Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Why I’m Here – Mini Update

After a few months of teaching the kids things about horses and how to work with a horse that’s standing still in the barn (how to groom and saddle, etc.), it was time to start getting them to interact even more with the horse, and teach them how to lead.

Some kids fell in perfect step with Zoeva.

Zoeva is easily one of the sweetest horses you’ll ever meet. She’s not fond of having her cinch tightened and she might squeal and squirm when you hurt her bad leg, but she’s an angel otherwise. One week to demonstrate what faith meant, I sat beneath her belly while she was tied and then left the rope hanging over her neck and had her follow me in circles around the riding ring, which she did despite me having never trained her to do so.

And yet, nearly all of the pre-teen girls were terrified of her and didn’t want to step up and lead her. N led the pack and led Zoeva around the round pen first, but since she knows the horse well and is fearless (in their minds), that did nothing to encourage them to do the same. I got a few of the other girls to take the pony out for a spin, but the others took more convincing.

The little girls were shy but fearless.

As a couple of them cringed away from her while declaring their fear and desire to NOT lead her, little Zoeva would turn her head toward them, ears forward, and seemed to be asking them why they were so afraid of her. I don’t know how, but every time she picked out the girl who I had asked to go next, and stared her down until she relented and grabbed the lead rope.

She wasn't a big fan of the "barrel race" I set up, but the kids got a kick out of it!

I walked with the last three, and a conversation that I had had dozens (if not hundreds) of times at the camp in Michigan came to mind, and so I began it with all of them as I leaned casually on Zoeva’s neck. I asked them what is bravery. The answer came quick: “Not being afraid.” I shook my head and told them, “Being brave means doing whatever it is you want even though you’re afraid. It’s ok to be afraid, but you can’t let that fear stop you from reaching your goals or from doing what you need to do.”

They nodded their heads in agreement, but I pray that they meant it, that they really understood the lesson, that something has sparked in them and that by overcoming their fear of leading a horse, they can become emboldened to overcome other fears they have in other areas of their life. That’s why I’m at the Ranch. For this moment, where I can use a horse to reach the heart of a child.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Merry Christmas from Nicaragua! (December 2016 Ministry Update)

This month started out with a TON of sales! We were blessed with several opportunities in Tegucigalpa (the capital city that we’re about an hour outside of) to sell the jewelry and other things made by the trade school students. Because they were specifically for Christmas, we got a group of students together to make Christmas ornaments, wreaths, and paper bead garland.

Just a few of the beautiful Christmas wreaths the students made!

One ornament in particular, which one of our youngest students and myself had been making (he was new at it and therefore slow, so I contributed a few as well) ended up being WAY more popular than we had anticipated and so we sold out before the end of the first sale at the US Embassy. Praise the Lord! It was a HUGE blessing, and then we got several orders for more, so we put the whole “Christmas team” onto making them and cranked out 31 of them in just one day!

A few of my contributions to the sales.

The following week, we had three days of sales, two for one school and one at another. Although these sales didn’t go as well as the first one, it was still a blessing for the students, and I believe we’re planning on attending at least one sale again next year!

J and I stayed in the city since the sales were in the evenings and it was too late to be driving all the way back to the Ranch. It was a nice little mini-vacation in the city. J stayed with a friend and I stayed at a retreat center for a big non-profit organization which was really nice. It was slightly outside the city and up the mountain a bit so the back porch had an AMAZING view of the city and surrounding mountains.

We had all been waiting for the arrival of “Baby Cinco,” who decided to arrive halfway through our three days of sales, so J headed back to the Ranch and I went to one by myself with the help of another missionary. As soon as I finished setting everything up, I got the text I had been waiting for: Baby Cinco had arrived safely via a water birth attended by M, J and the kids, and M’s parents. He was healthy and beautiful!

My first time meeting Baby Cinco!

The following week, we wrapped up girls and boys Bible studies for 2016 by combining the two groups and watching a Spanish version of the story of the birth of Christ, putting on a play about the birth of Christ, and then doing a Christmas craft. It was a LOT of fun and the kids had a blast!

The angels announce the good news of Jesus' birth.

The shepherds come to worship the newborn King.

J gets the magi ready to follow the star to Bethlehem.

After that, I headed to Nicaragua to spend Christmas there with Roberto, where we also GOT MARRIED!! Our original plan had been to simply do the legal wedding so we could start the visa process, but then decided to just go for it, and also put together a simple church wedding… In 2 days. It was insane and super stressful, but once it was done and we were married, we were able to just hang out and relax for the rest of the time together. (Special blog coming soon just about our wedding.)

Small and simple. <3

Christmas in Central America is different than the States. Here, they celebrate on the 24th, which they call “Noche Buena.” They eat a big meal late in the evening with their families (around 11pm), and then at midnight, everyone lights off fireworks in the streets so that it sounds like a war zone. Gifts are also often exchanged at that point. Then on the 25th, most people have the day off to just relax and spend time with family.

My husband took me to see the many nativity scenes set up along one of the main roads.

Some were quite elaborate. This one had a waterfall behind it!

New Year’s Eve is often celebrated the same way, with fireworks and a big meal late in the evening. Unfortunately for me, a meal I had enjoyed earlier in the week had come back to haunt me, so I spent most of New Year’s Eve in bed with frequent trips to the bathroom. However, by midnight I was feeling slightly better and as the clock rolled over into the new year, I was on my knees praying with my husband, undoubtedly the best way to ring in the new year, recognizing how good God is and placing the new year fully into His hands.

I am unbelievably excited about everything that this new year has in store for myself and for my husband.

Please be praying:
-          For our marriage, that we continue to put God first in everything we do and that we continue to learn how to love and support each other, and for strength as we will be living most of our first few months as a married couple separated as he completes his final semester at university in Nicaragua and I continue to work at the Ranch.
-          For the trade school as we start up with full days again and as we decide what the students will be making this year so that they can have a good income through the ministry.
-          For the girls and boys Bible studies, that the kids come with hearts softened and ears open to hear the gospel that we present to them.
-          For the horses that God has prepared for the Ranch that we don’t have yet, that God would make those connections and that we would be able to bring more horses here to keep expanding the horse part of the Ranch.
-          For finances, as Roberto plans on joining me at the Ranch as soon as he can, so we will need to raise support for the two of us.

If you are interested in supporting us financially, you may do so online or by check.

Online: Visit and click the “Donate” button on the sidebar to give through PayPal. Make sure you include my name (or Roberto’s) and your email address so the funds can be directed to us.

By check: Make checks payable to “RO4Y” and include a note with my name (or Roberto’s) and your email address, then send the checks to: Rancho Oasis for Youth, P.O. Box 1853, Mason City, IA 50401.

My Christmas gift to Roberto: a painting inspired by a dream he had and then shared with me.