Tuesday, October 28


Yes, Nathaniel is actually trying to ride that little bicycle. I wonder how far he will get? He's a pretty determined little guy.

Our Spirtual Journey

It’s amazing how much one can learn, spiritually, when you are living outside of your comfort zone. Steve and I feel like we entered a spiritual wilderness a few months ago, not a wilderness without God, but a place where God is challenging our beliefs in what church and our Christian lives should be. While we know that living here has been instrumental in bringing us to this place, we have also been pro-active in pursuing God and asking the hard questions, What does God really require of us? What are we here for? Do we have value if we can’t be useful and do things? We feel like God has been bringing us to a place of greater understanding of our relationship with Him, that He loves us just because we are us, not because of what we bring to Him, or what we can do for Him, or how many gifts we have, or even how many people we witness to. When we reflect on our life back in the States, we marvel at how busy we were, and how even though we went to church, small group, and a variety of other activities, we didn’t feel the near presence and voice of God like we do here. And we are less involved in church! Was it because we were SO busy that we couldn’t hear His voice? When we remember our busy lives, mixed with a tinge of stress and tiredness from the constant flow, we ask ourselves, is this what life as a Christian is meant to be? A constant to-do list of activities, that do… what? Did all these things, while good, bring us to any deeper relationship with God? Or with our families, or friends? While we don’t think activities in and of themselves are bad, when they take away from what is most important, we wonder, who is controlling who? We are eerily reminded of Jesus’s words to Martha in her busyness, “Martha, Martha, why are you worried about so many things? Mary has chosen what is most important and it will not be taken from her.” We realize now how shallow our relationship with God really was, and even with most of our friends. God was somebody we had relegated to Sunday mornings, and small group meetings. Now, we are learning to see God in everything we do and think, and how our lives should reflect His constant presence. While at first we struggled with feeling valuable here since we weren’t doing so many things, it has given us time to think about God and our life as Christians. We have come to realize that all our busyness and activities were merely substitutes for having a deep relationship with God. We would fill ourselves up with feeling important, useful, loved and valuable by surrounding ourselves with friends and things, but at the end of the day, the feelings would all slip away. Jesus said, Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life. We had replaced the love of God with the love of everything else. But we wonder, Is it possible to have this kind of life in America? The whole culture seems swallowed up in a “I have a million things to do, and don’t have time to chat now, but I’ll schedule you in” or “You don’t really matter unless you are involved” ideology, where activities have replaced real relationships and value is obtained from the number of things you are involved in. The more things you do, the more important you are. But when we were busy running here and there, there wasn’t time to talk about the deeper things of life, our struggles, concerns and even loving correction. We don’t have the answers, but after stepping away from the American culture, it has become painfully obvious that although Christians are supposed to be different, how different are we really? Church was not a time of spiritual growth for us, but a chance to “hang out” and chat with friends. God was on the margin. This is simply our reflections of how much we have missed in our own Christian walk, how we had not been living in the “fullness” of it all, and are now just getting a taste of a deep relationship with Christ, and how we are struggling with being able to bridge our two worlds. We wonder if we could survive again in the States, if our relationship with God would slowly be replaced with to-do lists and activities. We are praying for wisdom and guidance as we continue this new path…only God knows the way!

The Ride to Work

What follows is a verbal snapshot of my ride on the motorcycle from the house in the south end of town to the office located in the north end of town. As I wait for Steve to start the bike, a man walks by, carrying a large blue bucket and bleating like a sheep. He is selling something, like the hundreds of people who walk the streets, selling sandwiches, bread, cookies, veggies, fruits, imitation watches, clay pots, and anything else you can think of, all calling out their wares in their own sing-song way. We aren’t sure what this old man is selling, his bleating doesn’t sound like Spanish or English. Steve is ready, so I hop on back, sunglasses but no helmet. It’s only a 5 minute ride, so I only use the helmet when we go out to the countryside. But the drivers have to wear helmets. A large truck full of glass Coke and Fanta bottles in crates rattles by. Steve is convinced the Coke has a better taste out of glass bottles. We wait for a string of taxis to pass by, then head out down the road. I see the mountains rise before us, today the clouds cover the top, and I wonder if the rain will come before lunch. Men lounge on the corner, watching the traffic and debating about the latest antics of the government or dictatorship, as some have come to call it. We pass large graffiti on the wall that shouts, No to the dictatorship! Yes to democracy! Political tensions are running high, with elections in 2 weeks. We stop at the traffic light, on the corner of the park called Dario, named after Nicaragua’s famous poet Ruben Dario. As always, women sit on the one side, painting their clay pigs, roosters and plant pots. They spend all day, under the trees, painting their creations. The colors are brilliant, and I think, Ooh! I need to get over there and snap a picture, and buy a piggy bank. The light turns green, and we zoom forward, past the park. Several men are getting their shoes shined in the park; there are always boys waiting for their next customer. For a measly $0.20, you can have your shoes shined until they are practically new. A crowd waits for the next bus. A taxi quickly pulls over in front of us as a woman waves her hand. I watch as she quickly tells the driver her destination and then hops in. The streets are busy, men are getting their tables set up and pirated movies arranged. Women put out seasonal fruits and veggies under umbrellas and wave their handkerchiefs to cool off. Groups of school girls and boys in uniforms saunter by, laughing and giggling as they make their way to school. All students wear uniforms, and you can sometimes tell which school by the color of the uniform. We zoom by our old apartment, and as I hear the public bus roar by, I thank God, once again, that we don’t live on this street. I see the old, blind lady in her usual spot, left hand out, shaking, begging for money. When the sun rises above the buildings, she will move to another location where there is shade once again. We stop at the end of the main street, at the stoplight in front of the other main park, Parque Morazon. The police headquarters is to our left, and I watch as two soldiers, dressed in black and with machine guns casually thrown over their shoulders, walk past us, and their eyes carefully watching everything. The presence of soldiers and throngs of police startled us at first, but now I hardly see them. The light turns green, and we zoom past the Walmart owned supermarket, called Pali. Several vendors set up stands outside, hawking their fresh wares at anybody who glances their way. We take a quick right and stop in front of the office. Time for work!

