Dear Family and Friends,
It is good to “talk” with you again tonight. We will share a bit again with you about what God is doing and how we are joining Him in what He is doing here in Nicaragua. In this update, I will share about what the kids and I are up to lately. Dan will share at a later time about what God is doing within his sphere of influence. It has been a pretty exciting month for both of us as we watch God reveal His plan for our involvement with Him here in Nicaragua.
The other morning Will woke up and said, “Mom, I really like school.” It was a moment of victory for both him and for me. He has never fought us about going, but we have known that his journey has not been easy. He has worked hard and is now coming home with perfect scores on his spelling tests which was his most challenging subject at the beginning of the year. He also seems to have developed some “social wisdom” in the midst of several boys in his class who declare “who is on the team and who is not” on any given day. One day one of Will’s classmates was “not on the team” that particular day and he told Will about it. Will said, “Don’t worry, you will be on their team tomorrow.” Another day one of his friends said that he would not be friends with Will anymore because Will chose to play with a group of girls that day. Will asked him, "So, I can’t play with the girls and still be your friend? Does that mean I can only play with you in order to be your friend?" Will said that after his friend thought that over, he decided Will could be his friend again. After telling me that story, Will said, "I think I just have a way with people." I think he does too - a gift of wisdom that is often beyond his years. Back at home he enjoys playing in the dirt with the neighbor kids, pretending to “walk” his pet iguana or at least chases the girls with it (we had an iguana in the neighborhood which was caught and turned into soup, but Will got to keep the tail), and has recently become a voracious reader. (Thank you again to all those who have sent books. The availability of these books have initiated this passion in both of the kids as they have so many great books to read. A missionary friend said to me the other day as I was telling her about our library, “What a wonderful gift. English books are so precious here.”)
Rebekah’s transition has been easier I think because she had some experience with “school” before attending NCA. She also has a very sweet class. She said to me the other day, “It has been so nice that I have always had such small classes because I get a chance to have a relationship with the teacher.” That’s my girl – it is all about relationship. She is our competitive one – goal and achievement oriented which makes school very easy for her. She is apparently holding her own on the soccer field as one of the Nicaraguan boys in Will’s class stopped me at school one day and said with great expression, “Rebekah is a very good soccer player.” Rebekah likes sports and likes to lead – Dan keeps a basketball in his office and Rebekah and her friend Andrea can be found on the basketball court teaching 1st graders how to play. At home, I will find her in her room teaching her stuffed animals – they will sometimes have books in front of them and at other times they will be working in pairs on a craft. She goes to school during the day and then teaches night classes to a “people” group called “Webkins”. Recently, Rebekah's friend Emma returned from a 3 month furlough in the States and so now she and Emma (who students refer to as “the twins” because they both have very light blond hair) and their friend Andrea are three little peas in a pod.
It has been an exciting month for me as I’ve watched God unfold His plan for the next step He desires for me to take here in Nicaragua. While we were raising support, we would let people know that this first year I planned to focus on settling in to our home and supporting Dan and the kids as we all adjusted to our new life. We have seen God confirm these steps as we set up routines with our family and better understand how much time it takes to get things accomplished. One of my favorite times of the day is going to school with Dan and the kids in the morning and leading our kids in Bible Study while Dan attends a devotion time with the teachers. That 20 minutes in the morning with them in the Bible as well as our prayer time as a family when Dan later joins us has been such a gift. When they return home from school, our routine is to have something sweet to eat, sit on our front porch, talk about their day, and I read a chapter or two in a book to them. Then, after they have unwound for a little while, we plunge into homework after which they play outside with neighbors. I am so thankful for the time I have had to set up routines for our family before committing to do other things. Just around the time these routines were established, God began to reveal the next step for me here in Nicaragua.
A few weeks after I got here, I began receiving requests to help out with different ministries. Most of these opportunities were related to my experience in mental health and all of them were opportunities I took seriously and prayed through but had no peace about accepting. I was also asked to consider an assistant position on our church council and this too was something I prayed through, but again I felt no peace and declined. A few months ago, however, I began to feel a burden for the teachers of NCA. The question that rolled around in my mind was, “Our teachers are pouring into the lives of our students, but who is pouring into their lives?” So, this became something I began to pray about just asking that God would clarify what this would look like. Well, a couple weeks ago the director of NCA said that he too had been feeling a burden for the NCA teachers in the area of spiritual growth and said that each time he would pray about this, my name would come to mind. He asked me if I would consider addressing this need with the teachers. Well, to make a long story short, God led me to a group of nine American and Nicaraguan teachers who had been meeting to study the Bible. What I eventually discovered was that they had been trying to find someone to lead them throughout this past year!
