Friday, March 30, 2012

The following four people are ones who did not get a chance to blog during our trip. However, we wanted to recognize them as key members of our team!

Ken Greimann is married and has four kids. He was an elementary teacher for 30 years and just retired. He is currently working part-time as a hospital chaplain. This is his first trip to Nicaragua.

"I have been amazed how every member of this team has jumped in and interacted with the children, even though the language barrier can be frustrating and challenging. The kids here LOVE our college students and jockey for positions to sit on their laps.

The team is looking a little bruised and scraped up from the baseball games, but doesn´t let that slow them down from joyfully sharing the Gospel."

Kevin Gambill lives in O´Fallon, Missouri. This has been his 13th team he has lead through MOST  Ministries and 5th time overall in Nicaragua. He is married to his wife, Lori, with two children, Alex (17) and Nicole (15).

Teresa Reckrodt is a member of St. Stephen´s Lutheran Church in Liberty, MO. She is the mother of Courtney Reckrodt, also a member of this mission team. Teresa lives in Kearney, Missouri. This is her second mission trip to Nicaragua.

"I have enjoyed getting to know the other members of the team and has enjoyed visiting the various communities. I am super excited about what the LCMS church is doing in Nicaragua."

Fred Tippman joined our team via MOST Ministries. Fred calls Alpena, Michigan home where he worked in law enforcement for 30 years. Fred was so overwhelmed by the awesomeness that this trip was, that he couldn´t muster a comment. Although, he did continually noted throughout our mission, "No news is good news."

This post by: Sean Frankenbach is an Agribusiness Management and Agricultural Education major at the University of Missouri.  From Palmyra, Missouri, Sean is the Treasurer of Mizzou´s Lutheran Student Fellowship, a member of the College of Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources Student Development Board, and is Mizzou´s mascot, Truman the Tiger. When he finds time, he enjoys playing tennis, going on road-trips, and playing the piano.

Our day started in Telica, a town known for its competitive baseball. Our team was prepped, stretched, and ready to go when we took the field. Here we were, on the nicest field we had been on all week. This field had chain-linked fences, dug-outs, foul poles, and even bleachers for spectators! This game of baseball had the ambiance of a championship game....or at least in the beginning.

Wearing flip-flops and hopping out of the bed of a pick-up came eight Nicaraguans, about high school age. After the first inning, the game was tied in a dead heat at 0-0. But in the second inning, the team from Nicaragua found the holes in the United States defense to plate their first of what would be many runs on the "gringos." At the end of the game, the final score was 17-1 in favor of Nicaragua. Like I said, the championship ambiance didn´t last too long.

And just for you Dad, I want you to know I played second base and went 2 for 2 at the plate. But at the end of the game, I was brought in for relief as our team´s pitcher. Scary thought, I know.

It was great to talk with these young men about God´s grace using a more adult version of our witness bracelets. Personally, what stood out to me the most was when we asked this group of eight, none of them knew what forgiveness was. Could it actually be that we were exposing these boys to the Gospel for the first time? However, our team has faith in the seeds we planted with those few Telican baseball players.

A Lutheran Church and school and food program are planned to start being built in January 2013. We actually had the opportunity to visit the approximately 1.5 acre plot where the facilities will be built. Hopefully this community will be continually blessed throughout the construction as it grows in faith.

In the afternoon, we traveled to another area in Telica to present to some small children. Just as in previous days, we performed our skits using our witness bracelets. Our last time seemed to go well.

With this being our last time, upon arrival back at the mission house, we said our final good-byes to our three interpretors; Jose, Franklin, and Jorge. They have been an integral asset to our team and we were very happy to have gotten the chance to work with them.

As our last day in the mission field has come to a close, it has created many lasting memories for our team to look back on. Our team will be able to remember all the laughs we had (and there were MANY laughs), the communities we worked in, and the people we worked with. But most importantly, we will be able to look back on this week and see all of God´s glory through the mission and the people of the Lutheran Church in Nicaragua. And who would of thunk it? We were able to accomplish service to God by simply playing the game of baseball.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

This post by: Austin Thiel is a native from Marshall, Missouri and is majoring in Plant Science at the University of Missouri. He is involved with Alpha Gamma Rho Fraternity and Agronomy Club. Outside of school, Austin enjoys working on his family´s farm near Marshall and golfing.

