Best. Engagement. Ever. (Except mine, of course)

This past Sunday was a special day for a special couple. Our worship leader pulled me aside about a week ago, asking if I could bring my camera to church on Sunday. Of course! At the end of the service, he announced his girlfriend’s birthday (also in the praise band) and started singing, “I wanna grow old with you” from The Wedding Singer. By the time he got down on one knee, I’m pretty sure the entire congregation was in tears. I’m so happy I got to take part in such a memorable moment.

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He is risen!

He is risen indeed. Happy Easter, snow and all!

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Nicaragua Mission Trip – Day 5

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4

Wednesday, July 22 – Today was a full workday in the village. We had our typical large breakfast, which always included eggs, salsa, rice and beans, and freshly-squeezed juice along with some kind of carb.

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Typical breakfast at basecamp – the pastry was kind of like a sopapilla!

This morning’s pow-wow in the village included dancing to the catchy song, “Chu Chu Ua.” I was selected, among quite a few others, to go up front to dance with Eduardo leading the motions. It’s kind of like a Nicaraguan version of hokey-pokey, only more entertaining! After the sermon and small group time, we got right to work. After dropping Sebastian off with a relative in the village, Gizelle worked with me today. We worked on blocking all morning on Greg’s family’s home. We’re really starting to get into a groove now, so it’s coming along pretty quickly. The kids in the family hung out with us while we worked, so it’s always fun to stop and play with them. Sometimes it hardly feels like work at all!

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One of the kiddos climbing on the blocks as we work

After lunch I walked around with Abby to take more photos of the village. A few kids tagged along with us – wanting to swing in our arms and joke around. They’re all so friendly and sweet – they really took to Abby on the first day and have been attached to her every since! After lunch, Cyndie, a translator, and I went to a little shop in town to purchase chair hammocks, which we ended up bargaining down to $15. Bible study was a success again.

Abbey with Jose, one of the boys the hung to her all week.
Abby with Jose, one of the boys the hung to her all week.
A sweet 7-month-old fell asleep on me minutes after holding her
A sweet 7-month-old fell asleep on me minutes after holding her

At the end of the children’s Bible study, Jim (one of leaders of our group) had a special treat for the kids – snow cones! We had over 200 children wait patiently in line for them. The man and woman running the business worked hard on their little portable bike snow cone contraption – the man shaved the ice by hand and the woman scooped red and yellow syrup onto each snow cone. It was a lot of fun to witness such a treat.

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Snow cone pros
Waiting in line for snow cones
Waiting in line for snow cones
A true beauty
A true beauty
Snow cone pros
An afternoon of fun with snow cones and ring-around-the-rosie

I went back to work blocking in the afternoon, and I got back to the community center right as we were leaving, so I was disappointed there wasn’t much time to talk with our family. We did get a few big hugs and lots of good-bye waves.

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A view of the volcano at the village entrance

Back at basecamp I cleaned up and Skyped with my parents since Lil’ Miss K was exchanged with Jerod’s parents that afternoon. They said she’d be having a great time, and I got a chance to tell them a little about our trip. For dinner we had chicken fajitas with homemade corn tortillas and a delicious watermelon juice. I helped wash dishes (we all have kitchen cleanup duty one night), then during the evening service we got into small groups and talked about our Nica families and how to reach out to them. After lunch prep, Cyndie, Abby, and I had fun trying out our hammocks while the guys held them up for us! Even though it was probably the most tiring day, we stayed up talking pretty late – I figured it was fellowship time we’ll never get back.

Nicaragua Mission Trip – Day 3

Day 1
Day 2

Monday, July 20 – After another big breakfast, we left for the village at 8 a.m. We had a morning service, small group time, and  the opportunity to give our families Bibles. We finally got to work around 9:30.

This little girl turned out to be terrified of me and my camera
This little girl turned out to be terrified of me and my camera
Even the toddlers enjoyed the Bibles
Even the toddlers enjoyed the Bibles
Big helpers
Big helpers

Jerod worked on roofs again (with Jorge – he was off work since it was a national holiday) and I helped finish blocking at the same house I worked on yesterday. I mostly filled the cinder blocks with dirt and cement and moved the cinder blocks to the interior of the house so they were easier to access. Throughout the day I alternated between working, taking photos, and helping with the women’s and children’s Bible studies.

