Thursday, March 23, 2017

Koinonia Groups

One of my "extra" involvements at Nicaragua Christian Academy outside of the SOAAR classroom is assisting with the preschool chapel (which is actually for children in PreK1-2nd grade). I've been involved mostly because of my love for music and worship and singing. . .singing with a big group of enthusiastic kids is one way I truly experience God's power!

This year, a few of us created a small-group model to be used on occasion during our Wednesday chapel times called "Koinonia Groups," referring to the greek word referring to Christian fellowship (also the name of the Project Neighborhood house that Ruth lived in during her sophomore year at Calvin). Our chapel theme this year is the Book of Acts, which lends itself perfectly to the idea of meeting together, sharing together, praying together, studying the word together--all in community, together! Our theme verses for the groups come from Acts 2 regarding the early Christians:

They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.  Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.  All the believers were together and had everything in common.  They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.  Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.  And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. 




The students come into the Eagle Center wearing colored head bands, and after we sing together and do a short lesson, students divide into multi-aged groups of 5-7 students, led by teachers and assistants holding a group flag of matching fabric (yes, if you have done Group VBS, you know where we borrowed this idea from!).


Each group is named after one of the early churches--Corinth, Rome, Galatia, etc. We spend about 15-20 minutes in these group--praying together, completing a hands-on activity related to the theme, eating a snack together, etc. The topics of the group time has ranged from today's persecuted church, identifying idolatry, and "going" to tell share the Gospel.



I'm thankful for the growing opportunity this is giving our youngest students at NCA--to realize that they are indeed part of a larger community of believers!



Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Beauty and the Beast

This last weekend, I had the privilege to play piano for the NCA drama department's production of Beauty of the Beast. Beauty and the Beast was my very first Disney "cassette tape," and my 5th grade-self had every song memorized once upon a time. . .so it was fun to relive some of my earliest musical memories now as an adult!

I had envisioned that the music wouldn't be TOO difficult, being from a kid's movie and all, but it was. And it was long. I began practicing in December, and met with the student performers once a week during January and then about 3 times a week in February, many days until 5:00pm. The show was about 2 and 1/2 hours long, and I had to play 337 pages of music for each of the three performances. This, for me, was all about focus and mental energy. . .no matter how much I practiced, I never felt totally prepared for the marathons of playing for so long without a mental break. It was also a challenge to keep my back from seizing up from the stress of it all!

I was so thankful to have another keyboard player by my side each night. Jackie Sjoberg, the one-and-only NCA library volunteer, played all of the "extra" orchestral parts on a second keyboard, which added a lot to the music AND made me feel a little better about life in general. She had the show down to a science. I also enlisted three different page-turners, one for each night, which really saved me!

This was my fourth year as the pianist for the annual show, and this, by far, was the best (though the most work)! I'm thankful for the opportunity to use my piano skills in this way each year at NCA. I'm also excited for life-beyond-the-musical, and I know Ruth is, too! We're already doing things, now, like organizing the house and jigsaw puzzles again!








video

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The ground has been broken. . .

Today, a large group of staff, students, parents, board members, and visitors gathered in an empty dirt field adjacent to Tesoros de Dios to glorify God and give thanks for His faithfulness as we "broke ground" on the new equine (horse) therapy arena. Under the intense sun (yup, I forgot the sunscreen), we sang of God's faithfulness, shared testimonies, and a few of us actually got to use shovels to move a little dirt:)
Moises helping warm up the piano

Wendy, the program director. . .

About half of the group was on the other side of the wall; wheelchairs weren't able to get over the wall safely (and there was shade!)



One of the groundbreakers, Stephanie!

Michelle, the director of Tesoros de Dios


The kids breaking ground. . .


God truly is good! All of the money has been raised for the purchase of this new land and the construction of the covered therapy building, a wall around the arena, and stables ($95,000!). We continue to look forward to phase two of Tesoros de Dios construction--new classroom space, therapy areas, and a vocational building for older students. . .but first things first! Please take a moment to pray that the city will quickly grant the necessary permits to begin the actual construction. We're ready. . .but the paperwork is not--and in Nicaragua, this process can be lengthy. 

This empty lot will soon be used for so much more! The current Tesoros de Dios buildings are to the left. 
The board will continue to work on raising funds for these additional projects, but I think it is very appropriate to sit back, look up, and say "thank you!" to God for His perfect provision through his people all over the world.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Fifty-five pounds

The lesson I did at House of Hope yesterday was based on Mathew 6:26-27: 
"Look at the birds. They don't plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them.  And aren't you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?" 

