Sunday, October 25, 2015


Beginning in October, Nindirí has been invited to participate in a KH build in La Paz, Carazo.  Here, even when RBC existed, it never did in Nicaragua.  What we have are construction groups who settle in an area 2-3 months and work with the local congregation and surrounding congregations to complete the KH.  Each day, two different congregations are invited to support the work.  So far, we have gone three times.  I have attached some photos showing progress.

Taken Sept 11, 2015.  Only dirt.  The men spent all day digging a 6 ft. deep trench in a square around that high pile of dirt you see. 

Taken Oct 23, 2015.  That dirt trench is now the retaining wall that you see surrounding the KH.  Lots of progress, right?!
Because of budget concerns, just about everything is done by hand on the site.  And if you're looking for an RBC safety video, better you just turn your head and forget about it.  Shoes are whatever fits and hard hats are optional.  For instance, that trench I mentioned above could've been done easily with a backhoe, but we don't have one...we used manual labor.  On my first build here, men were manually mixing concrete all day...truly back breaking labor, but thankfully, I see that on this build, the one machine we DO have is a small mixer.  

Another big difference is comfort.  If you come to work, you arrange your own transportation and bring your own everything.  There's no snack girl walking around every hour giving you Gatorade and cookies.  And even though it's over 90 degrees, everyone is completely covered because 20 minutes in this sun EVEN with sunscreen, and you're toast.

There's also a slight difference in the spiritual ambiance.  The day does NOT start with a prayer or text consideration nor does lunch.  It often seems kind of thrown together, but then again this  IS Latin America.

To give you another example of things done by hand, we even made our own concrete...well, to be more specific, we make our own sand to mix with concrete bags.  On Friday, my job was separating gravel from concrete.  These sisters in the pictures show you how. 
Gravel was poured into screen netting first.
Then the gravel was immersed in a barrel of water.  By agitating the gravel, we separated the large bits from the sand.  The sand fell to the bottom of the barrel and as the water level rose, we scooped the sand out for later use. *My thanks to my Vanna White-ish model, Cathy Solowiejko from Pan Casán, Granada, for helping me demonstrate this.  She was a super fun partner to have on Friday!*

In the wheelbarrow is what we started with.  The other pile is the gravel and a pile behind me (which you can't see) is the sand.
 The really exciting news though is that when they're done with La Paz in about three more weeks.............THEY'RE COMING TO NINDIRÍ!!!!!!!  Yeah, we're up!  The congregation is in a buzz about how we're going to provide housing and food to the team coming, but I know that if we have a good attitude, Jehovah will bless our prayers for help.  So my hope is that a VERY SOON future post will have these kind of pictures from my local congregation.
Just as a reminder, this is the land we've purchased as the site for the future KH in Nindirí

Saturday, September 5, 2015


You know the saying "You can't go home again"?  What I've learned is that's 100% true.  It's the weirdest feeling to spend 11 months of the year pining for your home country...friends, family, food, everything that's familiar...and then arriving to find that nothing feels quite right.  It actually feels like a pretty unfair situation that in the country you serve you often feel on the edge of everything because of language or cultural differences, but then you go home, and you feel the exact same way.  Why?  Why is all this weirdness happening?  I mean, I lived 30 years in the U.S. before I came to Nicaragua, so why do I feel so strange when I go home?  Why do I feel like it's my home country giving me culture shock?

Well, it's because life doesn't exist in a vacuum.  When I go home, friends have moved on, congregations have changed, family dynamic is different, etc.  But in my heart I pressed pause the last time I left the U.S., so it feels strange to me.  Also, living full-time in a 3rd world country makes the adjustment to a 1st world country quite the kick in the gut.  Everything's so big and developed and easy, and it makes everyday decisions feel hard.  Constantly debating prices vs. value and feeling really overwhelmed at the amount of choices.  I have to carry lists with me of needs when I go into stores because if I don't know exactly what I'm looking for, I get overwhelmed and just walk straight back out.  My Mom has had to drive me back to a store to ensure I actually buy what I really need.  Whether I like it or not, this land of lakes and volcanoes has gotten under my skin.  We have a love/hate relationship, but at the same time, don't YOU talk smack about it, because I'll defend it in a minute.

