Now Elizabeth's full time came for her to be delivered, and she brought forth a son. --Luke 1:57 (NKJV)
Eight long days away from my sweet babies, five short days trying on Leon, Nicaragua as a new home for our family. Now that we're back, it seems like a lot to process. As I look through the pictures of street scenes, possible houses to buy, and a world that seems both very different and very much the same as the midwest, I have a lot of impressions. Of course, being the analytic types we are, my husband and I had lots of conversations in the child free peace of travel to discuss how to move our family down there, what life will be like, and whether we are sensing God's call to this place so they're not unanalyzed impressions at all.
So, first off: impressions of what life in Leon could be like for our family. It seems to be a pretty tranquil town, yet has a business-minded bussle in the mornings. Leoneses rise early and downtown, mostly walk to accomplish their errands or business. That business doesn't seem dependent on tourists in the least, though we did see some backpackers. The town is mostly Nicaraguans moving on about their lives. The wisdom of rising early seems pretty clear by 10AM - it gets pretty hot. But it's not unmanageable in the least. We got a hotel room without AC by mistake but after the first night of finding it not too difficult decided to leave it be anyway. A high quality fan and sticking to the shade (which is thankfully abundant both inside and out due to Spanish colonial construction which is mostly perserved in the town proper) make it seem much cooler.
And speaking of colonial construction, it seems to be the favored kind for us as a family. Colonial homes are most abundant in the center of town and feature a square of high ceilinged 'porch' into which several rooms can be built surrounding a central courtyard. This set up would allow us to have Lucas' business in the front and our private home in the back keeping our home calm, kids safe, and business accessable to employees who may not want to (or be able to) drive out to the suburbs. There's a lot of life right out the door, but plenty of cool and calm inside... and inside still has plenty of the great outdoors in it which is a plus for kiddos play and everybody's enjoyment.
Next, impressions of what Lucas' work will be like here. We spent some time meeting with an accountant and lawyer to discuss and begin the process of setting up a Nicaraguan company that Lucas can use, working together with his already created US based company. It appears that this process will take a while in Nicaragua... like a lot of things. It's not a society with quite as much infastructure (or necessarily the same kind as we're used to either as culture affects what kind of infastructure the people want too) so things opperate both more slowely and differently in the business world. It still seems doable to set up a Nicaraguan company and definitely the best route considering our goal of being able to develop the business down there with employees and all.
Lastly, impressions for the kind of ministry we can do in Nicaragua. Of course family life and Lucas' work are not divorced from 'ministry' and capture much of it really as we want to be "salt and light" as we go about our daily work. We do also have a vision to do some economic missions by way of creating employment for the educated yet underemployed in Nicaragua. That does indeed seem to be a need. As a case in point, we were able to get to know the son of our hotel's owner who is educated as a lawyer but works part time as a waiter because it's hard to find the kind of work he was educated for. This is by no means an isolated case. The principal university in Nicaragua is located in Leon so that makes it a good setting for finding potential employees for Lucas' business. These employees would need a certain level of education and these people don't always just fall into jobs so it appears we would be able to meet a real need in this way.
As far as other ministry opportunities, we found a bilingual and very missions oriented church with about 30% native english speakers (North-Americans principally) and 70% Nicaraguans that appears to be a good match for us. It could be both a 'home' and place to find encouragement and a 'partner' and place to find encouragement and others to come alongside us in mission work. The Sunday we were there, an evening outreach service in the central square at dusk was announced so we stopped by and were delighted to find the people of Leon often congregate in the square. It is an ideal place to make connections and find informal opportunities for ministry. It was also a joy to see 3 people recieve Christ at the service and be able to pray for them from afar.
So what's God's will for us in Leon? When will we be there and how will it all go? We don't know for certain, but God gave us such peace through the impressions of a 'home' that may await us there: beauty and satisfaction in family life, meaning and purpose in work and ministry. We're also content to walk with God step by step and not need to make it all work out in our own abilities. We still have a house to sell in Illinois and we'll be here until that happens. Hopefully my 'dream house' will still be on the market when that happens, but if not, we'll move into one of the abundant rental properties in Leon and look for something else to buy. So it was a fruitful trip. We were so blessed by grandparents for babysitting and thankful for the opportunity to go explore and prepare for the transition. We'd be very appreciative of your prayers as we continue to move forward as the Lord leads.