April 21, 2014

The Poor and Bonsai Trees

“To me, the poor are like Bonsai trees. When you plant the best seed of the tallest tree in a six-inch deep flower pot, you get a perfect replica of the tallest tree, but it is only inches tall. There is nothing wrong with the seed you planted; only the soil-base you provided was inadequate. Poor people are bonsai people. There is nothing wrong with their seeds. Only society never gave them a base to grow on.”

-Muhammad Yunis

We are eight weeks into our Social Investigation course at the Baptist Seminary.  We have a great group of students who really seem committed to the course material and learning how they themselves and their church community can better serve the needs around them.

A couple of weeks ago we shared the above quote in class and then asked students to share what "soil-base" is missing in their communities.  We heard responses such as education, adequate housing, employment, supportive relationships and networks and access to healthy food and nutrition.  We then asked them to consider how they might respond to these needs, to turn these needs into their prayers, actions and dreams.

It was a powerful time together, a time where there was both hope and despair in the room. Much of our work here is like this, there are little sprouts of hope among the difficult realities that we live in.  We hope to continue to water those sprouts and watch them inch out of that dusty soil.

April 14, 2014

La Dalia and El Tuma

In mid-March, I (Cassie) spent a week in the campo.  Part of my work with Acción Médica Cristiana (AMC), a partner organization of MCC, is helping to coordinate the volunteer groups that come to serve in Nicaragua.  We happened to be hosting two groups, one of youth and the other of medical staff at the same time.  I had the opportunity to accompany the groups and see first-hand some of the projects that AMC is working in.

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The beauty of the communities that we were working in is incredible.  The areas are remote, almost never visited by tourists.  This is due to very difficult road conditions, many communities do not even have bus service because the roads are so bad.  The infrastructure is also very underdeveloped, no electricity and no portable water.

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We visited several farms that are involved in AMC’s land bank programs.  AMC has several land banks, which are basically pieces of land that are divided up and given to farmers and their families for a low cost.  AMC provides technical training and education to the farmers, many of which are women.

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The youth team worked with community members to paint this extension bridge, a bridge which was built a few years ago in collaboration with AMC.  For community members that live in San Joaquin, this bridge cuts off an hour of their walk to the bus-stop.  The painting is not just for looks, but rather helps to protect the longevity of the metal.

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I enjoyed interacting with community members and their children.  This sweet girl was the daughter of a female farmer that we ate lunch with one afternoon.  The farmers were only allowed to serve us food that came from their land and wow, did they impress us!  Also pictured is the pharmacy that the medical team set-up to provide basic medicines to community members.

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On our way back to Managua, we stopped at my AMC’s bosses family coffee farm.  He and his brother own the farm and they gave us a great tour of the coffee harvesting process.  We all left with a few bags, you can’t beat  3 dollars a pound!

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Each day I feel honored to serve and work alongside the staff at AMC.  Their commitment to the most vulnerable in Nicaragua is always at the forefront of everything that they do.

Clearview Christian Reformed Church of Oakville, Canada

First Presbyterian Church of Temple, Texas

April 7, 2014

Juicing

Have you ever wondered what a beet, carrot, ginger, orange juice would taste like or perhaps you would prefer a glass of 100% pure orange juice? As the citrus harvest is now in full swing here in Nicaragua, Cassie and I have once again become obsessed with juicing.

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Every few days we travel to our local market with our fruit bag to fill up on the tasteful delights. We have been experimenting with fruits that are familiar to us and others that are not. It is somewhat exciting to think about the new flavors one will experience with a fruit that one has never tasted. Up to this point all of our efforts have been met with happy results.

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As we walk back from the market we usually have to reflect about that the fact that not only is our fruit fresh (usually harvested the same day that we purchase it) but also how affordable it is. Here is an example of the costs at the market:

60 oranges - $2

24 carrots - $2

24 grapefruit - $.50

12 beets - $2

1 LB of ginger - $1

With all this fruit I made almost 2 gallons of wonder fruit juice that Cassie and consumed for our breakfast the entire week. There is no better way to start the day!

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April 1, 2014

Beaches

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We are from Iowa, a state of a handful of lakes, and Minnesota, a state of 10,000 lakes.  Growing up in the Plains meant that a drive to the ocean meant climbing into the sedan for a couple days drive or a planned vacation in order to frolic in the waves and bury our feet in the sand.

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I (Kevin) did not see the ocean until I had turned 22 and really that was just the gulf of Mexico and after the destruction of Katrina had just passed through.  Thus, I spent the majority of my time cutting trees and roofing as opposed to taking in the sights and sounds of the nearby ocean.

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Since, neither of us have ever lived near an ocean and since the possibility of living this close to the ocean ever again does not look that likely, we are doing our best to enjoy the beautiful Pacific and Atlantic Coasts of Nicaragua. We wanted to share with you some photos of were we have been and what we have seen, and also to extend our welcome mat--especially to the Plains people!

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These pictures were taken a couple of weekends ago at the Rivas Beaches along the Pacific Coast.  Cassie recently completed a class on manual photography, so these pictures were some of her first experiments.

Enjoy!

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