JUST LIKE US

Just Like Us …

Photo of beach day with OBGM kids' English students

It’s been a few weeks since Rochelle and our son, Andrew, returned from their extended visit in Ometepe Island, Nicaragua. We are grateful to have our family reunited and ready to enter a new season as stronger disciples of Christ.

Reflecting on what we experienced in June and July on Ometepe, the biggest surprise was the severity of the desperate economic situation that many of our neighbors, volunteers and friends are adjusting to on Ometepe Island (Scroll down to Micro Loan section below for reasons). The impact of this includes a large amount of families being unable to provide basic needs such as medicine, food, shoes, reading glasses and/or hygiene items. As a result, we are encouraging more teams to serve with us and to bring these items. At the current time, we can NOT ship to Nicaragua. IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN SERVING IN NICARAGUA CONTACT US

Not a day passed without God showing us His heart while helping families & children on Ometepe. For example, people in the community would show up at our house with eggs, limes, nacatamales (a local dish), cookies, mangoes, avocados, and even a Nicaraguan dress! The extended visit also enabled us more opportunities to share in authentic family moments such as after-school homework time, a day at the beach, or preparing a meal together. These are a people JUST LIKE US seeking unity in family and nation. Unfortunately, they have much less in terms of choice, opportunity or advocacy.
  We remain committed to God’s plans for His people as the living Body of Christ: plans for hope and a prosperous future (Jeremiah 29:11). We thank you for your continued prayers & support. We thank our amazing on-site staff, volunteers & fellow missionaries in Nicaragua who fill in the gaps when we can’t. See below for more details on what’s happening NOW in the field.

add us your charity: https://smile.amazon.com/ch/83-0840019

HOUSING PROJECT UPDATE

As mentioned in last month’s e-news, one of this summer’s visiting mission teams had to reschedule their visit to Ometepe to a future date. However, catalysts for their decision to serve were the stories of two very poor, single-parent families in desperate need of structural housing improvements. In July, this mission team sent $1,600 to OBGM, and we immediately secured budgets. Supplies were delivered and construction is underway. This is a double blessing as the projects will employ people in their local community as well. Each project also requires volunteer hours which both the homeowners and OBGM’s local mission team are contributing.

See below photos for progress. There are NO WORDS to express the gratitude from these local families and OBGM to: Kula Yoga Merritt Island, Kula Yoga Port Orange, Kula Yoga New Smynra Beach and Bula Kava Cocoa Beach for their fundraising efforts and generous hearts. We look forward to hosting them in the future!

MICRO LOAN PILOT PROGRAM

Our extended stay in Ometepe this summer revealed that the economic climate in Nicaragua continues to worsen, due a steep decline in tourism and tax reform imposed by the current government. The tourism industry will likely take years to recover, and tax reform has out-priced most family farmers from getting the needed supplies for their crops. These hard-working men and women are very poor, and therefore have no access to credit. Sometimes the credit needed is a modest $100, $250 or $500 that could be repaid at harvest time.

This is just one example of a very complicated issue that we can NOT solve. However, we can expand peoples choices so that they may have the ability to do what’s best to provide for themselves. See the above video as an example.

Therefore, we will pilot a micro loan program to three to five families in Ometepe. Our goal is to provide & administer a pool of no-interest loans that continually sustain the program for poor on Ometepe. . If you have a heart to help someone help themselves,  Click here to securely donate. We are seeking five $250 Sponsors.

Knowing English provides better long-term job opportunities for rural Nicaraguans. We are honored to announce the official start date of a young-adult English program in the community of Santa Cruz commencing September 18.  

The program will be held in the classroom space of Iglesia Nueva Jerusalen church on Wed & Thurs evenings led by Hilder Barrios and assisted by Leydi Rios Alverez, both whom are young adults and faithful disciples of Christ.

One Month and Still Going

It’s just over one month since we arrived in Nicaragua on June 6th and it’s been a roller-coaster adventure in this #summerofglory.

