Quick (picture) Update

Also, I am realizing that I fail at blogging, but I’m trying!  In the last couple of weeks we have…

  • Rescued two kittens that were a day old.  They died 10 days later.

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  • Been doing our worldview study and hanging out with these three guys as much as possible.  They all used to live at the orphanage and don’t anymore, but we love them to bits and pieces.  We’re so thankful that they are apart of our lives here.

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  • Worked on the house every day.  We are in the process of moving in!

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  • Got stuck in the muck in the truck.

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  • Spent a lot of time at hardware stores getting supplies to fix the house.

And last but CERTAINLY not least, we celebrated Tate’s 6th birthday!

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This list is certainly not comprehensive, but I wanted to try and give you an idea of what life looks like these days.  Thanks for checking in, I promise I will try to do better keeping you up to date…sometimes it’s hard to get thoughts processed enough to write them down, but I’m working at it.

Love,
Jenni

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High Hopes

The worldview study we started with the kids is going well.  Many of them are very confused, not having realized before that our God is a God of relationships, not rules.  This has been mind-blowing for several of them, and we’re really excited about that.  When rules come before relationships, we get resentful.  But when relationships are built and then rules are given, we thrive.  It’s exciting to hear the questions and see the searching that is happening in the kids’ lives.

Our first unofficial vocational training project is underway.  We’re fixing up the house we’ll be living in and we’ve decided to use it as an opportunity to teach the boys some skills and build relationships.  Of course the house won’t be perfect, but the boys are working really hard and have really improved their skills so we have nothing to complain about.  We are sanding the drywall paste to get ready for painting (we have painted a bit) and as I was reviewing our colors I realized how obvious it is what colors we like.  Every room is a shade of blue or green…we wanted cooler colors because it’s so hot out, and we got them!  Hopefully it will look good 🙂 We’re hoping to be in the house by next week.  It would be great if our stuff made it, too!

Speaking of stuff, it should land in Nicaragua today!  The boat docks in Puerto Cabezas tonight and a truck will be taking the stuff from there to Managua today/tomorrow.  From there we have to go through customs.  We’re praying that customs only takes a few days but really we won’t know until it’s done.  Please join us in praying that it won’t be long.  We have to pay for each day that we’re in customs and we really can’t afford a huge bill.  We have worked hard to get all of our paperwork ready, so hopefully it will be smooth and quick.

After the last two weeks of crazy meetings and stuff, we’re enjoying a bit more of real life.  Highs and lows are part of real life, but I don’t know how much longer we could have all gone if the lows persisted.  It was a long couple of weeks for everyone here, and getting to see people bounce back is pretty wonderful.  I’m really impressed by the resilience of the staff here…they really get beat down, but they rise up with strength and dignity to parent these kids in a healthy, loving way.  It’s a privilege to be a part of such a godly team.

I hope your week is going well!

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A little bit of light

It was late and I was exhausted, but I somehow I found myself sitting on a mattress picking out nail polish colors.  I painted coat after coat, some the same and some other colors.  If you asked me three months ago how I thought I’d be ministering in Nicaragua, I would not have said, “I will be painting nails at midnight of a girl that doesn’t live here.” 

I’ve been intentionally vague with what’s been going on at Casa Bernabe for the last week or so.  I feel like there are many stories and I’m still trying to figure out how to tell other people’s stories in a way that is honest, fair and brings glory to God.  This takes a lot of effort and perhaps more writing skills than I possess, but I’m going to give it a shot tonight because at this point some major prayers have been answered and I feel that sharing the story will be glorifying to God.

A few weeks ago we had an older sister of one of the boys here come to visit her brother.  She had been looking for him for quite a while as they are the only family they each have. From here on out I will refer to her as Renee. After visiting with her brother, Renee spoke with the director and shared a bit of her story, and asked if we could help her.  Our director decided that we should, so she was moved into Casa Ester with all the girls (and us) because she fell in the age range for here.

There was immediately some tension, but we thought that it was normal, as there is usually some tension when a new kids arrives.  However, as the week went on it was clear that the tension wasn’t just from her being new, but rather just from her.  She was disrespectful to authority, she was manipulating and very flirtatious.  We were all concerned about how her behavior would affect the girls in the house.