But you know what?  In a way, all this weirdness is good.  Because do you know what's worse?  Having a roundtrip ticket back to Nicaragua but going home and feeling like "THIS is amazing!   THIS I could do again.  I REALLY REALLY miss all of THIS".  Because then you're in trouble. Then you've let yourself get comfortable maybe even dreaming of how life would be back in the land of plenty and basically just ensuring a REALLY hard transition back to your assignment and A LOT of tears at the airport.  So my personal wish every time is to feel just a little weirdness...just enough to ensure I get on that plane back each time.

Thursday, September 3, 2015


I know that most of you who read this blog are wanna-be need greaters or may already have some plans in the works.  I think it's important to address the question, though, of WHAT KIND OF NEED do you want to fill?  Let me explain a few options so you know what I'm talking about.

Are you an appointed brother?  Then there's an excellent chance that the need you'll be asked to fill will be elder in a congregation.  Here in Nicaragua the maximum elders you'll ever find in a congregation are four.  Four elders for 100 people!  We have a DESPERATE need for elders.  So it may be that although you were thinking you'd be sent in the middle of the country with no running water or someplace like pictured below, you're sent to the middle of the capital!

There are other congregations here who focus on foreign languages within Nicaragua like Miskito, Chinese, or English.  They have vast territories they need to census on a regular basis, so you may find that your service with them is made up mainly of search work rather than conducting a million Bible studies.

Then you have congregations where the need truly is the territory.  It may be covered somewhat often but quantity has trumped quality.  Or it just needs to be worked period.  Here would be your opportunity for those million Bible studies.

How would you know what's best for you?  Well, if you're only able to come for a month or so, pick a congregation where you can do lots of census.  Or come during a campaign to help a congregation with a vast territory.  If you're coming for a longer period of time, you can actually cultivate those studies in a need territory, so go for it!  Are you married?  Although you, as an appointed brother would have plenty to do in a busy, metro congregation, what about your spouse?  Would she feel ok working a territory that's possibly covered every two weeks?

These are all important things to be considered before choosing a congregation.  And I can't stress enough that these are items you NEED to include in your letter to the branch when you ask about need areas.  Make sure you are specific in the TYPE of need you want to fulfill.  And make it a matter of prayer.  Tell Jehovah the exact type of need that interests you most and let him direct the rest.

Side note: don't forget about your own needs...physically, emotionally, spiritually.  If you're the only appointed brother in the group and have to direct every single meeting, will that be a detriment to your spirituality?  If you're put in a vast territory alone in the middle of nowhere, will that effect your physical health? If you're the only foreigner in your district, will you feel too lonely?  What about your emotional health?  Know thyself...then act accordingly.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


Who doesn't love service experiences?  Well, lately we've had some really good ones while occupied in our public witnessing with the cart.

Last week, a man was parked in front of the bus stop we were set up at waiting for a coworker.  He got out of his vehicle and said the WT cover caught his attention.  In talking, he revealed that a few months ago, his teenage daughter was very depressed and even had started to have suicidal thoughts.  However, she was given the Awake! which came out recently about why life is worth living.  He said it really helped her, and he credits Jehovah's Witnesses with saving his daughter's life!

Then yesterday, a woman approached the cart and asked specifically if we had a Bible Stories Book.  I said we didn't, but we're regularly in the same location if she'd like to come another day I'd have it for her.  But she was from out of town.  She was willing to give her address and phone number and agreed to have a local sister call on her to bring her the book.  She explained that when she was a girl, she always saw her father reading a large red book edited by Jehovah's Witnesses.  The way he read it made her think it was important, so she wondered if we had one.  I assumed she spoke of the Live Forever book and explained it's no longer in print, but all the things her Dad was learning was transferred to the new Bible Teach book.  I showed her the book and asked her if she personally had ever had an opportunity to study the Bible.  She responded that no, just her Dad years ago.  So I offered for the local sister to also demonstrate for her a Bible study when she stops by with her Bible Stories book.  She agreed to that too!  Now it's in Jehovah's hands to make sure she's rapidly followed up on.

A few weeks ago, a man approached the cart after watching it for over an hour.  He explained that about a year prior, he was in a car accident that killed everyone involved but him.  He figured that meant that God had a plan for him and he'd been attending a local church trying to figure out what that plan might be.  We were able to share various Scriptures with him, placed a Bible Teach book, and got his information.  One of our local brothers now has the information to follow up.

