“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” II Peter 1:3
(Jase, Shaskya, Mia, Karina, me)
As I’m writing this blog, I’m trying to contain my laughter as I listen to Jase explain the deep theology of one of our favorite movies: Nacho Libre. He is talking to our house guests about one of the few things he thinks we have in common, that is, our love for fresh corn tortillas.
Okay, okay, let me catch you up. A few weeks ago, one of the leaders of our local church called and asked me if a young girl from Nicaragua could stay with us for a while before she goes to college in Minnesota. He further explained to me that Karina was 18 years old and had been offered a full scholarship to college in the USA. Of course she was thrilled. However, because of the violence that is happening right now in Nicaragua (that none of the news organizations is even covering), the US Embassy had to evacuate and close down for an indefinite period of time. And since she and her sister have no parents (their father left them when they were very small, their mother died when Karina was one-year-old, and their grandmother who raised them passed away in 2016), Karina boarded a bus alone to Costa Rica in order to go to the US Embassy in San Jose so that she could get her American student visa. She traveled for eight hours with a small suitcase, expecting to stay with an extended family member for only a few days. After a week, she received her student visa, boarded the bus back to her hometown, only to be halted at the border of her own country. The Nicaragua border was closed. The country is closed. Karina immediately called her sister and her church leader, who has been a mentor to Karina her whole life. He told her, “Karina, do not try to get home. You are too young to die.”
Saddened, scared, alone and with the few items she had with her, she returned to her extended family member in Costa Rica, but her visitor’s visa was about to expire in that country, and she did not know what to do. She was suddenly without a home.
Meanwhile, a few countries to the south, another young girl in Ecuador has applied and been accepted into the American exchange student program to spend a year in the grand ole’ town of West Monroe, Louisiana. Shaskya and her family had been planning and preparing for months for her to have an exciting, educational, challenging and possibly life-changing adventure in the United States of America. However, the local host family that had decided to accept her into their home was hit with an unexpected medical challenge and decided they just could not carry through with this decision. The local program coordinator, through a mutual friend, contacted me and asked if we would take this student into our home. She explained that she was all ready to come and was even enrolled in the same school that Mia would be starting this Fall. Oh, and we had 48 hours to make a decision.
Jase wasn’t home when this message came to me, and he wasn’t expected to be home until the next morning. So, I told myself, “I’ll think and pray about it tonight, and if I wake up tomorrow and feel like this is a good idea for our family, I’ll talk to Jase.”
I approach Jase about it first thing the next morning. He listened as I read the message from the local coordinator. I said to him, “I’ve been trying to think of a reason for us NOT to do this.”
Jase said, “Did you come up with one?”
“I can’t think of one either. Okay, let’s do it.”
(Karina joined us at the airport when we welcomed Shaskya to our country.)
In just the last few days, our home has radically changed because of these two young girls. The walls in the bedrooms have been repainted from tan to white with lots of pretty pink accents to welcome our new student. I’ve made multiple trips to the grocery store—more than usual (the only people who can eat more than teenage boys are teenage girls!). I’ve cooked beans and rice for them, and they’ve cooked beans and rice for us. We’ve laughed at all of our different accents (Jase trying to say “Nicaragua” in a Spanish accent is something I definitely need to video!). We’ve shopped for laundry softener, deodorant, toothpaste (twice) and even foot powder. The combination of three cultures in the same household has been quite the adventure. Karina said that our home was the United Nations of our neighborhood. Ha! I am dreading the day when we put her on the plane to Minnesota as we have all fallen in love with her. She has no parents, no caregivers at all, and her sister is stuck in a country whose people are experiencing the most horrific violence, suffering and death all around them on a daily basis. This is a serious tragedy that is practically being ignored by the rest of the world. It’s a tragedy that is effecting real people, good people, every moment of every day. Karina’s friends cannot attend school. Some cannot go to work to provide for their families. Even her church leader witnessed killings just a few meters from his home.
I asked Karina if she was able to keep in touch with her sister and her mentor (I am withholding his name as it could endanger his life). She said she was able to talk with them and that her sister has had an array of emotions about missing Karina. She was first angry, then saddened and now has accepted this fact of life. Karina told her, “Sister, it is okay. I will see you in four years.”
Let that sink in a bit.
She also told me that she was not posting any pictures on social media of her life here because she felt it would be insensitive to the people back home. Her heart hurts for them. She said to me, “Here, I do not worry if I am going to eat or if I am going to die. I just cannot post about my wonderful life for them to see when they are suffering. I can offer them my prayers only.”
Oh, if we could think of others before ourselves the way this sweet girl does.
Please pray for Karina and Shaskya as they are both in a strange new country. Although they have very different circumstances, God brought them into our home in the middle of the swamps of Louisiana for a purpose unknown to us at the moment. We already love them, and we pray daily that we will be able to give them everything they need to carry the name of Jesus Christ to wherever their lives lead them—from Minnesota to Ecuador to the far reaches of the world, even back to Nicaragua one day.
Minnesota is quite far from Louisiana, but thank goodness for airplanes. Jase has already told Karina that he will fly her here to be with us on Christmases and during the summers. Isn’t that where college kids go during breaks? Home.
Lord, bless these girls. They have already blessed us so.