Adventure with a Heart

We spent an incredible nine days with our friend, Dave, from Canada who brought down a group of 10 more friends (including his son and daughter) to serve in Nicaragua with us. God connected us with Dave when we very first moved to Nicaragua and his family has been an incredible blessing to us ever since.

We spent the majority of the week working on several building projects at Ruby Ranch. It was a crazy hot week and everyone worked so hard to paint and treat the wood bathrooms with poly to protect against termites and weather. They dug trenches and mixed and poured concrete for a new drainage system. And, with the help of Henry and one of the ranch horses, they moved a mountain of block and prepped a load of lumber that will be used to build a new house for a family who will be living at Ruby Ranch.

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As soon as the local children from Las Parcelas finished school in the morning, they came to Ruby Ranch to play baseball and other fun games with us each day. Our last day was a fun day for all of the kids and we served them lunch and played games and had lots of crazy water slide fun. It was all so good!! 
 

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We ended the week with a powerful time of prayer and a fun day at the beach for surfing lessons and a bonfire with s'mores. 

 

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God has put a passion in our hearts for adventure and for serving and it was an incredible week of doing just that with an amazing group of people that we absolutely love.

Thank you Adventure with a Heart team for serving alongside us and for loving the people of Nicaragua so well. Here's to many more adventures together!! 

 

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Unrest in Nicaragua ... an Unexpected Revolution

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Some of you may not be aware of the political and civil unrest that is happening in Nicaragua right now. It's hard to summarize in one short blog post, but we want to share some with you the best that we can.

In mid-April President Ortega announced two major changes to the Social Security system which provides pension, disability and healthcare benefits to members. The changes would raise taxes and reduce the pensions of the elderly. The announcement was met with instant protest from University students calling out the Ortega family for its corrupt use of tax money in the past and for the payout that this change would require of them. The government began forcefully opposing those protesting.

The majority of the people of Nicaragua are protesting peacefully. They are rising up bravely to ask for justice and for relief from the poverty that they have faced for so long. They are calling for President Ortega to step down. University students and families and the elderly alike are boldly putting their lives on the line to take a stand, asking for change from an administration that has kept them suppressed for far too long. Their courage and bravery is inspiring.

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This week two dialogues were scheduled between the Nicaraguan government and University students in an effort to try to resolve the issues. At the first dialogue, one University student bravely spoke up against the Ortegas saying, "this is not a dialogue table, this is a table to discuss your departure." Wow! Click HERE to watch on Facebook. 

We are watching the news and daily events carefully. Although we live in Managua where the majority of the unrest is taking place, we are not putting ourselves in dangerous situations and we are being careful to avoid areas where there has been violence. At this time we do not have plans to leave Nicaragua. We are taking things one day at a time and praying for wisdom moving forward.

We are praying for new, good, compassionate Nicaraguan leadership to lead this country forward. We are praying for peace and justice to prevail for the people of Nicaragua. 

Before any of this took place, God spoke the words "Uprising of Hope" to our hearts. Not only do we desire for our lives to declare and to spark an uprising of hope in the lives of others, but we are declaring an uprising of hope and freedom for the people of Nicaragua right at this very moment.

Will you join us in praying for this beautiful country and these people that we have come to know and love?

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A Place Where Hope Rises

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We share plenty of the beauty of Nicaragua, but there is so much heart-wrenching brokenness here too. In this photo there are two children sitting in front of a little shack in this trash dump. We met those two children. A brother and sister who spend their everyday working alongside their parents sorting through garbage. Their job is to look for anything of value that they might be able to salvage and sell. Bottles. Glass. Metal. Cardboard. This is their only reality. 

There aren't words to describe the smell here. And there are even fewer words to describe what it is like to see two beautiful children about 9 and 10 years old sitting in a pile of trash with hundreds of flies swarming them. 

When we were talking with them, the little boy covered his face with his hands the entire time that we were there. He was embarrassed for us to be there and to see him like that. We will never forget that day.

