March 31, 2013

Because We Are Girls…

It appears that more girls have been killed in the last fifty years, precisely because they were girls, than men were killed in all the wars of the twentieth century.

More girls are killed in this routine ‘gendercide’ in any one decade than people were slaughtered in all the genocides of the twentieth century.

-Nicholas D. Kristof in Half the Sky


For additional reading:

Saving the World’s Woman, New York Times, 2009

March 24, 2013

Spiritual Getaway

Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out. 

-Vaclav Havel

Every year the MCC team here in Nicaragua takes the opportunity to have a spiritual retreat.  This year, we were blessed to have our retreat facilitated by Susan Classen, a former MCC worker in both Nicaragua and El Salvador who now works at a Catholic Retreat Center in Kentucky.  The opportunity to reflect and grow with a woman who has spent many of her years living and working in solidarity with the poor in Latin America proved to be fruitful for the team.


As a team we ventured to Miraflor, an almost untouched nature preserve in the northern highlands of Nicaragua.  There we spent time relaxing, going on adventures to waterfalls and cloud forests and spent time reflecting on our work here in Nicaragua.  The time was well spent as we deepened our relationships with one another, refocused ourselves for the work to be done and found ourselves renewed for the work ahead.


Here are some of our favorite quotes that Cassie and I reflected on from the weekend:

Look closely at the present you are constructing.  It should look like the future you are dreaming.

-Alice Walker

Since stepping into new ground involves frequent encounters with not knowing, we need to make friends with this feeling.  It will be a companion on our journey.

-Joanna Macy

See, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare, before they spring forth, I tell you of them.

-Isaiah 42:9


March 19, 2013

Book Report: Tattoos on the Heart

If there is a fundamental challenge within these stories, it is simply to change our lurking suspicion that some lives matter less than other lives.









Kindness is the only strength there is.

It has been awhile since we did a “book report.”  Remember last year when we shared about Stones into School by Greg Mortenson?  We promise that we have read some books since then!

Sometimes resilience arrives in the moment you discover your own unshakeable goodness.

We both just finished up reading “Tattoos on the Heart” by Gregory Boyle.  We are grateful to a previous MCC worker who recommended that we use it as a required text for our current course, Social Science Research and Community Development.  We look forward to sharing it with our students here in Nicaragua because we believe that it is a special book that tells the story well, the story of redemption, hope and care that can come from our relationships with others.

God can get tiny, if we're not careful.

The book relates the life and work of Father Boyle, a Jesuit priest living in Los Angeles.  Boyle founded Homeboy Industries, a gang intervention program that provides training, job skills and hope to gang members who are seeking to create a life for themselves outside of the gangs.  Father Boyle tells the story well, relating the hopes, dreams and sadness's that have come throughout his twenty years of his work in the most densely populated gang neighborhood in the U.S.  As we read, we cried, we laughed, and our perceptions were challenged as we thought about what Boyle’s work and the communities response meant for our lives and our work.

Here is what we seek: a compassion that can stand in awe at what the poor have to carry rather than stand in judgment at how they carry it.

If you are interested in hearing more about Father Boyle, check out this interview that he did with Minnesota Public Radio last year.  Click here:

Terror melting into wonder, then slipping into peace.

March 14, 2013

A Humble Pope

It was just a little after 1:30pm when the fireworks began. I had just spoken with Cassie who told me that her taxi driver said the new Pope was soon to be announced. As the cracks and bangs sprang out, I flipped open the computer and went to live coverage at the Vatican. It seemed as if the unthinkable had occurred, a pope from Latin America had been chosen!


The celebration continued into the night as an impromptu procession made its way through many streets of Managua celebrating the news. Today the headline of our local newspaper read, “Un Papa Humilde” or “A Humble Pope.” In it, the Archbishop of Managua, Leopoldo Jose Brenes said, “it is beautiful to have a Pope that is so close to us, a gift from the Argentinian church for the world.”

It seems as though the people of Nicaragua are quite ecstatic about the possibilities that may be the result of the first ever election of a Latin American Pope. The excitement is compounded due to the fact that Jorge Mario Bergoglio is considered to be progressive in the area of social matters. However there are concerns that morally he is considered to be quite conservative, adhering to traditional views concerning the roles of women, rights of gays and lesbians and other moral issues.

The people here are seeking liberation and are hoping that Francis I will bring about many of the changes that were a part of the vision of the Vatican II.  Many people have also expressed and taken pride in the fact that though Pope Francis I is Argentinian, he is first and foremost, part of the Latin American world.

As Cassie and I watched the news last night, she told me about her time with her taxi driver, Miguel.  As they waited for the announcement, sweating in an old beaten up car, Miguel shared his dreams for the church in Nicaragua and across the world.  We need someone who understands the plight of the people and who has walked alongside the poor.  We need someone who will advocate for the rights of all human-kind.  When the announcement was made and as we learned more about our new pope, tears of joy streamed down Miguel’s face. 

From our perspective it has already been an interesting twenty-fours hours with a Latin American as Pope and we look forward to the way in which his work and the Catholic Church will change and grow as we live here in Nicaragua.

"Jesus teaches us another way: Go out. Go out and share your testimony. Go out and interact with your brothers. Go out and share. Go out and ask. Become the Word in body as well as spirit."

