Dear Friends and Family,
I hope this finds you well and knowing God's delight in you. I wrote this update earlier (and was just choosing pictures, due to loud
popular demand), but have to add something from today. We
arranged a meeting between my friend Pastor Bismarck and my friend Dave Boone, who helps run the blacksmith shop here. Both parties were excited to pursue working together. This blacksmith shop is a ministry that trains Nicaraguans to teach others to become
blacksmiths. It is both a discipleship program and a vocational center, and their vision is to help Nicaraguans start their own vocational centers where they can train and disciple others. Today we started making the connections that we hope will lead to
men in our neighborhood entering their program. Since the number one need here, after people knowing Jesus, is employment, and one of the 8 signs of a transforming community is economic sufficiency (http://www.servantpartners.org/index.php?page=the-8-signs
I believe this is the beginning of a huge answer to prayer...and the fruit of developing relationships and trust over the past year-and-a-half. Praise God! I'm encouraged.
Hosting a mission trip
We recently hosted a small team of two young women on a mission trip. They are from Argentina and friends of Soledad (Saul's fiance). The gals helped out with the children's ministry at Bismarck's
church. We also spent a lot of their time working at House of Hope, painting a couple of rooms that are momentarily empty so that they will be nice to move into for the next girls or women who arrive, and of course playing with the kids. They helped out
with the computer classes Saul helps teach the women and children on Fridays.
We also had a daily Bible study for the weeks they were here, first going through James and then studying some chapters in Romans. Here is the big news for me: I co-led the Bible studies with Bismarck.
Why is that big news? Because we did it all in Spanish! Yes, that is my first "official" teaching in Spanish. I can tell you honestly that it went better than I imagined. I'm still a LONG way from preaching in Spanish, but it was a nice step forward.
It also showed me that I need to keep on with my Spanish study. I'd never studied James and Romans back-to-back like that before, and both Bismarck and I were surprised by all the strong parallels between the letters.
Two things in their mission trip were especially meaningful for me. First, we had all the dorm girls from House of Hope over for dinner at our house. We'd never done this before, for a number of reasons,
but it was a great step forward in getting to love them. Nine House of Hope girls was...exciting. Noisy. A bit damaging, property-wise. But there were no broken bones or stitches, and not much more shouting and arguing then you would expect from siblings
(who happen to all be from very broken homes). Seriously, it was wonderful to get to feed them and love them and have the mission team gals plan games for them. It was also a huge reminder that their lives have been so incredibly different from ours. When
I picked the whole group up--and this is 9 girls plus me in our 8 passenger minivan on very rough roads for the first section--they were so excited that they just laughed and screamed and sang for the whole drive. It was the loudest anyone has been in our
vehicle, which is saying something.
The second thing was that, at Saul's suggestion, we took their trip as something of a mini warm-up for our upcoming interns. Our goal in the near future is to have young adult interns come for a discipleship
program with Servant Partners. These will range from 6 months to 2 years, and will involve community living, Bible study, and ministry in the neighborhood and, likely, at House of Hope. That partnership is too deep and long-standing for it not to continue,
unless God really directs otherwise. We have two young adults interested in coming in September and staying for 6 months. I'd love to have a slightly bigger group than two, but with our team of Soledad, Bismarck, Saul and me, it still rounds up to six! Seriously,
a Bible study of six or seven works much better than a group of three. We'll be starting to plan logistics and curriculum for this very soon, as Saul will be leaving for the States in May to plan and prepare for his wedding and won't return until after his
honeymoon in August.
At a year and a half plus, I would now say all our kids have settled in well here. The adjustment to a different culture is a long-term transition. It's challenging to sort which struggles we have
that our specific to this context and which we would have anyway, regardless of where we live. Corin is loving Kindergarten. He's not quite the model student he was last year, partly because the group of boys he enjoys are pretty rowdy and don't always listen
quietly in class. The best thing I've seen from Corin in class is that he has befriended a boy who didn't really have any other friends, and they have become buddies. Their time together certainly lends to Corin getting more correction from his teacher than
he would otherwise, but we will take that trade. Corin's Spanish continues to run circles around ours. In fact, his teacher has requested that he speak more English in class, to be a role model for his Spanish-speaking classmates! I'd say he's getting it.
who is now in 7th grade, has probably had the toughest transition of any of our kids. Her smile still glows with the same joy, but we don't see it as often as we'd like. Sadly, she has experienced some bullying and mistreatment at school. We love our school
and the teachers and administrators are very responsive to our concerns, but that doesn't solve all of the problems. The good news to report is that a group of 11th grade girls have really adopted her and rallied around to encourage her. For us parents,
it has been beautiful to see. She also has close relationships with two of her teachers and her principal, who leads a Bible study for the 7th-grade girls. On Saturday, she ran in a 3K/5K fun run that was part of the school's big biannual Festival. Annalise
volunteered to accompany a classmate of Corin's named Rylee, whose parents had other commitments so they couldn't run the 3K with her. Rylee is six. They were fantastic together, and she helped Rylee keep going and have fun and feel good about her race.
