THE FOREIGN LAND OF OKLAHOMA

MY FIRST VAN — 1979

Background:

I have been a ‘free thinker’ all of my life and have consistently been on the search for more Truth. My #vanlife began in 1979 when I left my home state of Michigan in a Ford 150 cargo van with a friend and our two German Shepherds. I ran out of money in Austin and fell in love with the Texas Hill Country. I was 25 years old when I began my Texas life.

I married a 4th generation Texan and we became deeply involved in a Texas charismatic Baptist church (which was quite the change for this Lutheran girl from the Detroit area). Beginning in 1983 we ‘knew’ we were supposed to go to Nicaragua to help the people, but we kept having babies…by 1993 we had seven children, ranging from 1 ½ to 12 years, all but one born at home. The dream to be missionaries never dimmed as I served in different capacities, especially in the prison ministry. Even though I was part of an organized church, I never changed from the Free Thinker that I was.

Becoming a missionary in our church meant to place ourselves under the authority of a missions committee and to raise the planned budget before we could leave. I deeply struggled with this. If we were going to a foreign land to serve God, would He not take care of us? Would He not provide all our needs, as the Bible says? Why did we need to treat this as a business with well-laid plans to execute? I believed we were to trust the Divine to meet our needs. We wanted to Live by Faith, not by man’s direction. This caused consternation with the leaders of our church. I would answer them, “If it is God who sends, it will be God who provides.”

This mindset got me in lots of trouble, as my stories will show…Please read on.

In 1993 we began to practice Living by Faith right there in our Texas hometown, asking only God to provide our needs as we mentally and spiritually prepared to move to Nicaragua with our seven children. We experienced amazing answers come to pass, over and over. Then I prayed this question: ‘it is not hard to live by faith when we belong to a large church and live right down the street from it, but can we do it in a foreign country?’ The answer I received? ‘Go to Oklahoma and find out.’

My husband had an exploratory trip to Nicaragua already planned so it was to be me, my 7 children and Buster, our black Labrador. I did not even hesitate, even though I truly only had $20 total and a very undependable van. Why hesitate? Did God not say?

One of the first hurdles was that I needed to get the approval of the Mission Committee.  I felt very strongly that this was vital although I was not sure why but I would be glad later that I did this (when I was called back and greatly chastised). I met with each leader individually and every single one enthusiastically gave their blessing.

The next hurdle was a vehicle. No way could I in good conscience drive the van we owned. Praying, praying. A week before my husband left for Nicaragua, he surprised me with a different van, a1979 Dodge Maxi Van with only 30,000 miles on it (the dealer had mentioned that it had ‘set up’ for a lengthy amount of time). It even had front and rear A/C, which was great being it was summer in Texas.

Last hurdle was money. I had sensed that I would be leaving with $500, but I told no one, hoping I was totally wrong! But, yup, my husband was able to give me $500.

On June 25th, I and my children departed on our adventure. We had not gone but 100 miles and the van began to overheat. We were in heavy big city freeway traffic, passing through Dallas. I turned the a/c off and we opened all our windows. It was hot outside! Then it began to rain very hard. At that point, I noticed the car top carrier was loose! I pulled off under an overpass and climbed up and fastened it down. My thoughts? ‘This is going to be a very interesting trip.’

We made it to Oklahoma City but it was then that I realized big cities do not have many campgrounds and we did not have many dollars! There was a bright flashing billboard (it was getting dark) and the kids all began yelling, ‘McDonald’s, McDonald’s!’  And there we went, to the inside playground and shared cokes. I finally located a motel (by phone, no internet back then) that would rent us a room with three beds for $32. I really did not even think that it might not be in the best part of town. It was so late when we arrived that we all spread out and quickly fell asleep, planning on figuring out what we were supposed to do next in the morning.

When I woke and looked out the window, it was raining so hard that the streets were flooded, and cars stranded. I guess we were not going anywhere today!  We brought in the camp stove and ice chest and turned on the cartoons. When the rain let up, I went for a walk and realized why the room was so cheap. We met some interesting characters those few days we were there! The management was so nice – they rented us the room for a week for 23$ a night. We were safe for now.

