Bucket List: Hike a Volcano

Ever since I’ve had a bucket list, hiking a volcano has been on it. Different times, we’ve came so close to striking it off. But it remained.

Monday, Dec 28, I had the privilege of marking it off with help most of my family. And it was everything I’d imagined, except we didn’t roast marshmallows over red hot lava, and no tennis shoes got melted… But still.

We got up early and left before the sun rise. Floppy was our fearless guide, and my parents rode inside the pickup, solving world issues with him, while we Horst gals, and Mr W enjoyed the world from the back of the truck.



We observed all sorts of different birds (No, I didn’t actually call every bird I saw a parakeet, Emily ) the sweet smell of  something- maybe a yellow flowering tree that was everywhere? We were fascinated by the farmers we met along the well worn trail with their teams and loads of fire wood. The air was cool and refreshing and invigorating. Hallelujah.

We payed our admittance fee, and our “guide” told us a few things about Cerro Negro. Google helped fill in the rest of the details.

This was the youngest volcano born in 1850 in the central Marrabious Range. The last time it erupted was in 1999, and it sent a column of ash 7 kilometers high, and pulses of lava fountains 300 m in the air! They say that pay-loaders were brought into Leon (25 miles away) to remove the 3 feet of ash from the streets. I can only imagine the mess this caused in all the houses with their open windows… But no lives were lost.DSC_0942

I will be the first to admit that this heat, combined with all the festivities of the holidays, has me in not the best hiking conditions. But we all took our time, picking our way through the bazillion of small lava rock carefully.


Wow! I was completely fascinated by the way you could see how the mountain flowed out into the valley below. The fact that the bulge down in the center of the mountain continues to grow, insinuates that the history of this place is far from over.


And we all made it! Father pulled out his “heart history” card, proving that even with his stint, there he was.


The wind felt like it was going to whip us right off the top of the mountain, but it felt amazing. Occasionally, we would get a really bad sulfury smell, and the ground was really warm at some places.


And then it was time for the descent. It was the most incredible feeling ever. We floated straight down the side of the volcano. Whenever I’d look ahead and see how steep it was, I’d think “its fine here, but a little further ahead, it gets so steep! There’s no way I can walk down that without dying.” But one step at a time, and soon I’d be to the steep part and realize it was no worse than where I’d just been. (Pretty sure there’s all kinds of spiritual analogies in that one!) But there we went, one big step and then, you’d stop in the small pebbly ash. I wonder it that is how it’d be to walk on the moon.


(To put this pic into perspective, notice the mission truck to the left. It really was straight down. Was it friction or gravity that held us there- I’m not really sure)

Upon reaching the bottom, we all celebrated by praising the Lord, taking a few more pics (I think the men in our group were just about done with pictures) and emptying half the mountainside out of our shoes.


It really was amazing!

Does the road ahead of you look too steep to conquer? One step at a time, my friend, and you may find that once your there, its not as bad as you imagined. If you just trust, and continue on… It’s amazing!



Bonus pics:


We spent a really fun afternoon at the Pacific Ocean, jumping waves, watching the sunset, exploring the gardens of an old bombed out hotel, and taking just a few more pics. 🙂


Kerry changed into relaxed clothes as soon as church was over and did an impromtu basketball camp. It was adorbs watching the children’s faces as they tried to make a basket with their human hoop. 🙂





Feliz Navidad

The explosions woke me up. I looked at the clock. 11:58 Christmas Eve. I grabbed my phone which also serves as my flashlight and headed out to the living room to overlooks the excitement on the street below. The world was very much alive outside our sleepy household.

Fireworks were  exploding all over the city’s horizon- it seemed like they were far away, and yet that acid smell was wafting in our open windows. People were strolling up and down the street, motorcycles tore past “FELIZ NAVIDAD” they shouted back and forth to each other. And my heart echoed “Merry Christmas” “and Peace on Earth” I added as another round of fireworks hit the sky. 

