Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Dreams on Hold

Aside from injury or death, one of the worst pieces of news parents would hear is,  'I am going to be a dad.'   This bit of news was delivered to us the other day.

Immediately I thought about how all his dreams and hopes were going to be put aside, maybe forever. My next thought was, this boy in a man's body is continuing the cycle that plagues this nation,  "Children giving birth to children".

All the discussions about birth control, abstinence and the desire for their children to not grow up in a home with only one parent seemed to have fallen on deaf ears.  We're familiar with children growing up in fatherless houses, mom's abandoning their children, aunts and grandma's doing the best they can to feed the many mouths in their homes.  And because of all this, children, teens and young adults want so much for someone to love them.

Something we have discovered is that the Nica culture looks at sex differently than Americans or Christians do.   From the time they are born, children have been exposed to sexual relationships. There is no privacy in the typical poor Nica home.  Everyone shares what might be the one and only room in the house.  If they are lucky enough to have a piece of plastic on a line separating beds, little ears hear things.  And it's very common for adults and children to share beds.  Sexuality and nudity are as natural to them as breathing.

Americans are considered uptight because of our biblical views.  In the local churches it is so common to have the young girls pregnant more than once and it is celebrated.  I have yet to hear of a concern for the well being of the young pregnant mom or the future of the unborn child.

Right now, I am not very popular in our home.  I have asked that the young mother-to-be go back to her community and be with her mother.  She is only 16 years old, she needs her mother.  She ran away and she is afraid to return to her family.  I cannot help her, I do not know the language well enough, I do not know the customs well enough.

I have been insistent that as long as our Nica son wants our help, he will need to do as we request to talk his girl friend in to going home.  He will be financially responsible and the time apart will give them both the space they need to decide their future.

Our boy is in shock, he's concerned about the added responsibilities.  He is also determined to be an involved daddy.  He wants more for his child than the circumstances he endured of his own childhood.  Noel has been working hard to have his own business.  He has already purchased his first tricyclo taxi.  His goal is to own three taxis by March.

We too are in shock, but God says his mercies are new every morning.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Trust is Broken

One of the most difficult times we encounter is when the very people we help are the ones who choose to sabotage the relationships.  We deal a lot with dishonesty.  Most of the time it is in the telling lies.  We also have dealt with dishonesty in the form of stealing. But, never have we dealt with dishonesty when it was premeditated by those living in our home.

I will not use names because of the sensitivity of the issues.  One of our boys who has been in and out of our care for a couple of years was again living with us.  He came to us asking if a boy he had known for years who recently left Remar could stay with us for a little while until he could find a job and a place to rent.  We asked that he invite the boy over for us to meet and talk to.

When the young man came to visit, we explained what we were willing to do for him and exactly for how long.  He agreed and immediately moved in.  It's amazing how quickly someone will have amnesia.  After a couple of days we had to remind him that his time with us was limited and needed to find a job.  There are plenty of jobs out there, maybe not what you would prefer to have, but a job is a job right now and you had better have one when you come back this evening for supper.

He came back with a job washing dishes in one of the better restaurants.  His desire was to be a waiter, but I encouraged him with the idea that he has his foot in the door, now he could prove himself to the owner.  He quit the job after 4 days, it was too hard.  Long story short, in three weeks he had 3 jobs and all of them were beneath him.  The second job he was fired from because he wanted to go visit friends in Managua instead of going to work.  The last job was working in the hamburger stands for 16 hour days, now that is hard!

Everyone in our house knew that we were planning to go to Managua for our residency acceptance. When we returned home that evening, Preston saw that the door to our bodega was ajar.  He didn't think much of it, he assumed he had not closed it properly.  A day or two later he needed a power drill and could not find it. Noel had been the last one to put it away and Preston asked him about it.  Noel went into the bodega to look and it was not in its place.  After much search, we just assumed someone else had used it and we needed to wait until they returned home in the evening to ask. When the rest of the household had been questioned, it was the usual story, no one had seen it.

The next day, Preston was working on a project and needed another tool but couldn't find it.  He started taking inventory and discovered several things missing.

When we confronted everyone in the house, they all denied knowing anything about the missing tools. There had been 3 people in the house the day we went to Managua.  Two of the boys tried to convince us that someone came in to the house and stole them.  The house had never been vacant, so they tried to discredit the one person that had been in the house all day.   They said that maybe someone climbed over the wall when the other person was sleeping.  We reminded them that our dog Mordecai would never let a stranger in the house.

