Today’s update should contain many words, yet I sit here to write and struggle to find adequate words to capture what we experienced today.  Everything about our day started the same, but nothing about our day finished that way.

After closing the chapter on both our camp week and construction projects, today we had a different day in store.  For our last full day here, we headed off in the morning to Ruby’s House of Prayer.  I’ve written before about Sister Ruby and won’t go into much detail other than to say, (1) I really miss that dear woman of God and (2) her legacy lives on in the very upper room where God’s Spirit blows through like a gentle breeze.  Sister Ruby was one of a kind and had a profound impact on my life and ministry.  Many things she prayed over me through the years continues to live on and develop.  The Buzbees have faithfully carried on this ministry of prayer.

We gathered in the upper room of Ruby’s house and started a time of worship and prayer.  God met us in that place and moved powerfully in our hearts.  Encouragement happened, tears were shed, anointing took place, dreams and visions were birthed and faith was strengthened.  How do you put into words such an amazing experience?

After being spiritually hit by a Mac truck, we loaded up the bus for some much deserved down time.  We made our traditional PB&J lunch for one last time (on a moving bus) and ate on our way to Lagoon de Apoyo.  Faced with multiple options for our fun time, this is what the team chose again this year.

The Lagoon is a beautiful resort with dining overlooking the crater lake that was created by an exploded volcano tens of thousands of years ago.  Now it is filled in with a cool, beautiful blue water that was a blast to swim in and just relax as a team.  God knew what we needed after having such an amazing, yet spiritually exhausting morning.

We had our last team time tonight and unfortunately had to start the packing process. Reality us starting to set in that we leave in the morning.  In the morning, we’ll hear about the Master Plan for Ruby Ranch and then head to the market (a team favorite) on the way to the airport.  Please be praying we finish well and travel safely back to the States.

 

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Well, today was certainly bittersweet as the day was coming to a close and the bus was pulling out of the Ruby Ranch driveway.  We’ve invested the last 9 days there – between camp and construction and honestly, it was hard to leave.  We also had to say goodbye to the kids that came to play after school.  Goodbyes aren’t natural, so we like to say, “see you later.”  And we truly mean that.  By God’s grace we want to continue the relationships we have formed this year.  Our prayer and hope would be to always return and keep investing in the people of this country.

Today was our last full day of construction, so we were working hard to complete as many projects as possible that we had our hands in at some point.  We weren’t able to finish the interior of the cabin or the porch underneath, but we got them both as far as we could and others will pick up where we left off.  We also prepped for another sidewalk that will be completed after we have gone.

But we were able to finish the posts and totally enclosed the area for the deer (aka The Deer Sanctuary).  We got all the chainlink fencing in place and custom built the door frame, but the door needs to be completed and hung.  We also laid the piping for water for the deer after tying in at the chicken coop.  But in a big surprise, the deer actually made the trip out to Ruby Ranch from the Quinta.  Despite them not enjoying their car ride, they are loving their new enclosure.  The kids are going to love this addition to the Ranch and getting the chance to interact with the deer.

We completed yet another trenching project to help control water (a common goal around here in the rainy season) around the bathrooms.  More mixing of concrete after some digging and the project was done.  Some landscaping work was also in the works today as well as some playing with kids when they arrived after school.

There was an unexpected “project” (I use that term loosely as it was really a person) that was brought to our attention and the story is worth sharing.  We were presented with the opportunity to help Henry (aka the Nicaraguan Chuck Norris).  We work alongside him (literally) every year and he is amazingly strong and a hard worker.  Honeslty, he puts us all to shame and we can never keep up.  But this year we got to see the strength of his inner character.

We offered to pour concrete to build a porch at his house.  After thinking about it, he called to say that he knew a woman in a wheelchair that would need the blessing more that him.  We had two of her granddaughters at camp last week.  Henry was so selfless and so yesterday we went to her home to meet her.  We learned that she has been paralyzed for the last 26 years after falling off a horsecart.  She was smiling the entire time she shared her story.  We returned today, this time with the whole team to present here with a carload full of groceries and household items.  More that she probably has ever had as she lives a very meager existence.  We prayed over her and her home and are hopeful to have some money left in order to leave so her dirt floors can be poured into concrete.

We leave sweaty and exhausted, but the bus ride home always offers some amazing vistas.  From the volcano in the background, to the beautiful sunset or the view of Managua lit up as darkness falls… God’s handiwork is continually on display.  We are amazed, also, at what He has done in us and through us.  And we know He isn’t finished yet.  Tomorrow, we head to Ruby’s House of Prayer for a special time of worship and prayer.  Be praying God meets us in that place and shows us His power and healing.

Paul reminds us in Colossians 3, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (vs. 17).  This isn’t just a “if you can” kind of verse, but a command for us to put into practice in daily life.  And it affects all areas of our life – both words and actions.

As a team, we work hard for unity through a common vision and purpose, but sustaining team relationships with our words can always be challenging when we are pressed toward our physical or mental limits.  But God is gracious to forgive us and strive to forgive one another.  We are learning better as a team how to speak, challenge and encourage one another with our words.

