The Nichols Family-Morelia, Michoacán, Mexico

Mark 16:15 "He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation."

The Nichols Family-Morelia, Michoacán, Mexico

Mark 16:15 "He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation."

Visting the US Legally from Mexico: Know the facts!

To say I have been asked the question, “Why don’t they (referring to Hispanic people, who may or may not be Mexican) just come here legally?!” often is a vast understatement. After living in Mexico now for 8 months, my understanding of the legal entrance to the USA as a Mexican citizen specifically (I cannot speak for Central and South America) has grown exponentially.

Having grown up in the US middle class society, I have been humbled even greater as I learn more intimately why this political imbalance is so complicated.

In this article, I am in no way supporting illegal activity, but am presenting facts to help non-Mexican citizens understand the many layers to this process If you would like to learn more, please reach out.

Each year, NOE selects 12-13 students from their highest-level English class to participate in a one- month exchange program in the Portland, Oregon area. Before going, they must first obtain a USA visa from the USA General Consulate.

As an American citizen, if you wish to travel internationally, you will fill out an application, get a passport picture taken for about $15USD, schedule an interview a couple weeks out, have said interview with a passport agent, pay roughly $165USD, and receive your passport in the mail a few weeks later. You are then allowed to freely travel, with limited restrictions, to 185 countries worldwide temporarily. As an adult, your passport is valid for 10 years; 5 years as a child under 18.

As a Mexican citizen, for a 10-year passport, they will pay $140USD equivalent. This will allow them to temporarily travel to 162 countries but does NOT include the USA. To set foot in the USA, they must also obtain a US visa.

First, they must schedule an appointment. Currently, we have friends who recently scheduled their appointments for December 2024, almost 3 years in the waiting. Then, they fill out the application and pay the application fee of about $140USD.

The application does not just include basic information. They must also submit all social media accounts, report all income (including that of their parents), job descriptions, house ownership, a list of any family members that live in the US and their known location, education level, future plans, reason for travel, and any reports of illegal activity for any immediate family members. Each application fee is $160 USD.

The closest US Consulate in Guadalajara or Mexico City is four hours from Morelia. They must get their photos and fingerprints taken the day before, meaning an overnight stay. Then, an interview with a US consulate agent who has previously reviewed all your documentation and gathered information. Agents have full authority to deny a US visa for any reason without explanation. If rejected, they must wait a minimum of 6 months to re-apply, with every fee repeated (other than their passport, which they must obtain first before arriving to their visa appointment). Many are told not to bother re-applying unless their financial or education situation has changed dramatically. Without a business and tourism visa, travel to the US is not possible legally.

If approved, they can travel freely to and from the US for 10 years. This is not immigration and does not allow them to legally work. That is much lengthier and more expensive process. The total cost will be no less than $400USD per person. For a NOE student not on scholarship, factoring in 4 years of English and one year of conversation classes, it will add a minimum of $650+.

Minimum wage in Michoacán is $8.52US per day, with Morelia averaging less than $15 daily. Even with college degrees, it is common to make between $2.50-3.50USD an hour. Minors get paid so little that by the time gas or public transportation is factored, so little would remain, if anything, it isn’t worth their time.

To pay for English classes, even at VERY low rates, application fees, and basic logistics, this process is extremely expensive for a Mexican with a good job, let alone one with limited education and job opportunities. Money, time, resources, and family history are all factored elements, making NOE’s Dream Team success a powerful testimony for Morelian students.

Our first Taco Tuesday!

Learning a New Language at 48: It's not impossible, but it's not easy!

Many years ago, I watched the movie Tarzan, where the guy was raised by apes. I was amazed at a scene in the movie where Tarzan is dressed extremely well and is handling business, with an English accent. Back then, I thought to myself, “That guy picked up the language quickly after being rescued!”

Over the past 8 months, I have been learning Spanish. Over the past 3 months, I have come to the conclusion that the part in the movie where Tarzan was handling business like a native is crap.

In a perfect world, I believed that I could be conversational in about 6 months. However, we don’t live in a perfect world. We live in a world where there are hundreds of distractions during the day and with a family of six, not much time actually exists for “poor little ole me.”

However, I am learning and loving it. My perception of 6 months has seriously turned into, “6 years… if I’m lucky.”

