Sooooo… to continue with our journey through Nicaragua, on Monday we met again with Eric Loftsgard from the Nehemiah Center. We actually went to the facilities of the Nehemiah Center to learn about the work that they do there. We had a long talk with Eric and picked his brain to see how our call and our God-given gifts can be used by the people of the Nehemiah Center. We also met with another missionary couple and discussed more in detail what they do, how the Nehemiah Center enables them to do what they believe God has called them to do, and whatever other insights they had about this organization. It was great to learn more about the opportunities available. And like I (Maria) said in my last post, I will let Cody be the one to share with you more in detail since we are still praying and seeking the Lord about all these things that we learned.
After our meeting with Eric and the couple from the Nehemiah Center we went out for lunch. We went to a restaurant that we had heard was great called La Plancha. Well, the restaurant was great. The service was incredible. The food was excellent. BUT…it was a very fancy restaurant and we had forgotten our formal attire. If you are in another country it helps a lot to know your currency conversion. YIKES!
In the evening we had dinner with some of the staff of Nicaragua Christian Academy and the Nehemiah Center at Eric’s house. We had a great time getting to know some other missionaries and networking. And the food was AWESOME!
On Tuesday, we headed out very early to Matagalpa which is about two hours away from Managua in the northern part of the country. The scenery was breathtaking. No doubt Nicaragua is a beautiful place. You can see the small tin roofed houses and those made out mud similar to the ones we were used to seeing in Haiti, but the country is clean and there is a lot of forestation. The volcanoes at the distance looked so grand. And the fruit vendors on the side of the road looked like they were decorating the panorama.
In Matagalpa we drove around town to get familiar with the city. One of the goals we had for this trip was to identify a place to live and minister. So we spent some time trying to get to know the neighborhoods. This is where again, I am forever thankful to whoever invented the GPS! Matagalpa has lots of steep hills. Some of the hills were scary! The city itself is very pretty and there is a mix of poor and not so poor around the town. I am not sure if that is the right way to describe it. What I mean is that some of the homes look like small concrete or brick homes while others were made out of tin and broken up wood. Nevertheless, there was a lot of beauty in this city sitting on a hill—a steep one. And the weather was awesome.
After having lunch in Matagalpa, we headed to Esteli. Esteli is a city north of Matagalpa, but because there is no direct route to it we had to drive back out of Matagalpa to find the fork on the road and then head to Esteli. This was my least favorite city. We drove around it for quite a bit. The roads were more opened than the roads in Matagalpa and it some ways it seemed more modern, but I wasn’t too crazy about it so I didn’t take many pictures.
Before heading back to the hotel (two hours away from where we were) we decided to go back to Matagalpa to check it out one more time. We discovered new sections of the city that we had not seen and we saw the city from the top of a hill. After this we pushed the HOME button on the GPS and went back to the hotel. We all agreed that we liked Matagalpa more than Esteli.
On Wednesday, we headed to the city of Leon, which is about an hour north of Managua. This was my favorite city. If you know me you would know that I love Spanish history, Spanish culture, Spanish architecture, and Spanish flavor. This city had it all! I felt like I was transported back in time. I was reminded of my old San Juan in Puerto Rico or the Spanish architecture I saw when I was in Barcelona, Spain years ago. The sad thing is that many of the architecture designs are a representation of the Roman Catholic beliefs that the people follow. The churches were filled with many statutes and symbols of worship of Mary and worship of other saints. I have to say that this was also the hottest place we visited in Nicaragua. It felt like a million degrees there.
After Leon, we decided to take a couple of hours of fun time and we visited the local beach. It was my very first time in the Pacific Ocean. And it was beautiful. The sand was black due to all the volcanoes in Nicaragua. By the way, did you know that there are 50 volcanoes in Nicaragua? No wonder they call it the land of lakes and volcanoes! Our time at the beach was very nice. The waves were too strong for Isabela to swim, but we found a little spot between some rocks where her and Cody were able to splash for a while. Even Jake got some splashing time. Isabela and I also collected some shells for two little girls who were collecting shells to make necklaces.
On our last day, just before we went to the airport, we visited the local mall in Managua just to kill some time and see what the local mall had to offer. The mall is very nice and has some American stores and I was very surprised to see that prices were a lot cheaper than in Costa Rica. However, I don’t think this will be my one place to get what I need.
We are still reflecting and praying about what we saw and discussed and learned in Nicaragua last week. The more we talk about it, the more we understand our purpose for being on the mission field, and the more humble I am that God would choose us for the task. God continues to do a work in our hearts and change our thinking and our perspectives daily. I have come to a new understanding about the mission of the church and the role the gospel plays in it.
In some ways all that we have experienced in the past two years has helped shaped the way I see things now. I can’t help but think about life and eternity and the responsibility of bringing the gospel to the lost that we have as Christians. There is a sense of urgency in my heart. At the same time God is showing me that patience, humility, and above all love is required to be effective in bringing the message of salvation to the people. Think this through with me. In the past two years we…
…were in a country where at least 250,000 people died in less than 1 minute
…we buried our own child at age four
…we were almost killed in our own home by five greedy guys who demanded money
All of these events involved dealing with the fact that we all face death and eternity. And these are some of the things that God is using to shape our view of missions and to stir our hearts to be intentional about sharing the gospel and teaching others what the cross of Jesus means to God and to us. Of course, the number one reason why we do what we do is because we want to glorify God.
As you look at these pictures and hear our hearts about going to share Christ with the Nicaraguans know that in some ways we are different people than the ones who left to Haiti in 2009. Yes, we are still Cody and Maria, but some things have changed. Our family structure is different. Our view of life is different. Our understanding of the gospel is different. And our ministry will also be different. We still have a heart for the poor, but we have a greater heart for the lost.
I love this quote from one of my favorite movies…
“The poor without Christ are of all men the most miserable. But the poor with Christ…are princes and kings of the earth.” —A River Runs Through It
Thank you for joining us in our journey. Xoxo – Maria