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    September 2013

    Carlos is like most of us: he just wants to belong, to be a part of things, to be accepted for who he is and to be loved. He is a participant in the Mahanaim Centro de Rehabilitación, a place dear to hearts, where alcoholics and drug addicts can spend time leaving the bonds of addictions behind. I know we have spoken of it numerous times as we will in the future because we feel that God directed us to work there and we are truly blessed as we do.  Carlos is a Nicaraguan who was trained in Cuba as a physical therapist. Somewhere along the way he found the wrong friends and the wrong substances and made some bad decisions that ultimately brought him to this place.  He has a smile to fall in love with in a minute and a truly friendly spirit.

    With our July team we spent 3 ½ days in medical and dental clinic and Carlos quickly found his place working at the pharmacy tables, making sure that every medicine prescribed was documented so it could be given correctly. His absence was felt when he wasn’t there and someone would ask “where is Carlos?” and we would all look around. Though he spoke only Spanish, communication was established fairly fast and he was an integral part of our team. He seemed extremely happy to be working in that role. I have returned to the rehab center several times since that clinic and Carlos always greets me with a big smile. If you wonder why, just think about everything you hear about love and the desire to belong and the answer is pretty clear.

    John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

    1 John 3:16-18 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.  If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?  Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

    When I was in nursing school we studied Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and right in the middle is love and belonging as a physiological requirement for human survival. These were proposed in 1943 and were stressed to us in the 1970s as something we needed to remember.

    In 1967 the Beatles wrote and recorded the song “Love is All you Need” stating that “all you need is love, love is all you need.” I’m not sure their ideas depict exactly what I’m thinking of but still the words pop into my mind frequently.

    I want to quote Russ Polsgrove, Minister to High School Students and their families at The Orchard, our home church in Tupelo Mississippi.  “When Brennan Manning passed away earlier this year, I read his autobiography All is Grace . In the book he repeats a common refrain for him…‘Christ loves us unconditionally as we are, not as we should be, because none of us are as we should be.’ ”  “I love that saying, and last week I taught on Romans 3, which is pretty clear that none of us are as we should be. When we understand that Christ loves us even though we’re pretty messed up, we start to live a little differently. We live for different things because we understand that nobody else can satisfy, nobody else will love us that completely, and nobody else will go to such great lengths to pull us up from our failings.”

    Russ stated that so well, and when we watched Carlos trying to live the life Christ wants, I felt inspired to try to be a more loving person myself, to try to deserve the love of Christ and of others. I challenge you to do the same.

    Blessings and love to each of you, Mary

    Needs for our family and our mission: Prayers for Christ’s work we are doing in Nicaragua; for increased funding to meet our needs, both personal and for projects; for our marriage to be Christ-like and Christ filled; for our health; for safety environmentally and politically; for honesty and loyalty for those who work closest with us; for Joel as he struggles with decisions of family vs. street life; and for the nearly 200 people living in the rehab center struggling with addictions and desiring freedom from them. Oh, and for our Spanish skills!


    July 2013

    Just had a great team head back home last week that not only worked hard but had a great devotional that they shared with us all while they were here.  These guys did a little of everything.  They helped Rancho begin its health program update with the goat and sheep herd including fecal checks, exams, deworming and foot trims.  We are in the process of becoming certified to export animal, meat and dairy products both within Central America and internationally.  This includes upgrading our biosecurity, health records and disease surveillance.   They also helped plant new forage plants at the Rehab for the goats, sheep, chickens and rabbits along with treating the sheep and the laying hens.  While the animal and agriculture projects were going others worked with the women in rehabilitation, as usual this was a moving experience for both sides.  The last place they got to see was one of our communities served by a health promoter.  We got to work a few animals and two health promoters were able to hone their skills in horse castrations.  The biggest hit I think was their interaction with the children of the community.  When I watch this happening there is no question of the love of Christ being shared and received.  I missed out on some of the fun when I blew my old disk out and had to go on steroids for part of the trip.  The treatment is usually rougher on me than the pain.

    Mary and I both are uplifted by teams in their work and devotions.  Each day, a devotion was presented by a different team member who shared about various components of prayer.  One of the side benefits that I got was a closer exam of thinking about how I live in the presence of Christ in a moment by moment basis.   I tend to forget that Christ is always with me and forget to use that to help me in all my decisions and actions.  When something big hits, I turn to Him but I think He wants more.  There always seem to be ups and downs to my walk of faith and I love it when I’m on the ups.  Every now and then as I look at myself I know something is just not right, a feeling that life is out of balance.  As I try to find where things are not going right it seems to me that to get back on track I need to look at several things.

