Send in the Clowns

There is a poor barrio in Granada that doesn’t get much press. Many of you have heard me speak of Pantanal, one the poorest in Central America. You might remember I used to live in the adjacent barrio of Adelita. You might even remember La Saboneta or Boca Negra, because of the feeding programs we have sponsored there. But one I have never mentioned is called El Escudo. The Spanish word means shield. It also could mean a “Coat of Arms.” I am not sure where the name came from at this point. Sometime, I am sure; some historian of Granada will let me in on the story.

There is a big, old building there that used to be a storage facility for LP Gas bottles. Hence, like so many places in Nicaragua, the name is simple and descriptive: “House of the Bottles” or “Casa de las botellas”.

The remnants of its old function are long gone. What have replaced the bottles are brightly painted walls, a kitchen, a library, and two large seemingly empty rooms. At first glance, one might not be able to discern its present function. But upon review, you will see the rolled up mats, metal bowling pins, and balls of all sizes lining those walls. You see, now this is a training ground for future circus performers.

Your reaction might be similar to mine. When I first heard of this place, I was incredulous. Why would anyone ever try to teach juggling or acrobatics to anyone? I wondered if Granada had some rich tradition in performing arts. I thought maybe it was like Peru, Indiana, a city I lived near for almost 20 years before I knew it was home to a clown college. But the answers to these historic questions are still unanswered.

Its present use is, however, quite evident.

This organization takes children from the barrio, and like many of the projects I worked on in the U.S., tries to divert and exploit the natural energy and curiosity of youth into something fun. Every week, volunteers, many of whom are former students, teach classes in tumbling, juggling, clowning, and even sleight of hand.

Why do I bring this up? There are two reasons. First, I could list several different organizations that are trying in their own way to help the people of Granada. Missionaries, non-government organizations, and volunteers are hard at work. I never want to give the impression that I am the only person in Granada trying to do his part to help our city.

The second reason is more personal. I visited the house and began to speak to the head teacher. I mentioned off hand that it would be a perfect place to hold English classes. Without even blinking, he looked at me and said, “OK!”

I said he didn’t blink, but his eyes did twinkle. He basically gave me one condition. That was that I would hold classes for the staff and offer them to any children of the neighborhood. I, of course, agreed.
So now, after months of uncertainty about the future of classes in the makeshift locations and school buildings we have used before, we now will have some spaces to invite new students and children to be a part of our shared ministry.

After school programs have been shown to be very effective when thoughtfully run. This is already a place where kids can come and get a break from their otherwise mundane life. Instead of heading down the wrong paths in life, they might get a sense of belonging and acceptance that they have not had before. And I will be lucky enough to do a comparatively small part in helping them achieve their goals.

No other classes or students or programs will suffer from this addition. It will just be another way that we can share love to another group of young people. I am looking forward to the opportunity.

There was a boy written about in the 1880s named Toby Tyler. In the story he ran away from home and joined the circus. It was fictional, but we have retained the idiom even today. I am not joining the circus. But I am going to help children who someday might.

Look forward to pictures and stories in the weeks ahead as we begin another adventure together.

Continue to pray for our friend Pastor G.  He is still suffering from pain in his back and his wife is still recovering from her heart problems.

People are being lifted up and families are being bolstered because of our collaborative efforts. Thank you all for your continued encouragement. I couldn’t do it without you.

Dios los bendiga.

Unassailable Love

I write a lot about the holy trinity of human attributes: faith, hope, and love. I am not ashamed about that and I obviously believe that they are three things that are essential to living a satisfied life. When one loses any of the three it can be devastating for them and all who are around them. But as Paul announced in the first letter to the Corinthians, “the greatest of these is love.”

Love is a funny word in the English language. On one hand it can describe the deepest emotional bond one can attain with another human being. On the other, it also expresses ones fondness for MacDonald’s french fries.

Spanish is a little clearer. We use one word for enjoy ( me encanto), another word for that deep, soul uniting, passionate love( te amo), and even a third for that in-between feeling. When you say “te quiero”, it is akin to saying. “love ya” or something similar when you don’t want anything to be misunderstood as romantic.

