Rwanda Day 5 - August 17, 2019

On the ride to Nasho today, our bus ride consisted of beautiful singing, team bonding and enjoying Patrick’s dance moves!

God is good! Yesterday and today we had the honor and blessing of being welcomed into 5 different homes! We got to meet these women and men on a more personal level. They have endured so much and God is helping them endure it. It is amazing to think how much God does EVERYWHERE. These women are such an inspiration!

Getting to know the women more during these visits helped us understand more of their daily lives. We got the opportunity to share how we study the Bible back home, how we get together to do study groups. The women have already started their own study groups to create a community out of it and spread the word of Jesus, we just gifted them some tools such as a devotional my group and I put together, a bible, notebook, pens and pencils! These items will help them be able to help others understand the word and be able to share it with others!

We got the honor of visiting our beloved Suzzane’s home, and Isaac’s home as well.

We got back in time to play with the kids after our home visits, we sang them, taught them some new songs, and played games with them. Today was a great day full of laughter and smiles.

Again, we were so blessed and grateful to be welcomed into their home and see more of their lives! These were the first home visits MCC has ever done, although they won’t be the last!

-Allie Damon

Rwanda Day 4 - August 16, 2019

When we first arrived in the village today we were greeted by an elder by the name of Isaac. He told us how grateful he was for everyone at MCC for making such an impact on their lives. Our interpreter, Meriam, went on to tell us how 600 churches have been closed recently for not meeting standards and how their church in Nasho would have been closed if recent projects hadn't been completed. This was a inspiring way to start our day!

Later that day, we had originally planned on distributing the goats that had been donated to the different families, but in Rwanda plans change on the drop of a dime! In this case, it was a change for the better. The families had already received their goats and were willing to make the 1+ hour long treck each way to meet us and take pictures to share. One man even packed his goat up in a basket and put it on his bike just to come back to see us! What a blessing this was!

Since we ended up having much more time than we had originally planned, Stacy and the two of us got to spend hours playing and laughing with the children of the village. Communication was limited, but the smiles were not! We went for a long walk holding hands and skipping, taught them songs and dances such as Father Abraham and Baby Shark (by far their favorite... do do do do do do), played games like soccer and London Bridge is Falling Down, and taught them activities such as fist bumping and patty cake!

All in all it was an amazing day full of joy, love, and laughter! We can't wait to see what tomorrow holds in store for us.

-Katie and Steve Breininger

Rwanda Day 3 - August 15, 2019

THE POWER OF A SMILE (Seka)

Driving into the village today through the beautiful rolling hills of Rwanda down a bumpy red clay road lined with banana trees, we saw people working in fields and children sitting around or playing. They would look as the caravan of 3 white buses we were in were approaching. When we waved at them their faces lit up! They would smile so wide with excitement and wave as fast as their little arms and hands could move!

We came to a road block where construction was being done in the road. There were 3 little girls probably 4, 7, and 10 years old if I had to guess. They were adorable! I waved and they smiled and waved back. I yelled "Seka" which means smile.... Well then they really lit up! They got excited and started to come closer. I reached out my hand and each little girl reached their arm out to hold my hand. Then they caught a glimpse of my shiny red painted fingernails. They touched and rubbed them in amazement. They seemed excited and were giggling. Then I decided to make a funny face at them. They just cracked up laughing. This continued and a few other people in the van joined in the fun. We were all in hysterics. Then I covered my face with my hands and quickly took my hands away to play peek-a-boo with them. They were laughing so hard. I don't know if they've seen this game which is such a common staple in raising our own babies.

Since we were still stopped in the road I took advantage of the time with these little sweetie pies. I didn't know how to say "want to sing a song" in their language so I started clapping, hoping they would join in. And in an instant they were all laughing and clapping and swaying as they clapped. They started singing a song quietly. Now I was the excited one listening and watching their little performance. I started singing a few songs to them and they loved it. I loved the fact that they were so happy and excited to listen to me sing (even though I have a horrible voice) even though they didn't know what the words I were singing meant. The van started moving and we waved goodbye. About 100 feet ahead the van stopped again. All sorts of children then appeared at the van. They were so excited to come say hello to us. Then my little girlfriends reappeared. I held hands with them again, blew them kisses and they returned the kisses. I caught those kisses and tucked them in my heart where they will stay forever. Those little girls gave me one of the best experiences and memories of my life and they have no idea of that. In the 2.5 hour drive to the village I saw more huge smiles than I have ever seen in my life from people that were complete strangers.

