Web site: www.danvanzoest.com
Nicaragua Christian Academy web site: www.nca.edu.ni/
Our mailing address: Dan Van Zoest; Nicaragua Christian Academy; Apartado 842; Managua, Nicaragua; Central America
Dear Family and Friends,
The Short Story:
For the short story, I will list who God revealed Himself to be to us over the summer we spent in the US and share a few prayer requests:
Provider: Our financial support has continued to be very solid. Our goal over the summer was not to raise additional support, but just to share and build relationships with our supporting churches. And yet, God is One who does immeasurably more than we can ask or think. Two specific examples: 1) A dentist friend of ours offered free dental care for our whole family (we do not have dental or vision insurance, so this is a huge help!) 2) On a Saturday, as we were traveling to MI for the second time, I was adding up in my mind all of the money it was costing us to travel and to eat out and I began to feel some anxiety about this. After presenting at a church the next day, a man that we had never met before handed me an envelope. When we opened it later that afternoon, we found $200.00! God is such an amazing Provider.
Counselor: God spoke through many family members and friends and supporters over the summer to encourage us and love us. It was so good for us to be with people who know us. Much of our time in Nicaragua last year was spent building new relationships which takes a lot of energy.
Sustainer: The summer was very busy and at times very stressful. However, I look back now and see how everything fit together time with family, all of our medical appointments (dental/eye/immunizations), play dates, church visits, trainings, shopping for things we can't find here, etc. And even though it was crazy and busy, I believe that we were refreshed.
Protector: We spent many hours on the road and in the air over the summer. Prayers for travel safety were so appreciated and God did protect us. He also protected us from illness we had so many nights where we were up late and then up early and sleeping in lots of different beds. But, over the summer we all stayed healthy. Also, after I mentioned my headaches in our update, they stopped! Thank you for praying!
1) My friend Dawn Williams and her 4 children are now in the US and will be traveling around the US to plan and attend two memorial services for Ryan and to see family and friends in Sept. and Oct. Please pray for her and her four small children as they travel. Dawn and her kids seem to be doing well dealing with grief and planning to deal with grief in a healthy way.
2) Our family's readjustment back to life here. It has been much easier coming back than it was getting here the first year. However, there are certainly things that we are needing to readjust to again like the power going off, cold showers or lack of water, the heat, language, and life just being more work, taking more energy.
3) Please pray for Rebekah and Will for their health and protection and for their walk with God to continue to grow. Will has been dealing with stomach pain and "turning" and low grade fevers for a few weeks now. Our prayer is for healing and an understanding of what is causing these symptoms.
4) Dan will travel to and within the US from Sept. 7 to 14 for a missions conference and to visit NCA students at Calvin. Please pray for safe travel and health for him and for safety and health, energy, and patience for the kids and me as I single parent.
The Longer Story
For the longer story, I will share an answer to a question someone asked me while we were in the States. I'm thinking that at times some of the questions we were asked in the US will be a focus for "the longer story". It was good to hear these questions and we would like to share more related to them.
Question: Do you dread going back to Nicaragua?
Perhaps each one of us would answer this differently. When I asked the kids what they looked forward to about going back, Rebekah said, "Not being in the car." Rebekah was invited to have a play date today and a sleep over this weekend. A new American girl in her class has become a good friend and she seems closer to a couple of her old friends too. So, her adjustment back has seemed quite smooth. I do know that Will misses the US - he is our relational and very verbal guy, he's a deep thinker, and gets to use those skills more readily with friends in the US. I notice that Nicaraguan boys are very physical (wrestling/play rough/etc) and less verbal in terms of English, understandably so . Will has adjusted to playing with his classmates and other Nicaraguan boys (I notice him becoming more physical too!), but I think he does long for a deeper friendship. We are looking into some boys' activities with the US Embassy to give him the opportunity to build relationships with American boys as well. Dan was very eager to get back to school to apply the things he learned at the trainings he attended over the summer. He really does enjoy his work here. I was ambivalent about going back to Nicaragua over the summer at times I really enjoyed the cleanliness of the US and being with family and friends. However, I cannot say that I have dreaded going back. There is much about being here that I love very much and am so thankful for primarily, the time we get to spent together as a family. There are also many things we enjoy and value about the Nicaraguan culture. Perhaps the following will illustrate some of these things.