Poems have been written and songs have been sung about unrequited love. Volumes of books have been written about unconditional love. I want to talk about unassailable love.

I met an interesting character in my journey this week. Actually I met two people. Both of them were over 90 years old. They live in a home for the elderly near Managua. He was born in Russia. She is Nicaraguan. He is a scientist. He doesn’t work anymore, but I use the present tense intentionally because I don’t believe that true scientists ever lose their passion for inquiry. She is a writer. No longer writing the headlines of the day for thousands to see, still a journalist, she takes time every day to express her thoughts on a page.

Both were children of diplomats and met each other the first time as children. Their nomadic lifestyles did not them allow them to have more than a pre-teenage flirtation before World War II. Their lives continued forward for many years, separately.

He had not had the best of luck with religions. His family was Jewish and forced to renounce their faith in order to hold a government job in the then Soviet Union. He was able to travel to Great Britain for an advanced degree. There he found Christianity, which was none too welcome news to his superiors.

He worked at the same research facility as before. He had a friend who helped him continue his experiments even though he was demoted to janitor. At that time of the demise of the Soviet Union he was restored to his former position.

Huge changes in both of their homelands found them once again face to face, only now in 1990. This time they were at conference in Havana. He was a presenter. She was covering the event. They were older and wiser. They had both known love. One lost by divorce, the other by death.

They, of course, did not recognize each other. But they were drawn together. They began to talk and couldn’t believe what was happening. Now in their early 60s in spite of the years apart, there was still a spark.

The conversation, according to her, went something like:

M: “Hello Dr. P, I’m Maria from La Prensa”
I: “Nice to meet you, Maria.”
M: “It’s funny, I knew a boy with the last name P. when I was a little girl. I had such a crush on him.”
I: “Oh, really, what was his name?”
M: “Ivan”
I: “I’m Ivan”

They shared how they were both near retirement age but wanted to travel. They decided quickly that they wanted to do that together. They were married within two weeks.

Now they are retired, not only from their jobs, but from traveling as well. They spend their days talking and drinking tea and playing chess. She wins most of the time.

What struck me was the way he looked at her. At that moment there was no age in his eyes. There were no lines on his face. There was only the glow of love beaming outward.

It took them 50 years. But their love was certainly unassailable. It was unconquerable. It was undying.

That’s the type of love we need to share with the world today. Love that will triumph over anything. Christian philosophers have said that because we were created by a God of pure love, we are made in the image of that love, and therefore to share love is the greatest expression of our devotion to God.

I can’t argue with that. There is a lot of hate and turmoil in our world. But we, no matter what, can love. It is at the end unassailable.

God continues to bless here in Nicaragua. We have new opportunities every day for outreach. We are praying for you and I hope you are doing the same for us. We are still feeding families, teaching children, and loving people. Thank you for all of your love towards us.

Dios los bendiga.

Not in the headlines

Chadwick Boseman was an American actor famous for playing among other memorable roles the Black Panther in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. John Thompson was elected to the basketball hall of fame for his contributions as the long time head of Georgetown University’s storied program. Lou Brock was one of the most graceful athletes to ever wear a St. Louis Cardinals. He epitomized small ball style of the game, using steals and base-running as offensive weapons. Diana Rigg, was one of my first celebrity crushes, as I was smitten after watching a rerun of television show “The Avengers”.

All of these people passed away in the past two weeks. All of them praised for their skills and mourned in the headlines of national periodicals.

Let me tell you about Maria. She, too, left this earthly realm since my last blog. She was a school teacher. She was a mother. She was a wife, daughter, aunt, cousin, and to me, a friend.

Maria did not live in Granada. She lived in a tiny hamlet about 10 or 15 kilometers away. She taught at a school near her home. Her two small children adored her and her husband will be ever grateful remembering her strength as she stood beside him as he recovered from addiction.

I met her by chance. It was nearly 3 years ago. I was teaching a class in the barrio west of town and she happened to be visiting another teacher friend of hers. We had instant rapport. I subsequently met her husband and family. We would often swap stories about the idiosyncratic nature of children and her husband was amazed by the fact that I had actually been to a Major League Baseball game. When he found out that it was a regular occurrence you could see the awe in his eyes.

