Monday, June 28

Spiritual Warfare- Real or just a good imagination?

Whoa! What a scary topic. Definitely something for the charismatic church. You don't hear about it too much in the conservative churches. Some Christians don't even believe much in demons, spiritual warfare, all that hocus-pocus stuff. Seems too New-Agish.

Why is it that this topic is hardly discussed in the average church today? Do we fear the obsession that may come? Do we fear our own ignorance? There are so few people that openly discuss this topic, even fewer that greatly understand it.

But when you start having visions, dreams, or open visions, when demons start attacking you in your sleep, during the day when you're eyes are wide open,WELL...things start to look a little differently. It's hard to kid yourself that this stuff isn't real. I've been feeling like it's time to come out of the hole. To not ignore this gift that God has given me. What is the use of a talent if it is only put in the ground and buried?

I've had two very interesting nights, last night and the one before. It's been a while. A while since I've had a spiritual dream, or vision, or whatever you want to call them. A while since I've seen either an angel or demon. God always seems to know how much I can handle, and to be honest, I've had my plate full. He always knows when I need a rest from all the spiritual battles, and He covers me. Protects me. But I'll talk about all that in another blog. Honestly, I didn't grow up charismatic. I grew up in a church that NEVER talked about this stuff. And no one ever talked about it with me. Most of what I know is from...experience. Since childhood. But like I said, that's for another blog.

But I felt like it was time to head back into the battle. I felt ready to fight again, and was talking to God about that last week. So I guess you could say that I asked for it :)

Saturday night's dream felt so real, I don't think it was a dream. I've started to realize this past year that what I thought were dreams, were in fact, open visions. They were real...but that's for another blog and time.

I felt restless. It has been a tiring month. We've had 26 straight days of sickness, of vomiting, colds, fevers, diarrhea, you name it. There was an entire week in which we were ALL sick. All 5 of us. In the middle of all that, we moved. Physically speaking, it's been a long month.

But this was different. I could feel in my spirit that something was happening in the spirit realm. I finally drifted to sleep, after praying for a few hours. Suddenly, I was in the hallway of the house.

And I saw Satan walking in front of me. He was peering into the rooms, and when he came into our room, I saw him whispering. Whispering words of defeat, of wrath, of bitterness, of resentment and pride. Thoughts that had flitted into my brain only hours before. Slowly he moved on to my sons' room and did the same thing.

I saw him with such clarity and I suddenly realized that I wasn't afraid. This may not mean much to you, but to ME, this was amazing. I've had quite a few dreams throughout the years, with demons and with Satan in them, and I've always struggled against fear. They always appeared so menacing, so dark and full of power, evil power. There were times I would wake up shaking from the fear.

But it seemed that I saw him as he was. I couldn't believe that I had been afraid of him for so many years. But I also realized that this is somebody who tries to poison our minds against our spouses, our families and our friends. Even against our enemies. And instead of realizing who the true enemy is, we point our fingers and carelessly toss injurious words at each other, spewing forth venom, HIS venom, not realizing the whole time that behind the stage there is the real enemy.

Has it ever occurred to you that the thoughts going through your head may not be from you? Are you aware that Satan can talk to you, but so subtly that you think it is YOUR thoughts? Are your thoughts full of guilt, shame, bitterness, condemnation, hatred? This is exactly what Satan wants you to think about. Do you think this is God talking to you? NEVER. The Holy Spirit convicts, but Paul states clearly, There is therefore now no condemnation in Christ Jesus.

He doesn't want you to reconcile with your spouse, or love your children, or extend peace to a neighbor. He wants you out of the way, down for the count. And one of his best attacks is through the mind.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that every single bad thought we have is from Satan. We certainly don't help ourselves. But I think we take too much of the credit sometimes.

Last night's dream was so real, I can still feel my heart racing when I think of it. I had just fallen asleep, restless again. I went to bed praying. Suddenly, I felt a large body land on our bed. The bed shook from the weight. I shot up out of bed, certain we were being robbed. After a minute, my heart still pounding, I heard nothing. I then thought that it was perhaps one of the kids who had come over, perhaps all 3 of them, from the way the bed had shaken. I waited to hear a little boy voice ask to come sleep with us, but still, nothing. The silence was deafening. I knew somebody, or something, was in that room. The shaking of the bed had woken me from a dead sleep. I could tell there was a demon in that room, trying to bring a spirit of fear onto me.