When we approached the church in Nasho the children were lined in the road anxiously waiting for us. When we drove by them the van slowed down so we could listen to them greet us by all singing a cheerful upbeat song to welcome us. Then we approached another group of people of all ages and they performed a welcome song for us as we drove in. When the vans parked and we got out we were swarmed by everyone of all ages hugging us. What was shocking to me was the strength of the hugs of the elderly woman. They would grab ahold of me with both their hands on both of my arms so tightly it felt like a football player from the NE Patriots was going to tackle me and take me down. The strength of these little old woman approximately 5'3 and 135 pounds was truly unbelievable! They would hold onto you, look you straight into your eyes and pull you in with such force and strength to hug you. They all did this. You could feel their gratitude and love. Every child and adult were pushing their way through to get to me to hug me. The children had absolutely no problem whatsoever wrapping their arms around your waist and looking right up into your face so lovingly.

We met Pastors of nearby Harvest Christian Churches and prayed with the Pastor of Nasho.

We watched as several choirs sang and danced on stage for us. It was hard to stay in your seat. I wanted to get up and dance. Thankfully when they were finished we all got to dance with them.

Patrick gave a beautiful speech letting the village know we were able to donate 240 bibles to the village. After lunch the Pastor thanked us so graciously and sent us on our way so we can rest up and return tomorrow. This experience is like nothing I could have ever imagined.

Alissa Cunningham

Rwanda Day 2 - August 14, 2019

The Bible commands us to love our neighbor, but what does this really mean? Do we truly live this way as Christians in our daily lives? 

Today the “first timers” in our group (those on our first mission trip to Rwanda) visited the Kigali Genocide Museum. It was an experience I will never forget, and it taught me what it truly means to love thy neighbor, even in the most difficult of circumstances. 

At the genocide museum, we read about the history of Rwanda and the events that led up to the genocide, which began on April 7, 1994. We read about the 100 days when over 1,000,000 Tutsis were killed by the Hutus. Many victims were killed by their own friends, just because they were Tutsi. Over 350,000 were orphaned, over 85,000 children were now the head of their household and thousands became widows. The Rwandan people had a choice to make… would they cultivate love in their heart and forgive or would they cultivate hate in their heart? 

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the genocide. At the museum we read about incredible stories of forgiveness and hope. Victims’ families were forgiving those that had killed their families. They were living as neighbors, healing and moving forward. We saw the phrase “Kwibuka 25” – remember, unite renew. Rwanda is a shining example of forgiveness that we can all learn from. 

Linda Hamel

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Rwanda Day 1 - August 13, 2019

It’s the day we’ve been waiting for and we are all excited to head to Rwanda. We have a few hours layover in Turkey and then on to Kigali. As I sit writing this at the airport, I love seeing the excitement and hearing the conversations and questions the first timers are asking those who have been before. Being a leader of this team is a privilege and we knew this team was special from our first meeting. Over the past nine months we have spent time together learning, planning, discussing and bonding and we are excited to see all of this come to fruition. 

After a few hours overnight in Kigali, we will hit the ground running with many things planned. These include a visit to the Genocide Museum, shopping for needed supplies, home visits with some of the villagers, giving a Sunday message, meeting with the Women’s Cooperative to discuss their ongoing needs and holding a children’s event day. Thanks to everyone’s hard work fundraising and the generosity of our supporters, we will also be able to do multiple projects in the village of Nasho, including building and training on water filtration systems, The Ihene Project and supplying bibles for the church attendees. We hope you join us in this journey over the next 10 days to see how God is working through every one of us. Thank you for your support and continued prayers. 

Stacy McIntire

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Rwanda Day 11 - July 20, 2019

Rwanda- Amsterdam - Home

Today we landed in Amsterdam and took 3 hours to tour downtown and eat some yummy Dutch pancakes and and see the incredible local architecture.  I am writing this blog on the airplane and am excited about what we have done but also excited to return home and share our encouragement with others.  But I wanted to share something I have been thinking of this whole week while being in our New Farming Village called Nyagatar.

Planting seeds.  I am not a farmer but I understand the process. Dig, plant, water, harvest, repeat!  Farmers never stop this process. Over and over and over again! 

