water and light nicaragua

When paths are woven together

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.

La Tribu Radiante and an interview with Yunior

On the unrest in Nicaragua

What is happening in Nicaragua? 
The people are rising up and demanding that the current president be removed.  After Daniel Ortega passed a law that diminished social security and required more payout, the people protested.  The current government brutally opposed these protests and as many as 65 have been killed.  I have linked a couple of articles that explain what has taken place over the last two weeks.  The protests have been peaceful the last week but continue to demand change. 
Are we safe?
The place we live, Salinas Grande, is very remote and very little has changed.  There are food shortages but so far we have been able to drive into the city on non-protest days and stock up on food and gasoline.  We have plans should things escalate and we are being careful to watch closely to the atmosphere of the country.  We feel able to move inside and outside our house and have continued to hold classes in the children’s center.  We are not being silly or unaware.  We are heavily invested in the lives around us and want to continue working in our community with our eyes wide open to what is happening around us.
How can you help?
Please pray for justice in Nicaragua.  This beautiful country has been held in poverty for a very long time and we are praying that every chain will be broken.  Pray for Nicaraguan leaders to rise up.  The students have been a big part of this uprising.  Pray for protection of the students and all those involved in resisting violence.  Truly this change could bring stability and hope to many in Central America so pray for wisdom and strength for all of the people of Nicaragua as they face the days ahead. 

My children and I are rereading the Chronicles of Narnia together.  This quote stood out to us…

Who said anything about safe?
Course He isn’t safe.
But He’s good.
He’s the King, I tell you. 


Let us chase after our King.  His goodness I continue to see. 


The past nine months in Nicaragua we have become part of a very special community of people in Salinas Grandes. A land of contrasts where we find ourselves living in the tension between the beauty of our Creator and the many needs surrounding us. The next step for us is to build a children’s community center for more classes and mentorship. We have been able to purchase property and hope to break ground in the next few months. Would you consider joining us to create a place for the next generation to grow in love and hope? We have a goal of $20,000 for the center and are almost half way there.

Martin and Rosa

Dustin Samples 26 1 1.jpg

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. 

water and light salinas grandes nicaragua-martin

Some thoughts on education

I have been given the opportunity to teach in the schools here in Salinas Grandes.  It has opened up my eyes to how little education is happening in these small rural areas.  I wish I could paint a picture of the yelling, disruptions, lack of discipline, inconsistent school days, and overall chaos that the students who want to learn have to deal with.  Many of the teachers are caring but do not have the support of administration, parents, or the resources they need.  In the first grade class that Parker and Brielle attend, the teacher goes desk to desk and writes the math problems into their notebooks for the students to complete.  I still believe in helping kids stay in school as long as possible.  Statistically every year of school for a child creates more opportunity for them.   But I see a huge need for mentorship and further education outside of the school system for children who desire it.  I go and teach English each week and I can see the four or five kids in each class who are trying to learn through the noise.  We have been given a unique opportunity to help alleviate some of the poverty in Salinas by valuing and creating more educational chances.  English club and classes are just the beginning.  We hope to extend our classes to include a story hour for young kids to be exposed to books, computer classes, swimming and water safety classes, health in food preparation, and clean water education.  If we don’t start with educating the children and other people who desire it, then our attempts in the community will not have local support.  Real impact is a slow process but worth it.


At English club each week we have an opportunity to get to know the kids apart from the chaos of school.  It’s just a small group right now of between 6-10 kids that are hungry to learn and absorb any education we can provide.  As the kids arrive they often head straight to the bathrooms in two’s or threes.  They don’t have running water or flushing toilets at their houses and they spend a few minutes cleaning up.  Sometimes the girls come out with wet hair that they have quickly washed.  It reminds me of the privilege of running water and helps me not to be annoyed that we start a few minutes late.  A few weeks ago as I was teaching, the Spirit led me to switch my English lessons so that the Nicaraguan students also had the opportunity to teach my kids Spanish as we were practicing.  It has made a huge difference in the dynamic and closeness we share.  It is not a one sided lesson, but a group learning from each other.  We truly desire to give each child a sense of dignity and respect.  We believe this kind of justice is what will have a lasting impact. 

Moving Forward

We are overwhelmed by the Lord’s faithfulness.  I do not have the courage in any way to keep stepping and yet he provides exactly what we need.  At the same time He is molding and changing our hearts, gently guiding our motives, and waking us up to brokenness in our thinking as he shapes our path.  The past week we were able to raise almost $10,000 toward the purchase of the property here in Salinas Grandes.   I never imagined that was possible.  It builds my faith.  I have always given lip service to the fact that God provides.  I have experienced his provision many ways.  Truthfully though, I have always had my own back up plan.  What we are stepping into right now doesn’t really have a back up plan.  We had saved up to live here as long as we could but we felt him leading us to put our savings toward land to create a kids community center to pour into the lives of the kids in Salinas Grandes and alleviate a portion of poverty through education. We didn’t have enough and yet many of you jumped in to buy a piece of land in Nicaragua with us.   Your “YES” and generosity to us enables us to keep moving forward.   We are working through the process of purchasing the property and all the legal steps that must be taken to ensure that it is fully ours. 

