Announcing A Simple House Nicaragua

Below is basically the newsletter that went out in the mail a couple of weeks ago with A Simple House (ASH)

We are starting a new Simple House in Nicaragua!(in fact leaving in a few days, Oct. 19) We have always dreamed of being missionaries,(atleast since we encountered the Living God in our teenage years),but we put that desire aside as our family grew. Seven years ago, we felt God stirring our hearts to make a radical change to heimag0504-2lp our family grow in faith. This led us to reconsider our desire to be missionaries and take the plunge. Since then, we have lived in the Philippines, Mexico, and on the island of St. Lucia. Missions is the wonderful grace-filled life that our family needs, yet we have been surprised by some of the pitfalls and lessons of missionary work. 

We met Ray, a construction worker, while living in the Philippines. He was working on a construction site next to our house. During the day, he did construction work, and at night he was the security guard on the worksite. This left little time for his wife and four children. I spent many early mornings sitting with Ray drinking coffee, eating delicious Filipino bread, and learning the local language. When I noticed Ray’s broken hammer, I let him borrow mine. When he gave it back, he had polished it. As our friendship developed, I found out that Ray’s house was a converted chicken coop. When a typhoon hit the island, his house was badly damaged. Although he did not complain or ask for help, we decided to help him with some materials and labor. He worked long after we would go home each day. He was given the scrap ends of a metal roof which he spliced together to make walls. When it was completed, he invited us overfor a special meal and started a monthly Bible study in his house. On the morning we left the Philippines, Ray was at our house with fresh bread to say goodbye. We have reflected about Ray and the many others that lack opportunities to use their natural gifts for their family and others.

While living and working in Mexico, we met Gonzalo who replaced roofs for those in need. He was eager to teach us the way of doing things in Mexico. Our families shared meals and became great friends as we conversed about faith and family matters. We learned about the culture through our friendship. He was a kind-hearted, hard-working man who thought of ways to help others while trying to provide for his own family. It was difficult to know who truly is in need of help, and we looked to him for advice. He told us of a mother whose husband had left her. She worked to support her family and had a half-built house. She couldn’t complete the house and was forced to sell materials to feed her children. With Gonzalo’s lead, we were able to finish the house. She was even able to find a job towards the end of the project. While working with Gonzalo, we learned the importance of listening and working with the locals to find those who were not begging but had serious needs.


A map of Central America getting painted on our wall

In our time working with the poor, we have found jealousy and rivalry when material goods were given out. Living in the Philippines, we had the opportunity to work in a squatter village of about 100 families. We were looking for ways to create community among the families and encourage working together. Money was donated from the states to give a few families a piglet. Instead of choosing only two families, we obtained permission to build a piggery, which would allow more families to receive a piglet. We bought one sow and randomly selected seven families who would work one day a week caring for the sow. When the sow delivered a litter, each family had earned the right to one piglet that could be raised for meat or breeding. Extra piglets would be sold to buy feed and begin the process again. With the community’s help, we built the piggery, but we had to leave the Philippines before everything was organized and completed. A local family did their best to manage it. The first litter died, and the project fell apart after the second litter. Even though the piggery project was a good idea, we learned the importance of creating a sustainable plan and living long-term with the people being served.

When Clark approached us with an idea for a different type of mission, we were intrigued. We spent time thinking, praying, and talking with the children. We felt that this was an answer to how we would like to do missions differently. As a family, we are excited to begin this new mission that focuses on solidarity, friendship evangelism, sustainability, and working through the locals. We deeply desire to live in solidarity and work as equals with those we serve. We are excited to announce the name of the new Simple House in San Marcos, Nicaragua as Una Casa Simple de San Pablo y San Juan Diego.

Peace and all things Good,

The Eckstine Family


What Mark-Jerzy is teaching me

     Never in a million years did I imagine we would have a baby with problems, not that it mattered. I had actually kind of hoped we would be blessed to have a baby with Downs Syndrome….Syndrome what at word.

Never did I imagine there even were other Syndromes, I always just heard the word “Downs” identified what it was and never really heard the second part. It was just a word you take for granted.

     Never had I ever imagined having a baby with a Syndrome, especially since we have 11 healthy children or that there is a whole world of people whose children have any one of the number of Syndromes. I have always thought how beautiful the children were and how much love the parents of these super special kids had.

Never in a million years did I even think about hearing, “we think your baby has a Syndrome”

Never did I think I would hear the words “a Syndrome incompatible with life”

Never did I know how much pain others have gone through……and are still going through

I never knew how small my love and compassion were and that is one thing Mark-Jerzy has taught me. I know that I would never want to live in the world I lived in before that was so blind to it and now I constantly think that there must be so much more pain out there in the world and that it is more real than I understand and I want to have compassion on people and love as God loves, because I don’t.

Mark-Jerzy is teaching me:

That God’s love is great, that His love is so “other”, so infinite, so much more than our human love.


That God’s love is incomprehensible and marvelous I knew and believed, but now I know that I do not truly know or truly believe as I should, but I want to. I want to love like He does.


Mark-Jerzy’s little coffin that Odilio and the kids helped with

That I can’t wait to spend eternity, only in part because Mark-Jerzy is there, but because the reality of God’s love and His love being so much more than is possible for a human mind to imagine, then going from surprise to surprise and marvel to marvel, wonder to wonder, and delight in His loving presence and His goodness is ever new.

