Dear Family and Friends,
It has been awhile since we have "talked". We know that you desire to walk with us and that you can only do that as we communicate with you. So, please pardon our lack of communication these past two months. We have missed you. In fact, so often as exciting or difficult things happen here, my mind turns to you thinking, "I can't wait to tell them this." Or "I need to ask them to pray for that." So, please know that you are often thought of during our daily experiences here.
There are so many things that have recently happened. I am structuring today's sharing as short stories about some of the highlights. The first stories will feature "Aslan on the Move" stories of how we see God moving in some pretty amazing ways. The second set of stories will be "Waiting on God" stories which highlight situations that you can pray for us and others in the coming weeks. At the very end, you will find pictures that give you a bit of an idea of what the kids are up to.
"Aslan on the Move" Stories
- Spiritual Emphasis Day – Last Friday the Junior High and High School did not attend their regular classes, but instead listened to a key note speaker and attended several different seminars led by parents on various topics which included forgiveness, spiritual disciplines, and sex. The theme of the day was "I Believe in You" and focused on Jesus' interaction with Peter after His resurrection. One of the activities the kids participated in was to open a letter that was written to them by their parents who expressed their belief in their child. There were many tears among the students during this activity and the remarkable thing was that all 140 kids received a heartfelt letter from their parents. The teachers were prepared to write letters to those students who did not receive a letter, however, this was not at all needed. Our parents stepped up and said those powerful words to their kids and the kids were deeply impacted. After the day was over, Dan heard some teachers say, "I love working here. I can't believe I get to do this."
- Marriage Ministry Gaining Momentum - One of Dan and my passions is marriage and family ministry. A dream of ours when we arrived in Nicaragua was to equip missionaries to engage in marriage and family ministry among Nicaraguans. Recently, God is opening the floodgates and we are overwhelmed by all that we now see happening. The first exciting change was that a new missionary family arrived in Managua two months ago. This couple is very passionate about marriage and family ministry as well and we are now working together in this. They are currently leading a marriage group that we are attending. It has been so refreshing to be working with them as a sounding board for ideas in addition to the fact that we are enjoying the sweetness of building a friendship with them. Second, we recently became aware of a marriage conference on DVD that FamilyLife is designing for use in rural areas. We have watched clips of this conference on the internet and were very impressed. We got excited about the possibility of launching one here. Several missionaries have asked us to consider offering a weekend conference, as a weekly group is difficult for those who travel and manage mission teams 24/7. We talked with a Pastor friend of ours who leads an English Speaking Nicaraguan church and he and his wife are also very excited about this as well. We are now making plans for a fall conference to include the couples of their church in addition to the missionary community. But, there is more. A few weeks ago, we talked with another missionary family who said that they are looking for more Spanish materials to use with the small group of Nicaraguan couples that they lead. We mentioned that we have a FamilyLife marriage conference DVD that is in Spanish and they were very excited about this and plan now to use it in their group. Then, last Sunday, the director of a ministry came up to me and said, "Lisa, I've been wanting to talk with you for a long time. I lent the Spanish Marriage DVD you gave me to a Nicaraguan couple and now they are very excited about starting their own small group with married couples!" Dan and I are in awe of what God is doing and how much He is doing lately when it comes to marriage ministry. We are so excited and thankful to be a part of it!
- A New Responsibility for Dan – Dan is continuing to enjoy working with the administrative team at NCA and coordinating about 60 sponsorships at NCA and NCA Nejapa. However, within this past week a new dream is now gaining momentum for Dan. He began this year working with ACSI to help a number of teachers at NCA with raising some of their financial support. Last week, he watched a seminar on the internet with one of the teachers who is needing to raise support. One of the seminar speakers was Ellis Goldstein who is from Campus Crusade for Christ and is the man who trained us in how to raise support when we were with CCC for a season. Following the training, Dan asked if the teacher would like to meet on a weekly basis for the purpose of having someone to bounce ideas off of and to be encouraged by. The teacher said "yes" and began meeting with Dan this week. Dan is excited to help and encourage the teachers at NCA in this way. Dan and I were just talking yesterday about our journey and how we are so thankful for how God led us first to FamilyLife/Campus Crusade before calling us to Nicaragua. FamilyLife instilled in us a passion for families and a desire to serve them. Campus Crusade offered excellent training in support raising. God is now using these passions and skills to minister here. Someone from FamilyLife once said to us during the time we were so broken about leaving FamilyLife, "Nothing is wasted in God's economy." We see that now.