About a year ago I received a phone call. It was her husband. He was crying. They had been to the doctor and heard that one word that translates in any language as a devilishly cruel diagnosis: cancer.

She had an operation. She went through the therapy. She worried about her weakened immune system as the reports of COVID-19 increased. She worried about the future of her children as the end drew near. She worried about whether or not her husband would revert back to old habits because of grief. She, like any of us sane human beings, was saddened by the prospect of missed birthdays, celebrations uncelebrated, and the future of all the lives she touched her on earth.

All of that, while courageous and selfless, is not the most remarkable part of her story.

The thing is that she, through it all, never lost her joy.

How, with all she faced, could she still flash her amazing smile every time I saw her? How could she laugh and joke when every day of her life was anything but humorous? How could she bear the thought of her fate and still have an attitude that would outshine most in their best moments?

It was her faith.

She would often quote to me the familiar scripture John 16:33.

“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

These are Jesus’ words to his disciples spoken near the end of his life. She took them to heart. She lived them. She knew the one who spoke them.

I saw here not too long before her death. Green scrubs, mask, gloves, and visor protecting her from the danger that might have hastened her demise should I have somehow caught the virus and transferred it to her. I looked like a doctor coming out of surgery or as one of her kids said, “a alien”.

Even then, all of us knowing what was inevitably nigh, she smiled and laughed. She even mocked my Spanish accent. One of the last things she told me was that I sounded more like a German on holiday in Mexico. I thought I had gotten down the Nicaraguan way of speaking pretty well. I was obviously wrong.

But we talked about other things. She made me promise that I would make sure her children continued with their English classes. I said that as long as I was in Nicaragua her children would have a place in my classroom.

There was a peace about her. Hope emanated from her. Even then in that what we both knew would likely be our last visit she remained content.

Today, as you read the headlines. As we see the rich and the famous eulogized. Take a moment and remember the ones who didn’t make the Internet. The many people who are gone too soon. Learn a lesson from those who crossed that great veil with dignity and peace and hope. Take heart yourselves as I do when I think of Maria and I remember.

This is not a sad blog. The only tears are the tears of laughter and joy as I see in my mind’s eye her playing with her children, teaching a class, or verbally jousting with her husband. Not because I do not miss my friend, but because I know her journey was travelled well and she is at rest. I also know I will see her again.

That is the power of hope. That’s the power of knowing that He has overcome the world.

Dios los bendiga

Now is the Winter of a our Discontent

It’s the rainy season here in Nicaragua. Like most tropical climes aggressive sunlight and heat can be followed instantly by a what seems like a deluge worthy of contemplating dusting off the old plans for the ark.

You need to know a couple of things about our country.

One, we don’t experience the dramatic changes in hot and cold here. Our seasons are different. Someone told me that the weather here does have four seasons. They are perfect, hot, very hot and rainy.

Two, while I have come to appreciate the lack of a need for winter coats and snow shovels, I also miss the crispness of autumn and the quiet beauty of a farm field freshly shrouded in a winter’s cloak of snow.

But we do have a spring. At least what looks like a spring. Instead of blues and yellows and reds awakening from a frosty hibernation, we have those lush greens of a tropical rainforest. So many shades of green that the guy in charge of the Crayola family pack would go crazy contemplating all the variations and hues. They could likely do an entire “Nicaraguan Green” 64 crayon pack. It is a sight to see.

One thing we share is that Spring, in both North and Central America, allows us to look at the new growth and view it as a harbinger of hope. The idea of Spring, the concept of Spring, the new life Spring is a annual reminder that hope and renewal are a part of our collectively shared DNA. It’s the farmer planting his crop in the eventual hope of a harvest. It’s the birds returning to their perennial nests to see new chicks born and giving us reassurance that no matter what happens, what hardships they faced on their migratory journey they will prevail. It’s the buds of trees and plants and bushes blossoming reminding us that life still flourishes.

These are our shared vision. That is our shared hope.