I’m not really sure how long the fireworks continued.  Father says 4 am- fortunately after watching for awhile- I returned to slumber land.

Christmas Day dawned bright and clear. I love the morning here in Nicaragua. I’ve discovered I need to make coffee very rapidly before it’s too warm to enjoy.

Father and Kerry continued their tradition of going down to the street and attempting their limited Spanish “Felix Navagod” says Father cheerfully “Olaf” (which is a form of “hola” or hello) and all the natives laugh and probably despair over this fresh wave of gringos…

We got in on the staff Christmas party. It was wonderful to finally meet these people we feel like we know already. 

Our overloaded freezer slaved away to freeze these snowman ice cube. We waited til everybody was seated to put out the ice cubes. They disappeared rapidly. I was amazed out how fast the peppermint patties went from frozen to mush… But then again-it was 100 degrees…

I loved the afternoon activities. Most everybody joined into the snow man building contest. (Except those who couldn’t resist the urge to nap in the hammock) Each team had a roll of TP and a bit of orange and black construction paper. A lot of them turned a team member into “Frosty” but some used less parishables material. Creativity is a wonderful thing.


(Looks to me like the two junior snowmen were in danger of melting here 😬)

And the gingerbread village. Again-it was fun just to see the various expressions of artisticness. The challenger here was to keep the children from eating the building supplies 🙂 too cute…


DSC_0466Our time at Richards came to a close after a few rounds of Rook. I couldn’t help but attempt to capture the children’s beginning the “tearing down”phase of our  gingerbread village 😍 and who could  resist the barefooted ninas in the hammock?

DSC_0498As the full moon rise over the city of Leon, we celebrated Christmas Evening by dining on the best taco.EVER and enjoying the festivities in Central Park. The shops were busy there. I was amazed at how much activity there was. Clearly the culture was celebrating, but lots of people worked holiday shift this year… IMG_6019 The churches have a nativity scene competition in Central and they were really neat. If I understand correctly- the mangers remain empty until Christmas Eve when Baby Jesus arrives. 


And so we praise Him -that He has arrived and offers Peace on Earth. To each of us.

Feliz Navidad,




I.love.market. You see so many incredible things….

And praise report:

Most of the menu for Christmas lunch came with us from the States. We heard various reports of experiences bringing food through Customs-but everyone assured us that Nicaragua wouldn’t be a problem… So we prayed and prayed as we sorted out our luggage at the terminal. and discovered that out of  all our luggage the only check in bag  that had non parishables was hanging out in Miami. Wow! We couldn’t believe it when it arrived Christmas Eve with the lid wrenched and all the cans dented- but still intact. Even the jar of apple butter survived the beating (because we’d gone to the extra bother of wrapping it in bubble wrap and sliding it into an empty tin can) PTL!!

No Vacancy

A van load of excited travelers sailed across the dessert, thinking happy thoughts, enjoying the new CD that an aspiring artist (also a fellow train passenger) had gifted them, dissecting the favorite parts of the day…

The sun was sinking creating a beautiful world of evening light.. And although we were weary, Our hearts were full.  We fell into a peaceful silence. Basking in the memory of the sound of the train whistle echoing up through the Rocky Mountains, the smell of that fresh air, the grime of the soot from the engine. It had been an incredible experience. Some of the girls had dreamed of this day for a long time- a trip from Durango, CO to Silverton  by way of the Narrow Gauge Rail. We’d put in a huge day, we were tired, but happy and content.

Durango, CO

Somewhere along the line, the matter of where our overnight stop was going to be, came into the discussion and we made the sad discovery that it had been overlooked. We were fairly new at this traveling game- and everybody thought someone else had taken care of it.