We regularly have people who are on the buses and momentarily stopped point to literature and we run it up to them before the bus takes off again.  And when the schools let out, all the students come to ask for YPA books.  They've seen classmates with them and LOVE them!

Jehovah's really making the work grow through this ingenious idea, and I'm just trying to do my part in cultivating conversations and extending the conversation past the cart.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


 So we recently had the circuit overseer's visit again, and his talk for the pioneers was exactly what I personally needed.  We've been having a lot of issues lately with the pioneers having to go alone to their studies.  Of course, we'd like to support each other, but we all have so many studies, we often can't combine them all into one afternoon.  And for some reason, we can't get publishers to accompany us or invite us to their own studies.  It's been more than a bit discouraging, but Bro.Zeledón gave us some good suggestions.  It was actually mentioned as a need of the circuit during the large pioneer meeting before the circuit it seems the problems extends to more than just Nindirí.  I plan on being obedient and putting into practice the suggestions given and just have to trust Jehovah will move the hearts of the publishers to respond.
But look at this big group!  I didn't know most of them were pioneering this month, so it was neat to see us all together.
I had made some brownies as a treat after the meeting.  I found out this is what happens if I leave my camera unattended by the brownies!

All six of us regular pioneers plus a visitor we've had the last few months from Atlanta (in the blue shirt).

Wednesday, May 6, 2015


Another amazing assembly has come and gone.  This time I had the pleasure of going with some visiting friends.  When I went to the International Assembly in October in Mexico, I met these fine sisters above.  They live in Fresno, CA and Karina (with the red polka dot top) supports a Chinese congregation.  They wanted to experience Nica living so have spent the last three weeks here.
There's always someone who gets baptized at our assemblies, but this time, we were honored to see two from Nindirí symbolize their dedication to Jehovah.  I've written about Don Silvio in former posts (the candidate in the goldish shirt).  He was so excited he literally screamed his answers to the auditorium.  That kind of enthusiasm is contagious!

Oliver is the other new brother from Nindirí.  So nice to see youth raised in the truth decide to follow the footsteps of their parents.  And yes, this is another dress Juanita made for me.  Simple but cool.  It was almost 100 degrees during the assembly ew!

Saturday, April 4, 2015


I hope everyone had a great Memorial and campaign this year.  It's so much work and preparation getting ready for this most important event, and I just wanted to share some Nindirí activities with you.

Thanks to Jehovah we were able to finish our territory this year with the invitations.  And it seems like it paid off because we had a larger attendance this year than last.  Nindirí had 252 in attendance and our rural group had 80; grand total of 332!!  Not bad for 100 publishers!  We're especially excited about our group (San Francisco's) potential considering only about 20 publishers are assigned there.
Since our cleaning is all manual and we're always open to the elements, it's an all-week activity.  We had cleaning days Monday and Thursday afternoons and Friday morning.  What you're seeing here is over 100 rental chairs being washed by hand.  Then each one had rough parts sanded down (by yours truly) and a final wipe down.  Then, as usual, we flooded our hall to get a good scrub done.
These are some of my students who attended.  There's one young girl missing from the picture.  Also, three of my former students attended so maybe there's still hope there?!  Let me tell you about the young lady on the far right, Erania (she brought her friend with her standing on my other side).  We've been studying over a year and this is her first KH visit!  When I invited her to the Memorial, she said she had a school activity planned on the same night that counted for half her class grade.  We read Matthew 6:33 together and had a long talk about faith and putting Jehovah to the test.  When I checked in with her again last Sunday she told me, "Yeah, I'm coming!"  I asked her if she had worked things out with her teachers, and she waved me off with her hands and said, "Jehovah first."  Do you know how much it warms my heart to hear expressions like that from my students?!  

 Just a sampling of Nindirí's beautiful youth.
 My baby Samir's 1st Memorial with his matchy-matchy parents.
One of my elders and fellow pioneer, Alexis, and his wife, Carla, and I.

So my takeaway this year?  We're still growing and there's still so much work to do here which makes me feel REALLY excited.  Also, don't give up on my students.  Sometimes it's like Jesus´ parable from WT study from a few weeks just takes a while to see the growth because it's been underground until now.

