The Estrada Family

A Nica-Canadian family, living in Nicaragua and starting a family!

Freedom

David and I are running another Youth Alpha course, this time in our home church in Managua. It. is. Awesome! Seriously, like, 50 bazillion times better than the last one.  The youth from our church that are running the show are ridiculous (as in, ridiculously AWESOME). We show up at 5:30 on Friday afternoon and everything (seriously, EVERYTHING) is set up and ready to go. They are fulling invested in this program, and in sharing the love of Jesus with their peers. I am so proud!

But, something happened between the first and second week that made me sad, and a bit angry, and slightly dumbfounded. There was a guy who attended the kick off event (which was awesome, by the way) who decided he didn’t want to come back anymore.

Because David has an earring.

Because “how could any man respect God, and stand up in front of people to pray, and talk about Jesus, with an earring?”

Well, actually Dude, FYI, David doesn’t just have an earring. He also has his eyebrow pierced (but he doesn’t wear a piercing in both at the same time…because that would look dumb), AND his lip pierced (ok, that one was a “if you do it, I’ll do it” dare like 8 years ago that just never grew over) AND – oh my gosh, try not to faint from the horror – a TATTOO.

Yep. And somehow he still manages to respect God, and stand up in front of people to pray, and talk about Jesus.

It made me sad because this guy chose not to come back and participate in really fun games and activities, and eat great food, and watch entertaining and insightful videos, and learn about Jesus, because of one guy with an earring.

And it made me angry because how can this guy make such a huge assumption about someone’s relationship with God based on an earring?

I think the first thing that came into my head (and possibly out of my mouth) when I heard about it was, “THAT’S SO DUMB, its just an EARRING!

Buuuuut, the team got together and we chatted, and David decided to not wear the stupid earring. Because if something you’re doing causes someone else to stumble…blah blah blah…

My point in all this is that there are some pretty messed up ideas in this country about what Christianity is, and what a relationship with God looks like. There are a whack-load of churches that WONT EVEN LET YOU IN THE DOOR with shorts on, or make-up, or a hat, or if you are known to frequent a pool-hall. You can’t dance, sometimes you can’t even clap. Women have to wean knee length skirts. Men have to been clean shaven. If someone spots a beer bottle in your garbage, you might have to have a meeting with the entire elders board to explain why you shouldn’t be kicked out of the church. No joke, I once listened to a pastors wife explain how it is not a sin to go swimming, but it IS a sin to wear a bathing suit (*sigh).

Rules, rules, rules, rules, RULES.

Matthew 22:34-40:

“Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this questions: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “Stand at the church door and stop anyone who isn’t cleanly shaven from entering.

waaaaaait a second…

Jesus replied: “Be the bible police and tell people exactly what sins they are committing.

nope, that’s not it either…

Jesus replied: “BE PERFECT PEOPLE WHO NEVER SIN MAKE SURE EVERYONE ELSE KNOWS YOU ARE PERFECT.

Ok, I made all those up. The NIV actually says this:

“Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbour as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” [Canadian spelling mine]

In the hierarchy of commandments, that is the most important – Love God and love others. Simple. If you are doing these two things the other commandments are covered too. Not sure if something is a sin? Ask yourself two questions: 1. Is what I’m doing loving God? and, 2. Is what I’m doing loving my neighbours? Did you answer “no” to one of those things? Then maybe you should rethink what you’re doing.

Jesus came to give us freedom. Freedom from sin, freedom from the pressure of having to prove ourselves worth of God’s love, freedom from the laundry list of rules that people make for us. Honestly, I really don’t think God cares if I wear a skirt or pants to church. I think he likes it when we dance and clap in worship to him (Hello! King David!). I don’t think he cares about your earring, or tattoo (unless you tattoo says something hateful, like, um, “I hate left-handed people” or something. That’s not loving your left-handed neighbour, and so maybe you should cover it up when you’re out in public (and maybe think about getting it covered/removed).

And that’s what we are trying to show these youth in Alpha. God loves you how you are, right now, in this moment – Tattoos, piercings, the whole package. You maybe have been kicked out of churches in the past, but you wont be kicked out of this church. Because we are all sinners trying to figure out how to love our God and our neighbours. We are ALL broken people who need to be washed in Jesus’ grace and mercy. We are not perfect, and we don’t pretend to be. 

But we are forgiven, and we are free, because Jesus set us free.

