Thursday, September 13, 2018

Fund by Numbers

As you know, I am a missionary who raises support in order to live and serve in Nicaragua. Resonate configures budgets on a fiscal year from July to June, so we have recently begun a new budget year. Praise be to God, all funds came in for my ministry by June so the budget for last fiscal year was fulfilled 100%! If you would like to see details about the budget, please email me. Here are some highlights that help give a concrete idea of where money goes:


  • Transportation to and from field for Home Service: $170 a month or $2,040 yearly 

(Raúl and I are planning to visit churches and individuals in summer 2019 in order to introduce him and share about the ministry in Nicaragua)

  • Transportation for ministry: $70/month for car and $40 for public transportation

(did you know gas is at 34 córdobas/Liter, which converts to $4.25/gallon? Good thing our new car gets us to and from Chinandega in about 22 Liters, or 5.5 gallons!)

  • Amount needed to complete car payment: $300/month or $3,600 total


  • Regional Spiritual Retreat for 2 people in April (because Raúl and I will be newlyweds by then!): $20/month or $240 total
  • Office supplies: $10/month
  • Communications (phone bills, internet, stamps): $50/month
  • Conference fees: $30/month or $360 yearly
  • Personal retreats for prayer and direction, possibly training or counseling: $50/month for $600 total
  • Gifts for pastors and coworkers: $30/month
  • Immigration costs for visas, paperwork, etc: $15/ month
  • Continuing Education: $200/month
  • Housing and utilities: $350/month
  • Food: $100/month
  • Travel (vacation or to visit family): $90/month or $1,080 for the year
  • Medical insurance: $140/month
  • Dentist, Chiropractor, etc: $45/ month or $540 yearly
  • Retirement fund: $300/monthly
  • Emergency fund: $100/monthly


I believe strongly that God calls us to good stewardship, and so I strive to use this money wisely and well. After talking with financial advisors they say that I have a balanced budget which accounts for long-term needs and goals with different savings funds. As a partner missionary with Resonate, I need to account for paying taxes, insurance, retirement, etc. Thus some of the numbers that you see.

Hopefully this gives you an idea of where your support goes, and if you have any questions or advice, please email me! All of us are involved in the ministry and work that God is doing in different ways. Thanks to those that financially support the ministry in Nicaragua with church friendships and facilitation at the Nehemiah Center.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

God's faithfulness in change

Over the past several months, many changes have taken place.

First, there's the overall situation of the country, Nicaragua. Incited by a law to reform social security, political unrest erupted on April 19, and has continued even after said law was repealed. People, especially university students, are protesting the government and asking for the president to step down or accept early elections. There have been armed conflicts and increased delinquency. Though most skirmishes have ceased, there has been no formal resolution. We are living in uncertain circumstances. The reality today may be completely different tomorrow as people call for protests, strikes, etc. Most people go about life during daylight hours, trying to get home by 8 pm at the latest, causing churches and business to adjust their schedules. There has also been an exodus from the country as both foreigners and nationals to go other countries where they believe life can offer them more. The economy in Nicaragua is declining rapidly and will continue to fall according to predictions. This is not the same place I have come to know in the last 4.5 years.

There have also been changes at the Nehemiah Center. Due to the crisis many teams did not come.What seemed to be a balanced budget quickly became unbalanced and cuts have been made. We expect to finish the year in the black by reducing all administrative staff to 80% time and salary and eliminating at least 4 full-time positions, effective August 30. Another major change is that Luz, the director for the past three years, announced her intention to step down for personal reasons, and Hultner, the coordinator for the training team, has taken the position of director now. Now we are currently in discussions about how to re-create the Nehemiah Center, renewing ourselves in the midst of a new reality on a national level as well as an institutional one.

