Jul 29

Coming Home

At the end of June we got to go back to the states for a brief trip. I wrote this shortly after I got back, but then we jumped right back in here full speed I didn’t have a chance to get it posted. So here it is…a little late:

 

So we just got back to Nicaragua from our quick trip back to the states. We were lucky to be able to go back for our beautiful friend Brooke’s wedding and spend a little time with family and friends while we were there. This was our first trip back to the states since we moved down here in January. I was so excited about being able to go back for a little while.

The transition to living in a third world country was a little difficult for me and on top of that I missed me family and friends like crazy. That made it even harder for me to feel at home here. So I was ready to go home. That’s the feeling I had, especially in the last few weeks before we left. Jeff and I had a great life together living in Carolina Beach, we had great friends and a great church community. I was able to do a lot of the things I love to do, play tennis, go running and walk my dog, go to the beach, volunteer at church, spend time in fellowship with my girl friends. When I moved down here I picked myself right up out of all of that and placed myself in an environment where nothing was the same. So it was a little difficult some days. After 5 months here I was getting to go back to the place where I had felt most like myself. I was a little nervous.

The first few days of the trip we got to spend with Jeff’s family and then my family. It was so wonderful just to enjoy being with our families. I miss them already. Then we headed back to Wilmington, NC. I love this town. I had only lived there for 5 years before we moved to Nicaragua, but I consider it my hometown. We got to stay with friends that we consider family, go to a beautiful wedding, spend time with people we have missed and go to our church. Strangely enough, it was during our stay in Wilmington, in fact at the wedding we came back to be at, that I started having this sad feeling inside, a feeling like this wasn’t my home any more. This place that I loved no longer felt like home. Then I realized, this was a gift. God was unburdening my heart from the longing I had to go back to Wilmington. I know that Wilmington is not where I belong right now. I belong in Chinandega, Nicaragua. Even though I had a hard time transitioning to living here, I never questioned that God called me to be here. I just wondered if I was going to be able to truly be content and joyful being here.

The trip back to the states gave me the gift of freedom from longing to be where I was not. I’m not sure that I feel completely at home here in Chinandega either. Maybe I am not supposed to feel truly at home here. In Hebrews 13:14 it says”For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.” I don’t think that God wants me to always feel “comfortable” where I am. Sometimes it’s those times of being uncomfortable that bring us to the point of change. I do know that God want us to have joy and peace. He doesn’t want us to be unhappy, He wants us to look to Him for our happiness.

Jun 06

Video Update June 2013

We have put together a video of the latest happenings down here in Nicaragua. Thanks so much for all your prayers and support! God is doing amazing things here in the Nicaragua and we are so excited to be able to share this update with you!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DRqsIirjNTM&feature=em-upload_owner

Apr 29

What’s Happening Now

Right now we are in between groups. We had six awesome weeks this spring and we are now preparing for the exciting summer ahead. This spring we worked in two different communities. When Jeff and I moved here in January, Amigos was in the middle of completing a water system in Mina de Agua. The first video we posted was of that community. We worked there for the first part of the spring as the groups began to come down. Mina de Agua is a little over an hour north of Chinandega towards the Honduras border. It is a community up in the hills with about 50 homes where about 70 families live. The ground there is really hard. Some days it didn’t seem that we made much progress digging the line because of the rockiness of the ground. Regardless of the progress we made, being in Mina de Agua was a joy because of the people. Every time we drove out there I looked forward to the smiles we would see, to the familiar faces, the “hola’s”, the children’s laughs, and getting to hold the precious babies.

Mina is also the home of one of my favorite families, and a woman I admire and love. Her name is Marlene and she lives in a tiny house made of mud and stick walls. She lives there with her sweet mother who is skinny as a rail, but wont stop hugging me when I go to visit, and her two adorable girls, Kelly and Elvia, who are the sweetest most lovable girls I have met here. I admit that I haven’t been able to learn her whole story because of my limited Spanish, but what I have learned has touched my heart. I don’t know what happened to Marlene’s husband, or why he is not in the picture anymore. I do know that almost every time we went out to the community she was working to dig the trench.

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When Amigos partners with a community to build a water system the community members are required to pay into the system a percentage and they are also required to work on digging the trench. They divide up the number of families and each family is asked to send a representative from their family to dig one of the days that week. There are some families in Mina de Agua who work in the mines and cannot send someone so they will pay another community member to work in their place. Marlene is working not only for her family, but also for other families and that is one of the ways she makes an income. She also washes clothes for other members who are not able. One of Marlene’s neighbors is an elderly lady with some type of arthritis in her hands which prevents her from being able to wash her clothes.

