Newsletter for February 2004

Dear Friends,

We arrived back in Nicaragua on the 8th of January to begin work again on the projects in progress, especially the Christian Primary School in Tipitapa and the church work in the city of Granada. We enjoyed our stay of 6 months in the U.S. very much as it gave us a chance to reconnect with friends, family and supporters. It is good to “Come Home” once in a while to get back some perspective and some spiritual encouragement.

We are thrilled with our new daughter, Amelia, and are amazed how quickly Will has grown from baby to boy. However, it seems that the whole process of closing up the house in St. Louis, traveling back to Nicaragua, and then opening up the house here has been a great deal more frustrating this time around. We were already frazzled by all of this, and then I crashed my motorcycle coming back from a meeting with the leaders in Granada. My left arm was broken badly enough to have 2 surgeries and 5 days in hospital. The cast comes off on the 27th of February. We are so thankful that I was able to get an orthopedic surgeon at the hospital, and that my Mother, who traveled back with us, was able to extend her stay to help around the house and with the children.

It seems like everything else in going on around us in a whirlwind. We were able to get the 6th grade classroom roofed in time for the start of school on the 2nd of February. Nadia Vasquez, our director at the school did a wonderful job of running the school last year in our absence, and continues to work in this position. It is a great blessing to have such a valuable person working with us. Enrollment for the school is 261 children total, with 45 children in the scholarship program for the poorest families in the neighborhood.

Another praise is the arrival of donated computers to beef up the computer labs at the school and at the new church in Granada. Unfortunately, we were frustrated with the theft that took place in the Customs House here, losing a lot of school supplies that the people at Harvester Christian Church donated, and computer accessories that we shipped down here. A bold reminder that this is still Nicaragua, and “you can’t walk straight on a crooked road.”

As for the church plant in Granada, the first thing the leaders there told me was that “We are going to meet at the funeral home.” Fresh back from the U.S., I had a mental image of a small meeting room where we could have church services for awhile until we found a permanent place to meet. Wrong! I had forgotten that here most funeral visitations or “velas” are held in the home of the family of the deceased. Where we met was actually the yard of the workshop where they make coffins and store funeral paraphenalia! The church leaders decided to stop renting the house where the church met last year since it was too small for all the activities the church undertakes. Renting the house was also a large financial burden for the group. Part of the vision for the church plant in Granada is that it takes over supporting its pastoral staff as quickly as possible. This can be difficult anywhere, but in a poor urban area it is really a challenge. The Nicaraguans realize that the mission is fulfilling its commitments and that it is up to them to do their part if they want to see the work grow.

So, we met in the yard of the coffin company. It was my Sunday to preach and the text was Deuteronomy 8:2, God humbling and testing his people in the wilderness. It looked like a wilderness too, with coffins in various states of assembly, stacks of lumber and scrap wood all over. About all that was missing was an embalming in process. We did count our blessings as we were on the shady side of the street for the service. The early church met in the catacombs of Rome, so we count ourselves in good company.

Fortunate for all, this meeting place only lasted 1 week. Beats 40 years! The following Sunday the leadership team secured the use of a community center only a block away. It is a very nice place to meet and we even have access to some classrooms for children’s Sunday school. We are very thankful to have the use of this facility, and the community leaders are willing to let us meet there as long as necessary. Attendance runs from 15 to 30 adults and more than that in children.

With computers that were donated last year, the leadership team installed a small computer lab that offers a basic computer course to anyone who wants to enroll. Because it is designed to be a service to the community, students pay roughly 30 percent less than they would at a comparable course elsewhere. Even so, there is enough to pay the teacher, maintain the equipment and help the church pay a part-time youth minister. This year we hope to expand the computer lab since it has proven to be an effective way to reach out in the neighborhood.

Something new this year for the church in Granada is the PAN program (Pro-Ayuda al Necesitado). The leadership team did a neighborhood survey to enroll 30 children from the poorest families. They receive a scholarship to attend primary school and small amounts of food each month. Two afternoons a week there are organized activities, either tutoring or sports run by volunteers from the church. The parents of the children commit to attend a four week Bible study course and monthly meetings after that. This outreach to the poorest families we hope will help in Jesus’ name and also give the Granada church members an opportunity to serve.

This month, we are thankful to have Dennis Ferguson visiting us from St. Charles. He came to help out and get us caught up on the preparations for the arrival of two work groups coming in March. Having been here several times, Dennis is comfortable in almost any setting and was handy with the driving burdens since I cannot drive yet.

We are expecting two work groups in March. Both groups will work on a new classroom at the school in Tipitapa. We also plan a trip with each group by boat to a remote community. We will spend one night presenting the Jesus film and return the following day. Nicaragua’s population is still almost half rural and we see the need to reach to those in the more isolated rural communities as well as the urban population centers. The Jesus film has proven to be an effective way to share the Gospel and help open doors for ministry in new areas. Pray with us for the safe travel and work projects of the groups. Also pray for a good reception for the message of the film in the remote communities where it will be presented.

Thanks to all for their support in so many ways, special thanks to Roy Osborn for help getting the web site up and running, .

In Christ,

Marcus, Ann, Will, and Amelia

Top ten list: “Things that you really can’t do with a cast on your left arm”

10. ride a motorcycle (you can however ride a horse)
9. put shoes on a toddler
8. put twist-tie back on bread bag
7. clap your hands
6. use a chainsaw
5. light a cutting torch
4. unwrap mini reeses peanut butter cup softened by tropical heat
3. pick up communion bread and cup without spilling
2. wash dishes
1. change baby’s diaper!

Not so fun facts about Nicaragua:

2.3 million Nicaraguans are so poor they don’t get enough to eat
49,000 owners of small and medium size businesses said in a recent survey that they had bribed government officials

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