After several days of this, finally we got some devastating answers.  Renee’s story involved more than we originally thought.  In addition to issues she suffered in her home, once she left home she was involved in prostitution and pornography.  As a staff, our hearts broke for Renee.  We now understood why she had issues with authority, why she was always striving for control…we got to the root of the problem.

Because we wanted to honor her desire to be close to her brother, we sat with her in a meeting and we all wrote up a behavior contract for her.  We gave her as much control over the situation as we could.  She chose the points of the behavior contract herself.  We wrote it up, signed it, and agreed on a 15 day trial period.  In this 15 day trial period we allowed for failures, and grace.  But in the end, it was understood that this was not working.

She had to leave.  We had been praying and looking for other options for her and just in the right time, we found the one.  We felt peace, she [understandably] felt scared.

This is how I came to be painting her nails last night.  She wanted to talk, I wanted to sleep.  But I forced myself to sit beside her and listen.  And listen.  And as I listened and painted her voice calmed down and she was able to relax.  We talked about the future, we talked about her hopes, and we talked about what tomorrow morning would look like.  She taught me how to paint flowers as a decoration on toes.  We talked about how much she missed her brother.  I shared with her how I miss my family, too.

We cried.

I lent her my ipod so she could fall asleep listening to music.  When I told her I would lend it to her for the night, she was surprised.  She’s been accused (and found guilty a few times) of taking things that aren’t hers.  I told her I trusted her to take care of it for the night and her jaw dropped.

Who knew that God could use ipods to minister to people?

This morning Renee was dropped off at her new center.  A place for women who have very similar backgrounds to hers.  We feel confident that God is going to do an amazing work in her, but there were still tears.  Mostly of relief, but some out of fear of the unknown.

As I sit here tonight and reflect over how the last three weeks have been with her coming, [and all of the drama that went along with it] I finally feel some closure in my heart.  I hate that we weren’t able to meet her needs here, but the reality is that by ourselves we aren’t capable of helping everyone.  Thank goodness for other homes that specialize in specific areas.

It was encouraging to realize that we really aren’t alone.  We’re not the only center out there that is agonizing over these hurt lives.  As a body of believers we’re in this mess together.  Casa Esperanza (where Renee is now) is unique in that it caters to women with a history of prostitution.  Casa Bernabe is unique in that we allow large sibling sets and even extended family to stay.  I’m excited to go around to other places and learn the unique and special attributes of each home and I look forward to partnering together for mutual encouragement.  This job is exhausting on all fronts!

I consider myself very privileged to be here on the front lines in Nicaragua.  I am very honored to have played a small roll in giving Renee a fighting chance at healing and restoration.  With God, all things are possible and I believe that Renee and I are both right where God wants us tonight.

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Injured!

This is what my life has looked like for the past week or so.  Last Friday I mis-stepped off our stairs and sprained my ankle/ruptured a blood vessel.  It’s been hard staying off of it because responsibilities don’t just stop when I’m not able to get around well.  The girls have been so great though-they faithfully iced and massaged my foot for the first 48 hours, and have been applying cream to it to keep the inflammation down.  As of now the inflammation is mostly gone, the bruises are only in a few places and there is still stiffness and some pain, but it’s manageable.

The last week we’ve been busy dealing with a lot of discipline issues here at the orphanage.  Without getting into details, I will just say that the staff is beaten down and broken.  We’re praying for wisdom and unity in our decisions, and to be able to get to the root of the problems, not just be dealing with the manifestation of the problem.

Our last big group left today.  It’s now time for us to evaluate how the season went, and what we want next year’s goals to be.

Theo is now liking school.  This is a big improvement over the last couple of weeks.

Our house is in what will hopefully be the final stages of repair before the fun work begins!  I’ve been picking out paint colors for the interior and I’m pretty excited about it.  I’ll definitely post pictures when it’s finished.

Thanks for keeping us in your prayers!  My Grandpa Jim is out of surgery (he had a triple bypass) and is waking up today.  Please pray for no complications from his surgery, and for a swift recovery.