We had to ask the new young man to leave our home as well as the boy who brought him into our house.  It was difficult to turn one of our favorite sons away but we were convinced that he was involved.  As we thought about the events leading to the discovery of the robbery, we remembered that our boy had been starting to wear a backpack out of the house every day which he had not done before.  When he returned on one particular day it was not as padded as it had been that morning when he left to go to work.  There had been other telltale signs but we did not piece them all together until afterwards.

It's Christmas and the need for money and things is in great demand.  What is really troubling about this is that good tools were sold or pawned for pennies on the dollar.    Much of  the society here has the same mindset; foreigners, especially Americans are rich.  We can easily replace whatever is lost to us.  Also because of our supposed abundance, they think they can help themselves because we have so much.  We deal with this disrespect all the time.

What is troubling is that it was one of our boys who did not respect us.  But more troubling is that whatever trust we extended toward him, was broken.  We had experiences with him in the past with lies, but never, ever dreamed that stealing would be an issue.

This broken trust hurts!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Nicaragua Fails to Educate

Our purpose for coming to Nicaragua was to educate. Education takes on several forms: religious, academic, vocational, and social. All four of these components are necessary to the growth and maturity of a person.  We focused on the vocational while always including the religious and social. Our eyes were being opened as to the quality of academic education in Nicaragua when some of our boys were attending public schools.

During their first year living with us, the only school that would accept the boys was a small, private catholic school.   At their current age, they should have graduated from high school, not entering the last 2 years of elementary.   After a brief informal assessment by the school director, Noel was allowed to skip 2 grades and James was entered into the 6th year for the first time of his life to ever go to school. We are forever grateful to the staff at San Sebastian for taking a chance on our boys. They were always at the top of their class academically and socially.

Such was not the case when they attended secondary school (high school).   The report cards reflected a problem with academics.  We engaged a tutor for the boys so they would not fall behind.

We began to find that the problem was not so much with the boys learning but with the lack of teaching.  We moved across the street from the secondary school that one of our boys attended.  There were days that the classrooms had no teachers.  There was never any control over the students when the teacher was in attendance. There were many days that class or school would not be in attendance because of political rallies that were mandatory for the students to attend.

During the spring of  2014, there was no school for 2 months because of continuous earthquake activity. When school was reconvened, the boys came home to say that they needed 300 cords each for a particular class.  The shutdown had not allowed the teacher to finish the curriculum and it was time to move on to another.  He would give the boys a passing grade in exchange for the money so they would not have an incomplete on their report card.  Our tutor made a trip to the school to talk with the teacher to tell him that no money would be paid.

We were furious and it motivated us to action.  We had always talked about a deeper level of academia for the guys that we were involved with.  Now was the time to make it happen.

Let me share some statistics with you:
    1.  Only 51% of the students complete up to grade 5.
    2.   Less than 30% entering secondary school graduate.
    3.  94% of students fail the college entrance exams the first time.
    4.  The entrance exam passing score has been lowered to 54%.
    5.  The average teacher earns 60% less than other jobs.
    6.  If there are not enough educated Nicaragua teachers, the only requirement is to have completed                    primary school.   Only 26% of teachers have graduated in higher education.
    7.  There are no text books in the classroom.

We've spent over a year researching and talking to educators to gather information that we could use to form a school and build a curriculum.   Our program will be like no other because of the advanced years of those seeking to further their education.

Our tutor and her husband, who teaches math on weekends have shown a desire to be involved in the program.  We have known them since our very first visit to Nicaragua.   They've always shown a lot of interest in our work and the guys.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Our First Family Wedding

One of our own has gotten married.  James Israel is now a married man.  

At the beginning of the year, he was asking us questions like: how do you know if you're ready to get married?  What do you do to get ready?

We answered the questions the best we could and then we had one of our own:  "Are you trying to tell us something?"  He laughed and said 'no, he was just thinking'.   At the time we were relieved because James' girlfriend was only 16 years old.

The end of May, he came to us and said he had some news.  He was thinking about getting married. Really?  When?   "Soon" he said.  As with any parent who hears about a desire for a sudden wedding, our most logical question was, "Is she pregnant?"   James said that she was not, but they no longer wanted to wait.