Experiences like this have changed us. Wrecked us. They've made us question. They've shattered our hearts. And they've also sparked something.

When you look into the eyes of another human being living in such extreme poverty, it puts a face and a voice to what is broken in this world, to injustice. It stirs up something inside of you that asks if you are willing to lay aside your comfort and fight for the rights of others. That asks if you are willing to set aside your plans to sit in the dirt alongside a brother or a sister and love them.

It should be no surprise to us that Jesus shows up in the darkest of places. That if we climb down the ladder to the lowest place, down into the dirt itself, that is exactly where we will find our Savior. He is there. He is sitting in the dirt loving his people and relentlessly pursuing their hearts.
— J. Glover

These two little children spending their days in the trash dump? They are the reason we are here. They are the reason why we are pouring out our lives to help build Ruby Ranch into a place where hope rises. Where children like this can come and taste and see of a Savior who will sit with them in the dirt and relentlessly pursue their hearts.

With Grateful Hearts ...

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Thank you to those who partnered with us over the last few months in giving so generously to the Tropical Storm Nate Disaster Relief efforts.

We wanted to give you a little re-cap of what your donations helped provide the people in the Southern coastal region of Nicaragua who were affected by severe flooding in October.

 

YOU helped us:

• Distribute emergency packs of food, water and personal hygiene products
to over 255 families just after Tropical Storm Nate

• Give 170 families water filters that will provide them with clean, drinkable water for 2 years

• Purchase and distribute Christmas gifts to 112 children in two of the communities that were the most affected by flooding

 

We are seriously blown away! What an honor and a privilege it is to serve Nicaragua together. Whether you are here personally working with us, or are partnering with us from afar with your prayers, support and financial donations ... we absolutely could not have done this without you. 

So thank you!! Thank you for helping us to spread some light and hope in a tangible way here in Nicaragua. 

We are grateful.

Christmas in Nica

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From the Ohran tribe ... Merry Christmas!!!

Our Christmas is going to look a little different this year. From being away from our families for the first Christmas ever, to making our own tropical decorations, and singing "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas" when it is 90 degrees outside ... it is SO much different!! But, it turns out that a palm tree makes a really fun Christmas tree, and pineapples with a few ornaments hanging from their tops make for cute decor that can become breakfast the next morning. The only thing that we really wish we could change is our proximity to our family and friends. We miss you all!! And we feel it extra much this time of year.

Even though we're separated by so many miles (how we would love to hug you all in person!!), all that we are doing here in Nicaragua has only been possible because we have a great team of people walking with us who are choosing to put love into action. You may not be physically here with us, but your giving hearts and your desire to partner with us in loving the people of Nicaragua is impacting so many lives. You are spreading light and hope into some dark places and some desperate hearts.

Yesterday we had the opportunity to give out Christmas gifts to a little over 100 children in two of the remote communities that we've been helping since the flooding happened in October. Our prayer is that the Lord would use those soccer balls and baseball mitts, baby dolls and stuffed animals as little glimmers of light and hope for the kids in those communities that lost so much. That they would feel seen and loved. YOU helped us do this!! It was so great to be able to bless those kids and give them something fun for Christmas!! 
 

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We gave our kids a special Christmas gift a little early ... a little Boxer puppy that we named Bo. We've been looking for a guard dog for a while but just haven't been able to find one that seemed to fit our family. We said "absolutely not" every time the kids would ask us to get a puppy instead. But then we saw an ad for some Boxer puppies and decided that it couldn't hurt to "just go look". Ha!! Of course we came home with one. It will be a little while before he's much of a guard dog, but he's been so much fun. A lot of work, but so fun!! 

There is so much more that we'd love to share and so many new, exciting things that God is getting ready to do at Ruby Ranch in 2018!! We can't wait to share more with you after the holidays.

We are wishing you a wonderful Christmas that is overflowing with only the best gifts ... love, joy, and peace.
 