The first lines of the Shakespeare play Richard III is the oft quoted soliloquy, “Now is the winter of our discontent.” We can certainly relate. The year 2020 is been an hellish trip around the sun. Covid-19, unrest, division will certainly brand this year in all of our memories. It is no different here in Nicaragua.

People are sick and dying. Jobs are being lost. Dividing lines are being drawn. Upon reflection “discontent” may be the nicest word we can use to describe the problems we have faced.

What I find interesting is lines 3 and 4 of the play. We often forget about them.

“And all the clouds that loured upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.”

These are words of celebration. The character is saying that the Winter is over and Spring has come.

It will happen for us as well. We have that hope. We share that hope. We are reminded of that hope every time we see a new flower or young sparrow. That is what we must focus on in order to wade through the muck of this year.

We wait for that Spring here in Granada just as you do wherever you are reading these words.

The signs are there. Another restaurant re-opening here or a new offer of jobs there. Slowly, painfully slowly, we still move forward with the work at hand. Feeding the hungry, teaching skills that will benefit whole families for a lifetime, and visibly showing the folks around us God’s love for them.

We have had a rough Winter … but Spring is coming.

Please pray for the wife of my friend. He is one of the pastors we work with here. She is integral to his ministry. We have talked about this family before. It was little more than a year ago we lost their son, Oscar, to cancer. Doña Danelia had an heart attack. She is recovering and receiving treatment, however, still needs our prayer. She will need a procedure in the near future to correct the problem and covets your prayers.

I am physically fine. God is still doing amazing deeds here with UnoMas Ministries. Your encouragement and support enable us to continue this vital work as we all hope for Spring.

Dios los bendiga

The Fruit Lady

I know it may not seem like much, but something extraordinary happened the other day. Something uncommon. A kindness was given to me.

Let me start by saying that every day there is a lady who walks by my house with a cart. When I say a cart, I should say barely a cart. It is homemade, wooden, with two wheels that look like they come from different sources. Long handles jut rearward to add leverage. The cart is filled with fruit.

I don’t have to tell you that in Nicaragua we do not have much. However, if you want fresh fruit, this is the place. Bananas, pineapples, papaya, watermelon, mangos and avocados when in season can readily and cheaply purchased.

My fruit lady comes by every day. So, about three times a week I end up buying from her. Not a lot but enough to always have fresh fruit around the house.

Last week was no different. I can’t remember exactly what I bought. Always bananas but some other things as well. I think I spent less than $1.50. We both had masks on so I didn’t ask prices I simply gave her 50 Cordobas and she gave me a few coins back. Nothing strange or new transpired.

The fruit was delicious so I didn’t really think about it.

The next day I decided to head out to the store to by some items that aren’t easily available with our cart vendors. So as I was walking out I noticed that all I had was a 5 single Cordobas and a 500 Cord note (about $15 US).

A taxi ride is 15 Cords. I don’t like breaking big bills in cabs. So I had determined that I would walk the mile or so to the store. No big deal. But I had left my puppy in the house and I did not want to be away that long. I also knew that it was not smart to flash big bills around. So hiking it was.

As I was locking my house, I heard behind me, “Don Jefe”. That means “sir boss”. Don is a common expression. I use it all the time. Jefe is an inside joke for many Spanish speakers who know my name. It is a play on “Jeff”. So I am used to that.

When I turned around, I saw my fruit lady. She was motioning me over. I was in a hurry, so I waved back and told her, “Gracias, no”. She was insistent. I was rushing, so I said it again. I told her that I needed to go. She was persistent. So I walked over and as I was walking she pulled out 10 Cordobas. I looked at her with what I am sure was a very puzzled face.

She then explained that she had charged me too much the day before. She was sorry but had calculated that number in her head and was incorrect. I thanked her and shook my head. I resisted the urge to say, “don’t worry it’s just 10 C.” Because I knew that 10 cords was a lot to her. It’s 1 cord off a pound of rice. It’s the price of a 3 tomatoes or 5 small potatoes. It could make a difference in her family’s supper. But I took the 10 Córdoba and thanked her. The smile on her face was priceless. And she simply said, “I know you love the neighborhood. People talk about you as a good Gringo. I work hard. God blesses me. I don’t need to steal.”