"Waiting on God" Stories
- Earthquake! – On Friday, January 21, we experienced our first earthquake. A quake like this has actually not happened for around 5 years. There were two quakes – one that happened first, a pause, and then another. The kids and Dan were at school at the time. Will said that it felt like God had picked up their classroom and shook it. Books fell off the shelves and windows were rattling. Dan said that he was very impressed with how all of the students and teachers knew exactly what to do. Everyone went under their desks and counted to 30 out loud as a class (something everyone does just to help stay calm). Then they all went out to the soccer field and counted kids to make sure everyone was accounted for. We were thankful that everyone was safe and no one was hurt. I was on the 3rd floor of a hospital visiting a few people who were there. I was closest to the epicenter (as compared to the school), but what I felt was more of a "swaying" than a shaking. It seemed for a moment that the building swayed one way and then the other. I think the earthquake just made all of us more aware of this possibility. So, we do just continue to ask you for prayer for our safety and the safety of our community. Thank you!
- Another Nejapa Tragedy - Tragedy struck our Spanish campus again a few weeks ago. One of our students was shot and killed by a stray bullet. A gang was robbing a neighborhood and one of the gang members shot off his gun randomly ( not at anyone) and the bullet hit 15 year old Gabriela who was in her home. She died on the way to the hospital. Please continue to pray for the Nejapa school community as this is the second student who was tragically killed this year.
- 4th – 6th Grade Retreat - Next week, Thursday and Friday (Feb. 10 and 11) the 4th through 6th grades will be going to a camp outside of the city for a spiritual retreat. They will be listening to a pastor speak in addition to attending devotion and life application sessions with him. The students will also be learning a number of survival skills like how to build a fire, how to pluck a chicken, and then how to cook the chicken over the fire. I will be serving as a "pray-er" during the retreat. This is a role that I am creating and praying for other parents to join me during the retreat. Our prayer is that God would deeply touch the students' hearts and that they would grow in their passion and in their desire for Him. Please do pray for safety as well.
- Head Lice – A few weeks ago, our family began a new adventure – Head Lice Combat. We do not know where or how the kids got it – it had been going around school at one time but not lately. We are finding out that lots of people both here and in the States have dealt with this. We are still battling it and it is exhausting work as I do not have hot water for washing, so I am boiling lots of pots of water and bagging lots of our clothes to try to rid us of this. Other challenges have been no electricity some days and no water on others. However, our family is to the place where we are able to thank God for this – seeing some things that He is doing in us that are of eternal value and worth. Tomorrow, I have a meeting with someone about starting some work with our kids at an orphanage. The other day, I thought, "Maybe we don't really want to volunteer at the orphanage, as I know that orphanages deal with lice all the time." The next thought, I knew was from God . . . "Life with me, Lisa, is messy." Messy, but rich. However, we would appreciate you praying for an end to this – especially for the kids. They have handled it very well, but it is getting old for them too.
- Amazing Blessing – We wrote to you awhile ago about how we have put a lot of money into our car this past year. The most recent difficulty was that we had a hole in our radiator over Christmas. This was frustrating because a new radiator in the States costs 150 dollars and here it was going to cost over 800 dollars. Dan, for some time, has been praying for God's direction on a newer vehicle - just looking for how He would lead us in this. God has now answered and we are once again in awe of how faithfully and creatively He manages our financially situation. A few weeks ago, Dan received two pieces of news that spoke God's answer to his prayer for direction. The first was our financial report from Christian Reformed World Missions. The support that we received in December was a huge surprise to us. We had anticipated that we may be able to save up and get a different car next fall, but with the amount of support that came in in December – we are able to begin looking for a different vehicle now! However, the plan to get a different vehicle was also contingent on whether we could sell our current vehicle at a decent price. Well, on the day that Dan received the financial report, he also received an email from someone who is very interested in buying our 4runner. A few weeks later, we now have 3 people who are interested in our 4runner! Our mechanic has been recommending it to people because, apart from the radiator (which is now fixed with apoxy), he says that the car is an excellent car. It also has many new parts in it from the repairs we made this past year. So, thank you so very much for responding to however God led you in this – whether to pray for and with us for this blessing or to contribute financially or both. Would you please pray with us now that God would lead us to another great vehicle? Thanks so much!
Thank you again so very much for your prayers and support of our family. We are so aware that we are not walking alone and that is what makes this adventure so rich.
Peace to you,
(Dan, Rebekah, and Will)