Monday, May 28, 2012

¡Felicidades Madres! - Becky

Last night at church the youth group hosted a celebration for all of the mothers in the congregation. (Their Mother's Day is coming up on Wednesday.) The kids gave the lesson and led some worship songs; performed a cool skit and sang some songs praising mothers; and served food that they had prepared themselves. They also took care of the younger kids for the first half of the program. Earlier in the day, they did some pretty serious decorating, and they even swapped out all of the pews for tables and chairs because they wanted everything to be really nice for the mothers. For me, having watched them through the whole process from the planning stages to the implementation, I was very impressed and proud of "my" kids. They came up with the idea on their own and maintained their fervor for it until the end.

I have been "helping" with the youth group for a while now and have sometimes been confused about exactly how I fit in there, but last night with everything going on I really got the sense of "this is where I need to be." When they were still planning everything for this event, I agreed to "help," even though I really didn't know exactly what that would mean. It turned out that I was able to aid in communication with some of the other North Americans at the mission about things the kids needed; to assist with the decorating (though, really I didn't do that much); and to sing with them the songs they performed. The most significant thing to me about all of these things was that I was able to do some major relationship building. I am already friends with some of the older* people in the group because they work with me at the mission. In addition to strengthening those friendships, I felt like I connected with some of the teens that had previously possibly been a little unsure about me. I think that maybe before, they didn't know what I thought about them, but because I have stuck around and because of my help with their Mother's Day program they can see that I love them.

Please don't think that I'm trying to brag on myself here; I am just so thankful that God has connected me with these people. Too often humans find themselves in situations where they are pouring out all of their love but get nothing in return. My heart was bubbling over last night to feel that there was reciprocation. Also, these kids are just cool, and it is neat that they actually like me. I am looking forward to spending a lot more time with them in the next few years.


*Someone recently asked me about the age range of these "kids." My response (after a good chuckle) was that they are maybe as young as 9 to as old as 29. Last night I asked one of the older guys how old he is, and he said that he is, actually, 29. As for myself, I only just turned 28, so, other than the fact that I am married, I kind of fit into this group myself, not even necessarily as a "volunteer." I can honestly say that, at least with the older ones, I really feel that they are my friends, not just children I am supposed to supervise or something.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Las Chiquitas Off-Road Challenge

Today; Becky, Chris, myself and several others from Mision Para Cristo went to visit the rural community of Las Chiquitas.  It's about a 20 minute off-road drive from Jinotega over the mountains.  There are approximately 750 people living there and it is one of the poorest towns I've have seen here so far. 

The road (dirt trail)  to Las Chiquitas is pretty good at first but towards the end it gets really, really bad!  The rainy season has started here in Nicaragua which makes good roads bad and bad roads impassable even with four wheel drive.  We were able to get there and back today with our front hubs locked and four wheel low but I'm afraid that sometime in the next few weeks the folks out there may find themselves cut off from vehicular traffic.

The people there are really friendly and very eager to work together with us to better the living conditions there in Las Chiquitas.  They are living on rice and beans everyday and occasionally some chicken or rabbits that they are able to catch.  Their wells are drying up making access to water one of the biggest needs there right now. 

There are some aid items that we can help them with immediately like vitamin soup mixes, clothing, parasite medicines for children and adults and other medical supplies.  Ultimately however, we want to help introduce things to their community like rabbit and goat breeding, composting, raised bed and table gardens and rocket stoves.  There is a time for immediate aid but continuing to give in that manner creates dependency and is not a viable long-term solution to many situations such as this. 

The folks there are also very excited to have Bible classes with us and we should be able to bring them some Bibles the next time we visit there.  The opportunity to share God's love in Christ Jesus with these people through helping them with physical and spiritual needs is exactly why we all came here in the first place and we are grateful to God to have this chance. 

Please pray for all the people living in Las Chiquitas and also for us as we try to work together to make their community a better, safer, healthier place to live. 

To God be the glory!


Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Fruit Market Girl - Becky

We had a baptism at church this morning. It was a kid who already faithfully attends youth group functions and actively helps with things like prayers and song leading. I don't know exactly how old he is, but I would guess he is anywhere from 11 to 14. (It's so hard to gauge age here!) As far as I can tell, he doesn't have any biological family members at church (I think he may even be somewhat of an "orphan" at home), but he is sort of like the fifth brother to the four sons of one of our preachers (who is also, more or less, the youth minister). From everything I have seen of him, he is a really sweet, godly kid. I was a little surprised that he hadn't already been baptized, since he obviously already has faith and tries to live by it. But, we were all very excited that he made it "official" today.

The thing that was especially exciting, though, beyond the actual baptism, was the response of the other kids at church. The baptistery that we have here doubles as the communion table (it's just a box filled with water that has a top on it most of the time), so it is on the ground and easily accessible. For the baptism, all of the kids eagerly crowded around the "box" so they could see the happy event. It was clear that they understood the significance of what they were seeing and were genuinely excited for their friend.

Now, the church building itself is right across the street from a row of fruit vendors, and many of them bring their children to "work" with them every day. There are several of these kids that we have gotten to know, and when they see us they call us by name, run up, give us a hug, and say "¿Cómo estás?" to us. This morning, the doors of the church building were open (as they always are when service is in session), and we could see one of the girls we talk to most often looking in. She seemed to be intrigued by the baptism. At first she just looked on from outside, but eventually she came in. After the event was over, I asked her if she understood what had happened, and she said that she did. I don't know what was actually going on in her mind about the whole thing, but I was so glad that she got to see not just the baptism but the joyful response of the other kids.

I am convinced that love and joy attract people like nothing else. I don't know what will eventually become of our fruit market friend, but I am honored to get to witness and participate in loving, joyful interactions with her. (Is it just me, or does it seem like this love and joy stuff is so much easier with kids? I hope and pray that I can carry the same spiritual "fruits" into my interactions with adults too.) Sometimes the "work" here can be frustrating, but mornings like this remind me of what I am really trying to do and why it is worth it.


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Update - Becky

Today Tommy and I were able to get inside our house and start painting (well, priming). We are still not "in" our house, but we are at the point where we are willing to do whatever we need to do just to get it finished. We have to be out of the mission before it is completely filled up with groups from the States at the end of this month, so we are in "let's get this done" mode, though it is frustrating because most of the situation is currently out of our hands. Needless to say, we could really use some prayers.

A few weekends ago, our team had to go down to the Costa Rican border to renew our visas. We were able to complete the whole process at the border in 3 hours (it is supposed to take 3 days), and we spent the rest of our time in San Juan del Sur, which is about 45 minutes from the border on the Nicaraguan side. (It was cheaper than actually staying in Costa Rica.) It was a much needed vacation for all of us. When we got back, most of that week was a vacation week for the workers at the mission, so we had some down time then too. However, Chris (with some team help) spent some of the time building another version of the "rocket stove" over at his house. It was interesting witnessing the construction process (and good to enjoy the fruits of it later!).

Right now our team is still in a "research and development" phase. Our current focus is fleshing out the location of one of our goat houses (in Yankee) with all of the different aspects of what we want to do--like raised-bed gardens, compost piles, etc.--to serve as an example. We want to get it to the point where groups that come down from the States can help with and possibly reproduce these things in other locations here (and, of course, Nicaraguans can reproduce it themselves).

On May 1 we had a huge "ladies' day" here at the mission. Women from congregations all over the North came to sing, pray, hear encouraging lessons, and eat lunch together. I led singing for part of it, and Caryn, Jill, and I were put on the spot to sing a song for everyone (which was awkward--in a humorous way--but we were able to pull it off). Other things here--like church, the Casa Materna, etc.--are pretty much status quo. We are still learning Spanish, and it seems like we have had many random opportunities to use it lately (mostly successfully), which is really good. In general we are gearing up for groups coming down this Summer. (It has been slow for a time now, but it's about to get really crazy.)

Well, that's all I can think of to tell you right now. (Sorry I don't have a spiritual thought for you this time. We have actually had lots of spiritual thoughts in our brains lately, but because a lot of them are connected to personal situations with other people, it is tricky to figure out exactly what to say.)

We love and miss you guys,