Building A Firm Foundation
Our heart from the beginning of our relief and school project on the Coco River in 1984-85 was to help our Miskito families caught up in the middle of a destructive and often horrendous war to survive and rebuild their communities on a firm foundation. The first step was survival- food, medicine, & clothing. The next step began when a refugee teacher Augusto Vicente asked us to help him start a school in Sawa (on the Honduran side of the river) in the summer of 1985.
How do you start a school project in a remote corner of Central America where an armed conflict is raging?
We purchased cases of notebooks, boxes of pencils, a case of white chalk, some plywood, and blackboard paint (I didn’t know such a thing existed then!) It took a few weeks to get these supplies to our base in Auka, then loaded into our boat on the Kruta River, paddling downriver and back up a stream to Turalaya (Alligator Springs), and then by horseback across the swampy seven mile trail to Utlamatha on the Coco River, and then paddling upriver to Sawa. Augusto cut the plywood and painted a few coats of the “pintura para pizarros”, and set it up in the very rustic church building made of handcut lumber, bamboo, with leaf roof. Kids from age 5 to age 12 showed up for First Grade – it had been years since the last school activity on the Rio Coco. They sat on the floor or homemade chairs. Augusto and Sofia Borst had been teachers before the war broke out, and were happy to be teaching children again.
The next year we started four more school in adjacent communities. By 1987 we had 12 schools in refugee villages along the Coco and Kruta Rivers. That was the year we acquired our Yellow Piper Pacer from our friend “Papa Jack” Dyer. We have a coffee named for Jack now to honor him and his service to so many. That airplane changed everything!
At our teacher conference that year I had a session with our approximately 20 teachers as well as some who were pastors in our communities. I wrote these words across the top of the blackboard:
God, Jesus, Angels, Demons, Satan, Man
I asked them to write in their in their notebooks vertically according to their importance in the spiritual world. The results told me a lot about how the introduction of Christianity to these communities in the 1920’s and 1930’s through Moravian and Catholic pastors had affected their world view.
The Miskito culture is very aware of the spiritual world, and each community has at least one “sukia” who is the communicator into the spiritual world. He is the one who tells the people what to do when they are sick, when they have relational problems, when they need an abundant rice or bean harvest, when they want an enemy to get sick or die, or when they want someone to fall in love with them. It has been and still is a very spiritually charged environment.
All placed God at the top, and then most placed Satan in 2nd position, and demons in 3rd. Angels and Jesus took 4th and 5th place, and all placed man at the bottom, subject to the powers of all the above.
In my best Spanish I began to relate how the Bible tells a different story, and the importance of a personal relationship with Jesus, who actually occupies the #2 position (or shares #1). Their reality was different.
Fear of satan and the demons dominates Miskito culture, and life is lived trying to avoid curses from them. We decided at that conference that we needed to write a Bible curriculum in the Miskito language for or students, which we began the following year using Kenneth Taylor’s “Bible Story Book” as our source.
It was a worthy project- the first of its kind. We followed up with a more specific series of lessons for our teachers and pastors, which was based on Hope Chapel’s Logos School of the Bible written by Jason Spence and Craig Englert. Our coffee Java Jake honors Jason’s passion for discipleship over a cup of good coffee.
When Tom Keogh joined our team again in 2009, our pastoral and teacher training took off due to Tom’s language abilities and understanding of Miskito culture. He speaks and writes the language better than most natives, and he is the very best communicator of the Gospel in that culture in recent history. Another very significant teacher is our pastor Onofre Zamora, who as professional educator once supervised all the schools on the Coco River for the Nicaraguan government. When we took him to Israel in 1997 with Truman Cunningham and Augusto Vicente, the Lord told Onofre to become the Bible teacher of his home region- The Coco River. He has through his position as a pastor of the Moravian church in Waspam as well as his weekly radio Bible school broadcasts that reach most of the lower Coco River.
Photo: Truman, Michael, Onofre & Augusto, Jerusalem 1997
The Plandemic shut things down in Nicaragua for almost three years, and last month, Onofre and Danilo held our first pastoral conference of 2023.