First, we would like to thank our June short-term mission volunteers, Matt & Margareth Hoey from Wilmington, DE and Mike Palmer from First United Methodist Church, Cocoa Beach.  Their presence and donations continue to bless Ometepe Island today. Scroll down for detail & photos on each visit.

Next, continue to pray with us and for us. This journey has been filled with challenges, but in all the situations, we remain grateful to God’s faithfulness in providing exactly what is needed.The JOY far outweighs the challenges and we would not change a thing.

Matt & Margareth present one of the new students with his own dictionary.
The most profound moments have been serving in relationship with the local mission team when we distribute food, donations, visit and pray with families in need. Some of the stories are heart wrenching. Last year’s sociopolitical crisis continues to hit families hard today. People who previously worked in tourism-related jobs are still un- or under-employed. There is no room in a family’s budget for “extras” like shoes, medicines, clothes, etc.

The people of Ometepe and throughout Nicaragua are teaching me so much about keeping a heart of trust and grace. In outreach, we encounter aging, sickand/or single-mother families — some who have to choose between receiving assistance for food or medicine from us. OBGM does not yet receive enough financial donations to provide both at this time. 

We had our own personal emergency a few weeks ago, when our youngest son, Jake, had a severe allergic reaction. He is 100% recovered now, but we were officially baptized in the Nica emergency medical “system” where the conditions (and smells) were deplorable by US-standards. However, the clinic supplied the ample IV-medications and care. Also, accompanying us was our amazing local friends who helped us manage the language barrier. We had to put our trust in the hands and feet helping us, even though it did not look or feel normal to us.

Recently, one young father came to visit seeking only 200 Cords (~U$6.00) for asthma medication for his 12-month old baby.  I could see the panic in his eyes and body – just like ME during my son’s recent allergic episode.  The dad was so grateful for the medical assistance and promised to visit us when his son was well!

In each example, it is apparent that the physical presence, support, prayers and donations coming through OBGM (down to the last penny or donated pencil) is a blessing to our deserving brothers, sisters &children here in Ometepe. We are so grateful forGod’s faithfulness for bringing us to this place and opening our eyes. Last, please join us in prayer for: OBGM ministry & staff
mission team & remaining stay this summer
Continued peace for Nicaragua
Remaining 2019 funding for: Payroll for ongoing English program & new Santa Cruz English Class program commencing in the weeks to come ($350/mo)
Food Distribution Program ($350/mo)
Medical Assistance ($100/mo)
Funding for structural housing upgrades for two young families (See below previous e-news). 
Love, Peace & Joy
T.J. and Rochelle

For more frequent updates from the field, follow us on Instagram or Facebook.

JUNE VISIT
Matt and Margareth Hoey came to Ometepe with such servant hearts and a ton of fun-filled surprises for our kids in the Saturday English program. They brought the remaining supplies for making our “You are So Loved” personal photos, dictionaries, loads of field toys and a full tray of Ferror Roche chocolates. Matt & Margareth took charge of both English class lessons with such confidence and fun. The kids’ LOVED it (see photos below). It was also a joy to watch the kids decorate their photos & taste fine chocolate for the first time! Thank you so much Matt & Margareth. We hope you were as blessed as the people on Ometepe Island.

ARE YOU INTERESTED IN SERVING WITH US IN NICARAGUA? CONTACT US FOR MORE INFO.

SOS – The rainy season is here — Marisol & Christian’ Families (see previous enews) are struggling to stay safe & dry during the rough downpours. Below is a 26-second video clip showing Marisol’s family (with their permission). We are seeking only $1,600 for both families to ensure structural repairs to keep these families safe & dry.
Click here to securely donate.

Mike & First United Methodist Church Cocoa Beach

Mike Palmer of First United Methodist Church in Cocoa Beach (FUMCCB) enjoyed meeting his primary education scholarship recipients, teaching multiple English classes and serving with our local mission team. So many families were blessed by the food packages that were sponsored this month by FUMCCB. It was an honor to have Mike there to help secure the bulk food supplies, assemble the packages as well as distribute the food and pray with families in three (3) different communities. 

A huge thanks to Mike for his generosity, time and sharing his testimony at our home church.  Mike hopes to return to Ometepe one day on a future short-term mission trip.

