Saturday, April 19, 2014

Nicaragua Update (Raising Support)

Our passports arrived! I can't believe we're really going!!

 Photo credit: Andres Almarza (2012)

When I think about it going throughout my normal day, I worry about leaving my little kids.  I wonder if I made the "right" choice, or if I was just being impulsive.  Mercy is still nursing nearly full time.  Will she be angry with me?  Will she be scared?  Will she be confused about where her momma went?  Why would I want to leave my baby?!

Photo credit: Andres Almarza (2012)

 I'm sure that by July Mercy will be ready to wean, and by the end of July, when we travel, she will be weaned.  When I watch the Nicaragua video, or look at pictures of the smiling faces of kids from the village, my heart warms.  I can trade 12 short days with my babies in order to have the opportunity to love on others (and hopefully even the mommas).  Twelve days are a small sacrifice, and will be a blip of memory for most of my kids, especially Mercy. 

We have sent out a few support letters, and we have quite a few here that we want to personally deliver.  We have not sent out any electronic letters yet (which should be the easiest, right?).  Of course I have a few excuses.  ;)  We're getting there, even if it is slowly.

In the event that we don't manage to contact *you* personally, here is our letter.

Greetings from the Theis household!  This summer Micah and Eden have their first chance to go on a foreign short-term missions trip. The youth group from our church, Calvary Community, will be going to visit our sister church in Managua, Nicaragua.  Mitch and Steph have taken the opportunity to be two of the adult leaders on the trip as well.  We are excited to have this chance to serve God together.

Our team leaves for Managua on July 24 and will return August 5.  Before that trip, we will be participating in Operation St. Cloud.  This is an outreach here in our city, where we will be ministering to the needs of people in St. Cloud.  Serving meals and cleaning at a local homeless shelter are tangible ways of trusting God to prepare us for Nicaragua.  Street evangelism in the downtown area, and hosting a free sports camp in a low income part of town will be two other ways we are trusting God to prepare us for what He would have us to do this summer.  

We will be encouraging and assisting the local church in evangelistic outreach, construction, and VBS.  Mitch is excited to participate in the work God is doing in Nicaragua, and the opportunity to share the reason for the hope that we have in Jesus Christ.  Steph hopes to be able to overcome language barriers and build relationships with other women in Nicaragua as she finds ways to meet their needs.  Micah is anticipating the spiritual growth that takes place on a trip like this, and the gaining of a clearer picture of the place of missions in our lives.  Eden is looking forward to meeting and working with the native people of Nicaragua and assisting with the VBS.  

We have set two goals for our trip this summer.  Our first goal is to find a team of 25 or more people who will commit to be praying for us daily, beginning today.  We believe prayer is vital to our success, both as we prepare, and during the trip itself.  We would be very encouraged to be able to send prayer requests to this team on an ongoing basis.  Our second goal is to form a sending team. 

 As a family, we have experienced the joys and blessings of financially supporting both short and long term missionaries.  We want to invite you to be part of our sending team, and experience that blessing personally.  Each member of our team has a goal of raising $1,800 (this covers airfare, food, lodging, and our building and ministry materials).  If you are interested in being on our prayer team, the sending team, or both, we would love to hear from you. 

Pressing onward,

Mitch, Steph, Micah, and Eden Theis

A chunk of the money we are raising does go to cover our airfare and travel expenses.  But it covers more than that.  Our team will buy the materials needed for the church construction project.  We will be building (with help from locals) the roof for their new church.  We also bring and buy the supplies needed for Vacation Bible School.  The team also looks for opportunities to meet needs of the church in tangible ways.  The last time they went, they were able to purchase a refrigerator for the pastor and his family. 

A long way to go...each box represents $10.

One way we are raising support is simply by asking.  We are asking people to pray for us.  To receive updates and prayer requests, email me at stephtheis at  We are also asking for donations.  Tax-deductible donations can be made by writing a check out to Calvary Community Church (leave the memo line blank!).  Mail it to The Theis Family at 6323 Cape West Ct, St. Cloud, MN 56303.