Love,

Jenni

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Quick Catch-up

  • We are working on the house.  More accurately, Mark and the boys are working on the house.  We hope it will be done within the next week.
  • This week at the orphanage it seems like a tsunami has gone through trying to destroy this place.  I’m not able to get into details at this point, but we really need prayer.
  • Specific prayers for the older kids, we’re starting a worldview Bible study that has really gotten all of them thinking-which is awesome!  But the attacks are coming on strong.
  • Prayers for the leadership as they are revising our foundational documents.  They are undertaking an monumental task.  The question they are pondering right now is, “What does success at Casa Bernabe look like?”  We’re not going for generalities here, we’re going for specifics.  It’s a long process but so important for the future.
  • Tate and Theo love school!  Well, Tate loves school and Theo is tolerating it.  That’s a win in my book.
  • Please also pray for unity among the staff here.
  • And my Grandpa.  I just heard that my Grandpa Jim is in the hospital.  I feel very helpless and far away.

Thanks for sticking around, sorry it’s been so long since we’ve posted.  We’re hoping to have internet issues worked out soon!

Love,

Jenni

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What’s up?!

 

 

 

 

 

I am really sorry for the lack of posts.  I will say, it’s been a long month…a very long month.  Mark is back now, but I can’t say that we’ve recovered yet.  In the last month our beloved dog, Skipper, passed away.  He was always my faithful companion when Mark was out to sea so it was hard to see him go.  I know that he’s not suffering though, and that made it a bit easier, but it was still a loss.

Even more difficult, though, was the loss of my Grandfather.  He has always been a large part of my life, and this loss has hit me hard.  Adding to it was the fact that Mark wasn’t here to process this loss with me and it’s my first big loss…it was hard.  I was blessed to be able to fly home to attend his funeral and I am so thankful for that.  I am thankful for the closure that it offered, and hopeful that I was able to encourage my family while I was there.

As of Friday our family is back together again!  It has been so great having Mark back, the boys and I are thrilled to be a “family” again.  The job has gotten much easier with Mark here to work alongside of.  We are all much more relaxed, and I believe, more efficient.  And probably more fun to be around 🙂

This time I really do plan to update more.  As of today both boys are in school!  Mark and I are enjoying the morning together combining a date and errand running.  Starting tomorrow or the next day Mark will start learning Spanish officially so please be praying for that.  I know he can do it, we just hope the language skills come quickly.

Thanks for sticking around, sorry it’s been so quiet here lately.

 

Love,

Jenni

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How I was feeling last week

I am feeling much less lonely now, but I wanted to share this post anyway. I think that being lonely is something that everyone feels once in a while, and I feel like it’s also a natural part of moving to a new country.  I’ll share what happened to help me slap out of it tomorrow.  Or whenever I next have reliable internet 🙂

I have hesitated to write this post because I’ve been concerned that I would come off as ungrateful or whatever, but I’ve decided that this is a huge part of what I’m dealing with right now, so I’m just going to put it out there and not worry about what other people think about it.

First off, let me say that I love my life. I love what we’re doing, I love how we’re called to serve here in Nicaragua and I really do feel so privileged to be able to do what we’re doing because we are so passionate about it.

That said, I’m terribly lonely. It’s been a rough week at the Farm and I have been struggling.

I’m trying to serve others while making sure that my kids’ many; many needs are being met satisfactorily
I’m trying to figure out how the chain of command works.
I’m getting used to working outside the home.
My kids and I are getting used to Nicaraguan food, for reals this time.
I’m learning to drive different vehicles on roads I’ve never driven on, with a different set of rules, and going places I didn’t know existed.
I’m dealing with bugs that leave us itchy.
The power was out so I’ve been dealing with sweltering heat all day and all night long.
Theo started school so I’ve been trying to get him up and out the door. And he has homework. A three year old with homework isn’t a great match.
I’m doing my best to acknowledge Tate’s feelings about life here without going crazy myself.
Mine are the only ears my kids have been getting lately, as I’m one of the few native English speakers around. They have a lot of words for me to listen to.
I’m trying to implement a new exercise routine.
I’m working to build relationships.
I’m trying my best to avoid getting lice.
I’m trying to learn to speak and understand Spanish better.
I’m learning to answer the phone when it rings. If you have called me in the past you know that answering the phone isn’t on the top of my priority list. Now, though, a phone call may mean that there’s a child we can’t locate, a team member that needs something, or a kid that needs some encouragement.
Mark is gone and I’m feeling alone in that I have no one to process my feelings with.

