Well two months passed in the blink of an eye!

But seriously, I can’t even believe the last time we wrote on this blog was two months ago. Apologies all the way around. Let me try to catch up. ūüôā

After Thanksgiving we had only a few weeks in Nica before heading to the Pacific Northwest for some much needed family/framily time. In that time I helped with a medical team from FSU and we both hosted our friends from Oregon who are MOVING here!! So insane! The Ohrans and the Herrings are headed down very soon, and we couldn’t be more excited to expand the beautiful community we have here. The Ohrans will be helping us out at Ruby Ranch and the Herrings will be helping around Open Hearts, as well as beginning a surf ministry out at the beach. Both are families of six and we are incredibly excited to see how the Lord redirects and moves in their lives as they are taking this giant step in His plan for them.

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We also moved into our house! And by ‘moved in’ I mean we put all our random stuff we brought with us in one of the rooms, locked the door behind us and got on an airplane to the states. Ha! Needless to say there has been a lot to do since we returned. We had only had enough money to buy a bed and a washing machine before we left, so we figured those were a good place to start. We’ve been able to order a table and chairs, and a simple standing height table I will use as a desk, but we still need quite a bit more. We want our home to be a place that we can not only feel at home in, but also a place where friends can come to visit, and we can host gatherings with our friends here in Nicaragua. And really whatever else the Lord places in front of us to do with the space. We are so grateful to have a place to call home, and we want it to minister to others as much as it does to us.

While we were back in the states we had an incredible time. Really. It was beautiful how we were able to see so many people, hug so many friends who are like family, and just be with everyone. We love living in Nicaragua, but the distance stings. On our good days we wish you all were here to share in the joy, and on the hard days we wish you were here to tell us it will be ok. So being around so many loved ones was very special and encouraging. We really did try to soak in every moment.

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And interestingly enough, not everything we were around for was good. But somehow that made me appreciate it that much more. We sat with ailing grandparents and answered the same questions multiple times due to failing memory. We were informed of scary prognoses and were able to ask how everyone was doing with it. We had multiple conversations about the hard things that our friends and family are walking through, and I appreciated it so much. Oftentimes we all want to put on our ‘happy face’ for the friends visiting, but that isn’t why we became friends in the first place, or rather, it isn’t what has kept us as friends. We all need people for the good and for the bad, and I found myself grateful to be able to be present for some of the bad.

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Since being back in Nicaragua we have ran multiple errands, tried to establish our home a little more, and I was able to host my first medical team out at Ruby Ranch. It has been a great first week of reconnecting with friends and acquaintances from here, and I have been very encouraged by how much easier it is to communicate now. Don’t get me wrong: we both have a LONG way to go with our Spanish, but there is something comforting about noticing progress, and after so much time of just speaking English in the states, it has been wonderful to get back to Spanish.

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Thank you for your continued prayers and support of our work down here in Nica. We are truly amazed by it, and are so grateful for each and every one of you.

If you would like to help us out with setting up our home here, you can visit our finances page and find out how to do that. Thank you so much!

As we prepare this morning to share the afternoon and evening with friends who are like family, I find myself grateful. And I wanted to share our ‘list’ here, as an encouragement to you and a reminder to us.

On Thanksgiving Day of 2016, we are thankful for:

  • Family.
  • Friends.
  • Freedom.
  • Salvation paid for on the Cross.
  • A roof over our heads.
  • Running water.
  • Electricity in our home.
  • Food in our bellies.
  • Access and means for healthcare.
  • The communities we are a part of, both here in Nicaragua and back in Oregon.
  • The means to travel to visit loved ones.
  • Our reliable vehicle.
  • Clean drinking water.
  • Relative safety. (We do not have bombs being dropped on us as we sleep.)
  • Minds that can learn new places and new languages.

This list could go on and on and on, bringing to memory every small blessing we experience every day. The point is this: if you are celebrating Thanksgiving today with family and/or friends, with a roof over your head and food on the table, please take a moment to rest in the great blessing that is. So many do not have that ability or receive that gift. Please recognize it and soak up every last moment. You have been given a great gift.

We are so grateful for each and every one of you and are so honored to call you our friend.

