Monday, April 25, 2016

The Writing on the Pages

The Writing on the Pages

Where does one begin when asked to sum up an 11 ½ year chapter of your life?  The answer is hard to put down into words.  I have been trying to write this update for the past 3 months.   Struggling to find words to adequately convey all that God has done, the growth I’ve experienced, relationships built and life-change experienced and witnessed through God’s hand seems an insurmountable task.   In the coming week I'll be posting some FAQ's  for you all too.  In the mean-time here goes....

The Nicaragua Chapter

Have you ever had a load like this guy?
To say that this journey has not been full of paradox would be far from the truth.  I can’t recount the number of times when faced with what seemed like impossible situations that could have left me feeling hopeless yet I was filled with unexplainable peace and confidence in God’s greater perspective of the situation.  That's not to say that I didn't have some freak out moments!  :-) These past four years serving at NCA Matagalpa have been rewarding and challenging in the deepest of ways.   As I reflect back I see so many little ways that God had been preparing me for the work that He would have me do in Matagalpa.    My interactions with Nicaraguan school teachers and school directors in churches that Christ For theCity partnered with in my early years in Nicaragua were just the beginning.  Those experiences helped me understand the struggle it is to find teachers who teach with their heart, and how difficult it is to say to parents behind on their school bill due to unemployment that they have to find a way to catch up so that you can have the funds to give their son’s teacher a paycheck.  The ability to comprehend the power of fear that drives Nicaraguans to only do precisely what their employer has directed them to do and no more for fear of losing their job and thus not being able to provide for their family.  All of this and more have opened my eyes to see what has led to such  lack of experience in critical problem solving and squelched creativity. 

These experiences and more have been God’s way of preparing me to partner with Nicaragua Christian Academy and open a new campus in Matagalpa and serve alongside a stellar team for the past few years.  Through applying my knowledge  and experience with the framework of  my Nicaraguan  coworkers we were able to address some of these hurdles from a different angle and achieve deeper levels of success and systemic change because WE collectively identified the “Why” before moving towards the “How” of making positive changes.   The school, staff, students and families are growing, collaborating by leaps and bounds and it makes my heart sing God's praises for all that He is doing at NCAM.

However nothing prepared me for the pain of saying good-bye to these special people that I have worked alongside for these past few years.   When your heart strings are tied in so closely to the people and the place God has placed you to serve the separation is painful. Leaving a place you love and truly felt called to is grief.

I feel so blessed to have been able to meet and work with so many incredible teachers, co-workers, students and parents and friends.   I sit here in awe and ask,  “God, who am I that you chose to use me?”.   The truth is I don’t have the answer but He rejoices in the growth, life, love and acceptance that has grown from me, a simple, broken vessel, that has been laid before Him during this chapter of my life. 

Isabella a 3rd grader and her Dad at their family's coffee farm
November and December were filled with busy schedules as I trained, explained and handed over lots of files to the new director Mr. Kynast and filled out the last evaluations, finalized our growth plans and had our last collaborative meetings with team members and began the process of saying good-bye to so many people that I love dearly.   Stepping into classrooms, hugging students that you’ve gone the extra mile for and having parents approach you with overwhelming hearts of gratitude filled the last weeks of classes.    Time was filled with tearful good-byes and walks down memory lane as we recounted so many precious memories of God’s overwhelming faithfulness together.   How do you say good-bye to a people and a place that has welcomed you in and allowed you to learn and grow with them for more than a decade?  The truth is you can’t.  You leave a piece of your heart with all of those people and places you loved and your heart grows bigger with all of the love and memories you carry with you as you leave the place you called home.  

“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.”
 Miriam Adeney

The Page Between

My focus since returning to the US has been setting aside time to rest and recover from a particularly busy season of life and re-center my life and energy in the One who made me.   When you are running 90 mph  every day from sun up to sun down and a little beyond you don’t stop long enough to realize just how tired your mind and body really are.   Long, quiet days have been wonderful to enjoy  time alone with God and slow my brain down to a healthier rhythm with  fewer distractions.   I spent a week in the Colorado mountains at the Potter’s Inn for an intensive time of  rest and reflection.   I felt as though God had been preparing my heart and mind to glean so much from this one-on-one time with a spiritual director.   Recognizing some unhealthy habits that I’ve developed as I have found my identity in what I do rather than who God has made me to be and I've begun taking active steps to find my fulfillment in who He has made me to be.  
Fredssy doing a science experiment

Fast forward three months and here I sit writing this update in Greenville, South Carolina.   God has provided for me in amazing ways as I was able to spend some quality time with my family in Colorado and Kansas as well as see some dear friends along the way as I headed out East.   After 4 weeks of  getting the lay of the land in Greenville my head is still spinning.   I guess the easiest way to explain this is that I’ve moved to a new country.  Sure the US is my passport country but it has changed a lot and so have I over the years.  Similar to when I moved to Nicaragua  I  have to learn the customs and culture of this “New Country”.  While it may not be as technical of a transition as my move to Nicaragua in 2004 the reality is that it is just as full of uncomfortable cultural mishaps, language miscommunication, new friendships, adventures and emotional roller coaster rides as a cross-cultural move.

Students making a playhouse for the elementary
The New Chapter

The new chapter of my journey is just beginning as I go through the process of getting connected on a deeper level with new people and get a pulse on where I am being called to serve and live here in Greenville.

Despite the overwhelming number of choices and decisions I encounter at every turn I  have seen some pretty cool provision from God in unique ways.  A former missionary family has graciously let me stay in their garage apartment while I get settled. God provided an awesome car and some super knowledgeable people to go with me to check  it out and make sure that the vehicle passed the test.  Then I’ve met some other people who are just super connected to service opportunities in the community  that I am really excited to get to know more in the coming months.   He even provided a camping opportunity that  filled a need to be outside in nature with a cool new family that I met at church.   He also provided a job to work as an administrative assistant at a circuit board repair company while I get my feet underneath me this year.  Connections are in the works in many ways but as with all good things they take time.   We serve a mighty King who is worthy of all praise in  struggle and in triumph.

So I close with some lyrics of a new song I just learned from  Elevation Worship called Only KingForever

What do we have to bring
This is our offering, our hearts before
The risen Lord
All power in Your Name
Jesus the one who saves, be lifted high
Our song will rise

Oh great and mighty King
You reign in majesty
Before Your throne we sing
Holy holy
Oh great and mighty King
For all eternity
We bow with heaven and sing
Holy holy

What do I have to bring to Him in this new chapter?   My heart, broken open for others in service to the King.   May He reign in majesty!  Thank you all for joining me on this journey.  I am eternally grateful for your partnership in so many ways.

Join me in praying

  •            A roommate and housing by the end of May
  •       Cultural re-entry
  •       The grieving process of missing my home (Nicaragua)   
  •       New Friends and Community     
  •       Unity for the NCA Matagalpa Team as they continue to grow   
  •       Wisdom in the journey ahead
  •       Balance for the new Director as he learns the ropes and settles in to his new                         community

  •      Continued professional development opportunities and coaching for the NCAM staff        and that they would continue to rise up and teach others what they know. 
  • Part of my Nicaraguan Missionary family.  Dear, dear friends!

Some of our AMAZING staff!!