And how did Jesus spar with Satan? Quoting Scripture. I still think that is one of the best ways to fight Satan and his demons. I spoke Timothy aloud,

For he has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, of love and of self-control.

And after a couple hours of quoting Scripture and praying, I fell into a deep, peaceful sleep.

The truth is, we are at war. Whether you want to believe it or not, there is an enemy prowling around, learning your weaknesses and doing his best to take you out. Whether it's through ignorance, apathy, loneliness or the use of other people, he will try his best.

So I'm keeping my Bible close, and talking to God...a LOT. And if you're interested in getting off the sidelines and joining the battle, I suggest you do the same.

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in heavenly places.

Friday, June 25

El Tuma Coffee Farm

The green beans are coffee. Look like green cranberries, don't they? They will be ready to harvest between October and December, when they turn red.

Today we had the pleasure of visiting a coffee farm in El Tuma, a small sleepy town about 1 hour north of us.

The farm was beautiful, with acres and acres of coffee on a gently sloping mountainside.

We were close to the farm when we came upon bridge construction. Now, bridge construction is different here in Nicaragua, in the way that when they are working on the bridge, the only way to get across is either to swim across or drive across and hope your vehicle is high enough to make it without stalling. Most rivers are dry enough during the dry season for it to not be an issue, but this is the rainy season. and it has been a VERY rainy season in this neck of the woods.

BUT...we really wanted to see the farm. So, after reviewing our options and talking to a guy that directed us, we first drove halfway across the river and then pointed our way upstream for a bit before getting back onto dry land. The women washing their clothes and the naked boys playing in the river stared at us as though they had never seen white people before.

The coffee was fairly dense at times and it felt like we were explorers lost in a jungle.

A view of the valley below the farm.

Thursday, June 24

Steve's male

Here is one of Steve's latest acquisitions...he was quite proud of this strong, male goat he found. Actually, he's not ours. The goat, I mean. The buck is part of the project.

Some other good news is that after traversing Nicaragua's northern mountains for 8 hours he was able to locate the last 12 goats that he needs to complete that phase of the project. And the goats look quite nice, so he was happy about that. The goats will be delivered after we get back from Honduras in about a week and a half.

The only major part left is to complete the construction of the tanks and finish delivering worms.

Tuesday, June 22

5 weeks from today...

Time is going by so fast. I blink and another day has come and gone. There seems to be no way to slow the rapid flow of time, the growing nearness of our departure date.

Steve has been working like a crazy man to get his project done before we leave. This last month he has spent most of his time on designing and constructing a larger ferrocement tank. This tank holds 1500 gallons and will be shared by several families. Quite an impressive structure, eh?

The first day Steve spent on the tank they were not able to get a decent cover and were soaked to the bone. But they quickly learned how to construct a tarp over the 7.5 foot tall structure. You can see here the wire mesh that helps to reinforce the concrete. Hence, ferrocement.

What’s more impressive is that Steve completely designed the mold of this tank, using nothing but his brain. And surprisingly, he discovered, once again, how much he enjoys design.

Before we came to Nicaragua, he worked as a design engineer and thoroughly enjoyed his work. Once again, he had the chance to design something from nothing. The work has been a bit hampered by the rainy season, which started early and is a bit ferocious this year. In one sense, all the rain is good. We had a severe shortage of rain last year due to El Niño, so hopefully all this excess will help us catch up. However, it is difficult to build a cement tank when it pours all day. The one good thing is that the cement will cure slower, ensuring more strength for the tank.

On another note, Steve has delivered all the materials needed to finish up the tanks and the latrines. It feels good to be done with that part of the project, to never again be figuring out the material lists and going to the hardware store to order the materials. Most of the animals have been delivered, except for the goats. Steve will be going up to a town called Somoto today to look at some goats. Hopefully he will be able to find the remaining 12 that he needs. A few people also need worms and rabbits, but the majority have already been delivered.

