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.