The Festival was a blast, with games and bouncy houses that had waterslides(!) and music and much junk food. But Rylee told her mom that the highlight of her day was running with Annalise. Our Miracle Girl's kind heart is still intact. We're very grateful
has had her ups and downs with our life. She has also experienced some bullying at school, which she is standing up to. I lead a devotional for her 4th-grade class every Friday, so I have learned first-hand about the little civil war that has been raging
in her class. I'm happy to say Aria has successfully stood apart from the groups clashing with each other, but this hasn't been an easy position for her to take. Aria's Spanish is also taking off, and she was recently promoted from Special Spanish (i.e.
Spanish as a second--or third--language) to Regular Spanish (i.e. Spanish for Nicaraguans). This is a HUGE step forward! She is also becoming quite the athlete. She also ran in the Fun Run, her first 5K. She finished in 27:49, first in her age group. Let
me just say that her late grandfather, who was a fantastic distance runner, would have been quite proud.
One of my biggest joys here is that Lydia, Annalise and Aria have all taken up ultimate, and there are 4 R-W's on the field for our Sunday games! As long as I'm talking sports, I'll add that Lydia,
Annalise and I all ran in Nicaragua Christian Academy Triathlon a couple weeks ago. Lydia improved on her time from the year before by 10 minutes. Annalise, who had never done anything nearly this demanding before, completed the whole thing, which was a
huge success for her, and even got a good enough time (1:40) to earn extra credit in her classes! As for me, I discovered that I'm not a very strong swimmer, but determination and Grrr can make up for a lot.
Lydia continues to do great, both spiritually and scholastically. She turned 16, which is still hard for me to wrap my mind around. She has a very challenging schedule, including an AP Econ class,
and she is in HACIA Democracy (Harvard Association Cultivating Inter-American Democracy). It's a bit like Model U.N. She will travel to the Dominican Republic later this month for the big event. She will represent Brazil and has to write a position paper
on prison reform in Brazil. Can I tell you that my eldest daughter is getting very smart? She is also quite beautiful, which those of you who are Dads can understand is a mixed blessing. But I must say, her judgment seems very sound and she continues to
be very mature for her age (as she has been since she was 2). She is involved in a girls' Bible study and Young Life, and loves them both. She continues to give me good feedback on my sermons (she's probably heard me preach more than anyone else except Kim).
She has also made some fantastic friends, including a wonderful best friend named Annie. This, too, brings joy to a father's heart.
Kim also loves it here. She is learning Spanish quickly and has decided within the last few months to learn guitar! She's doing really well, taking lessons, and can already play a few songs for us.
She is getting to exercise both her gift of hospitality and her gift of service frequently. The former through all the kids we have over to play (and feed), the families who visit, the many folks who stay with us (Soledad is presently staying here for 2
months) and the gatherings she organizes; the latter with the sewing class she has started with the widows I described in some previous updates, seeking to help our Nicarguan friends to get dental care through the inexpensive missionary clinics that are offered
here, accompanying her good friend Amada to her OB/GYN appointments as she (Amada!) prepares to have a baby, etc, etc. If I made the whole list for you, this would be a VERY long update. My wife continues to amaze me.
As for me, I would not say that I have been the model of smooth transitions or cultural adjustments. Fortunately, I believe God values faithfulness over doing it "right." I realized not long ago that
I needed a few more things that encouraged me and would be life-giving for me. So I am now coaching the JV basketball team at NCA, which has been fun and frustrating and a bit more responsibility than I meant to sign up for. I had intended merely to be an
assistant coach for the one school team, but there were so many kids trying out that it became evident a JV team would prevent having to cut a third of the kids. I prayed about it and decided it was the right thing to do. My other step is to preach more
often at the International (English speaking) church. I am now preaching about once a month. We have a rotation of speakers, which I really like, and this is giving me a chance to use my gifts again.
Of course, there is much more going on. I think I will share a few anecdotes in my next update, to try to capture some of it. Meanwhile, here are a few
*Well, our deadline is here. We need to decide/are deciding/have decided about staying. And the answer is...please pray! I think we are staying, but I don't feel peaceful and settled about it, as
I'd hoped to.
*I am going to try to take a 3 to 7 day personal retreat, largely to address the above request. I had somehow pictured that this decision would be clear. I think it is for Kim; it isn't for me. So
I need some uninterrupted time with God to work through it. Kim has given her wholehearted blessing to this idea. That should give you the picture.
*Please pray for Annalise's situation at school. Pray that God would strengthen her and help her know how to respond to the other kids. My greatest hope is that she will learn to depend on God more
through this. Also pray that we would be wise in knowing how to support her through this.
*Pray that God would continue to lead us and open the doors he has for us in ministry and relationships here. We are looking very seriously at a neighborhood where we might move in. It's not where
we originally pictured, but it could be a good fit. Once again, we really need wisdom and guidance in these decisions, as there are so many factors that we simply cannot see.
Peace and Joy, Beloved of God.
To support Mike and Kim:
Online giving by credit or debit card (finally!) available
Send checks to:
Foundations Ministries, Inc.
c/o Carrie Schenck
PO Box 2281
Wenatchee, WA 98807