For me personally there have been a lot of transitions over the last six weeks. I had been house-sitting for a family who returned near the end of August. Since we had arranged in the spring that I would be living at their house temporarily after my roommate got married, I had also arranged to take possession of a house just up the hill from where I was living before. I was handed the keys to the house at the beginning of August, and Raúl and I bought the former renter's car as well! So now for the first time since moving to Nicaragua, I'm living alone in a small two-bedroom home in Managua. Raúl and I anticipate living in this house together after we are married in December. The car is also a first, and it has been very nice to enjoy the freedom and stability that it offers in the midst of this socio-economic situation in Nicaragua.

Even so, there are some things that haven't changed. Churches continue to meet for worship. The Nehemiah Center continues to celebrate those who have worked there at their final Monday morning devotions. The Nehemiah Center staff continues to meet for prayer at 12 pm on most days. Raúl and I continue to plan a wedding knowing that all the plans we have made could change. The churches in the Church Friendship Program continue to pray for each other. Friends continue to send videos or write texts.

The sun continues to shine. The rain continues to fall. The dogs continue to bark, and the birds continue to chirp. The breeze brings welcome coolness on a hot day.

It's comforting to know and to reflect on how even when the world seems upside down, God doesn't change. There are things that can be counted upon.

God's mercies are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Providence

For the past year,  my living situation has been tenuous at times; however, I have seen God working in amazing ways to provide a roof over my head at just the right time and in just the right place!

About a year ago, my housemate and friend, Guissell, started looking for a room closer to her university. We were not very happy with our house because the rains had started and the leaks in the roof had appeared. We decided to start casually looking for a different place to live. Months passed, and I started spending more and more time in Managua due to work and a certain handsome man that will soon be my husband. The house in León by the terminal became a classroom for Dordt College students in the fall, as we received 4 young women and their teachers four days a week for their Spanish classes. We had to explain to them the intricate system of buckets we put out when it rained, and they had to struggle through class with deafening noises of rain on the tin roof. It was tropical storm Nate that really did us in. Guissell had a river running through her room due to seepage through the walls. We decided we would definitely be breaking our contract early and leaving in December at the latest.

I had warned Guissell that my next move would probably be to Managua to spend more time with Raúl and also to be closer to the office. While some friends went on home service, they kindly let me "test-run" their apartment to see if living in Managua would really be beneficial to my life and ministry. Turns out that three days after I went to Managua to begin this trial period, Guissell found a room for rent that was to her liking and much closer to her university. Within a week she had moved, and I also decided to put my stuff in storage and give up the house. I ended up apartment sitting until the end of November, and then stayed with some friends for 2 weeks in December before going home for the holidays with Raúl.

In early December I ran into an acquaintance in Managua. She asked what I was doing in Managua since she knew I was living in León, and I told her I was in between places. Olivia then told me she had been looking for a housemate since August. I went to see her house, and we decided we wanted to live together so I moved officially in January.

Olivia and I have strangely parallel backgrounds and life events right now, from college in Northwest Iowa, working for Reformed church organizations, similar jobs as liaisons between churches, and serious relationships. We have been great friends and sounding boards for each other. Olivia was also engaged to be married, and her fiancé came to Nicaragua for an internship with plans to move permanently after their wedding in June. Since Raúl and I didn't know our plans at the time, finding a new place in June seemed like a good plan to me. As it turned out, I need a place after June while I'm still single until December. However, a neighbor living two houses away was going to move out in July - perfect! We have it lined up that I will take possession of the house in August, and they are selling me a lot of their big appliances that I needed.

Olivia put me in touch with a family she knew who needed a house sitter for the summer to fill in the gaps for June and July, when the newlyweds were scheduled to be living in my former house. We agreed in May that it would be a good match, and I moved into their house on June 13, almost 2 weeks earlier than originally planned because the family's organization asked them to leave earlier due to the crisis in Nicaragua. I'll be living there until August when they return. So despite not knowing the next step and feeling a bit like a drifter over this past year, I see the hand of God moving clearly, orchestrating all the pieces. I'm especially in awe of God's providence because of how the unrest in Nicaragua has developed.

