Today is the day

Nicaragua, the country we chose to make our home for a two year commitment has become a place of great hope for us. Missionary life has not been what we thought that it would be when we first embarked 8 years ago. But this post is not about our expectations, I’ll write more about later, but it is about the place where we have tried to create a home for ourselves.

Almost one month ago, we heard about a major protest in Managua. Since then, there have been continual marches, every single day. Some of them have not been very peaceful. Here is a video that captures what has happened over the last few weeks. I’m sorry that it is all in Spanish but it gives a pretty clear picture of the unrest.

During this time Mark and I have had to consider leaving with our family. Sometimes, I was pretty nervous. But when I would think about it and talk with Mark, we would always come back to the fact that, although, the two towns closest to us have seen looting, burning and unrest our town always remains peaceful. More than likely we would not experience violence, so we did not have a good reason to leave.

Apart of the consequences of the protest, that have been peaceful marches being repressed by the paramilitary and National Police. Towns have begun to blockade themselves in so that they can control who comes in.

Despite the fact, that we had decided that we were going to wait things out until our regularly scheduled time in July, we spoke with our director on Monday afternoon and we decided that perhaps we should leave now. It took us the rest of the afternoon to process what that meant. Does that mean within a couple of days or perhaps within the week? Should we totally move out of our house, or keep it? We went to speak with some of our friends who are the ones we like to talk with when we need advice. We had to check on the prices of flights. We talked with people about which way would be the safest way with the least roadblocks. By the end of the evening, we decided that more than likely, conditions could really get bad if the National Dialogue did not go well, and that we should leave as soon as possible. We took one day to pack up our house so that we could get on a bus into Costa Rica. Today we had to reroute because of roadblocks a couple of times and wondered if we would make our bus departure. We chose the earliest bus possible thinking we would not encounter any blocks. We have a good friend who picks us up in Managua with his microbus as we come back and forth into the country from the states. We arrived at his house at 3:45 am with no problems. A half hour later, we had to reroute twice because the people were beginning to build the roadblocks again. It has been one thing to see pictures of the blockades with men and their faces covered so no one can recognize them, but it is another thing to see them for ourselves up close and real. But Thanks be to God we made it through the Nicaraguan border without problems.

We are now waiting in Costa Rica until tomorrow were we will fly back to Kansas City.

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Pray for Nicaragua

As we were driving to and from Managua yesterday, I couldn’t help but notice the increasing amount of blue and white painted poles alongside the road. Blue and white are the colors of the Nicaraguan flag and have become the symbol of the April 18 Movement. I don’t want to go into all that has happened in the previous weeks but here is a great blogpost that describes the events and what lead up to them as well as a follow up post here. We are not affiliated with them but they are another missionary family living here in Nicaragua.

Our small town has been very peaceful during this crisis. Life has gone on as normal as possible with increasing gas prices. We have felt very fortunate as neighboring towns have not been as peaceful. However, driving around and seeing the contrast of the neighboring towns with their blue and white colors painted everywhere, we noticed that in our town the amount of red and black, the colors of the Sandinista party, is still very prevalent and is a little unsettling.

While marches have continued all over Nicaragua, over that last three weeks and while it looked hopeful that they would continue peacefully and open dialogue would happen, I am feeling less certain. This country has been turned on its head and is struggling to get back on its feet. The people have been marching under their flag and demanding justice while the government has continued to not just turn a deaf ear but has been pointing blame of certain acts of violence back on the people. While the country continues to unite under their flag, even painting over the red and black, I am noticing which towns are blue and white and which are red and black shows us that the country really is divided.

We heard that there would be another planned march today in Managua, so that is why we made a quick trip into PriceSmart (the Costco of Central America) to stock up on some groceries and avoid Managua for the rest of the week. As we approached Managua, we saw a growing group of people around a statue of Our Lady of Cuapa (a Marian statue) that had been smashed. Then we heard the news that a new group, the May 8th Movement, had destroyed with glass and tar a memorial place for thirty of the over 45 people were killed during the initial march.

As of right now, we are going to continue to stay here. We are not in any danger in our town and we can continue to build the mission. Some things are being delayed but for right now we are living life as normal.

Benedictine Short-Term Mission Trip

We were privileged to have a short-term mission group from Benedictine college come down and share in our mission for 8 days. In the land of missions, there are a lot of negative thoughts going around about short-term mission trips. Some hard questions are being asked. And there are good reasons for that.