Monday, March 16, 2015


Yesterday, we enjoyed a Special Meeting broadcast from our branch in Mexico.  We had a representative from London Bethel and then another from U.S. Bethel present AMAZING talks as well as give us the yearly report.  Jehovah knows what we need at the right time, doesn't he?  I was already excited for the meeting but then to be able to listen to BOTH of the talks in English (it was interpreted for the rest of the audience) was just beyond my dreams.

I wanted to share with you guys my favorite point from the session.  Bro. Robert Luccioni, helper to the Governing Body (he was the one featured on March's JW Broadcast), expanded on a theme about keeping up with Jehovah's organization.  He mentioned that what's interesting is that when you compare the visions that prophets like Daniel, Ezekiel, Isaiah, and John had, they all at one point, received the exact same vision...they were able to see a glimpse of Jehovah's heavenly organization.  And it really awed them...some fainted, some were speechless, etc.  In the case of Isaiah, he was so impressed that when Jehovah later asked for help, he immediately offered himself (6:8).  Why?  Because he understood who was behind the curtain.

"Peer behind the curtain" was a phrase used often in the talk, and although it wasn't mentioned, I immediately thought of the Wizard of Oz.  Remember after that long and arduous journey, Dorothy was expecting something amazing and instead was soooo disappointed to see who was behind the curtain directing things?  Just a small old man.
Well, in our case, it's the complete opposite.  When we peer behind the curtain and see that behind our own personal ministry, our congregations, our countries and branches is Jehovah, the Almighty of the Universe....we are filled with such comfort and confidence that we're inspired to be just like Isaiah and offer ourselves for any job needed.

And they pointed out that although we often just feel like small cogs on a big wheel we are ALL SO NEEDED AND APPRECIATED.  Our organization is massive and incredible and would never be possible without Jehovah, but would also never be the same without the efforts being made by EVERY SINGLE PUBLISHER.  So look beyond your small congregations and personal struggles and realize that you are a part of something so big and amazing!

We've been having these Special Meetings once a year and in every one it's just stressed over and over again the love that the Governing Body and Jehovah have for us.  To prove the point, they shared some experiences and comparisons that brought most of us to tears. And they brought out that with basically one Bible study to every publisher (approx 1.7 million if I heard that right) we still have SOOOO much work to do in this region.  I don't know about you, but now that I know who's behind the curtain, I feel more zealous than ever to do whatever's needed in Jehovah's service.

Friday, March 13, 2015


I have an idea about how to earn some money the next time I'm in the U.S., but I want your feedback on it.

Remember I posted a while back about how many bring home handmade goods from their host country and sell them?  Ok, so I've stumbled onto this AMAZING opportunity and wanted to see if anyone else is as excited as me.

There's this restaurant/store in Granada called El Tercer Ojo and in one shop is incredible leather goods that go by the brand name CocoBolo (click for the website to see examples of work).  They're over $100 for a small bag.  Well, I was on a study a while back, and the Dad was working with leather in the background. When we take our leave I see he's stamping CocoBolo on his products.  Poor thing sells his work to this shop for next to nothing.  So I asked if he makes things for people too and not just shops, and he said yes.

When our friend Andrea was here, she tried it out, and got to customize a crossbody leather bag for a fraction of what it would cost in Granada or her native Canada.  Literally, picked size, type of leather, color, number of pockets, buckle vs. zipper, CUSTOMIZED!!  Now I have another friend getting a beautiful bag, wallet, and Bible cover for a ridiculously cheap price for leather goods.  Here's some pictures of his type of products:
Very similar to his style

Andrea's actual bag
So my question is, would anyone be interested in ordering one??  I'm coming home for a few weeks in June, and I could bring the bag then ship it to you.  The gentleman works off pictures and dimensions, so you'd just need to tell me specifics on what you want (sending pix of course), and I could transmit that idea to him.  He'll quote me a price, and you can let me know if that + shipping would be acceptable.  If so, maybe pay me half now and the other half in June upon delivery.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


About a month ago, my good friends Rosaura and Sergio David tied the knot and very kindly invited me to their wedding.  They had such a nice courtship and were one of the few couples I could actually stand to be around while dating.  I just wanted to share some pix of the happy day and some observations about Nica weddings.
One of the bridesmaids and Rosaura's best friend, Selene, and me

First look...just ignore the creeper in the back

A missionary who once served Nindirí gave the wedding talk

The happy couple!  Rosaura's dress was incredible...very elegant!

