Good morning from Managua! As promised, this week’s post will be an update on all that is happening in Nicaragua. After looking back over my posts this morning, I realized that it has been two months since I have posted an update so I have much to talk about. Here we go!
The past two months have been a whirlwind for me. Over the course of eight weeks, I traveled back to the United States twice to attend four weddings, three for great friends and one for my little sister. Overall, the weddings were all great times to catch up with friends and to celebrate big moments in my friends’ lives. My sister’s wedding was, of course, the most special. It was really neat to see how God had brought two great people together who truly desire to honor God with their lives and their marriage. I couldn’t be happier for Jenny and Bryan and look forward to being a part of what God is going to do in and through their lives. As I reflect back over life, I never could have guessed that my sister, five years my younger, would be married before me and that I would be living in Nicaragua. That is why God is in control and I am not. I never could have planned out everything that happened to lead us both, my sister and I, to the point in life at which we have arrived. It reminds me of the verse in 1 Corinthians 2 that says, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9 NIV 1984). I am thankful for this truth and, even though it can be challenging at times, believe this is exactly where I am meant to be at this moment in my life. I am “in the river”, where real life is found.
In between my trips home this summer, my church in the U.S., Crossroads Community Church, sent a couple of teams down. The first team was an exploratory trip to see how a “family trip” to Nicaragua would work. The idea was for one family, the Crowley’s, to travel to Nicaragua as a family and then to spend time with the kids from the orphanage to love them and give them a picture of what a functioning family looks like. Chris and Ann, and their two sons, Michael and Gabe, had a great time and really encouraged the kids. Over the course of the week they were in Nicaragua, we were able to take kids to the Catarina Overlook, which is a really neat spot that looks over a lagoon, to the beach, to a baseball game at the National Stadium, and to ride bikes at a park. Additionally, the Crowley’s played a ton of baseball, encouraged the kids spiritually and in their studies, and spoke truth into their lives. One of the best moments was when we took a group of the boys to Nueva Vida, the impoverished community created after Hurricane Mitch in 1998, to serve at a feeding center and to be encouraged by one of the pastor’s in the community, Pastor Berman. It was great to see the kids serve and to hear Berman tell the boys that they needed to work and be committed if they want to have a better life than their parents. He also encouraged them to seek the Lord in everything. The Crowley’s trip was really neat and a great trial run for future family trips.
In addition to the Crowley’s trip, Crossroads sent their normal, biannual team down to spend time at the orphanage. We had a team of twenty-two, including translators and the bus driver. This trip was also really neat, both for the people on the team and for the kids of Puente de Amistad. We did a ton of activities, including our normal trip to the water park, which always reminds me of what heaven would probably be like as I watch the kids enjoy every moment in the pool like it is the best moment of their lives. At church on Sunday, Pastor Josue had one Nicaraguan stand with one person from the United States to symbolize our oneness in Christ. It was a really neat time. Additionally, the team had the chance to participate in our weekly discipleship class in El Canyon by giving their testimonies. The team was also able to help the orphanage with their hands by resurfacing the cabinets in the kitchen. Some of the kids even had a chance to get into the fun! This was the first step in a project Crossroads will be funding to improve the kitchen and make it a better environment for the kids and staff. As always, the trip finished up with a dinner catered by the director of the orphanage and expert chef, Maria Jose, as well as an entertainment night put on by the team. The last night is always hard, but it is also a ton of fun and a chance to enjoy each other’s presence for the last time until God brings us all back together again. In addition to having a great time with the kids, it was also a fantastic trip from a team building perspective. The way the team was able to work together and function as one body was a really neat picture of what God meant community to look like. Even when one of our team members, Katie, was injured while keeping two kids from running in front of a car, our team rallied and helped Katie remain a part of the team despite two severely sprained ankles.