We are also willing to work to earn some money.  As the end of the school year draws nearer, we will have more availability.  Eden is available for babysitting.  Mitch, Micah, and Eden will all be available for "handyman" jobs.  I am sewing gift bags to sell.  Soon I will have finished 100 bags.  I hope to list many of them for sale in my online store.  Even if you don't want a bag, perhaps you could share with your friends!

(We used these at Christmas time for wrapping presents and they were AMAZING.  I can't say that I'll *never* buy wrapping paper again, but I know it will be an unusual thing if I do.  These are going to be a staple at my house from now on.  Not only are they much faster, they are also much easier to store.  Ok, more on that later.) 

Thank you for reading all the way to the end of this post.  We are grateful for your support and love.  It is exciting to plan and prepare and partner with the body of Christ in order to share the Gospel.

April thus far

Instead of multiple posts, here's just one:

Spring, finally?  We had a week of gloriously warm temperatures--including our first high of 70F! It was wonderful.  The kids and I went out and cleaned up the yard.

 Mercy had her first trip down the slide.
 It took a few days, but eventually ALL of the snow and ice melted, even from the shady spots on the lawn.  For a while there, it was a soupy, muddy mess.  We have spots in the yard where we need to sew some grass seed (and pray it grows in).

Mitch heard about a Rubik's Cube competition from his school, so we signed Caleb up.  This past Monday he and I traveled down to Delano, MN, for his first-ever competition.  It was so much fun!

 The best part for me was watching Caleb make friends.  He asked questions and learned a few new tricks.  One kind boy there tried out Caleb's cube (which was quite sticky).  He tossed Caleb his own cube and said, "You can have it.  I have lots at home."  That was pretty awesome! 

Caleb didn't win, but he did well according to my book!  In the first round, he solved 3 cubes in 9:02.  In the second round he solved them in 7:30.  He was thrilled to improve in the 2nd round.  Since we have been home, he has taken apart and oiled his generic cube.  He's been practicing and his best time so far is 1:56.  Whoot!

This past week, on April 16th, we got another storm.  This time we got a little over 8 inches of snow.  It was a record for April 16th.  It also put our total April snowfall up to 12 inches, making it the 4th snowiest April on record.  Ufda.  Spring is on the way again, however.  The snow has almost all melted, and we are expecting nearly 70F again for Resurrection Sunday (Easter).  ::sigh of relief::
This was a really wet, heavy snow to move.  Mitch was home sick because of a major cramp in his neck (it may sound silly, but not being able to turn your head is a pretty major thing, especially when you have to drive to work.  He has all my sympathy!).  I was relieved that a neighbor came and snow blowed our driveway Wednesday evening, so we didn't have much left to push.  That chunky stuff at the bottom of the driveway left by the snow plow was brutal.  Many times I just picked it up with my hands instead of the shovel and threw it.  ;)

A familiar morning dove returning is a great promise.  And while our winter seems to be relentless, we have nothing on Noah and his family, who spent nearly a year shut up in that Ark.

Buried again.

My plants inside are growing well, oblivious to the weather outside!

March in Photos

Yeah, it's April 19th. But I wanted to do this last month, so here it is.

This winter has been hard for me.  This seems to be the constant state of my floor, and it drives me nuts!
::sigh::  God is working on my heart attitudes!!

Of course, these are cute and fun moments:

We bought seeds to start for our garden, but then I couldn't find my planters (Mitch put them in storage).  I waited a couple more weeks before I started improvising.

The kids all had great checkups at the dentist!  No cavities in the 8 older kids (we didn't have Mercy seen yet).  Obadiah was such a big boy laying there and getting his teeth polished.

March 18th brought more snow:

At least it was pretty!

And the temps are now warm enough for me to let Obi play in it!

Sometimes I forget how important these moments are.  Instead of being frustrated that I'm "tied down" on the couch, I chose to relish the moment.

I found a generic Rubik's Cube at Goodwill for $0.99 and gave it to Caleb along with a book that my grandfather had given me.  Caleb memorized the algorithms for solving the cube, and is getting faster and faster.

Tirzah is loving to dress up.  She loves to be a ballerina.

We dissected a fish (perch):
And a frog:
Gross, Micah!