These changes are [mostly] good [I really wish Mark was here], and they are all a part of adjusting to life down here. And I do love it. But I miss a lot of things. I miss being able to call my mom just to say hi. I miss calling friends and making plans and laughing about stuff that happened a long time ago, and having that history with someone. I miss knowing how to interpret certain sayings, looks or customs within the culture…I hate wondering if I’ve accidentally offended someone.

With the power out and Mark gone, it’s been easy for me to have a pity party at the times I’m feeling most vulnerable. One of those days was Thursday morning, when we were having a staff meeting. We were praying together and I felt very self-conscious about praying in Spanish in front of everyone. I know it’s silly, I really should have no pride left, but I couldn’t help but listen to the eloquent prayers and feel frustrated with myself for not being able to communicate how I wished I could. How I know I can in English. I started missing my family and the familiarity of life in the US, and as I’m going down this road I pull back a bit and focus on one of the prayers that Rina, one of the house moms is saying. I don’t remember it exactly, but she basically asked that God would help us to bear each other’s burdens as we are a family here. We are each other’s family, we live together and we are all relying on God as a family to make the difference in these kids’ lives. That combined with a comment from someone else about living in community has really made me re-evaluate how I’m feeling.

Yes, I have given up a lot to be here. I have to acknowledge that before I can grow here. In this acknowledgement I feel profoundly grateful that all I have been given to be able to “give up” to come here. I’ve been blessed with an incredibly supportive family and the best friends a girl could ask for. I miss them terribly. But, really, how blessed am I that I have those things in the first place?!

There’s a lot that I miss, but I’m focused now on making good friends and family here. We are living in community. As I was asleep last night in the team center, I had to laugh that I had a ton of different people’s stuff being stored in my room. A kid came in and took my picture while I was sleeping (to use as a weapon in the future, I’m sure). But that same kid greets me every morning with a hug and a, “Good morning mom. How did you sleep last night?” and routinely takes the boys on bike rides, makes sure they are eating their veggies if I’m running around, and picks up Theo from school if I can’t make it on time.

I’m blessed beyond measure. I am part of a family here. It’s a bit unorthodox, but it’s what we have. I just need to invest in this family, make some new memories and start to put down some roots.

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A Bit of a Different Spin

So, up until now, Jenni has been the primary blogger. Which is wonderful, because, even though I’m slightly biased, I think she’s a fantastic writer. Her posts are full of wit, humor and insightful depth. We are spending the month of July apart as I complete my Navy Reserve duties and I thought it would be appropriate to share some of my thoughts on the goings on of the last few months and years. So, here goes.

When people ask, “Why are you moving to Nicaragua?” I have to be honest with them; this wasn’t my idea. Jenni has always had a heart for Latin American people and she was the one who was driving the bus on this for a long time. Quite honestly, she was the spiritual leader in our house for a long time as well. It wasn’t until God stripped away everything that I had been holding up as priority in my life, my safety (getting kidnapped in Mexico), my “purpose” (providing for my family by having a good, steady job) and my pride did I finally get to the point where I was ready to say, “OK God, this body, this man, they are yours.” It wasn’t until I finally made that declaration that I took the wheel from Jenni and started to lead my family the way that I should have been starting December 13th, 2003 (our wedding day).  I found that I cannot be at peace with myself as a man unless I’m at the spiritual lead, guiding, teaching and serving my family as we travel down this path that God has led us. Jenni also has said that she feels better about me and her role when I’m at the lead.

In the various “Top 10 Things Women Want From Men” surveys, security or ambition (read: money or the ability to make money in the future) are always high on the list. I have found that if you’re looking for security in your wallet, you’re not even close to finding it. Women, you’re looking for security, don’t look at his paycheck, look at how well read his bible is. Money comes and goes, the Word of the Lord is forever.