    First are my prayer times.  I find that it helps for me to pray often and frequently. For me prayer tends to be a very intimate conversation about everything from praises, questions and to even complaints but mostly guidance.  Occasionally I have to step back and laugh at myself and say “Lord why do let me ramble and beat around the bush with you; you who knows me better than I know myself and my every thought before it’s formed in my mind”.  The more trusting and open I am in prayer; the more answers, direction and peace I get.  I have never “heard” God speak to me but I have felt Him speak to me from that Spirit that is a part of me always.

    Second is scripture.  I read for many reasons: historical background of the church, just as habit, study, but often for answers and guidance.   A teaching pastor at my home church once said, and I felt it was to me, that we often look for signs that tell us what is right or wrong.  He held up a Bible and said “all the signs are here”.  I find answers and understanding whenever I read it and many times answers that I didn’t even know I had questions about.

    Third is being loved.  Just to sit and know how much I’m loved by the Father.  How I was chosen, pursued and unconditionally forgiven will forever amaze and delight me.  He so loves me that He uses me as His hands and feet on earth not because He needs me but I need Him. For me nothing gives me peace and assurance than basking in His love.  Nothing gives me joy on earth than sharing that love with others.  Oh how he loves us.

    Thanks to all of you that are being used by Him as you make possible the work going on in Nicaragua.  I hope you feel very special, loved and at peace in His presence.


    • Rains have started and we’ve started planting corn and beans to feed the Rehab

    • About 80% of the coffee plants are in the ground at the Rehab

    • Rancho has completed a new goat house and expanded/or repaired two of the older houses.

    Prayer request:

    • Continued support for the growth at the Rehab and Rancho

    • Joel as he grows into a young man

    • Mary and I as he grows into a young man

    • Wisdom as we continue serving in Nicaragua

    • Our search for support in the coming months

    God Bless,  Rick


    May 2013

    Way up in the mountains of northern Nicaragua is a village named San Luis de Quebrada. It is one of the most beautiful places in the country but also is extremely poverty stricken in terms of material things. There is no electricity, no running water, some of the worst roads I have been on, but an immense amount of family love, God’s love, and sense of community. Social activities include attending worship services 5 or 6 times weekly and riding your mule to catch the lone bus out if you must travel to get necessary food or living items.  I’m sure you have read about this village before, it seems to us to be so touched by God’s love and the villagers’ faith that we just have to tell about it! We also recently learned that this area is served through Operation Christmas Child so the children receive a gift box of necessary items along with a few special treats that their parents struggle to survive can’t afford.

    I love going to this village, I can think of nowhere else are we greeted with such a loving spirit and generosity to share anything they have. This year will be the fifth year we have taken a team of veterinary students from Ross University in St. Kitts led by Dr. Lindsay Moffitt. A lot of veterinary work is done primarily on cows and horses both of which are vital to earning a living. The owners are very open to suggestions on care as they are anxious to learn how to do things themselves, not wanting to rely on services of others. Interactions using various Spanglish words and lots of hand gestures are amazing and smiles are freely given!

    Last year, after years of observing the numerous children, Rick and I decided that it would be good to also have a program for the children. Katy Evans, a friend and intern from The Orchard was staying with us so she and I had a project to put together first in English then in Spanish. Actually, I think Katy did almost all the work and I just was available for support and to help locate supplies! We didn’t know how any children to prepare for… 10 or 100 or anywhere in between.

    A lot of the usual team activities started the day: breakfast, coffee, devotions, coffee, caring for animals, and probably more coffee. After lunch the children and parents started coming and we prepared for devotion and activity time with them. There were few animals to treat at that time of day so everyone helped with the children. Attendance varied on the three days, anywhere from 20 to 75. Even the parents were attentive and wanted to participate in the craft making!  We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and felt that everyone from the village did too.

