March 2022 Conchshell Chronicles
We begin our 35th Year educating children on the Coco River!
It all started off back in 1985 when a Miskito refugee who had been a teacher in Nicaragua approached us asking help in starting a school in Sawa, on the Honduran side of the Rio Coco. The war which began in 1981 against the Sandinista soldiers and their Cuban, Russian and Bulgarian allies had cooled down, and the Miskito Resistance forces now controlled all of the lower Coco River. 104 villages had been destroyed in 1981-82, with fruit trees cut, pigs and cows killed, and homes and churches burned. 60,000 Miskito refugees had fled to a remote corner of Honduras.
I was recruited in the summer of 1984 to help with a relief effort to bring food, clothing, and medicine to these communities situated along the Kruta and Coco rivers. Our team arrived in November and built a bodega (warehouse) in Auka, an established Miskito village along the Kruta river in Honduras, where the pine and palmetto savannah grassland met the jungle swamp between the two rivers. It was very Fourth World, with many skinny refugees simply surviving.
Photo: Dan, Truman and Michael paddling down the Kruta River, 1984
The teacher was Augusto Vicente, who had been a commandante in the Miskito resistance along with his cousin Truman Cunningham. Both now were focusing on helping the refugee communities establish some form of "normal" living. For Augusto and Truman, education was important, and there had been no schools in this area since 1980.
We bought a case of notebooks and box of pencils,a box of white chalk along with a gallon of blackboard paint. Augusto and another teacher, his cousin Sofia Borst, began teaching classes in a bamboo/leaf roof building.
The next year Earl and Sharon Washburn arrived to help us expand this school project, as Sharon was a bi-lingual teacher and Earl had been with us in Auka in November 1984. We trained four adults, and I flew to Tegucugalpa to look for school curriculum. Through a miraculous series events, I met a very well known Professor of Education at the Honduran National University, Victoria Palacios, who had begun a project of writing curriculm for the Honduran public schools as well as teach at the University. She had completed the first three grades and had printed a reading, mathmatics, and activities book which she offered to sell us at cost. She then surprised me by offering to come to Auka to train our teachers.
Victoria had gone to college in North Carolina and her Master's of Education was from New Mexico State University. I was later told she is one of the most well know educators in Latin America. She became our friend, and came out for the next four years to hold seminars with our teachers.
Photo: Victoria at our teacher's conference in Auka, 1988
God made some very special connections. That's the only way I can describe it.
We began with grades 1 & 2- Six year olds with 12 year olds in the same class. We used the bamboo/leaf/rough cut lumber buildings that served as the church in our communities. We picked a Biblical refugee name Ezra to be the inspiration for our education efforts. He knew that to rebuild a nation successfully would require a knowledge of God and His ways.
For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the LORD and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel. Ezra 7:10
So do we.
We were able to hire Tom Keogh to be our School superintendent. Tom is an American from Connecticut who had worked for many years in the Honduran Miskitia as a Peace Corp worker and director of a radio education project. Tom speaks and writes Miskito better than almost any Miskito that I know. Our school project grew to 12 schools, with us adding a grade level every year.
When the war ended in 1991 the refugees all went back across the river to the Nicaraguan side, and we thought we were headed back to Maui. However the new Nicaraguan Minister of Education, Humberto Belli, sent a message to us asking us to consider continuing our school project. We travelled to Puerto Cabeza along a very rough road from the river south to the coast with armed soldiers as our 'escort" for a meeting with Juan Pais, who told us that if we didn't put our teachers in the villages along the Lower Coco River, there would be no schools. The government assigned this most remote region of Nicaragua, if not all of Central America, as our school district.
We dismantled our school building on the Honduran side, and rebuilt them on the Nicaragua side. That was 1991.
Now it is 2022. Truman died in 2016 of a heart attack, and Augusto died last year of multiple medical issues. Truman's children Rodolio, Mayga, and Danilo direct our project. We have primary schools in Klampa, Boom, Sawa, Uran, Sih, Living Creek, Utlamathla, and Plankira. Our enrollment is over 1700.
We still have two teachers from the war days working with us- Eusebio Manister and Oswaldo Espinoza. The others are all our former students from the 1980's, 190's and 2000's. We are now working with the third generation.
Tom Keogh came back to work with us in 2010 when he married Nutie Melrose. They have been the Seek The Lamb directors of Project for the past 10 years. Tom is the best Bible teacher in the Miskito language, and has served on the Pastors Council in Waspam for many years. Nutie has taught worship in a Miskito culture that knows how to sing.
In these past 35 years, we have made a difference in the lives of all the families in the communities along the Lower Coco River. Whenever disaster has struck, we have been there with food, clothing, rice and bean seed, and housing repair. Hurricanes, Mitch 1(1998) Felix (2004) and most recently Eta and Iota in 2020 have delt devestation to our communities, and we have been there to help rebuild.
Tens of Thousands of Miskito children and adults have been taught to read and write, along with the other academic subjects. Most importantly, I think we have shown them the Love that God has for these people in a very significant way.
Thanks to all of you who have been along for the journey.
If you help the poor, you are lending to the LORD—
and he will repay you! Proverbs 19:17
Faithful, True and Righteous Altogether
To the One who is Most Alive and Perfect in every way.
I am in awe of your Providential provision and Grace. I am filled with gratitude for your miraculous timing and ability to fulfill every need of the heart. Your wonder working power is too much to fathom and cannot be contained, controlled or manipulated.
You are the King.
You are the only One who does not, will not, can not disappoint. You made us to trust you, our Knight in Shining Armor because thankfully You are the only one who can rescue us and save us from all evil and every person, place, or thing.