The world waits for a miracle
The heart longs for a little bit of hope
For all who wait
For all who’ve prayed
For all who wonder
Behold your King
Glory to the LIGHT of the world.
— Lauren Daigle


Feliz Navidad!!! We love you all.

Todd, Kristen, Jace, Brandon, Carley and Keira

Clean Water

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Several of you have asked for more information about the water filter project, so we wanted to share a little more with you here ...

Following the flooding and contamination caused by Tropical Storm Nate, we realized that after the immediate food and emergency supplies were given, the need for clean water was still on-going. We looked for a way that we could best use the remaining funds that we had received from those who wanted to help with disaster relief efforts. After talking with people living in remote communities around Tola and seeing the needs for ourselves, we chose to put those funds toward helping with the need for clean, drinkable water.

 

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The Filtron bucket system filters that we are giving out are locally produced here in Nicaragua. They filter water through a clay pot insert. The clay pots are also made locally by an organization called Potters for Peace. The clay is mixed with colloidal silver which helps to neutralize bacteria and purify the water. This method has been recognized by The World Health Organization as being effective in eliminating pathogens so that the water is safe for consumption. These water filters are inexpensive, easy to use, don't require electricity, and will provide a family with clean water for 2 years.

We know that this is not a permanent solution to the greater long-term need for clean water for these communities, but we felt that providing families with these water filters would give them some immediate help. Because clean water is so essential to helping eliminate sickness and water-borne diseases, using these Filtron water filters provides safe, drinkable water to families who would otherwise be drinking and cooking with water from contaminated hand-dug wells or muddy rivers.

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We were first introduced to these water filters by our friends at Nica Vida Surf Lodge during our trip to Nicaragua last year. 

Although we have finished fundraising for and distributing water filters for the flood relief efforts, our hearts are to help meet whatever needs that come to our attention. The need for clean water is an on-going issue here in rural parts of Nicaragua. If you desire to help with future clean water projects, please contact us. We would love to talk more with you.

Weaving Beautiful Things

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These two ladies, Lilian and Daniela, are incredibly sweet and are so very talented. They weave and create beautiful textiles on wooden floor looms in their small, family-owned shop in Leon, Nicaragua. 

I mean, would you just look at all of the amazing detail in these beautiful blankets?!

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We absolutely love stopping in their shop when we're in Leon. We love to help support the local artisans in this country, and in turn, help them support their families.

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Water is Life

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A few days ago we visited the home of an elderly woman whose house was destroyed by flooding. We watched as her daughter was bringing up small buckets of water out of their hand-dug well so that she could wash their clothes. The water was dirty and brown because it had been contaminated by the flood water. This is the same water that they are using for drinking and cooking and bathing. Because they do not live along a main roadway where a water truck comes by, they can either try to walk for miles out to the water truck and then haul heavy containers of water back, or just make do with using whatever water that is available from their well or the river. 

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It's devastating that this essential need for life - clean water - is just simply not a reality for so many in our world still. And because of that, many people suffer from life-threatening health problems and diseases. 

Moving forward, we will be focusing our disaster relief efforts on helping provide clean water to the more remote Tola/Rivas communities.

 

Crazy Hikes and Flat Tires

We wanted to share some of the images from our hike back into a remote community in the Tola area that had been cut off from receiving help after enduring terrible flooding from Tropical Storm Nate. Many living in the area lost everything.

We hiked in 11 kilometers, up hills and through several rivers, carrying heavy bags of food and supplies. We came across several men on horses who offered to help us pack the bags in the rest of the way. Those horses were a lifesaver!! It was a long, hot day, but it was absolutely incredible.

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A few days later we loaded our Land Cruiser down with more food and supplies and headed back to the Tola/Rivas area. We had to drive quite a long stretch by dirt road and cross several deep rivers to get to where we could have people walk out to meet us. We weren't able to go further than a rocky sand bar in the middle of the river. 

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That rocky sand bar ended up giving us a flat tire, but it was quickly fixed Nica-style - hauled off via motorcyle by a friend and then returned to us an hour or so later. 

