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Thursday, August 31, 2017

August Update

Hello Everyone! Lauren here. Kids are back at school this week in the States, and I feel like it marks the beginning of fall! It's hard to believe that tomorrow is September already.

So sorry to all of you; Mitch and I have not done a good job of keeping you updated in the past year and that's our fault. Between Mitch's job, our girls, and Ezra, we get pretty tired in the evenings and enjoy spending time relaxing together. I will try to do better in these last months of writing each month until we head home to Harrisonburg, VA on December 13th (our three one-way tickets are bought!!) So, let me jump right in and update y'all. (Side note: I feel like I need to start using the phrase "y'all" in preparation for moving back to VA.) I listened to Christmas music in July because this year we'll be HOME FOR CHRISTMAS, and I want to prepare early :) Although, now I'm holding off on the music until October. If I can.

Now that we have less than 3 months left here in Nicaragua, we are trying our HARDEST to be present here but it is awfully difficult! We know we have a beautiful home waiting for us in Harrisonburg that we have been blessed with, and we are already envisioning ways to be intentional with our lives in that home. I find myself day-dreaming daily, and at this point I don't think it's a bad thing. We're also trying to fit in our favorite cities and adventures here in Nicaragua one last time before we fly home! We've loved getting to know Nicaragua these past 3 years!


The latest news that many of you do not know is that the children's home, CINAFE, or Fortress of Hope, closed at the beginning of August. The closure came quickly, and although it took us by surprise, we were kind of anticipating its closing from all of the government changes that have been happening here in Nicaragua. Sadly, the government recently required that all board members of NGO organizations be Nicaraguan, which was impossible for us, being that 4/5 members were US citizens. They also changed the finance law for children's homes, requiring all money to be filtered through the Nicaraguan government, with which the board members could not comply in good faith. There were also other factors that led to the closing of CINAFE, and we could see more barriers down the road if we did not close in August. So, what happened to the staff and kids who were at CINAFE? Well, the staff we had are now looking for, or have found, other work. The children that were at CINAFE were either placed in other centers or sent home. You can be in prayer for the staff and children of CINAFE. It's amazing for us to think about how we moved down here to help at CINAFE and since moving here in 2014, God has placed different things/people in our path that we did not anticipate. Now that CINAFE is no longer operating, we continue to see how God is using us and how He will continue to teach us daily in our time here.
(It is important to note that when CINAFE started 10 years ago, it was 1 of 300 orphanages/children's homes. At its time of closure, it was 1 of 14 homes left in Nicaragua. The government has been in the process of trying to shut down protection centers like CINAFE, and we are thankful that CINAFE was able to help children for 10 years, as one of the last standing centers here!)


So what are we up to now? Well, Mitch has been very busy in his work at NCA Nejapa as the coordinator of the English team, as well as teaching three English classes, so CINAFE's closing didn't affect him too much. However, since I've been home with Ezra this past year, we went to CINAFE 2-3 times a week, and it was a great way to get out of the house and help how we could. I am now finding myself investing in other relationships here in the international community. Ezra and I have a play-date once a week on Thursdays with two other women and their kids. It's been my saving grace. I love that time each week and am thankful that Mitch and I have been reaching out to others in a more intentional way since we've been going to the international church, ICF (International Christian Fellowship). We had been switching each week between this church and a Nicaraguan church, Hosanna, but around April we decided to go consistently to this international church as we felt the need for a closer community and the need to be in more intentional worship. This change has been really great for us in these last few months. We had the thought recently of wondering what God could have taught us in this church had we been there from the beginning, but at the same time we wouldn't change a thing. We feel like we've consistently listened to God's calling and have gone where He wants us and that gives us peace.

I also just started volunteering at NCA Nejapa this week in Kindergarten through 3rd grade on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. I LOVE being back in the culture, the classroom, and speaking Spanish again! We found a great Nicaraguan lady to watch Ezra those mornings and although he's not quite sure he wants to be without his mommy for a few hours on those days, I love it! She does a good job with Ezra and he gets to hear Spanish all the while! I'm excited for next week!