Later, I realized how hypocritical this lesson was coming from me, especially at House of Hope. Most of the time I spend thinking about House of Hope is filled with worry:

 "What in the world am I going to talk about?"
and then after I finally figure out what to talk about:
"How in the world am I going to say that in Spanish?"

Or:

"How am I going to fill an hour and a half of time for 50-70 teens and kids?" 
And then I think,"We should do a craft--they love crafts,"
which leads to:
"Where am I going to find the time and money to prepare crafts for 70 people each week?"

I have been trying to plant and harvest and store (Matthew 6) in an effort to solve these problems on my own, but I have been failing.
But, I know in God's eyes,
this ministry is valuable,
that the women and kids who come each week are valuable,
that I am valuable.

And this past week, I was reminded that God will take care of me, and these women and children, in this ministry. This reminder arrived in the form of a 55 pound box on flight UA 1421 with my mom on Thursday evening.


I had emailed a friend from our home church just 2 weeks before to ask her to help with the "Where am I going to find the time and money to prep crafts for 70 people each week?" dilemma.  In those 2 short weeks, she and a group of women from my church bought and prepared 20 different crafts (each for 70 people!) for me to use at House of Hope.  And since then, they have made 20 more! This will provide crafts for the women and children at House of Hope for almost a year.  I am so thankful for this hands-on, touchable reminder of God's provision and love.

We were able to do one of the crafts yesterday, and here are some pictures:












Saturday, January 7, 2017

Ode to a Christmas Vacation Well Spent

Two and a half weeks ago, we finished the first semester of school at Nicaragua Christian Academy, and the following day we boarded a plane to spend the Christmas holiday in New Mexico, where most of Andrew’s immediate family lives. While we had been planning this trip for months, our kids didn’t know until the morning of the flight at 4:30am! It was an incredible surprise, and I’m impressed we pulled it off.
This is not typical for us—this is our fourth year in Nicaragua, and our first time spending the December break stateside. 

Why this year? Why NM?

1) Last summer, when in the US, we were unable to make the trip to the great Southwest.  We weren’t able to connect with Rehoboth Christian Reformed Church, one of our supporting churches. This break was a great chance to do both!

2) Our kids have LONGED for a cold, snowy Christmas!  They got oneJ Christmas Eve was our only significant snow fall, so we did have a White Christmas, and we were able to play in snow in Colorado (like 6 feet of it!) and in the Sandia mountains near Albuquerque. Charlotte was only one year old when we moved from Michigan, so this is really her first memorable experience with the white stuff (she LOVED it, though the first time she saw it she ran into it barefoot!) And even when there wasn’t a lot of snow, it was certainly different weather than the warm temps of Nicaragua. BRRRRR!


3) We budget for one US trip a year, and we likely will not come back to the US for the summer months for our normal Michigan/New Mexico adventures (no sibling weddings for the first time since being in Nicaragua!). We’ve always wanted to stay in Nicaragua for the summer at some point: time to do more language learning, time for Andrew to complete a two-week special education course in Nicaragua in which he is enrolled, time for more traveling opportunities around Nicaragua (and maybe Costa Rica!), time to welcome more visitors into our homes that can’t typically travel during the school year.

We had a lovely time in New Mexico with the Ippel clan, and many of Ruth’s family members, too. Below is a poem I wrote to commemorate our time together that I shared with my family—some of this might not make sense to an “outsider”, but it gives you an idea of how we spent our last few weeks relaxing and fellowshipping before the second semester begins next Monday.

