the pump tests and the topographical survey, but we are finally ready to start digging. Volunteer work crews from the community will begin the last week of October.
Last week, the tubes were purchased and unloaded on our property, and the well company came and cleaned the current well. Soon, we'll be breaking ground on a brand new well to add additional water into the system. MANY meetings were held to try to communicate clearly to the community what their part will be and to organize the work crews to dig the trench. Each house is responsible to dig the trench in front of their own property, but there is a large amount of unpopulated property that must be connected to the well too. For this reason teams from all the communities will work together to dig the trench for the main line.
SuNica has a water team (of all Nicaraguans) that is managing this project and we are aiding them in any way that we can. It is important that Nicaraguans are running the meetings and explaining how we are working together with those who have fundraised to bring water to the community. With your help, SuNica and Water & Light together were able to raise $170,000 for this project. We are asking the households in our community to each give $30 over the next year as their part to hook up to the new system. It doesn't sound like much, but that is a huge figure for them. For many, it is half their income for the month. We are working to educate the community on the value of running water and the impact it will have to their health, their time, and future generations. Research shows that projects that partner with the community are more successful in empowering the individuals to care for that project after it is completed. Why? Because they have ownership, it was not a hand out. We are so excited to see the beauty that comes from people using the time they used to used to spend waiting for and gathering water for something new. Maybe this open up the time they need to start a tortilla making business, fix motorcycles, make art, play with a child, dream, or just relax.
Sometimes it's good to stop pushing forward and take a moment to dwell on the simple goodness of where you are.
Things I love about Nicaragua:
Rainy season when it really arrives. The air is finally cool enough when it is raining and all the plants have water. Our kids dancing as it pours.
Vehicles. No one even bats an eye when you have to try to start your vehicle 5 times. Everyone's vehicles are about to fall apart and there is no judgement. If you can get yours to head down the road at any speed it sure beats walking.
Driving. Getting passed on both sides by motorcycles at the same time.
Swimming pools at restaurants. This is always a good idea in Nicaragua. The food is going to take anywhere between 1-3 hours to bring out so we look for someplace with a pool. We have our favorite places and the owners might have to wait for their "fruit guy" to show up before they can serve you. Just be patient and take a dip.
Less is more. While everyone else is trying to figure out their capsule wardrobe, in Nicaragua you can rock the same four shirts and 2 pairs of pants over and over. Hand washed, line dried, thrift store clothes never looked better.
No one expects things to go their way. It's suprising when you plan something and you still have power and water to pull of the activity. I have washed dishes and clothes with pool water and ocean water and read lessons with flashlights. No one is surprised or feels the need to leave.
Tomatoes year round
Fruit in season year round
Repairing things instead of buying new. Our weed wacker was fixed this week for $10. He took the whole thing apart and repaired it in about 6 hours.
Noticing how much garbage I make. I really liked my recycling bins in Oregon and I never felt like I wasn't doing my part. But every package I buy here I realize will either need to be reused, burned, or possibly picked up if the blessed garbage truck comes. It is an in-your-face approach to realize how much you are consuming.
Forced non-consumerism. There is nothing I want to buy. I can rarely locate something I would like for the house or books for school. Without Taraget or the ability to ship anything you find, you can make do without it. And if you are willing to pay $50 extra dollars to bring it down in a suitcase weighing under 50 pounds then you probably do need it.
Time for contemplation. There is a good portion of our life when the power is out, wifi is down, water is off, or its too hot to move. This makes time to think and listen. I think it is this reason alone that we feel we can move in direction of the Spirit with what we have. Not because we are more spiritual. Because the obstacles have been removed for us and we have time to dream and listen.
Dustin and I were out to dinner the other night for our anniversary and we had a moment to process the chaos of last August. Thinking back...it is quite a story. Sometimes I shake my head at what we get ourselves into but, I thought I would share in case you thought it was all unicorns and rainbows around here.
