Nicaragua Trip :: 20 November 2015

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Our team of 20 members from the Lauren family have finished the work week. Each team member put in an incredible effort to put in a beautiful driveway for our partners at Imagine Ministries.

The little feet that will run down the drive to their playground have forever captured their hearts. There have been bonds made between everyone that will last a lifetime. Nearly everyone has mentioned coming back again soon and, more importantly, want to look into supporting our partners and their ministry in other ways.

The team finished construction, painting, and yard work Wednesday, ending the day with a piñata celebrating the kids’ hard work in the last school year. Members from our Lauren family back home and here raised money to purchase backpacks for these amazing kids.

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Thursday morning the team was blessed with a time of prayer led by our hosts. Without a doubt, lives were forever changed by what God did with this team and through it. After leaving the time of prayer, the team had an amazing afternoon full of kickball, playgrounds and ice cream with many of the children from Imagine.

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After leaving the kids, the team shed many tears, but so many are eager to return to be with the newest members of the Lauren family. With a hard and emotional week of work, the team is ready to head home to share what God did during this week in Nicaragua.

Nicaragua Trip :: 16 November 2015

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Yesterday, the team attended church with their hosts and hosted both the boys’ and girls’ safe homes in a pool party celebration. The team was able to play and love on each child who is a part of their safe-home program. So many team members were touched by the stories each child had. The difficulties these children go through are very hard to imagine.

Today has been a great day in Managua, Nicaragua! The team of 20 employees and family from Lauren Engineers and Constructors is hard at work alongside Imagine Ministries.

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They spent today digging and laying brick. Each team member worked extremely hard and came to serve. Please pray for continued energy as the team finishes the work on the imagine building.

Nicaragua Trip :: 15 November 2015

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Our team made it to Nicaragua! Praise God they had no issues with any of their 20 team members from seven different states.

Today the group attended a church service with their hosts. They will spend the rest of the day spending time with children from two separate rescue homes.

Please pray for their team as they serve their hosts and the children of the rescue homes.

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For the disastered, we believe response training through team development enables us to not only serve in times of grief but to also prepare partners faithfully serving long before we arrive.

This trip is helping us achieve our international goals. Stay up-to-date throughout the week on our team’s progress and work.

Marvens :: Thirty-Five Seconds to Change

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Were it not so arrhythmic, the sound of hammers echoing through the offices on any particular weeknight could be confused with bass coming through subwoofers. The whir of saws mixes with the blend of accents from all around the world filling the soundscape.

Marvens sits across from me in the front office of The Lantern Project, a non-profit located just outside of Atlanta in a community called Clarkston. The appearance of the office could fool any passerby with its location nestled in the warehouse rental of a corporate park.

Across the hall from where we sit is another smaller office separated from the front by a florescent-illumined corridor that leads to a large meeting room filled with round tables, whiteboards and safety posters. In the back are two windows and a door that provide the entrance to the large shop in the back, a warehouse adorned with half-completed projects: framed walls half-covered with dry wall, lighting units wired with LEDs and welding stations with barbecue grills made from old barrels.

Marvens has just finished taking a test, this one on basic job site communication. He is dressed in jeans and a polo, the usual uniform for most of the students here. Monday nights are for the core curriculum, a 14-week program where students learn the basics of construction, of which Marvens is close to finishing.

Marvens came to the US from Haiti, a 16-year-old boy with no siblings and whose parents were already here.

“Thirty-five seconds,” he says, thinking back to the events that brought him to Atlanta.

Five years ago, 35 seconds changed Marvens’ life forever. Thirty-five seconds was all it took for his house to crumble around him during the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that claimed over 230,000 Haitian lives in 2010. Marvens was one of the 300,000 injured, his leg crushed and broken by the falling cinderblock of his home.

“I didn’t have any passport or Visa or anything, so I had to stay,” he recalls. Marvens was stuck in a hospital located in the capital of Port-au-Prince for four months. Then, because of the outbreak of diseases like cholera, he was moved to a safer hospital.

“There were so many people dying in the hospitals so I had to travel somewhere else, to the center of the country, where it was much better,” he says. “They had a lot of doctors from a lot of other countries.”

Meanwhile, his mother and father were arranging for Marvens to come to the US as soon as he was healthy. His mother had been evacuated by the US military right after the earthquake.

“The doctors that helped my mom travel from Haiti to the United States, she talked to them, and they helped my father to bring me to the United States.”

After his leg had healed, Marvens traveled through Miami to Atlanta. He enrolled in high school and graduated in 2013. After working odd jobs, Marven was connected to The Lantern Project through a friend of a friend at church. The program started the next day, and Marven jumped right in.

The Lantern Project was started in 2014 as a way of providing opportunities and job training to refugees in the Clarkson area of Atlanta, an area known for having a concentrated population of displaced peoples.

