Saturday, June 09, 2007

NICARAGUA NEWS FROM ZACK AND ELIZABETH

July 8, 2007

Buenas tardes Dan and everyone,

It looks like I´ve let a good lot of time pass without updating about our time here in the little Nicaragua.

Our English slash Bible classes have gotten off to a slow start. We have a total of 4 students; however, two of them are very open to God´s word, so we are praying that God will make some fruit grow in that situation. One of my students has opened up to me more than I expected, so I am praying hard for him. I have also received an invitation to go tomorrow to a local University and begin teaching 2 more students. With this lack, a lot of our time this week has been centered upon coming up with schemes to get more students. If we have 4 that means we need 12 more. So, go ahead and pray for us, specifically that God would send us 12 more students.

Apart from our classes, the church in Jinotega has been baptizing new converts every Sunday. They have a very active evangelism program, which consists of one of the preachers sitting down with people to teach them the Bible. When I first was confronted with the reality of all the conversions that happen here I thought, "how are they doing it?" When I found out their innovative method it struck me, "aha! the people who hear the words written in the Bible are the ones who become Christians!" Well, actually the church here also does all sorts of community outreach by giving medical help to the community, bringing volunteer Christians from the States to help with the Maternity house, painting the local Hospital (which is in worse condition than our Veterinarian facilities in the states), building school buildings for the tin-shack poor children who don´t know how to read, etc -all with the teaching of the word of God connected to it. I suppose people are also more interested in the Gospel when they are down and out, which is what many people here are. Everybody and their uncle knows about the church of Christ in town; and judging by the souls being saved, that´s a good thing.

Our next trip is back to the Rio Coco on the 17th, where we will be planting a church in a small river community. I am going to preach my first sermon all in Spanish there, so I am a little nervous about this one (maybe they should be nervous about this one). What do you preach for the first sermon of a new church? Whenever I´m having a hard time thinking about what to preach on I here the voice of one of my Bible teachers ringing in my head, "preach about God, preach about 20 minutes." I think I´ll teach about Jesus and his good news.

God bless you all in Christ,

Zack (with his lovely wife Elizabeth)

__________________

A REPORT FROM ELIZABETH

Jun 23, 2007

a fortnight ago...
I am relatively certain that a fornight is two weeks, and that is how long we have gone without an update. So, here I am. Last week we spent helping with a medical brigade in a town up in the mountains called La Dalia. The groups come and set up free medical clinics for a small town, complete with doctors, nurses, a dentist, a veterinarian, a pharmacy, and classes for the children. Zack went as the "field manager of biocritical resources," as he says, which roughly translated is the waterboy. He performed the very critical task of making sure everyone on the team was well hydrated. However, he also got the chance to preach to the people waiting in the lines outside. My job was to "translate," which terrified me until I realized it was just going to be between two women...one American woman from the group and a good friend of mine here from Ecuador. The American women brought all the materials to teach the classes for the kids, and Janeth, the friend of mine from Ecuador, taught the classes. This was a much better system, because the woman with the supplies could organize everything and Janeth could teach the children firsthand in their own language. I spent the week helping with these classes, and also taught a few of the classes myself when forced to by the missionary here. I was glad to be able to learn a lot of the kid Sunday school songs in Spanish. The biggest struggle was our hotel...it was a room just big enough for a bed and our bathroom was a shared bathroom, was outside, and had no hot water. The second struggle was that it was nearly impossible to understand the Spanish of many of the people who came to the clinic, because they were uneducated, farmers, or didn´t have teeth so they had issues with enunciation. The third thing was that the people were so unwilling to follow the rules of waiting in line and that kind of thing. They would push past each other and crawl under our ropes to try to cheat their way through and get ahead of others. When you told them they needed to wait in line, they would just ignore you and keep on doing what they wanted. But, as Zack said, if we were in their situation, poor and with sick family members, we would probably do similar things.