Ode to a Christmas Vacation Well Spent
Christmas 2016 by Andrew Ippel

Family gathered from near and far,
Using airplane, feet, and car,
To spend some much-needed time together
Despite the cold and dreary weather.
Rehoboth was the destination
For this special family vacation.
For our kids this was a surprise.
Made it to the Managua airport before the sunrise.
Mary had spent much time collecting
Warm clothing that would be protecting
The skin of the Ippels from the far south,
Not used to the cold and chapped skin by the mouth!
The Bob and Mary house was jammed—
But nobody minded begin crammed.
Fondue feasts and Ethiopian platter,
Happy Hour with noisy chatter,
Green chile dip, and charred hot dog,
Endless sweets and creamy egg nog.
The Kuerig machine making hot drinks a breeze,
Helping to thaw us out from the freeze.
Mary’s refrigerator always prepared,
With Bob hardly cooking none of us scared.
A family Christmas Murder Mystery—
Our costumes and accents full of hilarity.
Games like Werewolf, hearts, and checkers
Codenames, Guesstures (but not for the Becklers)
750-piece puzzle done just like that,
With so many games, still some time to chat.
Always guests, like Micah and Jan,
Eunice, Gloria, and the Mur and Josh clan.
Campus adventures, like caroling to Fred,
Ghost Tours and “SS” filling all with dread!
Hockey and Dodgeball and Scooters in the aux gym,
Ruth’s 30-day challenge not keeping us slim.
Playing Sunday piano and joining the choir,
Missionary presentations on Christmas drawing some ire.
Hogback hiking, icy Hales Canyon and the Crevasse disaster,
Mud and low temps helped us move faster.
Brunch at the farm, Grandpa’s Grills eats,
Bowling and movies and Water Store treats!
Feeding the horses and collecting the eggs,
10% egg survival rate due to wobbly legs.
Getting gifts from mom and dad (never with ease),
Requiring multiple stops and caroling at Mickey D’s,
Home Videos—a walk down memory lane.
Helping us remember which one(s) of us were the pain.
Ringle Bells, soccer games, piano battles were shown,
Three Billy Goats Gruff—can you believe how we’ve grown?
A side trip to Albuquerque, with much to explore.
Tocano’s, Frontier—couldn’t eat more.
Hot tubbing and popcorn at the great Drury Inn.
Laser Tag—Charlotte wants to do it again!
Exploring the artsy world of Meow Wolf too,
Sandias by Tram,  Christmas lights at the zoo.
A quick and full trip up to snowy Pagosa,
Slippery ice on the roads and on each ponderosa.
Surviving the drive and relaxing at the Springs,
Falling asleep before the New Year could ring.
Using the Sienna to get up the hills,
A challenge for chains and Bob’s driving skills.
Skiing at Wolf Creek—incredible glee!
Until Ruth’s stunt off the lift hurt her knee.
Thankful for only a partially torn ligament,
And last-minute PT dates with Anthony—God sent!
What a gift, to be with the Ippels,
Amid the red rocks and dripping ice cycles.
20+ Ippels now—we’re a group! We’re a crew—
Getting us together is quite a to-do!
And three tiny babies soon on the way,
Bonbon or Bobert? Who can say!?
Were so thankful for this past December—
So many memories made to remember.
God has been faithful as He keeps us united,
(I can’t remember the last time we’ve fighted!)
Made one in Christ Jesus—what else can we say, but
Lang saltza leyva, and Hip-Hip-Hooray!?



We are so thankful to God for these last few weeks! Pray for us as we enter back into life and ministry in Nicaragua. Pray for Andrew as he prepares for a new semester at school. Pray for Ruth as she manages the household with an unusable leg (see poem above) and for speedy healing and recovery. Pray for our kids; it isn’t fun to say goodbye to grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins, and while they do love Nicaragua, they don’t always remember that fact during these transition times (Henry was plotting to spend next semester as a Rehoboth School student). 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

An Evening for Tesoros de Dios



Over the last few months, a team at Tesoros de Dios (including me!) has been busy preparing for our first-ever, maybe to become annual (?), event called "An Evening for Tesoros de Dios." The board (on which I serve) decided last spring to host this event in the US (in Wisconsin and Indiana), and we decided that we could put on a similar event here in Nicaragua. . .and I'm glad we did!

Friday evening was a gift. Around 180 people filled the Eagle Center (the gym at Nicaragua Christian Academy) in support of Tesoros de Dios. Around 90 were staff, students, and parents involved in the program. . .the other half were guests--fellow missionaries, students from the American Nicaraguan School (ANS) who support Tesoros, and other friends and family who wanted to learn more about and support the ministry of Tesoros de Dios.

The gathered group was treated to hearing various testimonies of students and parents, two choirs, a few speeches (I gave one. . .you can click here to read the transcript if you missed it! Thankfully you can't read about the part where I almost started crying on stage during the speech. . .thanks dad and grandpa for the crying genes whenever we get emotional!)


The evening was emceed by two current Tesoros students, one in high school and one in university. They did such a beautiful job; I loved how involved Tesoros students were involved throughout the whole evening.

We also threw together a silent auction as part of the evening--something done too much in the US and never done here--but it actually was a success due to very generous attendees (and donors!). One fellow CRWM missionary bought a set of "Andrew Ippel" piano CDs for $100--that kind of generosity just blows me away (I hope they find that donation well spent after listening to the music!)

One of the teachers at Tesoros de Dios was going to cook/cater for the event, but due to a family emergency on Friday morning, she wasn't able to attend. A HUGE group of staff filled in for her and provided everyone with wonderful food (with CHOICES, too! Veggie lasagna, beef with mushroom sauce, Parmesan chicken!). They worked from 1:00-10:00, and didn't even get to eat their own cooking until after the event, which I felt guilty about (I definitely ate!)

