One of the things that really stuck out after the Maranatha team did such a great job painting the library was the chairs and couches in there. They were all ripped up on the arms and cushions and badly needed to be recovered. We talked with Halle about paying for it and he took them in to be worked on. They look great!
As our time here is drawing to a close, I've been trying to reflect on our time here and what it will mean and has meant to our family. I'm not quite ready to write that blog yet. I'm still processing all of it. It has been an amazing and blessed time, but also quite difficult and challenging in many ways as well.
This past week we had a group from West Sacremento, California, with us. They were a really fun group and special for us since they were a family group. There were kids from age 8-college with their parents. I really enjoyed seeing how short term mission trips can work as families. I think a lot of people get the idea in their head that mission trips are only for adults or teens, but these kids were ready to work and help out in any way they could. I think coming together as a family really makes for a solid faith experience for all of them together; a shared time of helping others and sharing God's word and work.
Drew and the kids from the team; hanging out and helping out:
Drew in the kitchen at the Ranchon (where we eat with teams) with an iguana. Carlos, who's mom Fermina cooks for us where there are teams, brought it over to show the team and Drew.
This group led a two day VBS for about 40 kids from our neighborhood. Drew was excited to participate and hang out and help as well. He even came up with the game idea for the first day. The team also did some painting, construction, and Nick and one of the dads from the team, Ron, got to get back into the trench that the Maranatha team helped dig and make it a foot deeper!
Halle giving instructions for the game time of VBS:
A round of Red Light Green Light:
One of the neighborhood girls watching Nick play guitar:
We went to the feeding program one last time on birthday cupcake day! Kathy makes cupcakes once a quarter for the kids who have had birthdays in the last three months. It was Drew's turn, so he got up with the other kids to collect his cake and be sung to.
Abbey with Shirley, one of the little girls that comes to the feeding program with her mom.
We also had the opportunity to go to our dear friend Jessenia's house one more time for dinner and fellowship. We have really enjoyed our friendship with her and her family. She made arroz a la valenciana, Drew's favorite Nicaraguan dish.
There was time for soccer in the yard before dinner.
Juan, Jessenia, and their children.
Jessenia's kids with Drew. There are some extra cousins in this picture too.
And one final picture. Abbey is getting so big! She's got five teeth now, with two more about to pop. She's walking on her own when she wants too, but mostly prefers to grab a hand and take you along with her wherever she wants to go. You can see her three bottom teeth in this picture.
The team from Maranatha HS in Pasadena, CA, left this past Friday morning. It's taken me this long to get around to posting some pictures of their finished products! They did a TON of painting as well as helped facilitate a clothing sale, hosted a youth night with testimonies and a game night later on in the week. They also dug a ditch for the power line to be moved and moved 8 trees... yes... they dug up and moved trees. It was fantastic. This team was awesome! It was great to see that many kids so excited about helping and learning more about God and His work in their lives through this trip.
At youth night, the kids played a few rounds of water balloon toss. Abbey and Sami had fun playing with the balloons before the games got going.
Kate was one of the kids who gave her testimony at the youth night. Amanda translated.
At the game night, Drew had fun playing cards and doing "card tricks" that he made up. Which basically meant, you pick and card, put it back in the deck and then he goes through the entire deck saying, "is this your card?" "is this your card?" until he finds it! He gets it every time! He's amazing!
One morning we hosted a clothing sale where clothes that had been brought down by the team and by other teams were sold at a very low price to folks from the neighborhood (I saw a lot of shirts that said "Woodinville" on them... even an Epoch shirt!). The shoes are always big hit because they are so much less expensive than if people were to go to the market to get them. People had lined up chairs to wait for the sale outside the gate 24 hours before the sale. Some people even spent the night outside our gate so they could be first in line. This really hit me. Where do you see the same scene in the states... for a concert or movie premiere maybe? But these people were lined up and camping out to get clothing.
Nick helped out with a lot of the manual labor. Digging the ditch and moving the trees.
The team painted not just a new mural sign for the sports center and the two rooms in the library, but also one of the water towers that needed a new coat of paint. Here are several pictures of the library rooms, the new sign, and the water tower. You might recognize Drew's silhouette in the first picture and Kathy and Halle in the third one. I included English translations of the verses painted on the walls.