In just one week we were able to deliver 4500 pounds of food and supplies to over 255 families affected by the flooding. 

Our hearts are overcome with gratitude for the love that has been shown to our brothers and sisters here in Nicaragua. To those who have given so generously and made these relief efforts possible ... thank you for standing with us. For trusting us. And for helping us give hope to those who have been left with so little.

Sharing Burdens

The devastation we've seen here in Nicaragua from the flooding caused by Tropical Storm Nate is heartbreaking. So many have lost everything they have. I feel small and insignificant and extremely humbled by it all. I see these mamas and their babies and the hopelessness in their eyes and my heart aches for them.

But our God is not small or insignificant and he is working in and through so many people with hearts that are willing to get their hands dirty and do something. To bring his hope to the hopeless and his light into dark places. And it's beautiful.

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This is what I want for our lives: not to pity, but to suffer with. To walk alongside. To build our home in community with these people. To share their burdens.
— Katie Davis Majors

Broken and Beautiful

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We are reading through "Daring to Hope" by Katie Davis Majors and it has been like water to our souls. She writes about how she is learning to find God's goodness in the broken and the beautiful. Those words resonated with us deeply. Not only does that seem to sum up much of what our last year has been like, an emotional mix of broken and beautiful, but it physically describes this country of such vast extremes. A country where on one street you can find a shopping mall and McDonalds, and on another see children dressed in ratty, dirty clothes begging for spare change. Horse and ox carts mix with cars and semis on the roads. Fancy beach resorts mix with pieced-together dirt floor shantys. Many people here still live in and make a living out of the trash dumps. Children spend their days collecting bottles in the dump instead of going to school because survival is more important than education. Extremes of broken and beautiful.

The desire of our hearts, for this wild, faith-stretching journey that we find ourselves on, is that the Lord would continue to show us where and how he wants us to help here in Nicaragua. Not to sweep in and try to fix and change, because that would be impossible anyway, but to just walk alongside the broken and the hurting. To share in their burdens. To share of this hope that we have in the One who shows up and changes lives. To expect that the Lord will bring beauty to the broken and barren places. 

It’s a strange thing, unnatural really, to look out at the brier patch and hope for flowers, to see life’s thorn bushes and wait for the growth of a lush pine tree instead, to name the mountain ‘The Lord Will Provide’ when you are surrounded by a dense, bare-branched thicket. It seems almost foolish to look at the wasteland and believe for streams and fertility and abundance.

Prisoners of hope are those who look at a stump and expect a shoot, look at the barren desert and expect a might oak tree, look at their circumstances and expect Jesus.
— Katie Davis Majors

The Least of These

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There is a family who lives in the heart of Managua down a really small dirty alley. At the far end there is a row of tiny pieced-together wood and tin shacks. We pass by them regularly.

There are usually a couple of small children, wearing nothing but underwear and dirt, playing in the alley. Sometimes they run out to the side of the street, which is a busy highway in the city of Managua.

There are a couple of older children in this alley and on this street too. They sell newspapers for their mom who usually sits nearby and collects the money that the children receive. As far as we know, these children don’t go to school. Probably because their mom needs them to help her sell newspapers for a living and she considers survival more important than an education.

One day we were running errands and were stopped in traffic along this stretch of the highway. We were nearing the place where these children sell newspapers and play in the dirty alley. As the traffic started moving again the car in front of us stopped. A well-dressed Nicaraguan man got out of his car and walked around to the trunk. One of the little girls saw him and came running. It was obvious that she recognized the man and was excited to see him. When he opened the trunk of his car it was filled with loaves of bread and rolls and he began handing them out to the little girl and several other children who had run up to him by this time. We watched as they started devouring the bread as fast as they could. The man got back in his car and drove off.

From the first time we saw that mother on the side of the street with her pile of children, some clothed and some not, we have wanted to do something. To help in some small way. In this country it is so hard to know how to help and how to help in the right way. There is so much need everywhere you look. It can leave you feeling overwhelmed and helpless.