This week we planting truth, encouragement and the hope of Jesus Christ.  We as Christians are all called to scatter seed “Zara”, believing that what we have sown will produce a harvest. A harvest so fruitful that it expands the Kingdom.   Jesus gives a parable about mustard seed, the smallest of seeds with the greatest results.  Matthew 13:31. We are praying the Holy Spirit will continue to pour out on Pastor Marcel, Bishop Theo and all the people of Rwanda.

We left Rwanda  and our new farming village both happy and sad.  Happy because of the incredible partnership and relationships we have made that will continue to last for generations.  We are also happy to be reunited with our loved ones back home.  The sadness comes from leaving behind those new relationships and those kids faces waving goodbye to us. That was tough!!!! But the Joy of the Lord is our strength and we continue to Dig, plant, water, harvest, repeat! 

Our Team

God placed every person on our team!  I believe this with all my heart.  We laughed and encouraged, played many silly games and had no drama!  We worked hard together and gave an incredible representation of MCC and most importantly, Jesus Christ.  Love you guys.

To the King!

Jrose

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Rwanda Day 10 - July 19, 2019

Waking up at 5:30, to sit on the deck looking for wild animals & watching an unbelievable sunrise. This morning was beautiful.

Last night we stayed at Ruzizi Tented Lodge. It was the best experience i have ever had. It’s located in Akagera National Park. It was such a treat and a perfect end to the week... We sat out on the deck for a lovely breakfast. African Tea has become everyone’s favorite drink. It’s delicious. There were lots of velvet monkeys throughout the lodge area. We even heard them on our tents. At 11o’clock we were picked up by our drivers, John & Alex. We then took the 4 hour ride back to Kigali. For about an hour and a half we were on the dirt bumpy road... I have been told about these roads but could never truly grasp how long, dusty & bumpy they truly are. We had the widows closed and still we were covered in red dust. Even the landscape on that road looked different. Trees, flowers, bushes, & even houses had thick layers of red dust/clay over them. We were very grateful to get back on the paved road.

As we were driving back to Kigali I looked and the landscape we were surrounded by. It is beautiful here in Rwanda. Everything is... the people work so hard to just live a simple life. Walking to collect water for the day, or carrying everything on top of their heads. It’s amazing. Women have things stacked on top of their head while carrying a baby in their back. Every where we go eyes are on us. The people just stare and the kids smile & wave with all the emotion they have inside. To think that they are able to be filled with so much joy just by seeing us. It’s beyond humbling. The people here are beautiful. They may have struggles & some still are filling the pain of the Genocide that happened 25 years ago... but, you can tell that this country is full of hope. And, that hope is Jesus. And, they recognize that.

J has been sick the last two days. So, the drive was pretty tough for him. We are sitting in the airport waiting to board. Please pray for our safety & for J to fill his best soon. We have a long layover tomorrow in Amsterdam. We are planning to see some of the sights. As we leave this place we know that the village we went to will always be in our hearts. Every single person there impacted each person in our team... Oh, saying goodbye to our drivers was pretty hard to do too. They became our family even though they didn’t know English. We didn’t let the language be a barrier.

~Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s Grace in its various forms. 1Peter 4:10

Blessings, Chrissy

Rwanda Day 9 - July 18, 2019

We started our day early, 3:30 am. The reason why we woke up this early is because we went to a safari that was 4 hours away. Halfway there, our safari guides came to pick us up to bring us the rest of the way, because the rest of the roads were all dirt and bumpy . We parted ways with our translators, Angel and Miriam. It was sad to say bye to our new friends. They were such a key part to the team and such a fun part. Anyways, the team separated into two different safari vehicles and we were off to the safari. We were 15 mins into the drive something unpredictable happened. The safari vehicle, I was in, one of the wheels flew completely off when we hit a bump . None of us new what happened immediately, but then we investigated and found out what happened. Out of no where these workers came and started to put on a new tire on for us. Within 20 mins we were back up and running. Even though it was an unfortunate experience we were still laughing and joking with the safari guide. We finally made it to the safari 2 hours later. We were welcomed by giraffes walking across the road. The whole safari was an amazing experience. We saw baboons, antelope, hippos, giraffes, elephants, crocodiles , and a lot of zebras. One lucky thing that happened to the other safari vehicle was that an elephant came within 5 feet of them . I talked to them after and they thought it was the coolest thing ever. The safari ended up being 6 hours long. We stopped for lunch by a ton of hippos & some crocodiles. Bri thought the hippos were rocks at first . When we finished the safari we had to drive 2 hours back to our drivers, Alex and John, who had all our luggage . After that, we had to drive another 2 hours to our tented lodge that we are staying the night at. When we got there, we had a warm welcome from all of the staff, they were lined up to greet us and served us all passionfruit juice. We then had dinner out on a deck that was over looking the lake, by candle light. Everything was decorated amazingly and there was even a fire going in the middle of the deck. Straight after dinner everyone went to bed due to the long, but good day we had .