Today, we went to a local church in Chinandega where the pastor had been president of the Lutheran Church for six years.  When we first arrived the group conceded that this has been the nicest church that we have served at thus far.  The children there were once again in love with us when we first walked in. It is always such a blessing to know that the children are so welcoming of us to their church and community.

Before we started playing baseball with the kids, we decided that we were sore and needed to do some actual stretching since we are starting to get very sore from playing all day.  We started out tossing the ball around with the kids to get loosened up.  I had a small five year old, that I later figured out is the pastors son, so I helped him work on his catching and throwing along with how to properly field a ground ball.  I am still unable to grasp the fact that I was able to help him do these things without being able to actually speak to him through the same language.  After about 20 minutes of playing catch, Aaron called the group together and we got a game together that was actually mixed between Americans and Nicaragua. The kids today were mostly young, so the game was not as competitive as it has been in the past few days. Fred volunteered to be full time catcher which was greatly appreciated.  One of the groups favorite moments of the day was when two kids were pitching and hitting against each other. Nobody ever found out their age, but they both looked to be 4.  It was one of the most precious moments that has happened thus far on our trip. 

For lunch we went out to a buffet that one of our interpreters, Jose, eats at when he takes his family out.  It had all sorts of different types of food available and expressed what this culture typically eats.  We stood out in the restaurant not only because we were white but because we piled food on our plate unlike the Nicaraguans.  To our surprise a full plate there was only five dollars per person.  

After lunch we went back to the church to perform our usual bead skit and unfortunately most of the kids we played with today did not come back to watch our skit.  However, the ones that did stay were the young ones. They paid attention very well today and were into our skit a lot.  Our group later decided that it was the best skit performance we have had.  When leaving the pastor and an elderly lady said they really liked our skit and took a lot away from it. 

Will convinced Kevin to take us to beach again, so we ended our day at the beach. We rode waves and some of us, Tammy and Kaitlyn, collected sea shells to possibly take back home and make something with them.

I also did the nightly devotion tonight for our team. It was over comfort and finding comfort in each other, in family, and in God. It was based out of 2 Corinthians 1:3-5: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion, and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.
Today´s post by: Melanie Auinbauh is a senior and is in her first year of the University of Missouri´s Physical Therapy program. She grew up in St. Louis and Dallas before arriving at Mizzou. She is a past president of Lutheran Student Fellowship, tutors science, and teaches dance at Studio B Dance Center. She enjoys spending time with friends, traveling, and playing with her pet poodle, Jane.

Today it started to feel like we have a daily routine here. Everyday a different member of the team leads devotion. I led devotion this morning on the topic of friendship and referenced the verses Proverbs 17:17 and 27:6, Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, John 15:5-17, Colossians 3:3, and 1 John 1:1-7. I thought friendship would be a good topic because each day we become closer friends with the other members of the team and we are also making new friends at our site each day. Even though the Bible encourages us to have earthly friends who will keep us close to the Father, we must remember that Jesus is always our best friend.

As we were leaving the mission center this morning, many locals were gathering to attend a celebration for a new building for one of the churches´ pastor´s birthday. Several of the teachers we met Monday through Wednesday were here and they were very excited to see us again.

We played with the children at the Lutheran church in Chinandega today, so we had a short van ride. The ball field today was very nice. It was flat and didn´t have tall weeds growing in it. Every other day up to today, I have been playing soccer and games and singing with the younger kids and girls who don´t like playing baseball. I was determined to play baseball at least once while we are here, so today was the day. I started out playing with the girls and even talked a little English to Najomi, Pastor Louis´s daughter, who has been teaching herself English from watching TV. After a little while, I decided that if I played baseball maybe more girls would want to play.

Most of the kids were younger today, between 6 and 11, which made playing baseball more interesting and also more fun. Sometimes the pitcher threw from the mound, sometimes he or she threw from 10 feet in front of the mound, and sometimes from the first base line. There were a ton of kids standing in line to bat, and a ton of kids standing out in the field. No one was playing any specific position, and everyone ran for the ball when it came close to them. We finished playing and Pastor Louis from the Chinandega church led everyone in prayer before we dispersed for lunch.

Kevin took us to lunch at a local cafeteria style restaurant. He described it as a place our drivers and interpreters would eat on an everyday basis. We went through a line and the servers behind the counter put whatever we wanted on our plates and they were all piled high. All of the food was local Nicaraguan style, and it was all excellent. Our interpreter Jose said that each plate costs approximately $5. What a deal. While we were eating, one of the children who was playing baseball with us showed up outside the restaurant. He was looking through the windows and the door at us while we were eating and kept asking us to let him in. We figured that he probably rode his bike over from the church after we left. He was a very talented baseball player; he had a great arm and was great at catching.

