Tuesday, September 30, 2014

¿Qué Pasta? Pitahaya

Hi there!

Apologies that I haven't been blogging as regularly as I have in the past. I've been so involved with everything going on here, which is good, but I've been slacking on keeping in touch! It's hard to believe I've been back in Nica for almost three months already. The good thing is that I feel like I've established a good routine in this new congregation, which is something I haven't had for a very long time, and it feels really great. Now that things have settled down and we are in a new service year, I'm gonna try to get back to blogging regularly once again. I think I'll try to post every Monday from now on. It's a good day for me and it'll help me maintain the regularity of it all (yes, I'm talking to the 3% of you who wait on the edge of your seats for my next post). I may not always have thrilling things to share, but it's always good to check in!

This month has been a very good, albeit rocky start to the new service year. Zach got very sick for the first couple of weeks, and I got a really sore throat for a few days. However, we had a pretty fun guys weekend at the Laguna de Apoyo!

The house we stayed in.
We also had this pool right in front of the place! Not really necessary since we stayed in front of a perfect lake, but I'm not complaining!
I've written about this place before, but it never gets old. It really is a preview of the coming paradise. Plus, it was great to spend time with the guys. They've all been a huge support system these past few years.

Jefté and Henry off for a swim.
Moisés and I bragging about how we already went swimming.
Jef getting a serenade in a restaurant in Managua on our way home.
It was actually pretty cool!
Also, I had an idea to do some posts about food now and then, since I get many questions about that. I was gonna make it a periodic series called - and guys, come on, this is brilliant - ¿Qué pasta? Get it?? Because it's like ¿qué pasa? except it's about food, so it's ¿qué pasta? since pasta is a type of food??? Right???? Don't you roll your eyes at me. Yeah. That's right. I know you're rolling your eyes at me. However, I also know you're laughing on the inside.

Anyway, my point was to blog about different food, meals, and whatnot found here in Nicaragua. For example, one fruit that's a Nica favorite is pitahaya (also spelled "pitaya"), or dragon fruit.

Yes, I know you may be able to get them in the States, but did you know that pitahaya actually originated here in Central America? You did? Oh. Well, never mind then. For me, I had never heard of them until I came here. The first time I saw one, I thought it was a leftover prop from a Tim Burton movie, but when I tried it, I was pleasantly surprised! They've got a nice flavor!

First, you need to peel off the skin. Duh.

If you're like me, after you've cut it up, your hands will look like you've just murdered a Care Bear.

Scoop the fruit out of the peel and there you have it, folks! Pitahaya can be eaten straight up, made into smoothies, or added to fruit salads. I personally like to eat it straight up. Simplicity, guys. Simplicity.
 Wasn't that fun? That was just a preview of what is to come on ¿Qué pasta? Stay tuned, my friends!

In other news, service has been going very well as usual. Last week, we were preaching on a Friday morning and we walked past a man who was sitting outside his house reading his Bible. I don't have many moments like this, but I felt like I should approach him. I'm not always comfortable doing that, but come on, he was practically asking for it! I said a silent prayer for courage and walked up to him. He was very friendly and open to conversating (Google is telling me that conversating is not a word. Too bad, Google. Too bad.). I asked him if I could get his opinion on a Bible text, and had him turn to Matthew 6:9, 10. After reading it, I asked him what he thought God's Kingdom was. He knew his Bible well and replied that it is a heavenly government. We confirmed this by reading Daniel 2:44. He stated that he was a member of the local Evangelical church, but he was actually one of the first Evangelicals I've met who was normal, reasonable, and not, what's the word, obnoxious. We even watched the "Why Study the Bible?" video, which he really enjoyed. I left him with a tract and made an appointment to come back & answer the next question.

I thought that was the end, but a few minutes later, he followed us down the road and asked for this month's magazines! We only had August magazines to give him, but I told him I could pass by that afternoon to give him the latest issues. He said yes and was excited to see us again! I was glad that I approached him. It pays off to step out of your comfort zone! (Sidenote: I haven't found him home again...yeah, that was anticlimactic, but I know I'll find him soon!)