And you can be too, all you have to do is ask.

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Part 3: Eleven years, His voice, His plan = My Story

When I came back from my second trip, I decided I needed to learn Spanish. I was going to live in Nicaragua after all. So when I picked my first semester classes for my 3rd year Spanish 101 was on my timetable.

Spanish class was torture. I barely passed. I am evidence that languages are better learned in the field. I remember thinking to myself “well, I’ll just have to hire a translator when I live in Nicaragua”. Haha.

Summer 2006 and 2007 I was back at the ranch as the Rec Coordinator, and in the off-season I spent every weekend there. During my second semester of third year I began to realize that I wasn’t as driven as the other students in my program. Some of my friends were already sending in applications to grad school programs, and I just wasn’t motivated.

By the beginning of my 4th year I had an epiphany: I don’t like school.

I know, I’m slow,  it took 3 years of university to figure that out. All I could think about was Nicaragua. Instead of studying I was googling ministries in Nicaragua, and day dreaming about going back. Med school was out of the question. I couldn’t imagine having to wait another 4 years to go back. After a lot of prayer, I made a final decision. I changed the courses I was taking to the last 3 credits I needed to graduate with a general BSc, and applied to graduate in December. At the same time I started looking more seriously at ministries in Nicaragua. I had 4 months free, and money that I wasn’t going to be spending on tuition, so I started looking for a place where I could volunteer for a few months.

I decided to do a short solo trip because I was a little nervous about committing to anything longer. What if I couldn’t handle it? I wanted enough time that it wouldn’t feel like a short-term trip, but short enough that if I realized I couldn’t do it, I wouldn’t have to change my ticket. I decided to go for 2 months.

There was one website the I kept going back to in all my searches. I must have read it 50 times. It wasn’t a big ministry, and the website wasn’t fancy, but it called to me. It was a little school in Managua. So I emailed, “Hey, I have two months and I want to know if you could use some help.”  and got the response “Ya! sure!”

January 21st 2008 I was back in Nicaragua for the 3rd time. The beginning was hard. I still struggled (hard) with the language, but I loved the little school and the neighbourhood I worked in. I was picked up at the airport by a woman and her husband. She was the director of the school, and we instantly got along really well. At the time she had a beautiful baby boy who was 2 months old (He’ll be turning 7 in November!)

About half way into my second week she suggested I start taking Spanish classes (I couldn’t spend my entire 2 months here only speaking to her!), and she suggested a great teacher: her younger brother, David.

February 8th, 2008

February 8th, 2008

David and I hit it off really well, and soon we were “novios”. I knew pretty soon after we started dating that I would marry him one day.

During my two months here I helped out at an orphanage for three weeks. I think it was during that time when I was really sure I would be moving permanently to Nicaragua. I had been working with kids for almost eight years at the Ranch, so working in an orphanage seemed like a was a logical next step for me.

2008 was my last summer as Recreation Coordinator, and boy it was a hard one! I look back on that summer and know that God was preparing me to leave my home and the place I loved the most. It was the hardest job I have every done, but the job I loved the most. I am still so grateful for the time I worked there. It helped shape me into who I am.

As I prepared for the big move I started getting anxious about the language barrier. Thanks to David I spoke a lot more Spanish then I did before, but I was going to be living in an orphanage where there were no other staff who spoke English. I prayed (and prayed and prayed and prayed) that God would help me. “I need some supernatural Spanish here, God!

And let me tell you, He answered.

I think my high school teachers and university professors can attest to the fact that I’m not the smartest kid out there. I think 5 years of French, and Spanish 101 can show you that I do not learn languages easily (ask me to count to 10 in French… I can’t). But when I moved here, the Spanish just started flowing. There were times that I opened my mouth and words I didn’t even know I knew came out. It. was. a. miracle.  There is no other way to explain it.

Moving to Nicaragua in October 2008 was the fulfillment of a plan that God called me to 5 years earlier, but it didn’t end there. Now David, Bethany and I are in it together and I never get tired of hearing little whispers and hints from God about whats to come.

I know now that when ever I hear silence, it not because Gods not there, or he doesn’t care, it’s because he is waiting for just the right moment to tell me the next step.

I know now that even though I can’t see where the path is taking me, I need to enjoy every twist, turn and bump, because each step in the journey is important, not just the destination.