So what will happen to Marthita when we leave? We have made arrangements with a Nicaraguan family whose daughter goes to NCA Nejapa and is in the same class as Martha. Martha will move in with them and live with them for the last two years of her high school time. In November, we will meet with the family and a lawyer and transfer the guardians to this family. We will need to raise money in order for her to finish at NCA Nejapa. The total cost will be around $3,500 which isn't much but it's money we don't have. IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO CONTRIBUTE TO HER EDUCATION, WE WOULD LOVE IT! CONTACT US AND WE'LL GO FROM THERE!

So what will happen to Yosidara when we leave? Yosi is going to stay here in Nicaragua for the coming year, 2018. We are going to enroll her in a full-time English program right here in Managua. She will be able to live there on campus Monday-Friday but we are currently looking for a family she can live with on the weekends and during vacations. Yosi does not have any family to live with and options for her are very, very limited. Please be in prayer for us, that we can find a family that is able and willing to take in Yosi for the coming year. We will also need to raise money for Yosi to do this program. The total for the year is $1,500 but we also need to give a stipend to whichever family takes her in, $75.00/month. IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO CONTRIBUTE TO HER EDUCATION AND LIVING COSTS, WE WOULD LOVE IT! CONTACT US AND WE'LL GO FROM THERE!

Well, that's all for now.

Tonight I think Mitch and I, and Ezra of course, are going out on a dinner date! Time together in our family of three is always nice.

Thanks for listening.

Look for another blog post next month, when Ezra is 1 YEAR OLD! (Time flies!!!)

Now for the best part. Enjoy these pictures below! (They're out of order)
Holding his bottle for the first time in July

All of us after peeling coconuts, Ezra wishing he did!

Martha's 15th birthday party!

Celebrating Mitch's 30th birthday at school

Family beach trip! (Along with Mitch's school faculty)

Home to PA to see Lauren's family in June/July

Extended family meets Ezra!

Ezra eating breakfast with his cousin, Josh

We went to see the Liberty Bell in Philly

Ezra laughing with MomMom

Family pictures!

Yosi's 18th birthday party!

                                                                   Ezra is 11 months old!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Grand Update!

Hello everyone!

Lauren here. We are so sorry that we have not written for half a year! We have been very busy and things have been hectic recently. The last time we wrote was just before Ezra was born. Hey - if you haven't heard yet, Ezra Luke Yoder was born on September 24th, 2016, and he's the love of our life!! ;)

I feel like there are so many things to write about that I don't even know where to begin. It seems as though one thing comes our way, we take a deep breath and deal with it, and then another thing comes shortly after. To start somewhere, we'll begin with the birth of Ezra. I had an unexpected C-section, which made recovery for me a lot longer than we had planned. Thankfully, we had such great care and great doctors at our hospital that everything went very smoothly. Mitch was also able to take that first week off from school and spent his time with Ezra and me, which was simply incredible. All I had energy for was resting so that my body could heal, care for Ezra with the little strength I had, and care for our girls the best I could.  Around November I started feeling 100% again, and we enjoyed a good month of time together once Mitch's school year finished in December.

In the middle of December we headed up to Alaska for Neil's wedding, Mitch's cousin. We got to spend Christmas with family and had a great time relaxing, eating great food, enjoying the snow, and the beautiful mountains. The only small bummer in the beginning of the week was that Ezra got a cold that made him a little more difficult than normal. Stuffed-nosed babies are no fun!! In the middle of the week on Wednesday, we had a BIG bummer. We went skiing with Mitch's family. It was a great day with one of the most incredible views I've ever seen. On the last run of the night, Mitch's ski came off, and he fell hard to the ground, breaking his collarbone. Mitch had to get surgery up in Alaska. We struggled a lot with why this had happened to us. We took 3 flights with an infant to get up to Alaska and had 3 flights back. (Thankfully, Phyllis, Mitch's mom, rearranged her flights so she could fly the first two with us to help out with Ezra. And boy, was she an amazing help.) We desperately needed this break from Nicaragua, and we were so thankful for the opportunity to be with family and to be somewhere we've always wanted to visit. With Mitch's broken collarbone, he wasn't allowed to fully hold Ezra for 6 weeks, and this added a big obstacle to our lives in Nicaragua. Ezra was 3 months old at the time and, of course, still needed lots of attention and care. Without family and friends to help out at all, the job falls completely to us 100% of the time. And now it was even more difficult with Mitch unable to help fully in the evenings after work. Anyway, we got through that difficult time and Mitch's collarbone has been healing well. At 5 weeks he actually got the go-ahead to hold Ezra on his own, and we were so thankful for that leg of the journey to be over. God is faithful and was with us all along and helped me take one day at a time.