Sincerely, Josiah

Rwanda Day 8 - July 17, 2019

Our time in the village of Ruhuha ( In the district of Nayagatare) has come to an end. These last 4 days have been amazing, the people in this village are bursting at the seams with Gods love and it’s been heart warming to fellowship and worship with them this week. While in the village today, we learned more about the struggles that this villages faces so that we can go home and set a plan in motion to support this village in the coming years as they learn to sustain themselves. After worshipping together this morning, the pastor of the church, Marcel, presented us each with a gift as a thank you and we shared a meal with the Pastor and other church officials- this meal ended in a dance party with some American Classics like YMCA, Cupid shuffle, cha cha slide and Africa. After lunch we had the opportunity to visit 2 homes in the village, we got to see a glimpse of the living conditions as well as learn about the goat co-op that the women of this church have begun. They are hoping to purchase 70 more for the remaining women. 1 goat costs about $50usd, they buy the goats to resell to the capital city of Kigali once mature enough. It was a nice experience to learn more about how they’re starting these businesses.

At dinner, we had an opportunity to celebrate one of our translators birthdays with a cake made of biscuits and paper crowns! We’re so thankful for our translators and bus drivers- without them, we would not have been able to make news friends with the village of Ruhuha. Thank you for your continued prayers!

- Meg Dumont

Rwanda Day 7 - July 16, 2019

It was such an amazing visit in the village today. We met at the church and talked more in depth about their co-ops. It’s very sad they have so many road blocks that they come up against BUT we did a ton of brainstorming and we came up with some great ideas that will hopefully help them build their businesses. It’s definitely not going to happen overnight but we have taken the first step with them. With the right planning this can all be possible for them. We talked about farm land and agriculture but unfortunately there isn’t a water source close enough to them to even dig a well. They have to walk 2 hours one way to get water. They depend on the rain to grow their crops. We talked with them about purchasing goats, cows, making jewelry and baskets. They are such amazing people, extremely intelligent, hard working and eager to learn. One of my favorite parts is driving through the villages to get to the one we are visiting with. People just light up when you drive by smile and wave at them. Especially the kids!!! Oh my gosh they get so excited!!!! Their smiles are contagious!! They dance, jump up and down and chase the van. It’s seriously the best thing ever. The children are so incredibly beautiful.

- Brieanne Walser

Rwanda Day 6 - July 15, 2019

Today was such an amazing day! We started off having breakfast at the hotel. Then we headed to go to the village! As we were driving, there were so many families waving to us as we drove by. Many of the kids were running behind our van to catch up with us. When we arrived at the village, many kids and women greeted us as we got out of our vehicle.

We taught the women how to keep a good hygiene by teaching them how to wash their hands and brush their teeth. Afterwards, we gave them soap, tooth brushes, and toothpaste for them to use. Josiah and Wilson played soccer with all of the older kids. Brian and Jason were teaching all of the younger kids a bunch of camp songs. Right after the sessions and soccer, we ate lunch with the church. Right after lunch, we headed out to go visit a pig co-op. It was so amazing to learn about how the pigs provides for their families. it’s a group of ten men who own the pigs. And, they are kept in the back of a family’s house.

Everyone in the village works and lives off the land. Regardless of their age. It’s amazing to see little two year olds sit with their family to harvest the corn. The corn is off of the cob and they dry out the kernels to make corn flour.

There is also bricks being made with water and clay/mud. They get the water for the bricks from the streets after the rain. It takes the people a two hour walk one way to get water for eating & drinking.

Throughout the drive we see men, women & children carrying everything from sticks, bananas, pineapples, sugar cane, water, on bikes or on their heads. these people are such hard workers and yet their souls are as happy as ever. Every place we drive, young & old wave and the young repeat “Abazungu”, which means white people. It’s the sweetest thing ever!

We headed back to the hotel and settled down for a bit. Before we ate dinner together, we all played a couple games of telephone. Then, after dinner, we all played charades with our two interpreters and our two bus drivers. Our bus drivers do not speak english but we have built such an awesome relationship with them both! It was such an amazing day & I love to see how God is working in these peoples lives.