I’ve always been a believer that you can teach old dogs new tricks if the dog wants to learn. I do. I will learn. I can’t wait to communicate the love of Jesus without having to agonizingly, painstakingly struggle through the past-tense conjugation of “to send”.

Until then, I’ll continue to use hand gestures and Espanglish. The journey definitely isn’t boring!

Relationships, Relationships, Relationships: "I'll take a cow brain taco, please!"

In November, Selah and Levi (aka: Noche) went with some friends to Six Flags in Mexico City. When reading the online US reviews, I saw that it received a 3 out of 5 star rating. Comments showed this rating was due to cleanliness, lack of function of some of the rides, bathrooms that were closed or out of order, etc. Despite knowing this information, Levi and Selah went anyway and had a blast.

Mexico is a culture that is consumed by friendship. They are a family-centered, friend-centered, relationship-centered culture. At the same time, the U.S. is a more event-centered and time-centered culture.

Centro NOE has an exchange program, nick-named the “Dream Team”, a group of elite students who are chosen each year to live with local families in the US during the month of July to practice English and have exposure to the U.S. culture.

When I ask the former Dream Team students what they enjoy most about their experience in the U.S., their responses are almost ALWAYS event-centered. “I enjoyed going boating with my host family,” or doing this or that event. One of the beauties of living in the U.S. is having the financial means to do “stuff” and try new things. There are hobbies for every and any interest.

People are important here, and we are attempting to build relationships and enjoy new experiences in new ways whenever possible.

Last week, after having an extensive lesson about the different types of tacos during in my English lesson with my tutor and friend. We established that there were at least 12 taco types we had never tried. So, we established family night Taco Tuesdays.

In Mexico, life is much different. Money and resources are limited, so the focus is on the people with whom time is spent. While an American may give Six flags a 3 out of 5 rating due to the lack of cleanliness, a Mexican may give it a 5 out of 5 simply because they had an incredible experience because of who they were with, even if not all the bathrooms worked. 

I can’t help but think that if the roles were reversed and students from the U.S. came to Morelia for a month and were asked what they loved most, they would respond, “I loved spending time with the people!”

People are important here, and we are attempting to build relationships and enjoy new experiences in new ways whenever possible. Last week, after having an extensive lesson about the different types of tacos during in my English lesson with my tutor and friend. We established that there were at least 12 taco types we had never tried. So, we established family night Taco Tuesdays.

We can now officially say that we have tried cow brains, cow palette, cow tongue, cow forehead, and cow cheeks. This is known as “tacos de cabeza” or “head tacos”. Although it was a culinary experience, to say the least, the focus was on the people with whom we tried these things, not the actual event itself.

Relationships.Relationships.Relationships. 8 more tacos to go!

NOE Loma Libre Staff and students during the Friendship Tour 2022, climbing the Cerro Punhuato

Tour de Amistad: Did we mention Mexico loves relationships? - Karlee - March 6, 2022

Each country celebrates what we call “Valentine’s Day” in its own way. In Mexico, it is called “The Day of Friendship and Love”. In my English classes, I try to incorporate US traditions that are different than those in Mexico. This was a necessary lesson for this day because, although romance and special dates do exist here for this day, there is a MUCH greater focus on giving gifts and doing kind things to and for your friends.

Many people get together as friend groups, staff, or their best friends instead of with their spouses or significant others. There also aren’t high expectations with gift giving, but rather with the time they get to spend together, honoring this friendship.

After class that night, Reggie and I were able to spend an hour with some of the Loma Libre staff, eating an AMAZING Tres Leches cake, but really reminiscing on how good God has been to us to give us such amazing friends with each other as a staff. We did go out for a special date just the two of us afterward, but we kept it simple with a nice supper and a walk down the “Callejón de Romance” (the Alley of Romance) downtown Morelia.

For 20+ years, Centro NOE has done what is called “The Friendship Tour”. Students and staff from each center gather for a special Saturday adventure playing games, worshiping, hearing a special message, but above all, getting to know each other outside their normal lives.

I didn’t realize how badly I needed a day like this! Reggie and I led worship, spoke to the group and each got to spend time with 7 different students for six hours, doing scavenger hunts, interviewing one another, playing games, and just hanging out, honoring the relationships God gives us. We deeply encourage others who read this to do the same with your youth someday!