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Every day that I see her, she has a smile on her face. One day when we got to Mina and started working, we found out that she had hurt her shoulder. No doubt from overuse, since she rarely gets a break. We asked if we could look at it and pray for her. She said yes, but we would have to go back to her house. She didn’t want anyone else to know because she didn’t want them to think she was not able to do the work needed to be done. A few of us walked back to her house and took a look at her shoulder and arm, we wrapped her up, and put ice on her arm

and elbow. Then we all gathered around and prayed for her. There was a group member, a youth minister, who asked her if we could come pray with her. He asked her if she believed in God, she said “yes”. He asked her “Do you believe that God has the power to heal?”. She said, “Like if a man is blind, that God could make him see, yes I do”. Then we all prayed for her. It was one of the sweetest moments I have had since I have been here. After we prayed I told her that it would be good if she could rest her shoulder for a day. She told me “If I don’t work, my children wont eat.” She didn’t say it in a way that was trying to get pity from others, she simply was stating a fact. This is just the way things are for her. Life is hard, but she has faith. She was so happy that we had come to her house to pray for her and believed that her arm would be healed. The next day we went back and she said it was better, and each day it got better, and she says she has not had pain since.

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One of the last times we were in Mina we got the privilege to pray for Marlene’s new casa. Amigos is partnered with an organization that provides housing for families in the communities. The family has to pay a percentage in order to qualify for the home. Marlene was able to sell a cow that she had at her father’s home and save enough to be able to pay for her new home. Not only will she have a safe home but when it’s done she will also have a modern bathroom, a new healthy kitchen with one of the new stoves that Jeff has been working on, and soon running water at her home. I am so excited for her and know that God will bless her home and allow her to continue to use her home for His Glory.Even though she has so little compared to the world’s standards, she still feeds some of the Amigos employees lunch every day. There are a few guys who work on our water team that will stay out in a village during the week when we are working on a system. She brings them in her house and feeds them lunch. Then goes back to work, and she works hard…in a ditch…with a pick ax…in a skirt.

Please pray for the continued safety of the workers building her house, and that her family will be safe in the temporary house they are living in. Pray that God will continue to use her house to minister to others in her community. Thank you so much for being a part of this.

Elizabeth

Apr 07

Lists

If you have been following our blog, you might have noticed that it has been a while since I have posted anything.  Not really sure why.  I have been working pretty hard on some projects here (of which I will expanded more on in a bit) but also getting adjusted to being here.  The last few of years have been hard in the fact that I knew that God had something in mind for me (and since Dec 16th of 2011) for Elizabeth as well.  Patience not being my forte, waiting on His timing was, to say the least, a little interesting.  Not to mention the 4 months before we moved here as we sold things, rented things, changes addresses, called banks, switched insurance, raised funds,  prayed, started learning Spanish, signed contracts, visited family, painted, cleaned, had meetings, put stuff in storage, shook hands, hugged, worked, moved, and ultimately said good-bye and headed to the airport.

 

I guess that when we got here, I needed some time to rest mentally from the craziness it took to get here and focus on being completely immersed here.  The cultural and climate change here is pretty extreme.  We are pretty settled in now and know how things work here for the most part. Getting around is by bike or taxi.  We have bikes on loan from Amigos.  That was a game changer.  Things are pretty close and easily accessible but a bike lock is a necessity.   You can get anywhere in town in a taxi for under a dollar.  There are a lot of street fairs here where you can get just about anything.  There are some small signs of America here and there but not a lot.  We have been here for 2 1/2 months now and it hasn’t rained for more than 20 seconds (dry season).   If you had the chance to watch the video we put up, you saw when we moved to our house.  It feels a lot more like home now.  In the beginning it was pretty rough.  We have successfully fought off big ants, termites, giecos, spiders, small ants, scorpions, cockroaches, medium ants, and a 3 inch spider looking thing that had 8 legs, 2 antennas, 2 claw like things, and walked a touch sideways.  We have even seen an iguana hanging around.  Live to fight another day is what we say.

 

Now for the important stuff.  Amigos is really busy.  We are in the middle of a 6 week stretch where we have groups here each week.  They get here on a Saturday and leave the next Saturday and the next group gets here that same day.  We are working in a lot of communities at one time as well as investing time with the local Nicaraguan people and the people that come here from the States.  We are drilling wells, running water lines, hosting health clinics, installing stoves, installing food prep tables, visiting orphanages, building houses, installing solar panels, facilitating surgeries in the local hospitals, building bathrooms, digging septic tanks,  leading devotionals, washing dishes, climbing volcanoes, visiting an old folks home, playing baseball and soccer in the communities, composting, praying for the groups,  praying for the Nicaraguan people, praying for each other and praying with everyone.  The love of Christ is so evident in the work and in the relationships.