~Never be lacking in Zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Romans 12:11

Blessings, Grace

Rwanda Day 5 - July 14, 2019

Today was an amazing day. Our first day in the village and something we will never forget. When we arrived we received an indescribable welcome from a crowd we estimated to possibly be 600 or more. They were clapping and singing and praising God that we were there. All were so friendly and joyful and we were moved by the love that flowed so freely. Each one was anxious to hug us and the children were all reaching to hold our hands. As we walked some of them threw flowers on us. Upon arriving at the church we were given seats together near the front and the building was filled to overflowing for the service. Pastor Marcel and Bishop Theo welcomed us as did the women's and children's choirs. Brian shared a message on encouragement from Romans and each team member had the opportunity to share with the church a little about themselves and the reason they felt God had led them to Rwanda. As the worship ended the adults were dismissed and the children remained and were led by Stacey in Simon Says while Jay, Will, Josiah and Grace prepared to share. They acted out the story of David and Goliath and told the story of the birth of Jesus. The children were given coloring sheets and crayons related to the stories. During this time Brian and Meg were outside showing the woman how to make popcorn. They quickly learned how and we filled bags to pass out to the children. While we had estimated about 150, there were close to 400 children there. It was a crazy, busy scene, but the children all received the popcorn they were so excited for. As the crowds left, we shared a great lunch that had been prepared for us. The love continued as we made our way back to the vans with lots more hugging and waving. As we talked about the day, we found our feelings almost impossible to describe. We agreed that Joy was the overwhelming sentiment. To be so welcomed and to share such a heartfelt worship with our new Rawandan friends was a blessing that we will never forget. We are all excited to return tomorrow to continue to share Gods love and learn more about our new friends

- Dianne Schlegel

Rwanda Day 4 - July 13, 2019

Today was our travel day. We left our hotel Iris to UTC which is a mall to get food, coffee, and supplies for the villages. We then left the UTC to go to our next hotel, it was three hours away. The whole time it was pouring rain. While driving we passed farmland and saw a lot of cows and farmers working in the fields. When we arrived at our new hotel we ate lunch. After lunch, we prepared for activities in the morning for the new village. Then we went outside and played soccer with some of the locals before dinner. Keep praying for us as we share Gods love to people here in Rwanda.

-Wilson Rose

Rwanda Day 3 - July 12, 2019

I first want to thank everyone that has been praying for us! Your prayers are important to all of us.

Yesterday after revisiting the Genocide Memorial (sobering that we can visit this land in its 25 years of healing), there is a huge prayer request in that I was made aware that in only two short years, most of the perpetrators involved in the mass murder, which have not repented will be released at the end of their sentence. Please pray for these individuals and Rwanda itself, as they discern and decide how best to handle/reintegrate these people back into the general society.

As for today, wow, what a jammed packed day. The bulk of the team went to the marketplace, where they had a true Rwandan experience in trying traditional Rwandan food and the women getting individual shirts made on the spot. As for me, I stayed at our guest house, where I was greeted by two children that Lisa and I sponsor, named Murisa and Shallon. We truly had a special time in getting to know one and other. It is so special to be able to physically hug them, have real-time conversations, play games – and yes, we played go-fish, and I have to say, I won! Also, we spent time traveling around the city of Kigali, taking in some special sites, sharing a lunch as well as praying for each of them, their families, their studies, etc.

After rejoining with the team, we continued to Josie’s church and the Child Hope Center, where we spent some quality time intermingling with ~40 students as part of their afterschool program. We assisted in feeding them, taking tons of videos and pictures and praying for them. I’m personally charged, and I’m sure that the broader team is as well, to be strong advocates for these special kids, where they can be sponsored and where the program can continue to grow and flourish. Also, we briefly chatted with the ladies (mostly mothers of these kids), which happen to be former prostitutes that are now creating/doing small businesses to support their families by selling 2 nd hand shoes/clothing, vegetables, etc.

Off to Nyagatare District tomorrow, we cannot wait!!!

Blessings!

