Generations

I am amazed when I think that I have been on this journey here in Nicaragua for over 6 years. In that time I have had many opportunities to share love, hope and faith to numerous folks in dozens of different ways.

Again this musing is not to focus on me or accomplishments. They never are written with that intent. However, it is amazing what one can do when asked to do something and instead of saying, “I’m not sure how we would do that.” We choose to say, “Sure, let’s try it.”

That came full circle this past week in a way I never expected.

We’ll call him Victor. A guy who looks normal in every way, well dressed, nice haircut, a tight beard outlines his chin and jawline. 

He is not in one of my classes. He does not go to any of the church services, The only way I recognized him was that he drops his son off at the new facilities we are working out of in one of the barrios. Even that he has only done once or twice in the past year. But the other day he showed up at my door.

As I have said before, my house is pretty much my sanctuary. Almost every meeting I have or class I try help is in a place other than my home. There are of course exceptions, but I try and keep one place that I can relax and not have to be “on duty”. I am out on the streets daily with some sort of ministry, so it is not difficult.

But there he was, Victor, ringing my doorbell. 

I didn’t recognize him at first, but he introduced himself. I invited him in, asked him if he wanted coffee or something else to drink. He politely refused. He said, “No this will only take a minute.”

Somewhat relieved, somewhat baffled, mostly curious, I asked how I could help him.

He was on his bicycle, so he had a backpack. He took the pack off and reached down into the satchel. He then pulled out a Bible. A paperback Bible. Worn, dog-eared, and weathered from what was  obviously hours of reading. It was so beat up that the cover had been slightly torn. So much so that i didn’t recognize it. 

It was one of the jail Bibles that I had given out years before. Before COVID, before my own illness, before the unfortunate events that stopped some of our mission groups. I found these Bibles when working with another missionary in the jail system. One of our partners who had visited us saw them and purchased a couple of dozen to give away over 4 years ago.

He said, “you don’t know me, do you?”

I had to reply, “no, not really”

He then proceeded to tell me that the young child he had delivered on occasion to class was really his grandson. I thought, “wow, he sure is holding up better than me”. 

The story of the Bible goes further than that. 

He said that his son (the father of my student) had died. He did not give me the details, but hinted that it was a result of some of his life choices. 

I, of course, gave my condolences. He said that he didn’t want to make me sad, he wanted to encourage me. 

I thought that was a strange way of starting if that were his intent.

Again, as so often happens when we jump to conclusions, I was wrong.

He told me that this Bible was one of the only possessions that his son treasured. He carried it with him to the end. 

He then opened the back cover of the Bible and showed me a picture. It was of his son, who I did recognize, standing beside me, every part of him soaked after being baptized in jail, 5 years ago.

I teared a little. Stopped, went back into my room, and brought out my copy of the picture. As you know, in this digital age we don’t have many prints of photographs laying around. Only the important ones. Or perhaps they are old ones. But because of an intern for one of the other missionaries who was also a photographer, I happened to have an actual print of that one.

We shared a moment, the grandpa and I. He then looked at me and said, “Thank you”. I said, “your welcome and I wished that we could do more in the jail system”. He corrected me. He said, “no, thank you for teaching my grandson”. It has been difficult for him and his sisters. He has to work all the time and the few hours a week I spend with the boy are priceless to him.

I found one of the Bible’s. One I use for personal reading. Because it is in Spanish, it also helps me with my language learning, which after 6 years is still a constant goal.

The cover says, “Libre entre rejas”. Which means “Free between bars”. 

All of us have encountered bars, chains, and walls in our life that want to imprison us. But the good news is that we can have freedom between those bars. The good news is that a man’s legacy is now longer than the 30 years he lived. It is greater than the bars that imprisoned him. It will be longer than his short existence. While, I am sure that there are a lot of things that the grandfather does not want the grandson to learn from his father, there is one idea that will live eternally. Hope.

That hope is epitomized in the heart of a grandfather, who lost his son, and doesn’t want to lose his grandson. We are doing eternal work here, together. Generational work the results of which we may never see in our lifetime.

That’s what we are doing together here. Giving hope, in love, through our faith.

You share in the task and I am grateful that you do. Thank you for your continued encouragement and underpinning as we reach generations with our message of hope.

The pictures today show one of the classes Victor’s grandson attends and my copy of the Bible we gave away.