One morning I went for an early morning walk, trying to figure out what the heck I was doing. When I came back to the room our dog had disappeared. The kids had let him sit outside the room on the leash. He was gone. We split up and started looking, asking everyone if they had seen Buster. There were people who rented there by the week and had already met my kids so they were concerned and pretty soon, you could hear calls all over – Buster, Buster!. Finally, I sent the kids back to the room. They decided to pray while I kept hunting. A gentleman asked to speak to me. Turns out he was a private investigator (bounty hunter) who was also staying there, and he wanted to help. He suggested I go be with my upset children and let him see what he could do. It was not 20 minutes later and there was a knock on the door. Buster!!!! Turns out a drunk had taken our dog into his room but our new friend discovered it and brought him back!

It is interesting that when I remember back to that day, I most remember sitting on the steps with that PI after Buster was returned. I was able to encourage him, which was one reason we were on this trip. He was searching for Truth, for purpose, for peace, as most of us are. I shared how Freedom to do what I needed to do in my life had helped me find peace. He agreed that he also needed to follow his heart.

This story has many more adventures to share and I tell you, I do not exaggerate, every word is true.  Post 2 is coming soon!!

Here I Come, Mi Nicaraguita

 

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I left my precious home in Nicaragua in early May of this year. I already had my plane ticket when the political Troubles hit in April. It was hard to leave, not knowing what would happen, but I was convinced that the best thing I can do for the people whom I serve is Do My Part – which always has been helping them have a better quality of life. It took many hours of prayer, thought and discussion to decide and feel peace about What My Part Is Now. I will be successful in raising awareness and funds in the States as I plan to travel and connect with like-minded people. I am believing for a Van Home in early 2019.

Van Life 1992

Pregnant me and my children – Van Life in 1992

 

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Next Monday I am getting on a plane and going home to Nicaragua for a month. My daughter Sarah is married to a wonderful Nicaraguan man and their due date for the birth of their 3rd son is October 6th. I have been blessed to be at every birth of my daughters

 

 

Maritia with the Ultrasound Project

Missions of Grace Ultrasound Program

I have a very exciting appointment for our Missions of Grace Ultrasound Project on my first stop in San Jose, Costa Rica. I plan to stay a night or two and then take a public bus to Nicaragua. I will be posting some stories for you!)

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I love to meet new friends while riding the bus

I am going on this trip with hands empty but my heart full of love and concern. Our support has dropped off the last couple months, but God knows and will supply what is needed.

Keep me and the precious people of Nicaragua in your thoughts and prayers!

Talk soon!

Cheri

beans

I love cooking on an outside stove

NICARAGUA DISASTER RELIEF

These precious boys lost the walls of their home

These precious boys lost the walls of their home

This morning my heart is so very heavy and to be honest, a bit scared.  The what ifs are screaming – I hate what-ifs.  What if we cannot help everyone?  What if we fail?

This is always where I have no choice but to reach down deep in my soul and grab hold of my faith that there IS a God – there is Someone Else who cares even more than I do, than we do about the victims of the flooding that happened in my very own communities in Tola, Nicaragua a month ago.   So many affected families!!  I woke this morning with my neck in knots and my stomach also.  But I also was grateful that I know a remedy – it just takes some effort and taking a bit of time alone.  I grabbed my yoga mat and my Bluetooth speaker and headed out to the sun.  I first chose music that pulled and tugged at the pain in my heart – that made it come to the surface and also caused the tears to flow.  I bent and bowed and reached to the sky.  I cried loud, from my gut.  Nobody was around – I could do this without inhibitions.  It hurt but my heart was thankful that I acknowledged the pain, that I unburied it.  Strangely, it felt right.

Then I chose a song called “It is going to be worth it all”.  I sang it loud.  Then the old one “It is well with my soul”.  Some Yanni, a bit of Cello with the Piano Guys.  30 minutes later, I paused.  I laid down.  I rested.  My heart rested and was grateful.  This feat of helping so many is not up to me.  It is even not up to all the amazing volunteers who are giving of themselves.  We are the hands and the feet, even more than that, we are Love, we are Hope.  WE SEE YOU.  Someone cares.  We are in this together.

