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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Coming Home 3 comments

Our Team:

On Sunday afternoon we drove up into the mountains north of Matagalpa to have lunch and spend some time hiking at the Salva Negra Coffee Plantation.  According to the trail map, we started hiking at an elevation of just over 4200 feet above sea level and climbed through a stunningly diverse forest up to about 4800 feet.  As we climbed, Derrick, Mandy and I came upon the phenomenal tree of the photos.  We had been told that there were many century trees on the property that made up the top canopy of the forest, but we were completely unprepared for what we found.  At first we marveled at the height, breadth and age of 'our' towering wonder, and then we saw something else.  It wasn't one tree.  Two different trees (different species as well) had woven themselves together some time in the late 1800's and had grown to the heavens.  They were so inextricably linked that often times we could not see where one tree began or the other ended.  

In some small sense, that tree has come to serve as the extended metaphor of our trip.  At devotions the other night, Mandy shared a Maya Angelou poem that had the refrain

Alone, all alone

Nobody, but nobody

Can make it out here alone.

We reflected together on the idea building communities, churches and schools.  The expansion that we are completing at Woodland could never have occured without the support of a large intertwined community.  The expansion at the Nicaraguan Christian Academy of Matagalpa could never have happened without the support of a large Nicaraguan and international community.  The century tree we found was larger and stronger because of its component parts.  In Christ's church locally and internationally the same is true.

We leave the NCA Matagalpa with mixed emotions.  We have met amazing people and seen great things done in the name of Christ.  Leaving that is hard.  However we are returning to our own families and communities and that will be very good.  The NCA opened its doors in February 2013 with 40 students.  When they opened this February they had grown to 140.  When they open for business next February, they will have just over 200 student in their building.  While that sort of growth is very exciting, it comes with enormous challenge since establishing and maintaining a positive school culture with a student body that changes so dramatically is incredibly hard.  We pray that the administration, staff and parent community are up for that challenge and we pray that there will continue to be thousands of supporters in Nicaragua and abroad who are reminding them in tangible ways that "Nobody, but nobody, Can make it our here alone."

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Monday, June 23, 2014

Day 6 Comes to a Rainy Close 4 comments

Day 6 is now coming to a close and once again we have had a very good day.  We returned to the NCA and split into a number of work teams.  Nathan and Derrick immediately joined the Nicaraguan workers who are busy digging an 8 foot deep trench for the foundation for the next set of classrooms.  Several other team members continued sealing the back wall of the school to keep water out of the foundation and the rest of us went back to work breaking, digging and clearing rock from the sports field of the future.  A brief shower at about 2:00 stopped all work so we sat under the roof of the open air 'gym' and watched and joined in a PhysEd class.  It was a very good day.

Tonight we are relaxing at home and beginning to make the mental adjustment to the fact that our trip is rapidly coming to a close.  The first four days were long and packed, but they didn't pass quickly.  However the final days of our trip seem to be racing to an end.  Tomorrow we work once again and then later in the day we return to Managua to stay at the Nehemiah Center for our last night.  We continue to be blessed with good health for the most  part and our spirits are thankful and high.

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Sunday, June 22, 2014

Lessons from Henry the Eighth 2 comments

It is a little known fact that when old roofers get together at the end of hot week of roofing and share some brie and a fine French red, they love to tell the same historical anecdote.  They love to recall that when Henry the Eighth formed the Church of England for less than noble purposes (he wanted to divorce one woman after another so that he could marry yet another) not all of the parishes of England agreed.  Henry's not so subtle response, they will tell you, was to imprison and sometimes execute the priests and then order his army to destroy the churches and cathedrals that chose to remain loyally Catholic.  At that point in the story the old roofers chuckle and ask the young people around the table how you would destroy a stone cathedral that took 100 years to build.  The answer was a simple one.  You chop holes in the roof, post a royal decree forbidding any repairs and then you let water destroy what man has built.  It was a very successful, low tech formula they tell you because few things are more destructive to a building than uncontrolled water.

The Nicaragua Christian Academy of Matagalpa is a simple and beautiful building built into the side of a significantly steep hill.  It is also located in a country that has a significant rainy season.  When our team was here last year, we saw first hand that drainage was a problem for the school that had not been perfectly solved.  In the year since we left, many water control measures have been put in place, but not everything was finished.  As our pictures attest, half of our team has been digging down to the foundation of the school and sealing the wall and footings because water has been making its way into the one year old classrooms.  It has been heavy work,  and as any old roofer (and one corrupt old king of England) will tell you very important work.

Today was day 5 of our trip.  We started the day worshipping with a Spanish evangelical church a few blocks from our guest house, and then we spent the afternoon hiking incredible mountain trails north of the city.  We continue to be in good spirits and mostly good health and we look forward to returning to work early tomorrow morning.

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Saturday, June 21, 2014

The New Jerusalem Land Bank 3 comments

Today our team had a potentially transformative experience when we travelled up into the mountains northeast of Matagalpa to visit the New Jerusalem Land Bank.  Four years ago, 24 families joined this land reform project sponsored by three different aid agencies including World Renew.  Each family left a large commercial farm where they worked for a single land owner, and took the risk of owning and operating their own small plots of land at the top of a mountain.  We had the opportunity to meet with many members of the community, see their small Christian school build in part with the help of Edudeo, see their two acre model farm where community members can learn new techniques for crop rotation and soil conservation and finally we were able to 'tour' a 2 acre farm close to the school.   Farmer Miguel showed us a small part of his farm including some of the 5,000 coffee plants that he has planted and  is currently tending.  We found out that after planting a coffee plant, you need to wait four to five years before it really begins to produce crops, and we were told that the families expected to be hungry at times while waiting for those future crops to come in.

We also met 21 year old Jose and his mother.  At age 15, Jose convinced his mother (who had worked as a farm labourer on a large hiacienda for 24 years) that they needed to leave the only life she had known and join the New Jerusalem community.  Both spoke of the enormous risk of making that change and all that they needed to learn once they joined this new farming paradigm.  Both also stated that today they were much better off for making that move and they spoke of their thankfulness to God for the new opportunities in their lives.

Now, five hours later, we find ourselves back in our guest house in Matagalpa.  Day 4 is coming to an end and it has been a day like few others.  Again today we have met people whose life experience is shockingly different than our own.  Again today we have met people of vision and faith and we have been witness to the powerful results of the fusion of those two.  And once again, we find the boundaries of our understanding of this world pushed back.

 We have much to think about.







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