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…….
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.