Brian

Rwanda Day 2 - July 11, 2019

Our morning started around 8:00 a.m, as we started our first full day in Kigali. Over breakfast we had a chance to connect and talk about our journey to Rwanda. Brian shared Hebrews 12:2 with the Team. Then Josiah shared a devotional around the following verses: 1 Peter 4:10, Romams 10:13-14, Mark 15:1, Matthew 9:20-28 and 1 Samuel 12:24-28. These helped provide us the opportunity to think and reflect on the importance of sharing the Gospel with God's people before heading out for the day. We went to the Kigali Genocide Memorial and learned about the history of this tragic event in 1994 that lasted 100 days and claimed the lives of over 1 million Rwandans. We learned that in addition to this horrific event that claimed many lives, it continues to have an impact on many of the people who still relive the trauma it has caused. Rwandans are very resilient people who continue to move forward showing love and forgiveness. To wrap up our day we ended with a team debrief to discuss our day. We're excited to see how God will use us throughout the day tomorrow and the rest of our trip.

Stacey Sleweon

Rwanda Day 1 - July 10, 2019

After so much planning, our Rwanda trip is finally underway! We met up on Tuesday and headed to the airport for a long day of flying. After about six hours we landed in Amsterdam with a few hours to relax before jumping on another flight to Rwanda. Almost eight hours later, we arrived and met up with Bishop Theo.

We drove through Kigali and enjoyed seeing the night life - lots of traffic, motorcycles, and people. The lights across the hills made for a great view of the city at night. Finally, we made it to our hotel, the Iris, and settled in for the night. We were all looking forward to our first day in Rwanda, but very grateful for some much needed rest!

Thank you to everyone for your prayers on our journey to Rwanda!

-Ashley Riendeau

Days 2, 4 & 6 in Nicaragua - by Jay, Laura & Calvin

Sunday – Day 2
 
Today was our first full day, and the start of our actual ministry.  This was completely up my alley as it was sports day. So, shortly after breakfast, began the soccer matches.  Dan and Chris each gave a message before games.  They did great.  That helped me mentally prepare for my message later in the day.   

We had a break for a while so we were formally oriented by Scott and Jennifer.  To say they have vision for this place is an understatement.  Knowing all God has done here in the face of impossible odds, over the last few years, I have little doubt that he will bless those plans.  Just what I’ve ‘seen’ in the way of changes over a year would be borderline unbelievable.. But with God all things are possible… 

After a pickup game of softball with some world racers and local kiddos, the parade marched in.  Not figuratively, either. There was this awesome parade of a couple hundred female kickball players, their friends and families.  They had a full procession through a neighborhood and onto the land.  When I volunteered to give the message, i thought 20 people, not 200, but our God is BIG, so I knew i’d be fine.  That and the fact that the verse I chose to reference in my message (John 15:33…in this world you will have tribulation, but rejoice, for i have overcome the world” ) was the verse of the day on my Bible app.  Found that out after I had chosen it, so I had this extra peace, like God was confirming my topic.  It went well, and God willing seeds were planted.  

Finally, post a well needed shower, we headed to town for some good old fashioned thin crust pizza.  We are blessed as much as we are trying to bless others.  During debrief, we all agreed that we are excited to continue on and see where God will use us next. ~ by Jay Michaud
 
Tuesday – Day 4
 
Tuesday began a bit later than Monday.  Up and out by 7:00 and in the field by 8:30.  By field, I mean the field at the farm.  While the men went into town to help pour concrete, Melissa and I stayed and helped plant trees.  Something like apples, sweet oranges and nectarines.  To be more accurate, we dug holes for the trees.  This is the end of the dry season and the ground is like rock.  Melissa was a machine!   We worked alongside Erika, Jesse, Byron, Caitlin and and of course, Scott.   We’re getting better at speaking Spanish and holding conversations.   It doesn’t take long!  This was relationship-building time for Melissa and me.  Digging holes frees you up to ask and answer a lot of questions.  And oh yes.  Sweat.  Lots and lots and lots of sweat.  95 Degrees and sunny.  Melty melty.  But really, we love the hearts of these folks more every day.   The crops are a means by which this burgeoning community thrives and is one of several vehicles for building relationships and discipling the love of Jesus.  What a privilege to see it happen in front of us.
 
After lunch, a prayer walk.  We prayed for families in their homes and for more healing of diabetes than anything else.  An 85 year old woman with diabetes, heart disease, kidney problems and her caretaker/daughter.  A man with diabetes who prayed with us - he and his wife raised their arms and their voices to praise God.  They thought we were blessing them when in fact, they were blessing us.  On the lighter side, we learned that chocolate-covered frozen banana is a remedy for heat stroke.
 