While the past two months were dominated with traveling and welcoming friends from the States, it didn’t keep God from moving His work forward. In El Canyon we continued with our weekly discipleship class. This has been a really neat chance to express to the teenagers and young adults of El Canyon the truths God has taught us and given us through His word. In an attempt to make everyone feel a part of the class, we have asked the young people to give us topics they would like us to discuss. From identity in Christ, to habits, to dating, to family problems, we have had some great discussions about what they believe and what God has to say about each topic. Victor has done a great job of teaching and Pastor Josue has been a fantastic partner in ministry. I believe God will continue to use this time and provide us with more opportunities to speak truth into the lives of the young people who live in El Canyon.
In addition to a class for the young people, I felt God telling me it was important for those who are involved in leading the various projects to get together to encourage each other in the Lord. We officially started meeting last week and will be going through North Point Community Church’s great study, Starting Point. Though we have only met one time, I really feel that God will use this to grow us and push His work forward in Nicaragua. This will be a great opportunity to disciple each other and speak truth into each other’s lives as we try to follow God’s will for our lives.
In my last update I mentioned that we had more than 700 papaya plants in the ground. I am now happy to say, by the grace of God, the papaya trees are growing quickly and will begin producing fruit for harvest in October. In fact, two of our agricultural experts, Josefina and Aldo, are saying it is a model farm and far more productive and healthy than they even expected. This is incredibly encouraging and a result of the hard work done by Alex, my partner in ministry with VNDF, and Junior, the day-to-day manager of the project, and his team. Additionally, many of the other people who work at Verbo’s Veracruz farm, including Heberto, Josh, Mark and Andrew, have helped make it a success. If all continues to go well, we should be planting the next round of papaya trees in two weeks and selling papayas to the supermarkets by October. This will allow us to continue moving forward with agriculture projects as well as incorporate vocational and business training into what we are doing at the farm. In addition to the papayas, we will be planting tomatoes in the greenhouse within a month, which will also help us to continue to move forward. Outside of agriculture, the Veracruz Bike Shop had one of its best shipments from a sales perspective. Peter, the person who is now managing the bike shop, is doing a great job. We have also begun to use basic financials to track income and expenses at the bike shop, which will eventually allow us to train young people in these skills. To address the spiritual needs of the young people who live at the farm, they have begun to go through a worldview study, which addresses issues we deal with on a daily basis and what God has to say about them. If the study is effective, we will more than likely us it to do discipleship in the various locations and projects in which we are or will be working.
Another exciting development at the Veracruz farm is the group of people who have been put together to really consider how the Lord might be leading us to make the farm and Casa Bernabe, the orphanage on the farm, a place of hope for the future of Nicaragua. We have begun to put together a vision for what should be true of a young person who comes from the Veracruz farm. It has been really neat to see God’s leading in this. Over the past two weeks, there have been some challenges at the farm so Bob and Artie, two of the leaders at Verbo Church, decided we should get together to pray. We had a really cool opportunity to go to Ruby’s, which is a house and ministry dedicated to prayer and seeking the Lord’s will. In addition to our normal group, we were joined by Mike Buzbee and two of his family members as we lifted up prayers and asked God to guide our paths. Truth was spoken into people’s lives as we lifted each other up and sought God’s wisdom. For me, it was a “highlight reel” moment that I will never forget. God used the men and women who were there to encourage me and propel me toward the Lord’s will for my life. I am thankful for that time and everyone who was there.
Examining the next few weeks, we are planning to launch an agricultural project in El Canyon. Through the searching of Alex, we were able to find a UNICEF plan that teaches basic agricultural and business skills, and is a perfect starting point for what we hope to accomplish in El Canyon. In addition to teaching these practical skills, we are going to incorporate discipleship into the training. We are excited for this opportunity and believe this could be a model for how we could do something similar in other communities around Nicaragua. Victor will be taking the lead on this as well as potentially teaching carpentry skills as another vocational/life skill training opportunity. Additionally, we hope to continue to pursue the bee keeping project as a possible training ground. Victor, Alex and I will also be talking to Maria Jose to determine how we can assist her in the development of the cooking classes she hopes to teach more extensively. We are all very excited to be a part of God’s work in El Canyon and look forward to all that He will do.
Well, I hope you enjoyed this update of all that is going on in Nicaragua. I hope you also enjoy the pictures! Check back next week to find out what God continues to teach me through me time in Nicaragua!