To make matters worse, it was the Fourth of July AND We didn’t have cell service. One by one each cell phone searched for service and died a painful death. So there we were out in the desert on an Indian reservation with a regretful lack of planning. We rolled into the only town on this lonely stretch of road and pulled up to the first motel with great apprehension.  Please, Lord, provide… I walked into the lobby and received the dreaded news “Sorry, we are full. It’s the Fourth! This is a busy weekend”

I groaned and tried to decide how I was going to react- play on the sympathy of the overly busy receptionist or take the news in stride. I attempted for the latter, and after a few questions received the news that everything in town was booked, but there was one Indian run little joint 10 miles down the road…

The NO VACANCY signs illuminated the “next town Tuba City 80 miles” sign as we wheeled out of town.

At this point, my job as driver changed to coach as I attended to prepare the girls for camping out in the dessert under the stars among the cacti, coyotes and wild horses. The soot on my face seemed to intensify to extreme grit as I planned how we could camp in the van- with no showers. Ugh.


Again the No Vacancy sign shone way too cheerfully as our last option came into view. You’ve got to be kidding me.  Someone suggested that we stop anyways. I, again, entered the lobby with a knot in my stomach. “We were looking for two rooms”

“Why sure! We have plenty of room tonight!” What?!

We mentioned the fact that the sign said ” No Vacancy” and she laughed and said ” I wonder how that happened? No wonder no one was stopping!”

We laughed too- that sort of delirious laughter that comes from being highly concerned/ greatly relieved and way too tired. If you ever wonder if God turns on No Vacancy signs.  I think I know. He provided for us without a question.

After that experience it’s a little easier for me to envision the desperation in Joseph and Mary’s hearts that eventful trip- as they searched for SOMEWHERE to stay. And came to rest in a barn. God provided.


And I wonder- with all the busyness of Christmas-all the wonderfully festive Christmas plays and programs, the caroling, the stacks of mail, the endless baking, the gift buying- if sometimes- Jesus comes by and stops, and sees that I’m so preoccupied that my heart’s signs says “no vacancy”

This isn’t just a Christmas problem- it’s something I fight year round. It’s so easy- to allow other things- well intended things- to crowd out my time with Him…


“Oh come to my heart, Lord Jesus, there is room in my heart for Thee…”

Yes, please…

Merry Christmas!


Around the World: Summary by the Wise Old Owl

Mr Blue Jay peered out into the sparkling snowy wilderness around the Great Tree, that held the bird feeder where he and Mrs were feasting on breakfast, his beady black eyes surveying the countryside. “You know, Mrs, there’s been something I’ve been pondering recently and today, I’ve decided that I’m absolutely right with my observations.”Mrs Blue Jay passed an adoring glance at her confident mate. ” Do tell, Mr Charming”

“I have decided that we are the best birds.”

She smiled and continued crunching on the bird seed provided by the farmer’s wife, so he continued: “We eat the best food- seeds that we find or are gifted to us- what if we had to eat –shiver– fish from a stream… Nope- instead we have every need and wish supplied- because we are happy to eat seeds (and occasionally the farm dog’s dog food)

And… We are the best color. With my blue coat I match the sky as I fly. No ugly brown or bright colors for me!

And-I hate to say this- but our voices are the perfect pitch.” he paused mid thought to glide through the air and shout a few “THIEF THIEF” s at the cat who was making its way to the barn.

“You see, a pitiful chirp wouldn’t have taught that cat a thing.” He explained as he landed back by the feeder.

His wife nodded in agreement. “I’ve never thought about it like that- but I believe you absolutely have a point.”

“May I ‘have a point’ too?” Mr Owl stuck his head out his bedroom door and then joined the Blue Jays on the tree.

The Blue Jay’s cast amused glances at each other- Mr Owl is rather groggy after a sleepless night of hunting and before he gets his coffee. His one ear looked like he had slept on it. He ruffled his feathers. “We- umm- weren’t trying to disturb you… Sure, present your case”

Mr Owl paused a little and began: “Who’s to decide who’s best? Suppose that we should all adapt to your way of life- what would the Eagle do trying to hang onto this bird feeder with his massive claws? or what if I’m right in hunting prey at night? How’s your night vision? or maybe the Baltimore Oriole builds the best nest- carefully knitting a sack nest hanging in a tree- what would the long legged Blue Heron do?