Wow.

It was not lost on me that I could now use the extra ten added to my 5 in my pocket and get a cab. It was also not lost on me what she had done and the next day I doubled my fruit intake.

The reason I am telling you this story is because many people get the wrong idea on how to help people who are less fortunate than we. There might even be those who will criticize me for taking the money. Compared to her on any level I certainly did not need it. One of the many wisdoms I found out in my work in Granada. You can give food. You can give clothes. You can give classes. But you cannot give anyone dignity. You can treat them with dignity. But you cannot give it to them. That comes from within.

I will continue to buy fruit from her for the rest of our lives. I will never forget that small act of self-pride she exhibited. I will more than make up for the ten cords she gave me back that day. But I will never lose the respect I have for her from that simple act.

I try every day to share my love for the people here. I try every day to give. But I will also try to not forget the fact that sometimes the greatest gift you can give someone is allowing them to feel good about themselves.

My health is good. I am taking all necessary precautions serving in this Covid-19 age. There are reports of sickness and death every day, just as you are experiencing up north. Please pray for Nicaragua as we continue to pray for you.

Dios los bendiga

Verbalized Hope

I have several new students. This might sound strange in the perilous times we face. However, with the technology available we can still offer classes even when the gathering of groups of students would be at the very least unwise.

One those new students contacted me through a North American friend. He had been working at a restaurant that is unable to continue to operate during the Covid crisis. His English is not bad however he needs to work on his grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation like all of my students. He doesn’t talk much about his family but I am sure that it is a hardship for him to be out of a job.

He comes to class with a youthful joy and boundless enthusiasm that refreshes me every time we work on a lesson. I asked him one time what he hoped to accomplish with our classes. He simply said that he wanted to be ready when the restaurant opened again. He wanted to be better at his job.

I said that his enthusiasm refreshes me. I confess that isn’t always true. It certainly wasn’t true that day.

You have to know that I wasn’t feeling particularly well that day. I had a sinus s headache that has since cleared up, but I wasn’t at my best. I might have smirked at his answer. Not my best moment, but I might have. When you are not feeling as chipper as you would like, throbbing head to boot, hearing a twenty-something wield his glee around like a Fourth of July sparkler is not your first choice in entertainment. I then did something I am not proud of. I tried to steal that joy. I asked, warily, how he even knew if it would ever open again. He said, “Oh, I just know.”

I pondered about that statement.

What is optimism if not verbalized hope.

I know people who always look for the good in any situation. “Always look on the bright side of life”, some would say. But in times past I have known folks who are annoyed by such a cheery outlook. “He is not grounded in reality”, they might retort. “He is so naive”, others might opine.

I think he simply has hope. He simply can see that the new day could bring new challenges, but it could just as easily bring new victories.

We must all remember that fact. History has proven it.

The doom of dark ages were followed by beauty of the Renaissance. The great Spanish flu was followed by the roaring twenties. The depression and WWII was, at least in North America, followed by the baby boom of the 50s and 60s. There are better days ahead. I, as my friend would say, just know it.

We are still feeding people and teaching classes here in Granada. New student requests are coming in faster than I can process them. Which in itself is a cause for optimism.

Please continue to pray for all those who are suffering right now. Thank you for your encouragement throughout this crazy period in history.

We will talk again soon. Dios los bendiga.

There is always hope

We live in a strange time indeed. Most people have stated, either comically or in all seriousness, that they wish that this year would be over and finished. Rebooted if you will. Between all the problems of the virus, the ensuing economic problems, and the general malaise of loneliness caused by social distancing, our lives seem to be in a constant state of flux and fear.

I want to tell you some good news. I want to share with you some of the positive things we have seen here in Granada.

Whatever the reasons there has been an upturn in requests for our classes. I am not sure whether more people have time on their hands or more people are getting tired of isolation and need something to occupy their minds, but this past week I have received dozens of new requests for our English classes.

I am trying to accommodate all the requests by the safest means possible. That means classes of one student separated by a several feet or by the technology afforded our modern culture. Xoom, Skype and Facebook messenger have become the new classrooms. They are no longer the means of education “in the future”, they are here, available, and utilized today.

