It's been an insanely busy month here, but I have finally moved to the city where I will be situated for these next few months...Chinandega!
Chinandega is another major city in Nicaragua, the fourth largest. It has a population of about 122,000. It is located in the northwest, bordering Honduras. Here is its location on the map of Nicaragua, along with some pictures of the town.
One of the 'main' streets in town. Can anyone spot Subway in the background? :)
Chinandega's Central Park.
Centro Plaza, a recently-constructed mall close to where I live.
San Cristobal volcano, in Chinandega - yes, it did erupt as soon as I got here! But everyone is fine. I just had to make a good entrance. ;)
What do you think Chinandega is most famous for? Let me tell you...it's the HEAT. Chinandega is THE hottest part of Nicaragua - temperatures average in the 90s, with at least 90% humidity. Coming from Maine, one of the coldest places in America, and spending most of my time in Esteli, one of the coolest places in Nicaragua, you can probably guess that this has been a HUGE adjustment for me. I'm not used to having to worry about the heat! Drinking plenty of water is a must here in Chinandega. I came to that realization the hard way when I got heat exhaustion the first week here and had to be taken to a friend's house to rest (Did I tell my mother about that yet? Oops!).
Thankfully, the heat in Chinandega is overshadowed by an incredible spiritual environment. The growth of Witnesses here is very rapid - Chinandega has the highest concentration of Witnesses out of any other place in Nicaragua. There are about 30 congregations here, and the town itself makes up two and a half circuits (not sure what the half means, that's just what I was told)! New congregations have been forming every six months, hence the need for more brothers.
Simon and I have had our record cards moved to the Ojo de Agua congregation (pronounced "o-ho day ah-gwa"). It means "eye of water," and it is in a very rural territory. This congregation is really friendly and close-knit. There are about thirty publishers here, and most of them have only been baptized for two or three years. There is one elder, and there are four servants, including Simon and myself. They need a lot of help, including a need for brothers and for support out in the ministry. We have five pioneers, but only one of them is actually Nicaraguan. On a typical morning, there are usually four, maybe five people out. Talk about having plenty of work to do! We're looking forward to helping out here. The congregation has a very positive spirit. Here are some pictures of the Kingdom Hall from the meeting this past Sunday.
The parking lot.
We live right in the center of town, and we take our bicycles out here. It's a rough road, and it takes about 25 minutes to get there. But it's such a beautiful area that you can't really complain (even though I do sometimes).
I love this picture - that's the Kingdom Hall in the background.
Of course, with my limited Spanish, being in a Spanish congregation that needs a lot of help is overwhelming at times. But wait! There is an English congregation here! There are 22 publishers in the congregation. It consists of a lot of Brits and Australians, but there are a lot of English-speaking people being found in the territory. There are many Bible studies being conducted in English.
Amber and Moises. It was her last meeting in Nica - she's moving to Costa Rica (rhyme!).
How tiny is she??
Amy and Abigail, both from England, out to eat after the meeting.
Junea - her and her husband David are from Australia. He is the coordinator of the congregation.
Having the English congregation close by is a big help, especially when my mind is exhausted from Spanish. I'll be attending the English meetings on Sundays, along with my meeting in Ojo de Agua afterward. Simon and I have both been able to help out at the English meetings - I gave the public talk last Sunday as well. They are definitely putting us to work here!
Ready for anything!
Life is certainly busy here. Jefte (pronounced "Hef-tay") is a brother about my age who speaks English fluently. He has been extremely helpful in getting us settled in, including helping us find a place to live (which I will post pictures of in the next blog - we're having some work done on the place). He teaches English here in Chinandega by means of a conversational class. Some of the Witnesses help out with instructing, or just go to the class to hang out. It's pretty cool!
Eduardo and Abigail instructing more advanced students.
With the Active English class.
After all of the craziness these past few weeks, we decided it was time for a much-needed beach day in Leon. It was just what the doctor ordered.
Settling in here has been a LOT to handle, but I'm doing my best! It's not without its difficult moments - whether it be because of the language barrier or the brutal heat - however, the good definitely outweighs the bad. I am determined to show Chinandega that it is no match for me!
Thank you all for your support! I will continue to keep everyone posted.