We had a breather for a few weeks, but then at the end of January Ezra started to get a bad cold. It was fine at first, and we just watched carefully to make sure it didn't develop further. Once I heard it arrive to his lungs, we called the doctor and had an appointment that morning, Sunday Feb. 5th. Our doctor noted that Ezra seemed really exhausted and gave us medicine and had us use a defibrillator on him several times a day to help with his breathing. The following day, Monday, the 6th, we went to get my parents at the airport because they were going to visit for the week of my birthday (the 12th). The night that we got my parents, Ezra seemed short of breath and needing rest. We talked with our doctor through text message, and he urged us to go to the hospital. We didn't think much of it, as it's common to go to the hospital here in Nicaragua when you're not feeling well. It's not like in the States where you go only for a complete emergency. Anyway, we went and saw a lung specialist. and she told us that Ezra had bronchitis and to continue with the meds that our doctor had recommended, only changing one. She sent us home that evening. For that week while my parents were here, Ezra was on his medication, and he seemed so uncomfortable. The one medicine, our doctor said at another appointment on Tuesday, could make him like that. We went to an appointment, she lowered the dosage, and my parents, Ezra, and I went on our way again.

We had another appointment for that Thursday to check in and make sure everything was still okay. My parents, Ezra, and I were in the car on our way to get lunch and run some errands before the appointment, and that is when Ezra had his incident. While driving, my mom put Ezra to sleep in the car, but soon after we noticed him fidgeting around. His eyes were opened and looking up to the roof of the car and his arms were flailing around, but he wasn't awake. We couldn't wake him, either. It was a horribly scary sight as I was driving and looking in my rear view mirror at Ezra. We realized he was having a seizure. Thankfully we were already close to the hospital where our appointment would be that afternoon. I called the doctor on our way and told her that we were coming RIGHT NOW and that we needed to see her immediately.

Upon arriving to the hospital, my mom fainted in the back seat, then came to, from everything that was going on. I realized I was feeling like I might faint and had to sit for a minute before my dad and I rushed into the hospital with Ezra, leaving my mom to rest. At this point, Ezra had woken up and was conscious. We saw the doctor shortly after getting to the office, and we explained to her what had happened in the car and how we thought he had a seizure. She gave us the option to run some tests or admit him to the hospital and run tests. I wanted him admitted, no question. The doctor gathered papers, and I called Mitch to fill him in. He left school and rushed over as soon as he could. After doing tests on his chest, the doctors found that the lining of Ezra's heart was enlarged and filled with liquid. The lack of oxygen pumping to his brain caused the seizure. Thankfully, it was very treatable with medicine. The following morning Ezra had a CT scan on his brain to see if the seizure had caused any damage. Thank the Lord everything was, and is, fine with his brain.

In the hospital we continued treating his lungs and heart for two days. Mitch stayed during the days and brought my parents over to stay too, then took them back to our house at night and came back to the hospital to sleep. We are SO thankful to have had my parents with us during this really difficult time. On Saturday the 11th we were released in the morning upon doing another test on Ezra's heart to reveal that that liquid around his heart had shrunk considerably.  However, I also got very sick from the same virus and felt very weak and tired. God placed my parents here with us during this time intentionally, and we are thankful for His faithfulness. My mom was able to stay an extra few days, and our church in Harrisonburg lined it up so that when she left, Mitch's sister Rachel came to help us. She was a great blessing to us, and especially me as I felt very weak and tired from dealing with everything and being sick with the same cold as Ezra on top of it. Having to deal with this incident after dealing with the difficulty of Mitch's collarbone just left us both feeling pretty emotionally and physically broken. We continued treatment for another week and had follow-up appointments with the pulmonologist and cardiologist and they told us that he is now healed completely, and we are thankful beyond words.Praise God, Mitch, Ezra, and I are all healthy and feel 100%!