When we came back to Oregon last June we had no idea how long we would have to be out of the country. Political unrest led us to believe that it would be best to move out of our rental and put everything into the kid's club so we wouldn't have to pay any rent for the amount of time we would be away. We returned in August to a lot of unknown. Since we didn't know what the state of Managua would be, we hired a driver to pick us up from the airport and help us navigate any rioting/protests. While we were gone we were sending money to keep the building of a house going on the property where we have the kid's club. We knew that if we were going to head there to live, we would need beds, a stove, and a refrigerator. Thankfully Managua was calm when we arrived so we stopped at a store to try to purchase those items. We had taken a red eye so the kids were all asleep in the car and the driver stayed with them while we shopped. After we quickly picked out our items we realized our credit cards had been shut down (for our "safety") because we were making a large purchase in a foreign country. We had even advised the credit card company that we would be traveling! No problem, just a simple call right? Nope. We had no cell phone service because there was no way to pay our bill when we were out of the country (you have to go to the office in person to pay). Luckily the store had wifi and we were able to call the credit card company and ask them to release the transaction. Finally we were granted approval and set up delivery down our very rough road.
We headed back to Salinas Grande. It was my birthday so some friends met us with pizza and drinks and we sat together in the rancho celebrating. After they left we put down cushions to make beds up in the kids loft. Our house was still under construction and did not have doors, windows, or floors downstairs, but the kids loft had a roof and finished tile floor. We were thankful for a roof over our head when the rain started that night. We lived for about a month like that. More or less camping (after our mattress got delivered, we moved it to the rancho for a little more space). It makes me so grateful that this year the house is done, complete with windows to keep out the mosquitoes and a place to cook inside. Before living here I had never been so thankful for shelter. At times I was thankful for my house and loved sharing it with others, but the actual sanctuary of shelter from the wind, bugs, rain, and extreme tropical sun is something I will never take for granted.
I was sharing with Dustin last night that I honestly teeter between to extremes most of the time. At times I see the way that the Lord is providing exactly what we need in the moment and I feel his presence to love and extend educational opportunties to the kids we serve in a powerful way. I feel like there is no place else I was more meant to be. I'm so grateful our kids see this kind of life. On the very next day I teeter over to despair and the deepest desire to just be comfortable for a moment and have one easy meal that is not prepared from scratch. Just one day when I do not have to rely on the Lord to completely keep me sane through every challenge or miscommunication. We have been here long enough now that I trust that when I feel in the "depths of despair" I keep stepping forward knowing that I have a God who sees me and every struggle, a Creator who is writing a beautiful story out of my mess.
Last week our teachers planned and held a Mother’s Day celebration while I was out of the country. They poured out love on the mothers in such a tangible way with a special meal and gifts crafted by each child especially for their mothers. We were able to create picture frames with a picture of each child, which is a very rare and special gift here (most mothers only have one or two pictures of their children). There is a quote that I love that says:
“Show me an educated mother and I shall promise you the birth of a civilized nation."
It is a privilege to be educated and we are working hard to raise up this next generation of mothers and fathers to value education and benefit their community.
A few weeks ago we had a retreat in the mountains at the Sacred Forest for our teachers. The Sacred Forest is a coffee farm being developed into a retreat center by our friends at SuNica. We had finished a very challenging first trimester of school working with way more children than we had planned on. I wanted us to take time to connect and share some events in our lives that had impacted us. Many of the stories are too personal and private to tell without permission. But in the moment, while the candlelight flickered, I was deeply affected as I heard how and why these women were able to fight for their education in a world that doesn’t value it or them as women. At one point or another most of these tenacious women choose hunger so they could stash away a few cordobas to pay for exams needed to pass to the next grade. They would look for fruit on trees to stave off hunger as they walked to school. Half of the ladies came from families with only a mother who fought to provide something for breakfast, rising early and trying to get scraps as fishing boats returned with their catch each morning. They shared stories of the challenges they faced working hard to stay in school only to fail the end exams because the rural education is so far behind. Stories of the crying out to God about the injustice of it all and the way He gently reminded them how deeply loved they are. We laughed a lot, tears flowed, and we walked the forest asking for wisdom in quiet places to serve the children of Salinas better. It was a very rich time and I’m thankful for the role models that our teachers are.
