Saturday, November 27, 2010

Where the Wild Things Are

We visited the National Zoo of Nicaragua yesterday with some new friends. It is well worth the admission fee of 75 cents per person. The kids (and the grown-ups) had a great time. Many of the cages are simply chainlink fences...so, if you felt so inclined (and very brave), you could technically squish your hand through the fence to touch the animals. There were a few attempts...mostly on the part of the animals. Here are some snapshots of our adventure to the zoo!


The Ocelots


By the Way...NOT our kid's hand.


Ella was sure this was "Dexter" from Night at the Museum


Our Three Monkeys


Yeah, it was that close. (If you were foolish enough, you could stick your arm through the door of the enclosure and be inches away from touching his face...or feeling the clamp of his jaws.)


Good memories were made today.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

How would you (will you) respond?

post by Jeff
The other evening we attended a local church for a time of fellowship. Near the end of our time, an opportunity was presented to help one of the ministries here in Managua. They were asking for people who would be willing to fill a Christmas basket with food and toiletries for the women that this ministry serves; women that are coming out of prostitution. We chose one of the cards hanging on the tree indicating who we were to buy for. We thought that there was a mistake when we looked at the information card that we had chosen. It said that the woman we had chosen was 11 years old. We asked our friends, who had also chosen a name, if this was a daughter of one of the women. No, this 11 year old girl is the "woman"! Our friends showed us their card, it was for a 10 year old girl.

On our way home, we drove by the same 2 brothels that we drove by on the way there; but I looked at them differently. Were there little girls in there now? I admit that I have heard of such things on news shows like Dateline or 20/20; but this is happening just down the street from where I now live. I can't wrap my head around this. How am I to respond? How are you to respond?

I am thankful for the ministry of House of Hope and will seek to help them in any way that I can.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

One Of These Things Is Not Like The Others, One of These Things Doesn't Belong

This little song from old school Sesame Street could have been our theme song yesterday as we ventured into the city of Managua. There was a car we wanted to check out (and by that, we mean, we needed to check to see if my (bethany's) short legs could reach the pedals in this particular SUV). So, we decided to take "public transportation." There are no bus schedules; there are several different types of buses...although most are retired yellow American school buses that have been painted and decorated. They pack as many people into them as they can. You essentially stand on the side of the road until you see the bus that you think you want and then, you wave at the driver. There are a few formal bus stops...but really, any space works.


This is us waiting for the bus.

We rode the bus for several kilometers (we were the only 'gringos' on the bus and then got off (we thought the bus driver was telling us that the bus was going to turn before we wanted...but maybe he was inviting us over for coffee later). We walked for what felt like a long time, especially when it is hot, you are being stared at due to the fact that you look really look like you 'don't belong'...oh, and you have a 4 year old who wants to jump over all the cracks and spots of grass he finds on the sidewalk.


A Glimpse of the Scene While Walking

Finally, we decided to take a taxi. When hailing a taxi, you have to pick one that is passenger-less and you haggle the price before you even get in. We let many taxis pass us by first...even though they all honked at us, indicating that they'd gladly give us a ride--5 white people standing confusedly on the roadside look like good customers. We did make it to our destination successfully. We saw the car we wanted to see. I was able to reach the pedals. Jeff even test drove it around the parking lot. Having done what we came to do, we decided to call it a day. We walked to a "bus stop" but the bus we wanted didn't appear. So, we walked. And we walked. Finally, we decided to hail another taxi to drive us back home.

We managed to use our limited vocubulary of Spanish. We enjoyed getting out and being among Nicaraguans. To be honest, we were rather proud of ourselves, and definitely proud of our kids, for "getting out there" and trying something new. Getting from one end of town to the other used to be something that we took for granted. Now, it is a major accomplishment. Interesting, how your perspective changes. God was glorified yesterday through our weakness.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Truth Comes Out

