Dear Family and Friends,
It is good to once again sit down with my cup of tea and "talk" with you again today. I've heard from those of you back home that you get a full cup of coffee to drink as you read these updates. I enjoyed hearing that as I think of us sitting across the table from one another, spending a few moments together. It is the way I grew up (sitting around the table drinking tea) and continue to enjoy relating to people.
A couple of updates ago, the theme was "margin". Well, after writing that one, I suddenly became extremely busy. Interesting how God does not let us get away with "preaching" something without giving us an opportunity to apply the message. I've reeled in my schedule and have now declared Tuesdays to be "office day" where I get to do what I enjoy so much – write updates, prepare for Bible Studies I lead and participate in, prepare for our marriage group, communicate with others by email, and study my Spanish book (ok, so I don't enjoy this one, but it sure does help!).
For the short story today, I will share prayer requests. For the long story, I will share a little about what and how each of us is doing. I have several more "devotional" type updates started and will send to you soon. My heart, as I write, is to fellowship with you at a much deeper level than always listing the things we do and need prayer for. My passion is to "walk alongside" as each one of us is on a journey and each one of us is placed in a specific mission field – one no more important than the other. We are co-laborers and need the encouragement of one another. You have been wonderful encouragers and incredibly faithful prayer warriors. We are so blessed by and thankful for you.
1) Health: There are people all around us who have H1N1, Dengue Fever, and throat infections. We received a card this week from a friend in the US who says that she prays God's protection for us every day. We so recognize Him as our Protector these past several weeks. And for those who have contracted these illness, God is revealing Himself as Healer. We know that He could give us that opportunity as well, but we do continue to pray and ask you to pray for His protection.
Also, please pray specifically for Rebekah's health. She has always been our "healthy one", but since we moved here she has struggled a great deal with respiratory illnesses. She has one right now. We are wondering if something in our house/her room is bothering her and I am cleaning everything I can think of. There are several areas of our roof that leak a good deal of water when it rains and our tile is bubbling up as well due to the water. So, we are concerned about mold, etc. Please pray for God to show us the next step in helping her with this.
2) Safety: A couple of weeks ago the Supreme Court of Nicaragua ruled that Daniel Ortega could run for office again in the next election. Prior to this decision, the law was 5 years and out. However, this decision ushers in the possibility that he could serve another term. The court ruling is suspicious in terms of how it came about and there is little (earthly) hope of a fair election (2010), however, we continue to pray for God's hand to guide this situation.
We are seeing changes that are concerning. Last week there was a riot outside of the US Embassy with people throwing glass bottles at the Embassy, shooting off mortars (homemade "bombs" made of rock) at the Embassy, while others attempted to climb the wall. The US marines were positioned inside the Embassy to defend it and one Embassy worker said that this was unsettling as it was 1) unusual to have the marines positioned to fight and 2) he was also hoping that he would not see anyone shot that day.
We personally do not feel that we are in danger at this time. The Embassy communicates with us regularly by email about any potential threat. Through Boy Scouts, many of the Embassy workers are now personal acquaintances so we do hear a lot about what is going on behind the scenes. We would, however, just ask for your continued prayers for protection – especially for the Embassy workers who need to drive in and out of the Embassy every day and who are easily identified by their license plate.
3) Please pray that we would glorify God in a "daily" kind of way. Dan and I have talked about how we can get so focused on what we "do". God is so much more interested in who we are and are becoming. . . how we react to things, whether our motive for doing good is selfish or humble, whether we have forgiven when He has called us to forgive. I pray for that kind of heart and motivation for each one of us.
4) The Van Zoest Family – Last month, Dan's Uncle Herm Van Zoest passed away unexpectedly. Uncle Herm's wife, Aunt Jean, has recently had surgery so we pray for her healing - both physically and emotionally as she is dealing with two major events in a very short period of time. Dan's extended family (over 75 people) get together at Thanksgiving in Celleryville, Ohio every Thanksgiving. Please pray for their comfort and peace during this difficult time.
Dan: Continues to be busy with both the NCA English campus and the NCA Spanish campus. Much of his time is devoted to the Sponsorship program at the Spanish Campus. He heard recently how a sponsored child moved from being behaviorally disruptive and academically struggling to a child that is now tender-spirited and motivated to learn. Our child sponsors are so committed too – sometimes sponsoring more than one child and coming down to visit their child. Dan is also working in partnership with a teacher on fund raising for the Fine Arts Center. It is hoped that this building will be constructed next spring. The building will open up not only opportunities for our students, but will give the school opportunities to minister to the community.