Funny girls!
Eden had my camera one night and took these next few photos:

March 27th it snowed again.  Again, it is beautiful.  But the kids are wondering what happened to spring.  Haha!

I started using any containers I could find to start my seeds.  I decided to try growing radishes indoors.  I started some cilantro, tomatoes, and a pepper.

Eden, who is working at the humane society, adopted a super-cute guinea pig.  Mitch brought home the rabbit from a different classroom one weekend.  They were fast buddies.  My kids were overly thrilled.

Finally the weather warmed enough on March 30th for me to want to use the grill.  The high was 53F, our first time above 50 so far this year.  Caleb and Grandma Karen helped clear a path.  Wow, that jerk chicken was good!

Mercy didn't care that the melting snow was icy cold.  She was SO excited to discover the world beyond the door.  Staying inside has been torture for her ever since she got her first taste of outside.

Tirzah and Obi are whipping up some Mac and Cheese for us!

Catching Up

I have some catching up to do.  First I'm going to clean off my camera card.  So when you get a BUNCH of posts from me, all at one time, just realize it's because I don't want to schedule them to be released once a day or something smart like that.  ;)

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

More About Nicaragua

I keep hoping to have more time to come back to this.  I do want to share with you our support letter, so that's coming up next.  And I want to answer some yet-unasked questions.  But first, I wanted to share a little more about our trip.  The organization we are working with is RBW Missions, from Willmar, MN.   Our sister church is in Managua.  Our trip will be 12 days, the end of July through the beginning of August. 

After the youth group traveled there in 2012, one team member put together a great video summarizing their visit.  I want to share that with you (note to fellow team members: this is the one that Josh said not to watch, so you can skip it please.):

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Coming Soon: Summer Missions

Our teens participate in our church's youth group.  Over the past several years, the church has been developing a mission statement with a missions emphasis that consists of "making more and maturing disciples."  We are pleased that the youth group activities center around this goal, the fulfillment of the Great Commission.  In fact, our family mission statement shares the same goal.   One of the ways the youth group has done this is to establish a local ministry.  Each summer, the senior high students have the opportunity to spend a week sharing the Gospel and serving in our own community.  They have also established a relationship with a sister church in Nicaragua, which they visit biennially.  When Micah and Eden each expressed interest in serving on the missions teams this summer, Mitch attended the parent info meeting with them at church.  I was surprised (but not really) when Mitch came home and said that Micah, Eden, and he all wanted to go to Nicaragua.  This is something that gets me incredibly excited.  Missions trips are complex.  I know already that the experience will be valuable for my kids.  Mitch asked me a couple times if I wanted to go.  I said that of course I do, but the logistics of making it happen were overwhelming.  When I learned of the need of female leaders going on the trip I started to ask more questions to see if my participation was even feasible.  Finally, I committed to the team as well.  Now the work begins.  

I have been pondering for a while how to present this missions trip to my friends and family.  I have some things I want to say about summer missions, and I think it's going to end up being a whole blog series.  To get started, I came up with a list of do's and don'ts to think about if you get a support letter or hear of someone who is going on a missions trip (like us).  

DO read the letter all the way to the end.  Yeah, you know that they are going to ask for money, and you've probably already decided if you are going to give or not, and possibly even how much you can give.  But there's much more to the support letter than someone wanting "your" money.

DON'T take this lightly.  I said earlier that missions trips are complex.  Everyone who gets involved is impacted.   I think that short-term missions have a bad reputation in some circles.  I have read crazy stories about disastrous team trips.  Just because there are some ineffective or ill-equipped teams doesn't mean that they all are.  Read the letter to find out what the team's goals are before you make a decision about how you can participate.

DON'T think that the amount of money you are able to give is "too little" or that it doesn't matter.  Ok, I'll be honest, large amounts add up quickly, but most donations are small.  Non-profit organizations rely on both.  Live generously.  That leads straight into my next point...

DON'T feel you are funding our family vacation.  We can pay for that ourselves.  In a future post, I'll explain what our team is raising money for, so you can see where it's going.  Now, I have done the whole vacation-on-the-beach-in-the-Bahamas thing.  When I returned, I said I never want to go away again unless it is part of a service trip in some way.  So, in a way, this is my dream vacation.  But it's not a vacation, and I'm not asking you to fund it.  Instead, we're hoping that you will view this as an opportunity to participate in ministry with us.  What I'm really trying to say is...

