When we made plans to spend an extended period of time in Nicaragua, we had way more questions than answers regarding our “purpose” here. However, we’ve known for a while that “encouraging missionary families” was pretty high on our list.
Shortly after we arrived, we heard some startling news: Within the past two years, at least five missionary families have left Nicaragua because of family discord or marital separation. This community is not big, so those numbers certainly cause quite a bit of heartache to everyone involved. We wonder if maybe this happens because many hardworking missionaries are so focused on building God’s kingdom in the community, they sometimes forget to protect His kingdom at home.
Unfortunately, none of us are immune to this possibility. We all need to take precautions and work hard to prevent the stress of life — and ultimately the sin of selfishness — from damaging our marriages and our families.
While this tragedy occurs in every city, in every country, right now we feel a particular burden to encourage married couples who are serving here in Nicaragua. The vast majority of these couples have no family nearby, which means no grandparents to keep the kids overnight or aunts to help make you a meal when someone’s sick. We can now see firsthand why being a foreign missionary has long been considered one of the most stressful jobs on the planet… and why it’s so important to work toward protecting the family.
Our family is still dealing with our own culture shock, transition adjustment, or whatever you want to call it, so our contributions are pretty small right now, but it is our hope to do whatever we can to support the missionary community in which we are now living. In particular, we’d like to give parents a chance to recharge their batteries, so to speak, to then be able to work together to protect their family as much as they are trying to build other families.
So our first idea was to offer free babysitting, for couples to go out to dinner together. Last month we had 10 kids over one Saturday evening, so five sets of parents could do just that. In a few weeks, we’ll do it again to give parents a chance to get ready for Christmas without the little ones tagging along.
Then, over the Thanksgiving holiday, we had our first opportunity to host a weekend getaway at Campo Alegría. The guesthouse there is set up to easily accommodate four families overnight, or more for the day.
We shared meals, watched movies, played soccer, walked the beach, jumped the waves, soaked up the sun, slept in hammocks, and just enjoyed each others company.
Families took time to relax together, in an environment that was completely separate from the stress of daily life. As we lounged on miles of beach all to ourselves, surrounded by palm trees and views of the volcanoes, I commented more than once how much that little retreat feels like our personal tropical paradise.
We’ve heard from folks who haven’t taken a “vacation” in years, and some who feel completely overwhelmed by the stress of full-time ministry coupled with full-time parenting. Even just a day away from it all can go a long way toward helping you come up for air, so to speak. We’re excited to offer these retreats to more families as the months go by.
Next weekend, Wyeth will be back at Campo Alegría, this time with 40 guys for a men’s retreat. His packing list includes a waxing kit, hairspray, a water balloon launcher, and several hatchets. I am conflicted with equal parts of so-glad-I-am-sitting-this-one-out and would-love-to-have-eyes-on-this-one! Maybe it’s not too late to install a hidden camera?!