One of the sweetest little girls - Angie - loved posing for me
One of the sweetest little girls – Angie – loved posing for me
Hauling the tin roofs to the houses
Hauling tin roofs to the houses
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Jerod and other guys working on roofs
This is a typical construction site in the village - babies/kids involved, women dressed up, and quite crowded
This is a typical construction site in the village – babies/kids in the middle, women dressed up and working, and overall quite crowded
This is how they get their water
This is how they get their water

Before the women’s Bible study began, me, Abby, and Evelyn (one of the interpreters) walked around the village peeking into homes and letting women know that Bible study was going to start at 1 p.m. When we got back to the community center at 1, there were less than 10 women there. By about 1:20, there were closer to 40 women there. They definitely live on “Nica time”! Rachel did a good job leading the Bible study, even though at times it was loud and hard to hear. The women were given note cards and colored pencils and really enjoyed sketching and coloring during the study. The children’s Bible study was filled with kids, and Becky did a great job with them, even though it was even more difficult to hear.

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The first day of children’s Bible study

At the end of the day we met up with our Nica family in the community center and took a few photos. I played clapping games with Estephanie, and Jerod got Sebatian to giggling by playing with his sunglasses, which is apparently a universal game. Lil’ Miss K loves it too.

Estephanie and me
Estephanie and me
Sebasian and Jerod
Sebastian and Jerod

We left the village a little after 4, cleaned up, and had chicken with a yummy creamy jalapeno sauce for dinner. We had our evening church service, which included a few stories and prayer requests. I helped with lunch prep, and we stayed up just a bit later than the previous night. Getting used to this new schedule, I slept even better than the night before.

Nicaragua Mission Trip – Day 2

Day 1

Sunday, July 19 – I don’t think any of us slept too well the first night. We had a big breakfast at 8, then we headed to a morning church service for missionaries in an open-air gym. It was an interesting sermon about longevity in mission work by a New Zealand preacher who had been a missionary for 17 years. He talked about how hard it is to be a long-term missionary and what is needed to succeed. I was kind of surprised to see so much diversity and so many Caucasian families – I really admire people who can dedicate their lives to mission work.

Christian missionary church in Nicaragua
Christian missionary church in Nicaragua

We went back to base camp for tuna/pb&j sandwiches, then we finally got to go to the village in Mateare to meet the Nicas and the families we were assigned to. We had a pow-wow in the open-air community center – and Eduardo, an energetic, Godly Nica who ran the show for the week, made it fun and lively with a couple of icebreakers. First-time “Gringos,” a.k.a. the Americans, got to go up front and since a song, then we were each introduced to our families. Jerod and I met our family – Jorge (24), Gizelle (22), Estephanie (9), and Sebastian (16 months). It really felt like we had a connection with them since their toddler was almost the same age as Lil’ Miss K. He was similar in so many ways.

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16-month-old Sebastian

Unfortunately I seemed to be allergic to something in Nicaragua, and my eyes were watering and itching like crazy by this point. They got progressively better throughout the week but didn’t stop watering entirely until Thursday afternoon. We walked to our family’s home and tried (and felt like we failed miserably) to communicate with them. We figured out ages and birthdays, and they showed us their photo album with wedding and baby photos. We had an interpreter for a few minutes (there were 6 or 7 that worked with us all week), so we were able to learn each others occupations (Jorge is an oil truck driver) and a bit more – like the fact that Jorge’s uncle works in Washington D.C. and speaks 4 languages. Later in the week we found out that Estphanie was Gizelle’s nice, and that her mother is working in Peru and sending back money for her medical bills, because she has some issues with her spine (scoliosis?). We took a few photos with each other, then we went to work.

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Since we were first-timers, we didn’t really know what was going on and things were pretty hectic. Jerod was volunteered to work on the roofs, and I worked on blocking (doing the cinder blocks on the bottom half of the homes). The Nicas work alongside us as the homes are built, and it felt like they knew much more about it that we did and that we were just in the way. Later in the week we got into a groove and things went much more smoothly. The homes are probably 16×20(?) with cinder blocks on the bottom, wood panels on the top, tin roofs, a cement floor, and doors in the front and back. The Nicas must pay for the land, but the home is given to them provided someone from their family helps with the building process. We work on several homes at once, so we don’t necessarily work on our family’s home.

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Temporary homes in the village that people built until their new Project H.O.P.E. homes are complete

Throughout the week, in addition to building homes and relationships, we also talked with them about God and Christ. One of the awesome parts about it was that a lot of them were already Christians! After a couple of hours, we said good-bye to our family and went back to the base camp to clean up. I was covered in dirt from head-to-toe.

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I had a very obvious dirt line by the end of the day

We had a tasty spaghetti dinner (provided by Nica’s employed by Project H.O.P.E.). Nate, the youth pastor at Plaza Heights, provided music each evening, while Pastor Larry had really engaging services all week. We stayed up getting to know our new friends until about 10:30. I was really tired and slept better than the first night.