All the chickens have been delivered except to one person. So we are finally seeing an end to this 3 yr project. There were some failures (most of the rabbits died), but there have also been some successes. The worms have done really well, and the people are impressed with the results they are seeing from applying the “worm dirt” to their gardens. And the people are enjoying the goat’s milk. Already we are hearing stories of malnourished children who are getting stronger from receiving a daily supply of milk, where before they never drank milk or any sort of dairy product.

Pray that we would be able to get all the things done that need to be finished and also know how to balance our priorities.

In the next 5 weeks, we need to:
Decide if we are staying or going back to the States.
Pack up our house.
Decide on where Steve is going to work, school options for Zach, and where exactly we are going to live.
Finish up a pile of paperwork for MCC and complete several doctors’ appointments.

Monday, June 21

Which voice is yours, God?

We had a wonderful morning, this past Saturday. We visited the farm of a friend (about 45 minutes north of here) and what an experience! Climbing up (sometimes literally using my hands) and down the sides of mountains, admiring all the coffee, cacao, orange, water pear, plantain, lemon and mamey plants (I don't know what a mamey is, so don't ask). By the way, have you ever heard of a pera de agua (literally, water pear?)
see photo below. Next to the red water pear is a cacao pod. Do they exist in the States? Leave a comment if you know what the correct English name is or if you've seen them in the States.

Walking around a farm up here in the mountains also means mud...and lots of it! Check out my pants and sneakers. Of course I had to wear my white sneakers, just to show off the color difference.

And here is what we brought back (in addition to the mud).

Interestingly enough, he is selling the farm. His kids are older and don't have much interest in managing it. He has a few other farms that keep him busy enough and wants to basically get rid of this farm, for a small fee, of course.

A few months ago, our future was finishing up with MCC in July and heading back to the States. Then out of the blue, our Nicaraguan boss with CIEETS mentioned that there was the possibility of another project starting in September (for 3 yrs) and would we be interested in heading it up? Wow.

That really changes things. So we held our breath and waited, and waited, and waited some more, to see if it would come through. As of now, with only 5 weeks left until we leave, it still has not been approved. But the idea opened up a pandora's box, if you will, in our minds. So what if it doesn't come through? Could we stil stay? On our own? Dare we?

That's a big step. A HUGE step. In many ways and in many dimensions. There are a lot of questions that need to be answered, but the biggest one of all is, Is this your will for us God?

For ourselves, we would love to stay. We love the country, the mountains here, the people. Oh, it's not all fun and easy times. I hate all the flies in my kitchen, eating with one hand ready to attach any bugs, the irrational water and electricity rationing, having to wear damp clothes when it rains for days on end, and the loud music blasting from both churches and passing cars. But overall, we love it. We would love to stay. Love to start a demonstration farm, with possibilities of connecting people or having interns in the future. But is that what God wants? It's hard to discern His voice, at times. We hear our own desires, we hear what our families want, we hear about what our friends are doing. It seems crazy, in a way to stay, and yet...

I'll admit, we've been dreaming. And reading. We've been struck, again and again, by the account of Abraham, in Hebrews. It states that Abraham, not knowing where he was going, obeyed God and left his own country. Imagine, leaving your home and not knowing where you are going! He didn't have all the details worked out. He didn't have connections in his new home. I also doubt he thought it would all be so easy. It's so inspiring...and intimidating, that amount of faith.

Because if we stayed, with no project, we don't have all the details worked out, especially the big one: {finances}. How are we going to support ourselves? We have lots of ideas. We want to be self-supporting, But that is just it. If God wants us to stay, do we necessarily need to have all the details worked out? Or do we trust God, like Abraham did, and set off down the path, trusting God to open doors along the way?

Please be in prayer for, and with us, as we seek God's face.

Pray that we could hear His voice clearly, above our own, above our families and above Satan's. And that no matter what He asks of us, or where He leads us, that we could live totally for Him, and be dependent on Him, not trusting in our own abilities.

Pray that we could live without fear and with complete trust and faith, like Abraham.

Sunday, June 20

To you, the love of my life

"What Makes a Dad"

God took the strength of a mountain,
The majesty of a tree,
The warmth of a summer sun,
The calm of a quiet sea,
The generous soul of nature,
The comforting arm of night,
The wisdom of the ages,
The power of the eagle's flight,
The joy of a morning in spring,
The faith of a mustard seed,
The patience of eternity,
The depth of a family need,
Then God combined these qualities,
When there was nothing more to add,
He knew His masterpiece was complete,
And so,
He called it ... Dad.