Celebrating our Quinceañera

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Proverbs 31:30

The day after Selah was born, Reggie and I went for a walk down the hospital halls. We left our new daughter in the nursery to have some time to ourselves. As we rounded the final corner to return to our room, we heard a baby belting her cries with astounding lung capacity and impressive volume. We stopped, and I slowly looked at Reggie and said, “I think that one is ours.”

Selah did everything early…and very loudly. Not much has changed. Not wanting to do everything like everyone else, in true Selah fashion, her fiesta de 15 años (15th Birthday Party) did just that. Often, this party resembles that of a wedding. Flowers, a fancy dress, groomsmen (chambelanes), food, a fancy venue, dancing, a religious ceremony, and a reception. Mexico is 80% Catholic, so many of the roots of the traditions come from Catholic roots. We chose to simplify ours and intentionally combined the American and Mexican cultures into a Christian ceremony.

Decked out in beautiful sunflowers, white roses, vines, and rustic wood and stones that reminded us of western North Carolina, after Levi escorted Selah into the main room, Selah began the night by leading everyone in three worship songs, two in Spanish, one in English. The ceremony had three main pieces: worship, a message from Reggie with our good friend, Juan, translating, and the giving of special gifts.

During this ceremony, special friends and family were asked to provide special gifts to represent special ideas in Selah’s life. First, Zabdi Garcia, a NOE intern we met in September, presented Selah her final toy and delivered a beautiful speech about Selah’s childhood being a foundation for her womanhood and encouraged her to embrace those memories.

Next, Selah’s friend, Dana, presented Selah with her “high heels”, which in this case, was high-top tennis shoes. The shoes were purchased by Selah’s best friend and her family, Brooke (daugther of Mandi and Eric LaRowe) froms Brevard, NC. Dana shared a beautiful analogy about how shoes and friends have a lot in common and how Selah needs to continue “walking in her faith”.

Abby and Erick Garcia bought and presented Selah with a beautiful purity ring, explaining how God created us to live in purtiy until marriage because of God’s beautiful design for marriage.

Finally, our close friends, Melissa and Juan, presented Selah with a bilingual Bible and shared the importance of keeping her walk with Jesus the main priority in all she does and to live for His glory. We then took some extended time to gather around Selah to pray for her life as a woman.

To say the least, we were overwhelmed with love and gratitude to see so many people in our “village” who are going to be a key role during the next few years in Selah’s journey.

It is very common that, during the reception with dessert and dancing (in true American tradition, our Texan friend, Glenna, made Selah blueberry, apple, and peach American pies instead of cake!), the Quinceañera dances a special Waltz with her father. But to the surprise of all, after Selah and Reggie danced a choreographed beautiful waltz for 2 minutes, the song was interrupted by “Can’t Touch This”. Selah and Reggie then broke out into a fun dance and one-by-one the entire family joined with all of us having a nervous blast dancing together as a family!

As Selah reflected on the night, she wanted you all to know, “Overall, the night was amazing, and I really believe that Jesus was glorified through everything that happened. I’m so grateful for everyone who helped make it all happen and I thank the Lord for the amazing experience that helped me further integrate into the Mexican culture.”

We want to extend an enormous “¡Muchas gracias!” to those who have been a part of our journey raising Selah. We are so honored to have had you all in the seasons God has taken us through in Alabama, Minnesota, Tennessee, Iowa, North Carolina, Morelia, and everywhere in-between. It takes a village to raise a family, and although we may not live in the same village now, we couldn’t have done it without each member of each village in Selah’s 15 years.

Why We are Here: Reasons for Missions Part 4 of 5 - March 6, 2022

By Reggie Nichols

In 2007, I interviewed with Autumn Ridge Church in Rochester, MN. for the Pastor of High School Ministries position. Upon finishing the last interview, they asked if there was anything specific that would prevent the hiring process from moving forward if church leadership prevented me from doing something I felt called to do. Immediately, my response was, “short-term missions.”

Many times, when I traveled full-time speaking and leading worship, I witnessed people’s lives changed during a short-term mission experience. When people are exposed to different cultures, they begin to see life differently.

In 2003, after spending 6 weeks in Mexico, I re-entered the States and pulled over my vehicle just before the “Welcome to Texas” sign. Over the previous six weeks, I had experienced life like I had never experienced it before. I had witnessed people who had nothing but had everything. I watched a young man who couldn’t get a job spend an entire day on the porch with his grandmother. He was doing something at a young age that most people wouldn’t take the time to do until retirement.

