Monday, September 24

Last week, I experienced many what I would call "identity questioning or identity challenging" moments..... Also, I got to go salsa dancing!

Situations/conversations which got me thinking/praying this past week:

1. Listening once again to the history of Nicaragua and the United States ugly role in much of the past injustices and violence.

2. Sitting in a meeting with representatives from UMCOR who are traveling around Central America learning from organizations and asking the best ways for the Methodist church to be most helpful. One of the major responses from AMC is "TRUST US".

3. Meeting a new friend who worked with Doctors without Borders and traveled to some of the most impoverished and war stricken areas in the world.

4. Meeting a local Nicaraguan who  one day when studying in New Orleans was almost deported and publicly humiliated simply because he had on a Nicaraguan shirt and looks Nicaraguan.

5. Hearing a Nicaraguan friend's perspective on all the missionaries who visit this country. He mentioned many times they come wanting to help but then still live rich separate lives.

6. Reading about how Texas and TCU are doing well in football and I am considering what this means for my liking and respecting University of Texas.

I will go into more details later this week. As I am being challenged, I still feel happy, blessed and humbled to be here.

Dios te bendiga!

Thank you for your continued support, mis amigos!


Friday, September 14

I've been busy with school this week. Yesterday, I celebrated my "roommates" birthday with her. Alysha is also a missionary taking classes for about 6 months before she begins teaching in an international school. Tomorrow is 1 out of 3 independence days celebrated by Nicaragua. I am spending today relaxing and studying a little bit of Spanish.

Earlier today I stumbled upon the fact that one of my favorite bands, The Avett Brothers, just dropped a new album. As I sampled the songs on iTunes, a few lyrics from this song jumped out at me. I decided to search for the rest of the lyrics. Here is the song:

The Once and Future Carpenter
The Avett Brothers

I ain't from Texas, but I made my way from Dallas
And I know the lonesome sound is following
I ain't a gambler, but I can recognize a hand
And when to hold, when the queens are staring back at me
Once I was a carpenter, man my hands were calloused
I could swing a metal mallet sure and straight
But I took to the highway, a poet young and hungry
And I left the timbers where they lay

Forever I will move like the world that turns beneath me
And when I lose my direction I'll look up to the sky
And when the black cloak drags upon the ground
I'll be ready to surrender, and remember
Well we're all in this together
If I live the life I'm given, I wont be scared to die

And I don't come from Detroit, but her diesel motors pull me
And I followed till I finally lost my way
And now I spend my days in search of a woman we called purpose
And if I ever pass back through her town I'll stay

Forever I will move like the world that turns beneath me
And when I lose my direction I'll look up to the sky
And when the black dress drags upon the ground
I'll be ready to surrender, and remember
Well we're all in this together
If I live the life I'm given, I won't be scared to die

And my life is but a coin, pulled from an empty pocket
Dropped into a slot with dreams of sevens close behind
And hope and fear go with it, and moon and the sun go spinning
Like the numbers and fruits before my eyes
Sometimes I hit, sometimes it robs me blind
Sometimes I hit, sometimes it robs me blind

Forever I will move like the world that turns beneath me
And when I lose my direction I'll look up to the sky
And when the black cloak drags upon the ground
I'll be ready to surrender, and remember
Well we're all in this together
If I live the life I'm given, I won't be scared to die


Monday, September 10

Just Be

When we over schedule ourselves in the belief that we can do everything, we stop being human and try to be godlike- not only impossible but also incredibly arrogant. Most of us are living at a pace that is not only unsustainable; it's also unbiblical. 

You have enough time to do everything God wants you to do. 

When something small loudly demands all our attention, its noise often drowns out the whisper of what's enormously important. 

