April 28, 2014

Some Recent Odd Happenings

Over the past month, we have had some odd things happen to us. They make for really interesting stories, but rarely do we talk about these stories on our blog. It may be because we want to protect your view of Nicaragua as we want our friends and family to visit despite an interesting encounter we may have together. Or, it may be the fact that we personally would rather forget that some of these stories have happened to us. But mostly it is because we don't want to misrepresent the wonderful people that we call our friends. When we start telling our stories, we worry that people will think differently of Nicaraguans, categorize them all in one box or assume that they are all one way.

We have encountered a lot of muggings and thefts while we have been here.

Most of them would be considered petty, ones in which we did not find ourselves in danger. But almost every situation still creates a sense of helplessness, fear and has our hearts racing. In our first year here, we had way too many of these encounters, more than you can count on your fingers, so many that we needed to seek out counseling to process the various events. The number of incidents has decreased over the past year and a half, but it is still a regular reality that we face. We always hold onto the fact that Nicaragua is incredibly safe in comparison to its bordering countries. Yes, we will run into some sticky situations, but we will most likely come out okay.

We don't want to make light of the situations, but we thought we would share a couple of our interesting stories with you today.


I (Cassie) was waiting at the bus stop on a Wednesday evening around 7pm. I was carrying several bags and my purse and my first thought was that I should take a taxi home considering the crowded buses and everything that I was hoping to carry on with me. But I decided to stick to the bus plan and waited in hope that an emptier bus would arrive. As I was waiting in the midst of a crowd, an aging lady in her seventies came up to me and asked what bus route I was waiting for. I gave her a few possibilities, 114, 103, 120, 110 and she told me that a 114 had just passed and was waiting up in the front. I thanked her and walked to where she pointed me, but there was no 114. I thought that was odd, but then realized that maybe she was trying to distract me. I checked my purse pockets and my phone, keys and wallet were all still in their places. I walked back to where I was originally waiting until my bus arrived. I hopped on and moved toward the back when a younger guy approached me and told me that an old lady had my phone.

Confused, I checked my pocket and realized that it was gone. I didn't understand how only 30 seconds before I was completely aware of the possibility of theft and then it happened to me without me even knowing. I pounded on the back door of the bus until the driver kindly opened it for me. I hopped off and found the lady behind our bus, trying to cross the street. I quickly approached her and said, "Excuse me, but do you have my phone?" She responded, "yes" and handed it back to me. I thanked her and hopped back on the bus, extremely confused by what had happened, but grateful that I had my phone. I went and sat next to the younger guy that initially helped me, he was very excited to see that I had gotten my phone back. In fact, half of the bus was clapping and cheering. They apologized and expressed their embarrassment that something like this would happen. I told them not to worry at all, that there are very few people that do these kinds of things and that the majority of people want to help. We talked throughout the rest of our ride and I arrived home with a sense of joy, confusion and hope.


I (Kevin) was walking to the bus stop in our community on a Tuesday evening around 5pm. I was only carrying a small backpack containing a water bottle, 2 books, some pens, a plastic container, which held that evenings dessert, and gum. I was leaving in order to meet Cassie and some friends for dinner. I had only briefly stopped home to drop-off the host of supplies that I had been lugging around all day. While at home I had quickly eaten a handful of peanuts. As I began walking down the street I realized that my breath reflected the said peanuts which were spicy. Thus, as I walked I placed a stick of gum into my mouth. As I continued on my five block walk to the nearest bus stop a neighbor approached me wondering if he could have a piece of gum as well. I was more than happy to meet his request as I quickly swung my pack to my front in order to make the gum accessible. We stood and talked for a few minutes.

Soon we were surrounded by three cops who pulled up on motorcycles. They yelled at us, demanding that we stop speaking, move away from each other and show them our hands. We both obliged the officers. They asked to talk with me and wondered what a person from the U.S. was doing in our neighborhood and would not accept the possibility that I actually lived there. They made me empty my pockets, empty my bag, and then still not feeling satisfied, they made me come with them. I was escorted, I walked and they rode behind and on either side of me to the local police trailer to be questioned and stripped searched. I knew I had done nothing wrong and I knew that the man who I had stopped and spoken with struggled with various addictions. Thus, I assumed that I was suspected of buying drugs. I asked to call Cassie and was allowed to do so as the three officers explained the situation to the police chief. For over 45 minutes they talked about the event that had occurred and what they should do about me. Two of the cops believed that I should be stripped searched as they thought I had drugs on my person. Throughout the entire time I was never questioned. Eventually I asked if I could speak. I explained to them that indeed I did live in Tierra Prometida, that these were my house keys and that the home that I share with my wife was only a block and a half away. Eventually, (again escorted) I took them to see my house and explained to them what we do in Nicaragua, who we work for and why we live where we do. I was free to go and since this event the police have been using our bathroom from time to time seeing as they do not have their own.

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!


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


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



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.


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.


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!


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.


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