When Halle and Kathy August tell about their bold decision to move their family from Woodinville to Nicaragua to teach and evangelize, Halle describes it in familiar terms.
"We tell people that our boss moved us here," he said. "We say that as Christians, our boss, really, is God. We’re not your typical missionaries at all, but we do love our Lord with all our heart and soul and mind and strength."
Kathy and Halle first visited Nicaragua in 2000 with their three sons on a group mission trip.
By the end of the first week, even their sons, who had been reluctant to go, wanted to stay.
The family moved there permanently a few years later.
Rick Vinther, the pastor at Woodinville Community United Methodist Church, went on that mission trip with the Augusts and saw the transformation they experienced.
"That’s when they really got the call and the inspiration that that’s what they were supposed to do," he remembers. Vinther has returned to Nicaragua, and said, "It’s like a field of dreams down there now."
He’s talking about El Salero, a sports center the Augusts have created. When they bought the land with the money from selling their house in Woodinville, it was mostly empty except for a baseball stadium that had fallen into disrepair.
Now, the sports center has a soccer field, a playground, two basketball courts, a volleyball court, a lending library and a computer lab that the community uses regularly.
Their other service projects include an American-style preschool that Kathy (a special education teacher in the U.S.) created and a feeding program that serves lunch to children twice a week.
"What we try to do in our ministry is create opportunities to be in a relationship with the children and the community members, so that through our relationship and through our friendship, we can earn the privilege, so to speak, to evangelize, to share our faith with them," Kathy August said. "And we do a lot of sharing of our faith just by how we live, not necessarily with words."
For one of their endeavors, the Augusts need help from their hometown. When they visit Woodinville in December, they will host a dessert auction at Woodinville Community United Methodist Church to raise money for scholarships for Nicaraguan students.
Eight years ago, after the first students completed Kathy’s preschool program, the Augusts and another volunteer decided to send three students to kindergarten at a private Christian school. Public schools are free, but classrooms are crowded and teachers are inexperienced, Kathy said.
Another obstacle is that parents in Nicaragua don’t put much emphasis on education, Halle said.
"If a kid can find any kind of work, more than likely he’ll drop out of school when he’s 14 or 15 and then start working," Halle said.
The scholarship program now sponsors 33 children in second through eighth grades, and will pay for their education through high school as long as they maintain passing grades.
Individual sponsors pay $500 per child per year for tuition, but the money raised by this fundraiser will cover other costs and fees.
The Augusts have seen firsthand that the scholarship is successful. One girl in the program is planning to be a doctor when she grows up — or maybe the president.
"It’s, in part, just how they carry themselves," Kathy said of the students who receive scholarships. "There’s a pride about them and a confidence that is a very positive thing … They believe they are learners."
She believes the benefits extend to the children’s families, too. She recalls the family of one sixth grade boy. His mother was illiterate, and his father had a drinking problem and abused the mother. Kathy said the husband looked "sheepish" when the Augusts found out that his wife had planned to leave him but decided to stay with him.
But now, six or seven years later, the couple is still together and Kathy says she’s never seen the man drunk.
"I can only believe that the fact that we continued to scholarship his child into a private school said to him that we value his child, that we forgive him for, basically, not being the greatest dad in the world," Kathy said. "...That we would overlook that problem and continue to support and scholarship his son has meant a lot to him."
The Nibble of Nicaragua fundraiser in Woodinville will take place Saturday, December 14 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Woodinville Community United Methodist Church. The event will start with a free light supper of Nicaraguan fare, then attendees will be able to bid on gourmet desserts. The proceeds will go to the scholarship program.