DO discover the blessing of giving.  Mitch and I have been supporting both long-term and short-term missionaries for years.  We know firsthand what a blessing it is to be part of ministry in this way.  I'm not trying to twist your arm by preaching a false, prosperity gospel, promising that you will get back what you give.  It is a blessing to participate by giving, when the giving comes from being motivated for the glory of God.  In fact, here's a real challenge:  go find someone to support without being asked.  Whenever you hear of a need, be a blessing to that person before they even ask.  George Mueller had received (by prayer) millions of dollars in today's currency in order to run his orphanage, yet he never asked anyone for money (  How did that happen?  People gave without being asked.

DO consider other ways you can support the team besides giving a monetary donation.  All of us are brainstorming ways we can earn extra cash.  Eden is donating her babysitting money.  Mitch is going to do some handyman work for friends.  I'm going to sew some things to sell.  And so on.

DO pause to pray for the people going on the trip.  The letter should give you some ideas of prayer requests.  I love the idea of rope holders.  William Carey was a missionary to India.  He painted the word picture of rope holders:  if he were going to be lowered by a rope into the bottom of a well, he would need someone to remain up on top and hold the rope.  A famous quote says, "Well, I will go down, if you will hold the rope." (  Every missionary needs rope holders.
If the Lord wills, we will go down to Nicaragua this summer.  For now we're planning and preparing.  I'm excited to share more details in upcoming posts!

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Obadiah is 3!!!

Oh how fun it was to celebrate with Obi today!

Mrs. E stopped by with a present for her "birthday buddy".  Note that it wasn't two cows.  ;)

{Obi's favorite thing to wear is his Spider-Man pajamas.  They weren't clean, so he didn't wear them today, but I did my best to decorate his cake.  We also didn't have cake for breakfast, but I did have to wake him up from a late nap...and he got to skip in the end, he had it just how he wanted it!  He LOVED his cake.}

 {Mitch said, "Give me 5."  Obi just looked at his hand, then started counting out 3 fingers.  LOL  So they did "high 3's" instead.}

At 3 years old, Obi

~loves Spider-Man
~loves to sing (his new guitar plays and sings two of his favorites--"ABC" and "Pop Goes the Weasel" and a few more I'm sure he will learn)
~is too tall for the size 2 pants I have in his drawer...I hope spring hurries up and comes before I have to find size 3 pants!  He's going through a growth spurt, and has been up at night crying with leg pains.  :(
~is mostly potty trained, staying dry all night long too...just sometimes waits a little TOO long.
~is quite articulate.  He answers questions in complete, often detailed, sentences.
~sleeps in a bed literally right next to our bed.  He doesn't mind if Malachi sleeps with him, but Chi doesn't always want to.  I'm hoping that soon they will be bed buddies.  In some other room.  Haha.
 ~loves to draw
~is a pretty funny guy
~follows his older siblings around and copies everything they do
~is usually pretty easy going, but every now and then gets really grumpy when things aren't going his way.  Then he lets us know.  Like last Sunday--we arrived at church late and didn't get hot chocolate before the service.  It didn't phase him.  As we began to pull out of the parking lot afterward though, he said, "Wait! Mom, we didn't get hot chocolate!"  I tried to explain that they put it all away already.  He wouldn't hear it.  And we heard it.  He screamed and kicked his feet the entire 10-minute drive home.  I have never been so thankful for child restraints (aka car seats).  He and I had a little chat before I unbuckled him once we got in the driveway.
~is a pretty good eater.  He isn't picky about a lot of things, but like most preschoolers sometimes he doesn't eat much and other times he's constantly hungry.  He loves pizza.
~is easy to please, picking out birthday presents for him was a cinch!
~can't wait for warmer weather to play outside--he loves riding bikes and taking walks and just about anything that can be done outside

I'm amazed with how much Obi can do and learns every day.  His energy is boundless.  We love you, Obadiah!