Later one evening, while Mitch was taking my parents back to our house for the night, my dad and Mitch started putting things together as to why my mom fainted in the car, why I felt like I could have fainted, and my dad also noted that he felt weird in the head after our car ride to the hospital. They smelled and heard something, and found that the exhaust pipe on our SUV had broken where it connects to the muffler. Which mean that all the exhaust fumes were going up into the cabin of the car, inside of out the back. We believe this spurred on Ezra's seizure as he was the smallest and weakest of health. That's why my mom fainted and that's why my dad and I felt strange. Strangely, we are thankful for the car trouble, which led us to Ezra's seizure, which led us to the hospital, which helped the doctors find the fluid around his heart, which helped us get Ezra medicine and on the path to recovery. Had his seizure not happened, he wouldn't have been hospitalized, and we probably wouldn't have realized the gravity of his bronchitis and the way it was affecting his heart. The Lord is good, and we praise Him in all of this.

So there you have it. Several things have been going on that have kept us from writing on our blog. We wish we had done a better job to keep everyone updated on here as some of you really enjoy these posts and use this to follow what we do down here in Nicaragua. However, it just didn't happen. We want to thank you all for your thoughts and prayers during these past months that have been the most difficult in our time here. Please continue to pray for us as we continue to adjust to changes in our life and as we dig into this new and last year here in Nicaragua. We promise to do a better job keeping you updated in the weeks and months to come! Enjoy the pictures below of Ezra's birth, to Alaska, to the hospital the other week, and now.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Changes are Coming Our Way

Hi, everyone! 

Lauren here. It’s the beginning of September which means that our due date for little baby Yoder is NEXT MONTH! October 10th , to be exact. A lot is going to change here for us very shortly, and we’re anxiously anticipating those changes.

I have just one more week of work left at NCA Nejapa before my maternity leave begins. But actually, the beginning of my maternity leave means that my work at NCA Nejapa is finished for good. Since our school year ends at the beginning of December, that means my maternity leave will take me through the end of the school year. Then, come school year 2017, I will not be returning to NCA Nejapa as Mitch is. He will work while I stay at home with the baby. This will allow me to focus on our little guy, or girl, and also focus more on CINAFE, Fortress of Hope, and Yosi and Martha. In our last blog post, we showed pictures of our new home. Moving here has been one of the best decisions we’ve made since having Yosi and Martha with us, but with that change comes bigger bills. Come January, living on one income and supporting a family of five requires more money than we have.

We can’t wait for these changes to happen, but with that being said, we realize that we need to begin fund-raising for our family. Since the changes that are coming our way will make it much harder for us to financially support ourselves as much as we could before, we’ve been talking with our Mission Support Team about the best way to go. They will be helping us raise money, and we wanted to let you all know as well, being that you’re close family and friends who have supported us in many ways throughout our time here.

If you would like to support us financially, stay tuned. Our Mission Support Team will be sending out letters to lots of you and making announcements in several connected churches. Thank you for following us on the blog, writing to us, Skyping with us, and praying for us in these past two years of our lives here in Nicaragua. We are abundantly blessed and beyond thankful for the love and support we have from each and every one of you, and we’re excited to see where the Lord takes us in this next year!  

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Pictures of Our New Home!

Hello everyone!

It's been too long since we've written and today we just wanted to send you all some pictures of the new house we moved into this past June. This home has been such a blessing for us and it's been a much needed change for our ever-growing family (Mitch, Lauren, Yosi, Martha, and baby Yoder...and Emre :)) This house still has three bedrooms, but the layout gives us so much more living space and our yard is such a nice haven for us and Emre.

Enjoy and thanks to everyone for your prayers of support and financial support to make this possible. We are very grateful.

Here they are!
Front view of our house
Lauren with Emre when we got the keys!
Living Room

Dining Area

Kitchen, with real space to prep and cook!
Girls' room
Hallway bathroom (girls' bathroom)
Our master bedroom

This shows our walk-in closet and bathroom
Walk-in closet with space above for our suitcases! No more suitcases sticking out from under the bed!!
Our bathroom

Our nursery - just needs a few more touches :)

Rocking chair and pack n' play

Looking through doors leading to back porch
Back porch area
Emre loving life here :)
Our big yard for Emre to run and play! (Lauren's in the very back of our yard)