Dios los bendiga 

Jeff

Our Shared Hope

I hope everyone has or is having the most wonderful of Christmases. This time of year we always take a moment to take stock and review what’s gone on the previous year.

I could tell you about the over 5 tons of rice that has been distributed. You might want to hear about the thousands of people who have been fed. I could brag about the different services we have been able to deliver. The hundreds of students who were taught.  But I want to take this time and talk about the future.

I came across an interesting statistic this week that astounded me. As I look around the streets of Granada, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by this stat, however, I guess I never really thought about it. 30% of all Nicaraguans are under the age of 15. That compares to around 22% in the US. Our median age is 24 years old compared to 38.5 in the States.

What does all that mean?

Simply put there is hope in Nicaragua, in spite of the poverty, in spite of the negative news one might hear, in spite of all that we could complain about, hope springs from the youth of this country.

That is why we do what we do here.

We are here to prepare a cadre of amazing children to reach heights not dreamed of by their parents. The benefit of this work may not be seen by everyone reading this blog. But these are  essential, far-reaching, and generational labors of love.

That’s why, with your encouragement and continued prayers we are all making a difference together.

So until God calls me home, I will continue to teach the kids of Nicaragua. We continue to strive to give them opportunities. We will continue to spread the faith, hope, and love we were commissioned to spread one person at a time. Then …. We will find Uno Más.

I hope you have a great holiday filled with all the joy this season can provide.

Dios los bendiga

Perseverance

The biggest curiosity I have found in living here in Nicaragua is the difference between people from the exact same circumstances and culture yet have diametrically opposed viewpoints on life.

Some folks do what most of us would do in a similar situation and give the same deck of cards, so to speak. These are the folks who see hopelessness and despair all around them and give way to those emotions. This is not a judgmental statement. I have no clue how I would react. I was born with built in lifelines. I have family and friends who love me very much. There are people who I can count on if times were really terrible. Even more than that, I and they have the resources to buffer and ease most potholes that come before me. 

Because of that I am not sure how I would play out the exact same scenarios presented to most Nicaraguans.

I want to talk today, however, about a few of the folks I know who have chose different paths. They have risen above circumstances. One in particular. I won’t use his name, but know he is a real person and because of that I don’t want to embarrass him on this forum.

This friend of mine has been told his entire life that he wasn’t good enough. He wasn’t smart enough. He came from the wrong family. His life was laid out before him as a series of challenges that he would fail before one day it would all end in his death. That sounds pretty bleak. He thought so too. So he decided to change his circumstances. He saved and scrimped and bought books that would help him learn as much as he could about customer service and sales. He spent sleepless nights learning English while not having much contact with anyone who spoke the language. 

One fateful day we met. He was desperately looking for someone who could teach him what gaps his book learning had left in his education. We, native English speakers, don’t realize idioms, catch phrases, and words with multiple meaning reside in our speech. Things books are hard pressed to teach.

Think about it. What would “being on thin ice” mean to someone who has never experienced winter. Why is your shoulder cold and if it was why would you give it to someone. Or how do get “under the weather?” All of these and hundreds more are expressions that you and I take for granted. But if you were not raised the way you were raised, you would find them very confusing.

It seemed impossible. He was told by many to quit. He was constantly encouraged to accept his inevitable future. But he would not. He had hope. 

He got a job. He is working in a call center now. He even teaches some of his fellow employees nuances of English. His life is stable, productive and fulfilling all because he would not give up.

I am reminded that Sir James Dyson, it is said, tried 5,124 different designs for his revolutionary vacuum cleaner before he came up with one that sold over a billion dollars in one year alone. He had hope and perseverance. He did not accept his present condition but saw what might be.

That’s how I want to live my life. That’s why UnoMas exists. The hope we find in our faith compels us forward to heights we could never have dreamed of before.

I pray that hope is instilled in your heart. If not, write me, let’s talk about it.

God is doing amazing things here in Nicaragua. Let me know if you want to be a part of that.

Dios los bendiga 

Jeff

Muriel

Muriel is one of my students. She lives with her grandmother. She doesn’t see her mother who is in Costa Rica, working. She doesn’t know her father.

But she works hard! She studies every day, is at the top of her class and washes dishes at one of the local restaurants at night. She is one of those indomitable spirits we write epic poems about. 

