Dear Family and Friends,
There is a Nicaraguan saying that goes, “Little by little, but always moving forward.” This phrase describes our lives right now. We continue to slowly adjust one day at a time, but we do keep moving forward. We will share in this update 1) Something related to what each one of us is doing; 2) A reflection on ways we have seen God at work; and 3) We will end with some critical prayer requests for Nicaragua as there is political unrest and rioting going on right now in Managua and Leon. The school and our home are located on the outskirts of town so we are not in the middle of the rioting. The concern is that the unrest will continue for awhile. Please see prayer requests below.
This update is a long one. The feedback that I have gotten from people is that they are enjoying our updates and it has been clear to us that the length has not been a deterrent for many people. However, we know that everyone is different, so please read as much or as little as you feel led to.
Dan: I (Dan) went with the High School juniors and seniors on their first of three field trips for this year. We all rode a bus into Managua, broke into three groups and each group went to a different preschool in the area. We spent the morning helping the kids with their ABCs, coloring and playing games. The verse for the trip was Romans 15:2 from The Message - Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us asking ourselves, "How can I help?". One of the lessons of the trip was that helpful actions don't have to be something big or noticeable, sometimes the smallest acts of compassion are the most beautiful. After we returned to Nicaragua Christian Academy we broke into small groups to have the students discuss their experience. I enjoyed listening to the students talk about how they could see how small acts of compassion can make a difference and how God can work through them. Visit our blog to see some pictures and a short video from the field trip.
Lisa: This week I tagged along with missionaries to grocery stores, to a women’s Bible Study, and to a well run Nicaraguan ministry for unwed mothers (girls ages 9 – 18 who are victims of rape). I also was a substitute “English as a Second Language teacher” for a day at Nicaragua Christian Academy. In addition, I had the opportunity to teach a 9th grade Bible class which was an incredible experience. We read through a portion of C.S. Lewis’s “The Screwtape Letters” (I think I read this in college) and discussed as we read. I veered a little from the lesson plan and asked this class of Nicaraguan students, “Does Satan and his demons know what we are thinking like God does?” Their answers surprised and delighted me. They said, “No, he does not know what we are thinking. But, humans are predictable and he studies our behavior and knows our weaknesses.” I do not think I understood this truth until I was well into my 20’s and it is such an important one. I also saw a very genuine faith in the students – I didn’t get “Sunday School answers”, but instead got well thought out responses that they were able to apply to daily living. The more time Dan and I spend at the school, the more impressed we are with how the building of Christ-like character in the students is the highest value.
Rebekah: Rebekah and her new neighborhood friends Carly and Abby have been digging up weeds, giving them their own names, and then planting them in a “garden” next to her friend’s house. They have also been making palm leaf dresses and hats. Rebekah has also been developing a little group of friends at school. Andrea is a name I hear often as well as Gastapo, Emma, and Luisa. The Nicaraguan kids speak to each other in Spanish and then interpret for Rebekah and Will. The kids seem to be adjusting well. Dan posted several pictures of the kids on our blog. (address above)
Will: Will has been having fun in what he calls “the junk yard” down the street. There is an area at the end of our street with old building materials and piles of pruned branches. The kids and their friends have been making forts out of these things. Will is noticing the poverty of this country and asking questions like, “Mom, why do we have so much and they hardly have anything?” He also said the other day, “I want to make a machine that will make it so no one lives in poverty.” I’m so thankful for his questions and burden for the people that he sees around him. I’m so thankful for the opportunity our kids have to see how privileged they are. I pray that we all will better understand God’s heart for the poor.
Reflection: The following stories are personal to me (Lisa), as I’ve noticed ways that God reveals Himself as “the God who sees me” (Gen. 16:13).
I had wished at the last minute that I had packed my blender because Rebekah loves to cook and one thing she likes to make is smoothies. However, I really tried to pack “the necessities” and felt that this was more of a want than need. When we arrived in Managua, the director told us on our way to our house that the place we bought our beds from gave us a gift. No, not pillows or sheets, but you guessed it – a blender!
We went grocery shopping our first day here to buy household supplies like cleaning materials, a mop, broom, and some food. I stopped in front of the popcorn and picked some out, but then put it back thinking again that this was not a need, but a want. The next day we went to someone’s house for dinner and she said that she had bought another item that came with two free bags of popcorn and wondered if we wanted the popcorn!
He does care, not only about our needs but also our wants.
Sunday morning I woke up very tearful. There are certainly things about life in Nicaragua that are difficult to adjust to and with the holidays coming, I do catch myself feeling home sick at times. Dan tried to talk with me, but I said that I thought I just needed some time with Jesus. I moved a little table and chair outside and got out my Bible and Beth Moore study. I really just never know how this happens, but when I go to Him in the midst of pain and tears, He really does “turn mourning into gladness and sorrow into comfort and joy”. (Jer. 31:13) I spent the rest of the day in awe of Him and His power and His intimate care and love for us.
I passionately believe that God is speaking to us all of the time. I find that the problem for me is that I am at times in far too much of a hurry to listen. Or I just don’t believe that He cares about things like a blender or popcorn. John Ortberg asks a provocative question: “Why is it that when we speak to God we are said to be praying, but when God speaks to us we are said to be schizophrenic? Why should God’s end of the line be equipped with a receiver but no mouthpiece?” I pray that this week you too would experience God as “the God who sees you”.
1) Dan and I were talking tonight about how God has placed us among many missionary couples who are much younger than us chronologically, but beyond us in maturity spiritually. The director of NCA is someone Dan highly respects as a mentor and looks forward to learning from and being challenged by him.
2) Rebekah and Will’s adjustment to life here. I see so many ways that God has prepared them to live here. One way was through our conservative use of TV. Our goal in redirecting away from TV was to encourage them to either use their time building relationships with each other or with family/friends or to use their imagination and creativity. I think this has made their adjustment to life without TV here easier for them as the pattern of life at home is similar to how it always has been.
1) Please pray for the country of Nicaragua. The election results for Mayor of Managua are being disputed and there are riots going on right now. It is predicted that these riots will continue and there is concern about how this will develop. Several of our school families are concerned about getting to school because they will need to drive through areas that are unsafe. We are praying for peace and protection for the people of Nicaragua.
2) For our continued adjustment to life here. I think one of the more difficult adjustments for us right now is that we do not have a vehicle. It is very difficult to find a good vehicle that does not cost a fortune. Because of the road conditions and safety issues, many people buy used SUVs and trucks that cost close to $20,000.00 (used vehicles actually keep or go up in value here). We have looked at a few used vehicles under $10,000 but they are either very high mileage or have had a lot of problems. Other missionaries have told us that it may take weeks, maybe months before we find a decent vehicle. Our prayer is that God would show us how to move forward in this process. We are looking for the next step.
Thank you again for walking with us. You are a part of the way that God comforts us and brings us joy. We are thankful for you.
Our address is: Nicaragua Christian Academy; Apartado 842; Managua, Nicaragua, Central America (Some people have asked about sending care packages. We do not need to pay a fee for receiving packages if they are sent to the school. The one thing that I have thought would be very helpful to our kids and the children of the school is children’s books. Books are very precious here, especially English books. In the States, Rebekah was reading the Animal Ark books, A to Z mysteries, the Box Car Children, Pony Pals, and The Magic Tree House. Will enjoys The Magic School Bus, Amelia Bedelia, Henry and Mudge, or non-fiction books that are at at 2nd grade reading level – he loves science. I’m sure they would love anything they receive. We will donate any books we receive to the school when the kids are finished reading them. Thank you!)
Peace to you,
Dan, Lisa, Rebekah, and Will Van Zoest