“We serve to provide those struggling with poverty with a hand up, not a hand out,” says Luke Keller, the director of The Lantern Project. “For every five journeymen that are exiting the workplace market, there is only one person filling those shoes. And with the uptrend in the amount of displaced people coming to Atlanta, we see great opportunity in providing these individuals with job, leadership, trade and soft-skill development that can lead to high-paying jobs with opportunities for growth.”

Every student at The Lantern Project goes through the core curriculum, in which they learn the basics of construction along with leadership and job-finding skills. Students are coached through writing a resume and given the opportunity to hear from speakers who are brought in that have similar stories to those in the program. Every student is also assigned a mentor. This is an aspect of the program that Marvens really enjoys.

“Something unique I’ve seen in this school is the mentors and people coming in to tell their stories,” says Marvens. His favorite speaker was Shawn Hutchinson, an immigrant from Jamaica who had a dream to make a movie. “I like how even with people telling him not to do it, he still did it and succeeded.”

After students complete the first course, they have the option to choose which track of training they want to pursue. Opportunities include welding and pipe fitting, electrical, carpentry and masonry. The program takes students through a curriculum that is recognized in the construction field, making job placement much easier. At the end of these programs, The Lantern Project puts on a job fair for potential employers to meet the students and network.

Marvens has chosen electrical, a field with many openings for skilled technicians. When asked what he thinks the future holds for him, Marven is unsure.

“I’m not sure exactly, but I’m pretty sure I will keep on learning. I like to learn. Maybe get a major degree in electrical work.” He smiles at the idea of having a degree that, unlike his friends in Haiti who he says have gone to college, will actually get him a job.

“We need someone to run The Lantern Project in Haiti!” I say with a smile to Marvens. He smiles sheepishly. He says he would go back to Haiti to help, no question.

“Always give something back, because I was in the same situation and all kinds of people helped me. It was a blessing. Miracles.”

Ehsan :: Starting Over

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To any other Iranian, life for Seyedehsan Atri was great. But for the 31 year old, something was off.

Seyedehsan wanted the right to question the beliefs that had been pushed on him by his family and government in Kermanshah, Iran, where he was born and lived for 26 years. To question faith in Iran is one of the most severe crimes one can commit.

Feeling religious oppression, Seyedehsan fled to Turkey in 2010, leaving behind his mother, Sedigheh, and two brothers, Kamal and Mohsen. His father, Jalal, died 15 years ago.

Ehsan, as his close friends call him, was ultimately starting life over. He began to train as a welder and even seek faith on his own.

One night Ehsan heard a loud voice call out, “I hear you!” He had been asking God for direction since leaving his home country.

To him the voice was one of two things: Either he was going crazy or God was telling him to keep going. Ehsan prayed, “God if that is you, please talk to me again. I want to hear your voice!”

Just a few months later he heard the same voice exclaim, “Ehsan!” To him this was very significant as only his close friends called him Ehsan. From that moment forward Ehsan felt that he was a friend of God.

In 2013, Ehsan had the opportunity to come to the United States as a refugee where he received an apartment and a job. Unfortunately for Ehsan, one of his first memories as an American was feeling oppressed by coworkers for his ethnicity and his new faith in God.

“I regretted coming to America,” Ehsan said.

He was struggling to make minimum wage and began to search for any opportunity to get back into welding. Because he had no money and very minimal English, Ehsan did not know where to turn.

This changed on Mar. 3, 2014. On this date, Ehsan walked into the doors of The Lantern Project training office in Clarkston, Ga.

Ehsan’s classmates nicknamed him “Angry Man” because he had trouble controlling the volume of his voice as he learned English. Simple questions to Ehsan would result in very loud, class-interrupting answers.

Despite his nickname, Ehsan has joy unlike anyone you would ever meet and an ambition for success that is unparalleled. On one occasion, Ehsan showed up to the office uncharacteristically late – a whole five minutes – because he had received two tickets from hurrying to class after work.

He was evidently upset, but not for reasons one might suspect. The tickets did not bother him, but he was upset for being five minutes late to class.

Through The Lantern Project’s program, Ehsan completed his studies in general construction and welding and obtained employment. In just over one year, he was on his way from a dead-end job making minimum wage to a current salary two times that of his former job.

“I feel like I am achieving the American dream for the first time,” he said.

Ehsan was hired by Shaw Almex Fusion, LLC, which manufactures custom presses for a range of rubber products, including applications in the mining, textile and aerospace industries. Headquartered in Decatur, Ga., the company exports these custom presses around the world to countries that include China, Australia, Japan, Africa, Europe and South America.

“I really appreciate this training school, because it has changed my life,” Ehsan said. In The Lantern Project training office, we no longer call him Angry Man; he’s Happy Man.

Nicaragua Trip :: November 19

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Today was the epitome of fun! The team spent the entire day with 49 children from Imagine Ministry. An hour and a half bus ride with crazy fun Nica kids brought us to “Ruby Ranch.” Many of our team members referred to Ruby Ranch as a Nicaraguan Disney Land. We truly had something for everyone. We played sports like soccer, baseball, and volleyball. We took kids on horseback rides. We jumped on trampolines and wrestled until we nearly passed out from laughter. They even had a giant swing and an even bigger slip and slide that would put any waterpark to shame! What a blessing it was to see the joy on their faces as they played like any other child. The excitement and delight that they displayed was so infectious that everyone joined in!