Hebrews 4:12 (NIV) For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
Psalm 32:11 (NIV) Rejoice in the LORD and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!
Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV) Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.
Some of the kids relaxing with Abbey in the library. We'll be reupholstering the chairs and couches the kids are sitting on this week. Painting the water tower. 2 Peter 1:5 (NIV) For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge
My favorite wall of the kids library. A snake who has eaten two mice (one of them is reading a book). The moon and volcano look incredible!
The mural outside the sports center. I took this picture when it was ALMOST done. I'll have to get out and get another one of the real finished product. The verses on the wall are Matthew 5:13-14 (NIV) "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden."
Today we went on a quick walk-through of part of the city dump with Amira, the in-country director for the Manna Project. I did not take these pictures. I chose not to take my camera with me. But these pictures give you a glimpse into the living conditions in the dump. It was very sad to see the children and families living in this squalor. People dig through the trash that comes in to find things they can eat, use, or possibly sell.
The smell was, as you would imagine, awful. All that trash plus the magnitude of people living without any sanitation to speak of. Amira showed us the health clinic that the Manna Project runs in the dump. This clinic can provide basic health services for the people that live there. She said that the majority of issues they deal with are skin infections or rashes, as well as respiratory problems. They also deal with cuts that come from the long sticks with sharp points on the end that they use to go through the trash. They also teach english classes and run a child sponsorship program, where for $20/month, a child receives oatmeal, milk, and vitamins. The moms have to attend weekly health classes to try to change the habits at home and the kids have to come in once a month for a check up.
We also walked up to a lookout point to see the trucks coming in and people picking through the trash. We then walked around to a school that another missionary family runs. About 300 kids attend this school and receive a meal as well.
There were quite a few people who lived there that walked around with us. We had both Drew and Abbey with us. Drew got to play soccer for a bit before we left. Many of the people that I spoke with kept telling me how Abbey shouldn't be there because the air is bad for her and would make her sick. It just made me sad that they felt this way about my baby, but they LIVE there... their babies live in that every day. I'm no expert on issues surrounding poverty, or country development, or anything like that, but it just made me sad that people were so defeated to not fight for something better for their kids and their family. And maybe I'm wrong... really, one hour of being there is nothing. I have no clue what their life is like or what their hopes and dreams are. But in just that short time, I felt the dump was a place that it would be difficult to hope and dream in.
People shouldn't have to live that way. After we got home, I was talking with Drew about it and he said he didn't like living in the United States because it's the richest country in the world and "a lot of people are selfish. They should help." I told him that a lot of people are trying to help and make things better and that just by playing soccer with some of the kids today, that he helped bring some love and hope into a very dark place.
We've been busy this week with a team from Maranatha High School in Pasadena, CA. The team consists of 4 of each: Freshman, Sophomores, Juniors, Seniors, and adults. So far they've been a great team and Drew has really enjoyed having the teenagers around to hang out, work, and play with. They are mainly doing some painting projects around the compound; painting the library and new addition of the library. They are also painting a huge mural on the outside of the baseball stadium wall.
On their first full day here, we took them on a tour of Managua. Now, there's not much to see, tourist-wise in Managua, but we went down to the old cathedral, which survived an earthquake in 1931, but was severely damaged and condemned after a 1972 earthquake.
Halle being the tour guide outside the cathedral. Near the cathedral is Kilometer 0. In Nicaragua, all the roads are measured by their distance from this point. So, we live at about km 12.25 on the old highway to Leon... 12.25 km away from this point in the city. Here's Drew standing on km 0. We then went up to a park in the city with a great view of Lake Managua for a zip line tour. Drew was really brave and wanted to go as well. He actually ended up going first! He had to go with a guide because he's small and wouldn't be able to control his speed. He said he was scared for the first 15 feet, but "then I relaxed." His guide was kind enough to pose for a photo afterwards. The next day, the kids got to work painting and doing other work around the compound. I'll have more pictures next week of the finished products, but for now, enjoy the work in progress. In the new library addition, putting on a coat of splatter paint... all the kids and Drew loved this step and came out of it very messy! The mural on the outside of the baseball stadium has the new logo for El Salero which incorporates the Nicaraguan flag. Some of the kids were also helping to dig a ditch to redirect the powerline to the house.