__________________

A REPORT FROM ELIZABETH

Jun 8, 2007

the rest of the story...
Well, Zack has been nagging me to get on here and write something, and I have some free time so I'm going to do it. As always, thanks to all of you for your prayers while we are here, they are totally necessary to what we are doing. "And what are you doing?" some of you may ask. Since Zack has been telling you all the cool stories, allow me to give you a basic summary of what we have been doing for the past 8 days.

Thursday: Left OKC, made it to Houston, but got stuck there. We stayed the night in Houston and got up dirty and stinky ready to go to Nicaragua the next morning.

Friday: Flew out from Houston and arrived in Managua, the capital of Nicaragua, around 11am. We and the group that we met up with (20ish people from a church in Arkansas) piled all of our luggage on top of a giant orange and brown bus. We stopped on the way to Jinotega to eat fried chicken and have our first experience with Nicaraguan bathrooms. We arrived in Jinotega that evening and mostly just got settled in.

Saturday: Zack and I and the other three interns (Kim, Brian, and Andrea) took a walk around Jinotega in the morning to "survey the town." In the afternoon we went to help one of the groups of people from Arkansas paint the hospital here in Jinotega. Mostly we ended up inhaling turpentine and all the other lovely odors that come from a 3rd world country hospital. That night I went to a ladies' Bible study taught by a woman here named Janet. She is an excellent teacher and you can see her passion is for the Lord. She and her husband, Mauricio, are here from Ecuador. She and I and Zack and Mauricio have become good friends.

Sunday: The Lord's day was relatively relaxing, as we just worshipped with the church here and took a day of rest.

Monday: I went to see the doctor because of a sore throat. It was rather unnerving going to talk to a doctor that doesn't speak your first language. I was terrified that she'd tell me I needed brain surgery or something and I wouldn't understand. She told me I had an infection in my throat, so I've been taking medicine daily and now am finally feeling better. I rested that day, but Zack went to help the groups with construction on one of the schools.

Tuesday: I started my Spanish lessons, which Zack had already started the day before. Zack busied himself in the afternoon with the usual agenda of painting at the hospital or doing construction. I translated between two women, one of the women from Arkansas and our friend Janet. The American woman had taught a seminar for Sunday school teachers and Janet wanted to know what she missed. That was my first real time translating of the trip, and I was muy nerviosa. That night we had a worship service (here they have them on Tuesdays and Thursday nights instead of Wednesdays).

Wednesday: Honestly, I can't remember Wednesday. I know we both had our Spanish lessons in the morning. I believe in the afternoon we sat with Jurgen, a Nicaraguan who lives here, to talk about our plans for working with World English Institute in July.

Thursday: Again in the morning we had our Spanish lessons. In the afternoon Zack went to help again with building one of the schools. I on the other hand, went with a group of women to La Casa Materna, the maternity house. That was an awesome experience, and I really hope to spend a lot of time there this month if I can; if they will allow me. One of the women there was 45 and pregnant with her 13th child. Yes, 13th. A few others were on their 8th or 9th. Anyway, we brought the women a book called "How to Read the Bible," some fleece blankets, and bags full of baby items: shampoo, soap, clothes, receiving blankets, baby powder, wipes, etc. They were so thankful for these small things; it gave me the beginning of an understanding of what Christ meant when he said "it is more blessed to give than to receive."

Friday (today): Today Zack has left me to go to Managua with the rest of the group from Arkansas. They are flying back to the states tomorrow; Zack is going to a Nicaraguan youth rally? Maybe? That or a lectureship. I'm not sure what it is, all I know is he is gone. I spent the morning translating a 20 page long order form for all kinds of things: medical supplies, clothing, food, etc. Customs requires that it be translated into Spanish, so that was a frustrating 3 hours. After lunch, I and the other interns, Amy the nurse who lives here, and Diego my Spanish teacher, all went around Jinotega shopping. It was nice to relax after a week of being sick and being exhausted. Now here I sit, waiting for my beloved husband to return from the capital city.

