January 28, 2014

The Belief in the Other Man’s Wallet

We recently watched a documentary, The Belief in the Other Man’s Wallet, on a non-eventful Saturday night.  Well many of the ideas are ones that continually struggle with, it was a thought-provoking film that made us rethink our personal approach to interacting with those who have less economically.

“Whatever stereotypes are floating around in your head about what poor people are like, test it out, go meet some. I think if we knew more poor people, if we walked with more people, it wouldn't just be about the money. And I suspect and the end of the day relating to a poor person may actually be more transformative for them, than the money you give them.”

Here is an exert about the film from their website:

Imagine you’re walking through a park on your way to work. Across the way, a small boy is drowning in a pond. You could wade into the pond and save the child, but you’re wearing a $200 pair of shoes and rather not ruin them. So you pass by the child, allowing the boy to drown.

The reasonable response to such a story is moral outrage. But noted philosopher and Princeton Professor Peter Singer argues you're just as guilty when you purchase luxury items. Instead of going on vacation or even buying a $5 latte, you could donate the money to a non-profit that provides vaccines, medicine, or other life saving treatments to one of the 8 million children who die each year from preventable diseases. Choosing not to purchase a $5 cup of coffee could save a child’s life.`

To some, Singer’s solution appears too simple. There are too many steps between a small purchase at a coffee shop and a hungry child in the slums of Kenya. To others, the solution is as simple as donating used clothes, buying a pair of TOMS shoes, or traveling to Haiti to help build new homes and schools. But do these solutions help or only reflect an American understanding of prosperity?

The Belief in the Other Man's Wallet is a 45-minute documentary exploration on our moral responsibility to those in poverty. It tracks the stories of philosophers, economists and aid workers when the world asks for our help, and good intentions are not enough.

We hope that you take the time to watch this film and more importantly think about the ways in which your day to day choices affect those around the world.

January 20, 2014

A Family Visit

On the 20th of December, five weary travelers arrived in Nicaragua.  I am sure that there were others who arrived, but these five visitors were of significant importance to Cassie and I. Tim, Suzy, Justin, Kate and Shawna were finally here!  Our time together was great, with lots of plans made to experience and learn about Nicaragua, but also time to spend as a family, catching up and reconnecting.


Our time was filled with good conversation, times at the beach, in a canyon (that Nicaraguans refer to as the Grand Canyon of Nicaragua), hiking through the forest of a coffee farm, and spending time with the children of our neighborhood. We also toured through colonial towns and city streets.


This year Tim celebrated his 60th year of life.  In order to celebrate in significant style, Tim was gifted three hours of deep sea fishing.  I would like to clarify that when I came up with this idea, I had no clue that Tim is susceptible to sea sickness. Thus, Tim lasted about an hour on the boat. But we did catch amazing amounts of fish and feasted on our catch for lunch. I think generally the whole lot could go without fishing, so after we dropped Tim at shore we went snorkeling.  Happy Birthday Tim!

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I was keeping track of the number of hearts games that we played and who won each one, until I realized that I was loosing too many of those to want to keep track anymore.  In the past two years Cassie and Kate’s game has improved remarkably to the point that Justin and I are beginning to loose on a regular basis.

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We also received the gift of welcoming Shawna's friend (as Suzy would say) into our home. Tommy arrived on the 26th and we enjoyed the time that we could spend getting to know this young man. It was a pleasure and a joy and we look forward to possible times spent together in the future.


I think that I could turn this post into an hour read, so instead I am going to leave you with a few more photos!  Enjoy!

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January 15, 2014

A Way Out

We have lived here in Nicaragua for over two years now.  Many days are difficult, the reality of what it takes to get from one place to another, to maintain a home, to be surrounded by economic poverty, to interact in a culture where we are often viewed as outsiders but also given a lot of power that we don’t necessarily deserve, to build relationships with our neighbors, and to do the hard work that we are here to do, takes a lot out of us.  But thinking about living any different seems so wrong.  We are completely enjoying life here, both the ups and the downs, and feel so blessed that we have been able to make this our home for the last couple of years.  But I know that I won’t always be here.  Our work will end, we will move back to Minnesota where I will not have to fight the horrible Managua heat for the rest of my life with no air conditioning as I ride on the hot, city busses.

