Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Called To Serve

Many people have asked, “How we ended up here? or Why Nicaragua?”  Mike and I have wanted to teach in a developing nation for as long as we have been married, but finding the school, finding the ‘right’ time, actually moving out of our home & to a different country! that took us 15 years to find the courage.  Finding the right school was the hardest task.  We didn’t want to teach abroad ‘just for the experience’ or ‘just for fun,’ if we had wanted this we could have picked any one of the numerous International American Schools throughout the world, had a nice cushy job, expenses paid even including housing & still received an American Pay Check (in a 3rd world country). Such schools serve the elite classes and usually have no trouble finding good quality teachers, their mission is generally not related to improving the status of the local country, & the students at those schools are guaranteed a good education.   That is not the type of opportunity we were looking for.  We weren’t looking for an adventure.  We were looking for a way we could do more with our lives, we were seeking a profound way to serve the Lord & to serve others in need.

We were looking for an opportunity to teach in a place without guarantees, a place where we could share the talents we have been blessed with in way that would bless others, at a school that doesn’t have international job fairs seeking qualified teachers.  We were searching for a meaningful way we could help & serve, not just for a week or a month, but in a sustainable way where the work we did would continue after we left. 

This is why we chose Nicaragua Christian Academy-Matagalpa, or better said God chose it for us.  Some might say it was numerous coincidences that brought us here to NCA, but we believe after opening our hearts to the Lord and seeking His guidance for how we could serve Him, He brought us here to Nicaragua Christian Academy.  NCA’s mission statement instills hope for creating future change in a struggling nation.  In teaching students and mentoring teachers the gifts we are sharing this year and next year will continue to make lasting impacts for years to come.  The teachers we’re mentoring will continue to mentor others not to mention touch hundreds of students’ lives.  (Previous posts have mentioned how drastically different the teaching styles we’re implementing are.)  The students we’re teaching will continue to develop and grow into Christian leaders in the community. 

Many of you have read When Helping Hurts, or other related books dealing with the complex dilemma of ending poverty.  The authors Corbett & Finkkert, do a very good job explaining why finding sustainable truly beneficial projects to work with are so important, otherwise many well intended efforts end up actually making situations worse.  Too often North Americans have the mentality that we’re going to come in “& fix everything,” but when projects like that end or the mission workers leave, or the funds dry up, so does the help.  Sustainable projects are those where the services are genuinely going to benefit those they are intended for and in a way that those people being helped will be able to continue the services on their own without outside assistance.

The school where we are teaching is a sustainable project in two important ways, both financially as well as methodologically, & this leads to the question of why we don’t get paid to teach here.  The school receives outside funding from donors for initial construction, building projects & school start up, but the operating budget will come completely from student tuition, possibly as early as next year.  The goal for this sustainable model is for tuition to cover their Nicaraguan teacher salaries, but remain affordable enough to serve students from middle class working families.  NCA’s goal is to offer a salary twice the rate of the standard public teachers pay (which is very low).  The school is close to meeting that goal now only in its second year of operation.  All funds generated from the school will go directly back into the school & their Nicaraguan staff, it does not however allow them to pay their North American teachers.  This is very important for the development of the school & will allow them to continue to operate into the future even without outside funding. 

Similarly because we are teaching along side the Nicaraguan staff while mentoring them, they are learning skills they will be able to continue using long after we leave.  This is very different from a teacher who would just come to teach for a year or two, doing his/her own thing and then leave.

Many organizations have seen the negative effects of schools or projects that operate solely on outside funds & without in depth mentoring.  Outside funding & support can fluctuate as often as the wind changes or from one natural disaster to the next.  Schools &/or projects that depend on those funds & resources unfortunately often fail or completely disintegrate when the funding dries up.  NCA’s mission & sustainability are a huge part of why we felt called to serve here.

Now, we must admit the idea of having to raise the funds ourselves from friends, family, church members, and even strangers was completely foreign to us and quite scary (& still is)!  Being brought up in the Lutheran church, this was certainly not the norm or something we were exposed to.  However, our experiences now working with other missionaries has helped us to realize this is how the majority of missionaries around the world are funded.  Whether a missionary is part of a larger sending organization or not, each individual is predominantly responsible for seeking funding from their own church, circle of friends, family or acquaintances.  Fortunately, there are many individuals & churches wanting to support mission work and missionaries are able to continue serving in a variety of areas, including education, medicine, environment, social work, agriculture, ministry, & evangelism.