 

As far as what I am doing, I work on the missions team and help host the groups as they come down.  Our goal is to facilitate a Christ centered experience for everyone that comes here in a way that could potentially change their lives forever.  In doing so, we form relationships with the local people that we work with and the people in the communities buy coming also side of them and helping them better their lives.  I am also managing the stove and food prep table project where we install a smoke free stove and a place to prep food in a sanitary manner and cut down on respiratory disease which is huge here because of people cooking with open fires in their houses.  A couple of the Nica guys on my team (and my new great friends) are Julio (aka Teacher) and Alex (aka Daddy Yankee).  Teacher, Daddy Yankee and I are in the middle of planning and installing these kitchens in 4-5 communities this year.

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We are definitely where God wants us to be right now.  Some things have been easier than I thought but others have been harder.  We really miss our friends and families and not being a part of their lives day to day.  Please pray for us in that and that God will keep strengthening our relationship with each other. We have started a Sunday night group with the other missionaries here where we come together to share and pray with each other.  The relationships we are forming here will be some of the most important in our lives and we are so thankful for the people we have here.

 

Until next time

Jeff

Mar 26

Seeing the Fruit

It has been a busy couple of weeks. Right now we are in the middle of a 6 week stretch with short term mission groups coming down every week. It has been a very productive 3 weeks so far. Lots of trenches dug, pipes laid, relationships made, and lives changed. Just in case your not familiar with what we do here at Amigos, right now our Missions Team is working along side rural communities here in Northwest Nicaragua to get clean water. We take the short term missionaries out to the communities to work along side the community members to help them do what they are already doing a bit faster. We usually do this for most of the week, but one of the days we do something a little different. We take the group to visit a special needs orphanage in Chinandega. It is a good opportunity for the group members to serve people in a different way.

The last two weeks I have lead the devotional time before we go to the orphanage and one of the things I talked about was that they may not be able to see the fruit of the seed they are sewing, but that doesn’t mean that there is not fruit. Out of the whole week they are here, they spend a small percentage at the orphanage, but the impact is great. These children and adults have severe disabilities, some are not able to respond to us and some are limited in how much interaction they are physically and mentally able to have. You could spend the whole time with one child and they may never even acknowledge that you are there. Is the seed that you sewed wasted? Is the love that you give wasted? Absolutely not. If you sew seeds for the glory of God, or if you show love or serve someone for the glory of God, it will not go to waste.

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This concept is hard because we like to have some proof that what we do matters. We don’t always get to see that proof. The short term group members that come down don’t always get to see the affect they have on the communities, on the children they play with in the communities, or the children at the orphanage. Sometimes we as the long term missionaries do get to see the fruit. Last week I saw one of the guys (I won’t call him a kid because he is 28) at the orphanage, his name is George, sitting up by himself. This was the first time I had ever seen him do that. I watched one of the group members down that week sit and hold George and talk to him for two hours. It was beautiful. That is the love of God, and God will use that for His Glory.

We encourage our short term missionaries with this idea. But after a few weeks of long days, working in the hot sun, traveling on a school bus for hours a week (more than I ever did when I was actually in school!), trying to serve others and pour into others I was feeling a little discouraged. I think I was feeling that way because that is what Satan was trying to tell me. If he can get me down then I can’t be used by God. I was thinking: Is what I’m doing going to matter? Am I reaching people, am I helping people? You know what, I think I am. But that wont keep me going, because some weeks I might never feel like I am. So I have decided that even if I don’t see the fruit of the people I reach out to, even if I never see the difference I make in anyone’s life, I still going to try. You know why? That is what God has asked me to do, and not so I can feel like I’m making a difference, but so that He can be glorified. That’s why I’m going to keep on working. I am going to do it for His glory.

Mar 07

Photos

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Here are a few photos from our first month here in Nicaragua. We have been able to do so many things this first month here including being in the communities, working along side the groups as they come down, getting to know our new Nicaraguan friends, and getting to spend time with the Amigos family that we have been welcomed into. We have been so blessed to meet the wonderful people here and to see some of this beautiful country. Thank you so much for all your prayers and support!

