Our neighbor Martin and his family have been a huge blessing to us living in Salinas Grandes. They are the caretakers of the house we rent. Martin and Rosa live in a one-bedroom structure with 6 sons. They are kind and generous and have the gift of prayer. They prayed over me the day that Dustin was at the jail trying to sort things out with our motorcycle accident. They have shared many shocking stories with me, but on the day that Dustin was working out the accident paperwork Martin told me how one time he went to jail unjustly but used the time to encourage the other people in prison. When his family brought him food in jail he shared it with other inmates because he said they had nothing and he had his caring family. Martin and his sons are fisherman. Lately the fishing has not been good so everyone in our community suffers without people buying, selling, and trading fish. Martin is learning English and hoping that at some point the his new skills has will help provide further for his family. He asked Dustin to help him with his homework so now the two fathers will be learning a new language from each other.
You will indeed go out with joy and be peacefully guided.
Rest, reflection, and connection are an essential part of life. Here in Nicaragua we are learning that we have to make more time, more often to return to the love of our Father. Our first four months in Salinas have tested us in ways our family has never experienced. We are so thankful my parents were able to come the last two weeks and take some time to enjoy family and act like tourists for a bit in this beautiful country. The early morning sunrises have revived my heart and given me time for reading in Isaiah and reflection. Swimming in the lake has given me the peace and joy in my life that I always experience in nature. The days spent together with family have given us time to delight in our children and connect more deeply.
It has solidified in our heart even further the vision we have to create a place of rest and shelter for others to gain direction and peace in their lives. One of the dreams that has been placed on Dustin is creating a spot where people serving others can come for rest and connection. After his dad passed away, I watched a shift happen in Dustin’s heart that changed his mentality to, "life is short, I want to live it well." As he grew I have seen him mentor other fathers, husbands, and men to take time to focus on the gifts in front of them through learning to rest and connect. We have had the privilege of hosting five missionary families here in Nicaragua in the four short months we have been here. I am truly amazed that in the midst of learning Spanish and the culture we have had this opportunity. As we come to understand the Nicaraguan culture better we see a huge hole here for men to be mentored into husbands and fathers who are faithful and committed to their families. I believe we have been placed here with the gifts and life experiences for such a time as this and to help heal this beautiful world with a Saviors love.
The next step for us is being brave enough to purchase property where this dream can come to life. To walk in the Lords peaceful guidance without forgetting to take time to rest and stay connected with our own family.
English club is growing like crazy and we are excited to get to be apart of it. Beyond teaching in the middle school and getting to know the kids, I love having them to my house to play and get to know them a little better. Cathy and I often talk about how to make a lasting impact on the community. We want to do more than just give a handout. We want to change lives and English club gives us the opportunity to go deeper with the kids. We started the club with just middle school kids and we need to expand to the elementary children because they are sitting on our fence listening, hoping to be apart as well. A friend is coming in a few weeks to help me plan curriculum and design how the lessons can teach English while reflecting the love of our Savior. I am so excited to work with her and thankful that the Lord directed our paths together.
Teaching in the school gives me a good vantage point to view the education in Salinas Grandes. There are huge needs in the educational system. Many of the kids have been sponsored one organization or another to receivea uniform, school supplies, and the small tuition fee. But they are constantly out of school for various reasons and when they are in class they copy from the board without understanding much of what they are copying. They are not taught problem solving skills and only know what surrounds them in their small village. There are no books in their homes. I read the statistic that for a Nicaraguan to own a book is similar to an American spending $257 on a single book. In a survival culture there is no room for extras like books. Recently Parker read the book Clara and the Book Wagon. He immediately said, “Mama why don’t we take books around to the kids in our village to borrow.” I love that the kids inspired to meet the needs they see around them. We are beginning to dream with our kids about a lending “wagon” (the back of our car), a library and a story hour at some point. My parents are bringing the first load of Spanish books this week when they come for a visit.
