Well, hello again, everyone. I realize it is way past time to report on what we have been doing. The past month or so has been kinda crazy around here. Things have really kicked off for our Hope for Life team, and Tommy and I have had some good individual experiences as well. All of this is amid the random happenings at the mission (Misión Para Cristo).
First, WE HAVE GOATS!!! We were excited enough that the guys got our first goat house and corral built at the local retirement home, but it was even cooler to see actual goats inside. Tommy went on a trip with Ismael (the mission's agriculture guy) to a farm way off in the middle of nowhere to purchase the goats. The plan was to purchase three or four good goats, but somehow (quite unexpectedly) we got a "SIX for the price of four" deal. The problem was that the area we had for the goats really maxed out at four, so David and Caryn kept two in their backyard until we could figure out something else. Well, the plan all along has been (outside of having our goat corral at the retirement home for learning purposes) to start our goat project in the town of Yankee at the home of the local preacher, Renaldo. We knew that a group of students from Harding University would be here the next week, so we arranged to have some of them help build our second goat house and corral at Renaldo's house (to Renaldo's great excitement). That project is now finished, and the extra two goats are settled in their new home. We really hadn't expected to have made this much progress yet, but we are very thankful that, apparently, God had other plans for us.
A BIG help with our Hope for Life projects were Tessa Savage and Nikki Stark, who were the mission's interns for 6 weeks. They helped in the construction of our goat houses, and they even built and installed a rabbit hutch (complete with rabbits) in the Hennigers' backyard. They proved invaluable (especially Tessa, with her agricultural background) in getting us started in our care for the goats. Also, they experimented with some different recipes for making cheese from the goats' milk (and were quite successful, actually). In general, they were awesome to have around. Tommy and I really enjoyed having them live at the mission with us, and now that they are gone, we miss them terribly.
Meanwhile, I have had two main projects going on, which I have already described somewhat on this blog. One was the writing, translating, practicing, and delivering of a series of lessons for the ladies here. The whole process was extremely helpful with my Spanish learning, and it was a good relationship-building exercise with the ladies at church. Now that I am finished with this, I need to start getting some other lessons done on other topics that go with our Hope for Life projects (goats, seeds, etc.).
The other project was trying to get much needed items to the Casa Materna in Pantasma. Thanks to the donations of some of you, Janese Davis (who is in charge of the mission's work with the Casa Materna program) and I were able to purchase much more than we expected to be able to get for the ladies in this go 'round! (THANK YOU!) My goal for this time was simply to get the hygiene items they needed, but in addition to soap, maxi pads, wash clothes, and towels, we were able to bring them 3 new sheet sets (including new pillows) and enough pots, pans, utensils and dishes to outfit their new kitchen. We weren't able to bring them maternity clothes (I haven't yet found any good place that sells them), but we did bring them laundry detergent so at least they can wash the clothes they already have. The day that we took the trip to give them all of this stuff was the official grand opening of their Casa Materna, and the whole town had a parade. After all of the pomp and circumstance, we were able to spend some time with the ladies (like we normally do on our Casa Materna trips) before giving them the items. Oh, and while we were there, I still had some money left over, so I asked if they had any other immediate needs. They said that they needed gas to cook with (they already had the container; it just needed to be refilled), and it turned out that there was just enough money to get them what they needed. (I gave the money to the local preacher who took care of it for them that day.) I always love it when it is so obvious that God gives us just what we need at the moment. :)
There have been a lot of people in and out of the mission building over the last weeks. Periodically, the mission hosts IPO, an institute wherein Nicaraguans train other Nicaraguans to be preachers. This last time they were here, I spent some time with them and had the opportunity to sit in on some of their classes. Although I didn't understand everything (as it was in Spanish), it was still really neat for me, first of all, to develop my relationships with these people, and, second, to get a glimpse of what they are actually teaching (though I was able to understand overall topics more so than specific points). I was generally impressed that the classes are legitimate college level Bible classes. Outside of class, it was really cool to have real Biblical discussions with some of the people, and now that I have met the people, I have recognized some of them as I have been in different towns doing different things. Anyway, I was glad that they were happy to have me stick my nose in their business. It was cool.
The last large group we had was the spring break group from Harding University. I was excited to see a few people who I already knew and to get to know some others that I didn't know. As I said, some of them assisted with our second goat house. Also, I got to spend some time with others on the trip to Pantasma. They seemed like a really good group of "kids." (Am I old enough to call college students kids?)
As you can tell, there has been a lot of activity here lately. (And these are just the highlights; Tommy could probably tell you even more.) Unfortunately, I have been sick for a lot of this. The doctor here has had me on several antibiotics for different infections, but it has been tricky to get the rest I need to recover fully. (I keep feeling like I am better, and I even build up extra energy--but then when I use the energy I end up feeling bad again.) This has been affecting my mental capacity as well and has made it a little difficult to focus lately. Tommy also had a bad bout of sickness after being at the farm where he bought the goats. He didn't realize that he would be in a no electricity, no running water, nothing to sleep in but a moldy/mildew-y hammock kind of situation (complete with LOTS of bug bites--though, don't worry, his blood test came back negative for any terrible diseases). Thankfully, once the medicine ran its course he felt much better. Overall, I would say that, emotionally, we are doing great here. However, I think that there are various points of stress that we don't even pick up on that wear on us physically and mentally. Please keep us in your prayers as our bodies and minds continue to acclimate.
Something that is still a source of stress for us is that we are STILL not in our house, though it does seem like we may be getting closer. Also, we know that once we do get in our house, our expenses will be higher. We are trusting in God to take care of us, but we do anticipate things getting pretty tight financially. The reality is that we are still not finished fundraising. This is an aspect of being missionaries that neither of us enjoys, so that causes stress too. I just want to say, though, to those of you who do support us, I don't even know how to express how thankful we are. Without you (and God, obviously), we wouldn't be able to do any of this. It is because of you that we are now able to be a part of the lives of people who God has always loved but who we didn't know existed a year ago. Because of you, we are able to put into practice projects that, before we came, were only good ideas. Yes, we may be stressed at times, but what we have been able to see and to do and the people we have been able to connect with all make it completely worth it. We see God at work here, and we feel so honored to be a part of that work. Thank you so much for giving us this opportunity.
To everyone reading this, whether you support us financially or not, I want to say thank you for keeping up with us. It means a lot to have a connection with people "back home"--and those in locations around the world. If this experience has taught me anything, it is that our world really is "small." But, for the times that it feels "big," thank you all for making it that much smaller.
God bless you all,