Dear family and friends,
Today we offer you 5 pictures, 5 stories, and 5 prayer requests. I am new to this picture thing, so the pictures are above. Thanks again for your interest in this journey. We enjoy the company!
Story 1: On November 21, there was a scheduled demonstration to protest how President Daniel Ortega changed the constitution, making it possible for him to run in the next election. Ortega's hope was that hundreds of thousands of his supporters would protest this demonstration. These protests often involve violence – mortars which are like guns that shoot rocks and base ball bats are taken to such protests. The US Embassy warned people to stay at home and predicted that there would be violence. Quite amazingly, however, only a few thousand of Ortega's supporters showed up (these numbers do vary depending on the source of information). Those who were leading the demonstration from the other party numbered between 30,000-50,000. Those who observed the demonstration said that it was very clear by the way the people were dressed (white T-shirts) and the way they conducted themselves that their goal was a peaceful demonstration. When we talked with one of the Embassy workers at Boy Scouts the other night, he said that this was not at all what the US Embassy expected. We are thankful to see God's Hand in this.
Story 2: The night our church was getting together for a Thanksgiving dinner, I met NCA's director's wife, Jessica, in the parking lot. She appeared shaken and explained that their house had been broken into that day. She had been away from the house for one hour in the afternoon. Their computer and safe had been stolen. Inside the safe was little money, but it did contain their house and car keys. The computer contained all of the pictures of her baby's first year of life and her toddler's second year. She and her husband had tried to back up their computer the previous week, but it had not worked that day so they decided they would do it later. Her husband, Liam, was in the US on a teacher recruiting trip at the time and would not be returning until several days later. Jessica and her two little boys would be home alone for the next three nights without Liam which I know was hard for all of them. Jessica did have the support and help of many families in addition to the neighbor's guard watching their house like a hawk for the days following the robbery. Jessica handled this all very well, recognizing how God was both speaking to her and protecting her while Liam was away.
Robbery is something that happens frequently here. Another missionary family returned from their summer visiting family in New Zeeland to find that someone had stolen everything in their home – including all of their clothes and food. A few days after Liam and Jessica's house was robbed, Jessica said, "You know, I still have my kids and I still have a camera. I can take new pictures." I do find that one of the lessons God teaches us here as we navigate our way through this culture is to stay focused on what we do have which is far more than what most of the people in the world have.
Story 3: The weekend of November 13 through 15, Dan and around 50 other missionary guys participated in a spiritual retreat over an hour away. The men were gone for two nights and enjoyed doing man things like playing sports (the only golf was miniature golf and Dan came in second by a few strokes). They also enjoyed an excellent speaker who challenged the men to evaluate their spiritual walk from childhood to present. The day after the men left, the kids and I set out for a haircut and some shopping. As I was driving, I could see that the temperature gauge was going up toward "hot" and then down and then seemed to level out. The next day, I drove the truck to church and it seemed fine. On Monday, Dan drove across town to get some things we needed and it was dark as he headed home. On the way home from that particular store, it is necessary to drive through a not so great neighborhood. It has been reported that people will throw rocks at your window (particularly at night) to break your window so they can rob you. After Dan passed through this neighborhood and turned onto the road leading to our home, the truck began to overheat. Dan was close to a strip mall parking lot which is safe due to the many guards that are positioned there. He called the missionary, Jason, who services our car (who just happens to be a neighbor) and asked him what he should do. He told him to take off the radiator cap to cool the engine down. Dan was reluctant to do that because he knew what would happen. A Nicaraguan man stopped by about that time and offered to help. He knew just what to do – he loosened the cap and the cap blew off. Dan found it, thanked the man, and paid him for his service.
Dan was able to make it home and Jason looked at it right away. He said that it could be a cracked head. The next day, Jason took it to the shop and found that it was in fact a cracked head. Not great news as this was an expensive repair. However, when we think through what "could have" happened, we thank God for His protection . . . the truck could have broken down with the kids and I stranded somewhere in Managua while Dan and Jason were at the retreat; the truck could have broken down for Dan in the midst of the bad neighborhood; if Jason were not here, we would have needed to take it into a local garage for repair which would have cost us much more money, and it is possible that the repair may not have been done correctly. God has blessed us so much to have Jason here to help us – he and his family arrived shortly after we did and he has done an incredible job servicing our and other missionaries' cars as he trains a Nicaraguan man to learn this trade. Our car is now fixed and doing very well. God could have kept our car from breaking down, but the gift that we received through this situation was, again, a glimpse into who He is as our Protector.
Story 4: I was talking with one of our neighbors the other day about his and his family's story. Our neighbor and his wife are adopting three Nicaraguan children from an orphanage. He is 50 and his wife is in her 40s and their story is one of God clearly leading both of them to consider "giving up" their retirement years to raise another family. My neighbor shared with me that one of his little girls was found in a plastic garbage bag as a newborn. Someone heard noises coming from the bag and rescued her. She is one of the most beautiful little girls I have ever seen – both physically and her personality is so engaging. He went on to talk about how his little boy was found laying in the midst of animals who were about to eat him. Their youngest little girl became a part of their family when her Grandma begged my neighbor and his wife to adopt her as well. They have been working through this process for two and a half years. This last week, the adoption of their youngest daughter was finalized. They have been a testimony to us of living sacrificially.
Story 5: A friend shared with me that one of her Nicaraguan friends needed to have surgery on her back. Her friend was in very intense pain. My friend explained that this woman needed to stay in a room at the hospital with seven other patients who were waiting for surgery. There were no beds to lay in, so these people were sitting and sleeping in chairs. The women in this room shared a bathroom and shower with men. The Nicaraguan woman at one point asked my friend to bring her cleaning supplies so that she and the other women waiting for surgery could clean their hospital room because it was so filthy. So, for days this woman waited for surgery while she was experiencing intense pain, every day not knowing when it would actually happen. However, in the midst of this woman's pain and terrible circumstances, she was available to share the gospel with another woman and this woman received Christ. I met this remarkable woman a couple of weeks ago after her surgery. She is doing well physically and has a brightness and joy about her that makes one wonder what it is that she has. She has the love of Jesus and the willingness to share that love with others.
5 Prayer requests:
1) My (Lisa's) parents and sister will be visiting us at Christmas for 10 days. We are very excited to have them! Would you please pray for our safety and health during this time, especially as we travel around Nicaragua. Pray too for a peace of heart and mind for my parents as this is their first time to travel outside of the US/Canada and for wisdom for my sister as she helps my parents navigate through the airports, etc.
2) Health and Safety – a constant prayer for us individually, the people at the school, and for the country as a whole.
3) Would you pray for discernment for Dan and for the rest of the administration of NCA. There are many needs and many decisions that need to be made – related to students, teachers, parents, etc.
4) This Saturday, December 12th from 9:30 to 11:30, I will be speaking to around 50 or more missionary wives, embassy wives, English speaking Nicaraguan women, and there is a potential too for women who do not know Christ to be there. This is a Christmas event hosted by our Women's Fellowship Team. I have been preparing and praying, but do feel anxiety creep in. My prayer is that what I have to say would give God glory and would lead others to take steps toward transformation in both their relationships with God and with others.
5) We praise God that the number of cases of Dengue fever are decreasing. The dry season is here which decreases the population of mosquitoes. Thank you so much for praying for our protection from this illness.
Thank you for praying for us.
Peace to you,
Dan, Lisa (the writer), Rebekah, and Will Van Zoest
Dan, Lisa (the writer), Rebekah, and Will Van Zoest