-Weird: Because Normal Isn't Working by Craig Groseschel 

Sitting around a simple, green, plastic table draped with a tablecloth adorned with pictures of reindeer and an elf-like character; resides two of my missionary friends, Nicaraguan grandparents and me. For at least two hours we sat, ate, laughed, watched Alex's chicken named "Capitan: Whachew mean?" run around the yard, and simply enjoyed each others company. In Nicaragua, I never set my phone on the table awaiting for it to light up and I find myself worrying less about things I "need" to do. I sat and actually felt fully present with all of these beautiful people and got to discover more about the lives of these two older Nicaraguans who live in the cooler climate of San Marcos.

Whilst training for my Mission Intern ministry, we often discussed the ministry of presence and how many times the most powerful gift you can give to someone is simply being. We mentioned the difference between "doing for" and "being with". It makes me reflect on how many times in my life I strive to do for others. Fix things. Give MY talents. Do stuff. Stay busy. When perhaps, as Groseschel writes, I am trying to be "godlike".

I am living in Managua, Nicaragua. 2,250 miles away from my family (Yes, I am boss on Google Maps). Following a call to ministry abroad. And yet God is curently calling me to BE. To be patient. To seek the small moments. To seek ministry in the simple. To be with others. As a person who LOVES to be busy and LIVES like a crazy person, this is scary to me but for now I've felt the blessings that come with this calling. As time proceeds, I meet more people and find more things to do, I hope I remember the importance of not filling my life with DOING but instead remember to BE.


Thursday, September 6

Whirlwind Week

As I sit down to write this blog post and I reflect on last week, I feel completely overwhelmed. This feeling may also be due to the fact I spent 8 hours today in Spanish class. Class has begun! However, I think I mainly feel overwhelmed in a positive way because of all the things I participated in last week. I received a taste of my experiences to come during my 5 weeks of learning and training in Accion Medica's Mataglapa area. Then on Saturday, treated myself to a day of surfing en la playa de Pochomil.

On Wednesday, Alex and I jumped on a bus from Managua to Matagalpa. Then, we traveled from Matagalpa to La Tuma. In La Tuma, Don Jorge, one of the drivers for AMC, picked us up at a local tiendra where we awaited his arrival. From La Tuma we went straight to the San Benito Land Banks where a corn festival took place on some bumpy roads. I will explain the roads more in depth later. It was quite the day of traveling! However, during this long commute I saw beautiful sites and witnessed many new cultural differences between Nicaragua and my own country. For example, I discovered many people, mainly boys in their youth, use the buses as a means to make money. As the buses speed up and down the mountains, well mainly down because they struggle to go up the giant hills, different boys literally hop on to the bus carrying a bucket of different foods and drinks to sell. They stay on the bus for a little while squeezing their way through the small aisles, many times filled with extra people who overflowed into standing in the aisles, with their large buckets or baskets. Then, when they sell out or people are no longer interested the boys or people quickly exit the bus at a different stop.

Corn Festival at San Benito Land Bank
Once we arrived to the corn festival at the San Benito Land Banks, all the families from the entire community, all the families who own land banks or "associates" who help with the crops and animals were gathered at this place with a small building for storage and a kitchen. A small covered structure also existed which I assumed were for workshops, meetings, and different gatherings such as the corn festival. Accion Medica Cristiana purchases large chunks of land and allows people to apply for about 5 acres of land in order to grow organic crops. The families slowly pay for the "land banks" over time with no interest. The reason the area is called a bank is because the money goes into a "bank" which in turn allows the program to continue helping others as well. 

Esperanaza is another name given to this particular land bank. The different sections represent the areas owned by different families and/or people.