I watched young children spend entire days teaching themselves to breakdance on a large cardboard box in the middle of a dirt street. I saw people laugh and give one another their full attention when talking and be 100% comfortable in silence by just being in the presence of people they love. I saw mutual respect among people and a passion for living each moment to the fullest.

During that stop at the border, while looking at the “Welcome to Texas” sign, I felt like I was at a crossroads. One road led to me back to the idea that happiness is mostly found in “stuff” and experiences; the other road to the idea that happiness is found in “people”. The moment was life-changing as I recognized that God was working in me and my understanding of His creation during the previous 6 weeks. I would dare say that He did more work “in me” than “through me” over that time.

One of our roles with NOE is to help facilitate small-group mission trips. We are excited to help people in possibly seeing life from a different perspective. We have a passion to expose others to what God can do “in you” verses what God can do “through you”. This is reason #4 for why we are here.

Why We are Here: 5 reasons for missions outside the USA – Part 3 of 5 - January 16, 2022

By Reggie

Reason #3: God has blessed us with experiences and knowledge that could best be used within a culture that doesn’t have the same approaches, skill sets, or experiences.

“Am I called to missions?” is not the right question because all lovers of Jesus are called to missions. The right question is, “Dear God, where?”

In the Spring of 2005, we saw God working. Karlee was invited to be a part of His work and saw first-hand the impact NOE International was having on the children and adults they served. As we have attempted to serve Jesus intentionally and intimately over the last 16 years, we asked ourselves, “Where can I be best used with the gifts, talents, and abilities with which God has blessed us?” Little did we know that over time we would gain skill sets and knowledge due to simply growing older and our life experiences.

Life is to be pursued with passion, never avoiding difficulties but learning and growing from each obstacle faced. Some of the areas of expertise with which God has blessed us during our journey with Him have been: philanthropy and non- profit establishment and service, language teaching, youth programming, children programming, Bible teaching, discipleship, entrepreneurship, team recruitment, team development, employee retention, development of organizational systems, business administrative practice knowledge and application, marketing, and developing healthy, spirit-led, Jesus-centered work environments.

The United States is a plethora of evidenced-based knowledge. Companies have business plans and strategies. Research is conducted and studied, changes are initiated, and results are again studied to gain knowledge on the most efficient and beneficial processes to achieve a desired result.

“We don't choose what we will do for God; He invites us to join Him where He wants to involve us.” Henry T. Blackaby, Experiencing God, 2007.

“Where can I be best used with the gifts, talents, and abilities with which God has blessed me?” Our answer is, “Morelia, Michoacan, Mexico through NOE International, the place that is now our home.”

A Normal Day: As if "Normal" were possible yet! - January 16, 2022

Many have been asking us what life looks like now that we have transitioned a bit. It barely scratches the surface, but here is a quick glimpse!

Mondays, Wednesday, and Friday
5:30 or 6:00 am – wake up
6:45 – leave for school
7:00 – Selah and Levi start school
        - Wes and Harmony listen to Adventures in Odyssey audio story 7:45 – Wes and Harmony start school; Parent returns home to get ready
8:00 – Eat and get ready for day
8:45 – Karlee English Lessons prep
        - Reggie study Spanish 4 hrs. per day
9:45 – Leave for NOE and prep classes
11:00 – Karlee Teach English Class
12:15 – 1:45 – Karlee Admin meetings, English lesson prep, run errands - Reggie prep lunch, clean house, do laundry and work on house projects
2:00 – Kids finish school; get picked up
2:30 – Arrive home and prepare for afternoon activities
2:45 or 3:00 – eat lunch together and discuss day (Americans’ supper time routine)
4:15 – leave for NOE
5:00 – Karlee teach English class; Reggie assistant (to help students and learn more Spanish)
        - Selah and Levi attend homework help at NOE; Wes and Harmony work on homework together
6:00 – Karlee teach conversation class (Reggie and Selah assist)
7:00 – Clean classroom and head home OR help with Un Espacio Para Ti weekly youth group until 8:30. Clean-up to follow.

Evenings are spent working on homework (sometimes up to 3 or 4 hours per day) and prepping for the next school day.