 

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Eleven years, His voice, His plan = My Story

October 28th, 2014 marks six years living in Nicaragua. I like to call it my Nica-versary. In honour of my six years here I decided to write out the story of how I got here.

A lot of people assume that because I am married to a Nicaraguan, I moved here for him…

False.

…David was a bonus thrown into plan that God gave me way before we met.

Eleven years ago, I was in my last year of highschool for the second time (wait, what? Ya, for real. Long story short, the Ontario board of Education decided to change EVERYTHING, including getting rid of grade 13- or OAC – in our province, and I was in the first year of the new plan. So we graduated with everyone a year older then us. Double the graduates = a lot harder to get into any universities. This girl cracked under the pressure and so I had to re-take a few classes and take a few new classes to pull up my average, even though I had already graduated). I was part of the Student Leadership Team in my church, Spring Garden Baptist in Toronto, and I was trying to figure out what the heck I wanted to do with my life.

I prayed and prayed during that time that God would give me a little guidance about where I should go to University, and what He wanted me to do with my life. The response: silence. I was SO frustrated. Almost all my high school friends had gone off to university. They had plans, and goal, and they knew (more or less) what they were doing. And I felt stuck. God had no plan for me.

And then one night at a leadership team meeting the first step in God’s long and elaborate plan was placed before me. We were told that there was an opportunity for the SLT to go on a missions trip to Nicaragua. I knew immediately that I wanted to go. I got home from Church that night, put the pamphlet down on the table and said “I’m going to Nicaragua in March!” I don’t remember exactly what my parents said, but I know it wasn’t all positive. The next day my dad brought home a printed out version of the CIA fact-sheet on Nicaragua with a bunch of highlighted reasons why I couldn’t (or should’t go).

But I was 18, and insisted that I would fund raise the $2200 I needed to go on my own, so I signed up.

Over the next 6 months as we prepared for the trip I felt like I was still getting no response from God about my future. I started getting acceptance letters for Universities in early March, but I had no idea where to go or what to do with my life.

On Thursday March 11th, 2004 I stepped foot in Managua for the first time in my life. It was hot, and smelly, and beautiful. When I woke up the next morning I actually forgot that it was my 19th birthday for the first hour or so.

Our trip was what I would typically call an “exposure” trip. We were introduced to various ministries, we painted a church, we built a basketball court, we went sight seeing, we cut grass with a machete. We were split up into groups of 2 or 3 and sent to live in houses with Nicaraguans. We rode on big, brightly decorated school buses, or in the back of pick-up trucks. We saw joy and hope in the midst of  poverty and suffering. I think I can safely say that everyone on the team was changed by what we experienced.

Volcan Masaya

Volcan Masaya

Wednesday was the day that stood out the most to me. Probably because its a day that changed my life forever. We were visiting a school and playing with the kids out in the school yard. We brought a parachute and some balls and just had fun. We were surrounded by probably 150 kids, and as I stood out there, in the middle on the yard, with kids running around me, for just a minute I felt like everything got quiet. And then I heard His voice. God. He spoke directly to me and said, “You’re going to live here one day”.

I remember getting back on the bus after our time at the school and crying with one of my friends. God DID have a plan for me. I had be frustrated and angry for months because I felt like God wasn’t listening or talking to me. But what he was really doing was waiting. If he had told me back in September that I was going to live in Nicaragua one day it wouldn’t have made any sense. He had to bring me here first before he could reveal his plan to me.

When I got home I was finally able to make some decisions. I chose to study Bio-medical Science at the University of Waterloo. My plan: undergrad>med school> somehow eventually become a missionary doctor in Nicaragua.

You’ll have to come back for part II. Spoiler Alert: I didn’t go to med school!

 

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How to make rice: Nica Style

Disclaimer: if you are looking for exact, step-by-step directions
 to make the perfect pot of rice every time, look somewhere else.
 When you ask a Nicaraguan how to make rice you will get the most
 vague, un-exact set of directions you've ever heard, and you will
 be left with a million unanswered questions (That everyone will
 answer differently).  This is the country where people use fistfuls
 as a measurement. Everyone makes rice a bit differently. 
Sometimes it tastes amazing, sometimes its just...rice.

Not bragging or anything, but my mother-in-law has the rice thing down. Her rice is always great. I have heard lots of people talk about how “Doña Mer (Mercedes) makes her rice grow” (aka, it expand). If you really know how to cook rice, it grows.