She finally passed her English certificate class this week and I think this deserves celebrating. I am so proud of her and her hard work.

Her proudest moment came Friday. She has been accepted into nursing school. She will start in October. In 5 years she will be on the front lines of the health care system. I know she will finish tops there as well.

Why do I share here story?

You see, facing hardships that we can only imagine in her life she has kept her love for God and her zest for life completely intact. She doesn’t complain. She doesn’t whine. Compared to us she has every right to do both.

Every time I see her she smiles and says thank you for helping her so much. I tell her the same thing every time. It is she who has helped me. 

When I am overwhelmed, I think of Muriel. When I think things are too rough, I remember her. When I am frazzled or frustrated or forlorn I remember this little 18 year old who has overcome so much.

She is the epitome of hope. She is the standard of faithfulness. She exudes love.

Oh, and did  I tell you she is completely deaf and blind in one eye? No, that slipped my mind? No, I didn’t tell you because in the 5 years I have known her, never once has that been an excuse. She sometimes has to remind me to look at her when I speak because her flawless lip reading makes me forget her deafness. But you’ll never hear her complain that her life is too hard.

Muriel is an angel. She will go far.

These are the people we serve together. These are the ones who make us get out of bed every morning with hope and joy.

Pray for Muriel. Pray for all our children. Thank you for helping us serve these wonderful kids.

Dios te bendiga 

Jeff

A baseball team

Let me tell you about Mario. Mario has a baseball team. It is young people from our poorest barrio. The range from 9-15 in ages. 

He works tirelessly for these boys. He has helped provide them with computer classes, English classes and so much more. He is one of the good guys.

The reason I admire him so much is that in spite of the fact that he speaks fluent English, has a outgoing personality and a patient disposition his tourist business is suffering greatly during this crisis.

If the tourists were here, then he would be translating and tour guiding and making a lot of money. Instead he coaching a baseball team for free.

This is part of what I’ve been talking about for almost 6 years. When things seem hopeless … maybe a change in direction is needed. That’s what he did.

I have partnered with Mario to teach the English classes. The boys are eager learners and participate in class. They understand that the skills we try to teach will help them in the future.

I pray for Mario everyday… I hope you will too.

We talk about faith, hope, and love a lot on this blog. This is an example of all three coming together.

Faith in the youth of our country that will build a future that is much brighter than the one they see today.

Hope that our country will stabilize and the tourist will come back. These tourist which, as I have said so often, provide the backbone of our economic system.

And finally, love of the children and the families of Pantanal. Giving these poorest of the por hope as well.

Your support helps us serve them. Thank you for that support. Your prayers, your encouragement and your thoughts are being tremendous returns. Keep up the good work.

I’ll be coming to the U.S. in October. I hope to get an opportunity to speak to anyone who wants to share in our dream of a better, more prosperous Nicaragua.

Dios los bendiga

The blog is back!

If you are reading this, the. I don’t have to tell you that our blog site is back up and running.

I have missed sharing some of these missives with you. But now we have been assured that the technical difficulties are over and we can confidently move forward with the weekly musings.

Granada itself has been challenged over the past few months as well. COVID seems to have come in for another wave. Our dear pastor friend, Guillermo, had the disease and seems to have recovered. He lives in a small house with anywhere from 8-15 people under his roof. We are watching that situation closely to assure none of the others contract the virus.

As some of you are aware, I was ambushed in one of the barrios and lost my 4 front teeth. Thanks to our dentist friends I am fully recovered with permanent replacements functioning well.

I share all of this not to make you feel sorrow or concern. Rather I want you to know that no matter what the circumstances we all still march on. The resilience of our brothers and sisters here is amazing. 

Our work continues, feeding programs and classes are going strong. Lots of alcohol gel and seats distanced safely apart. The baseball team class that we just started a week ago is amazing. It will be an after school program with tutoring, English classes, and of course, baseball. The kids are eager to learn and are very competitive. I’ll tell you more about them and show some videos in another blog.

Right now I just wanted to tell you all that we are well. It might seem a bit gray outside but in Nicaragua the sun always shines sometime during the day. That’s how it is in our lives as well. No matter the issue at hand, no matter how dark the future seems, we can always see the Son.

I love you all dearly. 

Dios los bendiga