One of my new students wants to learn English so that he can be more productive at his job at a local restaurant when it reopens. Another is vying for those ever elusive jobs at an English speaking call center. Yet another desires to prepare for a time in the hopefully near future when tourism will return to Nicaragua. One desires to study his Bible in English, comforted by the words of hope contained therein.

Each one with different motivations yet all united in the fact that this current crises will not stop them from improving. All believing that this will end and better days are ahead. All have hope.

I guess I spend a lot of time on that word. I am always drawn to the holy triumvirate of faith, hope and love. I know that each of my missives seem to focus on one of those three truths.

It is not that I have not had bad days, it is not that I don’t have moments that are difficult. It is solely that I choose to keep my eyes on the faith that sustains me, the hope that faith provides, and the love that faith compels me to show to others.

I first came here 5 years ago. I wasn’t sure what I would experience. I wasn’t certain what would come my way. But I was convinced that this is where I was supposed to be and these are the people I want to share my life with. I do not, even now in this torrent of uncertainty, believe that was a mistake.

In spite of the crisis, I see new opportunities every day for service. Every walk down the street opens up new doors. There is hope my friends. It is found in the faith we share and in the willingness to love those around us.

Do not lose heart. We will persevere.

I know that many people are motivated by challenges. The larger the obstacle the greater the satisfaction upon overcoming that hurdle. That is what I am feeling right now. As the barriers increase, the determination to vanquish them increases as well. That is because of hope.

I also want to share a prayer request. One of our partners here in Granada, the wife of a pastor, has been diagnosed with severe heart disease. She is a faithful servant and works tirelessly in feeding programs, clothing distribution, counseling, and the teaching of children. She is requesting our prayers. I hope you will join me in lifting her up to God for healing.

I pray that you are staying strong. I pray that you are persevering. I pray that you have not lost hope.

Dios los bendiga

Jeff

Prayer Requested

This will not be long or involved. I don’t have many things to share this week. I only want to stress the ferocity of the attack with which this virus has assaulted our beloved Granada. As of yesterday there have been 11 deaths in the relatively small neighborhoods of Sabaneta, Adelita, and Boca Negra.

In the past we have worked diligently in these neighborhoods and it is also the location of Pastor Guillermo’s congregation. There are families that have been devastated and ripped apart by this current wave.

Many of us have never ever been really hungry. Most of us do not understand why people would continue to go out and try to work in these conditions. Few Nicaraguans have the safety net of family or friends able to help them in this crisis.

So they go. They wear masks. But they go. They go to the market or they push their carts down a street or they wait in a line hoping to find some sort way to earn a few dollars. They go out into a cloud of uncertainty and danger. They drive their taxis and they open their shops. They do understand the dangers yet they have children who must eat.

Don’t be offended. But I read about the debates going on in our beloved U.S. about masks and personal freedom and hoaxes and I am saddened that my friends here have no choice. They don’t have the luxury of choices. They cannot self quarantine. They must brave the possibilities of contracting Covid, simply because they need to work.

Please pray for my Nicaraguan friends. Pray that there is a speedy end to this scourge. Pray that we, the privileged few, can get the resources to the most vulnerable and stay healthy ourselves. Pray that this is all over soon.

I usually have something positive to say. I try to finish my missives to you with encouragement. I have not lost hope. I have not lost faith. I just want to raise your awareness about our plight here. I need you to pray.

I am well. Most of my closest friends are well. But so many are not. So many need more. Please pray.

Dios los bendiga

Surviving a storm

Our beautiful city of Granada is surviving. You might say just barely surviving, but we are trying to get through this pandemic. Every day another restaurant closes or we hear the news of another death. People, for the most part, are staying safe. Masks are being worn. Handshakes and hugs have been replaced by waves and fist bumps. Yet the reports of midnight burials still persist. The hospitals are still full. We are still concerned.

