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!!

FAMILY

 

me and all my kids

Presenting my children 

I made it to San Jose, Costa Rica with a few good stories to add to my collection. Those are coming up in the next posts.  But I think the most important post that I can write is about my family, specifically my ten children and their families (being I just left the states where I was with many of them). I truly without a doubt could not do what I do without their support and patience and love and acceptance. I travel between Nicaragua and the states for my job and for my life. I do not mind when one of my children move because then I can get to know a new place! I have children in Nicaragua, Denver, San Antonio, and Austin. Also great siblings in Florida and Michigan. I can travel to my heart’s content! I borrowed and kept for my own a saying years ago: “I get by with a little help from my friends.” because my family ARE my best friends.

family at lukes wedding

Almost everyone is here

I have lived for the last couple of years without a home and without a vehicle (due to the desire to be able to follow my heart). And without burdening anyone too much. How do I do that? Family.  I stay at each home for just enough time to love on them and their kids and visit and catch up and then I am gone. It is me who keeps the clock running, not them. I have this thing that I never want to be a burden to anyone. They offer to lend me their vehicles and drop me off at the airports.(I am believing for a van next). Most of all, they love me just as I am. They listen, they engage, they speak the truth in love and give solid advice.  I love my family.

me and my grandbabies

Surrounded by almost all my grandchildren

Please note this. I am a single mom (for the last many years) with ten children and soon to be nine grandchildren and I DO NOT REGRET any of it! We may have been kinda poor when they were growing up, they just might have worn many hand-me-downs. But did we go on adventures!! Anything I wanted to do, I just took them along. You CAN raise a big family without lots of money.  I repeat YOU CAN RAISE A BIG FAMILY WITHOUT LOTS OF MONEY. 

So, here is advice from a woman who has already lived a full life. The best thing you can give is your love. Look what I am reaping! And believe me, I dragged them to maybe too many places and worked too hard helping others outside the family. But it is okay.

Love covers all.

 

 

 

Here I Come, Mi Nicaraguita

 

me and flag

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

 

baldo and family on beach

 

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!)

bus

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

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

                                      

WHY DID I GIVE UP MY HOME?

My heart is driving me. If giving up comforts can possibly equal helping even one precious family…

La Paz de Cristo - Rebuilding homes

La Paz de Cristo – Rebuilding homes

I have skills, I have energy, I have desire and I want to believe in myself.  I was born in the 50’s, I grew up in the 60’s, so it was natural to question the ‘status quo’.  Did I want that?  Will that give me satisfaction?

Then in the 90’s I became a missionary.  Did that give me satisfaction?  I discovered that I did not fit that mold either.

But where I did find satisfaction was ‘with the people’. Riding my horse, carrying medicine into the hills, helping rebuild homes after a devastating hurricane in Nicaragua (see photo above).  The days I was ‘out there’, involved, bringing hope and love, that is where I fit.  Have I changed the world?  Not much, but I think I have helped change some lives, helped people begin to believe in themselves again, improved their quality of life at least a bit, and that is better than the remote control of my big TV, even better than a nice comfortable big bed (oh, but that is sooooo nice and I love it).

Sometimes when I am sitting in my Wagon, wondering where to go to work on my laptop, or wondering where to get a good cup of coffee without paying five dollars, or hesitating to humbly ask one of my kids for a space on their couch, again..I pause and think maybe I am just crazy.  But I believe.  Not yet enough in myself, but I believe that there is a God and He has called me, He has trained me and that I have work to do, work set aside for me.  If I do not step out and jump off this cliff of faith, the work will get done, but I will miss out, greatly.

I believe in people.  I very hesitantly believe that when I ask, the resources will be given and I can GO and DO and maybe some others will come with me and then they will begin to believe in themselves and they too will bring hope and they too will bring along others…

Just like when I used to have all my babies born at home – when people asked me about it, I always tried to be quick to say, ‘it is not for everyone’.  This too, is not for everyone.  But sometimes I get lonely, doing my thing, and maybe by writing about my journey, I can encourage you and then maybe you can encourage me!  I would love to receive feedback, I would love to hear what gives you satisfaction and i would even invite questions about what the heck I am doing….maybe this is a new way to have pen pals! (oh, did that show my age??)

THE BIRDS AND THE BEES, WHY NOT ME?

My wonderful children

My wonderful children

I am moving in eight days, again.  When I had all my kids at home (all ten of them) they used to love to shock people by telling them we have moved 19 times over the years.  Am I military? you might ask.  No, not at all.  Then why would I move so many times, especially with such a large family.  Good question and one that is too complex for me to delve into today, maybe I do not even understand totally.