We have found this to be a completely humbling process.  It’s not easy asking others for money!  But we have come to understand and appreciate that God has called us to be here and through the generosity of others He is allowing us to serve in this way.  We know the work we are doing here will continue to benefit others for years to come!  Likewise the funds we are requesting will be gifts that will continue to grow, even after our work here is complete.  It takes a great deal of trust to say “God, you brought us here, Please help us to find the support we need to keep us here.”  But we work on that trust every day.  It helps that we are so passionate about what we are doing here & we are seeing great results.  We know that we are not asking for money for ourselves but rather for doing God’s work.  We are so grateful for those that understand our mission and want to be a part of it in any way; whether it is through supporting us in prayer, offering emotional encouragement, offering logistical help, or offering financial contributions. 

If you would like to pledge your support to us in anyone of those areas for the 2015 year please send an email to annette.muellers@gmail.com, or click above to donate through the non-profit organization Resourcing Christian Education.  We’d love to hear from you and we’d love to know you are part of our Missions Team.  May God’s Peace & Grace Be With You.

Annette & Mike Mueller

Psalm 143: 8-10 “Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you.  Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.  Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.”

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Kinders Reading! Hurray!


I am SO PROUD of my Kinders!  They are beginning readers & writers, despite being much younger than kindergartners in the states, and most having had no preschool!  It is hard to explain how dramatically different my teaching strategies are from the standard Nicaraguan education system.  A kindergarten student in a typical Nicaraguan classroom, would just now be learning a few consonants and starting to memorize syllables.  Rather, the students in my classroom know & understand all letters & sounds, they understand concepts of print, they enjoy reading, writing & creating meaning out of text, they understand basic foundational math concepts, and so much more!  It is exciting to see their growth.  It is equally exciting to see how my aid Karla is learning how to teach this way, & to see her understanding of how relevant, individualized, teaching is so much better for meaningful student learning.

Would you like to help be a part of this mission?  Below is a list of teaching materials I could use for next year, I'd be glad to pick them up from you when we're home over Christmas Break.  If you would like to help in our mission to mentor more teachers next year, please consider making a donation using the link above.  Here are a few videos of a recent small reading group, and some pictures from a recent patriotic assembly. 


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                                      Dia de Patria Parade!  The Kinder class started the show, Israel (my student with Spina Bifeda)     was so proud to be our leader!

Francisco, Jemima, & Naomy leading the way

This is Jorge my exceptionally bright student with autism.
Kai with his 1st grade teacher Suyapa, who I will be mentoring next year.


Jemima, Naomy, Daniela, & Nicole The girls were thrilled to get to wear their patriotic clothing!


Getting ready to dance & sing "Soy Puro Pinolero!"




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    Classroom Materials Wish List
* letter magnets (capital & lower case)
* magnetic cookie sheets (with edges)
* miniature muffin pans
* small to medium rubber made containers
* duplo blocks
* foam blocks
* teddy bear counters
* unifix cubes
* skinny white board markers
* 25 metal fastener rings (˜2 inches)
* Pocket Charts (& metal/pvc holder) (individual & large sizes)
 small objects for alphabet containers (ie P: plane, pumpkin, pie, pom pom, etc.) multiple items that     would fit in a medium sour cream container
* 25 white children's athletic socks (to use for erasers)
* Thermal Laminator Pouches-Letter Size 8.9 X 11.4  Multiple boxes
* small letter tiles
* scrabble letter tiles
* plastic storage containers with small compartments (to hold letter tiles) Like a craft/beading   container
* ABC puzzles (in Spanish), number puzzles
* Discovery Toys educational games (lacing activities, geo boards, geometric shapes, bug pattern matching, etc.)
* USED I-pods (for listening centers)
* USED I-Pads (for learning centers)
* USED projector/document camera or device for turning I-phone/I-pad into projector or document  camera
* Used speaker for computer
* Picture books English or Spanish
* Early reader books: Spanish