February 2016 Conchshell Chronicles
Last week, we began the 2016 Project Ezra school year in seven communities along the Rio Coco in northeastern Nicaragua. It is our 30th year educating children on the Coco River.
(Photo: Truman and Michael paddle down the Kruta River in November 1984 with our friend Dan.)
When we started Project Ezra in 1986, Ronald Regan was president of the U.S. A gallon of gas cost $.93. A first class stamp was 22 cents. The biggest threat to the Free World was the Soviet Union. Nobody owned a computer or cell phone. Michael and his Miskito Indian co-worker Truman were in their mid 30’s.
Since then we have seen four presidents, the Soviet Union collapse and disappear, gas prices climb to over $4 and settle back to $2, and the cost of sending you our newsletter more than double to 49 cents. There are new cell phone towers on the Coco River. Michael and Truman are now in their mid 60’s.
It’s been an incredible adventure since that day that two refugees came to our house in Auka and asked us to help them start a school in Sawa. Because of the Sandinista Miskito war that began in 1981, it had been five years since the refugee children had any opportunity for formal education. The two refugees were Augusto Vicente and Sophia Borst, who still serve as our supervisors for the school project. Both Sophia’s son, and Augusto’s daughters and son also serve now as teachers in our schools!
Photo: Augusto (checked shirt) and Sophia (second from left standing next to a young boy named Danilo Cunningham) singing with Myrna holding daughter Maiga with Jasper, Celia, Leskia, and Rodolio in front.
Photo: Augusto, Michael, and Truman visiting a Project Ezra school in 1987.
It was a God-Thing from the beginning. Sharon Washburn arrived from Maple Valley Washington to train our teachers in May of that year. I flew to Tegucigalpa to find school books and became friends with Victoria Palacios, a professor of education at the National University who was publishing her own series of textbook. She came out and trained our teachers during the next three years. Our ministry partner John Freyer found school sponsors in California who provided the funding in those early years. Our co-worker Ron Bross and Truman trekked through the Kruta and Coco river jungles to make an all-important survey of all the refugee villages in our zone, and soon we had primary schools in 12 refugee villages. We had no idea of what we were doing, but God did. As we look back, we realize that His plans were much bigger than ours.
Photo: our school in Sih Rio Coco 1987.
Notice the fine construction with soft seating and blackboard at the rear.
Photo: our school in Kiwastara Rio Coco 1987.
We built this using hand saws, rough lumber, bamboo, and leaf for roofing.
When the war ended in 1990, we were ready to head back to Maui and get our life back on track (what thinking?!?!) however the new Minister of Education for Nicaragua contacted us and coerced us into crossing the river and returning to Nicaragua with the refugees. We became the “government school” and have continued to be placed in charge of our school district each year by the Nicaragua Ministry of Education. They are grateful that we provide teacher training, teacher salaries, school supplies, building maintenance, and monthly supervision trips. Our schools in the most remote zone of the Atlantic Coast are performing equal to many schools and better than most in more civilized areas. It is quite amazing actually.
In a region where Christianity was relatively new, these schools opened the doors to the communities and families to understand a personal relationship with God and His desires for our lives here on Planet Earth. In a heavily charged spiritual climate where demonic forces ruled many aspects of life, the entrance of the power of the Holy Spirit into familial relationships and community life transformed the society in many ways. It has been a slow process, but the aspect of outsiders coming and serving a people group that is very isolated and was severely oppressed by the Sandinista government policies, did provide a strong witness to the love of God for the Miskito people. 30 years after beginning what we thought was a very temporary project, we have all the leaders, pastors, and teachers of these communities products of our education project. In addition, many have moved to the more civilized part of Nicaragua and become doctors, lawyers, agronomists, and professional business people. We have even had one of our students who was the Governor of the Northern Autonomous Region!
Along with many of the students and adults in our communities, we too have been transformed by this experience. We all are closer to God and acting more like Him because of our time working with Him these past three decades. God makes a regular habit of showing up! He’s there as we plan out the year and ask Him what we should be doing; He’s there as we teach and share with our students; He’s there when a boat breaks down or a child gets sick. He’s there when we need money for school supplies or a new outboard motor. He’s there when we deal with relational issues within our team, and with the families in our communities. He’s there when political oppression comes, as it has often these past years. He’s there to protect us from corrupt leaders who often demand bribes. He is there to encourage us when we feel spiritual oppression, and protect us from the schemes of our enemies.