It took almost 4 years of marriage before I finally broke down and asked Mer to teach me to cook rice HER way. David taught me early on…and it was so confusing I just didn’t cook it. Then we got a rice maker, and David happily ate rice for a few years without telling me that rice made in a rice maker just isn’t the same. (One day one of his brothers finally spoke up and I realized I had been serving sub-par rice for years!) Since Mer taught me, I’ve been making rice at least once a week, sometimes more. It’s actually easy to do once you figure it out.

So here we go. The most vague set of cooking instructions known to man.

First, you need the right cookware. You can’t just cook rice in any old pot, you know? If you use a pot with straight sides you will likely get rice stuck in the bottom that will burn and ruin it all. I recommend something like this pot:
POT1
You can buy cast aluminum pots like this anywhere in Nicaragua. They sell them in the markets and on street corners. You can buy ones small enough for a kids play kitchen, and big enough to cook rice for 100+ people. I can cook 1lbs of rice in this pot. I could probably get 2lb in there if I was really careful when stirring.

You will need:

1 cast-aluminum pot with lid (or something similar).
1 big metal spoon. (a wooden spoon doesn’t efficiently scrape the bottom of the pot.)
Rice (Some people are passionate about the quality of their rice. We use El Faisán.)
vegetable oil
onion, chopped
salt
water

[You’re probably asking, “how much?”. Well, here’s the thing: I don’t know. When I was taught how to cook rice there were no measuring cups or spoons used. You just have to eye-ball it. When I made this rice I didn’t measure the oil, salt or water. I used 1lb of rice, and about 1/3 of a medium-sized onion.]
How to cook rice:

1. Travel to Nicaragua and purchase a cast-aluminum pot. (Just kidding! But hey, if you come down, swing by my house!)

[optional step: wash your rice. I seriously don’t understand the washing the rice thing. It would make sense if you are buying rice from the big open sacks in an open air market. But even when Nicaraguans buy the pre-packaged rice they still find it necessary to pre-wash the rice. To wash the rice you need to pour it into a bowl, and cover it with water. Swish the rice around with your hands a bit and then pour out the water. Repeat until you think the rice is sufficiently clean.]

(Full disclosure: I don’t pre-wash my rice. And when I do, I think it tastes exactly the same.)

1. Turn on your burner to high, add some oil to the pot. If you add too much oil your rice will be…oily. So stick with just a bit. If I add to much I either scoop some out with a spoon, or add extra rice!

2. add your chopped onion to the hot oil, mix it up a bit.

Oil onion

3. When your onion is nice and sizzle-y, pour your rice into the pot. use your spoon to coat the rice in the oil.

4. (this part was hard for me to get the hang of.) Don’t hover over your rice! Let it cook a bit in the oil. Do other things, prep the rest of your food. Every once in a while go back and give the rice a stir. Some of the grains of rice should get a nice toasty colour.

5. I add my salt at this point, only because if I don’t I will forget completely. To make true Nicaragua rice you need to add more salt then you would think is necessary. Nicaraguans love their salt. Add your salt and keep toastin’!

mix salt

7. When your rice is nice and toasty (but not burnt) its time to add the water. Careful, because when you add water to hot, oily rice you are going to get some instant boiling and sizzling. When my mother-in-law explained how much water I should add, she showed me with her finger. If you put your finger straight down in the water until it barely touches the rice, the water should come up the top of your nail (the cuticle).

But here’s the thing… the water is BOILING. How are you going to put your finger in there?! And, with all the onion/oil/toasty rice the water is not going to be clear….so its hard to see when the rice is!

So keep this in mind: Too much water will ruin your rice, it will be soggy and over cooked, and you can’t fix it later. But too little can be corrected later by just adding an extra sprinkle. So, just like the oil, less is better.

8. Give your rice a stir every few minutes as the water is boiling down.

9. When the rice is still wet, but there is no visible water ON TOP of the rice, (there are holes in the rice where the water vapor is escaping), give your rice a stir, turn down the heat to low, and put the lid on.

add water

10. Again, don’t hover! Check and stir the rice every once in a while to make sure it’s not burning. When it seems to be getting dry give it a little taste. If it’s a bit hard, sprinkle some water over the rice and leave it a few more minutes.

11. Enjoy your (hopefully) tasty Nicaraguan rice!

028

You can serve this rice with everything.

Literally.