1. León is a city embroiled in the violence and political unrest of the country. It has always been the heart of the revolution, and they take pride in that reputation. If I were still living in León, I would either have already evacuated or I would be paralyzed by the new way of living (Instead of being free to walk around alone until 10 pm, everyone is going home at 3 pm and staying in now). The areas where I used to live have been right along the routes for marches and looting. God moved me to Managua in plenty of time so I could get used to a different routine, and he preserved me from what I might have experienced in León.

2. Safety is a big concern now in Nicaragua (much to my chagrin) and it turns out that I am house-sitting in a fortress. This house is huge and withstood the revolution in the 70s after it was built in the 40s. The internet has a hard time reaching through more than 2 walls because they are so solid. The house is in a residential neighborhood that has two security needles that a car needs to go through, additional gates that could be locked, and 2-4 guards on duty at all times. I feel like I am living in a fortified castle.

3. I also feel like I am living in a cage some days, but it's the best cage I could ask for. I have been working from home because I'm avoiding going out unnecessarily, and some days I'm very restless. However, this house is big, giving me room to spread out or change scenery. It also has a lovely garden that feels like paradise. The dog and the cat keep me company and give me a distraction too.

From the people who have opened their doors to the timing of the places I have lived, I see God's hand clearly working. I'm thankful for a place to feel safe now. I'm thankful for a place to live come August where I can prepare a home for Raúl and me as a married couple. I'm thankful that God always knows what he is doing.

When I first left León, all I could talk about was wanting to go back. Now I see how God was preparing me for what was to come. I felt like a drifter going from house to house, but God opened the right doors at the right times. I'm thankful for God's providence and that He has a plan even when I don't know it.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Privilege

In the midst of a country going through political unrest, many people have left. There are Nicaraguans getting their passports and visas ready. Many mission agencies have pulled their foreign missionaries from the country and retirees have returned to their native lands. There has been mass exodus at the airport for the past two months.

In the context of power and privilege, it seems grossly unfair that some people can leave when a country's situation goes bad and others can't. The exit of many foreigners has meant loss of jobs and income for many Nicaraguans. Those who can leave have options. The Nicaraguans and expats who flee the country have privilege. This is a major justice issue, to be sure. I have to confess my own privilege and exploitation of my power because of my skin color, money, and options. Life is easier for me and for my compatriots, and that's wrong.

But I think it's those who stay who are more privileged.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4
You wouldn't think that trials should be taken with joy. Endurance, yes. Patience, yes. Joy, not so much. And yet James tells us in this Biblical passage that trials produce steadfastness, and when we become fully steadfast, we will be perfect, whole. So we can be joyful in the midst of suffering because we know that it will have a good effect. Perhaps the thing we are going through doesn't make us giddy with delight, but we can be excited for the effect it will produce in us.

I think of water... steadfastness looks like a deep, still, refreshing lake, rather than a wide, rippling, superficial puddle. I want to be a mountain lake rather than a puddle, and that takes suffering. Trials make a person dig deep into the grace that God offers.

You wouldn't think that political unrest could be seen as a privilege. However, when I see many fellow missionaries take the the skies (some not by choice but by orders), I feel privileged that I am still allowed to stay. I feel privileged to be able to partake in this new way of life in Nicaragua, seeing with my own eyes, touching with my hands, hearing with my own ears, feeling my own heart race with anxiousness like most of those around me.

Even so, amidst the uproar, I am safe because of where I am living, because of where my offices are located. This is a type of privilege, to be close and yet not in the midst of it (another part of the injustice I must confess and deal with).

Yet the greatest privilege of all is to experience something that most of the world has or is experiencing. I feel humbled to realize that when one of my friends watched her stable country erupt in violence and unrest, I didn't take it as seriously as I should have. I had no idea what it was like to have what was expected to be normal ripped away. The increased tension, the contingency plans, the constant alert for evacuation or attacks. Until one experiences these things first hand, there's no way to know what it's like. Now I have the privilege in sharing in the suffering -to a minor degree- of the majority of the world. Now I know what to pray for, how to pray with more compassion and heart, for millions of people and especially my friends.