Jeff and Elizabeth

Feb 26

Elizabeth, Grab a Shoe, Get in Here, and Start Killing

That was the statement I heard coming from our second bedroom as I was comfortably laying in bed with my feet elevated (since my ankles have been swollen for a few weeks now with no real reason). I got off the bead and headed back to the bedroom where Jeff was using a shoe (one of my flip flops) to start killing the hundreds of ants that were coming out from under the door. It was a full on assault!

Let me back up a little before I continue  So we have an ant problem….actually we have a bug problem, we don’t discriminate. We don’t have screens on the windows or doors, it’s pretty much indoor/ outdoor living. The first night we moved into the house we noticed ants crawling on the walls in the second bedroom, they seemed to be coming in around the door frame and they were also crawling on the wall outside in our courtyard. We tried to kill as many as we could with our shoes, because didn’t have any bug spray. So the next day we asked a few people here at Amigos for suggestions on what to do. One of the guys here took Jeff to get some poison to put down, but when we showed our friend Carlos the bottle, he suggested not to use it since a small amount was strong enough to kill a cow…..on a side note, it’s amazing that you can just go to a local store and buy that! Instead of the cow killing stuff we decided to use some Raid and sprayed around the doors and windows and killed the ones that we could see. Our friends Maggie and Brian gave us some ant traps to use and we now have about 16 scattered around our house. There seemed to less, but every night we were still killing at least 10. A few days ago I was getting something out of a drawer in the kitchen and a scorpion fell out. We have seen a few baby scorpions in the house sense we moved in, but this was no baby. It quickly crawled under the cabinets and I yelled for Jeff. He could see the scorpion stuck under the cabinet so he used a wooden skewer to stab it and drag it out from under the cabinet and we threw it in the trash. Jeff and Elizabeth – 1  Scorpions – 0

So now we come back to the original story. There I was laying in bed when I heard: Elizabeth, grab a shoe, get in here, and start killing! I grabbed my shoe and started killing, but they were coming out so fast! We managed to kill most of the ones crawling out when we realized that a few were now starting to fly out!!!! Really!!! Fly ants??? No, we don’t have large ants, we have termites!!! Keep in mind that the whole house is made of concrete, except for three doors, the kitchen cabinets, and a few boards holding up the ceiling over our pila (a Nicaraguan sink). We are pretty sure that we have found their nest, they have been living in the hollow door that goes from our second bedroom to the little courtyard. After we had managed to kill about a hundred we realized that we probably needed to take the door outside (outside being a relative term here) because I was pretty sure that we had not exterminated an entire nest. Jeff had to run to the Amigos property because we didn’t have a screwdriver at the house to take the door off, while I stayed at home trying to kill the flying termites coming out of the door. We finally got the door off and took it to the courtyard and leaned it against the wall next to our pila and headed back in to clean up the carnage. We wanted to make sure they were all dead and had heard that boiling water would kill them so I put a teapot on to boil. When we walked back outside we realized that they were crawling out of the top of the door onto the only other wood in the house…..we had to get it outside for now and decide what to do about it tomorrow.  So we carried it outside and set the door on our front porch, which is also the sidewalk. The next morning when we woke up we starting talking about what we should do. I went to take a look at it, it was gone. We didn’t realize that it was customary here that if you didn’t want something that you would put it outside and someone who did want it would take it off your hands. Thankfully we still have a gate that was outside the back door, so the house is secure.

Jeff and I have won a battle, but the war continues on, because we still have both medium and small ants in the kitchen. We will not give up or be defeated, we will continue to fight battles, we must, for we have survived this battle so we can fight another day!!!

Feb 25

First Week with a Group

Last week was our first week with a short term mission group here in Nicaragua.  There were actually two groups here last week, a Surgical Group from Ohio and a Hospice group from New Orleans. it was an amazing week. We spent most of the week out in the community of Mina de Agua working on digging the water line. The surgical group worked in the local hospital along side the Nicaraguan doctors, nurses, and anesthesiologists, completing over 60 life changing surgeries throughout the week, ranging from orthopedic surgeries, gallbladder removals, tonsillectomies, prostate surgeries, and many others. One of the days we got to go to the hospital and observe several surgeries. It was incredible just to be able to see the work they were doing, but also to see the way the Americans and Nicaraguans were working side by side, both teaching and learning from each other.