Thank you, Steve, for coming into my life and making it brighter, and for being the best father our kids could ever have. I love you.

Tuesday, June 15

New Home

We were just SO bored. So bored with working on finishing up the project, bored with getting ready to pack up and move back to the States in 6 weeks, and bored with our 3 little boys that we decided to spice up our life by moving.

That's right!

This past weekend we moved! I know, you're probably shaking your head and thinking, What, are they crazy?! Better not answer that.

But in all seriousness, our landlady was becoming quite unreasonable. So unreasonable, in face, that we felt like it would be LESS stressful to move to another house here in the city, than stay and live next to her for the next 6 weeks.

BUT...there are definitely some big advantages to our new house. One, we have lots more space. All 3 boys now share a room, which means we now have our bedroom to ourselves. There is a gigantic back yard, with grass, a basketball court and even a playground, with swings and slide. The boys are absolutely LOVING living here. The house even came with a dog (that's a whole other story), which has been great for the boys. Except that Nathaniel keeps trying to feed the dog any food he doesn't want.

-praise to God for giving us the contacts to move into this blessing of a house and the rapidity with which it happened
-praise to God for our friends who helped us move it all within 24 hours
-praise to God for a smooth transition and lots more room for the boys

Friday, June 11

Ometepe Island and MCC Spiritual Retreat

The ferry.

Heading to the hotel after getting off the ferry.

The sign outside of our cabin.

Last week we had the pleasure (and challenge!) of leading the teaching part of our 3 day MCC team spiritual retreat. The location was exotic...3 days on the beach on Ometepe Island, a beautiful volcanic island.

We spent the first afternoon enjoying a nearby ojo de agua (watering hole). The next day we taught on the spiritual gifts, had some good discussion regarding their uses, relevence and so forth. We all then took a spiritual gifts test to give us an idea of what they might be. Some people were surprised, while others not so much.

The afternoon we briefly talked on hearing the voice of God, then spent the next few hours in silent reflection.

The following morning we watched Fireproof and talked about what spiritual gifts were exhibited in the movie. After lunch we headed back home to Matagalpa. We had hoped to spend the night in Granada to take a night away, but when we got back to the mainland, we found out that Zachariah was quite sick and was wanting us home. We decided to head straight back to Matagalpa, and arrived home 8 hours after leaving our hotel on the island.

Overall, we enjoyed our time on Ometepe and the group discussions, but our glad to be back home on familiar ground.

Visit with family

Our driver!

This past week we were blessed to have a visit from Steve's second cousin, Karen.

She flew in on Sunday night and we drove to nearby Masaya and spent the night in a little hotel. In the morning we drove to see the Laguna de Masaya, visited and shopped around at the new market,

drove to the overlook at Catarina (below, the laguna de Apoyo behind us)

then drove to the Masaya Volcano and toured a bat cave, then headed home to Matagalpa in the afternoon. We all had supper at Roberto and Candida's house after making introductions and enjoyed a nice round of conversation. With sleepy eyes we bid good night to them all, as Karen was staying with them.

Below, the bat sights of Batman around anywhere, though :)

In the morning Karen accompanied Steve, Roberto, and Abby for a tour of some work sights in the campo and especially enjoyed a surprise despedida (farewell party) for Steve, me and Abby. I was not able to be there, unfortunately, since Zach had woken up with a fever and I wanted to bring him to the clinic. Steve brought home some wonderful presents from the campesinos for our almost 3 yrs of work there. They included a hollowed out bowl made from wood, a necklace, and a hollowed out bamboo cane with a note of appreciation inside.

Wednesday morning Karen and I toured the city, visiting various fabric shops and trying to invent new projects with which she could use the fabric. After a delicious lunch of sopa de cuajada, we rested a bit, then everybody (except myself, I stayed home due to a flu-type sickness) joined up for a festive dinner at Roberto's house.

Thursday morning we woke up early and headed to the airport to drop Karen off. A wonderful visit!