The man in the car with the bread and the rolls inspired us that day. He gave what he had and it was beautiful to witness.

And the King will answer them, "As you did to one of the least of these my brothers, you did to Me." Matthew 25:40

 

It may take place in a foreign land or it may take place in your backyard, but I believe that we were each created to change the world for someone. To serve someone. To love someone the way Christ loves us. To spread His light. 
— Katie Davis Majors

Jungle Living

We laugh that it feels like we live in the thick of a jungle, but it's kind of true.

The house we're renting stands alone on just under one acre. It's a simple house with a roomy outdoor covered patio area, which is where we usually hang out. Our dining table is outdoors and the kids are loving that for school. Our favorite thing about our little piece of jungle in the crazy city is the open space that our kids have to ride their bikes and be outside. It has been a huge and unexpected blessing. 

Our landlords love plants and trees and so we have an abundance of both. Everything from limes and coconut palms to bananas and mangoes. It has been amazing to have so much good fruit at our fingertips to share and enjoy.

We also have really loved learning about the tropical flowers and plants in our yard. Just to name a few ... we have the uniquely shaped, bright orange Bird of Paradise flower, towering stalks of bamboo, beautiful plumeria (which is the national flower of Nicaragua), and several different colors and shades of bougainvillea. So much different than the plants and flowers that we've always loved in the Pacific Northwest. 

Because of the abundance of fruit trees surrounding our house, we have plenty of birds in our yard. We regularly see beautiful wild parrots and guardabarrancos. And we also absolutely LOVE the fireflies that come out at night.

Just in case we have painted too dreamy a picture ... ha! It isn't all paradise. We still live in a developing country. We have been out of water for a couple of days on several occasions (mostly during the dry season), our power goes out almost every time we have wind and rain, we have neighbors who love to burn their garbage and crank up their music every weekend, and we have our fair share of things like mosquitoes, tarantulas and scorpions.

You guys, we feel abundantly blessed. Even though there are hard things that come with living in Managua, and things aren't quite what we were used to having in the States, we are so grateful. Our house is not large and it's not fancy. But it is a place where our kids can thrive during this transition and move to a developing country. Many people here in Nicaragua are living with so much less. So we desire to give of our abundance, to welcome all into our home, and pray that our hearts would be ever grateful.

We hope that you will make plans to come see us, stay in our casa and experience some crazy jungle living along with us.

All In

A few thoughts from just before we made the move to Nicaragua. These words are feeling every bit as relevant today ...

Push out into deeper waters and you will find courage you were unaware of.
— Bob Goff

We are learning that there is no courage without fear. They go together. But we get to choose which one we listen to most. We choose which one we let lead us. 

In this season of so many unknowns, we are having to daily choose to listen to the voice of courage - the voice of the Spirit - instead of the voice of fear. We're clinging tightly to this promise:

I will go before you and make the crooked places straight.
— Isaiah forty-five two

We choose courage. We choose to trust the leading of our faithful God. To rest in his rich love. To step into the vision that He has given. 

We choose all in.

Rivers In The Dry Wasteland

For I am about to do something new.
Do you not see it?
It is already springing up!
I will make a pathway in the wilderness.
I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.
— Isaiah forty-three nineteen

We're believing God to move powerfully this year as we step into this vision that he has given. We're believing for far greater than our eyes can see at this moment. We're believing for the fulfillment of his promise of cold, rushing rivers of water overflowing into the dry wastelands of hearts and lives.

Because nothing can stop our faithful God from accomplishing his plans, from his promises coming to fulfillment. No obstacle is too big. No ground too barren or desolate. What looks impossible to us, is only an opportunity for him to show up and move. To bring his promise of beauty and freedom and life. Creating something fresh and flourishing out of dry, parched nothingness. Streams of living water. And overflowing hope that floods the dry places of our souls.

It's not about us. We're here to make Jesus known as we step into this something new that he is stirring up our hearts.