MINDS:  FIRST MALE COLLEGE SCHOLAR

Congratulations to Jeysin Alvarez Gonzalez who is our first male college scholar program recipient. OBGM now has a total of four (4) young adults participating in this program. Jeysin attends the Universidad Hispanoamerica Recinto in Rivas. He is grateful to God, foremost, for the opportunity to stay enrolled in college. He promises to work hard and volunteer with OBGM when available. Please pray for Jeysin and his family.

It’s simple. Education reduces poverty. Consider becoming a Sponsor to a native Ometepe Island college student. It’s typically a 5-year commitment of $50/month.  Contact us with any questions, or set up your online recurring monthly donation today.

Jeysin receives his first scholarship payment. He has since volunteered many hours and hard work helping others on Ometepe.

Summer of Glory – May Update

In last month’s e-news, we reflected on Jesus washing the feet of his disciples as a reminder of His humble servanthood and precursor to the cross. This month, we are preparing to host a roster of four (4) short-term mission teams visiting Ometepe this summer, representing the body of Christ to “wash another’s feet.” (John 13:14 NIV). Scroll down for more info on who is joining us for a #summerofglory. We look forward to sharing many examples of His glory showering down on the poorest communities we serve on Ometepe Island, Nicaragua.

Speaking of Glory, we would like to introduce you to “Gloria,” the ministry’s pre-owned truck in Nicaragua and answer to many of your prayers. The day after Rochelle’s return from Ometepe in April, our tax service advised us that the State of Illinois owed us a sizable refund! This refund provided much-needed transportation that is already being used to help others in Ometepe.

The last tidbit of glory news is we plan to launch a young-adult English program in the barrio of Santa Cruz. Joining Hilder will be our new assistant teacher, Leydi, who is a fourth year English university student and Jesus lover. We look forward to watching Leydi grow in her new role in the Santa Cruz classroom.

T.J., Rochelle and family depart for Nicaragua on June 6. Rochelle and her oldest son, Andrew, plan to stay through July 28.  While there, we expect to share many updates on social media as internet is available. Follow us on Instagram or Facebook.
 

Last, please join us in prayer this Season for:

  • Our OBGM ministry & stay this summer
  • Continued peace for Nicaragua
  • Visiting mission teams for June & July (see below)
  • Supplies & payroll for new Santa Cruz English Class program commencing in June
  • Structural housing upgrades for two young families (See previous e-news). 
  • Safety rails for our pre-owned truck
    Love, Peace & Joy
    T.J. and Rochelle

JUNE
Matt & Margareth Hoey have been supportive of our vision for the people of Ometepe when we first helped as short-term missionaries from our NJ church over ten years ago. We are humbled by their their ongoing support and now honored they will join us to serve for one week all the way from Wilmington, Delaware.

Matt & Margareth Hoey – June Missionaries

JUNE
Welcome Mike Palmer of First United Methodist Church in Cocoa Beach. We are thrilled to have a member from our home church to serve as God’s faithful steward in Ometepe.
Mike has participated on many on short-term mission trips, including serving in Uganda, Tanzania, Mexico and the Amazon. He’s a current sponsor to five (5) of our primary education scholarship recipients. We look forward to see Mike experience Ometepe and the many blessings he will bring to those we serve on the island!

Mike Palmer – June Missionary

JUNE
Welcome Julie Isobe of @isobe salon in Indian Harbor Beach, FL While cutting hair during her stay in Ometepe, Julie will be exploring options for a permanent trade school to teach hair styling and technique, with a major emphasis on sustainable living. As part of the curriculum, she she will teach locals how to treat hair with oils derived from the natural produce found in Nicaragua.