(Actually, in Nicaragua many people think that if there is no rice, then it’s not really a meal. Even if there are potatoes, and pasta, and bread, you still need your rice!)

p.s. Sick and tired of plain white rice? (ya, me too sometimes!) Use chicken broth instead of water for a yummy change. Or add carrots (chopped or grated) and other veggies. There are endless ways to make rice less boring, Let me know if you have any secrets!

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Nica-Facts: safety

Alright, this has to a quick one. Every other Nica-Fact post was written days in advance, but it’s 6:30 am on Monday, and we are leaving in 30 min to set up clinic.

Phew, I just made it.

So, did you know that despite the fact that Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere, it is also one of the safest? Those two things don’t normally go together.

I wish I could tell you more, but I have to run, so I’ll leave you with this article that a friend of mine shared on Facebook which gives a few theories as to why Nicaragua doesn’t have the same problems with large Latino gangs as countries like Honduras and El Salvador do.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/mundo/noticias/2013/05/130531_nicaragua_muro_anti_maras_jcps.shtml

It’s in Spanish, sorry. But google translate is a wonderful resource!

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Nica-Facts: RAAN and RAAS

So, like I said last week, Nicaragua is divided into 15 departments, and 2 Autonomous regions.

The two autonomous regions are commonly know as the RAAS  and RAAN.

They are the two largest regions in the country, and they have the lowest population density. They were actually part of the same Department, Zelaya, up until 1987, when the Charter of Autonomy was established in the new constitution. 

Since I’ve never been there myself, I had to rely on the internet, and what I’ve heard from other people, for all my information. I hope I’ll be able to visit at least the capitals of both regions in the future! 

RAAN

RAAN stands for Región Autónoma del Atlántico Norte (North Atlantic Autonomous Region), according to a 2005 census, the populations is 249 700. It is the biggest region in the country. The capital of the RAAN is Puerto Cabezas. 

The RAAN is divided into 8 municipalities, and some have really funny names: Bonanza, Prinzapolka, Waslala and Mulukuku are a few examples.

A large portion of the RAAN is jungle and rain forest. There are some areas that you cannot get to by car, you have to go by plane or boat. I have heard that there are mosquito as big as birds.

RAAS

RAAS stands for Región Aunónoma del Atlántico Sur (South Atlantic Autonomous Region). According to a 2005 census the population is 382 100. The capital of the RAAS is Bluefields. If you want to travel from Managua to Bluefields you have to fly, or take a bus and then a boat down the Rio Escondido (the hidden River) from El Rama to Bluefields.

The Corn Islands are also part of the RAAS. It has been my dream for years to go on vacation there. We are saving up to celebrate our 5th anniversary there. Beautiful:

Travelling to the RAAS or the RAAN you will encounter many people who don’t speak Spanish or English. Creole-English is common on the coast, and Miskito is spoken in many areas of both regions.

The culture on the East coast is completely different then that of the western part of Nicaragua, even the houses and typical foods are very distinct.

75% of the population of the Caribbean coast live in poverty and extreme poverty (source). The illiteracy rate is  43%, and as high as 55% in rural areas  (compared to Nicaragua’s overall illiteracy rate: 24%).

Come back next Monday for more Nica-Facts!

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Nicaragua

Well, since I vowed to blog more this year, I thought I would try to commit to writing a series of posts about Nicaragua. I can’t guarantee long posts every week, I might just tell you a quick fact or two, but every Monday I will try to post a little something about the country that I love!

I will always remember that just a few months before I moved here, a friend of mine was talking about Nicaragua as if it was in Africa.

I guess that can be my first fact: Nicaragua is NOT in Africa. It’s part of Central America, which is technically part of the Continent of  North America.

map nicaragua1

There, see? short and sweet. And maybe someone out there just learned something new!

Join me back here next Monday for more Nica-facts!

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3rd World

Fun fact about me: I hate the expression “3rd World Country”

I cringe when I here someone say it.

Have you ever looked up the definition? The original meaning come from the cold war era, and it’s way outdated. Today, “3rd world” refers to a “poor” country and “1st world” refers to a “rich” country. I bet if you asked someone what classifies a country as 3rd World, they would have a hard time answering.

For me the problem is, that the phrase comes with a feeling of condescension. No one from a so-called “3rd world” country would ever use that term to describe their own country. Who uses it? People from “1st world” countries. Its a ranking system.