Challenges of this past month include: Within the past few weeks, the internet has been in and out at the office which Dan is constantly using as he communicates with people here and in the US and Canada. Rain has been pouring into his office during heavy rains (he says it has now been fixed). A dead – rat, iguana, or something else – in the ceiling caused a terrible odor in the office for a few days. Dan's office was painted (which we were very thankful for), however, it was painted during the work day so Dan sat in the middle of his office while they painted. Another challenge was Dan's Uncle Herman's passing. Uncle Herman is his Dad's brother. Dan remembers how sensitive and perceptive this Uncle was when Dan's Grandpa Van Zoest died. Dan was in High School at the time. He said that as his Grandpa was dying, Dan knelt down on his knees by his Grandpa and sobbed. Dan's Uncle Herm put his hand on Dan's shoulder and said, "I know. This reminds me of your Dad too." (Dan's father passed away when he was 7).
Lisa: Last month, I was asked to be on a Search Committee for a new pastor for the international church that we attend. It has been an interesting process and a great opportunity to get to know more people. I have also committed to be a part of the Women's Fellowship Team which plans events for a group of around 100 women throughout the year. I continue to lead a Bible Study for the teachers at the school and am scheduling lunches with them each week to get to know them better. We are excited to plan our first annual retreat for sometime in Jan/Feb. Dan and I are now beginning to prepare for our next marriage group that will begin in January.
One of the things I have particularly enjoyed doing these past couple of months is developing a plan to be intentional about couple and family time this year. It is interesting how we can't "do marriage" or "do family" the way we did it in the US. We tried that last year and found again and again that it did not work. For example, Dan and I would go on dates in the US in the evening. Well, we tried to do that here and we got into a fight every time! Why? Because we are exhausted by 8:00 pm. It is very hard to sleep past 5:30 AM here and the heat causes us to be tired earlier as well. So, we now do our dates during the day for lunch or coffee on weekends! Dan also takes the kids on regular 1:1 dates and is so great about doing things they love to do. They come back so excited with a full love tank! We are also doing a structured Family Nite which includes doing something fun; a family meeting which involves family members voicing concerns and us working to address those concerns as a family; and a teaching time about things like conflict management/friendship/managing money. We have found that ministry offers fewer "built in" boundaries than what we had been used to with Dan working an 8 to 5 job. So, we are being very proactive about setting and maintaining good boundaries so that we can function well as a family.
Rebekah: Rebekah loves school and has a neat group of friends. She and most of the girls in her class auditioned for and performed in a talent show last month. Rebekah choreographed most of the dance (to the music of Sail Away by Go Fish) and I adjusted it to work with the number of girls that we had participating. It was a great team building experience for the girls. This is honestly an answer to prayer as we ended the year last year with great heartache in regard to how some of the girls in the class were treating Rebekah. We were proud to see Rebekah loving them unconditionally and continuing to try to be their friend regardless of the way they were treating her. We had lots of talks about what God may be teaching her and spent time praying for the hearts of the girls. We now see how God has changed these dynamics to the point where there is clearly unity among these girls. And Rebekah is often invited to birthday parties and on play dates to several girls' homes. Rebekah will also be learning to sew which is something she has wanted to learn for a long time. A friend of mine who is domestically amazing will be teaching her while Will and I take care of her toddlers. Rebekah has also begun to volunteer at a home for children with disabilities by helping to take care of the horses they use for horse therapy.
Will: Will had an interesting month last month. He was being picked on by a boy in his class (pushing, kicking him). This boy was suspended for a day, and was asked to apologize to Will. This boy has demonstrated a lot of this kind of behavior in the past as well and has difficulty learning. We talked as a family about how to love this boy unconditionally. On his own, Will wrote a note to this boy telling him that our family loved him and that we were praying for him and then he asked us all to sign the note. He also asked a classmate to write an encouraging note to the boy. Since then, Will's teacher wrote several emails to me documenting the transformation in this little boy and Will's relationship. She writes, "I am so blessed to see how God is working just in our little classroom, and Will is the ultimate Peacemaker!" Will is also having a great time in Boy Scouts. He and Dan camped on the grounds of the US Embassy a couple of weeks ago which was a very interesting experience. Scouts has been an answer to prayer for Will – a place where he can relate to and make friends with an American peer group which has given him confidence at school as he relates to his Nicaraguan and South Korean friends.
Thank you all again so very much for your interest in our journey and for your prayers. We are so comforted to know that we are supported so well and so faithfully by those back home.
Peace to you,
Dan, Lisa (the writer), Rebekah, and Will Van Zoest