    This year as we were preparing for our annual team trip Rick was talking to Pastor Wilmer to set things up and told him we again wanted to have children’s time in the afternoons. Pastor Wilmer asked Rick how many children we wanted to have this year, a question that seemed odd to Rick as we have never expected a firm number of anything in Nicaragua. The pastor went on to explain that after our visit last year they felt that children’s ministry was so important they made it a priority through their church. Now they often have more than 300 children hearing of God and His love on a regular basis. My heart truly fluttered when Rick told me about how they had taken the seed we planted and made it Grow Deep and Branch Out (the ministry purpose of The Orchard) through the mountains of that area.

    That is a praise we hope to have the opportunity to repeat many times over. Not that we did anything more than help people in this country gain their own visions for growth while using their faith in God as their foundation.  We thank each of you so much for supporting us through financial donations, regular prayer and personal contacts so that we can have stories to share.

    Please continue to bless us with your prayers for every day needs as well as these special ones:

    • Safety for the short term teams coming to work and serve with us this year.

    • Joel’s adjustments as life can be difficult for all three of us.

    • Adequate financial support to continue to live and serve God in Nicaragua.

    • God’s wisdom in decisions for ministry options.

    • That we may always keep our eyes and ears wide open to God’s word.

    Stay in touch, write us, e-mail us, look us up on Facebook, or come see us. We will be travelling to the United States late in 2013 for a couple months of furlough. If your church, group of friends, or organization would like to have us meet and share more of our work and how you or others you know can become more involved, please let us know. That is what furlough is all about; unfortunately it is not a time of rest and relaxation for missionaries!

    Blessings to each of you, Mary


    March 2013

    Why am I here?  This question comes up occasionally.  Sometimes from friends, strangers and others that I meet while working or talking about projects in Nicaragua but sometimes it comes from me.   The answer may vary somewhat according to the day or even the hour.  It sometimes will vary according to the questioner.

    “Christ has no body on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours.  Yours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion for the world is to look out; yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good; and yours are the hands with which He is to bless us now.” -Saint Theresa of Avila-

    As I returned home from church last Sunday talking to Evilio as we drove along asking about how things were going he began to talk about the Rehab and the projects that are ongoing.   He then brought up a subject that I’ve discussed with the board members and donors in the past: we have no great support for the men once they leave to return home to their communities.

    In the past this has haunted me as I have mentioned before.  There was a young man in the center that had had both a drug and alcohol problem.  He did well in recovery and had accepted Christ into his life.  As we were doing agriculture projects, he kept up with the materials and watched over things between visits.  Then it was time for him to return home.  Late one afternoon while packing up we talked about his future away from the center.  He had many doubts about being able to stay clean on his return.  For him it was easy in the group with worship and people to talk with daily about his faith and new life.  We made plans for him to stay longer since he was helping with the projects and was paying his way through the work he was doing.  When I returned a week later the director told me he had committed suicide.  It seems that some of his family was pressuring him to return home and he thought that he would turn back to his old life style.  This was more than he could face.

    When Evilio brought up the subject it quickened my heart.  Then he began to talk about what he thought could be an answer.  His idea is simple and until we have more external support systems it may be the best one.  The idea wasn’t what gave me the thrill but that someone comes up with ideas themselves not looking to others for all the answers. I’ll write about his idea when and if it is implemented in the future.

    Development ministry is slow.  It’s hard to always understand that to be a success the ideas and much of the implementation has to come from within the people we’re serving.  Relationships are built in a few days, months or even years.  Some are faster than others but when we look at our own strong relationships few were overnight.  We see many projects that are brought in by outside people and organizations that fail in the long term because they weren’t owned by those they were designed to help.  There are several great books on helping the poor through development and I’ll list a few at the end you can check on if you’re interested.  I’m always open to your questions.

    Another example is a group in a very remote area that we’ve been working with for almost four years.  Normally we stay at their local church in tents and have animal health projects along with faith based projects for the children and adults.  The community always welcomes us and helps out in every way they can.   Most nights we sit and talk about what is going on locally, how the church, how is the school, health issues, farming etc.  During the days and these night meeting are the relationship building times.  One thing that came up was that the community would like to build a new and larger church; the church is at the center of most social life.  We talked about how they could do it.  I offered to think and pray about it but had no funding to help them.  My idea was to try to find a US church that would like to work with the community to help over several years.

    When we returned next there was a new building started; my first thought was that someone had come along to help them, not enough faith on my part.  After we had talked about the project and things that could be done the community kept the discussions going.  They came up with an idea to take all the local crops that are normally bought up by outside buyers, use a local truck to carry them to a larger town to sell.  After the expenses for the trucking the money made above their normal receipts were put into a building fund.  I hope our work there simulated someway but I can tell you that watching them find solutions on their own and helping in the background is very rewarding to me.   They did it on their own and we hope to help along the way but it’s their project, their time and energy, their church and the next ideas will come from them as well the solutions.