1st World =Best world.
2nd World = (No one actually uses this term anymore)
3rd World = less then the best.

Its doesn’t leave any room for movement. The term “3rd World” is stagnant. So when someone from a developed (“1st world”) country uses  “3rd world” to describe a poorer country, its as if they are saying “We are 1st, you are 3rd. We are rich, you are poor. We will give a bit of our excess, maybe some used clothes, send a bit of money, to try to help you live within your 3rd world classification, and you will take it and you be eternally grateful. We are worth more then you.”

It also give the impression that “3rd world” countries need outside help; they can’t improve on their own. They are dependent on the 1st world. There is an implied sense of helplessness.

So, what term do I use to describe countries like Nicaragua?

“Developing”

“3rd world” sounds negative, but “developing” is positive. it gives hope. Its not a stagnant word, it implies movement. Yes, Nicaragua has been plagued by corrupt governments, natural disasters and hunger. But by calling it a “developing” country, you are saying that there is a movement towards something better. Yes, Haiti was basically destroyed by an earthquake 5 years ago, but since then they have been constantly rebuilding, and trying to get back on their feet and better themselves. There is movement. There is progress. Haiti is developing.

As I was looking online for information about the term “developing country” I can across this on wikipedia, which I think is interesting. Apparently “developing country” is also a controversial term. It says:

“There is some criticism of the use of the term ‘developing country’. The term implies inferiority of a ‘developing country’ or ‘undeveloped country’ compared to a developed country, which many countries dislike.”

Doesn’t that seem so backwards? It does to me. The article also says this:

“The term ‘developing’ implies mobility and does not acknowledge that development may be in decline or static in some countries, particularly in southern African states worst affected by HIV/AIDS.”

A wise friend and mentor once told me that she tried to make a point of never calling her children (or foster children) liars. Because if you are constantly telling a child that they are a liar, they are going to grow up believing it, and thus, they will lie more. Instead, say “you are lying” because it gives them a chance to change.

When we classify a country 3rd world, it doesn’t give any opportunity for change. The people have been damned to a life of poverty and corruption, and there is nothing they can do about it. “1st world” people come down and try to band-aid things, but it wont fix the big problems. But a simple change in vocabulary can give so much hope. Saying that a country is developing means its a work in progress (even if progress is so slow it’s hard to see). It puts the power back in the people’s hands.

Living in Nicaragua, I have seen that what appears to be static from the outside might actually be progressing when you take a closer look. I cringe when I hear people label Nicaragua as 3rd world because I see progress here.  Nicaraguans are hopeful, hardworking and tenacious people. They are proud to live in such a beautiful country. I think they would be offended if they knew that people from developed countries labelled Nicaragua as 3rd world because they do not think they are inferior, and I think that’s true for any developing country.  I want to speak hope over Nicaragua, and the rest of the developing world, so I took “3rd world” out of my vocabulary.

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2013 – a year in review

Well, its officially been too long since my last blog post. I apologize. I’m going to try to work on that. A new year brings new goals and plans, and one of mine is to blog more often…well see how that goes.

David and I were talking the last few days about goals for the new year. We don’t do resolutions, but to list out life goals for the next year has worked well for us in the past, and so, as we were running errands, or working around the house, we got to talking about what goals we accomplished in 2013, and what we want to see accomplished in 2014.

Lets start with what we accomplished this year.

We took Bethany to Canada.

David said way back in 2012 that he wanted to send me and Bethany to Canada so she could meet our Canadian side of the family. With the cost of travel and our very minimal income, I was skeptical, but God worked it all out and the tickets were given to us by a close friend. It was a fantastic trip, and we were so happy that Bethany was able to meet my entire family, and most of my friends. We stuffed our faces with Canadian treats, and brought back as much stuff as our suitcases would carry!

We stepped out in faith.

At the end of January David finished his job at the Children’s Home next door and he started teaching Spanish “full” time. (I use quotations because we would have wanted it to be full time, but a lack of students made that difficult for some time!). It was scary at first, and there were times that we discussed whether or not we had made the right decision. We both knew that God had made it clear that it was time for David to leave his job, and we knew that God has told us he would provide for us, but when we came back from Canada David didn’t teach a single class for over 2 months (All of his students were away or busy), and we started to worry and wonder if it was time for David to start looking for a full time job. It was mid august, and I was close to finishing all of the translating jobs I had booked. As our circumstances got gloomy, we brought it before God and asked for guidance. Less then a week later David had a full month of classes booked with two new students, for 4 hours a day, 5 days a week, and from September to December David was incredibly busy teaching. God made it pretty clear to us that we had done the right thing, and to continue with it. 2014 will bring more clients, and more classes!