Or what if the Humming Birds thirst for nectar was preferable to catching rabbits- can you see the Red Tail Hawk hovering in front of each brilliant flower? Maybe the Canadian Goose’s trip to the Southland is the perfect winter getaway-what would a penguin do? I can see him now-waddling over hill and dale in his black tuxedo sweating like a racing mule… Tell me, friends, who is the perfect bird?”

The Blue Jays crunched their breakfast thoughtfully, so Mr Owl finished with one last remark. ” In the grand orchestra of the woodland- it takes all creatures to make the most melodious sound. I think if we were all cello, or all flutes, or trombones- the music wouldn’t be all that outstanding… It takes us all” and with that wise remark- He disappeared for another nap.

Mrs Jay looked adoringly once more at her confident mate. ” You sure know how to create conversation.”

He winked at her and said ” He does ‘have an excellent point’.”

And thus brings us to the end of our culture quest.

Except it doesn’t. Culture will surround us forever. Embrace it. Love how it makes a difference in who you are as an individual. Look for it in your friend or neighbor and realize how it makes a difference in their story. And most of all- allow others to be who they are meant to be. No culture is completely right. None are completely wrong. We need all instruments in this orchestra of life to create the fullest, most vibrant song…

In the end- it’s not our culture that’s going to matter- it’s where we stand before Our Loving Heavenly Father…

“All God’s Children singing glory, glory, He reigns, He reigns…”



Around the World: Day 13: Culture on the Homefront

Rachel’s ability to make connections where ever she goes and maintain them challenges me. Love your heart for people, Rach!

Harrisonburg is a diverse city blessed with people from so many different ethnic groups. My life has been enriched by some of these people. Learning to know new people makes me learn new cultural practices, and sometimes that is not always comfortable for me. Do I take my shoes off when I enter the house? Which side of the face is the right side to start out the greeting? How many times must one kiss into the air? What is the most comfortable way to sit on the floor when eating?

Middle Eastern people are extremely generous and welcoming. Sometimes ithas been overwhelming. My friends Ahlam and Ayaat are Muslim, and I’ve spent many hours at their place. They always make sure I have something to eat when I get there. Several times in particular that stand out in my mind are when they invited me to break the fast during the month of Ramadan. Their mom thought that I didn’t eat enough even after I have eaten a whole bowl of rice, some chicken, shrimp, keobabs, meat wrapped in onions, some salad, some  Khubz (a flat bread), and fruit and cake for dessert. And did I mention that thirty minutes prior to the meal, she had served my favorite Iraqi cookies, candy, and a soda? The food was fabulous, but I was beyond full, and she just kept putting food on my plate. I had to come to realize that they wanted to make sure that I felt welcomed and special. Once I just said thank you and ate part of it, they were happy.

When I first learned to know my friend Ansaam, she tried her best to convert me to Islam. She also interigated me with all sort of questions that I had never thought of before. I guess when she realized that I wasn’t going to be trying to convert her this instant like previous people who had visited her house, she relaxed. Now, I go, and we talk about life. Sometimes religion comes up, and I try to speak the hope of Jesus into her life. I read to her children. I play games with them. I have become their “auntie.” That is special to me.


The Latin American culture is very inquisitive. Things we white Americans think are private information are not necessarily private when talking with these friends. Questions such as, “How much money do you make in ayear teaching school? How much did that laptop cost you? What do you weigh now?” Sometimes these questions have taken me off guard, but really these questions sometimes give me opportunities to ask questions as well that I have been wanting to know about them. Getting offended will not help out the friendship, and being secretive will not build trust between you and your friends.