Last week we needed to go out to the ranch for a quick little project. It was nothing big, and in fact we went on to Leon afterwards to spend time with some friends, but we wanted to get it done. This interesting, and very fun thing has begun to happen anytime we drive to the Ranch now. Just before we get to RR, we pass a house with a bright blue gate, and if she is home, our friend Stacey runs out to say hi. She waves and waves, and we usually stop to just say hi, but this time I had the camera with me. So I asked her and her brother, Douglas, if I could take their photo. They said of course, and then we asked if they wanted to join us at the ranch. It would only be an hour or so, but they were out of school that day and could come if they wanted. They asked their mom, Ethel, and she agreed. Stacey ran inside to grab her Bible that the Westside team and given her, and we went on to the ranch.

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While Landon was working on the project, I had the opportunity to sit and chat with these two precious kiddos. I ended up sort of interviewing them, and was so glad I did. Below are my questions and their answers. Answers that reminded me, yet again, why we are doing what we are here in Nicaragua.

Douglas

  • How old are you?
    • 12 years old (he said in English)
  • What would you like to do when you grow up? After secondary school?
    • Be a teacher, but I want to teach English
  • What grade are you in?
    • 1st year of secondary school. (The United States equivalent of 6th grade.)
  • What is your favorite subject?
    • English
  • What do you like to do in your free time?
    • Homework. And this video game. (On his phone.)
  • What is your favorite part of coming to camp at Ruby Ranch?
    • The arts and crafts we do here in the rancho.
  • What is your favorite food?
    • Fried chicken
  • How long have you lived here?
    • About 1 year, in this community.
  • Where did you live before?
    • In Managua.
  • Which place do you prefer to live?
    • I like living here. In Managua it was loud and busy. There were always cars and big trucks, and our street was very loud. It is more quiet and calm here.
  • Which part of school is hard for you?
    • Math
  • Which part is easy?
    • English, Spanish and Science

Stacey

  • How old are you?
    • 9 years old
  • What do you want to be when you grow up?
    • A translator
  • So you could work with us here at Ruby Ranch?
    • Yes!
  • What grade are you in?
    • Fourth year of primary school.
  • What is your favorite subject?
    • Conservation. (I’m not exactly sure what that would translate as in US schools…)
  • What do you like to do with your free time?
    • Play. Like baseball, football, with my friends.
  • What is your favorite part of coming to camp at Ruby Ranch?
    • The slip’n’slide and the arts and crafts.
  • What is your favorite food?
    • Gallo pinto, chicken, cheese…
  • How long have you lived here?
    • The same as my brother. About a year. I like living here better. There are more things to do, and we can play more freely.

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Will you join us in praying for Stacey, Douglas, and all the other kiddos who live out near the Ranch? We love those kids and are hoping for big things for their lives.

We just wanted to write a quick update to tell you all:

WE FOUND A HOUSE TO RENT!!

It is such a relief to be moving forward with a new house (if you remember the one we are currently in was only a six month sublease) and a place here that can finally be our home. We have been so amazingly blessed in the last year of preparing to move and then beginning our time here in Nicaragua with the immense generosity of friends and family, but we are also very glad to be moving to a place that can be ours.

We haven’t finalized everything with the homeowner yet (we meet with him again Monday), but so far we are very excited and very relieved. Finding a place to live here is stressful, as there is A LOT to consider. (Security, cost, proximity to work, is there a water tank, electricity reliability, age of the construction, etc.) Needless to say, we are glad to be (almost) on the other side.

That being said, if you need/want a way to do some year-end giving, we could really use some extra help. We have to pay a deposit, plus buy beds, a washing machine, dishes, a table, and the other normal stuff that goes into a home. {We initially fundraised for that money, but our starting out cost and truck ended up eating into that budget quite a bit, as have some unexpected things in the past seven months.} Anything extra would be super helpful, but you need to send it in very soon to get it on this year’s tax receipt. Head on over to our finances page and check out how to give.

And thank you in advance! We can’t wait to share photos and videos.

Seven months. We have lived here in Nicaragua for five days shy of seven months! It may not seem like much, but as I sat down this morning to reflect and think through what the past seven months have held and meant for us, I came to the realization that it has been full. So this is a reflection, an update and a declaration of the things we are looking ahead to.

