I want to thank you all for your patience. It has been a long time since I last updated. We send out a newsletter faithfully every month so if you are not on our prayer email list be sure to add yourself! I will add a place in this post so you can’t miss it!
When you move countries, jobs, change languages, customs, and pretty much everything about your life there is certainly a large adjustment period. Add in learning to homeschool, having a baby, and navigating the grief from losing a parent, this first 18 months have been wild ride. By the grace of God, all six of us have adjusted well for the most part. Central America very much feels like home. We very much feel we are exactly where God wants us and things are starting to feel familiar.
I am going to give a general update on family, ministry and then also our plans for the future so grab a coffee, it may be a long read.
Our kids are 10,9,5 and 1! Our hands are full and our hearts are fuller. We feel complete as a family and ready to take on any kingdom assignment the Lord throws our way.
Having a baby here was a whole kind of experience but I had great care and it is so hard to believe it’s already been a year! Izaiah is a walking, talking force to be reckoned with! He keeps us busy and smiling and his 3 sisters love to dote on him.
Greg and I celebrated 13 years of marriage this year and I must say life just does get sweeter every year with the one you love. It has been a joy for me as his wife to see him step into the role he was so clearly designed for. We have spent more time together in the last 18 months than we ever have in our entire marriage and although there have been some hiccups in navigating that it’s been such a great joy to spend so much time together as a family.
Spanish is coming along well. Greg can handle any conversation and often has to be my translator. I do really well with reading it and when someone speaks slowly enough but still working on putting sentences together to form a clear thought that I want to express. I am thankful that I can sit and listen and understand for the most part.
The girls are doing great with their Spanish and are finally feeling confident enough in their language skills to attend the local public school in Spanish. They will start this next school year in February. We will still continue to homeschool in English and they will attend 4.5 hours in the afternoons in Spanish. Homeschool has been a challenge and a joy all wrapped together. We have been praying about what the best option for their schooling would be going forward and for this next year we believe a hybrid will be best as we really want them to become fully fluent. It will make playing with friends so much easier! The public education system here is not quite what we are used to but for the sole purpose of Spanish and making friends we think it’s going to be a great addition to their educational experience.
We continue to develop the property to serve our ministry programs. We finished the community centre in February and are about 3/4 of the way through phase two which is the kitchen and bathrooms. This will be a welcome addition because food is such a big part of the culture here. I have mastered one local dish but for the most part, they are very proud of their tried and true recipes and don’t like to deviate in options! I am learning a lot about how certain meals must be eaten with a spoon over a fork and that a “bastamento” (tortilla or white bread) has to be served. I’ve tried serving whole grain bread and that did not go over well.
The kitchen will be a mix of North American style so when we have teams come they have what they are used to but also Central American style with a “fugon” which is basically a wood-burning stove top. I love to cook but I am learning that this is an area I need to allow the local women to take control of and want to set up the kitchen as they would be accustomed. We hope to start bringing in some women and teens from our various programs to help cook and serve the food for their communities. The reason for this is to learn skills, receive some income to support their family, learn to live and give to the community and allow them to take charge of creating change in their communities.
The need is great here but we are really settling into 4 main focuses and we want to share that vision with you.
Every Monday we prepare a lunch (that one local dish I have nailed down) and head out to our local garbage dump. This ministry started when Greg was dropping off our garbage as we don’t get pick up in our rural location. A handful of kids came running barefoot through broken glass screaming and fighting to get to our trash. They go through the garbage and look for plastic and glass that they can earn an income by selling to the recyclers. Greg was deeply moved by this and very much felt the Lord telling him to get involved in this community. So for about 6 months now, that’s where we spend our Monday afternoons. We bring a meal, coloring sheets, and various educational worksheets focusing on English, Sanitation, Health, Character Building, and of course the word of God. We also bring a library book exchange which the kids absolutely love. Most of the kids do not attend school regularly if at all and with that there are a lot of attention issues but God is giving the grace to make it work, meet them where they are at, and just hopefully bring a little light into their world. Things may seem basic but even just washing hands and praying together before a meal we have seen great strides. We have had formal interviews with each of the families and are working to develop a Child Sponsorship Program. We so strongly believe in the love of Christ and someone coming alongside them to help break generational chains. The barriers to education and health are often simple fixes with a commitment of financial support towards these things. These are all precious children of God and we so greatly desire to see them reach their full potential.