As I was reading 2 Peter this morning some thoughts jumped out at me in the first chapter. Peter uses a metaphor in 2 Peter 1:13, he calls our bodies, “tents.” I’ve read 2 Peter many times before, but this is the first time that word has jumped out at me. I’d like to share my thoughts on this imagery in light of our decision to move to Nicaragua.

By using the word “tent” (really skēnōma in the Greek, but I don’t need to get all Greeky on you) Peter is, I believe, trying to invoke some images for his readers. Here are there that popped out for me.

  1. Tents are temporary. This world is not our own and our home is somewhere else. We should be doing all that we can to make sure that as many people as possible join us on our journey to the Lord’s presence. Why? Because that’s what the Lord wants (see 2 Peter 3:9) and our heart, mind and strength should be in alignment with the Creator of the universe.
  2. Tents provide what you need, nothing more. They are a shelter from the elements. They keep you from getting wet when it rains and burnt when the sun’s hot. Riding out a storm is a lot more interesting in a tent than in a house.
  3. Tents are uncomfortable. Take that “Health and Wealth” gospel. They are cold in the winter and hot in the summer. You’re going to get your feet dirty living in a tent. When I thought about this, I thought, wait, Paul sais that our bodies are a temple in 1 and 2 Corinthians right? Temples are permanent, they are comfortable. Paul is careful to use the word for temple that refers to the Holy of Holies (Greek: Naos), the inner sanctuary of God’s temple. He doesn’t use the word that describes the building surrounding it (Greek: Hieron). So I believe it’s a different point that Paul is trying to get across. Additionally, until the time of Solomon, the Temple of the Lord WAS a tent.

So as I reflect back on our decision to move to Nicaragua and this past week that we’ve been down there I can honestly say that we moved because the Lord wanted us down there. Yes, it’s uncomfortable, I enjoy hot showers, air conditioning, interstate highway systems (though I’ll take Nicaraguan roads over California’s), flushing toilet paper and not getting bitten by mosquitos just like every other red-blooded American. But God isn’t calling us to build a permanent structure in this world. He’s calling us to be ready for action, to minister, to be uncomfortable, to get dirty, and to rely on Him for what you need. When He blesses you with more than you need, it isn’t so you can hoard it, it’s so you can minister to others and be His conduit to provide their needs (see Acts 2).

Do I want to bless Tate, Theo and all of the kids at Casa Bernabe? Yes! Do I want them to become spoiled, selfish, hoarding their toys and food and not worrying about other people and their well-being? Not on your life.

God stripped me away  of my idols. It was only then, naked, humbled and on my knees that I discovered that God wants more than the American dream for all of us. Chasing after false teachings is like searching for spring with no water (2 Peter 2:17). It won’t satisfy your thirst and in the end, it’s just a pit for you to fall into.

We put up these walls around us to protect ourselves. A good job, a house that appreciates in value, a reliable car. All of these are amoral, neither good or bad, but when they surround you and prevent you from seeing what the Lord has for you outside those walls they become idols and we cling to them as if a piece of paper we’ve told each other has value is going to really protect us in a time of true crisis. I fell into this trap and built my house for the last 15 years.

Please don’t take this post as a call for everyone to leave their job, find some third world country to go to and enter “full-time ministry” (a terrible phrase by the way, we should all be full-time ministers, Jesus didn’t call us to be part-time Christians).  We need people on the front lines just as much as we need the people supporting them. Everyone has a role. Nor is this post a call for donations to our ministry. While I’ll never turn down someone who feels led to give; God has blessed us with everything we need through our faithful supporters or by giving us the opportunity to make money. The purpose of this post is to 1, put down in writing what I’ve been struggling with over the past year and 2, challenge you to take a look at your life and ask yourself. Are you living in a tent or have you built a house?

So, why did we move to Nicaragua? That’s where God told us to set our tent up.

