Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Lawlessness



Lawlessness - It really is a word.   It describes people who are not restrained or controlled by law.  Lawlessness is found in society, nature, government, religion.   It's all over the world, but since we have not been out in other regions of the world in many years, I can only speak about what I know to be in Nicaragua.

Image result for lawless society



I see it out in society whenever I leave my home to run errands.  Something so simple as waiting your turn in a line is nonexistent.  Everyone moving and pushing to be first.  There is no longer respect for the elderly, the young pregnant woman or the incapacitated to have first seating or first service.  Or a person is forced to step off the sidewalk into the street because a group of people decide to walk abreast and not step into single file for even a moment.  There is no respect for another's possessions, if they want it, they will take it.

Nicaragua is a beautiful country, but it is hard to see that because of all the trash and filth that litters the neighborhoods and streets.  I have seen people walk to the door of their home and throw out papers and trash into the yard and street.   In the commercial areas, trash bins are ignored.  A person will open up whatever is in their hand and throw the wrapper immediately on the ground; this also includes plastic bottles, paper plates and leftover food.  Rat infestation is a HUGE problem everywhere.

The government does not keep their own laws or enforce them to the people.  The reigning President has abolished term limits and will be in office indefinitely.  The police make traffic stops in hopes of receiving bribes; some of the stops are for no purpose - it's their word against yours.  The people do not observe traffic laws and driving is now very dangerous.



The final category is religion.   We have attended several churches in our years living here and we do not hear teaching about adultery, pregnancy outside of marriage, abortion, physical abuse, sexual abuse, lying and truth, a person's responsibility to their family and community.  All of these topics seem to be taboo in the church.   If the church will not talk about them, how do the young people learn?  They definitely are not talked about in the home.





One of our programs is to teach everyday life skills, respect for authority, each other and the environment.  Many times it's a continuous battle, Americans vs. Nicaraguaneses.  There is not a month that goes by that we do not hear "well, you are Americans, it's different here".   We tell them that the laws of society and nature should apply everywhere.  When they don't want to believe us,  I love to take the "American excuse" out of the argument by turning to scripture and telling them what God has to say about the matter. 

As we get older, we also have to weigh our aging against societal changes to determine the extent of what our tolerance should be.  However, there is never an excuse for a lack of goodness, kindness, and love no matter how old or young.

Please pray for us and our ability to continue to teach what is good and true.

 


Wednesday, January 31, 2018

He Was Born to Teach

We are filled with such joy.  One of our students, who also happens to be one of our Nica sons, has just signed a contract to teach English in a private school.  His story is truly a "rags to riches" story.


                                                    
James was 16 years old when we met him and at that time his name was Israel.  You can read the original story on the December 2010 blog. https://restorationofthenations.blogspot.com/2010/12/israel.html
  

There was an agreement made with Remar, for participation of some of their young men to attend our vocational carpentry school; Israel was one of them.  It was clear early on that he had leadership qualities. 




In June, 2012 Israel came to us to inquire about the criteria for a person to live in our home.  He said he did not see much future for himself and that he would probably always live at the Remar center.

For 2 years, our message to all the boys was for them to find their passion and pursue it.  We were here to help them and provide whatever opportunity was needed to accomplish their goals.  It was hugely gratifying that someone was actually coming to us to begin the pursuit.



After Israel moved in with us, the first item of business, was to get him enrolled in school.  He had learned the basic reading skills from his grandmother in Honduras, but had no formal education.  As I think back, I feel as though it was a miracle for him to jump over all the primary grades and to be accepted as a student in a combined 5th and 6th year.  This story also can be read in it's entirety in the February 2013 blog.  https://restorationofthenations.blogspot.com/2013/02/





While all the other boys were out playing or sitting around watching TV, Israel was taking our Spanish/English dictionaries and trying to read from them.  He devoured
 book after book and when  words were too difficult to pronounce on his own, he would write them down on a sheet of paper and come to us for help.  To say that he was passionate was an understatement, obsessed might more accurately describe him.  He loved languages and soon sought to learn Portuguese and dabbled in Mandarin.