What we have done in the last 7 months:

  • Lived with a Nicaraguan family in Granada for four weeks
  • Took four weeks of language classes

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  • Bought a truck
  • Lived in two different homes that we have sublet¬†from other missionary families
  • Met numerous other missionary families who are incredibly wonderful and loving people, whom we are so grateful to know
  • Helped design, plan and build ‘real’ bathrooms at Ruby Ranch
  • Hosted and worked alongside about 15 teams, with a few more coming to round out the year.
  • Prayed at Miss Ruby’s house multiple times
  • Watched as the Lord rejuvenated, healed and restored lives through touches from Holy Spirit
  • Made new friends from all over the United States
  • Were witness to lives being given to Jesus
  • Began (and continue in) relationships with kids from Las Parcelas, the neighborhood out by Ruby Ranch. {Nothing is quite the same as getting a giant hug from any of the young students from the El Caimito/Las Parcelas area as they yell your name and are amazed when you remember theirs.}

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  • Played in the ocean (boogie boarding, surfing and fishing) more than we ever have in our lives
  • Enjoyed a beautiful two weeks visit with Chris and Becca Sweet
  • Celebrated 4th of July and multiple birthdays with our friends here

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  • Celebrated our own birthdays
  • Hosted numerous fun days at Ruby Ranch, allowing us to know many other awesome ministries and make new friends
  • Hosted a team from¬†our home church! (I don’t know how to explain how beautiful that time was…)

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  • Started the first cabin at Ruby Ranch
  • Became friends with another mountain bike loving family
  • Had the honor of baptizing our friend, Bailey

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  • Had our hearts filled to the brim because the dreams we’ve held so close, nervous to share them openly, are coming true. The Lord has kept His promises, and we are living out our wildest dreams.

Things we are currently doing:

  • The first cabin at Ruby Ranch is in process, right now! And we are still fundraising to finish it, completely.

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  • Working on an RR website
  • Hosting our friend, Bailey, but only for one more day. It has been a joy to have her, and watch as the Lord has demonstrated His great love to her, over and over again.
  • Searching for a new home. We will move out of the one we are currently in right before we come back to the States for Christmas time.
  • Enjoying the cooler, rainy weather
  • Working with another ministry here, Engineering Missions International, on a master plan for the Ranch. Their surveyors are working at RR right now, and we will host another team of designers/architects/engineers/surveyors at the beginning of February

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Things we are looking forward to:

  • Finding a home that can be ours. As great as it has been to be able to rent from someone who is established here, we are looking forward to having a home we can make our own. {Fun fact: by the time we move into our new place, it will have been over a year of not living in a home of our own.}
  • Potentially starting a scholarship type program in the Las Parcelas school to help families and kiddos out there. Stay tuned for more information on that.
  • Thanksgiving here in Nicaragua. The Buzbees do it big, and we are so excited to share in that tradition with them, friends here and friends from the States who are coming to visit.
  • Travelling back to the States at Christmas time to visit with friends and family. We miss you all!
  • Working on a different visa situation, or on residency. We are exploring both options, and are praying about which to pursue. (Both cost money we do not necessarily have, so we’re trying to decide the best option to pursue.)

 

Please continue to pray for us down here in Nicaragua. There are quite a few things coming up that have the potential to be ‘stressful’ but we believe the Lord already has it all taken care of. If you would like to join our e-mail prayer team, please send us an e-mail at landjbaron@gmail.com. Also, if you would like more information about how to support us, please e-mail us as well.¬†

I was so glad to have the opportunity to fly back to Oregon two weekends ago to celebrate my younger¬†brother’s wedding! My brother Travis and his (now) wife Tara were married on October 15th in the nearly 100-year-old barn of my late grandpa. There were so many aspects of the event that were so special and meaningful, from the antlers hung as decoration to the actual barn the wedding took place in. And to watch my brother, someone I admire greatly, stand before us and vow to remain faithful and in love with the woman he loves moved me to tears. It was a beautiful weekend and I will forever be grateful to my sister and dad for donating their airline miles, my mom for covering the cost of the airline taxes, my husband who told me that I couldn’t miss it, and our friends here in Nicaragua who helped Lando out while I was gone. It truly was a beautiful day, and I am ecstatic to have another sister-in-law!

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My brother-in-law Andrew figuring out how the old workbench could be used as a buffet table, while keeping the saw. (He ended up just removing the blade.)

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Trav, Anthony and Andrew fixing the wall on the small barn.
 

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I’m no florist, but when you give me¬†

buckets 

of GORGEOUS flowers, I can do alright.

 

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The dessert buffet, contributed to by various friends and family members.