We bought a car!

Image

This is our beautiful blessing! Its gets very economical gas mileage, and gets us where we need to go.

Bethany

Well, she wasn’t born in 2013, but last year – boy, did she grow!

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February 2013

She learned to walk, to run, to hop, to speak 4+ word sentences, to count to 10. She can sing “rain rain, go away” (en español), She will eat just about anything that is put in front of her. She wakes up every morning and says “buenos dias papa!”, and when she walks away she says “bye bye! Amo!” (I love you). This little girl amazes me every day with the things she learns. She speaks both Spanish and English, sometimes combining them both into one sentence. (“Shhh, Oso [bear] esta sleeping!”). Nothing about her is baby anymore. She is pure toddler!

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December 2013

David went back to school.

Since finishing high school, David has wanted to continue with university, but working 6-day a week jobs made that difficult. In February he enrolled in pedagogy (definition: the science of education) which is basically like teachers collage, but also includes school administration. Its a 4.5 year program, and he has class every Saturday.

We focused in on God’s calling for our lives.

There is much more detail to come in a blog post just dedicated to this topic, but I can say now that God has given David and I some huge visions and has brought us together with people who have the same dreams. We are so excited about what God is doing in our little community of Los Cedros!

All in all, 2013 was a year full of blessings. We had some rough patches, including a car accident, and a funeral for a 1 month old baby girl, but we will continue to praise Him in the midst of it all.

…Coming soon… 2014 goals…

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A Challange…

When I talk to people about our lifestyle here in Nicaragua a lot of people ask question about how we survive on such a tight budget. I’ve been pretty open about it past posts: we make it on very small salaries. Our monthly budget averages around $450, but we have had a few months in 2012 where we had less then $200 for the whole month.

Months when we barely scrapped by were very hard (and we are trusting and praying that we won’t have to go through months like that again) but we did learn some pretty great lessons.

It is possible to survive on very little money.

So, I want to throw out a challenge to anyone reading this. Here’s what I want you to do:

1) pick a month
2) pick a country, specifically a developing (aka 3rd World) country. (One day I will write about why I hate the term “3rd World”)
3) do a little research about the country you chose. I’m not asking a lot, Wikipedia will probably give you everything you need to know. Specifically, look up how much money people make in one day.
4) here’s the tough part. Try to only spend that amount on food per person in your family for a whole month.

Example: Let’s say I was going to choose Nicaragua. Here’s is what I found on Wikipedia:
“According to the United Nations Development Programme, 48% of the population in Nicaragua live below the poverty line,[103] 79.9% of the population live with less than $2 per day,[104] unemployment is 3.9%, and another 46.5% are underemployed (2008 est.)”

Almost 80% of Nicaragua lives on less then $2 a day.

So that means I am going to spend only $2 per person, per day, on food for a whole month.

Since there are 3 people in my household ($2 x 3ppl x 30 days) we have a food budget of $180 for the month. (Our regular food budget is $200 a month, so we are pretty close!)

Now, I know living in Canada and the US means paying lots of bills, so that’s why my challenge is not to survive on just $2/day. Your car payments and house payments and insurance payments and cell phone/ tv/ Internet bills make that impossible. But, with a little work and planning it is completely possible to curb your food budget.

This is going to mean no eating out for a month. It’ll probably mean no Tim Hortons or Starbucks every morning. You might even have to (gasp!) make coffee at home! You’ll probably have to cut down on the frozen or pre-prepared meals. You might have to get creative with the sale items at the grocery store.

I hope that it will help you gain some perspective on how the rest of the world lives. I hope it will help show you that you can live on less. I hope you will enjoy it, and maybe learn some new recipes that will help you save money in the future.

A few other ideas:
– if you sponsor a child through Compassion or another organization, pick the country he/she is from. It will make the challenge even more personal for your family.
– read a bit about typical foods that your chosen country eats, and try them out! I’m sure it will help you save money if you eat rice a beans a few times a week!!
– take the money you saved and donate it to an organization that serves in the country you chose.

Please consider taking part, and let me know how it goes!

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