Any time God opens our eyes and hearts to connect more fully with humanity, more fully with the family of God worldwide, it's a privilege. We get to palpably feel that we are not alone, that we share in the burdens and joys of all of God's people. And we know that there are prayers being lifted before God by people we have never even met. I'm thankful to share in these trials of this country during this time.

The trials themselves are not a privilege, not a joy. But the results, the changes that they bring in us, the ways they bring forth the fruit of unity, steadfastness, faith... that's a privilege. 

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Planting seeds

I saw a miracle happen.

People see miracles happen more often than they realize, I think. God is always moving in ways we don't expect or believe that He can. But He does, and when He does, it's a miracle. 

This miracle was not an instant healing or a miraculous conversion. Most people would not classify it as a miracle, but I do. 

When the team from Innerkip, Ontario came to the Nehemiah Center the second week of February, we went to a community and visited people's homes. My group went to the home of a surly-looking man in need of a hip replacement. The pastor had explained to me ahead of time that he had run into this former parishioner's husband in the street walking with a cane and was surprised how this middle-aged man was so diminished from his former self. The pastor had promised Bismark that he would send a group from the visitors to go and pray for him, and he accepted. 

That he accepted was the first step. Bismarck's wife, Janett, used to go to the church where we were visiting. However, she had fallen away. Her oldest son is in jail (another whole story of pain and God's hand at work) and at that time, he was awaiting his sentence. Bismarck and Janett have two younger sons at home, both working in nearby factories, a thirteen-year-old daughter, and a three-year-old daughter. We met the whole family when we were there.

We heard that Bismark, a former member of the military, had dedicated his post-military career to being the chofer of several superior officers. However, this man who looks to be in his 50s is now walking with a cane and experiencing incredible pain because his hip is worn out. He has bone rubbing on bone, and he can't drive anymore. He is essentially on disability, but instead of receiving a salary, he was fired (according to the pastor - Bismark didn't want to tell us all of this). 

We prayed for Bismarck, Janett, and their children - especially the situation with their son in jail. Janet was crying during the prayer, and we invited them to the youth service that night. I was very glad to see Janet and her daughters there later that evening. The leaders at the campfire service made several alter calls, but I didn't see anyone I knew step forward. However, the pastor later told me that Janet had reconciled to the Lord earlier that afternoon, praise God! I caught her after the service and told her I was glad to see her. 

The next morning, Sunday morning, we were again split up into small groups for door-to-door evangelism. Our group was assigned Janett and Bismarck's street. When we got close to their house, the Canadian group members approached the porch and greeted Janett and Bismarck, who were outside. We invited them to the potluck service that evening at the church, and Janett said she would be there, and she was bringing Bismarck.

Let me tell you what I knew about Bismarck at this point: the pastor had told me that Bismarck had never wanted anything to do with faith. His wife had come to church for years, but he had not darkened the door. Bismarck looks like a very serious man, built like a military man and smiles rarely. I hoped and prayed he would come to the service, but I wasn't going to be surprised if he didn't come.

When the church service started, there was no sign of anyone from the family. Then a little while in, Janett and her youngest daughter came to sit in the row behind the team and me. I felt disappointed that Bismarck wasn't with them, but not entirely surprised. In churches where the male:female ratio is about 70% female on the days all the men show up, I know that it's hard to get men in the church. You can imagine my surprise and joy, then, when I noticed Bismarck coming in on crutches! He sat through the service and stayed for the potluck supper afterwards. It was the first time - to the pastor's knowledge - that Bismarck had been to church.

Bismarck is the man on the far right with the crutches, his daughter next to him, then his mother-in-law and his wife Janett is looking towards the camera. The others are team members from Canada and other church members behind.

It was a miracle. A man who never comes to church decided to show up, decided to stay. A seed has been planted.