A little jungle hike on our trip to Costa Rica to renew our visas

A little jungle hike on our trip to Costa Rica to renew our visas

Property that isn't for sale...

water and light salinas grandes nicaragua

Most things in Nicaragua move slowly.  But last Sunday we walked a property we have been seeking out for months.  It's not even listed but a friend helped us track the phone number of the owner so we could ask if he would be willing to sell.  The owner met us there and gave us documents and the whole process started rolling more quickly than we expected.  The property is 1 acre on the beach with lots of developed trees, close to the city water supply, and strong electricity poles.  All the lots we have looked at have been overpriced and we have yet to find a place to rent that would work for hosting lots of kids for our growing English club activities.  The next day we called a lawyer and tried to take down directions to meet up with him in the afternoon.  We drove to the general area and decided to go look for a place that makes photocopies as we waited for a friend to call us back who knew where his office was placed.  I saw a sign that looked like a promising place to make copies and I motioned for Dustin to quickly pull over.  As we looked up, we realized we were sitting right in front of the lawyer’s office.  We laughed because it is extremely difficult to find places in the city with no street signs or address numbers.  We could have spent all afternoon looking, but we drove straight to it.  We walked inside and found a very helpful and well-spoken lawyer.  This week we had several meetings confirming the property history and each time, miraculously, I was able to understand the lawyer jargon in Spanish.  He confirmed that the property is free to purchase and own with no leans or taxes unpaid. 

So we are throwing in what we have with a few others to pull together enough to walk into the work that the Lord has provided.  Most of our lives we have tried to manage our money by living within our means and making good investments.  But this is not a good earthly investment.  It is a piece of property surrounded by poverty down a dirt road in a community where few foreigners live.  Yet we know we are supposed to use everything we have to invest in a Kingdom that does not rust or fade.  If you have ever thought about giving to Water & Light we ask that you consider now.  Join us in purchasing property in Nicaragua.  Come along on this adventure and see how the Lord shows up when we are faithful to His calling.  He just keeps showing up.  It’s usually when we are ankle deep stepping out of the boat hoping we heard his voice correctly, but He has never failed us yet. 

Dancing in the rain

We had the pleasure of having our friend Carly come stay with us during the first two weeks of July.  As English club is growing I have been busy creating lessons as well as working to teach my own kids at home.  When Carly contacted me she said she felt led to bring down to us a curriculum that she had used in the public school to teach the fruit of the Spirit through character building.  We brainstormed together ways it could be used here in Nicaragua and then put together a vacation bible school for the kids in our neighborhood to try it out the following week.   We had a blast playing and loving on our friends in the neighborhood and built deeper connection with those we are living among.  We drove up and down our road and picked up kids.  It was simple with lots of soccer, water balloons, and kick ball games and then a basic lesson of how we can grow in virtues.  The last day as we were playing soccer the sky opened up and dumped more rain than I have ever seen in 30 minutes.  It did not slow the kids down one bit.  It was like a finale I didn’t even plan as they danced and splashed in the rain coming off the roof.  Before they left we gave each child a pair of shoes and a bible.  It was extremely meaningful to me as I wrote in the front of each bible.  The two gifts, the shoes and the bible, seemed like a perfect example of what we have hoped from the beginning with Water & Light.  To provide a basic need while gently pointing to the One who can bring light each and every day.   The curriculum was a surprise blessing to us.  One I did not even know I needed.   As we seek the Lord’s direction in every decision, He cares for us so deeply in ways we can’t imagine.  He gently showed us that the education of children is going to be a BIG part of our work here and then flew a friend from the past down to provide the resources we are going to need to complete it.  Just writing these words blows me away.  His kindness, His provision, and His compassion on us throughout this challenging transition give us enough grace to keep stepping until the next rock appears. 

water and light nicaragua-water balloon

Sunsets and Accidents

Beauty and Injustice

We often laugh until we cry about the extremes of Nicaragua.  On any day we could post beautiful pictures of beaches, sunsets, and palm trees swaying in the breeze but it could never capture the poverty, insects, and challenges surrounding us.   We hold the beauty in one hand and the injustice in the other.  We rely and depend on the Lord to keep us daily.  We cannot possibly handle the challenges of the day with grace in our own strength.  About five years ago I remember praying over and over, “break my heart for what breaks Yours.”  He began preparing my heart to see the poor with new eyes and realizing my own deep poverty.  As we begin to work in our community, we recognize our mutual brokenness with all of humanity. 

water and light nicaragua

Duct-tape to the rescue

Last week we were in a car accident.  As we were turning left a motorcycle tried to pass us on the left.  He went flying and his helmet flew off.  As we ran to him we realized his injuries were minor and we called an ambulance to come care for him.  In Nicaragua if a person goes to the hospital in an ambulance then the person who hit him has to go to jail until he is released or the accident has been processed (even if it's not your fault).  We had a friend who lived just down the street who was able to quickly come help us translate, talk with a lawyer, negotiate with the police, and was able to pay off the police this time so Dustin didn’t have to stay in jail.  The next day the motorcyclist was released and Dustin was able to sign the documents stating what happened in the accident.  The motorcyclist would like to appeal the documents so we are waiting in limbo hoping it will be resolved soon.  These types of things are extremely unnerving to negotiate when you cannot clearly state or argue what happened in Spanish, and then dealing with a corrupt police system trying to make extra money.  We are thankful that no one was seriously injured, we had supportive friends to help us navigate, and the damage was minimal (duct taped mirrors are hip here).   It was best case scenario in a scary situation. 

English Club FIESTA

water and light Leon Nicaragua

English club was born out of a desire to be able to pour more deeply into the lives of a few kids.  We know we can’t change everyone but mentorship with a few kids at a time allows us to share more love and light.  We wanted the kids in English club to come consistently so we devised a reward system with a fun activity day after they come for a month.  We allowed them a ticket for themselves and a friend.  We had our first English club activity in June with bracelet making stations, water balloon games, and brownies with ice cream.  The time was too short and they begged to stay longer and play soccer.  “Next time,” we promised as we piled 17 kids into our car and dropped them off at their homes.  It was a meaningful evening and a glimpse of more things to come.