May your hope be found in Christ alone as you trust in him...thanks again for your continued prayers.

__________________

June 26, 2007

Yippie!

That´s really awesome to hear [Zack heard of Margaret's decision to follow Christ], Dan. I´ll bet Paul is really happy too. I´m back after a week of being among the river communities of Mayan and Mesquito indigenous peoples. Really cool stuff. I´m at the internet cafe right now, so I´ll write about it (without really great punctuation because everything is garbled on these keyboards):

One Christian nurse, 3 young American Christians (other interns), one Nicaraguan translator, and 2 Nicaraguan evangelists took a 4 hour bus ride up windy mountain roads. Elizabeth stayed with another young evangelist´s wife and helped teach children´s classes. We missed each other wretchedly. On the trip to Wiwili, 4 or 5 people we didn´t know vomited out the bus windows due to either the spurious looking food the local venders sold, motion sickness because of the drivers crazy driving, or both. Nobody even flinched; I don´t even think the vomiters themselves flinched (If I ever toss my cookies on a bus, I hope to do it with as much dignity as these Nicaraguans do). We arrived in a remote town called Wiwili and slept for the night in the second most horrible hotel I´ve ever seen (the first most horrible was the one Elizabeth and I stayed in on the other church plant in LaDahlia).

We were on the river by 5 in the morning in a long boat which is a larger scale, motorized version of the long boats the Central American natives use to travel on the river. The boat was about 35 feet long by 2 and a half feet wide and really wobbly. One guide of Spanish decent drove the moter in back while a Native man stood up on front of the boat and poked a stick into the water, half propelling half steering the boat through the rough spots in the river. We drove 12 hours up the Rio Coco (Coconut River). It was really beautiful and enormously cool. Natives live on this river, with no connection to the outside world save the river itself. Most of them use long boats (20 feet long by 1 foot wide) to travel to local communities, propelling the boats with long sticks that reach the bottom.


We stayed at a non Christian nurse´s house, who lets us stay because of the medical help the church has given to the river people. Her husband owns land on which another man grazes his 600 some cows. They partner together and are relatively rich for river people. After evangelizing there, her husband´s partner who owns the cows told us to come and baptize him in three weeks. He said he needs to think about his decision first, so we told him we´d come baptize him when we (or they if I am busy with Bible-English students) return the 3rd week of July. He lives in a nearby community without a church of Christ, so when he is baptized we plan to stay the weekend in his town and evangelize, preach, teach, and plant a church there.

We visited with two churches of Christ that have been planted on the river recently. Both churches met at the nurse´s house (who graciously let us assemble at her house!). I preached on the parable of the sower, and it was translated into two different languages! It was hard to tell who the Christians were, because there were so many Catholic visitors and others who came to see what was going on. One of the preachers of the churches told us that he has been having denominational guest preachers, and after some discussion with the evangelists he left upset. This preacher is a Mesquito native, and has never had any formal or any extensive bible training (not to mention that he´s only been a Christian 2 years), so the Nicaraguan evangelists plan to spend time with him the next time they are able. Our nurse gave some shots and splinted a sobbing little boy´s broken arm.

My comfort zone has been violated repeatedly this month, and I am hoping I will grow into a better servant of God through it. It´s pretty easy for me to recognize my spiritual immaturity here, especially when I see others around me who are really living sacrifices. Elizabeth is great at Spanish, simply wonderful. I stink, but less than before, which doesn´t mean much. Please pray for Elizabeth, I, and the church in Nicaragua. We are praying for you too! Way to go Margaret!!! Woohoo!

God bless the churches,

Mr. Opheim
__________________

June 15, 2007

I just got back from a week long medical mission brigade in a little town called LaDalia. Utilities such as water and electric aren't on for a lot of the time there, so nobody was able to email.