I know that over these years thousands of Miskito children have been impacted by our project. Thousands of adults have learned to read and write. Most of the families along our 50 mile stretch of river have received tons of relief supplies, food, and clothing over these past thirty years.
But Truman and I both agree, the ones who have been impacted the most have been us. When we are together now, we spend much of our conversation remembering the things that God has done among us, and how we are thinking and acting differently than when we first met in November of 1984. Truman and I are not the same men as we were then. Laura and all the others who have been with us since the 80’s, 90’s, and 00’s will tell you the same- we have all been touched and transformed by what God has done among us.
I know that many of you have as well. As we have visited with you all over these years, and corresponded and spoken by phone, it is obvious that God has done a great work among us all! That is what this adventure with God should do! Michael
Photo: Nick. Lazzie, Laura and Michael at the Radford Coffee Co.
When Eric and Barbara Johnson (the missionaries in our ohana) sat us down and handed us the first donation for Project Ezra (Schools) on the Rio Coco from the Radford Coffee Company, all I could do was cry and feel deep sentiments of gratitude and thanks to God and to them.
The responsibility that rests on our shoulders for raising funds for our Miskito family on the Rio Coco felt lighter and I was filled with a sense of hope and inspiration.
Radford Coffee Company was open for seven weeks and have had lines out their doors, newspaper articles written about them, newscasters talking about them and countless people thanking them for being there. It is another God thing that we get to be a part of on this miraculous journey of Life with the Master in charge. I am so thrilled.
We have been in relationship with Eric and Barbara for about twenty years when they were the Directors of Missions at their church. Bob and Kathy Rexroad introduced us to them way back before we started having the brunt of our kids…they have five. Beat us out by one J We were so happy we could all be together at the Radford Coffee Company. It was a beautiful reunion with people we have history and life experiences with.
Michael and I have been married for 27 years. Maik’s relationship with Truman Cunningham our Miskito Project Director started in 1984. They have been ministry partners longer than we have been married.
32 Years of ministry and adventure on the Rio Coco.
We have lived three lifetimes at least and we are still celebrating LIFE to its fullest. I married a visionary – A man that perseveres under much duress and is able to push through to completion; Someone that speaks unrealistic goals into existence by faith. I have a poster that I bought for Michael that reads,
“Vision: The Art of seeing the invisible.”
We have seen countless invisible things and events come to pass…from a Miskito run School Project, to our Miskito Students becoming our very own teachers, leaders, Governors, Pastors, parents and Grandparents, to raising our own family to become successful givers to our society, to a Rio Coco Bean Roasting Company, to one Rio Coco Café on Utila, to one Café in Vero Beach, to one more Café in Radford, to three books authored by my very own visionary Husband.
We have been the blessed conduits for His great blessings to flow.
We feel blessed to have many friends around the world and so thankful for many of you who have taken an active faithful part in our lives along this crazy path we are on. We call it the “Huge Wave” and it is just getting started.
We can tell you a myriad of stories that grace our lives with the countless people we have encountered over the years. We are all made to impact our world and send Echoes into Eternity (the name of one of Michael’s books)
Blessings to you who have been with us in this eternal journey we are on. We look forward to more years of adventure together! Laura
You Can Help This Month!
1. Pray for us! Check out this month’s Spiritual Arrows
2. Purchase Rio Coco Bean Coffee at www. riococobeans.com. Our profits go to the school project!
3. Become a school sponsor. Support a Seek The Lamb missionary serving in Central America and the U.S.
You may donate online at seekthelamb.com—”Give”. Thanks!
Please pray that:
1) God will prepare the way as we travel to Maui to share our Echoes Into Eternity symposium at Hope Chapel.
2) Good Health for our team, Truman, Michael, and our missionaries.
3) God will send us more missionaries for the café.
We appreciate all your prayers.
Would you like to have our delicious slow roasted high altitude coffee delivered to your door?
Would you like to get a discount that helps with the shipping cost?
How about helping us educate our 1300 kids on the Coco River with each cup?
We donate each month a substantial portion of our profits from our coffee sales to the school project in Nicaragua. You can help us by joining our coffee club and receiving a monthly order of our specialty coffee.
To sign us is easy! We have a new tab on our riococobeans.com website that takes all your information or you can call Mikaela at the Rio Coco Café -772.226.5760. She will take all your information.
You may change your order at any time, or designate bi-monthly orders. You may cancel at any time.
Check out our latest blog on why slow-roasting us so important.
Thanks for spending time with us this month.
Please contact us at
Seek The Lamb
P.O. Box 2151
Vero Beach FL 32961 tel: 772.226.5760