A way out.  I know that phrase sounds terrible, but I often think this as I am running past the U.S. embassy when I see the long lines of Nicaraguans waiting to hear their fate.

A way out.  Kevin was able to fly home last summer upon the sudden and tragic death of his uncle.  He and his family needed to be together during this difficult time and with help of family we were able to pay for the  ticket.

A way out.  I can almost assuredly say that my children will never go hungry and that we will be able to provide them with quality educational and health opportunities.

A way out.  I can go home at anytime, but many of my friends are considering the dangerous trek up north by ground in order to “have a better life” in the United States. 

A way out.  We will leave, but Fabiola, Sergio, Damaris, Cynthia and Elmer will stay.

At times I am embarrassed and ashamed when I reflect on these thoughts.  When I run past the embassy and I see those lines, it really pains me, often brings me to tears, but I am glad that I don’t have to stand in them.  As much as we have immersed ourselves in this culture, in the barrio that we live, in the culture of Nicaragua, in the beautiful and generous families that have called us their own - I have a way out.  I am not sure what to do with these feelings, really, I am embarrassed that I have them.  But, they are honest and true.

January 9, 2014

Celebrating Christmas

We had fun celebrating Christmas this year with our Nicaraguan family and friends, along with Cassie’s family who came to visit.  We hope that you enjoy seeing how we celebrated the rich and beautiful traditions of Nicaragua.

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During the month of December, we invited several of our students over for meals.  We also received invitations to meals at their homes.  This part of our work is the most enjoyable, doing life with our students, meeting and interacting with their families and sharing more about our lives with one another.  On this occasion, our student’s Luis and Joel came over with their families for an Italian meal.  Luis’s wife brought over buñuelos and they were to die for!  We are planning to have a buñuelo making night soon!

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We enjoyed heading to downtown Managua to celebrate La Purisima y La Griteria.  All throughout December, the streets are filled with people, Nicaraguan food and manger scenes.  There is a competition for the best built manger scene and we enjoyed checking these out on several occasions with friends and family.

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Our neighbor friend, Fabiola made a thousand nacatamales to give away for La Griteria.  We helped her out in the process and discovered that nacatamales can be decent to eat when they are made well.  Fabiola generously gave these away to people in our neighborhood.

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We enjoyed celebrating at our various workplaces.  Above are photos from Cassie’s work celebration at Accion Medica Cristiana.  They provided their workers with a delicious meal, along with music, words of encouragement for the New Year and a Secret Santa exchange.  We also celebrated with our MCC team as well as the Seminary.

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We had a special time celebrating with the Castillo family in Estelí.  We headed up to Estelí the weekend before Christmas and enjoyed a dinner out as well as la Noche de Compras (the Night of Purchases) when all of the town is out buying their Christmas gifts.  Stores are open until midnight and everyone is in high spirits.  We even found Santa Claus!

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Pictured above is a lunch date that we had with two of our students who are returning to the Atlantic Coast in January.  They have completed their Bachelor’s Degrees and we are sad, but excited to see them go.  After a lunch of roasted tomato soup and bread, which they seemed to enjoy, but we felt was way too hot for this December day, we played a game of Christmas themed memory.  It was hilarious playing this game with sixty year olds, but everyone got into it and we played for a couple of hours!

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On Christmas Eve we collaborated with some of our neighbor ladies and held a party for all of the neighborhood kids.  We had about forty kids show up, along with several mom’s and grandma’s.  The couple hours that we had together were chaotic, but so much fun.  Thanks to Cassie’s family, we had stations that the kids rotated from as they played Bingo, colored Christmas pictures and completed other crafts.  Afterwards we ate lunch together, read the Christmas story, hit down a piñata and gave out gifts.  It was great morning!