When we got back to the church after lunch, we put some bracelets together and handed them out to everyone there. The kids, the parents, our drivers and our interpreters all got bracelets today. We each did our bead presentations, Aaron got soaked as usual, and they just keep getting better everyday. If we get to do them tomorrow, I´m sure they´ll be the best yet just in time for us to leave.

We´ve all been so worn out from all the heat and the sports that Will thought it would be a good idea to have round 2 at the beach today. No one was opposed. After we said our goodbyes to our new friends from today, Jose drove us to the beach. The beach was practically empty today because it wasn´t the weekend, and the tide was out so we went much further into the ocean than we did on Sunday. The water felt amazing, and we had a great time as a team.

To close out the day, we had our last dinner at the mission house. We had good old spaghetti with a special mango salsa made by Will with the mangoes that Tammy bought at the market yesterday. Overall, we have had a really amazing week. I´m sure tomorrow, our last day on the mission field, will be just as great as all the previous days. We are so blessed to be serving God in this beautiful country with such good friends at our sides.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

This post by: Will Thompson is a sophomore at the University of Missouri majoring in History and Philosophy. A native of Festus, Missouri, Will is a Peer Advisor for Residential Life at Mizzou, a member of Missouri Student Association (MSA), and a newly deemed member of Mizzou´s Tour Team. Beside his schooling, he enjoys camping, traveling, cooking, and is also training for a half marathon.

Today was a good day. It started out with our similar routine of breakfast, devotion, and then we packed up the Toyota van. We sang and whistled songs until our driver Jose turned on the radio, we still aren´t clear if he does it to provide music or because he wants us to stop singing. We soon arrived in La Joya, the same village were we worshiped on Sunday. La Joya is the town of Pastor Marvin, the president of the Lutheran Church in Nicaragua. When we got to the church we got to introduce ourselves to the kids. Our basic Spanish is improving each day so this process is getting easier, but I am still enjoying speaking through facial expressions. Nothing beats a smile :)

After arriving we soon headed to the sport fields to play with the kids. I´m a curious soul and I like to explore new places, but this sometimes gets me separated from the group. Well, somehow the group started heading to the fields without me and I came a few minutes late. However, this allowed me to meet Javier and  Benjamin on the road to the fields. Javier is 19 and Benjamin is 22, and as far as I could tell they were not connected with the church. They seemed eager to ´jugo beisbol´ so I had them follow me. We soon met up with the others and I got Javier and Benjamin each a ´guante.´ Again today, they wanted to play Nicaragua v. USA. The temperature was much more pleasant and breezy than the past few days. I´m sure it was still over 100 but knowing the actual number doesn´t make it more comfortable for me so I don´t ask. The competition and camaraderie we have in our baseball games really allows me to connect with the youth. Just by competing with, cheering on, and working with these kids, we are able build relationships with these kids that I know I won´t forget and I hope they won´t either. It has always felt great to group together after each game and pray with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

After we were finished playing baseball we walked by the school in La Joya and met up with the girls. They were singing and I was really excited to hear ´Alabare,´ a song I have not heard since second grade Sunday school. We soon went back to the church to grab lunch. After that we performed our bead skits. We had made many improvements to our skits and tailored them to captivate a younger audience. They were an attentive and captivated audience! We told our story and left them with a challenge to share it, and we are now leaving the rest to the work to the Holy Spirit.

After we were finished in La Joya we were able to take a brief trip to the market of Chinandega. The driving in these tiny streets would be very stressful, but our driver Jose doesn´t break a sweat as he slides between cars, bikes, carts and horses. We didn´t buy a lot today, we walked around and saw the culture of the city. However, we will go to the market again on Saturday and I´m excited to trying haggling for the first time.

Each day here has been a new and exciting experience. I´ve been able to eat mangoes picked from a tree, play baseball with a volcano in the backdrop, and most importantly, establish relationships with some of God´s beautiful children. They may not have as many iPhones and Wal-Marts as we do, but their is such beauty here in God´s creation. I´m reminded of it every time a child smiles at me, and thankfully they do it often. Today was a good day.
Today´s post by: Tammy Shafer hails from Green City, Missouri and is a Medical Technologist at NRMC in Kirksville. She is a member of Christian Home Fellowship. This is her third mission trip and second to Nicaragua. Her hobbies include trail riding and simply enjoying the great outdoors.