It was evident that these children have completely captured the hearts of all of us. Kendrick Stiles stated, “it was just amazing to see kids who have next to nothing laugh and play as though they were the happiest children in the world.” God was continuously breaking the language barrier by providing opportunities to smile and laugh with these amazing kids. Although most of the group speaks little to no Spanish, the relationships that formed with these children will “hopefully continue despite the distance,” as stated by Joe Dickerson.

It’s amazing to see God working in the lives of each of our team members. By coming here and serving and seeing how our Nicaraguan friends display true joy, it is clear that there has been such a growth in each team member. After 5 days together these Lauren family members from all over the US and Canada have become a true family. The conversations, laughs, and even tears have formed life long bonds between people who would maybe have never met unless they came. In my humble opinion, there may not be a better way to connect to another person than working alongside of them to serve others for the glory of God!

Team members going on the slip and slide with the Imagine Ministry children

Team members going on the slip and slide with the Imagine Ministry children

Joe Buxkemper enjoys the giant swing at Ruby Ranch

Joe Buxkemper enjoys the giant swing at Ruby Ranch

Ruby Ranch

Ruby Ranch

 

Nicaragua Trip :: November 18

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Hola from Nicaragua! We are having an incredible time serving alongside our Nicaraguan friends. The last two days we have spent our time fixing up an old building for use as a vocational training center. Many team members have worked countless hours painting, mixing concrete, carrying block, and moving equipment. It was very inspiring seeing young Nicaraguans even join in to be helping hands.

The diversity among this group is unprecedented with Lauren family from Calgary, Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, Knoxville, and Abilene. Yet from afar you would think each of us old friends. Katie Speilman was right on when she stated “It is easy to feel secluded from the rest of the company when you’re so far away. But what an amazing opportunity to get to know new Lauren family from all over the world.”

We have spent time working and playing with the children that attend Imagine Ministry’s after school program. Two young Nicaraguan brothers Tito (10 years old) and Wilbur (2 years old) have clearly captured the hearts of nearly every team member. Even though both boys have an unthinkable home life and are severely malnourished, they continue to come each day solely to help us work. Barbara Dickerson said it best when she stated “I came here thinking I would be the one serving these children, but I am amazed that I am the one who is being served and being taught so much. It is very humbling”.

It is utterly amazing to see the hard working attitudes that everyone has brought with them. To anyone else it may seem a waste of time to travel all the way to Nicaragua to paint and do manual labor, but it is clear in Matthew 25:35-60 that when we serve anyone we are actually serving Christ. “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me, ‘Then the righteous will him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you? “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Each member of our team attributes this same character of serving the least. We finished the day walking home each of the children in the Imagine Ministry after school program. It was visible on the young team member’s eyes that many of our Nicaraguan friends have extremely difficult circumstances. What an opportunity as a child to learn what the rest of the world goes through and even more so how God can continue to bring true joy despite one’s circumstances. Please continue to keep those we are serving in your prayers as well as each team member as God works directly in their own lives.

 

Adrien Brossier playing games with the Imagine Ministry children

Adrien Brossier playing games with the Imagine Ministry children

Luke Keller and Kendrick Stiles hanging out with some awesome Nica Ninos!

Luke Keller and Kendrick Stiles hanging out with some awesome Nica Ninos!

Part of our project is finishing a building that will be used to do vocational training for women. These women will learn a skill that will last a life time and bring themselves and family out of the circle of poverty.

Part of our project is finishing a building that will be used to do vocational training for women. These women will learn a skill that will last a life time and bring themselves and family out of the circle of poverty.

Nicaragua Trip :: November 17

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Before even leaving the country God moved in some big ways to help our team! Due to “a frozen plane” our Calgary group was very close to having their flight delayed until the following day. Praise God that they were able to fix the plane and even make their connecting flight in Houston. Although there bags came a day late they were all in great spirits. The rest of the group met in Atlanta and flew to where we will serve for a week in Managua, Nicaragua. We spent that night just adjusting and getting to know one another.

The following morning the group went out to various ministries to see all that we will be doing in partnership with imagine ministries. We were already able to see so many opportunities we can serve. Many people on our team were so humbled by the courage that the house mothers have who serve at a boys and girls rescue homes. In their own words they both stated that “we could not give up even if we wanted”. They are all in for the ministry, giving up everything to serve under-privileged boys and girls.

This morning Monday November 17th we will be serving in a community called Los Brasiles. The group will be participating in various projects including building out a vocational training center (mixing concrete, laying brick, painting, etc.), planting vegetation, helping to harvest from the community farm, and most importantly loving on those in the community. Please pray for our group of 19 that God would continue to use us in ways that would glorify His kingdom.

Kendrick Stiles monkeying around with George the pet monkey where we are staying.

The group tours the various ministries that we will serve throughout the week.

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