December 17, 2001
Northshore family heads for missionary work in Nicaragua
by Deborah Stone
A few years ago, Halle and Kathy August were at a church family camp with their three children, Brandon, now 18, Britton, 16 and Brookes, 13. The Woodinville couple went forward to publicly make a commitment to yield their lives to God's missions, wherever and whenever they were called to serve.
Little did they know that the call would come soon and make such an impact on their lives. The chain of events began with a trip to Nicaragua in the summer of 2000. The August family went on a mission project with their church, the Woodinville Community United Methodist Church, to build two houses and a one-room school on the outskirts of Managua, the capital of Nicaragua.
"We decided that this trip would be our major family vacation, in lieu of going to Hawaii, as we had initially planned," explained Kathy. "We were to spend two weeks in Nicaragua with our church and then go to Panama to visit my sister, who is a tribal missionary there. At first, a few of the kids resisted going, but then they agreed, and what transpired was truly amazing for all of us."
The Augusts found the experience of working with the Nicaraguans to be incredibly rewarding. They primarily helped on the school project, but in addition, they went around the community visiting orphanages and marketplaces, meeting the people along the way. "The people were so gracious and received us so well," said Kathy. "We felt so humbled by the friendship they gave us and the prayers they had for us. You see people that are so poor and have so far less than we have here and yet, they gave of themselves, their gifts of friendship. It was such a good exercise in giving for our family."
During their stay, each of the August boys came to their parents, individually, to ask if the family could stay longer. This made the couple begin to think seriously about returning to Nicaragua and perhaps making it their future home. They decided to go back last February during the boys' mid winter break to experience the place at a different time of year and without a large group of people. This time they stayed with a family of independent missionaries from Florida, the Buzzbees, who had been in Nicaragua for five years.
"We had formed this incredible relationship with the Buzzbees during our first trip," explains Kathy. "It was really uncanny the way we just clicked." This time the trip was different. The Augusts spent their time visiting neighborhoods, touring projects that the Buzzbees were involved with and getting to know more about the Nicaraguan people and their situation.
The country is the poorest in Latin America, with one of the highest mortality rates for children and with one of the highest pregnancy rates in young girls. The home lives of many of the children are full of horror stories, with abuse and impoverishment the main problems. The literacy rate is very low, as many children do not attend school. They either don't have the transportation to get to school or they don't have the money to pay for the uniform required by public schools. Basic needs are not met for a vast number of the population.
"The children came out of the woodwork when we were there," comments Kathy. "Their smiles and desire to reach out really got to all of us." One of the highlights for the family was being able to take 25 children on a field trip, by bus, to an active volcano outside of Managua.
"It was amazing to see their reactions," said Halle. "These kids had never been out of their neighborhood before and had never seen this sight, even though it was only about 40 minutes away. They loved going and seeing the volcano up close. Afterwards we had a picnic and played."
The family's experiences during their week's stay planted the seeds for their future mission, which they decided to name "Alongside Ministries: Evangelism through Relationships." Kathy explains, "Before we can share our beliefs, it's important for us to first build relationships with the people and help provide for their basic needs."
The Augusts plan to focus their mission on helping children, from birth to 12 years old. Kathy, a special and elementary education teacher, hopes to work in the neighborhood schools, accompanied by her sons. Someday, however, the couple envisions building their own school or sponsoring one. While Kathy teaches, Halle plans to purchase land (out of the proceeds from the sale of the couple's home) to build two Little League baseball-size fields. His part of the ministry will have a baseball focus.
He says, "I want to develop teams and build relationships with the people via this outlet. Baseball is Nicaragua's national sport and everyone loves it down there."
In preparation for this work, Halle has collected many donations of equipment from the Woodinville Little League and from local sports stores. In addition, the Augusts want to bring in foster babies and toddlers into their home, to give them a safe, warm environment with lots of loving care.
They plan to build a home (with the proceeds from the sale of their Woodinville house) large enough to accommodate additions to their family, as well as one spacious enough to host mission groups from the States.
At peace with their decision, the couple put their house up for sale late last spring, hoping to be gone by Christmas. Kathy quit her job as a teacher with the Northshore School District thinking that she would not be around for a full year. Then the family held a moving sale in the fall, ridding themselves of many pieces of furniture and material items. Unfortunately, their house has not yet sold, leaving them in limbo, surrounded by numerous cartons and boxes.
"It's interesting," comments Halle, "that this house, which Kathy and I worked so long and hard for, the home that represents the American dream for so many, has become the thing that is keeping us from moving forward in our plans. We know though that it will eventually sell and we will move when the timing is right."
Meanwhile, the family is busy with the physical tasks of packing their belongings and collecting donations for their mission. They plan to take a large container full of donated items with them when they depart.
"People have been so generous,' says Kathy. "When we went down last year, we took baseball equipment, school supplies, clothing, diapers and infant formula, specifically Neosugar (a formula for preemies, which is unavailable in Nicaragua). We are collecting more stuff, as the people are in such need." The August boys, currently in Northshore schools, will continue their education in Nicaragua. Britton and Brookes will be homeschooled by their mother, and Brandon, presently a senior at WHS, will finish his requirements via the Internet to be able to graduate on time with his class. They are excited to go and are not really dwelling on leaving their friends. Having access to the Internet will allow them to communicate and continue the relationships they have formed. However, they each look forward to making new relationships with people in Nicaragua. "It's an amazing place down there," comments Britton. "The people are really friendly and they're more grateful than people here. It's also such a peaceful pace of life there. I think I'll enjoy the environment, especially the warm weather." Brookes sees the experience as an adventure. He says, "It will be fun to learn the language and I know I won't mind being homeschooled." What does concern him though is the bugs. He adds, "There's a lot of scary bugs there like scorpions and I'm going to miss the feeling of safety that I have here." The Augusts know the type of situation that they're going into and are cognizant of the safety and health concerns presented by such a poor country in the tropics. "Basically, you really have to be aware of certain diseases, which are prevalent there," explains Halle. "There's dengue fever and malaria, but they have excellent treatment for them now. The other concern is crime, particularly theft. They have crimes against property mainly, not against people. It's best not to tempt by wearing anything that would make a statement of wealth and we've been told that we shouldn't leave our home unattended. That's why we plan to build a house right next to our friends, the Buzzbees, so that we can keep an eye on each other's properties." To support them in Nicaragua, the Augusts will use their own financial resources, along with support from their church and private donations made to an account in their name through the NEO (Network to Empower Others) Foundation, a nonprofit organization, which will manage the financial side of the family's ministry. NEO is also helping through creative gifting and will accept tangible items for tax-deductible donations. For more information on helping the August family's Alongside Ministries, call Eric Bahme, co-president of NEO and pastor of New Life Christian Fellowship Church in Woodinville, at 425-402-4010, Ext. 801 or contact Halle and Kathy August at 425-788-8281.