Groom's family

Bride's family
This is now the third wedding I've gotten to attend in Nicaragua, and I've started to notice a pattern.  I'm going to try and describe it so you understand what I mean.  The wedding part itself always seems kind of thrown together.  Usually what happens is we're all meandering around when out of nowhere the bride shows up at the door, rapid-fire her maids or family march down the aisle with her hot on their heels, and somewhere in the process someone remembers to turn on a Kingdom melody.  I have no good pictures of anyone coming down the aisle because it's over before you know it.

The other strange part comes at the end.  At no wedding has the couple kissed at the end.  Often they don't even hold hands or show affection during picture taking.  For instance, Rosaura and Sergio David presented themselves with a very chaste...hug *deadpan*.

Then comes the pictures.  Once the talk is over, everyone rushes the stage and poses with the couple for a picture.  The thing is, there's no one organizing these pictures and usually no professional photographer.  So what happens is you usually have a picture of yourself and the happy couple in the midst of a million people OR with some other random person hanging onto them you couldn't chase out of the picture.  And it's like pulling teeth to get the whole family together for one good shot either because they've wandered off somewhere or again, you've got a bunch of random people in the same shot with the family.  I feel really bad for a lot of these couples later wondering what the final pictures look like.

For some reason, the reception is where it's at.  Many Witnesses only attend the reception, and it's always very elegant, well organized, with yum food and booty shaking.

No judgement...just observations.

Monday, February 16, 2015


On this blog, we've talked before about the challenges of learning a foreign language.  I know them well as Spanish is the 2nd foreign language I've learned.  I actually studied French all through high school and college, lived in France for a time, and used to be fluent believe it or not.  My Spanish journey started in February 2008 when I moved into my first Spanish congregation.  It's been a long journey but enjoyable mainly because I have always been fascinated with languages.

For about 6 months now I've actually been teaching one!!  Yep, I am now officially a Spanish teacher with 6 students, and that's how I've been supporting my need greater activities.  Every so often I do piece work or translation through but mainly everything is classes now.

I mention it because I have room (and need, quite frankly) for a couple more students *hint hint*.  I charge $15/hour, recommend 1 hour/week, teach both children and adults, and it's all online.  I'd be happy to provide references if you so require.  My specialty is listening to you converse and read in Spanish and being able to tell exactly where you need to focus your efforts.  However, I have other students who started from square one and can fill that need too.

If you're interested, just send me a message via the private email form on the right side of the screen.  Thank you in advance for your consideration and recommendations.

Friday, February 13, 2015


For all you potential need greaters thinking about Nicaragua, check out the new page "Nica FAQs".  It's located between the title and this blog post.  Just click on the title and you'll see the page.  I'm open to suggestions if any burning questions have been left out.

Monday, February 9, 2015


I get a lot of questions about what gifts or special needs does a need greater have, so I thought I'd do a post to try to help.  First of all, let me just say we are so blessed to have an organization where we treat each other like family.  I personally have been the recipient of extreme generosity both inside and out of my family so.....THANK YOU!!!

But let's say you're on a tight budget and see a need greater has come home for a bit.  You want to help, but how?  Anything still practical but more subtle than an envelope of cash?  Here's some ideas:

  • Work!  Need greaters are typically home to earn money to keep their dream going.  Is there something you were already going to pay someone to do that you could offer to a need greater instead?  You may think the money's so small, it doesn't matter, but remember, they're returning to a country where a few US dollars goes a long way.  There's now even a website where you can offer that work...
  • Lodging.  Sometimes need greaters end up in an area where there's no family because they have more earning potential there.  Could you offer your extra bedroom or a few meals to help with their daily expenses while they're in the States?  It's temporary and a HUGE financial help.  Many come back for Regional you have room in your vehicle or hotel room for them?