Posted in Faith, Finances, Moving, The Back story, Why | 3 Comments

Unforgettable

* Tate and Theo asking to pray at our first meal together as  a family.  It had been a while since we’d sat down together and as we sat, we reminisced about leaving and talked about the future.  I know we all enjoyed the golden moments together.

 

* Walking together to Theo’s first day of school and a couple of the 12 year old boys, realizing he was nervous, walked up and grabbed his hand to reassure him.

 

* Tate telling me he really does like living here.

 

* Surprising Jalmar, one of the older boys, by just showing up at the house where he’s staying.  His jaw dropped, his hand flew up to his mouth and he just started laughing in disbelief. 

 

* Being introduced by the directors as educators who are living here.  I know the kids trust us, but having what we said about living here affirmed by the boss was a big deal to me.  It  seemed to make it real to the kids, too.

 

* Reconnecting with a boy who was lost.  I wasn’t sure how that would go since we couldn’t/wouldn’t help him the way he wanted when he was living on the streets.  He has sought us out every day we’ve been here to talk. 

 

* Meeting the newest little guy here, Kayron. Kayron is four and misses his mom a lot.  Being the youngest by 3 years has been difficult on him, and I’m glad that Tate and Theo are here to play with him.  I’ve spent time snuggling him and loving on him when he’s sad (and chasing him down when he’s running barefoot through the chicken coop).  Today he finally acknowledged me by kissing my cheek.  It was such a sweet moment.

* Theo asking why Kayron was crying.  After I explained to him that he missed his mommy, Theo’s eyes grew wide with empathy.  My usually possessive three-year-old (who has made me the object of his affection obession) patted Kayron’s leg with understanding.  Theo didn’t complain at all about me cradling Kayron. 

 

* Seeing Mark reach out to the boys, and seeing them respond to his words.  He’s made it a point to greet them with masculine terms of endearment and the boys are responding to his subtle encouragement.

 

* Filling out a Nicaraguan Residency form at the US Consulate.

 

* Having to be part of the group that decides on consequences.  I’ve been so impressed by the staff trying to focus on teaching rather than punishing.

 

* Theo walking timidly into class for his first day of school.

 

And a million other beautiful, golden moments.  We are in the right place at the right time.  We are excited, scared, hopeful, joyful and tired.  We are thankful to be here, and so glad that God has provided everything we need for each day. 

 

**I have tried over and over again to load pictures, but it’s just too slow.  Please head over to our Facebook page to see a few.  Thanks**

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We are thrilled to say that we are writing to you from Nicaragua!  We are in the city of Veracruz, which is in the state of Masaya (pronounced the way we say Messiah).  We are residing in Casa Ester, where the older girls are living.  This will last a month to six weeks-ish, or until our house is ready for us.  There are currently teams staying there, and there are frequent break-ins at the house because there are no bars on the windows.  The goal is to have those things fixed before we move in.   Until then, we get the pleasure of living with the medianas, the group of 12-16  year old girls.  In addition to living among the girls we will be giving the house mom some much needed encouragement.  At this point she is the only house mom who is doing the job alone, which means days off aren’t as restful as one would hope, because the caretaker coming in isn’t familiar with the routine.  Hopefully after a month or so we’ll know the routine well enough to be an asset.

We are jumping right in with assisting in the team center.  As of now, one of the house dads is working in the center because he is bilingual.  The team center is nearly a full time job in the summer, so that has become too much for him to handle.  Because we are still finding our footing and there is a fair amount of curiosity about what we’re doing here, we feel that this is a good fit for us at this time.  The older boys are also helping in the team center so it gives us the opportunity to be working with them.

Because so many of the older boys have left, a large part of our “job” right now is locating them and checking in with them.  As of now we’ve gotten in touch with about eight former residents and we plan to see many of them in person this week.  It’s been really rewarding to hear the excitement in their voices as we ask how they are and if we can get together.

I have several great stories to tell but right now I need to get to bed.  I finally have some reliable internet so we’ll hope and pray it sticks around!

Oh, and please pray for our shipment stuff to get taken care of quickly and efficiently, and cheaply.  We’re waiting for stuff to be authenticated and it’s taking longer than expected (surprise, surprise).

Love,

Jenni

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