Tuesdays and Thursdays are concentrated language study and practice days and are also used to prep for weekend events or special NOE events, such as Podcast filming and editing, donor retention, worship practice, etc. 

Celebrating Christmas and New Year´s with new friends and traditions

¡Feliz Navidad y Feliz Año Nuevo! (Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!) - January 16, 2022

The Garcia Family, along with their three sons (Dany, Emanuel, and Erick), and their two daughters-in-law (Breisy and Abby) have been involved with NOE for over 15 years. NOE is part of their family.

Bety and Luis are also real estate agents and assisted us in the purchase of our home. Dany is a close friend, and Reggie is helping him and his brother, Erick, produce a podcast about people who live Incredible Lives (Vidas Increíbles). Emanuel just recently finished his medical program and serves as a physician a couple hours from Morelia. His wife, Breisy, is a dentist. In December, we had the honor of leading worship at their wedding. Erick is the NOE Vida West and Onlie class director, and Abby teaches elementary school English classes at NOE. All three Garcia sons are NOE graduates from the English program.

This year, we spent la Nochebuena (Christmas Eve) with about 40 of their family members: Aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, etc. Fellowship, a chocolate exchange, dancing, a midnight feast, and warm embraces from new friends. We were up until 3:30am bringing in Jesus’ birth!

Christmas Day was spent opening our stockings from Grandma and Grandpa and playing board games all day. It was a great way to spend our first Christmas in Morelia – Thank you, Garcia Family!

While Reggie and I went to San Antonio, Texas to sell our two vehicles and trailer we used to get our possessions and selves to Morelia, the kids stayed with some friends of ours, Glenna and Gabo, that live out in the countryside, just outside of Morelia. They have two children, ages 4 and 2, so they spent many hours singing, dancing, watching fun movies, and helping Glenna with the house and kiddos. They played LOTS of games and had a lot of fun relaxing outside the city.

Our new year was a bit calmer, as Mexico normally spends it with family. We stayed up until midnight watching “It’s a Wonderful Life”, playing games, and praying for the new year. On New Year’s Day, we looked at pictures from 2021 and read our thankful jar notes. Happy New Year and thank you for being a part of our journey!

We are excited to see what God is going to do in 2022!

Financial Update - December 5, 2021

Financial Update Looking at 2022 and beyond By the end of December, we hope to have all our one-time refurnishing the home expenses completed! We also hope to sell our vehicles and trailer to purchase vehicles with Mexican plates, which will make traveling throughout the country easier. Once all of this is in place, we will be able to fully focus on all aspects of the immigration process, which will have financial considerations, too.

To date, we are still seeking $1,650 in monthly support or committed annual donors to reach 100% funded. We would then use all non-monthly contributions toward our ministry budget, which would help local families or NOE programs. We are hoping to begin our over-and-above ministry fund in 2023 or before.

Please consider a monthly or consistent annual donation that will help us reach our goal and continue our ministry in Morelia. Thank you! 

Christmas Plans and Wishes - December 5, 2021

Karlee

Christmas Plans and Wishes The latest updates hot chocolate, listened to Christmas music, and see Christmas lights hung sporadically throughout the streets. Downtown is beautifully decorated with dazzling lights. We hope to keep our tradition of surprise caroling visits to our friends very alive, although we will dearly miss our Junco Lane and Ilahee Hills communities! Although we will definitely not be having a white Christmas, we hope to adopt some new traditions this year.

Christmas here is a lot more like Thanksgiving in the US. On Christmas Eve, family and friends gather for a huge feast. The Catholic community often goes to a midnight mass, celebrating the birth of their Savior. The Christian community often has a Christmas events and services. Gifts aren’t very common here, either. Some have adopted giving of gifts if they have influence from the US, but usually Noche Buena (Christmas Eve) is about being with family, good food, and Jesus’ birth.

On January 6th, children put out shoes for the Wise Men to deliver gifts to baby Jesus. They leave children small gifts of candy or small items and toys. This year, we will be spending time with new friends on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s. Downtown Morelia, December 2021.

Many friends have asked us what we plan to do for Christmas this year, assuming we will be returning to the States to celebrate. In order to help the kids adapt and help make this feel like home, we have been encouraged to stay for major holidays for the first 1-2 years. So far, we have experienced our first Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), an American Thanksgiving, three birthdays, and soon, we will have experienced our first Mexican Christmas.