Julie Isobe and Rochelle at Julie’s FL salon hatching plans for a Nicaragua school

JULY
A team of three young families from Kula Yoga will spend a week in Ometepe this July. Kula means “family” or “community” and we are honored by their passion to share their time and talent to help raise much-needed funds for our programming and their visit serving the poorest of the poor. We will share more info about them in future e-news. In the meantime, you can support their efforts by attending donation yoga classes (in Florida)

Kula’s Fundraiser Poster

Washing Another’s Feet

During my recent visit to Ometepe, we were invited to meet our local mission team at a young family’s house in Balgüe (See Christian’s Family video). It was in the middle of the afternoon and April in Nicaragua is the peak of the HOT, dry season. What I found astonished me. The entire 10-person team, PLUS Christian and her family, were moving giant rocks to form a drainage system in preparation for the rainy season.

This was such an act of humility and servant hood beyond evangelism, modeling Jesus’ directive, I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you (John 13:15 NIV) to build up Christian’s home (literally) with love.

It was the next day that the team received their new walking shoes, water bottles and ponchos from your generous donations.  These vessels of Jesus were so grateful for your donation of supplies, especially the walking shoes. As I watched each of them try on their new shoes, I was overwhelmed with humility and the vision of Jesus washing their feet – just as He did on Maundy Thursday saying, Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. (John 13:14 NIV). 

THANK YOU to all who made it possible to bless these people and metaphorically “wash another’s feet” (John 13:14 NIV).

March Update

Wow Ometepe is all we can say since our return from Nicaragua on February 12. We were greatly encouraged by the continued stability of the nation since 2018’s civil & economic unrest – the biggest surprise was a strong return of tourism to Ometepe.

There is still room for caution, but the situation has brought increased cooperation and partnership among the Nicaraguan people, churches and other ministries, including OBGM. This IS the body of Christ in action and it’s so good! Just as Paul, shares in Romans 12:5 SO IN CHRIST, WE WHO ARE MANY ARE ONE BODY, AND EACH MEMBER BELONGS TO ONE ANOTHER.

Scroll down for more details of our recent visit and program updates. We are currently praying for for the following needs:

  • Sustainable support to 2019’s nutrition program
  • Pre-owned 4-wheel drive truck for transportation of bulk nutrition supplies, materials, outreach team members, visiting team members and general needs. The vehicle must be purchased in Nicaragua.
  • Walking Shoes & Ponchos for Outreach Team
  • Start of a 2nd English Class program in Santa Cruz

Also pray for travel safety as Rochelle returns to Nicaragua March 21 – April 4. Her travel is possible thanks to frequent flyer miles TJ receives via American Airlines. We will do our best to keep you updated (including shenanigans) via our Facebook PageInstagram orblog.Love, Peace & Joy
T.J. and Rochelle

Thank You Tom Davis

Thank you to Tom Davis of Grand Junction, CO for joining us in Nicaragua from February 2 – 12, 2019. The people of Ometepe were so blessed with his presence and contributions throughout his visit on the island. 

We especially appreciate Tom’s input with our children’s English school program, including lesson planning and materials given to our English teacher, Hilder. With 30+ years as a professional educator, his experience was invaluable and timely since the new school year in Nicaragua commenced February 4.

Tom managed to have some fun, too! We squeezed in a waterfall hike and a fishing on two afternoons. Best, of all, he plans to return to Ometepe in the future with two his grown daughters and son-in-law! We look forward to his return and how each of his family members bless the beautiful people of Ometepe. 

ARE YOU INTERESTED IN SERVING WITH US THIS SUMMER IN NICARAGUA? CONTACT US FOR MORE INFO.

MINDS:  College Scholar Receives Laptop

Thank you Cocoa Beach Daybreak Rotary Club for the Toshiba laptop awarded to Lisbeth Issamar Bravo Garcia, age 19. Lisbeth is a deserving student attending her 3rd year at the University of Managua (UNAN) majoring in architecture. She was both humbled and thrilled with receipt of this assistance as she had NO computer to complete her upcoming coursework! She plans to graduate in 2021.

Fully-functioning laptops and unlocked smartphones are in great need. If you would like to donate one of your own items, please contact us.

MINDS:  21 Kids Start English Classes!

Words can not describe the sight of 21 kids crammed into a classroom on a hot Saturday morning eager to learn English! The below video is from February 9th’s first day of school and celebration. We hope you can see the value and love this program brings to the children in Sintiope. Please consider helping us expand this program which helps the community seek better employment.