      Because of Mark-Jerzy I have tasted a tiny bit more of our Loving Father’s Goodness and Love and I want more and I want to show it more. I want to walk in God’s Grace that allows me to lay aside my failure and sins and truly love.

  “Above all preserve an intense love for each other, since love covers over many a sin”

                                                                I Peter 4:8

Thank you Mark-Jerzy for all you are teaching me!

Thank You Lord for giving Mark-Jerzy to us for those 40 hours and all the time in the womb!

Thank you loving Father for being “Faithful to the end”

“The Lord carried you, as a man carries his child, all along the road you traveled” Deuteronomy 1:31 (Part 2)

A month ago I attempted to write a blog post about this past year and all I ended up publishing was the scripture verse above. There is so much to write about God’s faithfulness, so much I want to share, so much I don’t want to forget. When we left for Mexico earlier this Spring with thought it would take 4 or 5 days and 12 days later we arrived. It was a difficult and taxing trip with multiple blow outs on the trailer and truck, I was ready to go back home to Oregon so many times. It was a test of faith and it was rewarded by an amazing mission in Mexico. At the time I imagined this would be the hardest time of the year. Our God teaches us to remember the bad times in the Good and the Good in the bad. I never imagined that we would be IMAG0911lighting a candle tonight for Infant Loss Awareness month….

We are still processing all that has happened since leaving Mexico and the end of the pregnancy with so many Doctor visits, those wonderful 40 hours with our son…We know our loving Father is so Good, so many suffer injustice, the results of sin in the world are incomprehensible, but the Good News of Jesus Christ is that there is Hope.

Hope for Mercy.

Hope to give Mercy.

Hope to receive Mercy.

The Lord is patient and truly He carries us as we live in this valley of tear. Yes there are many good things here, but all will seem as tears when we arrive in the Joys of Heaven.

Lord, lets us never loose focus of the Good News and live it and share it so that many will enter your Kingdom, especially the lowest, the lost, the least. Let us see you in them and treat them accordingly.

40 Hours of Life

One week ago yesterday our sweet baby boy came into the world at 12:22 am and was baptized not long after that.

Fr. Denis came to the Hospital about 1 A.M. and performed the baptism


 The months of waiting, the last couple of months of wondering if the ultrasound would be correct……they were.  It all seems so incredibly fast now.  We found out that something was wrong with our precious baby eight and a half weeks ago.  At the time, waiting all of July for him to come felt long, it all seems like a blink of an eye now.  And then his forty hours of life….did it all really happen?


resting together after his birth
He was not able to nurse, but was comforted by NG tube feedings every couple hours

I really really really thought that he really really really would have a miracle in his little body.  Even though I prayed for God’s will and felt at peace before his birth about his death in my heart, I thought that if God only healed one thing.  If his heart was healed then they could do surgery on the other things.  If God healed his diaphragm then he would be strong enough for the other surgeries.  Every time I went forward to receive Jesus in the Eucharist, I felt like the woman who just knew that if she could just touch the edge of His garment she would be made well.  I knew that if I could just receive Jesus, He could make my baby well. I filled the freezer with easy things for the girls to make meals with so I could be in the hospital with the baby for as many weeks as it took.  We made a schedule so that life at home could have a routine that worked as Mark and I spent time with the baby and his needs.  Whatever it took, I was up to the challenge and as I held my sweet baby boy in the hospital as he was slowly passing away  I told him “I would do anything in the world for you. anything”.

What a joy to take care of Mark-Jerzy for the 40 hours

How do I go from missing his presence to being thankful that he is where I should long to be.  My heart aches and my arms are empty, how do I feel thankful for the precious forty hours that I held him, taking in his sweet newborn baby smell, kissing his little deformed hands and feet, telling him how much I love him.

I have been wondering why.  Not “why God did you do this to us?”,  But there seems to be so much purpose in his little life.  Purpose in the pregnancy.  Purpose in us being here in KC.  Why God, why did you give us him?  What is it you are teaching us?  His brothers and sisters who have been loving him since they found out that he was coming.  He gave the world Mark-Jerzy for forty hours. Why?  What is it that You are teaching us?

The kids singing with Jon during communion at the funeral mass

This is the song we listened to during labor, afterwards, Jon sang at the funeral mass, and continue to listen to.  Jesus, We love You  It would bless us if you listened to it.

      Mark and I have been reading Interior Freedom, by Jacques Philippe. On the day after Mark-Jerzy’s Funeral we picked it up and read the following:

       “It is natural and easy to go along with pleasant situations that arise without our choosing them. It becomes a problem, obviously, when things are unpleasant, go against us, or make us suffer. It is precisely then that, in order to become truly free, we are often called to chose to accept what we did not want, and even we would not have wanted at any price. There is a paradoxical law of human life here; one cannot become truly free unless one accepts not always being free!

To achieve true interior freedom we must train ourselves to accept, peacefully and willingly, plenty of things that seem to contradict our freedom. This means consenting to our personal limitations, our weaknesses, our powerlessness, this or that situation that life imposes on us, and so on. We find it difficult to do this, because we feel a natural revulsion for situations we cannot control. But the fact is that the situations that really make us grow are precisely those we do not control.”