The time came for Israel to have an official identity.  Years ago, it was very common for people born in rural areas not to have their births recorded.   We all know that the modern world demands that we have an identification  number and it was time for Israel to be recognized.  We spent months of constant trips back and forth to various government offices delivering any and every piece of information that they demanded.  Since there were no relatives to attest to his birth, so much of what we provided were sworn affidavits by us.

Along with an official identity, Israel wanted a different name and since the government was going to construct an official birth record, they agreed to allow him to choose his name.  He wanted a new name to identify his new and changed life.  Finally in late 2014, he officially became James Israel Ramirez Hernandez.



Now James will soon be 24 years old.  He teaches the Word of God in his church,
another of his passions.  He has worked as a receptionist / manager at a local small hotel for 3 years while going to school on Saturdays to complete his education.   He was growing tired of the hours required at his job and began to pursue other opportunities.

In Nicaragua, the requirement for a school teacher is to have completed the 6th grade.  James more than qualifies because he will begin the 10th grade next month.   He is committed to finishing school and receiving his diploma.  He has learned that advancement in the work place is given to those with higher education.




James is fluent in English and loves to work with young people. Working in a private school would give him more freedom.  There is a lot of political propaganda in the public system.   He wants to encourage as many as possible to not give up on their education and to pursue their dreams.   He will be paying it forward.  He could not do this if it had not been for you, our precious donors who have made it possible for us to be here to give opportunities to boys like James to have a chance at life.


Saturday, December 30, 2017

The Month of Abundance



December is the month of abundance.  Everything is over the top; community celebrations, festivals, neighborhood parties till 2am, drums, drums and more drums, fireworks that are all hours of the night.  Our wonderful, exciting city is all about traditions and celebrations.  The tall ladies are out nightly in all the barrios starting in November.  And the festive atmosphere is strong in the air the entire month of December. 












December 1st, started with us receiving our business license for the vocational carpentry shop and making the final installment for the corporation process.  It was 7 long months of continuous requests and filing paper after paper of supposedly "necessary" documents.  If we had had children, we would probably have had to offer them up too.  Anyway, it is done and the vocational carpentry shop is officially a Nicaragua corporation called "El Taller Gabinete de Comunidad" or the Community Cabinet Workshop.










The second week, our local church headed to the beach for a day of fun and baptisms.  Two of the guys from the Restoration House along with Noel's wife were baptized.  It was our first time at this particular beach which was beautiful, and now that we have seen it, we'll stick to Las Peñitas which is closer to home.










We made a request for help with the year end festivities of our ministry and many of you responded.  We were able to provide gifts for the 7 of our guys living in the Restoration House.  We were able to buy NEW clothes consisting of 2 shirts, pants, 2 pairs of underwear and shoes for each one.   We told them that people

from the United States paid for the gifts and the boys were SO happy. 





You also made it possible for us to give a love offering to the Pastors, Ken and Wilber who give of their time to help with the bible studies for the boys and instruct them how to live life outside the walls of the Restoration House.











We just finished with our second annual outreach to the homeless.  This year, we also included the elderly in giving meals to them at their homes.  There were 19 of us that traveled by eight triciclos through various barrios in the city to give out a meal and be the hands and feet of Jesus to extend love to those in need, lonely or forgotten.   I'm not sure who receives the most blessing, those that receive, or us that have the privilege of giving. 




We love doing this and you, our partners and friends, are such a big part of this.










I know that you all have been inundated with requests and we really don't like having to add to that.  But we too need your help.  Someone told me once, that God has chosen some people to go out into the world to help and others he has chosen to stay home to provide for the sending.  Helping to send means providing for the needs to be able to carry out the work.  We are $700 a month, yes, I said a MONTH short in our funds right now.  This amounts to $8400 a year shortfall in funding.  It is really affecting what we are able to do.  If you feel led to help, we would appreciate you giving to the work in Nicaragua.  Our donation website is easy and very safe to use.

https://connect.egiving.com/general-fund169/restoration-of-the-nations

One of our biggest needs will be equipment for the vocational carpentry shop.  About 18 months ago we were robbed of EVERYTHING we had in the way of tools.  This past year, we were able to purchase a small table saw and planer.   The shop needs clamps, paint sprayer, a larger planer, drill press and various odd hand tools, not to mention an inventory of wood to get the shop started.

 https://connect.egiving.com/machinery-tools-for-carpentry-school/restoration-of-the-nations

We are blessed and privileged to be able to work in Nicaragua and you all make it happen.  Your prayers, your encouragement via calls and emails help to move us on. 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Give Thanks Always

We've had an awesome year.  Not to say that it was not without it's challenges and great disappointments.   But I love to look back on the year to see the beauty of what we do.   I  especially like to see and remember  how God brought us through the rough times.  