My dilemma, however, in considering leadership of this group was that this Bible Study group met after school and our kids were already in after school care on Tues. while Dan and I both attend a Spanish class at NCA. Meeting with the Bible Study would require the kids to go to after school care 2 days a week - this was a “values conflict” for me as I place high value on being available to them after school. Well, I had been praying about language options for awhile and mentioned it to you last update. When I would pray about this need, a woman whose name is Sylvia would always come to mind. Sylvia is a Nicaraguan woman who is NCA’s three year old preschool teacher and speaks excellent English and Spanish, but I had never heard of her tutoring people before. Last week I emailed the director asking him if she would be available to help me with Spanish during the day while our kids are in school. Well, to make another long story short, Sylvia is available and is excited to meet with me. This is such an incredible answer to prayer because as I’ve been looking into language training with private tutors, it is often around $15 an hour. Sylvia teaches preschool until 12:30 and then will tutor me on Mon. and Wed. afternoons. So, this means that I will drop my Tues. Spanish class and the kids will either do their homework in Dan's office on Thursday afternoon while I lead the Bible Study or go to after school care on that day. It has been amazing to me how God has guided, confirmed, and timed these opportunities so perfectly. It is just another reminder to me to rest in and wait on Him – while keeping my eyes wide open and my ear alert to hear His voice and to simply just join Him in what He is already doing.
Devotion: This is something that I recently wrote as kind of as a reflection. Wanted to share it with you as an encouragement as you walk the path that God is leading you on.
Six years ago, God pierced my heart with a challenge. His challenge to me was: “Lisa, you need to learn to be a better follower.” I was born into a leadership position as the first born of two and I knew how to function in a family as the first born. The way that I related to people throughout my life has been to lead, to mentor, to counsel. And then God in His wisdom, led me to marry a baby of the family. For years, I tried to “be myself” as a first born in Dan’s family, but functioning this way as the wife of the last born did not seem to be the appropriate thing to do. So, it was at a specific time six years ago when God impressed on my heart that His desire for me was to learn how to be a follower and that His plan was to use Dan and his family to teach me about what that looked like. Although functioning this way is still not “natural” for me, I have learned so much about what it really means to be a follower who can both inwardly and outwardly follow someone else’s plan. My relationships with Dan and with his family members began to grow when I embraced my position as a follower and I have learned that there really is great peace and contentment that comes when I choose to surrender to someone else's leadership.
I have been doing a lot of reflecting lately about how it was that we got here to the mission field. There are many missionaries who knew as teenagers that this would be their destination. This is not Dan and my story. God has unfolded His plan step by step to us and there has been much pain and confusion and many obstacles along the way. And yet, I think that it has been through the pain and confusion and obstacles that He has been teaching us how to become followers of His plan. He knew that His plan would be better than anything we could dream up. It doesn’t mean that our life is now free of obstacles or pain – in fact I think God uses time on the mission field to further teach us about areas in our lives where we are not yet mature as we deal with things here that we have never needed to deal with before. God has been reminding me on the days when I feel frustrated or lonely or fearful about how faithful He has been in all of the past times that I have felt that way; how He has used it for His glory; how He has provided what I needed; how He has used these things to move me toward growth when I embrace rather than try to escape the pain. And as I also embrace this position of God's "follower", I've grown in love for Him and find that I trust Him more and more with each step. I am also experiencing the great peace and contentment that comes when I surrender to His leadership. Follow . . . that is really all that He asks any of us to do. And as we take each step, He demonstrates His ability to lead us well for our good and for His glory.
In Closing . . .
As we are leading our marriage group, one example that is presented in terms of a wife’s role in her husband’s life is to help him to relieve pressure through her support and respect of him. The speaker likens a wife to the valve on a pressure cooker that releases pressure so that the pressure cooker does not blow up. I was thinking about this today in terms of our support team – you are that valve on our pressure cooker. As you care for us and pray for us and give to us, God uses you to help release pressure which enables us to be healthy and effective. Thank you again so very much for your grace and for your love. It is often overwhelming to receive the way that we have the privilege of receiving. You are precious to us.