Likewise, our actions are a reflection of the work of Christ in our hearts.  So whether we are digging holes or a trench (which we did plenty of today) or even playing with the kids – both are to be done for God’s glory.  So, we are learning that even in the mundane tasks that may seem menial and small, our actions (and attitude behind our actions) really matter based on this challenge from Colossians.

Today, we had another full day of construction at Ruby Ranch.  If we measured today by our sweat equity, we made a significant investment!  We worked multiple projects again: sandbagging and road repair; prepping fencing poles with chemical treatment and plastic wrap; digging holes for those poles and then in the afternoon we completed a 75 foot trench for a new water line and started placing the fencing poles.  We also had some kids join us in the afternoon which is always a great opportunity for continued relational investment and a break from some of the work!  If the bus ride home (we have about an hour ride to and from each day) was any indicator by those passed out from exhaustion, then we worked pretty hard today!

We make it back in with dinner waiting and so we march through the line pretty filthy but after the first bite is devoured, no one really notices the dirt or smell any more!  Then we’ve got a chance to get cleaned up before our evening team time.  We processed through our day and where we saw God at work today.  Then we took a practical look at the role of God’s Word in our lives and how to grow in dependency and hunger for God’s Word.

We are in the home stretch… and we try not to think about that.  We’ve got our final full day of construction tomorrow and would love to finish up as many projects as possible. Our team is all back to good health, so pray we would finish well!

 

 

Mornings in Nica are beautiful and the Quinta offers such amazing spaces to meet God and enjoy the beauty of His creation.  And I’ve been so proud watching our students take their TAWG time seriously.  And then to see them lead their peers in our morning team devo has also been encouraging.  God truly has put together a great team and we are enjoying growing in our love for Him and each other.

We are now settling in to a rhythm on our construction work and it’s been awesome to see this team transition from camp to full-time construction.  Each are finding what they are good at as well as trying to do some more challenging things.  It’s been really cool to have two or three projects at once (knowing I can’t oversee them all) and see students and leaders step up and lead out.  Everyone has been working really hard, no matter how mundane the task may be.

Today, we continued projects that were in the works.  We worked up at the cabin – on the exterior – finishing the trough and grading behind the retaining wall.  During the rainy season, ground water can do some serious damage and cause erosion.  On the interior of the cabin, we continued with electrical work and also prepping the framing for the coming wall board (like sheetrock but stronger).

Another project was water control and trenching around the newly constructed sidewalk (which indirectly caused another project).  Some of the dirt we moved in construction to fill some holes couldn’t handle the rain and turned into a wicked mud puddle.  First a delivery truck caused some damage to the drive due to the mud, then the bus got stuck in it dropping us off.  So the mud had to go, but not before one of our leaders decided to make a mud angel.  The craziness never stops.

Also in the works today was a team planting trees, another project involving prepping for a sidewalk and the digging holes and moving poles (think 8 ft tree trunks) for an enclosure.  All in all, the team is working hard and it’s fun to see these projects get finished.  And it’s always a blast when some of our campers and neighborhood kids show up to play or work alongside us.

Tonight during team time, we celebrated our mission trip birthdays.  We got a cake and sang to John Michael, Hallie and Autumn who got to have a birthday celebration here in Nicaragua!  We even successfully live streamed the celebration on our Mission Nica Facebook page.

God is doing a good work in and through us.  We are honored to be sent out to be used by Him and are grateful for friends like you who made that possible and are supporting this mission in prayer.

 

There are days when God opens the eyes of your heart and enables you to see better than others.  Honestly, I think His desire is that we see with our spiritual eyes on a daily – even moment by moment basis – as Paul prays would happen in Ephesians 1:18.  We looked at that passage and topic last night in our team time and then set out to continue to put this into practice.

With all of our mission teams, we ask the same questions with the last one being, “Where did you see God today?”  Our heart is to teach our students to start to see with their spiritual eyes.  We know that we worship and serve a God that is continually present and constantly speaking.  We want to see and hear Him and join Him where He is working.

Today, we headed out for our first full day of construction.  However, we made a change of plans for the community day and decided to hold off our our camp finale at Chapel Hill.  So we invited the camp kids back at 2p today so we could finish.

Before they arrived we jumped on multiple projects.  We had a team ripping down 2×4’s (which are nothing like the States) to prep for the interior walls of the cabin.  We had a team behind the cabin mixing concrete and preparing to lay the trough for water control in front of the retaining wall.  Then we also had to move around 50 cantera stones from near the gate all the way up (literally uphill) to the cabin.  This started as incredibly tedious and exhausting as we sent teams out (so they could switch) with the wheelbarrows.  Then Henry (our Nicaragua Chuck Norris) arrived with his horse cart and then we were loading 10 stones up at a time and following the horse who was doing the work.  It was a huge blessing and made the job go by much faster.

Then the rains came and came hard.  This turned parts of the Ranch into a mud bowl, but this didn’t affect the camp kids at all.  We still ran around on the playground and had a game of soccer going.  We also kept trying to work a few of the projects, but the rain made it challenging.  Needless to say, we were all pretty muddy and wet today.