This year, the rough times have not been so much in our day to day work in Nicaragua, but in matters concerning our family that we left in the States.  We've questioned our initial decision to come to Nica and more recently to remain when members of our family are dealing with crisis issues, divorce,  as well as life and death matters.  In the years we've lived in Nica, we've also missed the birth of all of our great grandchildren.  Two of them we have not met and there is a fourth on the way.

We've never been to the States for the holiday season.  In fact it's been almost three years since we've returned after the last visit.  Since we have received our Nicaragua residency, there is no pressing need by the government to make us travel.      

We have had to put the care of our family in the hands of God.  We preach and teach to the people of Nicaragua ALL THE TIME about trusting God.  And to be honest, some days our teaching did not line up with our current belief system at the moment.    



As I said, it's been an awesome year.  Our relationships are growing stronger with the guys who come into our lives.  We have local people who recognize what we do and give of their time to help us.  Opportunities are coming forth in the cabinet shop and vocational school.  Preston is teaching regularly in a pastor friend's church and invited to preach in our local home church, as well.   He started a local chapter of the Celebrate Recovery program.     Along with Wilber, they have started a "home church" in the Casa Restauración on Sunday nights and it is open to the public.

Let me briefly share a recent event.  Preston is one of 4 pastors/leaders that teach daily in the Casa Restauración.  After lessons one day, there was casual conversation.  The boys love to hear about what our life was like in the States.   One of the boys made a comment about how much we must miss our family.  Which prompted another to ask how much longer we would be in Nicaragua and when did we expect to return to the States.   Preston told them we were not going back because Nicaragua was our home.   They said, "but missionaries always go back".   He told them about a recent conversation he and I had about a decision we would one day have to make, in case of a natural disaster or government unrest, if the US Embassy informed us that we needed to vacate.   During that conversation we talked about the difficulty of walking away from the people whom we have come to love and the work we do.  We made a decision then and there that leaving would never be an option for us.

While Preston was sharing this conversation with the guys, they became very emotional.  Everyone of them cried, one of them sobbing and Wilber leaned into Preston to hug him.  He said "no one has ever shown us this kind of love".

There are no words to adequately describe the up and down days of our lives in the last couple of years.  Preston once had a customer of ours ask him before we left the States, "do you really have to go?"  He replied to them, "I don't have to go, I GET to go".

So, in this year of ups and downs, we continually have to remind ourselves to GIVE THANKS ALWAYS.  

It's an awesome privilege to have been chosen to be God's hands and feet in Nicaragua.





Saturday, October 28, 2017

First Anniversary of Casa Restauración

Restoration - A return of something or someone to a former, original, normal or unimpaired condition.


The Restoration House or Casa Restauración sp. was a necessity to the young men of our community to provide a safe environment in order for them to work on restoring their lives to the original, intended condition.

At the end of last month, Wilber sold some of  his pigs and used the money to lay a foundation for a room on his property.  I spoke about his passion for the work we do, never did we realize the extent until he was willing to sacrifice his income to help the ministry.


The ministry bought the materials for all the electrical needs including fans and helped with the construction of the room and rewiring of his entire property.  Unless you have been in a third world country you cannot imagine the conditions of wiring in homes and older businesses.  We wanted to make sure that all would be safe.


By October 15th, we had moved the guys from our house and along with one newbie into the Casa.  It was the second anniversary to the day since we launched the Casa Restauración.  We had all of the original beds, kitchen equipment, tables and chairs from the first Casa that will be used in the new Casa.