It happened in Sawa, and it is the first of many to come in these next months.
We are building a firm foundation for our families to navigate life, raise their children, run their business, grow their crops, and take care of those around them.
As Moses told the Hebrews as they were entering the Land:
Know therefore today, and take it to your heart, that the LORD, He is God in heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other. 40 So you shall keep His statutes and His commandments which I am giving you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may live long on the land which the LORD your God is giving you for all time.” Deuteronomy 4:39-40
After coming into a war-torn zone in 1984 where families were barely surviving, we knew that understanding God, His ways, and most importantly knowing Him would be the key to their survival and prosperity as they rebuilt their communities.
It still is for them as well as for us. Join us this month. Be part of the team. Please consider a gift this month to help us teach our Miskito Families.
We want it to go well for them. Thank you! Michael
Arielle & Paul
Laura and I had the honor of walking our daughter Arielle down to Paul and officiate in their wedding on Saturday March 4th in Kula on Maui.
Many of our friends pulled together to help us organize we, set up, and feed many people.
The Wedding Planners- Laura, Arielle & Jori.
It began raining at noon, and stopped five minutes before the ceremony began. A cloud rolled by and covered the area for almost an hour after, and then disappeared, revealing an incredible sunset. It was a very sweet event!
The Presence and The Distraction are vying for our moments . In my life, there is a constant battle going on. Who, what, where, when and how will I use each moment that I have been gifted with by my Source of all Life, wisdom and Power.
I had a candid discussion with one of my kids of the importance of giving each moment to the Lord because the battle is fierce and God is trying to sensitize us all for the fight to keep our focus on His presence in our lives. We will need to learn how to battle with the Victor close to our hearts and minds and not let up.
I left to go to a class, stopped at a light, thought I would briefly check if I received a text I was waiting for, picked up the phone glanced down and with the phone still in hand looked to my right out the window on the passenger’s side , saw a policeman on a motorcycle gazing intently at me and my guilty hand…. Within the third second I put it down, feeling my guilt, started praying he would not turn on his lights,
Looked in my rear view mirror saw the lights bright and blue, started to look for an appropriate place to pull over, conveniently located he points me into the Texaco station, asked me if I saw his lights and why didn’t I pull over right away before I could answer he asked, was it an emergency ? I had no words just an overwhelming sense of intimidation and my muttering sorry because I knew I was guilty for my 2 second error of picking up that stupid red phone owned by a stupid operator that doesn’t even hardly answer that phone or look at it for hours at a time now suddenly understanding as I was told that “they are strict in Hawaii regarding phone usage in the car.“. My friend got a ticket for just tapping the screen of her phone to answer it. She wasn’t even holding it but he saw her tapping it.
Wow. Didn’t see that coming!
My convo on being sensitive to each moment of my life came rushing back to me as a perfect word picture how we can get so easily waylayed in a few seconds by a momentary decision based on distraction and not on The Presence I say I want to pay homage to.
Good one God . I needed that.
The officer came back to the car and he seemed to be softened and almost embarrassed and I truly thought he would issue me a warning and let me go . He just said, “You have to be more careful maam.” He handed me back the registration, license and a long ticket that I didn’t take the time to read because I was already late for my Zumba class.
I thought as I danced around , “You deserve that ticket so just be happy you get to dance around and try now to be so impulsive next time.”
I went home and gave the ticket to Michael so he could tell me how much I had to pay for my 2 second distraction. He said $349 . Ouch!
I am keeping that red phone in my purse zipped up and try to practice what I preach. God help me be more sensitive to my moments and not give in to the distractions .
I need so much help. God disciplines who He loves. Laura
Makawao Forest Waterfall
Israel Study Tour April 25-May 5
There is still room on our bus! Please consider joining up on this very special time walking in the footsteps of Jesus.
Israel is wide open for travel.
There are no vax or mask mandates.
Please contact Larissa at Christian Travel Study Programs to get on the bus.
PHONE: +1 (800) 371-4485