BODIES:  Your generosity helps to nourish ~ 80 bodies/month  – many in some of the hard-to-reach communities and with family members who are very sick.

BODIES & SPIRITS: Nutrition Program & Outreach Team Needs

One of the most humbling & educational moments during our visit was the time we spent with the local mission/outreach team from God’s Assembly church in Santa Cruz, Ometepe. This team of 10 dedicated volunteers go out into the “mission field” 2x/week from 5am – 6pm, seeking residents in under-served communities as far as 10km away from their homes. Many of those reached include the extremely sick and/or poor farmers who have no access to a church, bible study, healing prayer or simply in sharing in God’s word.

In addition to a small travel stipend they receive from OBGM, the team hosts their own fundraisers to support their program. We are honored to have this dedicated team help us sort, weigh, pack and deliver food kits to those most in need. Each kit feeds a family of four (4) for 1.5 weeks, and on average 20 families receive the aid per month according to our current budget.

But it’s not about the food. This is really about working together as the Body of Christ to share God’s relentless love…providing comfort, peace, healing, joy…all of the gifts available to us by His sheer grace. 

NEEDS  – We need help outfitting each team member with appropriate walking shoes and rain ponchos during our next visit. To accomplish this, we’ve set up an Amazon Wish List with specific shoe sizes for each team member as well a link for the rain ponchos. If you chose to donate, please order before March 15 to ensure timely delivery to us, prior to our visit. Prices range from $15.99 – $41.

MINDS:  7 primary school students were fully sponsored last month to supply school uniforms, backpacks, shoes & supplies for the 2019 school year.

MINDS: College Scholarship Awarded

Meet Prisila Rios from Santa Cruz, Ometepe Island. Prisila will assume a full course load of classes in Rivas, Nicaragua commencing this month. She will commute from Ometepe & attend classes on Saturdays. 

In addition to her other responsibilities, Prisila is a dedicated volunteer in her community in Santa Cruz, including serving on her church’s mission team twice per month.

If you would like to sponsor a college student like Prisila, we are seeking financial support of $50 per month,or $500 per year per scholarship. When donating, please specify “college scholar” on the designation line.

SPIRIT: Youth In Training Graduates
Congratulations to Denis and Hilder of Ometepe who completed Youth With a Mission’s (YWAM) two-week training program in Managua on January 31, 2019. The program, Save to Serve and Transform (SST), is specifically for young people who want to make God known with their lifestyle, families, community, nation and the world. This is accomplished through not only study and reflection, but also through outreach.

Rochelle had the privilege of serving along side these two young men in an outreach day in the trash dumps near Managua. We are delighted to watch them transform and grow in their relationship with Jesus. We look forward to helping each of them continue in their journey and we ask for your prayers.
 “SO IN CHRIST, WE WHO ARE MANY ARE ONE BODY, AND EACH MEMBER BELONGS TO ONE ANOTHER” – ROMANS 12:5

January Update

2019 Off & Running!
We hope you all had a meaningful Christmas season and Happy New Year. Since we returned home from visiting family and friends in NJ & PA, it’s been nonstop planning for 2019. Rochelle leaves for Nicaragua on January 28th to prepare for our first visiting short-term missionary, Mr. Tom Davis, of Grand Junction, CO (see below), who arrives with T.J. from Feb 2 – 12.

Scroll down for more details since December’s update. Please continue to pray with us and for travel safety as we team up with our partner ministries, friends and staff in Nicaragua. We will do our best to keep you updated via our Facebook PageInstagram but sometimes online access is not consistently paired with our busy schedule in the field.
Love, Peace & Joy
T.J. and Rochelle

Welcome Tom Davis!We are overjoyed to have Tom Davis of Grand Junction, CO join us in Nicaragua from February 2 – 12!  Tom’s passion for youth and  30+ years in education will be a huge blessing to our ministry, especially with our English students and teaching staff. Tom currently works as an adjunct professor at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction,teaching education to prospective teachers.He also works in his church with middle school, high school and young adult age students. He holds Bachelor’s degrees in Theology and Education as well as a Master degree in Music Education. 
Tom has traveled the world and loves serving in missions. He has two adult daughters who also love serving the Lord.  We can’t wait to see the impact of Tom’s contributions on Ometepe Island in February.  

