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.