We will continue to do minimal improvements to the property as funds become available.  There has been a roof installed over the area between Wilber's house and the room.  This provides for a covering of the gathering space.  Currently there is a mud floor, the rainy season is still upon us.  Also, we need to add additional roofing to the kitchen area to divert water run off into the gathering area.


I said that improvements would be minimal to the property to make it habitable for the guys. We have all decided that we need more space in the near future.  Currently, we can house 6 guys.  It crushes Wilber to have to turn guys away for lack of space.  Remember, this is the guy that wants to, no let me rephrase that, has to save the world.












This issue of wanting to take everyone in is something that we have had to wrestle with for years.  We are teaching Wilber, that there has to be a limit and not everyone is a candidate for entry.  We have several meetings and classes every day of the week except Saturday.  We encourage attendance while waiting for space to open within in the Casa.  If they do not make an attempt to attend meetings and work at making life changing choices, they will be denied entry to the Casa when space is available.

During this time of year, it gets cold (well for us 70 degrees is cold) and guys don't like sleeping on the sidewalks or park benches.  They come for food and rest, showers, clean clothes and when they feel better, walk away.  Our resources in staff and finances makes it impossible to allow this to continue.  We try as well as we can to discern the intent of the individuals seeking help.

Our goal now is to find approximately 2 - 3 manzanas (3 1/2 - 5 acres) that will be a complex for the entire ministry.   This would include the vocational cabinet shop, dormitory for the guys, chapel, barn,  personal and caretaker residences.  It all sounds like a dream but, it was the vision that we were given before we moved to Nicaragua and God has shown the same vision to Wilber.  Now we have the joy of having someone to talk with, plan with and dream about the future other than with ourselves.

All things are possible with God!


Monday, September 25, 2017

How Do You Spell Relief?



H E L P!

I'm not crying out for help.  I'm saying we have HELP in the form of wonderful, passionate, loving, Godly people who are coming alongside to offer long awaited relief to our weary minds and bodies.  You can't imagine the feeling this relief of responsibilities is to us.




Wilber, our very close friend and more like a family member to us, has caught hold of the vision for what we are doing.  He has so much passion, which is giving us a boost of adrenaline.  God comes exactly at the right moment to tend to our minds and bodies and provides what we need.

Wilber is a born evangelist, which I may have mentioned before.  He cannot help himself.  He loves to go out to the highways, byways and neighborhoods that most of us would never step into.  His job and he knows it so well in his spirit, is to reach the lost.  Two years ago, he was in the streets, his life spiraling into eternal hell.   He grasped onto God's outstretched hand and pulled himself out of the gutters.   His life's work is to tell others about the transformed life offered by Jesus.

We also have pastors and a transplanted American paraplegic that are giving their time to help mentor and disciple the guys.   Do you see what I have written - they are giving their time.  There are no requests for financial assistance, they too have a heart and passion for what we are doing.  Weekly they come and each spends 3 hours one day a week with the guys.

Two of the volunteers travel a great distance - 15 plus miles each way.  We feel led to pay for their transportation and just that small gesture has found great appreciation within them.

Preston has been teaching the Friday morning classes.  However, this will be short lived because in January we hope to have the vocational cabinet shop up and functioning.  If God has provided us with the current volunteers, He will provide someone for the Friday classes at the due time.

Oh, the sweetness of relief!  It allows us time to devote to other matters, formulate programs and Preston's expanding teaching opportunities in other churches.  I love to teach English and felt like I never adequately prepared my twice weekly lessons.  Now I can devote more time to that preparation.

Can you hear the relief in my words and the gratitude for the people who have chosen to come alongside us?



Before I leave you, I need to tell you about needs for the ministry.  The expenses for the Restoration House are heavy and once again we are having to pull from my social security,  We have had long term, faithful partners but in the last 2 years as is common with ministries, some have left us because their time has come to an end.  We are now operating with a $700 monthly reduction.  We have never taken a salary, the ministry provides for the operation base which is also our residence; but we pay for personal expenses as well as many of the events associated with our Nica sons.  Now with us having to help with ministry expenses, our personal finances are in poor shape.  Our savings account was emptied for medical costs when Preston nearly lost his finger a year ago and we've not been able to kick-start it again.  Because of  our work load and the exorbitant costs to travel to the States, we have not been able to meet with our partners or potential partners.