Family and friends with whom I know I ALWAYS have a place with when I go home :)
  • Transportation.  Most need greaters sold their vehicles already and used the money in their assignment.  As you know, unless you're in a huge metro area in the U.S. where public transportation is available, you NEED a vehicle.  Do you have an extra one that could be loaned on a short term basis?  Check with your insurance, but typically, as long as you've given them permission to drive, they are covered under your policy for any accidents that may occur.
  • Direct Order.  Lately I've seen a lot of need greaters bring products back from their assignment and sell them in the States for a little profit.  They then use that money towards the saving they bring back to serve.  For instance, from Nicaragua I've seen exotic jewelry made from coconuts or tortoise shell, organic coffee, leather goods, publication covers, etc.  Could you communicate with a need greater before they come and put in an order?  You'll often spend much less than buying the same item in the States and the product can often be custom made.  Remember, the more the need greater buys, the better discount they receive.
  • Buy Skype credit for them.  Some have given me gift cards when I go home, but it's often not very practical because I have only a month to use it!  However, Skype is soooo important to us!  It's often how we work and keep in contact with home.  Could you put $5-10 on their account for an emergency call home?
  • Need greaters are often in very primitive conditions and on a tight budget.  Luxury goods don't exist for us either because we have no access or can't afford it.  A small gesture can often mean soooo much for us.  For example, a fancy coffee or cocktail out, a nail polish, a very American dessert, a museum visit, etc.  It doesn't cost much and represents everything we can no longer do.
Some NY friends treated by roommate and I to some fine chocolate during my last trip home.  It was heaven!  And greatly appreciated :)
  • Finally...good association!  Have us over!  Let us show some pictures or tell experiences! Better yet, let us know what's new with you!  We cherish our friends back home and time together is so precious, so take advantage!

Just a few shots of the amazing hospitality I receive every time I go home...these form some of my fondest memories!

If any other need greaters want to chime in, please do so!  Everyone's circumstances are different so you may have identified a need I overlooked.   Thanks again!

Monday, February 2, 2015


And she's gonna make some trouble...

Do you guys remember Andrea?  She served here two years ago with my roommate, Shelina, in sign language.  She's Canadian and can't properly pronounce the word "about", but we still love her ;)  She is gracing us with a ten day visit, and we couldn't be more pleased.  Here's some of the antics we've already gotten into with her...
Andrea and I at the English Circuit Assembly.  Can you tell who is whom?  Well, Nicas can't.  When she was here everyone thought we were the same person.  You know what they say....we all look alike anyway hahaha.

Andrea making fun of my food and drink pictures

Funday Monday at a restaurant by our house called El Bucanero.  If you eat there, you can use the pool for $2 all day.  We got there early and took advantage!!  Great views of Masaya Volcano and the Masaya Lagoon.

Now THIS is how a food/drink pose is to be done, and learn!

And like THIS!  Shelina ate this and I was jealous.  Best seafood soup EVER!  Lobster, mussels, crab, shrimp, and a whole fried fish in an amazing broth.  $13 or $11 without the lobster.

Our view for the day

Shawn and a volcano!!

Thursday, January 29, 2015


This could be your new home!!

Just wanted to share some exciting news a friend of mine told me about.  You may have read in the news how Nicaragua has started a project to open a canal connecting the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean.  It'll be another Panama canal, so to speak.  Well, this presents us Witnesses with an amazing opportunity.  

You see, China is financing the work and has sent hundreds of workers to the Nicaragua/Costa Rican border for a five-year long project.  In response, we already have friends here from Pennsylvania who have learned Chinese and are ready to meet the spiritual needs of these workers.  Could you come too?  The ones I know of are working from San Juan del Sur which is right on the Pacific, has great surfing, and a Spanish and English congregation already established for your meetings.  There's also a Chinese group in the capital, Managua, for you to send your addresses to if you can only come for a short time.

Monday, January 26, 2015


Last week some dear, dear friends of mine invited me to their baby shower.  After many disappointments, they will be welcoming Miss Dayana Shelina to the world (with Jehovah's help) in March.  Soooo happy for them!  The party was in Granada and it was really nice to catch up with old friends and relax a bit.

Shelina trying to feed baby food to Alixe while blindfolded.  Things disintigrated quickly...

Diana with her own Mami, Pilar, who is dying to welcome her first grandbaby!!

What?!  You've never been to a baby shower that broke out into a dance party?  You've clearly never been in, EVERYTHING has the potential to break out into a dance party :)  And let me just say, when there's no boys around these chicas can GET DOWN!!