|The connection was very poor. Choppy and fuzzy. But we saw him!|
We had written out a list of about 15 questions that we wanted to hear about to keep our conversation going smoothly and not waste any of that precious time. And I took notes as we talked with him. Of course there are those first few moments after you cheer and say Merry Christmas where you are just so grateful that the connection actually went through—who cares that the picture is so fuzzy that it looks like his shirt blends in with the white wall in the background?! At first, you are just staring at each other and trying to pinpoint exactly how each of you has changed. Longer hair? Taller? Skinnier? We decided that he looks about the same. He claims that his weight fluctuates based on how many carbs he has to eat on a daily basis. He tried to show us the wound on his hand and explain how he treated it right away. But after about 5 minutes, the picture was choppy and we couldn’t hear what he was saying so that’s when we logged off and reconnected with voice only.
He told us that he cut his hand on a metal broomstick that broke when he and a friend were wrestling like they did back in the early church days. (I thought it was from a knife or machete—nope.) He cut his hand deeply, but was able to wrap it up and clean it using water, soap, and bleach. It was mostly healed by that time. He kept it clean and wrapped up. He was also suffering from an ingrown toenail that he was also trying to self-treat and heal. His dad told him to increase his antibiotics to 2 doses per day for 2 weeks. His only other ailment was a swollen knee (opposite leg from the ingrown toenail) caused by mosquito bites. Poor kiddo! At least he said he wasn’t having any tummy problems which are very prevalent in that mission.
The missionaries pay a lady to wash their laundry on a weekly basis. There is no washing machine, so all the wash is done by hand. This is a source of income for the laundry lady. He did say that the missionaries joke a little and say that their clothes get “the Puerto treatment”—but that means that some of his clothes have holes in them. He asked us to send him some new items. His boots are holding up well so far and he alternates between the two pair he has on a daily basis. He uses the shoe dryer to dry out the boots worn on the previous day.
His house is not on stilts. He and his companion share the house with another missionary companionship. They are renting out 2 of the rooms. The bathroom/toilet is an outside extra room, but it does have a flushing toilet. They have running water available for only 4 hours in the morning.
He hasn’t tried anything crazy yet. He said that turtle will be on the menu at some point. He is tired of beans and rice. They have a clean water source that they buy from the store. It is a large multi-gallon jug like the kind you see in offices. So that’s a relief!
They have about 4 wards in Puerto- each has about 70-100 members who attend. Often times it is difficult to help members realize that they need to stay seated until the end of church. He said it's like herding cats. They have a chapel building like the one in Managua. He travels to church on the bus—sometimes on the top, unless it is raining outside. Then they just cram inside. There is one family- his lunch cita (the lady who makes them lunch every day) who has 2 sons that they’ve taken out on splits to proselyte. It’s difficult to have many active priesthood holders because of the type of work that people do there. Most of the men are fishermen and are out on the ocean for 2 or 3 months at a time.
He’s mainly been teaching in Spanish, but has also been learning some Miskito phrases. For the most part, this area of Nicaragua is fairly laid back and the people avoid confrontation. People generally are up with the sun and go to bed when the sun goes down. Except for the drunks. They typically come out as soon as the sun goes down. As missionaries, they get up by 5:30 or 6:00, have study time, go out tracting, and must be back home by 6:30. He told us a story about one night when they were walking home and a drunk man with a stick threatened to hit him with it. Zach grabbed the stick from him and asked, “With this stick? Nah. You don’t want to use this stick.” Then he gave him a pamphlet on the word of wisdom (which gives counsel against drinking alcohol) and threw the stick in the ditch.
He said that the type of music they hear out on the street is really loud gospel style music and they sing like holy rollers with their hands raised and very loudly.
For Christmas eve, he said he didn’t get much sleep. The Nicaraguans shoot off fireworks all night long. All. Night. Long. He isn’t ready to find out what New Year’s Eve will be like.
The biggest thing he’s learned so far is Patience. He’s realized that people are free to make their own decisions and that his job is to search for the people who are ready to hear the gospel. Also, culturally it is considered a sin by another major church in the area (Moravian) to even talk to the missionaries. Of course, that is based on their fear. The mission focus (of course) is on the number of baptisms. But that doesn’t really need to be the whole entire focus of his own purpose while serving there. He has also noticed the tremendous deterioration of family values and unity as a result of a long lasting back to back wars in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.
His first favorite thing is finding people to teach. He LOVES sharing the gospel and finding people whose lives will be changed forever from it. He especially loves changing the lives of families and making them stronger in the gospel if they are part-member families, or bringing them into the gospel.
His second favorite thing on the mission are P-days (aka preparation days) where he gets to send and receive a weekly email from family and friends. He received packages from home, the Bos family, and his Lola and Lolo.
So that was it. We let him talk to us for as long as he wanted. What was most touching was that he wanted to hear from his sisters and cousins individually and find out what they got for Christmas and what they enjoyed the most that day. It had just snowed on Christmas Eve, so we had gotten a white Christmas. We sent him a photo of the peaceful snowy covering the lawn and trees in the backyard—something that he misses a lot in the eternal summer of Nicaragua.
|Not Nicaragua--but this is what he was missing.|