But all that moving certainly did produce well-rounded people, with not much need for the security that comes with a ‘permanent home’ (is that maybe a bit of an illusion, anyway?).  One of my comments used to be that I wanted my children to have their security inside of them, not in external circumstances.  most of my kids are in their own homes.  My youngest is at the stage that he has one foot in and the rest out, sort to speak.

40751a83-9290-46c4-9c60-675b8d140d8a_zpsxxhazwfqI have a dream that I have been chasing for many years – building up a non-profit to help empower people who are helping others.  Needless to say, this has created a lifestyle for me that is not too security-based.  I am now 60 and I continue to believe and give and live for my passion, for my dream.   I have to be out of my apartment in eight days and just found a place to sub-let yesterday.  I act like I eat stress for every meal and enjoy the flavor, but lots of times my insides churn and I fight that enemy, anxiety.

BUT, I have been living like this for 40 years now (40 years!) and it appears that the older I get and the more my kids are independent, the more I feel driven to shed my ‘stuff’ and be free to keep trying to fly.  One of the biggest struggles has been always, over the years, finances.  Even freedom costs money.  The lack thereof and the pressure produced by that lack tends to produce anxiety.  Sometimes big, bad, ugly anxiety.  How do I deal with this damaging enemy of mine??  I have faith in a higher being than myself.  I believe in God and that He is directing and guiding my life.

I have this impression these days, and I might be wrong, that it might be more accepted for me to make known that I am gay (though I am not) than for me to announce that I believe in God and that I hear His voice and that I try to follow Him with a passion.  My struggle with beginning to blog was this:  do I hide my faith in the closet?  I want to be accepted, I want to build my readership, I want people to read my words and I long to encourage people.  So, do I hide the very thing that sustains me?   I do not attend church but my faith and my belief that I am following divine direction keeps me a bit saner as I push through the brambles and thorns of life, to see people set free.

As I stated in the beginning, I am moving.  And it is all very precarious at this point.  I developed a migraine headache yesterday.  A bad one – I thought, uh-oh, I know these signs, that stupid stress monster is rearing its ugly head and making me sick.  I cannot sleep.  So this morning, I turned to my Bible.  I stopped.  I got on my yoga mat.  I stopped.  I got quiet.  I tuned in to something in me, yet so much bigger than me.  I was led to John 14:1.  “Let your heart not be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.”  Then I opened a very old devotional book I had on my shelf – have not opened it for a long time.  Opened to this:  “do not worry about your life, what you shall eat, or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you will put on…”  Matt. 6:25.     For years and years and years, when I find myself out on a ledge once again – needing to jump and needing to believe that ‘He’ will catch me, I always have to come back to this same question.  ‘Is my God real?  Or am I crazy?’   And time after time after time after time, He has proved to me, He is real (and yes, I am a bit crazy).

So, here is my story, here is my song.  The real one.  The continuing saga of a simple woman, with ten kids and now 8 grandchildren, still determined that my God is real and that He cares for us and that we really can make a difference.

“FOLLOWING THE LIGHT OF THE SUN, WE LEFT THE OLD WORLD.” Christopher Columbus

Following the sun
FOLLOWING THE SUN – LAS SALINAS, RIVAS, NICARAGUA

I discovered this bridge while hiking alone in Nicaragua.  Some Nica friends had told me that if I followed the path that was pointed out to me, I would arrive at a very secluded beach on the Pacific Ocean.  I was not told that I would have to wander through salt flats (which were awesome) and wind through a woods of thorny bushes and cross over this very cool bridge.  I got lost (which I tend to do now and then) and was thankful when a few local guys  let me follow them.

I had grown suspicious of men over the years and tended to put up barriers to ‘protect myself’.  One of my desires on this trip was to break through as many of the lies I have allowed to fester inside of me and gain some more life freedom.  Out with the old, and in with the new, ya know.  When I got lost following the sun and stepping off this bridge, I heard voices.  I turned and saw these young men – it was just me and them for as far as I could see.  I took a deep breath and…smiled, ‘on your way to the ocean?’ I asked.  And they were and here I am – I have lived to tell the tale.

It is good to ‘follow the sun’ every day, to face our fears and leave more and more of our old worlds behind.  I am certain that many of you reading this can relate.  Doesn’t it seem to you that many times our fears and our ‘old worlds’ are intertwined?  Let us help one another follow the sun!