Last Sunday after church, we drove about 40 minutes to the Volcan Masaya. This active volcano is a national park and you can actually go right up to the crater and look in. Nick was questioning (after our visit) the wisdom of visiting an active volcano so soon after eruptions in both Equador and Guatemala. Our volcano was certainly spitting out a lot of toxic fumes, but no massive eruption, thankfully. They do have you back in to park at the crater, so that in the event of an emergency, you can make a hasty exit!
Our first stop was at the visitor center where there was a ton of information about the park, the history of the Masaya Volcano (which in itself was quite interesting, sacrifices and all!), as well as geological and geographic information about volcanoes all over Nicaragua. There was a patio and viewing platform off the back of the visitor center where we looked out over the lava bed and out to the Masaya Lagoon in the background off to the right in the photo below.
A volcano joke that Drew learned from Halle: Where do volcanoes sleep? ... In a lava bed!
We then drove up a very steep road to the crater of the volcano. On the way up, we had a great view of the cross that was first placed on the volcano in 1529 by a priest who called it the mouth of hell. The original cross has been replaced several times.
When we got to the parking area near the top, we could look right into the crater of the volcano. The smoke and fumes were quite bad, so we had gas masks! The park rangers recommend only staying at the crater for 20 minutes or less because of the fumes. This photo shows a view of the crater edge and the smoke coming out. We tried to be quick because Abby didn't like wearing the mask. Drew didn't particularly like it either, but given his current fascination with volcanoes, he tolerated it to fight the fumes. Nick and Drew hiked up 177 steps to the cross. Abbey and I opted not to after a group coming down told us that the fumes were even worse on the steps than in the parking area. Just check out Drew's face in this picture to get an idea of how bad the gas was. Nick got this neat picture of the cross from right below it. The design allows it to be seen as a cross from any direction around the volcano. After the volcano, we went into the town of Masaya to visit the market there. It wasn't much different from the market in Managua as far as the artisan crafts available, but it was in this neat stone walled, open air plaza. We enjoyed walking around and taking in the sites of the market. Nick got a cool shirt (that I'll have to get a picture of him modeling later) and Drew got a small leather journal with a volcano (of course) painted on the front.
Halle and Nick got up on the roof to harvest some mangos. Nick is using a long bamboo pole with a hook on the end to pull the mangos free and Halle is catching them. These mangos are very tasty! We put them in the freezer and enjoy a cold treat later.
I've been remiss in posting these pictures. We went to San Juan Del Sur while Brookes was down last month. We drove down and stayed overnight one night at a place called Casa Del Soul. This is the view from our deck. It was a gorgeous house with three rooms. The owner lives on the top floor and rents out the bottom floors as guest quarters. Halle and Kathy had stayed there before, and spoke to the owner, so we got a great deal. About 60% off his normal advertised rate! (What can I say, I'm a sucker for a sale). There was a pool that we had to practically force Drew to get out of, and lovely patio area that looked out over the bay. It was a great place to stay and relax for a bit.
On the way down, we stopped at a wind farm. Halle wanted to check out the windmills. From what I understand, about 8% of the country's power currently comes from this farm, and they are hoping to expand it to double that amount. Drew was fascinated. The windmills were HUGE and he liked hearing about how they work.
From the house we could hike down through a dry riverbed to the bay below.
Drew liked throwing rocks into the ocean. There was no one else on the beach except us. These crabs were everywhere along the road by Casa Del Soul.
There is a giant statue of Jesus over the bay at San Juan Del Sur. We drove up to a vacant lot just below the statue to get some nice pictures of the bay from above.
On our way out of town we stopped at the Pelican Eyes resort, which will be playing host to much of the production staff of Survivor 21: Nicaragua, which is to be filmed in the surrounding area. We didn't see Jeff Probst, though. We did have a nice lunch and look around their grounds a bit. The view from our table included this amazing infinity pool.
Abbey liked watching the people swimming.
Drew harvested some baby palm trees (with permission from the staff) for Halle to plant in the back field at home.
After lunch, we headed back home, but had to make one more stop on the shores of Lake Nicaragua to take a picture with a volcano.