A year ago our friend (Mr. Buzbee) prophesied over us that he could see us walking on dusty and sandy roads. He also said that we should walk and dance into what the Lord was telling us to do. As Dustin and I talked later, we both agreed that we felt that place was Nicaragua. When we arrived in Salinas, we found those dusty roads. The romance of moving somewhere tropical has worn off. Our feet our black and I have outlawed everyone from climbing onto my bed unless they first wash their feet. Yet the vision of what the Lord has asked us to dance into is growing day by day.
We continue to feel that we are living right where we are supposed to be. Opportunities to love our neighbors surface every day. We have been traveling to other surrounding beach towns to look at properties and get a better idea of fair property prices in Nicaragua. Each time we return to Salinas Grandes, we love the way that the town is filled with normal Nicaraguan people and not just foreigners living on the beach. We want to be among the people so we can listen and perceive the real needs and not just rush in to meet what we assume the problems might be. One need we continue to see is water because the city water does not reach the end of our road in the summer. Also there is a need for students to have access to computers and a library to research projects for school. There is no place in our town for students to complete these projects in high school. High school students here have so many obstacles to overcome. They face a 12 km dirt road to get to school and have to find ways to complete assignments without proper resources.
I share each of these needs because I know they will resonate with someone reading this email. We are not called to do everything but I believe our hearts are stirred at times by needs we were created to fill. The small yes. Yes, I could give a few dollars to that. Yes, my family could come down and spend a week building shelves for a library. Yes, I could stockpile some Spanish books and send them down with your family when they come to visit. Yes, I have an extra laptop I would like to donate. Drops in the bucket that begin to fill up the well. Yes, I want to be water for the thirsty. Yes, I want to be light in the darkness. Yes, I want to fight for justice for kids born into a hopeless situation. Purveyors of hope. Who knows what your yes could declare in the Kingdom of God? Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
One thing I am learning is there is no typical day in Nicaragua. I keep waiting for our routine to settle and when I say that to other people living here they just smile or stifle a laugh. Expect the unexpected. Hold your plans loosely in your hands for the day and say a prayer to be love however it is needed.
So this Thursday I woke up, made banana muffins and iced coffee. Dustin and Nolan head off to work with a recycling/educational project with our friend Joe in the community. I help everyone begin their work for the day, which includes more than just my kids going on schoolwork. I have one conversation with the Spanish teacher about what I would like the kids to learn. Then I talk with a woman who needs to borrow some money for a medical procedure about what she could clean around the house to repay us. As soon as I sit down to call my mom and hear how my grandma’s funeral went, our neighbors come to the door. Martin has a bloody head and needs to go to the clinic 5km away. The Spanish teacher assures me she will watch the kids and so Martin and I head to the clinic. There is a clinic open three days a week for a few hours and Martin just happens to be hurt at the “right” time so we are able to avoid going to the hospital in Leon.
However, the clinic doesn’t have any stitches so we go from pulperia (tiny shops in peoples' homes) to pulperia asking if anyone has stitches. We eventually find some, and head back to get stitched up. At the clinic, there is a long line of mamas with new babies. I love to hear them talk and they seem in good spirits despite the lack of sleep and the fact that they walked to the clinic. Many of them just days or weeks after a caesarean birth. We give rides home as we leave the clinic three hours later. After a quick lunch of sopa de queso and guacamole with chips, I head to teach English all afternoon at La Cooperative middle school. I walk in the door around 5:30, grab some sparkling water, and walk out to the beach where I know all the kids will be playing since its nearly sunset. We watch the red ball drop into the ocean and feel thankful for another day. We make some pasta and eat dinner outside where the air has finally cooled off for the day. Evening is the time when we take a deep breath and remember why we love Nicaragua. We end the day reading under the rancho at the beach. The kids hang in hammocks and we take turns reading until bedtime. So..... that was this Thursday and next Thursday will be different. Who knows what will happen?