This past week we had our first rental of our casita on Airbnb and realized that so much of what we dreamed and hoped over two years ago is finally happening. We had thoughts and plans in the beginning of this wild adventure to create a place of rest and refreshment for people and it looks absolutely nothing like we envisioned at the start. In fact, there were several moments over the last year when it seemed absolutely impossible to complete construction. Our original idea was to use rental income to help sustain our kid’s programs. We thought these guests would be traveling from other countries, but the revolution last April changed everything. We realized that over our time here we have been connected to plenty of people doing beautiful work in Nicaragua who could use a place to rest. They don’t even have to fly across the world. Tourism has changed drastically….
And yet we have bookings...
Last Thursday night, a very sweet Nicaraguan friend who disciples students in several communities including ours stayed in our casita for a night of reflection to prepare for her baptism on Sunday. The week before, people we didn’t know from Matagalpa rented it through Airbnb to enjoy with their family for Semana Santa (Holy Week). Two weeks of the month of May are booked for a pastor who is retiring and coming to enjoy a family vacation. Three weeks ago our close friends from SuNica were able to use the place with their family while we were in the mountains. Even though tourism is almost dead in our community and most places are closed, we continue to have guests and feel grateful for the opportunity to use this land to build others up. Our intent with the casita is to give the space generously when we feel led and other times to rent it out to enable others to pour their resources back into our community.
We are dreaming again of how others can come and taste all that happens on the Water & Light property.
When I am in the thick of the day to day, it is easy to focus on what has to be done for the future and dwell on everything that has yet to be accomplished. Last week I took a quick trip to the States to visit donors and pursue some new opportunities for Water & Light. Conversations with old friends and the 6 hours of driving between Portland, Oregon and Boise, Idaho gave me some time to reflect on what has been accomplished in Salinas Grande in the past year. Sometimes it takes looking back to gain the momentum needed to push forward. I became aware, more than ever, that the Lord began weaving our family’s story together with a small fishing village in Nicaragua a long time ago.
One example is our computer teacher Yunior. He finished high school and started on his computer degree at the university about 5 years ago. When he rode the chicken bus to his first Saturday of classes, we were living on the Oregon coast and I did not know Salinas Grande even existed. Fast forward to January 2019. We had spent the last year building a children’s center, moved into a small home on the same property, and had 6 generously donated computers ready to be used. The internet was finally hooked up and we were in search of a teacher. I knew of Yunior from his work volunteering as a mentor for SuNica and so we asked him if he would be interested in a job as the Tribu Radiante computer teacher. It turns out that after going to computer school every Saturday for the last 5 years, he was graduating and ready to find a job. Over the years he had gone toe to toe with his father (a fisherman) who wanted him to quit school and work on the family fishing boat. What’s the point, his father thought, there is no hope of ever getting a computer job that pays. Yunior respectfully followed his dream while volunteering as a mentor and helping with the family business. Our path collided with his in late January when we offered him a job using his degree in his hometown. He told us it was his dream to come back to Salinas and teach young people about computers, but he had no idea where he would find the resources he needed. You could say it's a coincidence that we found each other just at the right time, but I believe things happen for a reason.
Last year at this time, we had dear friends visiting us. We would walk down the beach from our rental house and stand on the property we had purchased. We turned in slow circles in the center of nearly an acre trying to decide where to start with the ideas we had for using this land to love our community. As we dreamed, we put sticks in the ground to mark the corners of possible buildings. A place in the shade to conduct classes, a bathroom, a home for our family, and a casita to share with others. Just like when we sold our home in Oregon and moved Salinas Grande, we found ourselves in the position of needing to take a risky first step to begin building in foreign country with limited funding. We were clear that we should start with a space for the children’s center and we took the first step on Chirstmas Day 2017. As I write, seven guys from Salinas are still working, we have a place for students to enjoy, and a home for our family. Be encouraged, if you have a dream…pursue it. Here’s a little glimpse…….
Last September we were able to purchase property. Our desire was to create a space to host classes and let the children’s activities grow and flourish. It was the one clear direction we had so we walked forward in it. We went back to the Pacific Northwest last October to share our dreams for the property and how it could impact kids in our community. We were also hoping to find a lender to provide money to build a house on the property, which would free us up from rent and give us a place to settle in. We are not able to pursue normal house loans because of the “unstable” international area we live in and we can’t get loans in Nicaragua because we don’t have resident status. It was going to take an unusual investor who believed in our vision. Dustin had meetings and shared his heart with five different possibilities. The answer was a clear NO. But we were able to raise a little money to begin the children’s center so we walked ahead.