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Also on nochebuena or Christmas Eve we were invited to celebrate with the Ocampo family in El Crucero.  I warned my mom ahead of time that Nicaraguan tradition is to eat the big Christmas meal at midnight.  We enjoyed a freshly roasted pig along with other delicious sides, and brought some Christmas cookies to share.  The night included a gift exchange, breakdance show, family dance time, lots of dangerous fireworks and sleepy eyes.  We ended up leaving at 2am, about 6 hours past my mom’s bedtime.  She found her way to the truck around midnight and slept out there until we were ready to go!

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On Christmas Day, we laid low at our home.  We were able to celebrate the day with our Lane Family Traditions.  We tried out a Tomato Bisque Manhattan Seafood Soup for lunch after purchasing lobster, octopus and other fish from the local market.  It was loved by some, but not by all.  We will see if it becomes a tradition?


The only one that wasn’t super excited for the Christmas season was Brisa.  Every time we had friends over to celebrate, we put on her reindeer antlers.  And as you can see, she isn’t too impressed!

January 2, 2014

Our Favorite Reads from 2013

We are both avid readers and always enjoy passing time on our hammock, flipping through a good read.  And when it isn’t a good read, Kevin decides that it isn’t worth finishing while Cassie pushes through to the end even if it is painful and not worth her time.  She is working on this, it is okay to quit a book.  Right? 
We thought we would share with you our favorite reads from last year.  Just a note, these books were not necessarily released last year, we just read them in 2013.  We hope that you enjoy our list and we would love to hear what you have been reading, and hopefully enjoying!

  • Little Bee by Chris Cleave - The lives of a British woman and a Nigerian girl collide in this novel of lost innocence and survival.
  • What We Talk About When We Talk About God by Rob Bell – Said to be “a super soulful book” by Oprah Winfrey.  Bell reveals how we got stuck and how we can reconnect with the God who is with us, for us, and ahead of us, pulling us forward into a better future.
  • The Ordinary Seaman by Franscisco Goldman – The story of Esteban, a nineteen year-old Nicaraguan and his luckless friends, brought north as a ship's crew, stuck on a modern ship of the damned, moored in an abandoned Brooklyn dockyard.
  • Instant Mom by Nia Vardalos - "Some families are created in different ways but are still, in every way, a family,” this is Vardalos’ story of her family.
  • Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen - A wonderfully intelligent and frank memoir about her Mennonite upbringing and her story of returning home after a crisis.
  • Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber - Foul-mouthed and heavily tattooed, former standup comic-turned-Lutheran pastor weaves hilarious rants and stunning theological insight into her personal narrative of a flawed, beautiful, and unlikely life of faith.
  • The Child Catchers by Kathryn Joyce – A difficult, but helpful, at times frightening and somewhat biased book, Joyce explores the outsized influence of evangelical Christian groups on the overseas adoption industry.
  • Homies and Hermanos: Gods and Gangs in Central America by Robert Brenneman - Why would a gun-wielding, tattoo-bearing "homie" trade in la vida loca for a Bible and the buttoned-down lifestyle of an evangelical hermano?  Brenneman answers this question through interviews with former gang members.
  • I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai - When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, one girl spoke out.  Malala refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education.
  • Stitches by Anne Lamott – Over the years writer Anne Lamott has encouraged us through the ups and downs.  When life falls apart, Lamott suggests sewing the pieces together again - one stitch at a time.
  • Carry On Warrior by Glennon Doyle-Melton - An inspirational, side-splittingly funny exploration of the power of living with love, forgiveness, and honesty.

  • Chop Suey by Andrew Coe - If you salivate just thinking about Chinese food and are curious about how it became a cultural phenomenon in the U.S you should pick up this informative and interesting book.
  • The World is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman - A historical read with a twist.  It explains what we have been up to during the 21st century with a possibility of what some of our choices as a human race could lead to.
  • Change the World Without Taking Power by John Holloway - So you want a revolution baby?  Holloway looks at the ways in which revolutions begin and the ways in which it is possible in todays world.
  • The Song of the Bird by Anthony De Mello – De Mello offers up 124 short stories or parables if you will, in order to get you thinking about your life and its direction.
  • Self Therapy by Jay Earley - A look into the ways of Internal Family Systems and how we can use our own psyche to achieve greater wholeness within ourselves and within the ways we are able to relate with others.