During one of my most productive mornings to date, Elias and I played ten games of tic tac toe.
One of my studies, Max, is currently in the second lesson of the Good News brochure, and he's doing very well. Last week, after considering the paragraph about God's name, we watched the video on the website that discusses that topic, and it complimented the study very nicely. He enjoyed it a lot. He captures points very clearly.

Our congregation did another rural preaching day out in Rancherias this past Sunday, and it was a lot of fun as usual. We had about 60 brothers and sisters in our group! The congregation really looks forward to these special days, and it's nice to see how excited they get for them.

Just a small part of our group!
We had some good discussions throughout the morning, but to be honest, it mainly consisted of looking at the pretty views and me teaching everybody some English words, particularly some Samisms. ;)

My friends Miguel and Crystal having a productive English lesson, if you could call it that.
Everything is so green right now. Thank you, rainy season!
That's all for now. It's 11:22 PM and I have to be up at 5:00 AM to teach an online class guys, yet here I am writing another blog. That's how much I miss you guys. That's how much I care!! I promise I will try to be more regular with the updates, now matter how mundane they may be! Be sure to check in on Monday. Please let me know how you're doing and remember to stay in touch!

Take care,


P.S. HOW did I not mention this before?! I got a new coffee maker, guys!!!! No wonder I've been in such a good mood these days!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

How August Was For Me

Hi all,

Well, here we are in September. August went by very fast, but it sure was immensely busy (See what I did there? Bam!). The tract campaign made it all the more exciting.

During all the month's activity, it was hard to find time to write. I won't lie, guys...I've got a lot to report, but I'll do my best to keep it short and sweet - he said, just before everyone closed their browser windows. Don't worry. I won't be offended if you skip the reading and just look at the preeeeetty pictures.

Okay, let's get to it!

The first Sunday of the month, our congregation organized a day to preach in Rancherias, one of the rural congregations in our circuit. We had a lot of support for the trip!

Rolando, our coordinator, leading the massive group.
Rancherias has a beautiful territory, and we were able to reach a lot of people. It's a very rural territory, but you'd actually be surprised by the number of people who use their phones to go online or travel into the city to use the Internet. So they still appreciated the tract about the website very much!

As I said, it's a beautiful territory! (I said that already, right?)

Really? We had to be on the parched side of the field?!

For me, the majority of the month consisted of familiarizing myself with my new territory in La Norte. Overall, I really like it! Because the territory is so big, we've got a nice mix of urban and rural areas. Although preaching in city areas has been new and refreshing, sometimes, I miss the peace and quiet of rural witnessing.

A typical part of our territory. I have a feeling I'm not in Ojo anymore!
And we have some rural areas as well. Best of both worlds! 
Even though there are more distractions in the city territory, people are still very receptive. I've got three studies going right now, and one good return visit that I think will develop into a study soon.

Erling having a doorstep study.
I've been showing people videos from the website any chance I get. People love them! I've started two studies with them.

Elvis placing a tract with a triciclo driver.
We've been starting early at the bus station a lot. It's always a great way to start the day. A few weeks ago, a boy and his little sister came up to me asking for a copy of the tract. I gave them a copy, which they fought over until I gave them another copy so they could each have one. They got really excited when I showed them how they could watch the videos about Caleb! As they ran off to school, all I could think was, "I'm so glad I don't have kids and that I don't have to mediate fights over who gets to use the computer."

Jefté preaching to a shop owner on an early morning.
I spoke to a guy who works in the bus terminal - wait, actually he approached me while I was trying to give a tract to a different guy - anyway, he listened in on our conversation and then asked for a copy of our Bible! He was genuine and he said he likes the easy-to-understand language of the New World Translation, so I'll be bringing him his copy tomorrow.