Valentina

Valentina was very thrilled with her gifts. #Ilovedonors

Today I am moving my suitcases out of the comfortable, warm loving home of my daughter and going into the pueblo.  I will enjoy the many meals of Gallo Pinto (rice and beans) with my pueblo friends, I might fight off some monster mosquitos, I might not sleep with A/C, but I will be there.  I will see and hug and cry and Know.  I am honored to be an expat here because I have access to resources that my pueblo friends do not.  I have access to the internet and caring people flung across many places.  I am not alone.  We are not alone.

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It seems so strange to me but it is true, that when I allow my heart to hurt, I become more resolved and stronger for the fight.   Some families have lost their entire homes but even more have lost walls, as the photo above.  The Wells are contaminated and no clean drinking water.  I will share in next posts encouraging stories of all the hearts and hands that are helping and also stories as I visit the people and take photos and interviews.  Come along with me on this journey!

 

 

100 Mile River Journey with an Ultra Purpose – Rio San Juan, Nicaragua

Taking Stand Up Paddleboards (SUPs) down the full length of the Rio San Juan! Along with a motor boat with a guide.  I have had this trip in my heart for a very long time now.
Five years ago the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health requested that MOG Missions of Grace take our Ultrasound Program to the remote areas of the Rio San Juan River, which runs along the border of Nicaragua and Costa Rica. This was not possible until now.
We will be visiting the remote villages along the river and tributaries seeking out the needs of the local people.  We love pregnant mamas and babies and want to be there for them!
We are delighted that Tony Smith of Jarvis Boards will be joining us with two of his amazing wood SUPs (Stand Up Paddleboards.) We have hired a guide with a boat but the paddle boards will be crucial to navigate the tributaries that the boat cannot access.  Watch out Alligators!   20170322_190911-02 (1)
David Wells of D&D Media Collective  will be filming the entire journey, creating a documentary for Jarvis Boards and one for MOG!
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Our small team will consist of myself (Cheri), my son Johnny Mauldin, Tony Smith and David Wells. We are planning to travel all the way to the Caribbean Coast, ending at San Juan de Nicaragua.
We are taking hammocks and gear generously donated by Kammock and will be roughing it all the way. We will utilize the guide, ride the stand up paddleboards and sometimes take the public panga bus boat. The Tributaries are drawing me because I think that there will be small villages along the banks.
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I will have such a smile on my face as I climb out of the water and say “Hola!!! May we hang our hammocks here for the night??”
This is one of the activities that I thrive on.  Adventure to remote places, coupled with reaching out and helping people.  I love love love it.  Not sure how much we will be able to send updates while on the river, but I will do my best and certainly when we complete our journey, a blog post will be sent asap.
Please follow my blog.    I have moved out of my home in Texas and will be traveling or living in Nicaragua except when I get to be with my kids and grandkids.  So many exciting adventures planned.  You will be glad you did!

unfolding nicaragua 2016 (Adri and Lilly)

Three amigasI had the extreme privilege of traveling to my beloved Nicaragua with my two oldest granddaughters.  My oldest daughter will be married on July 9th on the beach here and we came a few weeks earlier than the rest of the clan.  Adri (11yrs in the blue cap) lived here when she was younger, but Lilly (9 yrs- yellow cap) has only been here once when she was 2 years old.

I love to travel on buses, walk the dusty roads, eat fritanga on the curbside, stay with Bus Adventurefriends in tiny pueblos and even bathe out of a bucket if necessary.  I was curious how my girls would handle the extreme differences from their lives in San Antonio, Texas. So many differences, especially very limited access to the internet on their phones and Nana’s (that’s me) Nica lifestyle.  I was honored that both set of parents gave their blessings for my plans of adventure.  🙂