I'm thankful for the Tesoros staff--a group of therapists, teachers, and accountants who pulled off a really, really great event. We are not party-planning people by trade, but I think after Friday that we are certainly a capable crew.

I'm thankful for eMi, Engineering Ministries International, who is partnering with Tesoros as we plan to expand beginning with a covered horse therapy arena this March. Check out this video to be inspired (this is what made me nearly break down, actually!) Our desire to grow and expand and serve more kids is really the impetus behind all of this momentum of promoting Tesoros de Dios.

I'm thankful for the board of Tesoros, and the potential positive financial impact that this evening has had for Tesoros de Dios. I'm excited to hear the "totals" from the other sites.

I'm thankful for the local community that came out on Friday to show support to Tesoros. I hope we gained a few more child sponsors on our end (and MANY more in the US!) and that our plans to grow can soon become a reality.

I'm also thankful the event is over! It wasn't a TON of work for me, but it was added work, and I was honestly a little stressed about the potential success/failure of the event. . .in retrospect, no need to worry! VERY thankful for God and His presence in the details.

Click HERE to see more beautiful pictures of the event taken by Christa Brunt, Tesoros volunteer extraordinaire! She gets credit for all images on this post, minus the first blurry one:)

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

"I'm sorry I have to do this. . ."

So last night around 7:45pm, I finished tucking the kids into bed and got in our car to drive to a friend's house to watch the election results. As I left our gate and headed down the steep hill that leads from our neighborhood, I noticed an elderly man standing at the bottom of the hill, waving me down frantically with an umbrella or a cane. I am not in the habit of picking unfamiliar people up, especially when I'm alone, especially after dark.

But something felt different about the situation. I mean, he was an old man! SO. . .I slammed on my brakes about 15 feet after I passed him and waited for him to hobble up to the car and hop in. "La Puente," he said, indicating that he wanted a ride to the nearby intersection with a La Colonia grocery store. . .the same place I would be passing anyway. "Esta bien," I responded, and then began driving again.

The man introduced himself as Carlos, and began speaking in perfect English. The three-minute drive to the store was a quick life history of Carlos (aka Charles, the name he used when studying in Spain and France). He was 80 years old, was one of the first persons to build a large house in our area 40 years prior, and had been educated around the world. He felt most "like a New Yorker," though he was Nicaraguan.

We arrived at "La Puente," into a line of cars waiting to turn onto the Carretera Sur next to the brightly lit, busy La Colonia supermarket. I stopped the car and bid Carlos goodnight, thankful I had given a ride to such a wonderful man! And then Carlos reached into his pants, pulled out a gun, and said, "I'm sorry I have to do this."

To be continued. . .

Just kidding. I'll tell you the rest right now. . .too good to wait.  I froze (except my eyes, which got huge). My new acquaintance was holding a real, live, metal gun. I'm terrified of guns. "9mm" he said. WHAT DID HE MEAN when he said "I'm sorry I have to do this!?" Do WHAT? Kill me? Rob me? Make me drive him to a different store? Or country? Many scenarios flashed across my mind at this point, including scenarios involving me wrestling the gun away from this frail, well-educated man only slightly younger than my grandpa! I took a deep breath and said something like, "Okay. . .goodnight. You can get out now," hoping to kill with kindness. I'm sure my voice sounded a little panicky!

Carlos smiled and began tucking the revolver deep into his pants. "I've never used this thing. I'm an old man walking alone at night. . .I have to be careful just in case." It began to make sense that his "I'm sorry I have to do this," already so embedded in my brain as the last words I thought I'd hear, was just an apology for having to readjust his gun visibly before going into the supermarket. He wasn't intending to harm me, or really anyone, for that matter. Just getting comfortable.

Carlos thanked me for the ride, grabbed his cane or umbrella, and slipped out of my car. "Thank you for the ride!" he smiled at me. And he was off. And that was that.

I'm not sure if there is a lesson here. I'm certainly glad I'm alive. I think I'm glad I gave Carlos a ride, but I'll probably not pick up strangers alone at night again for a while. . .especially kind-looking elderly men:) Side note to those prone to worry and worst-case scenarios: we continue to feel SO safe in Nicaragua, without ever taking our safety and well-being for granted. We are thankful for our safe neighborhood and the fact that we've really had no incidences involving theft or security since living in Nicaragua (and Carlos readjusting his gun doesn't change that, okay?). We praise God for His protection.