January 2024 Conchshell Chronicles

Happy New Year from the Rio Coco Cafe Team!

The Rio Coco Café Team

L to R top: Teagan, Leah, Sam, Hanna, Alana, Makayla, Haley, Shiloh,  Jessica, Morgan, Sandy, Mika, & Joanna
Bottom: Lukas, Arielle, Michael, Laura, Moselle, Naomi, Sylvia & Mikaela


Project Ezra - our schools in Nicaragua

We have just finished our 37th year of educating children along the Coco River in northeastern Nicaragua near the Caribbean coast. It is one of the most remote corners of Central America, if not the Western Hemisphere. As you know, our school project began in 1984 as a relief effort of clothes, food, and medicine to an indigenous group known as the Miskitos who had been displaced by the Sandinista government policies in 1981 and 1982 from their homes in communities along the Coco River into a remote swampy area in neighboring Honduras.

When a refugee teacher asked us in 1985 to help him start a school for the refugee children, we had no idea that we would be beginning a school project that has lasted so long.  In these past 37 years we have educated tens of thousands of Miskito Indian children and adults, built many school buildings, trained over 200 teachers, and provided tons of school supplies.

Have we been successful in our efforts?

For many years we have had a vinyl mural on our wall at the Rio Coco Café in Vero Beach Florida of two of our young students sitting in a dugout canoe in Sawa.

The one holding the paddle is Absalom Florencio, who is the son of one of our teachers in Sawa. We just heard a few days ago that Absalom just graduated from the university in Puerto Cabeza!

Along with Absalom, we have had many graduates of our primary and secondary schools receive their university degrees. Our graduates include doctors, nurses, school teachers, pastors, computer engineers, business owners, agriculture specialists, other technical professionals, and the governor of our autonomous region.

We have an exciting year ahead as we continue helping in the education of our students downriver with a few new opportunities coming in the next months. 

 Thank you for being part of this adventure!

Lamb Bleatings

The art of dwelling on excellence, praise worthy attributes, the right, good, true, honorable, positive and all that I can appreciate is a daily practice of my mind and words. It does not come natural to me. I am often bent to see what I would have, should have , could have and all that I ought to have done better or more. I like to vent.

In relationships, it is easy to focus in on that which is wrong rather than right. It takes work and effort to see properly and speak with wisdom. It Takes discipline and self control to monitor my mind, thoughts, words, actions and deeds. Moments can be added to with meaning and uplifting or they can easily be robbed by ungrateful thoughts and feelings . I have poor timing with my expressions which lead to poor results. I like to share my thoughts but I have recently started to ask myself why and often have realized how unnecessary my thoughts are to add to conversations .

I recently started playing the game of pickleball. As with any game, it is meant to be enjoyable, stimulating to our hand eye coordination and generally a great moment to enjoy those we are playing with. A game is usually good for our mind, body and spirit. It can be likened to a good relationship full of positive vibes and a great deal of laughter and joy being shared. A moment can be ruined by being too focused on mistakes …. My own and others. The practice of focusing on the good right and positive is handy in the game rather than on my short comings and winning. I remind myself it’s a game and that life itself is about relationships and the increasing of favor between entities.

I have observed anger and frustration rise up during the course of the game of pickleball. I have heard myself use the “s” word when I missed a shot I should have gotten (I have a competitive streak that I must monitor) and I have observed my thoughts and feelings when my partner makes  simple mistakes that cause a momentary irritation to flare up within.

I remind myself “It’s a game…. Focus on encouraging the good in myself and those I am playing with.” A good choice because laughter,  positive vibes and fun seem to fill that time rather than irritation, anger, frustration and bad slip up words .Life is full of mistakes that teach us how to improve and make the necessary adjustments to become better players and be better sports. I have been actively trying to apply the positive practice  of encouraging uplifting words for all those that surround me. It makes me a better Valentine, friend and player of games and sports .

I was told that unless I am competitive how will I get better at the game? I surmise that if I am striving to be all that I was meant to be with my Creator with me, for me and giving to me according to his design for my life, I will be a force to be   reckoned with because God is that Force In whom   I trust. He is for me, with me and all about us ready to engage with anyone willing to trust and live by faith.

Life begins when we begin playing by God’s playbook for our lives. It is out of this world and must be experienced first-hand by each heart.

Like pickleball we each have to pick up that paddle and take a few swings.

It becomes a healthy addiction like our adventurous experience with the One that

created it all. We are all created for our own adventure with Him!

May 2024 be your very best year!       Laura

Enjoying a wintery day in Orlando (37 degrees that morning!)


Who Do You Say I Am?

During December, I saw this Life magazine at the  checkout aisle at Publix.

“Jesus– Who Do You Say That I Am?”