Reap Granada does a pop-up store for local artisans to sell their wares to visitors.  We were able to relax a bit, speak with these amazing folks, and support their families by purchasing their wares.   Some of you may, or may not be on the receiving end of some of these….
 
Now we wait for transportation to teach at Young Life at the community center.  Stay tuned on that - we don’t know how we’re getting there and, per Nicaragua-style, nobody is worried.  
 
Honest impression this year:  Yes, there is poverty.  Yes, there is political strife that’s putting much pressure on the local people.  But this year, I’m struck with the realization that these people or no poorer than our neighbors who lives life without embracing the grace of God and the love of Jesus.  There’s alcoholism here.  There’s alcoholism at home. There’s drug trafficking and abuse here.  There’s drug trafficking and abuse at home.  There are acts of violence here. There are acts of violence at home.   There’s beauty and love here just like at home.  We’re the same, just separated by miles. ~ by Laura Varley
 
REAP Granada Day #6 – Thursday
 
There was something missing today. After a good night’s sleep, I awoke to the sun rising over the hills and made my way to the dining area for a time of personal devotion. As I read through Hebrews chapter 10, the local missionary workers started arriving one by one on their motorbikes, stopping to say “Buenos Dias.” I love the communal living and ministry that occurs each day, as we encourage one another here and continue to form bonds and friendships with brothers and sisters in Christ. We ate breakfast and then headed out for our ‘Fun/Rest Day.’ 
 
As the bus pulled up, we all loaded on (bundled on is probably more accurate) with our backpacks for the day and headed off. Our first stop was the volcano and their visitor center. It is fun for me to return to places and see how they have changed. There had been a number of upgrades at the center and it was very exciting to see them. However, we were the only group there. Scott, our host missionary, connected with the workers by hugging each of them. It is amazing to see the relationships and love of Jesus that is spreading through the work that Scott and his team here at REAP Granada.
 
We then headed to the Laguna for lunch and to relax. The drive there is incredible, and the streets are a narrow maze going down a steep hill… let’s just say sitting in the back of the bus was not the best idea! However, as soon as you get out and see the view it is all worthwhile. Again, Scott gets out and immediately greets the workers and the owner. There was only a few other visitors there.
 
It is amazing to see that every opportunity, whether it is prayer walking, buying food or having fun, that it is an opportunity for Scott and his team to build relationships. The amazing thing is to see that with many of the tourists missing, due to previous unrest, that people are so excited that Scott and REAP Granada are still here. God is at work. God is using REAP to share his love and I am so grateful that I have been able to be even just a little part of this.
 
God bless,
Calvin

Wednesday in Granada - by Dan

The day started for the second time with a 5am sunrise hour of prayer. It’s deeply moving to be here and see the day begin and to know that God is here.  He sent me here and I have work that I can’t wait to do.  

Breakfast is more than a meal.  We gather with our team and the native team.  Some speak English.  None of us speak respectable Spanish.  It really doesn’t matter - we’ve  become family and that’s a gift I didn’t expect.

We moved next to the dump to minister to the families who live and work there.  It was a joy and a blessing to have had a chance to serve them a meal.  In the most humble of places, a dump, these families are strong in the love of Jesus.  I wish I could explain this better.  We stood and served a meal and prayed with brothers and sisters while standing on a mountain of trash from the nearby city.    And it may be one of my favorite, most humbling activities ever.

Our third prayer walk.  Just phenomenal.  It was life-changing to talk to these people.  They believe God sent us a long way to pray for them and that we’re not in their homes by coincidence.  Their faith is so absolute.  I don’t have the words to express how astounded I am that God chose to send me here to these loving people.  They have nothing, and they invite us into their homes and insist on offering us their food and drink without a second thought.   I know this isn’t about me - but it’s difficult to reconcile that I get to do this and to benefit from the blinding beauty of the people of Nicaragua.  So many lessons learned - most by me.

I’ve been praying for several years that God would open my eyes to see his Kingdom, and that he would soften my heart to love him more and that he would order my steps to move towards him.  But I got it backwards.  He ordered my steps first by bringing me here and it’s opened my eyes to see his Kingdom and my heart to love His people.   What He has done in my life - and answered my prayers - is proof of His presence and His love.
One last thought.  The architecture in the City of Granada is stunning!  The colors are vivid, the old Spanish-style trim — even the peeling paint - is art.  Going back to the ice cream shop is on my agenda for the future.  Not so much the meat section of the outdoor Mercado.   Can’t wait to serve here again.