Today, we returned to the church in La Joya where we worshipped Sunday. This village seemed to be more developed than the other two villages we have seen. The reason for this is the government helped rebuild this village after hurricane Mitch in 1998. This community even had running water!

Last year, a church from the United States came to build a new school which included a playground and cafeteria. The cafeteria had a large fireplace to cook beans and rice for the students at both breakfast and lunch.  It was interesting to see a concrete basketball court in which the poles for the basketball backboards were also made into soccer goals...which may have helped some of the young boys climb up for slam dunks!

 The school housed grades pre-school through sixth and each class had their own classroom. This is such an amazing blessing and educational resource for the community. We also noticed the animals in the village were better kept than in other areas.

The backdrop of La Joya is very beautiful including a volcano (which was steaming up during our visit!) and small mountains. The baseball field had this backdrop opening into the center field. BEAUTIFUL!

I was involved with the girls helping them play soccer. It surprised me how competitive and aggressive they were. There is always a "ring-leader" in every group and that stands no different in Nicaragua. Nonetheless, the whole morning was fun and upbeat. We were building relationships with the girls, even though there was a language barrier. This rapport we built with the kids helps to better communicate God´s word.

Our audience of children was a much younger age group today than it was yesterday. Following lunch, we made some quick changes to our Christian bead bracelet presentation to fit the attention span and interests of 5-10 year-olds. Overall, the presentations seemed to be the best yet!

I am simply shocked that some 3 to 4 year olds roam around on these dirt streets and come to hold our hands, even though we are perfect strangers. I wonder, where are their mothers? This is obviously socially acceptable here, but we would be hard-pressed to see this in the United States.

Oh, and for those of you awaiting Weather-woman Tammy´s weather report, it was a chilly 103 degrees at 5 o´clock this evening.

After our time in the mission field, we had the opportunity to visit the market in downtown Chinandega. It was noted while walking through the meat market where we saw open carcasses in the hot weather, "Thank God, for the USDA!" We also saw a boy taking a nap on a huge pallet full of lettuce heads.

I am extremely proud of our team and our ability to adapt to new situations in the mission field. It is a blessing to be a part of this talented team. It is noticeable to see God at work through each of our team members, including our college students. It is amazing to see how the Holy Spirit can work through us in order to preach the Gospel. This further reinforces the verse Philippians 4:13 "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Today´s post by: Brett Williams is from Richmond, Missouri. He is a recent graduate from the University of Missouri earning his Bachelor´s of Science in Civil Engineering. He enjoys reading and studying the Gospels, Bible studies with others, and theology in general. He likes to travel and this is his first time serving as a missionary. He is thankful to share the love of Christ with others, especially in a third world country.

Today, March 27th, 2012, was an exciting and action-packed day with the team, the youth and members of the church and community, El Piloto. We started off the day before we left with a devotion that grounded us in our awareness of serving God´s Word, and also motivation to reach out to the members of the community here. We left the mission house not knowing exactly what God would have us do, but willing to seek opportunities to share, teach, and even learn for ourselves.

We got to the small church mid morning and met with the kids. After walking a short distance to an open dirt field, we divided up into groups for some games of soccer. The kids put up sticks at each end of the field, sticking out of the ground, and used them as goal posts. We all played a few games and had a good time, although our feet and legs got quite dirty.

Soon after, we pulled out baseball gloves from our equipment bags and handed them out to the children. They all seemed excited, and they hurried out to a bigger, more open and flat field next to the one that the soccer games were played in. We played catch at first to warm up, and then we divided up the kids for a game of baseball. Some of the kids were skilled, which makes me wonder how good they would be if they had some decent equipment and a good field to play on. We all seemed to have fun, and the views of the clouds and mountains made it a good setting for the late morning.

We took a break for lunch and got in the shade. One of the translators showed us a produce from a tree that was similar to honey. He said the younger members of the community eat it sometimes, and some of the group members tried it.

After lunch we all performed our colored bead skits for the church. This was our first time acting them out and we all did well with our translator. The kids were especially interested when a few skits involved washing some of the youth´s feet and pouring a bottle on a team member´s head.

The youth here seem very patient and eager to learn. Most, if not all, are well behaved and kind in manner. It is great to be here to reach out to them and share with them the love of Jesus Christ. The Lord has certainly blessed our trip thus far in our mission for His Word.