Life on the Wild Side

I grew up riding a Harley motorcycle, so naturally, while I realize that overall, motorcycles carry a bit more risk than cars, they aren’t something that I fear. Healthy respect and knowledge goes a long way. And this is what I want my boys to learn, to not be afraid of things they don’t understand or have no knowledge of, but to learn about them. So we encourage our boys to sit on the motorcycle and try out the buttons and of course, wear the helmets. We do occasionally take the boys out on the bike, but only around the city. Here, Nathaniel tries on the helmet, which I suspect is about 20% of his weight. He barely manages to sit up and walk without toppling head first, but he loves the challenge. He loves to sit and pretend he is riding.

Help us!!! We're drowning!

Wow, we have had over 2 weeks of rain, and can hardly remember what the sun looks like anymore. With all the rain we’ve had a tough time with flooding, and in a community in which we work, a mother and daughter died trying to cross a river, on a horse, no less. Many houses here in Matagalpa have been flooded by the river that encircles the city, and many towns were inaccessible for several days due to engorged streams and rivers. It can be a bit trickier to dry clothes without a dryer during such rainy times, but we are lucky enough to have some roof overhang, under which we hang the clothes. Many others string rope throughout their house, and you simply duck around the rows of wet clothes as you meander through the house.

Which Holiday are we On?

There are many things we enjoy about the culture here, one of which is the number of holidays and celebrations they have here. It seems to me that there is an enormous amount of parades and days of celebrations, which is great for us and especially the boys. We have actually seen more parades this past year here than in our entire lives in the States. Sunday, Sept 28th, is the Day of the Bible, which most of the evangelical church celebrate with a …. You guessed it, a parade! A famous preacher from Puerto Rico, whose name momentarily eludes me, came in and spoke at the stadium, which was at the end of the parade line and packed full.

The churches decorate vehicles, the children are dressed up as Bible characters and animals, and there are of course, lots of balloons. The whole idea is to celebrate the anniversary of when the Bible was translated into Spanish, which was the 439th year this year. The boys had a great time helping decorate the truck and motorcycle and being a part of the parade.

Friday, October 10

Our kingdom is not of this world…

Thank God that it is not! Unfortunately recent actions by the Nicaraguan government look eerily similar to those of the Somoza government, under which this country suffered for nearly 50 years. The sad irony is that the people (namely the president, Daniel Ortega) who fought so hard to remove the Somoza dictatorship are now trying to solidify their own form of totalitarian dictatorship. And through it all who are the people who suffer? The average citizens, of course.
Here a few of the events that have transpired recently, as we near the mayors elections in November:
1.The candidate for an opposition party was removed from the ballot by some technicality.
2.The government supported mayors’ candidates continually utilize government property for propaganda activities and post their posters on government buildings.
3.An opposition political party who had planned a peaceful march was met violently by government supporters and was not allowed to march. The government supporters proceeded to threaten the marchers and burn the vehicles of various opposition leaders.
4.A group of students who were peacefully protesting in front of the government propaganda television station were chased away violently by a group of government supporting thugs wielding belts and, supposedly, machetes and knives. The first person to strike a blow against the students was a Congressman who raced out of the building and struck a student in the face. The police, who are increasingly controlled by the President, were nowhere to be seen.
This is just a taste of the seemingly daily conflicts that we read about in the newspaper. However, in all of this we thank God that His kingdom is eternal and someday, be it soon or many years from, we will be free from all of this strife.