Our group had the opportunity to experience all the stereotypical mission opportunities. They visited a local orphanage and played with the kids. These kids are either coming from a bad home and need a safe place or their families are too poor to feed them.

Part of a day was spent with the Carmelite Sisters who feed up to 60 street kids and have an after school tutor program. The group helped the sisters prepare and then serve the kids.

We had a community service project set up at a local school. There really isn’t a thing called maintenance for schools. A lot of them are in pretty bad shape but this one is a little more worse off than most. Now the kids have access to water and are very happy about it. We still need to finish installing another tank that will sit on the water tower.

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And of course what mission trip would be complete without painting a wall. There is so much work to to be done here, and hope to do more. We have read, that this generation has the most students in the history of the country to pass the 6th grade.

There were lots of Nicaraguan food to try..

and the chance to visit the local market where they could buy souvenirs, coffee and cocoa beans to roast.

There were games with the neighbor kids and teaching our kids how to juggle.

 

It wasn’t all fun and games though. They surveyed the land and helped build the road that the shipping container will use.

We look forward to working with the Engineering Dept again as the mission takes shape.

The trip went very well and everyone involved from us, to them, and our friends who helped where impacted by just one short week. So what are some of the these negative feelings and hard questions about short-term mission trips. One very real problem is attitude. No matter how well meaning and sweet young (and old) people can have is a white – savior mentality. “Here we come to help these poor people”. “Without us they just wouldn’t have ……” None of this was exhibited by our Benedictine missionaries but it is a problem that a country like Nicaragua is faced with. Many non-GMOs are coming in to give their helping hand and missions can become doing instead of loving, one is easy to quantify but in the end only love matters.

Another problem is, short-term missionaries can come take a bunch of selfies with cute dirty little poor kids and pat themselves on their back. “What an impact I had on those poor, poor people”. In reality, the poor in developing nations don’t need you to come paint their wall, or pour cement. They can do that themselves, they really can, and better. What they do lack is the resources. We didn’t have our group do any of the above activities because no one else could, but to work alongside of the local people and give them a helping hand. The school was so excited about the possibility of getting help with their water that the community and teachers had come before the group, and did a lot of the digging needed. We paid for the pipes and with everyone working together a lot more got done.

We challenged these young people to not just pat themselves on the back after a job well done for showing an afternoon of love to the orphans and the street children. We hope that we gave them opportunities to learn about the Nicaraguan culture. Not only that, but learn about themselves, to encounter God in the people, and to understand that what Nicaraguans need is our friendship. They can take all this past week and bring what they know from the Head to their Heart.

Get Your Hopes Up

                  “Truly I tell you,” He said, “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Matt. 18:3

          As I think and pray on this scripture and I find myself asking God what does this really mean in the practicality of day to day life and how can I change and truly become like a little child. From time to time I get new insights. Maybe it will be encouraging for you too?

           As children it is so easy to hope, in fact it is so hard to not hope it can be hard to fall asleep. As adults we find ourselves sleepless or waking up from worry or regret or stress, but as a child each day something new and amazing probably will happen. It could be your upcoming Birthday or your mom could make Banana pancakes tomorrow or your cat, pet rabbit, chicken with new chicks could be there waiting for you, or it might only be 22 days till Christmas.

Possibly it’s the day when you get to go visit your Grandma or your big goal is that today is the day you are going to make it all the way across the monkey bars. For many children the idea that there is a good God is not hard to accept.  Life is so fresh and everything new and the possibilities endless. There is little to stop you from dreaming. Life is so exciting at times you can hardly sit in your chair. Is this a part of what Jesus means when He says to become like little children? Well then disappointments start to happen and sin happens and life is not so exciting and innocent anymore and we become more guarded and we protect ourselves, to hide ourselves behind fig leaves and doubt God’s goodness and mercy.

 

           We attend mass at Keiser University here in San Marcos, Nicaragua. It is a special place because a secular University has allowed the Catholic presence to continue and the student involvement keeps it going. For example they have 24/5 Eucharistic Adoration (many students go home for the weekends) and this is not only made possible by and active student body but also by an amazingly generous and devout priest, Fr. Robert. He says a more or less 50/50 English/Spanish mass. He has a reputation around town for his love of the people and the people love him too, although his Connecticut accented Spanish is a great difficulty for the people to understand.