We haven't admitted, up until now, that we have a maid. The polite term here is "empleada." I (bethany) feel a bit self-conscious admitting that we have a maid. In America, it seems more of a luxury to have someone come wash your dishes and clean the floors and bathrooms. However, here in Nicaragua, it is expected and acceptable for North Americans to have an 'empleadas'. Rita (our maid) is an employee of the family we are subletting from while they are out of the country. Rita, like our gate-keeper Alvaro, only speaks Spanish. While it may sound ridiculous, it was quite an adjustment having someone in our 'space' cleaning and tending to the things that we were used to doing (or putting off until the shower was too gross to stand in). Rita and I awkwardly danced around each other the first couple of weeks. Just this week, things started feeling more normal. Admittedly, I am enjoying the help! More so, I am enjoying the opportunity to practice my Spanish with Rita. We just had a very successful conversation about washing dishes and the age of her granddaugther. Rita is a very kind and gentle woman who loves the Lord and it is a blessing to have her share our space for a few hours a day.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Waiting

I'm not good at waiting. Seriously. I get impatient waiting for fast food. If I have something that needs be returned at a store, I will go back to the store the same day I bought the wrong thing just to return it because I despise waiting for a more convenient time. I am incredibly impatient. Pitiful, I know. I suppose there is great humor on God's part in sending me to a developing country where time is defined quite differently. I am getting the sense from the Holy Spirit that this "waiting thing" is something that God is desiring to teach me in this season of cultural learning and adjustment. There are many things we need to "wait for": a car, a clear sense of where the Lord wants us to send our kids to school, our 'own' home, Nica residency, the ability to really communicate in Spanish...the list could go on and on. I was recently convicted by Isaiah 30:18 which states:
"So the Lord must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion. For the Lord is a faithful God. Blessed are those who wait for his help."

That last part really got me. I was further convicted by the personal musings on the blog Heavenward by Scotty Smith in which Jeff is subsribed and receives daily. The following statement from this blog really struck me--"I repent of trying to be my own savior, again. I repent of thinking too much and praying too little." Dang, thinking too much and praying too little. Yup, that would be me. I fail to wait for help from the Lord and think too much about how I can get what I want when I want it. I desperately need to learn to be patient and allow God to help in God's timing. Not to mention, that the verse in Isaiah says that the Lord must wait for me to come to him, so he can show me His love and compassion. So the longer I pace back and forth trying to think myself into a better position or solution, the longer I actually delay the blessing of God's love, compassion and help.

I don't want to make the Lord wait on me. I want to learn to wait on Him.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Chain Gang


With the heavy rains this past rainy season, there was some damage to the street in front of the house. Our gate keeper (Alvaro) chose to help his friend repair the road, and I asked if I could help. He looked at me strangely because manual labor is no work for a "jefe" (a "boss" as he likes to call me, partly bacause he knows that it makes me cringe), but he agreed. Then of course, my little helpers wanted to come along as well. We got a lot of smiles from those that passed by. It was quite a site to see a 4 year old gringo doing road work with a garden shovel. As a joke, Alvaro paid each of us 25 centavos for our help...that is about one cent. It is now an ongoing joke. I pay him 25 centavos for any work he does above and beyond his job description, and he pays me when I help him with his work.



Mixing concrete Nica style

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

How Do You Spell "Soup"?

Something bizarre happens when you are trying to learn a new language. You forget how to spell words (even simple words) in your native language. In the middle of language class a few days ago, I (Bethany) was trying to write down the Spanish word for soup and as well as the English translation. I wrote, S-O-P-A, which is the Spanish word for soup. Then, I wrote, S-O-A-P. I looked at it...and thought, that doesn't look right. I looked at Jeff and our Spanish teacher, Eliel, and said, "I can't remember how to spell "soup". Okay, I was never a good speller to begin with...but SOUP...c'mon! We'll see how long this bizarre phenomemon lasts. (By the way, did I spell "phenomenon" correctly?...our blog spell checker has defaulted to Spanish and so it says all my words are spelled wrong.)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Not complaining, I'm just sayin'

I (Jeff) discovered yesterday, the one thing that is worse than a cold shower with very low water pressure. It is a low-pressure shower that turns into a no-pressure shower (that is no water) right after you are all lathered up.

Learning from my misfortune, Bethany had the wisdom to pray for a warm shower this morning. She got it!