 

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Saying their vows. (The mounts were both taken off Grandpa’s property, one by Travis and the other by our Grandpa Bob, who passed away last year.)

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 The first communion.

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 The other fun part of the weekend was I was able to hug some very wonderful people. Including these goofballs.

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The other Thiel kids. I’m lucky to have them as friends, as well as family.

 

The first cabin is underway! The first cabin is underway! The first cabin is underway!!!

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We are so excited that the very first cabin at Ruby Ranch is in the middle of being built right now. The local contractors are working diligently at building our eco style Tombo¬†cabin, and should have the roof completed by the end of this week. These are the same contractors who built our rancho, as well as other rancho-style structures around Open Hearts Ministries. They are master craftsman and we are so excited to be working with such talented individuals, while supporting the local economy. We are striving to employ local Nicaraguans whenever possible, and Adali’s team is a perfect example. For every one of the ten or so guys he has working with him, there is a family that gets to buy food, pay their light bill, and maybe save a little for later. The impact is like pebbles being thrown on a pond. We look at the place the pebble enters, but the successive rings of influence are the amazing part.

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Right now we have enough funds to finish the skeleton of the cabin, the roof, and possibly the floor. But we still need about $5200 in order to be able to wholly complete the floor, walls, electrical and lighting. We also will be doing half wall screens on three of the walls, as well as a railing on the porch. Would you want to help us by donating? If so, you can click on the donate button at the bottom of GCRI’s website, making sure to denote the donation as going to Ruby Ranch Cabin.

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And thank you for your continued prayers for Ruby Ranch. We are honored to be a part of such a beautiful ministry, and cannot wait to see the finished product!

We have been so enjoying the past few weeks down here in Nica. For two weeks we had our good friends, Chris and Becca Sweet, visiting us. We went all over Nicaragua, showing them our favorite spots, visiting old friends and even doing a little work out at the Ranch. It was such a treat to show Chris how things have progressed since the last time he was here in 2014, and to introduce Becca to all the things we do here and people we know.

And now we have another friend staying with us! Our friend Bailey is here for the whole month of October, and we are so excited. She is someone we have known for years and having her around is truly wonderful.

We are excited to be starting the construction on the first cabin very soon, as well! It is insane that the Ranch is at this place, and we can’t wait to show everyone the progress as we go. Until then, here are some awesome photos our friend Brinson took of the construction site.

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I began this post about six days ago, and am just now getting around to putting it online. Oops…

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The past week has been full of very fun moments, which won’t be ending any time soon!

Our birthdays are five days apart, with Landon’s being on the 13th and mine coming up tomorrow, the 18th. So we have typically done things together, to celebrate both, and this year is no exception. On Tuesday we headed to Granada (where we went to language school) to stay the night and just relax. We hadn’t had time to go back to Granada since we left at the beginning of May, and we were excited to go visit the colonial town. (We also were generously gifted a one night stay at a nice hotel there, so that helped make the decision.) ūüôā

We began Tuesday slowly, with a stop to get awesome coffee and a ‘birthday chocolate chip muffin,’ after which we made the hour or so drive to Granada. It was a sort of surreal experience to be going back there and it not being where we live. But that was also part of the fun. Sometimes traveling here can be a little stressful because we aren’t sure exactly where to park, where to eat, where to walk, etc. All those little unknowns add up to a lot of added stress, so to go back to a place we knew was very nice.

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The beautiful pool at Hotel Casa Del Cansado.

We¬†were able to check into our hotel early, which was awesome, so after parking the truck we stopped into a little restaurant for a light lunch. We had never eaten at the restaurant before, but when the menu said it was mediterranean, and they had dolmas, we were in. At one point I even told Landon, “I feel like we are in Lebanon, not Nicaragua.” A tour guide guy had spoken to us on the street before we had parked our truck and told us he could take us on a tour of the islands in Lake Nicaragua. It was something we hadn’t done before, and even though I’m always somewhat apprehensive about those sorts of ‘deals’, Landon was up for it so we went for it.

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All the boats at the dock.

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We toured in a boat just like this one.

The edge of the lake is somewhat polluted, but as you get further out into the lake the water is free of debris and garbage. And really, very beautiful. From the lake you can see the volcanoes, the churches of Granada, and the tiny islands. Some have houses on them (second and third homes) but one has monkeys. The entire island is no bigger than a two bedroom house, and is home to five spider monkeys, and some random white-faced monkeys.