It was a two hour drive from our current location, Jinotega, on windy and bumpy mountain roads. I made the mistake of trying to read during the first few minutes of the drive and was sick for the remainder of the trip. For two hours our bodies lurched back and forth as the 4 wheel drive diesel truck wound up roads that were in places more pothole that road. I will never complain about our fine North American roads ever again. The people in the town we went to are so poor; this was the first place where I really pondered what a super dooper bumber it would be to have been born there with no connection to a nice place like the U.S. I don't have time to go on about it, but so much of the culture is totally different because of how much people struggle to have enough to keep the family fed.

We teamed up with a medical brigade of doctors from the U.S. They saw something like 800 patients, while the preachers preached to people and handed out information and got addresses for future bible studies from people waiting to be seen in the lines. Anyway, the Nicaraguans spent a lot of time following up on teh contacts they made preaching in the lines the first day, so I got to do some preaching while they were away (I used a translator, of course). When they asked me to preach, I realized that I wasn't prepared to walk out onto a street and preach an utterly basic gospel message off the cuff. They told me to just figure out what verses I want to use to get a basic message of the gospel across of their deeper need for Jesus to feed their souls and how they need to respond, and then have it all memorized in my head. I was nervous at first, but everything went great and the people heard the Gospel, and I actually liked this kind of preaching. So whoever was interested in learning more, we got their names and addresses (the name of their neighborhood) and gave them a bible and some material. As the evangelists went door to door on the follow-ups throughout the week, there were 9 baptisms and a new church is planted in LaDalia.

Elizabeth helped teach hundreds and hundreds of children about Jesus, and taught many classes to children entirely in Spanish. She felt so overwhelmed, but she did a really good job, and the kids absolutely loved the classes. They were only allowed to attend the classes once a day, but they would try to sneak in past the fences we put up (which were also guarded by the National Police who bore AK47's). Elizabeth's Spanish is getting so much better. One of the children wanted to be in the class so bad she peed on the floor rather than go to the bathroom. Elizabeth, getting very nervous, decided to lift her straight up and out to the bathroom, while the rest of the kids were told to just avoid the pee on the floor. Immediately after the girl had teh accident, 8 other children ran up to Elizabeth saying, "necesito orinar," which literally means, "I need to urinate." She taught Jesus to a ton of little children, probably 500 at least.

It was really encouraging to see the Lord working like he is in LaDalia. The Nicaraguan evangelists were able to go to the local schools in preach (America better repent!), and many doors were opened. The city even sent us the local Nicaraguan band to entertain us one night (with singing, traditional Nicaraguan dancers, and accordians). Everyone is excited to see what the Lord will do in that region.

Please keep us in your prayers. We are in full fledged anaphalactic culture shock. One physical thing that has helped me to cope is the savory aroma of mountain grown Nicaraguan coffee, concerning which I plan to import much thereof to the U.S. this August.

In Christ,

Zack
_________________

JUNE 7, 2007

Hi Dan,

Could you put this on the church site for me. Thanks much.

Thanks for the prayers. We need all we can get. It´s sort of like a roller coaster of culture shock and the moments that make it totally worth it. Overall, we´re having a great time. We´re in a place where a LOT is happening. People are really drawn to the church here, and five from another town have requested that someone come out to baptize them (I think they learned the gospel from a radio broadcast, though not totally sure). We´re praying for you Dan and everyone else as well.

Yesterday one preaching student told me that a new christian lady was confused about Revelation and wanted to study. He asked me if I wanted to study with them, and of course I said sure (I can´t punctuate properly without much struggle because Spanish keyboards are totally backwards). However, I thought that he, being a native Spanish speaker as well as her, was going to teach it. After saying okay to study with them all three of us sat there staring blankly at each other for about 15 seconds until I realized with a sense of utter doom that they expected me to teach the lesson! Too bad neither of them spoke any English. So I taught a lesson on Revelation, off the cuff, completely in Spanish (except for portions which were taught in homemade yet inventive sign language)! The amazing part was that she really grasped a few basic keys to understanding the book! By the end of the study I think we all had headaches from straining at my grossly uglatocious Spanish.