Would you prayerfully consider either increasing your donation, become a new partner or share our needs with your friends and your churches?  This entire "adventure", that's what God invited Preston to take, has been totally by faith.  When you no longer have the ability to work and earn money, it puts the meaning of faith to a test.   Before coming to Nicaragua, we always said we had faith, but what we learned was we had faith in our bank account.   We've come to know faith in a different way.

We would now love for HELP and RELIEF to come in another way - increase in available funds for the mission we are on.  Giving is easy and simple using our donation site.  We are always mindful of costs to the ministry and making donations via ACH, costs only 25 cents compared to the almost 4% charged by debit and credit cards.  There are several projects and needs from which to choose to specify your donation allocation.   They are featured in a drop down list on the site.

https://connect.egiving.com/restoration-house/restoration-of-the-nations

Thank you for your continued partnership in Restoration of the Nations.  It's an exciting time for the ministry and we need you to join with us to fulfill all that is before us.




Saturday, August 26, 2017

Temporary Restoration House (Casa Restauración)

We've been 7 months with our personal home being the temporary facility for the Casa Restauración.  Did I say it's been 7 months, seems like 7 years!  There's a reason why people tend to have children in their younger years.  To try to take on that responsibility in your golden years, well, let me say, it's a challenge. 




One of the cultural customs in Nicaragua is that families stay together.  The guys take it in stride that we live all in the same house.  However, I've always been an introvert and to have to share my space with another is a real STRETCH for me.  My husband is use to me, but when I seek the refuge of my room, the guys want to know "what's wrong with her".







Let me share a funny moment with you from 2 years ago before there was a Casa Restauración:  I think I will always remember the time when Jack Noel was talking about living with us - FOREVER.  At first, I was not on the same page of conversation with him.  But as I tuned in more, I realized that he was NOT talking about a temporary situation where he could save some money and get on his feet.  When I finally asked the question, "how long do you plan on staying with us", I was not prepared for his answer.  It was a good thing I had not taken a drink of water at that moment, because it certainly would have been projectiled across the room.  "FOREVER", caught me by surprise.  I asked him if he wouldn't like to have his own house one day.  'No, I want to live with you ALWAYS', was his reply.  I told him that families in America do not continue to live with each other after the children become adults.  He reminded me that I was no longer living in America!

Let me get back to our current housing situation.   We moved into our current home because it had two bedrooms and we no longer wanted others living with us.  There was a breakdown in management of the original Casa Restauración, (see March blog - Blindsided), and we had to move the residents in with us.  We have had consistently 2-3 young men living with us since the end of January. 




There is a house next door to us that has been for rent for months.  It would be ideal to rent and place the guys in it.  There is plenty of room to allow for more guys to join the recovery program.  And we could personally manage the facility and keep better watch over everyone.






So what is the problem?  Peace!  Lack of peace about signing a lease for the property.  Everything about it makes sense - it's next door for easy monitoring, there would be more peace and quiet in our home, and it's an opportunity to reach more guys.  BUT, there is no peace in our spirits.  Until God shows a solution, we will continue to make do with the arrangements as they are.



When I agreed to accompany my pastor husband to another country, I certainly was not aware that it would involve me becoming a house parent.  That was not in the original plan, but God's plans are not always our plans.  So many times that fact comes up in our daily lives.  A friend asked me once: 'if before you moved to Nicaragua you knew that your work would involve young men living with you, what would you have done'.   My reply was "stayed behind".  'Exactly', she said, 'God had to get you to Nicaragua first before He could reveal His total plan'.





Don't get me wrong, I love the guys and most of the time they are a delight.  However, let me repeat, I  AM an introvert and I like my privacy and personal space.  My privacy is gone, I've tried to carve out an area in the house that is mine to hide away in, it just does not work out.  They are so needy for time and attention;  someone is always coming to me to either talk or just hang out.   Friends that really know me, find this amusing - I was a mother to girls, and truth is known in our family that the granddaughters got more of time.  So how is it that I am a house mother to BOYS?


Oh, the humor of God!!