I am not certain of the reason, but it seems like we are losing more people to other illnesses as well. Maybe it is with the heightened awareness of COVID-19 that we just pay more attention. One of my friends passed away this week, he had run a restaurant and bar a couple of blocks away from the main restaurant row, La Calzada. He was from Great Britain and he offered the best fish and chips that I have had in a while. As good as any London Chippy Shop. He also offered a place where foreigners, mostly North Americans, could gather and watch all of the NFL games during the season. Of course, he would open early when his beloved English Premier League football (soccer to some of you) games would play. It was just a good place to hang out with friends and Brian was a good man to sit and chat with during the timeouts or other breaks in games. He sold his part of the restaurant just before it was closed because of the virus. I had not seen him in a couple of months. I have not heard how he passed, but no matter what, Granada has lost a person who loved his city and his friends. Rest In Peace, Brian Running.

I have a puppy now. I think most of you know that. Like not realizing you are tired until you hit the bed or forgetting that you’re hungry until you smell food, I did not realize I was lonely until Coco came into my life. She is feisty, sassy and a great companion.

The need is still great here in Nicaragua. In fact, the physical needs have probably increased since the whole quarantine began. I get messages and calls everyday from someone who is asking for food or a job or prayer. We continue to feed families and continue to offer classes online. We take all the necessary precautions and are praying that we can remain safe.

In all of this we have not faltered in our faith. There have been moments when that faith, hope, and love are all we have. Every day, in spite of the pandemic, maybe even because of it, new opportunities to serve come our way. God is still working in this beautiful country.

Stacy, our UnoMas ambassador to the U.S., has a tattoo on her forearm. The ink represents the great triumvirate of I Corinthians 13 where Paul says, “these three remain, faith, hope, and love. And the greatest of these is love”. I am reminded of that everyday. Sometimes the only things that remain are those 3 pillars. My friends, those will never go away in this life. Hold on to them as they will be what will carry you through.

In the old days, sailors would be known to lash themselves to the masts during terrible storms. The idea is that if mast falls then all is lost anyway. However, it would surely be the last to succumb to the torment. So it was better to tie yourself to the mast than risk going overboard on a wave or wind surge. That is what we can do with our faith, our hope, and the love we have in our hearts. The winds buffet and seas roar but these three things remain.

I hope you are well. I hope you are safe. I hope you have secured yourself to those masts. I love you all. Thank you for your continued support.

Dios los bendiga.

Hard Pressed but not Crushed

Would someone please reboot 2020? Covid-19, murder hornets, cicada plagues, murders, protests, all have contributed to making this year one of the worst in memory.

Fortunately, here in Granada we have not seen the cicada or the hornets. But Covid is rampant. Like the United States only the famous deaths are reported. But families everywhere are being impacted by this disease. We are, according to many sources out of ICU beds in the entire western half of the country.

What does all this mean? Where will it all end? I simply don’t know.

But there are some things that I do know.

First, there are more people tuning into spiritual videos and websites than ever before. In times of crisis, people look for answers. They look for stability. The search for some way to make sense of it all. That is true here as well. I have personal messages on WhatsApp and Facebook every day from folks asking me to pray. They are asking me questions about God. They are seeking.

Secondly, this too will end. I know it’s not what we want to hear. We want specifics. We want details. I just don’t know. Only God knows. But I do know that one day we will look back on this and talk about the days of the great plague of 2020. If we read history, we realize that all of creation is cyclical. Human interaction, weather, even viruses come and go in this wonderful wacky planet.

Finally, if I know anything, I know that God is in control. Our faith is the only thing that will sustain us. Paul, in his second letter to the Corinthians said,

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. (2 Cor. 4:8,9)

This is the promise we can hold onto. These are the words of comfort given us by a caring Father. In this thought, we can have hope. No matter what comes into our path, God is greater. We will not be crushed. We are not in despair. We are not abandoned. We will not be destroyed. Our faith will sustain us.

Please pray for all my Nicaraguan friends as we continue to pray for you.

As I said, Pastor Guillermo lost his aunt this past week and many other of people I know are sick or have ill loved ones.

This has not been an easy year thus far. That may be the understatement of all time. But we, like all those who have gone before us and suffered their own hardships and calamities, know that soon and very soon this too shall pass.

I love you all very much. Hang on to the hope that dwells within us all. Be safe!

Dios los bendiga