Yesterday a little 9 year old shoe shine boy came up and sat next to me. After sharing my can of sardines in tomato sauce with him (which we both savored with glee) he shined my shoes. This boy carries around a wooden shoe shine stool strapped to his back like a back pack. He looks like a little orphan from the 30´s. I asked him how much for a shine and he said 2 cordobas, which is worth about 20 U.S. cents. Very soon the ladies with us noticed him and were googling at him. We got our shoes shined, and everybody overpaid him of course. He uses the money to pay for school which he attends in the mornings and at night. When he comes next week for our appointed shoe shine time (the people at the church let him shine their shoes pretty much everyday if he is around) I´m going to get a picture of him. He is the cutest little boy anybody has ever seen and probably the cream of the human crop. He´s a good enough reason for us to be in Nicaragua.

I´m going to be the water boy at a medical outreach-preaching mission in a remote town next week. It´s the most lowly job possible, haha! However, they assure me with pats on the head that it´s necessary to prevent the doctors and preachers from becoming dehydrated. I prefer to call myself a field manager of bio-critical resources, just to keep things in perspective. Elizabeth is going to be a translator for the nurses! They have been using her for a translator all week. And she knows all sorts of new children's songs, as she helps teach the children's classes at church. I´m so impressed with her and blessed to have her with me.

Dios Les Bendiga (May God bless you all),

Zack

________________

JUNE 1, 2007
We arrived in Nicaragua at noon this today after our flight was canceled the night before. One of the first things we saw while leaving the airport was an airport employee mowing the lawn with, you guessed it, a 3 foot machete. I couldn´t believe how good of a job he was doing with it. The city we are in, Jinotega, was about a 3 hour drive from the airport in Managua. During the end we drove through the mountains and saw some pretty spectacular sights. I took a bunch of pictures of being in the clouds. We actually drove into the clouds. Needless to say, the pictures at that point were pretty cloudy. The poverty of this place blows away any place I´ve ever seen. The vast majority of people are tin shack poor. A ton of people have dirt floors.

I believe we will begin building a school building in a nearby village tomorrow. The government has said "you fix up our schools and stick teachers in them, and you can put church buildings on the land or whatever." We will be doing lots of different things while we´re here: the first month we´ll be doing intensive spanish study in the morning and helping to build church and school buildings in the evening. Next month we´ll be teaching the bible in english to x amount of students. I have no more time. Please pray. We´ve got you in our prayers also. Adios!

God bless everybody,

Zack
_________________________

June 2, 2007
First walk around Jinotega
We are now at an internet cafe which we´ve stopped into during our walk through town. The missionaries sent the interns staying all summer on a mission to become familiar with the town while the group of 17 that is here for one week are building a school/church building and painting a hospital. Elizabeth is going to be used as a translator for a lady´s Sunday school lecture. She is excited. Wait, scratch that... she says she´s "nervous´".

The missionaries recieved us very well with hugs, hamburguesas, and homemade potato chips. This morning we had a bean/rice mixture with fried plantains, which reminded me of a sweet potatoish substance. I accidentally poured too much hot sauce on my beans and it nearly blew my head off.

Overall, I think our heads are still pretty much spinning, and will be for a few more days. I can just barely have a decent conversation with people in Spanish, while Elizabeth does much better. People drive dirtbikes through town and mow their lawns with machetes. The sewage system in the city cannot handle toilet paper, so bathroom functions are done a little differently here. There are no addresses, so to send a letter from one city to another one has to write on the letter how many houses in which direction from the Catholic church building the letter should be delivered to. And last but not least, the water heater consists of two wires from the ceiling that connect to the shower head, heating the water to a luke warminess just before it comes out. However, we are excited and sort of slap happy about it all. Culture shock is sure to come a-knocking, but that´s okay. We will keep excited and prayerful. Please keep us and the church in Jinotega in your prayers.

In Christ,

Zack
__________________

No comments :