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.
Last week our friends Chip and Andrea and their family came down to stay with us and serve in our community. Through generous friends they were able to bring down medical supplies to our little clinic that is open three days a week for a few hours a day. They brought down a nebulizer and blood pressure machine, which the doctor immediately started using. The first patient of the day was a little boy having trouble breathing. It was eye opening and we were all silent on the ride home after viewing the hand washing station without running water, the exam room, and the rest of the facility. One nine-year-old girl came in with her baby brother and toddler brother without a parent because she had been feeling badly for eight days and was unable to eat much. We tried to look into her throat but the only light that was available was the flashlight on our phone. She was very protective of her siblings and we did our best to get her feeling better. It was a lot to process and yet the doctor was very gracious and thankful for the help. She thanked us over and over again for the basic supplies that we brought. The clinic is very limited in what they can treat and often have to encourage people to go to the hospital in Leon 40 minutes away. But we wondered how many people would take the bus to the hospital and get further treatment. Although the needs are overwhelming we want to be about tying people and their passions in the world to the needs that are all around us.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
A big thank you to those who helped support our effort in language school the past two weeks. We were able to go to an amazing school called Casa Xalteva and receive individualized instruction for four hours a day based on our current level of Spanish. We learned a lot about Spanish but also had the opportunity to discuss the needs of this country with our Nicaraguan teachers. Casa Xalteva uses Spanish lessons to fund their education and mentorship program for the kids in Granada. We just keep meeting the right people to continue to guide us with how to best help the children in Salinas Grandes. The word we continue to return to as we discuss problems and injustice here is education. It all comes back to education. Providing hope and opportunity that will draw the children into the loving presence of our Father.
Nolan and Ryder had a blast with their teacher Gabriella who did a great job teaching them. Parker and Brielle are too young for the writing aspects of language school but we were surprised the other day when Brielle walked up to a small stand and purchased candy for her and three friends using perfect Spanish. She even paid in cordobas. I have a feeling that they are going to be fluent first.
Back to Salinas...
I continue to be in awe of how our hearts are being drawn to Salinas Grandes. After being gone for two weeks we feel ready to head back to the beach. As I was sharing with a friend about English club this week my eyes weld up with tears thinking about how in such a short time the kids have Salinas have become so dear to me. My affection for them is not my own, it is inspired by the One who cares so much more for them than I do. The One who shook up our world and rearranged our lives because He saw a place in Nicaragua that needed someone to commit to a generation that is growing up with little hope and education. Despite the difficulty of daily life, it is an honor to be declaring the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. He chose us for this calling even though I would not have chosen us. We get to be His hands and feet and it is such an honor.
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.
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?