Although many traditions are different, there are many similarities, too. We were able to purchase our first artificial tree and had a special night decorating with our favorite ornaments we kept. We drank hot chocolate, listened to Christmas music, and see Christmas lights hung sporadically throughout the streets. Downtown is beautifully decorated with dazzling lights. We hope to keep our tradition of surprise caroling visits to our friends very alive, although we will dearly miss our Junco Lane and Ilahee Hills communities!

Although we will definitely not be having a white Christmas, we hope to adopt some new traditions this year. Christmas here is a lot more like Thanksgiving in the US. On Christmas Eve, family and friends gather for a huge feast. The Catholic community often goes to a midnight mass, celebrating the birth of their Savior. The Christian community often has a Christmas events and services.

Gifts aren’t very common here, either. Some have adopted giving of gifts if they have influence from the US, but usually Noche Buena (Christmas Eve) is about being with family, good food, and Jesus’ birth. On January 6th, children put out shoes for the Wise Men to deliver gifts to baby Jesus. They leave children small gifts of candy or small items and toys.

This year, we will be spending time with new friends on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s.

Why are we here? 5 reasons for missions outside the USA – Part 2 of 5

Reggie
A personal story: Growing up, my sister and I were sort of free-range kids. It’s not that our parents let us do whatever we wanted to do, it’s just that they had responsibilities when they continuously began and tried new businesses, giving us freedom to explore our world while they were working. We knew our boundaries, and, for the most part, attempted to represent them well within the freedom we were given. I watched my parents experience adventure, failures, and successes. I was able to learn as I observed. I was able to make mental notes of things to do and not do if I ever began businesses of my own. I asked my dad a few years ago how much of what we wanted to do went into their decision-making when it came to vacations and his response was epic, “Your mother and I did what we wanted to do and you guys came along for the ride.” The statement was very John Eldredge-like (adventure to live).

I had all the opportunities I needed to be successful. I had entrepreneurial parents who experienced an adventurous life and placed a deep entrepreneurial spirit within me. We never went hungry. I always had the clothes I needed when I needed them. I got a motorcycle at the age of 14 and a truck at the age of 16. Reason 2 for why we are here: Not everyone has the same opportunities for success in life.

In Mexico, most people live day to day. They shop at the market because the food is cheap, and their meals consist of tacos (albeit Mexican tacos are NOT a step down in diet. 2 words: al Pastor). Karlee and I were recently sitting in the living room of a family. The family asked us to play a role of honor for their daughter’s 15th Birthday celebration. During our discussion of the daughter, who has, since our arrival, become active within the NOE program, it became obvious that her education is the only way out of the difficulties the family faces. The only opportunity she has in life to escape the daily struggle is through education. She is now involved in a beauty program through NOE and involved in learning English. These tools increase her opportunities in life by breaking the cycle of generational poverty.

Far too often, as I lived in the States, I took for granted my opportunities. “If I work harder, I can find success.” In other cultures, sometimes that simply is not the case. Because of the experiences and gifts God has given Karlee and me, we are able to use those for His glory within another culture to help break the bondage of poverty with the adults and youth we serve.

Welcoming the Christmas season, sharing season traditions, and ending our first Thanksgiving watching White Christmas with friends after a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration. It was the first time seeing this movie for our new Mexican friends! Yes, we watched it in English. Yes, the subtitles were terrible and were a rephrasing of all the slang!

Abby Garcia has lived in Morelia for a total of 3 years now, two of which she has been married to Erick Garcia, the NOE Vida West Director who she met while interning at NOE. Without her passion for Thanksgiving, this event wouldn’t have been possible!

Thanksgiving Firsts: “Of course, you can come!”

When Abby Garcia, an American teacher at NOE Vida West, asked if we would be willing to host a Thanksgiving meal this year, I enthusiastically said, “Yes!” In North Carolina, we often hosted a Thanksgiving meal and night of football and games with our friends who also didn’t have family nearby, so this was very familiar territory for us. This was extra special, too, because all the Americans that were the first to be put on the guest list also do not have family in Mexico, so we were re-creating special moments for many Americans.