    I am not sure where I first read or heard the phase “become the answers to someone’s prayers”.  What a wonderful loving God that lets an ordinary bumbling person like me serve others through Him.  All of you who read this are answers to our prayers.  Without your prayers and support we wouldn’t be here.  One of my biggest short comings, of the many, is not being able to pass that feeling along to you.  There is nothing I would like to be able to do more than let you know how much your work means to others that you never see.

    God bless and keep you,


    Prayer requests: For raising needed support for this year Joel as he is learning to be a family member Mary and I as we learn to be parents For us all to let Christ live in us and through us


    January 2013

    Prayer letter time has rolled around again, actually the deadline was a couple days ago and I’m late, once again. December is just such a rushed month in my life, maybe I let it happen that way year after year but I know I am not the only one!  And, it is a bit hard for me to get my mind into the January mode until all the Christmas activities are over. 2012 has been a different kind of year, not one I would want to do over to try to get it right but I am thankful it is about off the charts for a new one.

    There have been a lot of changes in our lives this year. We now live on a small farm so we are able to employ a number of Nicaraguans, those who know farming, fence building, etc. and others who have an opportunity to learn. Some work on a near full time basis, others are day laborers. All have been able to earn some money to help support their families, either employed using a skill they have or working and learning what is needed.  I hope that in whatever role they have they feel self-worth that they have work and an income.

    We are currently sponsoring four Nicaraguans taking English classes. They are all linked to us in some capacity and will have a benefit from the new skills. Knowing each of them and selecting them for this opportunity helps us believe they will be diligent and successful in their studies. Others have asked as well but money is limited and for various reasons we didn’t think they would be the best use of our funds.

    Rick still is involved with Rancho Ebenezer, not so much in their day to day operations but always available for questions, advice, or checking a sick animal when they request. I am not very involved with them simply because there is not so much need for my skills although I do get a rare health care call.

    The Rehabilitation Center is a project we are both involved with, again Rick more than me because a large part of their need is agricultural as they work to become self-sustaining in most of their nutritional needs. He is also working with them to have more animals: goats for milk and chickens (100 new ones) for eggs which will add a good bit of protein to their daily diets.  In addition he serves on their Board of Directors which keeps him more aware of operational processes.

    Hosting teams is a fun but also very time consuming part of our ministry. I feel that is where a lot of my work time is spent, in scheduling but also in planning out every detail, buying every bite of food, and working with team leaders ahead of time trying to know each other’s plans and needs. Sometimes I think I should just change my title from nurse to hostess. But, when we have medical or dental teams I get to be a nurse again. These are the time that my joy bubbles up within me the most!

    Those are most of our organized duties but we have to add to that the times when someone comes up to the house with a sick animal or sick child and Rick or I have an ‘on the spot’ consult to do. Those actually happen more than I ever expected but I guess word spreads in the neighborhood of what the gringos can do.

    I guess all this goes to help you know where your financial donations go. Add to that expenses like a lot of diesel (about $5.00/gallon right now), rent, electricity, water, garbage pickup, security guards, internet, medical insurance, food…all the basic living expenses. Our total living depends on your donations that we

    appreciate so much. We are thankful that God moves your hearts to honor Him in this way. Each team member who comes pays a daily price to cover expenses but that just barely meets the costs. And, yes we do get a small salary to use for our own personal expenses. We try very hard to be good stewards of the money you give, asking God to focus us on the needs in Nicaragua that He knows we can best fill. It is a good life, it is a happy life, but it is not a life filled with ‘stuff’ which we can so easily live without. Joel often wants to know why we don’t have a microwave or an air conditioner and we just can’t make him understand they aren’t necessary to life and we are fine without them! We are so thankful for your support, in prayers as well as financially; we know we wouldn’t be here without God’s plans and you covering our needs.

    For I have learned to be content, whatever the circumstances may be. I know now how to live when things are difficult and I know how to live when things are prosperous. In general and in particular I have learned the secret of eating well or going hungry of facing either plenty of poverty. I am ready for anything through the strength of the One who lives within me.  Philippians 4:11-13

    Blessings to each of you,