We asked the question again, but this time "How soon",  he answered  'maybe next week'.   Whoa........   In my thoughts I'm thinking, let's talk about this more.  But what I said was, "Let's plan this out and do it right, have a real wedding".   When in actuality, I meant -  I need more time, I feel like I've been hit with a sledge hammer.

We have talked for years to the guys about responsibilities.  Finish your education, stabilize your finances, don't put the cart before the horse (no babies outside of marriage).   We were feeling like all the years of teaching were being ignored.

But, what do you do?  He's 21 years old, he's a legal adult who has been providing for himself for over a year.  We cannot interfere with his right to his own decisions.

The day before the wedding, we had all the boys and their girl friends gathered together one last time as family.   A time of preparation and enjoying each other company one last night.

We had one last discussion to let the others know the truth of what we felt, in case there was any more surprises to come our way.  We spoke to them what was on our hearts.
We told them that our original views did not change.  Marriage at their age was not something we agreed with.  Their backgrounds had been very challenging, their youth had been taken away from them.  We wanted them to experience life as a young adult without a lot of responsibilities.  We wanted them to finish their education, find good jobs, learn to handle finances all this before getting married.

We told everyone in the presence of James, that we did not agree with James decision; we felt it was premature.  But because we loved him and as our son, we were choosing to honor him.   We told them that our acceptance of his desire to marry was not the same as our approval.

One thing these guys are good at, they tell us what they know we want to hear - No, mom, the rest of us are not planning on getting married any time soon.

In Nicaragua the majority of the people have only a civil ceremony which is required by law.  If a couple chooses to have a Christian ceremony it is usually done a day after the civil.   In some instances, a civil ceremony and Christian are done the same day with the attorney in attendance.   In James' case, they wanted both the civil and Christian ceremonies to be on the same day.  

Nicaraguenses have a unique attitude towards time - it doesn't matter.  Regardless of what the start time is for ANY event, it's an accepted practice for guests to arrive a half hour, one hour or more after the stated time.   At the wedding, we waited for a very long time in a small, crowded, hot house used as a church for the attorney to arrive.    Finally, the decision was made to have the Christian ceremony first and follow with the civil ceremony when the attorney showed up.  James asked Preston and I if we would be his witnesses during the civil ceremony.

When I think about the alternative that James could have made, I am proud that he chose to marry.  I stated earlier that the majority of the people have only a civil ceremony, those are the people who choose to get married.   In reality, the nation is full of couples who choose not to marry at all, they want the freedom to abandon the relationship if it is not to their liking.   Many times, they give the excuse that it is too expensive to have a civil ceremony; but they manage to find the money to have cell phones, tv and cable.   Some do not have a Christian ceremony because then they would be considered married in the eyes of God.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Graduation - Masters

For the last nine months, we scaled back some of our activities in order to give Preston the time he needed to pursue his Master's degree in Theology.  It's been a busy and demanding time for him.  Our work and duties in Nicaragua never cease and there are always interruptions to our schedule and personal time.

He had 16 books that needed to be read along with other reading materials and of course an intense study of the Bible.  We were fortunate that many of the books were available as a Kindle download. There were at least 6 books plus the workbooks that needed to be hand delivered to us.  When I talk about books, I'm not talking about 200 page books, some of them had 400 plus pages.

Writing his thesis was time consuming as any one that has done this can attest to.  But study is something that comes so easy to Preston.  I like to tease him to say that he is "a freak of nature". (Who in their right mind finds entertainment in reading a book on calculus?  Some of his reading materials of the past are bizarre.)

Preston was able to hand deliver his thesis to MorningStar University during our early spring visit. This meant that he needed to have it completed 2 months before it was actually due.

Graduation day was exciting even though we were not in attendance.  Thanks again to webstream, we were able to be a part of all that was taking place.

I'm still amazed at the mind that God has given man.  Look at the technology available to us today!   A person can video call to someone on the other side of the world; which we have done since living in Nica.  What's not to love about livestream; it is the next best thing to being at any event.  Even better, pass the popcorn please!

I am super proud of my husband!  He stayed focused and accomplished a dream of his life.

Now, he's talking about beginning studies for his doctorate.  I've told him that he needed to put the brakes on.  Back to back studies puts a lot of demand on the ministry.    We were able to have a payment plan for his tuition but it was a big personal sacrifice to our all ready overly tight budget.  I'd prefer to try to save some money before the next study.

One question I have had for him which he has not answered yet.  When he receives his doctorate, will he expect me to call him Dr.