Day 3 in Nicaragua - by Chris

We started the day early by going to a 5am devotional/prayer quiet time at the pavilion. It was a great way to start of a very busy day.  At 7am we had a delicious breakfast which included fresh fruit and very good coffee. 

At 8am we left the land and piled 20+ people in Scott’s truck and drove to Jose’s new house lot.  Jose was a renting a house nearby and now is building his own house.  The basic outline of the house was there already, as the beginning stage of he walls were there.  We needed to move cement blocks from the rental house to the new place.  The distance was short and only took 5 or 6 trips with blocks loaded up in the back of Scott’s truck.  We also were cutting wire to be used with rebar, making triangle shaped pieces.  Since we had a large number of people we split off and 8 or 9 people went to Chicon’s house, fairly close by. He had a pile of sand/fill in his front yard that needed to be moved to the backyard.  The pile had at to be at least 5 yards.  We used shovels and 5 gallon plastic buckets  We had a line of 9 or so people filling the buckets and passing them down the line, emptying them and then passing them back.  It was tedious but we had a mission, I think it took us 2 or hours to finish.  We did take water breaks as it was very hot outside. During one of those breaks we found out more about Chicon.  He is a boxing coach for both the men’s and women’s national team.  Quite impressive!  He even coached his daughter to win the 2017 Central American championship!  He proudly showed of her trophies, awards, championship belt and medal!  He was so proud!  I really enjoyed seeing him tell us about everything, he was so proud!

About noonish we drove back to the land for lunch.  After lunch we drove to Pontanal community center.  It is currently being worked on, adding new trusses so a second floor can be added.  It was quite nice inside, I can’t wait until it is finished.  Prior to building the community center the lot of land was used by drug dealers, it was not safe there.  By opening a community center they are changing the neighborhood and the local culture.  Providing a safe place where people can come, they want the community to be part of the transformation and the local people to be involved in it. From the community center we split into 2 groups and went prayer walking into the local neighborhood.  The local people we encountered we were very friendly and open about their needs and invited us into their homes.  We listened and talked to them a prayed with them. These are people that will be using the community center,  it is exciting because they have a story to tell about how God has helped them with their problems and is part of their lives.

After finishing the prayer walk we drove to the hospital.  The hospital we visited was a free hospital, it was very eye opening. The conditions there are very different than our hospitals. Even though we saws things we couldn’t believe we needed to remind ourselves at least they have medical care available to them. We split into two groups and visited various patients.  We listened to them and talked with them and then prayed.  I really think they appreciated we were there listening to them and then praying over them.

After visiting the hospital we drove back to the land and had dinner.  After dinner at about 6:30pm we met at the pavilion where they were having a worship /prayer devotional time in tribute to Nathan. Nathan is a REAP employee that had an accident in the prior week.  He is still in the hospital in very serious condition.  He still needs another surgery, so everyone is praying for a successful surgery and speedy recovery.  The service ended at about 7:45pm. 

Afterwards our group met to discuss the daily events. We enjoyed some nice oreo cookies (thank you Heather).  We also to talked to Jen and Scott about our day and got an update from them about how Nathan was doing. He is making progress in the right direction but has a long way to go.  Please keep Nathan in your prayers.  About 9pm we broke up and went to our rooms to get ready for bed.  It was a long day but very rewarding! 

We made it to Nicaragua! - by Melissa

Our day began very early! We met at the Manchester Campus at 2:45am and after a quick prayer we boarded a shuttle and headed to the airport. Thanks to Lisa and Patricia for coming out to see us off and a special thanks to Amanda for driving the shuttle in the rain.
 
We arrived in Managua after two uneventful flights and met up with Amber, a REAP intern, and the shuttle driver Miguel. Since we arrived so early we were able to stop in downtown Granada and climb the bell tower of a local church. It gave us a great view of Lake Granada the Mercado. We stopped by the local bank to exchange some of our money.  
 
We arrived at the farm and began to settle in.  We had a great meal which we all devoured. It was a long day of travel and most of us didn’t have a chance to eat a real meal, so this one was appreciated. We are blessed to have our stay overlap with a team of World Racers! This was the halfway point for them and there was a large group of parents that travelled to be with their racers. It was amazing to see them interacting and worshiping together. 
 
We look forward to sharing devotionals with the sports teams that will be taking the fields on Sunday! Thanks to everyone for keeping us in their prayers!
 
Blessings,
Melissa