We stayed at a beach house without running water and the necessity of mosquito netting and thank God for FANS. We walked a long way on a beautiful empty beach (Guasacate) and discovered great shells for them to carry home.  I was most excited to take them to my dear friend, Martita Romero’s home in a tiny pueblo to spend the night.  The wonderful Nicaraguan hospitality reigned and the gallo pinto, queso and fresco was delicious.  Lilly saw Martita hand sewing a pillow when we arrived and whispered to me that she wanted to learn how to do that.  The next morning she managed to communicate this desire (even though she is just learning Spanish). Before I knew it, the ladies of the house cleared their entire day for us and even brought the sewing machine from next door.   Adri and Lilly will never forget that day, I promise.Lilly made this pillow herself

 

 

 

 

 

We went home, riding buses and taxis, dirty clothes and all, but tired and very happy.  My granddaughters passed the test and cannot wait for me to take them further remote next summer.  They pried many stories out of me during our adventure but no worries, I have plenty more!

If you ever have the desire to join us on our unique adventures, just let me know!

 

 

KILLING THE WHAT IFS

Around the table - my children

Around the table in Masatepe, Nicargua (Most of my children)

I was not afraid of moving my large family to a foreign country (Nicaragua) with no money and not even able to speak the language.

Bus Trip to Texas  1996

6 days and many buses to travel to Texas from Nicaragua

I was not afraid to take my 9 children by myself to Texas, traveling by public buses and crossing 5 countries.

I remember when my kids were small and we were living in Texas, I was a homeschooling mom.  I discovered this great hands-on curriculum called Konos.  I was so excited and I talked about it to all my friends. This was going to make such a difference.  And then it sat and it sat.  Months went by.  What the heck!  I was intimidated.  I had no idea how to really use it, nor even how to begin.  I think the big issue was one of those Stupid What ifs.  Do you ever entertain those in your mind?? What if I fail?  What if it doesn’t work? What if it proves to be a waste of time….WHO CARES!!

Flash forward hmmm say 20 years.  I want to be a writer.  I have it all figured out in my head.  For years people have said to me, ‘you should be a writer’.  I would answer them, ‘not yet, I don’t have time.  But later…’  And now is the time.  But I have a few ‘KONOS’ in my life.  Like this blog – should I only write personal stuff?  Should it just be about my travels?  Maybe my family life?  But what about Missions of Grace (MOG) and the amazing projects I am involved in?  But can I mix the two?    UGHHH  WHO CARES?

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I got to ride in a military Chinook to take disaster relief aid to remote Nicaragua

Did I fight fear of success or failure when I was invited to ride in the jump seat and deliver Hurricane Mitch relief supplies to the Rio Coco area of Nicaragua??  NO WAY!  I jumped in without hesitation.  It was amazing!

The other KONOS in my life is the ‘marketing’ or ‘public relations’ or ‘relationship building’ for MOG.  I see it in my mind – I know I want it to be build on relationships.  Amanda Palmer’s book “The Art of Asking” was such an inspiration to me.  BUT, what if people don’t respond?  What if people don’t take the time to even read my letters”  What if I fail.   ohhhh, there it is.  What if I fail…

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Javier Baldovinos and Great dog Shaka

What about you?  Do you fight those awful ‘What ifs’ in your mind? Do you ever fret about success vs failure?

How about if we encourage each other??

 

JUST GET IN THE WATER!!

Have a great day!

TOUCHING THE SKY – LEAPING OVER FIRE

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It is not often that I feel like I might actually be able to reach high enough to touch the sky, or jump carefully enough to not get burned over the fire.  So when this does come, I say, GRAB IT, EMBRACE IT and RUN WITH IT!!

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I have been traveling and sleeping on couches, floors and foreign beds for 2 1/2 months now.  I have a dream, I have a vision, but my heart has a limp, therefore chasing my passions bring on pain, discomfort and in-my-face struggles.  Today, I am in my beloved Nicaragua and yes, today, my fingers are close to those clouds and my feet are not burned, just very hot.

Please let me encourage you to keep on, follow your passions. So what if it requires sacrifice and loneliness and the same clothes forever and hand me down things.  Life is so much more than the normal – Live!  Jump!  Reach! Take Risks.

Each human being must keep alight within him the sacred flame of madness.

And must behave like a normal person.                           Paulo Coehlo