BODIES:  Your generosity helped to nourish ~1,100 bodies in 2018.
The economic crisis is slowly improving, but food assistance and outreach to the elderly & sick is still needed in 2019. Can you help us?

Minds:  Cocoa Beach Daybreak Rotary Club

Thank you Cocoa Beach Daybreak Rotary Club for the Toshiba laptop donation for our scholarship program. The recipient is a female college student from the University of Managua majoring in architecture. Fully-functioning laptops and unlocked smartphones are in great need. If you would like to donate one of your own items, please contact us.

MINDS: Thanks to your support in 2018, each and every one of our English class students will have their own textbook in 2019.

Also, February is back-to-school time in Ometepe. It’s not too late to help us fill our suitcase BEFORE JAN 31, we need children’s (sizes 13 – 3) black school shoes. They can be gently USED or or purchased via our Amazon Wish List and shipped to:179 Jamaica Drive
Cocoa Beach, FL 32931
Spirit: Youth In Training Jan 19 – 30, 2019 
Please pray for Denis and Hilder of Ometepe who will start Youth With a Mission’s (YWAM) two-week training program in Managua, commencing January 19. The program, Save to Serve and Transform (SST), is specifically for young people from ages 13 to 20 who want to know God and make him known with their lifestyle, families, community, nation and the world. 

We are delighted to invest in these young men and look forward to watching their relationship with Jesus grow and flourish for years to come! Stay tuned for more details as Rochelle will meet up with Denis and Hilder in Managua before the end of the month.
Santa Suitcase Update!
Below are some images from the Santa Suitcase distribution in December. The art supplies and Barbies were a huge hit! We look forward to visiting with many of these children in February and hope to share more stories with your via our blogInstagram and/or Facebook page. It is so amazing to see the Body of Christ working together to help fill & deliver Santa’s Suitcase!
Our English students received art supplies and personal letters from the Youth Group at First United Methodist Church, Cocoa Beach, FL

Bearing Fruit

Last year I bought a citrus tree at a local nursery who assured me it bears fruit each year. I brought it home, replanted it in a large pot and placed it where I thought was the perfect location on our deck. A few months later, a few blossoms appeared. I was so excited, and my mouth salivated at the thought of our family eating organic citrus grown in our back yard. Weeks went by, and I noticed there was no new growth or fruit on the tree. What went wrong? Months passed and nothing happened. In fact, at times the tree was knocked over during strong summer storms.

Remain in His Love & Joy!

Eventually, I moved the tree to a new location which was closer to our home. This location received less Florida sun and was among other plants and shrubs residing in the earth.

Just before Christmas, I added some newly-harvested compost and wished the tree well before leaving for the holidays up north. Upon my return, lo and behold the tree started to blossom! Today it bears heaps of blossoms, fruit and new growth. When I think of what happened to this tree, I can’t help to reflect and praise God’s amazing creation, promise and grace. I would like to share two points with you here:

  1. The tree needed to be around other life to help protect it. In this life, we need to trust God, our family and/or community when we are vulnerable. Whether we are the receiver or the giver of help, we need each other. Jesus knew this and commanded us to love our neighbor, and even our enemies, as ourselves. 
  2. Like Jesus’ death and resurrection, the decomposing compost helped to yield the most beautiful blossoms and fruit on this tree. Thank you, Jesus, for your ultimate sacrifice, so we may blossom, bear fruit and remain in your love!

John 15: 1-17

Not The Forgotten Ones

One of the goals of our late-Fall visit to Nicaragua was to strengthen our relationships local pastors/ministries in the communities we serve in Ometepe. Of our three guiding pillars, Spirit, we recently committed to walk alongside one local mission team who minister to “the forgotten ones” (that is their term) into the outlying communities from their base church.