What's comical, is that in the middle of writing this, the electricty went out. Thank God for battery back-up. Maybe I should get Bethany to pray for the electricity.

Continuation...I get the lantern and head lamp, and then 5 minutes later the electricity comes back on. Bethany immediately says "I prayed". Smart aleck.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A Great Sunday

We didn't know that there were such beautiful days in Managua, like the one we had today. It was 82 degrees, with low humidity, a mild breeze, and a beautiful blue sky. A pleasant surprise. We were also blessed today by being invited to enjoy lunch with new friends after church today. Even more valuable than these blessings, our family enjoyed a sweet time of worshipping God with fellow Christians at an international fellowship here in Managua. During the time of singing in the presence of the Lord, Bethany and I each had the feeling/thought that despite the challenges of living here, we know that we are exactly where God has asked us to be. There is a deep peace that comes with that knowledge. That makes a beautiful day even more beautiful.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Italian Food for our First Nica Outing!

We did it! We walked to the little Italian Cafe that is about 10 minutes by foot from our house. [It seems rather ironic that our first "eating out" experience here was at an Italian eatery!) We were quite the spectacle of "gringos" walking among the Nicaraguan school children who were walking home from school. You simply can't blend in when you have blond-headed children!

We enjoyed a wonderful and delicious lunch at Casa Mia. All the flatbread pepperoni pizza was quickly consumed! When the check came, we realized we didn't bring enough money to pay. A slight panic hit us. We only had enough "words" to order the pizza, five waters and ask for the check. So, the kids and I (Bethany) sipped our water slowly while Jeff ran back to the house to get the needed funds to pay for our lunch. I tried not to make eye-contact with the waiter. I kept thinking..."please don't ask me where my husband went...I don't know how to conjugate the verb 'go'...come to think of it...I don't even know the unconjugated form of the verb 'go'." Jeff made it back, slipped back into his seat (sweat dripping from his face) and we paid the bill.

All-in-all, it was a successful outing. We rejoice in the small steps forward!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Jesus Had to Learn to Crawl

[this is a rather unpolished look at life in the moment.]

Being good at NOTHING as we learn Nica life, language and culture is frustrating, disheartening, discouraging, and exhausting! (I am a classic over-achiever.)

I am thankful that God never leaves me. I am thankful that God seeks to grow me. I am thankful that He communicates with me through His Word. I read Paul's comment in 2 Corinthians 12:10 which says, "Each time he said, My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness." I am providing God with much weakness in which to exhibit His Power. It is amazing how you are stripped of your strengths in a season of adjustment like the one we are in now. However, I know God's Power and Glory will shine well through my weakness. There is no doubt that the strength to learn and live, as well as, the accomplishments of the day (albeit minor) are because of God.

Last night as I was falling to sleep, I thought--Jesus came to Earth, a culture quite different from His Heavenly Culture, and He came as a helpless baby! I feel like a helpless baby at times here. Jesus had to learn the language. Jesus had to learn to crawl before He learned to walk. Okay, granted He chose to be bound to the constraints of the earth...yet, He knows how I feel. He has had to "adjust" to new surroundings, a new culture. He had to learn as a child. I am learning like a child--trial and error, repetition, depending on others to help and guide. I can take heart in the fact that Jesus has "been there, done that" and therefore He can meet me where I am and love me through it.

posted by bethany

Monday, November 1, 2010

Answered Prayer

Before we left for Nicaragua, I (Jeff) asked many of you to pray for the gate keeper of the house of where we are now staying. I asked you to pray that he would be willing to befriend me, and be willing to talk with me despite my little knowledge of Spanish and his lack of any English. Well, he has been this and so much more. Alvaro is a great teacher and takes a lot of pride in being my maestro (teacher). He spends 2-3 hours a day teaching me about the language and culture of Nicaragua. We have long discussions about the social, political, and economical situations in Nicaragua (keep in mind that I understand about 1-2 words per sentence). He is so very patient with me, and when I don't understand something, we will break into a game of charades; you would laugh until you cried if you could see some of them. I will continue to write more about the insights he is giving me. Thank you for praying Alvaro and our family.