But God was so good (and we noticed with our spiritual eyes) as He gave us a break in the rain and a window of dry and cool weather in order to make the hike up to Chapel Hill.  All the kids from camp with our team hiked up to this special place.  Our teams have helped develop Chapel Hill through the years, so it is always incredibly special to go up there and see the changes as we close out camp under the foot of the cross.  I (Todd) had the privilege to preach the Gospel and invite the kids to respond to in faith to the Good News.  It was so sweet to hear all of them praying out loud to receive Christ.

The hike back down led us to the difficult moment of saying “see you later” however, we feel certain that we will see a good many this week at the Ranch when they get out of school.  And before we said goodbye, we handed out the backpacks, full of school supplies and a surprise inside.  They were super grateful and we pray the backpacks are a blessing to them and their families.

From seeing God pause the rain, to seeing Him move in power on Chapel Hill, we have been grateful today for His presence and plan.  And grateful He gave us a glimpse of Himself.  We are praying we are growing in our joy as we seek to glorify Him.  Thanks as always for praying for us!

 

We are coming to the close of day 6 here in Nicaragua and it was a great Sabbath day.  It was breakfast, team devo and then TAWG before loading the bus to head to Verbo Church (that is the church the Buzbees attend).  We took a moment to pray for our Mission Atlanta team, which is our 8th and 9th graders that left today on their mission.

Verbo is pretty international in feel so we recognized some songs, but struggled a bit during the sermon.  But we truly were the ones blessed and had our eyes open by joining our Nica brothers and sisters in worship.  The Spirit of God was most certainly in that place!  We did our best to keep up with the energy of worship and to sing the songs.  We also did our best to understand the sermon that was preached.

Every year, I’m reminded of the reality that while we are worshipping here in Nica, our faith family was worshipping at Wildwood as well as those from around the world that gathered this morning in worship of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Scripture reminds us that the Gospel will reach and unite “every tribe and every tongue and ever nation.”  We got to experience a bit of that this morning as we were the minority in culture and in language.  I have a feeling the same will be true of heaven.

After a quick pit stop to the grocery store to load up on more lunch supplies for the week, we returned to the Quinta for lunch.  Then we took advantage of the Sabbath rest that we are called to.  From some reading and relaxing to some pool time, everyone enjoyed having a day off from work to rest up for what we have in store this week.  We had a few that needed the down time as we’ve had a bit of sickness start to spread around.  In fact, please pray for those that are currently fighting something off, but also pray that the rest of the team will stay healthy!

We also used some of the afternoon to sort and fold the donated clothes which resulted in yet another Nica fashion show.  Hopefully the pictures will never surface on social media!

Our evening finished up with dinner, team time and small groups.  God is doing a good work in our evening time as we are opening up our hearts to His pursuit and calling us to a deeper, more intimate relationship with Him.  Students are risking vulnerability as the Spirit moves in their hearts and stories are being shared

Today was much needed and we are prayerful all will heal and will be ready for a day of serving (construction) out at the ranch.  Thanks for continuing to pray with us!

Nica Team

 

 

 

Community Day today was a huge success and a great finish to our week at camp.  We got the kids all fired up to invite their families to come out today and we were pretty stoked to see a good crowd walking up the road to the Ranch.  All in all we had about 120 join us for a day of fun and games and relationship building.

We started out by gathering everyone to talk about what we did at camp and also the reason our team travelled so far to come to Nicaragua.  We wanted to make sure they didn’t see us as the heroes, but Jesus as the hero and to know the hope of the Gospel.

From there, we got the camp kids back in their groups for some friendly competition.  From tug of war, to the dizzy bat relay, water balloons and other races, we had a great time just letting kids be kids.  And the parents seemed to really enjoy watching their kids have fun.  We had time before lunch to fire up the zip line, had kids on the trampoline and playground and we also got a baseball game going.

Lunch arrived and the team got going serving everyone some delicious arroz con pollo. We make it a high priority at camp to serve the kids (and their families) as a way to show honor and display the Gospel.

From lunch it was time to do the pinatas, which are a special tradition here.  We had 4 pinatas and let them go by group until candy was flying everywhere.  And if that wasn’t enough sugar, we purchased 4 big sheet cakes to serve!

Next up was the water slide.  A scream of excitement filled the Rancho as we gave instructions.  The water slide occupied most of the kids for the rest of the day and it was awesome to see some of our old campers (who are teenagers now) join in on the fun.  We even had some mom’s and dad’s give it a try as well.

We dismissed the kids for home and that left just enough time to tackle one project.  The new bathroom was at the point where it could be polyurethaned so we put all hands on deck (literally) and got it completed.  The masons also completed the walkway that we got going and so we came behind and moved all the excess dirt and now the pathway and driveway (dirt) are looking good.

It was a hot, sunny day, so most of us were pretty exhausted after our team time.  Pray for a few on the team who aren’t feeling well.  Pray that God would heal and restore them!