People all around were celebrating Christmas with parties, gift giving, with some even going to church services. But what were they celebrating?

I began asking new friends “Are you celebrating Christmas?” Sometimes that question  resulted in a strange look. “Of course” was the usual response. As the conversation progressed, I often told these new friends about the Life magazine cover I saw at Publix. “It’s the question that everyone must answer in some manner,” I added. That comment often brought smiles and nods, and other times the subject changed abruptly.

In 2019 I met a vivacious young lady named Isabella from Santiago Chile at our Utila Café. She was there taking the open water course next door. I asked her what she did in Santiago. “I’m a chemical engineer. I work for Dow Chemical making molds for plastic furniture.”

“How fascinating!” I said. “ I always wondered how you do that.”

Over the next 15 minutes, she told me, as I kept asking questions.

Over the next 15 minutes, she told me, as I kept asking questions.

Finally, I asked “Do you have a  spiritual background?”

“Yes I am a Buddhist. I had to ditch my Catholic background.”

“Why do you think Buddhism is real?” I asked.

“I just feel that it is right” she replied.

“Well Isabella, I find it very interesting that a woman who bases her      professional life on empirical scientific data is basing the most important   aspect of her life on only her feelings.”

She turned and fully faced me, giving me her total attention.

“Have you every read the words of Jesus?” I asked.

“No I haven’t, in all my Catholic years.”

I then began to describe the counter-intuitive, other’s centered,            revolutionary and most compelling things that Jesus said as recorded in the four Gospels. And then there is that part where He says that He is God the Creator who has come to Earth in a human body. Its recorded that many times the religious leaders picked up rocks to stone Him, accusing Him  of  blasphemy- a  mere man claiming to be God. “Anyone making that declaration is either a lunatic, a liar, or maybe he is who he claims to be - the Lord of this Universe.”

Isabella thought for a moment, and her response surprise me.

“Where do I begin?”

We talked about the man of action portrayed in the book of Mark, and how John describes Jesus as the ‘Logos’- the active creative force of God and the embodiment of God’s wisdom, Matthew connects Jesus with the prophecies to the Jews, and Luke puts it all in chronological order.

I will read His Wordsshe said. Somehow I believed that this rational scientific girl would indeed find life in His Words. Isabella left the next day on the ferry, and I sense that I will see her again- at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb if not before.

I find that many have never read the words of Jesus, instead rejecting Christianity because of things they have heard about the Christian ‘religion’.    I sat next to a German airline stewardess at a Naval Aviator’s dinner last week. I gave the invocation and needless to say, many at our table were      surprise to discover they were sitting with missionaries. My new German friend told me that she believed that all religions were going to heaven, that “We are all God’s children.” I asked her THE QUESTION: “Who do you say  Jesus is?” She didn’t know how to answer that one.

“Have you ever read the words of Jesus?” I asked quietly. “What does he say about other religions? I asked respectfully. The food arrived and we began talking about my experience growing up in Germany. I hope to see her again.

Jesus made friends with many at meals. He listened to them. He shared His words with them. He healed many. He served them. At the right time He asked them: “Who do you say I am?”

Seems like a good strategy for 2024. 

Make Friends,

Serve Them,        

Listen to Them;

Let them know you care;

and at the right time ask THE QUESTION.                   Michael

New Opportunities

We are very excited to begin a partnership with the Young Life ministry in Nicaragua. We have been friends for many years with the founders of the ministry, spent many days at their camp/coffee farm Vida Joven in the mountains above Matagalpa, picked coffee with their team, often hoping that one day they would bring their Bible Clubs that have been so successful with young people all over the world to the Coco River.

A few months ago, Tom and Nutie met with Jorge Gutierrez, the regional director of Young Life Nicaragua, who told them about the Young Life Bible clubs in Puerto Cabeza which had been establish in 2021. Now one of the leaders there has heard a ‘call’ to go to Waspam and start the first Bible Club on the Rio Coco. We have many of our primary students who are attending high school in Waspam, and this would be an idea opportunity to   continue their Christian education that is part of our primary schools, and animate them spiritually.

Last week, Jorge came to Vero Beach, where we spent the afternoon at the Rio Coco Café discussing how we would work with Young Life to get our students into the first Young Life Bible Club in Waspam.

We all agreed to proceed, excited to see God answering prayers that we have  given Him for years! Please keep this in your prayers for these next months as we take the next steps as our Lord leads.


Seek The Lamb Giving

Thanks to you who have given to our school project, The Lahaina Fire relief fund, the Kibbutz Nor Oz relief fund, and to our missionaries in 2023.  We could not have done it without you!

Here is the link for our Giving Page.

Thank you!

Seek The Lamb Giving





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