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 A few weeks ago in a sermon Fr. Robert asked if a bus was waiting outside to take whoever wanted to heaven who would be ready? Only a couple raised their hands, I being one of them. Now don’t think this is because of some super spirituality, its not. Let me explain. I am not much of night person, I am fresh in the morning, I have a horrible time studying at night, but for most of my life I have a natural enthusiasm for the new day, especially the morning. I think it is easy to just assume each part of our life is just who we are without giving God, our loving Father, thanks for even the personality graces He gives until we are without it for a while.

 

As many of you know we lost our 12th baby, Mark-Jerzy Marcilino Eckstine, almost 2 years ago and you will also recal that we had warning, knowing that his condition was pronounced to us as “incompatible with life” by the doctors. Each day we walked carrying that burden was bittersweet. After Mark-Jerzy, life has not been the same and as anniversaries come and go certain sadnesses come upon Lora and I, mostly unexpected and without warning… this new song expresses some of my feelings, especailly the lines

Whatever is left of me
After my strength has faded
When I don’t have words to speak
I’ll just say Your name

Whatever is left of me
After the nights has ended
When I don’t have songs to sing
I’ll just call Your name

Here is the Youtube video for the song: Found In You by Josh Balwin

        After I heard another song on the same album I realized I don’t have the hope of a new day that I used to and that I want to hope again in the new day and all that our Father has made possible for this day, today! This song reminds me that with our God so many things are possible each day, and with God all things are possible. I believe in the Goodness of our God and I want to believe in it more and more. I want renewed faith in His loving care and the fact that He has a special plan for each of us to change the world around us, not matter how old or young, how beautiful or not so much, full of life or incompatible with life.  His Kingdom is coming upon and in fact is already here.

Get your hopes up
Lift your head up
Let your faith arise
Get your hopes up
Our God is for us
He’s brought us back to life

Get Your Hopes Up by Josh Baldwin

I pray that I would not return to only natural given enthusiasm for each new day that is part of my personality from birth, but to a Supernatural enthusiasm for life because our Father is so good, better than I can even dream of, and with Him all things are possible. I desire to walk through life like a preacher I heard, “to be simple enough and childlike enough that we just think that God actually listens to us.” Yep that’s the childlike confidence I want.

** A special note: Douglas the caretaker at here at Guadelupe Garden, answers people who ask how many children we have with a “12, but only 11 living; they had another baby that only lived a short time and now have 7 with them in Nicaragua” **

Pictures from Nicaragua

These Photos are backwards in the timeline starting with the celebrations

of Our Lady of Guadelupe more or less working backwards

 

The community came over for prayers and a modest meal to celebrate the day

 

 

Cooking the rice dish

 

Dishing out the 150 servings for the celebration

 

 

A manger scene the kids made with Bing

 

The kids love this tree, they call it the “family tree”

 

Visiting an orphanage with Kendal

 

 

 

 

 

 

what some of the roads look like, they are made of stone cut from compacted volcano ash

 

Very typical wall

 

so much green beauty

 

 

Looking down at the mission house from the the “Family tree”

 

more looking to the right

 

Douglas working on a cell phone booster because communication with the world can be difficult here

 

all the kids were blessed by the “babies” that arrived not long after we did

 

St. Nicolas day and Advent prep

 

 

this is where chocolate comes from

 

these are some more “babies” that arrived after we did, Dogs are very sickly as most people can afford meds for animals.
The kids put their money together to buy worm medicine for after the baths

 

more beauty

 

Novena for the Purisima

 

small meal for the Novena

 

 

 

Ninoska cooking the rice dish over fire

 

 

 

 

 

the kids love working in their “Castle”
6 found so far

 

 

 

 

 

 

first week of Advent

 

even in Nicaragua, possums. This one was living in a banana clump

 

back view of the mission house

 

some of the old buildings that make up the “Castle area” Paul hopes this will become a chapel

 

transportation, we hope to buy our own vehicle that is large enough for us all inside

 

local transportation is cheap but not roomy, including us I think there were 18 people in this Microbus

 

Laundry is done by hand here

 

 

the neighbor’s parrot got loose

 

 

 

Sometimes we eat in the park after mass on Sunday

 

 

Church at KU “Kieser University”
The church in San Marcos