This week, I received an update from the field that we had enough in our local budget to purchase & prepare 20 more food kits (rice, beans,oil, sugar, coffee, salt).  Each kit feeds an entire family for 7-10 days. This amazing team not only spent countless hours securing, measuring & packaging each meal kit, they spent 20+ hours going to four separate communities (3 in Mérida, 2 in La Palma, 12 en Madroñal and Santa cruz and 5 kits in Sintiope). Each visit was less about the food and more about relationship, prayer and loving on the sick & elderly.

It is truly an honor to witness how our trusted team & friends in Nicaragua work together to honor the greatest commandment to “love thy neighbor”. Since June, One Body Global Ministries made it possible to supply at least 220 food kits to the most poor and sick families in Ometepe. To put it in perspective, if each kit feeds 4-6 people for a week, that is approximately 1,100 mouths!

In the words of our project administrator, Erlin, he shared today, “I see God moving in our ministry… I spoke with each one of the beneficiaries and I see the real needed not only of food, they need love. They need God.”

I just had to share this good news and ask you to pray for these amazing (and probably exhausted) people who help us love on those who would otherwise feel alone, unloved, or forgotten.  We are One Body in Christ!

Sonya, Nahum, Julio, Francisca, Cynthia, Pricila, Alvaro, Yaneris,
Diega, Francis, Olivia, Erlin  and Yovelsi

A Boy and his Bike

I’m still reflecting on the interactions and images during my ten day visit to Nicaragua. One profound moment occurred on day two in Nueva Vida, as I sat beside a group of mothers and their very young children. One child, a little 2 year old boy, was playing with a dilapidated bicycle tied to a baby walker with a tattered rag. I think they were tied together to keep the boy close to his mom and infant siblings.

Image-1The little boy was so happy playing with this bicycle. You could tell how much he cherished the bike by the care he was taking in handling the wheels and handle bars. It was precious to him, despite the fact that this bicycle had NO chain, NO seat and NO pedals. In fact, it was covered in rust and dirt. Yet this child adored the broken, pieces-missing, rusted-out shell of a bike.

Through this child at that moment watching, I saw our loving Papa God. Our Father loves us just like this little boy loving on the bike. He loves us despite all of our rusted bits, missing parts, sins and imperfections. We are his precious children and he wants the best for us no matter how battered we are from our journey.  He is a loving Father. He is a good Father. In fact, that love runs so deep, He sent His only Son to this earth to die for all of our messy sins.  Wow!

I am grateful to be His child. And hope you are too.

Heaps of Joy

My first few days in Nicaragua were spent with our friends from the Beauty for Ashes Project. This ministry shares the love of Jesus with children and families in the heaps of trash in the capital city of Managua. On the day we arrived, the group had plans to visit a family in a community called Nueva Vida to celebrate birthdays of three (3) children. I was honored to be invited to attend with the group.

IMG_4577On our drive into the community, I was overwhelmed by the sheer size of the trash heaps alongside the unpaved roads. They were like mini-mountains of garbage, plastic and rubbish ranging approximately 8ft. to 15 ft. high. Each pile cascaded down to become part of the dirt road beneath the wheels of our truck. It was not your typical Main Street welcome.

However, the real welcome came when we arrived at the home of Salva & Henri, their 11 children and 6 grandchildren.  Salva, in particular, was filled with so much joy to see me. I briefly met Salva in April at an event in another town and I had forgotten about our encounter. The interaction in April, however, had meant so much to Salva. She almost squeezed the breath out of my lungs as she hugged me in Nueva Vida. It was such a surprise, and yet her Joy was so pure it brought me to tears! As we continued our greetings, Salva sIMG_4548hared her testimony of accepting Jesus fully into her heart and living in relationship with Him. The fruit of that intimacy was obvious in the joyful nature within her family as we spent the afternoon celebrating the birthdays and Jesus’ love.

It did not matter where we were, how many flies swarmed the birthday cake or what smells occasionally floated by with a strong breeze. Nothing compares with Heaps of Joy, Love & Peace I found in Nueva Vida that first day!

May God, the source of hope, fill you with all joy and peace by means of your faith in him, so that your hope will continue to grow by the power of the Holy Spirit – Romans 15:13