Erling placing a tract out in door-to-door.
Last week, I went out preaching with my friends Fernando and Denise in their territory, La Picota. It's a very rural area like Ojo and Rancherias, and their territory is massive! My favorite part of the day was when Fernando studied with a group of kids while Denise was having a study with one of their mothers. He's been going over the Learn From the Great Teacher book with them, and a couple of them have their own copies. He makes it very fun for them. They all love to get involved. He asked them what their favorite book is, and two of them held up the Great Teacher book, shouting at the same time, "This one!!"

Each of the kids loved showing off their reading skills.
Before the study, I showed the kids a couple of the Caleb videos. At first, there were four kids...

...and then there were seven! And another girl came along afterward!

It was really cute (sorry, I couldn't think of another word...sweet? Nice?) and they're all really smart kids.

You can tell these girls are totally thinking, "Girl, do you think he knows he's white?"
Jefté, knowing I was desperate for hours last month, helped me out by taking me on some of his late-night Bible studies. We always have a great time.

Notice that the tracts are different? The sign language tract is different, and it looks awesome!
One of Jef's calls watching the "Why Study the Bible?" video.
This next one has a bit of a story behind it. You might remember me mentioning my progressive study, Jorge. While I was in the States this summer, I got a call from my friend Zach, who was covering the study for me, saying Jorge had passed away unexpectedly. It really caught me off-guard, and I didn't take it well. Jorge and his family were always one of the biggest sources of encouragement to me down here, and without that, I began to question whether or not I had really accomplished anything during my time in Nicaragua. It was was one of the things that held me back from returning, to be honest. However, I knew that the best thing to do was to go back and get some closure.

Jorge at his first meeting a year-and-a-half ago.
As hard as it was, I'm very glad I did it. I spoke to his wife, Sandra, and she said it has been difficult for her, but she knows the best thing to do is to continue on with her study. When I saw their son Jorgito again, he ran right up to me, calling me "Uncle Sam" as usual and gave me a big hug. Sandra and I then discussed a new idea...the possibility of me studying with Jorgito. She said that would make her very happy, especially since Jorgito no longer has a male figure in his life to teach him the Bible, and that it would be best for me to do it. Jorgito was overjoyed at the thought, and we've been going of the Bible Story book ever since. It's helped both of us a lot. One thing that has especially comforted me is knowing that Jorge died doing the best thing, and that his life was worlds better when he was studying than it was years ago. He always told me to never forget his family. How could I, Jorge?

Jorgito watching the Noah video the other day. A few of his friends came and joined us as well!
Sorry if that was a bit too depressing! I'm doing much better now, and being in a new hall has been a very refreshing change. I've been making the most of all the changes that have occurred here, and each change has brought along new blessings.

...like having easy access to Coca-Cola, for instance!! This is how Elvis and I end each morning of service: having a cold bottle of coke (or poison, as we call it). Hey, man...when in Rome...or Chinandega?
Oh, and another reason why this past month was so crazy was that we had our convention here in Chinandega. I worked in the sound department for the first time, and it was a challenge, but a lot of fun!
With the Chinandega family!
Sound check...and butchering reading.

The sound team - a hilarious and very fun group of brothers, with whom I totally blend in.
If you couldn't tell by now, August was insane. We were encouraged to make it the best month in preaching history, and I can say for certain that for me, it was. It was a mad dash to make my pioneer hours, but I made it by the skin of my teeth! Fernando, Denise, Zach, and I went to the beach yesterday to celebrate. (Celebrating the first day of the new service year by taking a day off...? It was an exhausting month, bros.)

Fernando, Denise, and I pondering creation...and Zach being a very patient photographer.
Is that it? I think that's it. I'd better stop now before I ramble about anything else. Sorry, guys...can't say I didn't warn you. I've only been writing this for about three-and-a-half hours. What else am I gonna do on my day off? Something productive? Do you know me?!

Bring it on, new service year! (Yeah, I've got moves.)
I hope you all are well. Thank you all for your continued support and encouragement. I know I say that a lot, but I do mean it. You guys are the best! Miss you all and I'll talk to you soon.

Take care,