We arrived right before the service began in which everyone honored and praised God for not only the abundance of corn but also the many other crops grown in the land bank. How miraculous it is that food, which provides economic and health stability for all the families simply grows straight up out of the ground. Some of you who grew up around farms may laugh at this obvious fact and I knew where my vegetables and fruit came from before. However, to participate in a worship directly thanking the Lord for the crops, while many vegetables, still dusted with dirt, covered the table up front and hung from the ceiling as celebratory decorations is a powerful experience. It is indeed miraculous! Which when already aware of the negative aspects of processed, inorganic foods, adds another level of almost sadness and concern that we as people "hurt" and "ruin" what God places right before us; ready to eat. After singing, praying, and celebrating, corn was served prepared in many different ways. Atol- pudding made out of corn; guirila- similar to a tortilla with more corn and thicker than a tortilla; tamales; and corn on the cob covered my plate. After eating I had the chance to giggle with some of the little girls and have short conversations with them. They were so curious as to who I was and simply giggled and stared at me. Later, I got to follow a young gentleman out to the fields and witness how to gather yucca. I stood next to a tree and all of a sudden the young man yanked the tree over and began chopping around the roots of the tree with a giant machete. The yucca grows as the roots or at the roots. I'm unsure of the specifics at the moment. Totally fascinating! I hope I get to use a giant machete in the near future. :)

Overall, the corn festival allowed me to taste many new and different Nicaraguan foods, gave me a glimpse at the different things I will be learning, and made me smile as I felt the spirit of the Lord move through all the children and families in the San Benito community. 

The first night Alex & I stayed in town and decided to attend Sandra's church. Sandra is one of the women who works for the AMC office in La Dalia.  The tiny church is perched right next to a main road in town and we spent about 2.5 hours worshipping in the small wooden structure.  Although the congregation & building are small, the heart of this church is LARGE. I'm still astounded they worship about 4 days out of the week. What?!

The next day we once again traveled outside of town to Santa Luce, which is where the sleeping quarters are for groups/teams that help out at AMC.  The dorms/kitchen/meeting room/offices are located right next to a coffee plantation and it is located at quite a distance in one of the mountains. Beautiful! My favorite part of the site is the large porch, which spans the front of the property.  All the AMC staff in the area gathered for a workshop on interviews. Part of everyone's job, at times, involves interviewing and documenting the different life stories surrounding the work of AMC. Bethany & Estefan, two outside parties- I currently cannot recall the organization Bethany works with, led the staff in the workshop and suggested a format for phrasing questions. Ultimately, we want to narrow down on the greatest change that has occurred in the interviewees life after participating in an AMC workshop, receiving a land bank, receiving medical care, etc. I think it was neat to meet in the location where I will be staying with future teams.

The last day we headed to another land bank, New Jerusalem, where our two separate interview groups met with two different men. The trip from Santa Luce to New Jerusalem allowed me to understand why AMC goes through trucks about every 3 years. Everyone piled either into the front cab or stood/sat in the back of the truck as we traveled through the rocky, bumpy roads. At times we had to come to s complete stop before driving over a large rock and at different occasions we drove through rivers. The first day I arrived and we drove to the corn festival I proclaimed, "that was fun!", however; as the journeys continued the journey itself was still fun and adventurous, but the ride became tiring and almost nauseating. 

Don Orlando is the man my group interviews. He has a big, warm smile and he radiates the fact he enjoys life. Orlando applied for a land bank in New Jerusalem and received land about three years ago. The biggest change for him was receiving the land and being able to work for himself instead of being, the word he used, a "slave" for a wealthy plantation owner.  Now he has food and some prosperity. Orlando also mentioned enjoying the different workshops hosted by AMC and also workshops by the government on water. I'm grateful Orlando was willing to share his story and I think my interview team did a marvelous job of honoring Orlando and capturing his story.

I had an amazing time in the Matagalpa area and am excited to spend 5 weeks learning from the staff in La Dalia and learning from the different people I will encounter during my time beginning at the end of September.

Michelle, Alex and I concluded the weekend by renting surfboards in Pochomill- a small beach town.  The waves were pretty rough with strong undertow, but it was super fun to learn and try to improve my surfing skills.

Thanks for all your care and support!

I almost forgot! At the New Jerusalem Land Bank, we went on a hike to this gorgeous waterfall....