The time spent out in Mina de Agua was also such a blessing. This is the community that Amigos is currently working in to finish their water line. This is community of about 50 homes with about 70 families living in the homes. It is about 1 1/2 hours from Chinendega and they currently don’t have clean water to use. The video we posted last week showed the source they are using. The well has been dug and the tank built, and now the community is working to finish laying the pipe that will carry fresh water to each home in the community. It is such a wonderful site to see all the the missionaries and community members working and fellowshipping along side each other. The group worked really hard and by the end of the week a total of 320 feet of pipe had been completed!

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At the end of the week we got to play some baseball with the community and one of the group members brought balloons to make balloon animals and nail polish and we all had such a great time!

 

Each night when both the surgical group and the group working in Mina de Agua came back to the property we would have a time of reflection after dinner. It was so awesome to hear how the events of the day impacted everyone. I truly believe that every person who comes down on a trip is supposed to be here for a specific purpose. God knows what that is and sometimes we get to see a glimpse of that as people share their stories.

Here is a link to the video from this week’s trip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z28FHP5sgcs

Starting next Saturday we will have groups coming down every week for six weeks. I am really excited to meet the people coming down and see how God uses their time here to impact their lives. I also love getting to know the people in Mina de Agua better each week we are working in their community.

We have been here for about a month and a half. I knew before we came down here that God was calling us here and I felt that I was not prepared or worthy of the position that God was calling me to. After being here for this time I now know that to be absolutely true. I am not able to do this job, I am not good enough, I am too selfish and not at all able to do what God has called me to do. But what I have realized is that is exactly where I am supposed to be. Because if I could do this on my own I wouldn’t need God. I have been called here so that anything I am able to be used to do, will not be of my own strength, but from God’s power and strength working through me. I cannot do this, but God can, and in that I have found peace. Some days are still hard, and I struggle a lot and some days are such a blessing and I see things that bring me true joy. But every day I know I am where God called me to be, because I am being used for His glory, not mine. Please continue to pray for us, that God continues to change us to be what He wants us to be so that we can used for His glory.

 

Jeff and Elizabeth

 

Feb 09

Video

We finished the first video of our travels down to Nicaragua and our first few weeks here. We are so excited to be able to share this with you! Thank you so much for being a part of what God is doing here in Nicaragua!

Nicaragua January 2012: http://vimeo.com/59273533

 

Feb 06

Letting Go

This last week we were able to go with one of the other programs that Amigos for Christ has in place in Nicaragua. The Pay it Forward animal program gives either chickens, a pregnant cow or pregnant pig to a family. The family raises the babies and give one back to the program so that it can be given to another family. The program has been success in helping change the lives of families and their communities. Here is a video that shows how this program affects the live of the people involved: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=GtCU2-0UbiA

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Jeff and I got to ride along with a few others and see part of the process on Thursday, we even got the opportunity to hang out with a calf for a little while. It took some effort to get the mama into the trailer and the calf rode in the back of the truck with us, it was quite an interesting ride!

Much of the time we have spend here so far has been just getting to know the people working for Amigos for Christ, our host family, and the communities we will work and live in. Our host family has been such a blessing to us as they have adopted us into their family and made us feel at home. They have also helped us learn Spanish

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DSC02351DSC02348and we have been helping them with their English. Any time we have spend with them has been such a blessing and we know that we have begun friendships that will last.
Last night we said good bye as we packed up our stuff and moved into our new home. It was bittersweet because we will miss the every day interactions but are also excited about getting settled in our own home. One of the things that I have learned through this process of getting our house is that schedules here in Nicaragua are not quite the same as in America. Things run at a different pace here. We were supposed to move into our new house last Saturday but due to many factors out of our control we have been on a roller coaster ride the last few days about when everything would go down.

I have to be honest that this process has worked a few things out of my character that I didn’t even know were there. I am still holding on to the fact that I want to be comfortable like I was in the States. Life is just not that way here, it is hard sometimes, and not convenient. But God didn’t bring me down here to be comfortable, He brought me here to serve. “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has not pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth” 1 John 3:16-18  There are thousands of people here who don’t even have access to clean water. I have a home, with clean running water and a comfortable bed. I am thankful for my husband who loves me the way that Christ loves the church. I am thankful for the family and friends we have in the States who have been praying and supporting  us and for the new friends I have begun to make here, and I am thankful for the opportunity to come here and be a part of God’s plan for the people of Nicaragua.

Everyone has parts of your life that feel uncomfortable, no matter where you are. I encourage you to look at the things that are uncomfortable in your life, and ask God for help to see past those uncomfortable things, to see that if you lay them down, how much more He can use you. Please continue to pray for us, your prayers are felt and mean so much to us.

Love,

Elizabeth and Jeff

 

 

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