You save us from ourselves and all the distractions that so easily besets our very souls.
Because you created us, You know the details and how You designed our earthen vessels given to flaw when we are left on our own devices. You alone can fix, heal truly and deeply, and renew us from the inside out. You are our only hope, our only Way, Truth, and Life.
I cannot resist such Love and Perfection dear Lord. You rock my world every time I look to You. You have become more to me in these days than I ever thought possible. Your love is fresh and new every moment of every day when I put my trust in You. You wow me constantly. You are generous in every way and give to me with such abundance. I cannot fathom my life without you nor could I stand to be alive without You and your Beautiful Rich Presence in my life.
How I thank You and honor you for being a part of my life. Again and again, I give myself to you and Your Majesty. Thank you for who you are and what you do for me and the ailing world around Me. My Life is yours and my longing is for You to be pleased with me and all that I am, do and say.
I am overwhelmed by my own flaws, ways, lack of sense, distractions , selfishness and tainted heart. You are the only unblemished One that can fix me, heal me, and make me whole and free. Yes only You. There is none besides You.
All glory, honor and praise belong to You. In you I trust My God, My Father, My Lord, My Savior, My Friend, My Counselor, My Teacher, My Trainer, My Holy Therapist and My all in all Giver of every good and perfect gift which attains to Godliness, Love, and goodness. You are the Compassionate One who never looks down at your Creation. I love You and how You operate. You are flawless in all your ways. You possess no stain or wrinkle. You are spotless, clean and pure; The One true Beauty through and through and will remain till the end of time.
You are the Alpha and the Omega and all that will ever exist in between.
How I love you and need you. Thank you for choosing Me and loving me with such Grace and compassion. You are the One I belong to and my heart longs to delight. You and only You.
Help me and touch all those I love.
We need you! Laura
Photo: Celebrating Patrick with a Green McShake along with the Rio Coco Cafe Crew: Moselle, Vered, Micah, Lukas, Austin & the Chief.
When bad things happen, God says that if you are with Him, He will make it all good.
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Romans 8:28
Consider the life of a Roman-British boy named Patrick born around 385 AD, who was kidnapped by Irish pirates when he was 16 and held as a slave for six years. He slaved as a shepherd, and it was during that time he became a follower of Jesus. He had a dream that there was a ship at a port 200 miles away that would take him back to Britian, so he escaped, walked the 200 miles, and sure enough, there was a ship that took him home. He decided to dedicate his life to serving God and entered the ministry, studying at Auxerre in modern day France, where he was ordained as a priest. It was then that he had a vision, calling him back to Ireland.
Patrick returned to Ireland and God used him in a very remarkable manner. Patrick developed a strategy of establishing farming co-ops and inviting the pagan Irish to join in and become part of the Christian community. In the process, they became familiar with the Christian belief in an infinite and personal God and the atoning sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Patrick and his fellow Christian modeled the Christian life to these pagans as they worked together, shared meals together, and eventually began praying together. The result was that many Irish became followers of Jesus. Many historians say that in a little more than one generation, the population of Ireland turned from worshiping pagan gods to fellowship with the One True God.
It is important remember that the “normal” process of becoming a Christian at that time was that first you had to understand and accept the teachings of the Church, and only then were you invited into the Christian community. Patrick invited the pagans into his community and through the Christian lifestyle of cultivating the presence of God, worshiping Him together, praying to Him, thanking Him, and depending on Him, these unbelievers became true believers!
March is a month where we celebrate St Parick’s Day, usually by consuming copious amounts of green beer. It is an Irish tradition. As one of my friends from Dublin once told me: “God invented alcohol so that the Irish would not take over the world.”
That may be, and there are two significant reasons for us to celebrate the life of Patrick.
1) Patrick endured severe hardship early in his life, which later turn out to be his preparation for one of the most astonishing moves of God in history. Patrick’s life echoes Joseph, in the book of Genesis, who was sold by his brothers into slavery in Egypt, but after years of slavery and prison, he became the prime minister of Egypt. When his brothers discovered his identity, they were afraid for their lives, but Joseph understood God’s way and replied:
But Joseph replied, “Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can punish you? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. Genesis 50:19-20
2) Patrick was not afraid to adopt a new strategy of evangelism that worked very well in the culture where he lived. It was actually a strategy that Jesus modelled often as recorded in the Gospels.
Then Jesus went out to the lakeshore again and taught the crowds that were coming to him. As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Levi got up and followed him. Later, Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.) But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?” Mark 2:13-16
Sharing a meal in Biblical culture was a sign of friendship. Jesus often shared quality time with such social outcasts. Eventually they too became effective disciples!
Where has God planted you? What hardships has God used in your life to draw you closer to Him and prepare you for the work that He has for you? Most of us have had seasons of brokenness, where we had to lean heavily on God, His grace, and His provision. Actually according to Jesus in the Beatitudes, this is the first step to true discipleship.
“God blesses those who are poor (Gr. ptochos-spiritually bankrupt) and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. Matthew 5:3
There are many in these times who are beginning to look for the answers to the questions of life. Where will they find them? Who will God use to guide them? Let’s really celebrate the Life of Patrick by helping many across the Bridge of Life! Michael
Seek The Lamb Giving
Thanks you for all your gifts that keep the project going along the Coco River.
Here is the link to our secure PayPal Donation Page.
Rio Coco Beans
We have two new delicious coffees that we are going to roast this week- from Honduras.
Plus, our Nicaraguan Spring of Blessing coffee from the upper Coco River, high in the mountains near the Pacific Coast is competing with our Timor White Star coffee for the Number 1 position in our cafe sales! It is a delicious, clean, complex coffee that you will love!
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