(Side note: We have had some very interesting conversations as a family about why the answer was NO when God tells us to ask. How are there people all over our community begging for a simple house to live in and the answer is NO? How is God still good, and if you work hard enough shouldn’t it all come? You know…the normal theology you want your seven year old to wrestle with.)
After we purchased the property, we had enough money to put up a rancho (palm branch structure with Eucalyptus poles) for protection from the hot sun so we did. We built tables to hold 36 kids because we couldn’t imagine managing any more students than that. Next, some money came in so we decided to pour a concrete floor. Then a church decided to partner with us for an upcoming trip and wanted to get the space ready with a kitchen to use. We were thrilled to add that on to the rancho and set up an area for student’s to work inside as well. Another group of friends contacted us and said they wanted to come down and help build bathrooms and their church in Canada would help finance the materials needed. One by one the Lord took care of each and every detail that we needed to have a beautiful children’s center. During this time our classes grew and we began seeking ideas of how we teach classes that will not just provide a fun and secure place, but also provide the tools student’s need to finish their education and seek work. This is where the cycle of poverty in our town is vicious. We began to realize we needed more Nicaraguan teachers and role models to walk alongside the students coming to the center. We began a reinforcement class that works in small groups to help students understand their school work and grow relationships with adults that can check in and mentor them.
From the beginning we had hoped that our work would grown into a sustainable business. We were looking for creative ways to finance and support our kids club. Our property is on the beach so we decided we would look into how much it would cost to build two small casitas (bedroom and bathroom structures) for travelers or families that might want to come learn about Nicaragua. For about the cost of a bathroom remodel in the US, we were able to build one of these dwellings. We were able to obtain a small loan and set to work on the first casita. Last January, we met an amazing contractor in Salinas and he put together a team of local guys who work hard and have a good time too. We hoped to have the casitas done in time for the big travel season of November, December, and January. This is where our plans ended.
In April, revolution broke out in Nicaragua and very quickly all tourism and travel was completely shut down. Flights into the country were dramatically reduced, food prices increased, and jobs vanished. A country that was already on the edge of extreme poverty sunk lower. We were able to keep our guys working and decided to go ahead and finish the first place anyway. Instead of renting the first casita for income we decided to move into it. Our casita is about 600 square feet with a loft, one bedroom, bathroom and a tiny kitchen. The loft was designed to be a beautiful sitting room to view the sunset if the bugs were too bad so the kids have one of the best views in the world. There is only one closet but we added two extra kitchen cabinets so we are making it work. Our contractor, Aroldo, politely asked us to stop calling it a CASITA as it is very large by Nicaraguan standards and he didn’t want us to embarrass ourselves. We feel overwhelmed with gratefulness to now be living in our own CASA when we thought the answer was no. Also, we can answer that question now, “Why can’t we go ahead and build a house?” Long before revolution hit, the Lord knew that Nicaragua would suffer and it may have made us unable to stay here and work if we had a big loan payment. Our family has discussed the idea that trust grows as you see God is faithful, and it keeps you going when you can’t see the reason or answers.
As of right now we are finishing the final details on our “tiny house” and ended up with enough money from the loan to put the walls up and roof on the second casita. We want to have space for others when needs arise. There are so many continuing to fulfill their work in Nicaragua in the midst of turmoil. Our desire is to have a place for them to be renewed. We have no idea how we will pay for the plumbing, toilet, sink, tile, and bed. But we have only ever had the illusion of control. It was really never in our hands in the first place. Our experience so far has taught us that the resources will come when the time is right.
I don’t know if or when we will be able to create a business that sustains our work here. We have lots of new ideas. Maybe I need to learn the lesson that it is ok to depend on other people before we are released. We continue to walk in our calling to be water and light to the kids of our community. And we hold onto our Hope which does not disappoint.
This piece of writing was as much for me as it was for you. How does that verse in Deuteronomy go?
Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.