Victims of prostitutions and human trafficking
When poverty and abuse run rampant in a culture the world of sex trafficking is especially dark. We have partnered with an existing ministry that rescues women and children from prostitution and trafficking. The existing ministry is very much relief and rescue support and the first steps of development to bring a woman or child out of their situation. We desire to come alongside and continue that development to see them set up with a sustainable and secure future. Our focus is on education, emotional support and sharing the love of God. Our program looks similar to the dump ministry program where we go to the residential facilities in the city. We also host events here at our property for special celebrations and hope to do that much more often once our kitchen and bathrooms are built. There is a wonderful support staff in place and we are just coming alongside them in their efforts, as we still have so much to learn about working with women and children so deeply affected. A faithful commitment and showing consistent love to them goes a long way.
This is really Greg’s domain. It started with a one night a week sports outreach where we have teens and young adults come out to play soccer. It has turned into 2-3 nights a week and monthly tournaments where we bring several teams church and unchurched together. We try to engage local Pastors and community leaders to share a time of devotional and prayer. Sometimes that does not always work out as we don’t have a consistent partner with this yet but the relationship building goes along way.
Protege Discipleship Program
Last weekend we had our second huge event with almost 400 people in attendance! Protege is a 7 workbook discipleship program that takes about 2 years to complete. The vision of Protege is to develop leaders and strong youth groups within the local church so that the Pastors and their leadership team can extend the reach into their own individual communities. We currently have 23 churches with a total of over 500 students across the country. Our good friends Chad and Rachel Strong are the leaders of this and we help in any way we can. I handle most of the admin work and Greg does a lot of Pastor visits with Chad. The churches have a graduation with certificates after each book and its been amazing to see the impact this program is having! Part of our big event is being tested on memory verses and we had one girl rhyme off 37 verses, with multiple students being right up there. It brought us to tears to see how the word of God is being written on their hearts.
We partner with another ministry here called Word of Life which is a large worldwide ministry. They minister to youth so very well and the teens absolutely loved this year’s event and the activities put on my the Word of Life Nicaragua Team.
We attended a local Spanish-speaking church for our first 4 months here but ultimately decided on becoming members of an International English speaking Fellowship. Our kids really needed somewhere to plug in, especially considering we are homeschooling. Our church is a community of believers here for a variety of reasons from missionaries to international school teachers to Christian expats and we really love being a part of this community. We have met so many amazing people doing amazing things for the glory of God and have also had a lot of help along the way through quick friendships made. I am able to regularly attend a women’s Bible study and be a part of retreats and other fun fellowship things, which I truly thought I was saying goodbye to once we left Canada.
Greg and I have taken on the Director of Children’s Ministry position and I have also been asked to be a part of the service host team, which Lilia and Marissa get to help out with as well doing the offering and reading verses. It’s a blessing to be a part of the council in this church.
We remain commited to our focus on vulnerable children and families, with eyes to see how else our ministry can impact and increase the efforts of others already doing great work here to ensure a holistic approach in our host country. As our programs continue to develop we ask for your prayer and support in our efforts here. The needs are great all around us. We feel so honored to be called to this mission field. We are so grateful for each and every person taking the time to read this update.
There are a couple of huge projects the Lord has laid on our hearts in the area of education and skill training. We are very much in the wait, see and pray stage. For now, we are looking forward to the kitchen being done and being better able to utilize our community center now that we will have kitchen and bathroom access!
We have family scheduled to visit in November and December and we look forward to hosting our first mid-term team. A family coming to help our ministry for 3 months in January. More to come on that soon!
I will try to stay better connected here but don’t forget to join our prayer newsletter to stay updated with all that is happening down here in Nica. Even better we’d love for you to come down and see it with your own eyes! Click the link below for more information, and ask us about scheduling your short mission trip here!