Even better, I received a text message from the pastor a month later telling me that Bismarck had come to the next potluck service, and he has asked the pastors to keep visiting them at home. The Spirit is on the move!

Friday, March 9, 2018

New Mercies

Lamentations 3:22-24 is an often-quoted verse in my Christian circles:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning;

    great is your faithfulness.

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,

    “therefore I will hope in him.”
I have loved this verse a long time, but it has taken on new meaning for me. His mercies are new every morning. 
New mercies.
Every morning.

Enough to get through the day. Enough that when the day goes badly, each morning is a new start. 

I know that I haven't written in a long time. Team Season. It's the extra-busy period in January and February when I'm eating, sleeping, and talking with groups of 3-12 people for a week at a time, answering all the questions I can about population size, tree names, ministry efforts, as well as interpreting between English and Spanish for presentations, conversations, and sermons. From January 16 to February 25, I coordinated five international visits (one was only for one day), including schedules, accounting, and activities. It was a lot. 

I'm thankful for Raúl helping me, for other people at the Nehemiah Center chipping in wherever they could, and for some great team leaders. We got through, and I would say every visit was successful!

There was a point at the end of January when I woke up in the mornings not knowing how I was going to make it through the day talking and walking. But I did. Every day. Because His mercies are new every morning.

Yes, things went wrong during each visit. Some problems were minor, and some were major, but His mercies were new every morning. 

The Lord is my portion. He grants enough to get me through each day. I saw him moving in real and tangible ways over the past few months, and I hope to share those stories with you via this blog while I'm on home service from now until the end of April. 

And for those of you facing challenges, facing disappointments, facing exciting new things, facing exhaustion, or facing whatever is going on in your life - remember that His mercies are new every morning.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Home at the Nehemiah Center


Today at the Nehemiah Center we had a graduation for all of the courses from Better Churches II. There were 59 graduates present, and some of them had participated in two separate courses. The courses included:

1) Presupuesto del Buen Sentido (Good Sense) from Kingdom Finances, which was a pilot program about budgeting and learning how to manage finances. The takeaway from the course was that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us, but that power in Christ requires good planning - not just random hoping.

2) Consejería en Familia (Family Counseling) from DEFE, a program for pastoral couples to strengthen their own relationship and learn how to counsel others better. These pastors felt that they were pastored in the course, and they expressed appreciation for their mentors, Luz and Manuel.

3) Salmos de la Calle (Street Psalms) from DEFE learned that we are all singers of God's psalms. Participants felt inspired to be involved in their communities, using art and asking beautiful questions.

4) Instituto Timoteo (Timothy Leadership Institute) from DEFE, where participants who were pastors and church leaders learned about different modules related to pastoral care, family violence, preaching, and church planning. The pastor who spoke about his experience attested to the changes that have happened in his church and the work that God is bringing about in a new church that has been planted as a result of their participation in Timothy and the other church planting course.

5) Más Iglesia (More Church - Church Planting) from DEFE taught participants principles for healthy churches and how to multiply them, either through planting a new church or adding to the one they currently have. Participants talked about how much they learned and how much they appreciated the course.

As the participants gave testimonies of their time at the Nehemiah Center over the past two years - starting with Better Churches 1: Take the Pulse of Your Church and continuing with one or two of the above courses, they expressed appreciation for the facilitators at the Nehemiah Center. Some said that the Nehemiah Center feels like home for them.

For me, this was very humbling and encouraging to hear. Mentoring and pastoring pastors and church leaders is not an easy job, but it's also not very flashy or glamorous. It doesn't cost very much money in and of itself, these visits and coffees and hours dedicated to listening. The overhead for these kinds of activities is very high comparatively because someone needs to pay salaries for facilitators and cleaning ladies and cooks and security guards. However, in today's day and age, relationship is a scarce commodity and it needs to be brought to the forefront. While these pastors are in Nehemiah Center trainings, they are meeting other pastors and forming support networks that will last much longer than a year or two. They have learned that they have friends, resources, and a place to call home at the Nehemiah Center.