-Pope Francis I

March 10, 2013

Recipes and Projects of Lately

Lately we have been doing some work around the house.  This includes a few furniture projects, moving rooms around, quilting, decorating and cooking.  It is always a bit tricky as we don’t have a Jo-Ann or Michael’s around the corner, but we lower our expectations and enjoy the challenge (most of the time).

Our rotting basketball backboard has been worrying us for awhile.  The bottom piece of wood has been hanging by a few nails and we always worry about it falling when we are playing with the neighborhood kids.  So last week, I was out playing with Elmer when I decided it was time to come down.  After a little yank, it fell and we continued on with our game.  Here in Nicaragua, nothing gets wasted, so I decided to make a headboard out of it.  After a little bit of paint, here is how it looks.  I decided on the word “gracias” as it has been my theme word for my time down here.  It is the perfect reminder for me!  I stitched up the edges of a fabric scrap that I found at a market, made a banner using twine and extra fabric and this is the finished project.









My little friend Adria and I worked on these frames a couple of nights ago.  We painted chevron stripes on pieces of plywood and glued on the frames.  We now have these cheery pieces!  It was a fun little project that was easy to do with her.  They aren’t perfect, but they were at $2 project, so we can’t have that high of hopes.

photo8 DSCN6731 

When we were home for Christmas, my friend Nikki surprised me with a fabulous Christmas gift.  She had some embroidery hoops ready to go and took me to the fabric store to find some swatches.  She was inspired by the below photo she found on pinterest. I brought six back to Nicaragua and split them between two rooms.  I am sort of wishing that I could have clustered them all together like the example picture.  Changes can still be made, although I will have to convince Kevin to pound in even more concrete nails.  Overall though, I love it, mostly that it reminds me of Nikki.  It was the perfect gift to travel with.

Embroidery hoopsphoto1


I am currently working on a couple of quilts with some gorgeous fabric that my friend Mandy purchased for me in India.  I hope that they turn out, the fabric is too beautiful for them not to.


One of my first pins on pinterest was this lovely shelf from Ana White.  Check out this e-mail conversation from last year:

5/10/12 - From Cassie to Kevin – Will you make me this shelf?      

5/11/12 – From Kevin to Cassie (wow, fast response for Kevin) – I think WE could make it Cas!

5/11/12 – From Cassie to Kevin – Go for it!

Well I hadn’t heard a thing about until last week.  Kevin had built it in secret (hiding his progress in our guest shower) and surprised me with it on Valentines Day.  I love it and have been using it for my craft and sewing storage. 

photo20 photo2

Kevin wanted new muffin tins for Valentines Day, so I  happily picked him up a pair.  I made these lemon poppy seed Muffins last week and they were delicious.  I love the added yogurt, omitted the sugary glaze, and am grateful that my sister brought us two jars of poppy seeds on her visit last August. 

Lemon Poppyseed Muffins – click here for recipe

I came across the following recipe and showed it to Kevin.  He thought they were super unhealthy and not a good use of our precious dark chocolate.  But I thought he would like it and threw the mix together the mix last month (before we gave up chocolate for lent).  We cannot buy peanut butter chips here, so I omitted them.  They were delicious and highly recommended from both of us!

Salted Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies – click here for recipe

I know that this is technically outside of our house, but I had to show you a picture of one of my favorite flower blooms from last week.  Right on our front porch!  I can’t say that we are missing the below zero weather here.


March 4, 2013

Learning Tour

“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

-Lilla Watson

In February, our MCC Nicaragua team welcomed a learning tour of eight individuals from Alberta, Canada.  They were here for ten days and their goals were to learn more about the Restorative Justice programs of MCC Nicaragua.  Kevin and I were a part of the planning committee, along with a couple of other co-workers. 

The group was refreshing to spend time with.  They were all forty and above and work in a variety of positions ranging from community and prison chaplains to Victim Offender dialogue mediators.  We spent several days with this group and really enjoyed our experience getting to know more about the work that they do as Restorative Justice practitioners for MCC in Canada.  They provided much wisdom and insight to our context here as many of them have also lived and traveled abroad.

I appreciate the way that MCC handles foreign groups.  Oftentimes we see foreign groups coming into Nicaragua, paying tens of thousands of dollars, all wearing the same bright colored t-shirt and not speaking Spanish (but hey we didn’t either when we arrived and we are still pretty bad).  They are often found in the tourist market buying absurd amounts of things at even more absurd prices.  While I do agree that the typical mission trip can have great value, especially for the foreigner, I often wonder how this can be done better.

MCC’s Learning Tours focus on solidarity and mutual transformation through connecting with and learning about another culture and community.  Much of our time was spent in dialogue and conversation with Nicaraguans, a mutual and even exchange of ideas.  Both sides learned, both sides were encouraged and both sides were willing to be changed.

“We gain richness from our differences.”

One day included a visit to Christian Medical Action, where Cassie spends a couple of her days working each week.

DSCN6733 DSCN6734

Another day we visited with Maria Jesus, our previous host mother who is a lawyer and mediator.  This was a very exciting dialogue where individuals connected and shared some really neat ways that they could partner together in their work.

DSCN6780 DSCN6784

We also learned more about the community resources here in Nicaragua and are excited for our future partnerships.  If you are interested in reading more about their learning tour and time here in Nicaragua, check out their blog here:

“We are not the key players, we are here to walk with the people.”