We Americans often like people to call before they come over. I learned that is not necessary in both of these cultures. Visits for no reason at all are the best for these two cultures. Both Middle Eastern people and Latinos enjoy fellowship, and know how to relax and have a good visit.

IMG_5688I’ve had to learn, and still forget sometimes, that greeting people and checking to see how they are doing is the most important way to start out a conversation. Then after the chit-chat is over, then it is okay for me to ask the pressing questions that were the orginal reasons for calling to stopping by their house.
The rewards of relating to different cultures has far exceeded the frustrating moments.

-Rachel Ranck

Around the World: Day 12 South Dakota and a Lakota Funeral

Kris lived in South Dakota working among the Lakota Indians  for about 5 years. I enjoyed this introduction to the people who captured her heart… Be sure and take the time to follow the video link- it’s well worth your time.

So I moved to South Dakota seven years ago today (well…when I wrote my first draft it was today…it was November 18) … Wow!!!! So many memories keep coming back over me. Moving affected me in a lot of ways…..for one it made my taste buds mature! 🙂 It made me braver…like sleeping outside in the middle of the prairie with a bunch of scared little girls and I had to be the brave one and act like that noise we heard was NOTHING ! (Sad smile) especially not BIG FOOT!!!!! And it made me learn how to relate to many people of any age – old and young…….and it made me learn what home sickness was! :/


Roaches…..to me roaches freak me out! I remember one time I was visiting one of my friends, and I was sitting on her couch. There was a cockroach running in and out of the cushions. I had a hard time visiting her without keeping one eye on that critter! And another time we were singing for a family and there were cockroaches all over the place. I was calmly singing and tapping my food…not to keep rhythm but to kill the bugs! Another time I touched a ladies calendar as I was explaining something to her. The calendar crunched and the bugs ran… She seemed to think nothing of it! I tried to act like nothing out of the ordinary had happened!

I think going to wakes (viewings) and funerals were the most cultural experiences for me. It would start…well….on “Indian time”….The family of the deceased one would try to have all the “religious” bases covered. Sometimes a Catholic priest would recite his Hail Mary’s and administer communion; an Episcopalian would say her part in a monotone (always a monotone!!!) from out of their prayer book, a Native Christian pastor might get up and share/read a few scriptures in Lakota (the traditional language). (I never knew what he was saying, but I think he was a genuine Christian.); a Native drum group would beat/pound/sing a Lakota song or two, the smell of burning sage would be wafted around the room to keep out the “evil spirits”, if the person had been a Veteran then the military did their honorary ritual- march back and forth/do roll call/shoot into the air; anyone else could share memories, etc……Then the family would call on the Mennonites to sing a few songs, (We would sing songs like Amazing Grace, When Burdens Come So Hard to Bear, There’s a Fountain Free.) and our pastor would share a few scriptures from the Holy Bible.

There would be one last viewing- after we viewed the body then we shook each family members hands that were there at the service. After the service we would all drive out to the graveside. In the processional it was the funeral home with the body and immediately following a truck with a couple of men on the back of it. These men would sing and beat the drum the whole way to the cemetery. There was usually people riding horses also. An incredible video clip of the honor song can be watched  here

Then we would go back to the community building where the services were taking place and eat food….lots of it. The families usually got us Mennonite ladies to help serve the food. I really enjoyed that part because we could see and visit with everyone who had come. They also would fill a plate to put under the casket. (To “feed” the spirit of the dead person.) Everyone took plates full of food home with them at the end of the meal because once food is brought to a community event the food is now everyone’s.

Then the last thing we would partake in before we would go home was a Give-A-Way. Star quilts, blankets, towels, plastic containers, fabric, pillows, clothes, etc. were given to each person who was there.

Funerals were sad times- so much hopelessness was all around us-but those times of sorrow were such good times for me/us to minister to those who were hurting.


Well….See you later….Native Americans never liked when I said Good bye to them…..that is final….See you later is more temporary! 🙂

~Kris Mummau