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One of the locals.

After the boat tour we realized we wanted to just rest. So we did. We went swimming, had dinner at the restaurant connected to the hotel (during which the power went out) and just talked. We both felt like walking around Granada was going to be more stress than we wanted, so we just stayed in. And it was glorious.

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Praying the power would come back on, but also enjoying the candlelit dinner.

The next morning we had a delicious breakfast at the hotel, lounged around until it was time to check out, and then headed home. I realized on the way back to Managua that I missed our ‘home’, which was a very nice realization. After the last five months of running around, moving multiple times and considerable stress, it was a very pleasant moment when I realized that I have a place in Nicaragua that feels like home.

 

As I mentioned at the end of the last post, Tuesday and Wednesday were different from the other days of the Westside team’s trip. Tuesday was for prayer, and Wednesday was for relaxing at the beach and eating pizza together. And while that may not seem like much, trust me when I say those two days were JUST as important and life-changing as any of the other days the team spent here in Nicaragua.

Landon and I have had an incredible summer praying for people at Miss Ruby’s house. Some people we had¬†had conversations with prior, and some we literally introduced ourselves to as we asked their name and if we could pray with them. [Praying for people we don’t know has had us on a beautiful faith journey, but again, that is for another post.] But as we heard who was coming on the Westside team and began thinking through their time here, we also began petitioning the Lord on their behalf. We began praying for our 11 friends back in May, asking the Lord to prepare their hearts and minds, and ours as well. And last Tuesday, we were not disappointed, as the Lord met us in that little house in the one of the worst neighborhoods in Managua.

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Forever changed.

Prayer is a deeply personal thing, so I will not share specifics here. They are not mine to share, but are for the recipients to¬†tell of when or how they’d like. I will say, though, that specific prayers reached the deep parts of people, parts they didn’t even know needed healing, and God administered His great love to those places. People received words of affirmation in the gifts they have, and encouragement to continue in boldness demonstrating the Lord’s love to those in their lives. People also¬†were reminded of how the Lord never left them or forgot them, even in the midst of their pain. Our friend Marisol (who is a Nicaraguan woman who does not speak or understand English) prayed with each person as well, many times confirming in Spanish what had already been prayed in English. (Brinson translates for Marisol when we pray with her.) It was a powerful time, and we all left feeling physically tired (4.5 hours of prayer will do that) but so encouraged and rejuvenated emotionally and spiritually.

 

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Spoons. And, er, forks?

After a quick stop at Pops on the way home, we returned to the Buzbees, and in an awesome demonstration of care and love, Jeff and Kelsey made mandatory quiet time. It may sound funny, but often times teams rush out of prayer on to the next thing on the schedule, whether serving more or some other outing. It isn’t bad to do that, but often it seems to rush on from something that was (most likely) very impactful. So for the team to receive not only free time, but a mandated two hours of rest (from conversation, work and each other) was a great gift. Many of us took naps. Others reflected on the things the Lord had spoken through the time at the prayer house. It was so good. And then we came back together for dinner and “forced family fun,” an awesome time of some sort of game, lots of jokes and laughter. We so appreciate Jeff and Kelsey’s hearts for fun as well as service.

 

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Costa Azul goodness.

Wednesday was the team’s rest and outing day. If I’m remembering correctly, there was a unanimous decision to go to the beach for the day, and then return to the Buzbees for (what is becoming a tradition) pizza party. We made it out to Costa Azul by about 9:45am and everyone but Jeff (bad toe injury: another story) were in the water within about twenty minutes. The waves weren’t super good, but a couple of people tried surfing anyway. It was an awesome time of good conversations, fun in the ocean and good food.

 

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I only got photos of the prep. The finished products were gone too quick!

Jeff (our friend who led the team) owns a pizza restaurant in Albany, Oregon, (PizzAmore: go try it, its delicious!) so last year began the tradition of rather than a team dinner out at a restaurant we have a pizza party at the Buzbee’s house with all the Buzbees and the Farringtons. Jeff throws pizza dough in the air, there is a lot of garlic consumed, and everyone eats a glorious amount of pizza. It is perfect, really. And again, great conversations are had, as we shared the meal together.

 

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We rode to the airport with the team the next morning, and though we kept it together pretty well while we were with them, we both cried on the way home. It was such a special time, and we are so excited for the things the Lord will continue to do in the lives of such dear friends of ours.