While we were sitting at the gate for our flight out of Houston to Managua, I was listening to the buzz of Spanish conversation around me and it was what I would describe as "comforting". It felt like home. After we landed in Managua, the crowd on the airplane erupted into a hearty applause directed to the pilot for the good landing and I found myself applauding and enjoying this moment of celebration. After we got off the plane, we began our very long wait in customs. I reflected back to a couple months before when we waited in customs at Houston upon returning to the US in June. We stood there in an organized single file line in a very clean and shiny room the size of a football field and there was very little talking (with the exception of Rosa, a Nicaraguan woman who struck up a conversation with us). As we stood in customs in Managua, the room was one fifth of the size of that in Houston, we kind of stood in lines, and everyone was talking and laughing with everyone who was standing around them.
A missionary friend once said to me, "In the United States, the question that Americans ask is did you get it done?" Americans are focused on the task and the end product. In Africa, the question is did you get to know the people while you were doing the task?" Relationship is the focus. And in Latin America, the question is did you have fun while you were doing the task?" Relationship and fiesta are the focus. Perhaps we criticize and make fun of what we see as lack of productivity or focus when we observe or think about people of the third world. However, we are learning so much about what they have to teach us. It is interesting to see American work teams come with big dreams of how much they will accomplish during their short term mission trip. The Americans will work alongside Nicaraguans and notice how they work a little bit and then rest in the shade, drink a little and talk, and then go back to work. Our American lens may view this as "laziness". We Americans will tend to push ourselves to get the task done. If one does that here, however, one will be physically spent by noon and perhaps emotionally frustrated by the inability to keep going while the Nicaraguans will continue to work a bit and talk a bit and rest a bit. The tropical climate here does force all of us to slow down and to adjust our expectations. It often leads us to just sit on the porch and enjoy a cold drink and a good conversation.
There are many other ways to illustrate this focus on relationships. Almost every day I hug or am hugged by a friend it is traditional to hug cheek to cheek and then make a kissing noise. This goes on between Nicaraguans and Americans, but also between Americans as we too enjoy and benefit from this practice. Nicaraguan extended families live close to each other and if they don't, they will still often get together daily - but at least weekly. There is also a great loyalty to aging parents as parents will often live with their children. An American friend of ours who is married to a Nicaraguan man said that her husband's family was concerned when my friend and her husband moved their baby to her own room. The family asked, "Won't she be lonely?" Nicaraguans are very forthright about what they think and feel which is actually atypical of Latin culture. And, they are very funloving. Yesterday, Will was getting checked by the doctor and the doctor stuck his finger in his belly button to check for parasites. Will is very ticklish and started to laugh. The doctor said, "Now, that is not a tickle." Then, he tickled Will on his sides and said, "THIS is a tickle." Last summer we did a piñata with Dan's family in CA. Uncle Dave was holding the piñata still while the cousins hit it and I remember Rebekah saying, "You have to pull it up and down!" That is the way we do it here lots of loud music accompaniment and the person in charge of the piñata pulls it up and down and up and down to make it a little more difficult to hit. A piñata here can last 45 minutes! There is so much to be depressed about here as we look around at the poverty and the need. But, the spirit of many of the people is one of strength and joy. It is something I admire and desire to learn from.
Richard Swenson in his book "Margin" puts it this way, "Avid supporters of progress would probably be quite upset at any suggestion that Third-World cultures have some superior claims to ours. But to defend progress and its absence of margin is to presume that all that is good in life and all that God wants us to accomplish is possible only in a booked-up, highly efficient, often exhausted way of life. I do not believe this is true." I know that God has led us to Nicaragua to work through us to touch the lives of people here. However, I have also come to believe that He has led us here to touch our lives through the Nicaraguan people by teaching us about how rich life can be when we focus on relationships with Him and with others.
Peace to you as you love the One who created you and the ones He has placed in your life to love and be loved by . . .
Dan, Lisa (the writer), Rebekah, and Will