Over the course of the next two months, Abby and I began planning. Between our very excited selves and a well-organized Google Doc, we managed to organize a Thanksgiving feast that was attended by 58 people and included all the stereotypical Thanksgiving dishes, a thankful wall, American football, games, ping-pong, LOTS of socializing, and a late-night viewing of White Christmas. For many Mexicans in attendance, it was their first Thanksgiving.

As we took extended time to pray before we ate, we were reminded of all the blessings God has given us with this new community along with traditions and memoires from our past. We pray you, too, had a very happy Thanksgiving and are SO grateful for you!

2 Corinthians 4:15 “All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.”

He’s Just Getting Started: Preparing for Longevity

Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo and willow survive by bending with the wind. - Bruce Lee, referenced by Bruce Olsen, Bruchko

Throughout our journey here, we have received many questions and comments about how long we plan to be in here. Many assume we will only be here for a year or two. Many are surprised to hear we are not homeschooling. Many advised us not to sell our home “…in case it doesn’t work out”. Although these assumptions and concerns are not ill-willed, we feel God has called to Morelia long-term. We feel God is telling us to help NOE further develop the programs they have already done such an incredible job building already and further reach Morelia for Christ. As in any urban and developing nation, to say the least, there is a lot of work yet to be done.

We have become increasingly aware of what has sent other missionaries home early. Lack of finances, children, health, inability to adapt to the culture, inability to learn the language, marital issues, loneliness, feelings of ineffectiveness, unsupportive family members, and safety to name a few.

As we approached our transition to Morelia, we focused on creating mentalities of longevity. When a new situation presents itself (which is roughly six times a day currently), we do not allow ourselves to think, “Why can’t they just do it like we do it?” or “Well, this is weird/stupid/strange/ridiculous!” Instead, recognizing that there is ALWAYS a reason, we’ve learned to ask the right question to the right people – it’s our challenge to figure it out…and adapt to those schemes that are culturally acceptable and healthy.

It doesn’t mean we can’t keep some of our own traditions and habits, but it does mean that criticism and frustration cannot be allowed to seep into our thoughts and conversations.

As stated in 1 Corinthians 4:13, “I can do all things in Christ who gives me strength.” This doesn’t limit God to only familiar environments or things only in own language/culture or when it is convenient or comfortable.

Staying in God’s Word, creating strict budgets, physical exercise, date nights, weekly conversations with American friends, outings with new friends, intentional job training, and asking reputable good-hearted people to help you figure it all out are all ways we are preparing ourselves for longevity, always focused on God’s calling for us here in Morelia.

I’d love to take this opportunity to give you a list of things we have successfully learned how to do that are different than what we were used to while living in the States. This is just for day-to-day functionality and doesn’t begin to touch all we are learning for our jobs at NOE. We focus on the victories, not the failures or how much we have yet to learn. Please be assured each of these required full conversations, training, and/or hours of investigation and often failed attempts.

- Drive from point A to point B without being jostled about by large speed bumps on every block; make a U-turn in heavy traffic; know which lane to be in; anticipate/follow traffic lights

- Put a screw into a concrete wall to hang a picture - Pay for propane, water, cell phone bill, and garbage pickup

- Learn how to navigate intersections when suddenly three lane traffic become six lane traffic

- Avoid motorcyclists who have no known traffic rules

- Order at a restaurant, receive the food you desired, and pay the bill

- How to properly dispose of toilet paper (not in the toilet)

- How to install a water filter into your kitchen sink

- Make purchases and coordinate deliveries

- Find mail under the vehicle in the garage

- Adjust to eating lunch at 2:30 and supper at 9pm.

- Find the best exchange rates - Mentally convert pesos to dollars within seconds

- Mentally convert kilometers to miles…not in seconds

- Brush your teeth without using water from the sink

- Remember to turn on the water heater 20 minutes before you need to shower

- Kids: make friends with limited language skills

- Kids: Convince others that you totally know what’s going on in a conversation using strategic facial expressions

Answered Prayers-Prayer Requests-Financial Update Nov 7, 2021

Answered Prayer

• We are moved into our new home, have purchased mostly everything we need, and feel very settled.

• Friends and trusting realtors and notaries along the way to help us in the home-purchasing process.

• NOE Primero, finally purchased, was able to open on October 11th after 9 months of renovations and almost 2 decades of renting.

• Karlee’s English classes are going well and she is getting to know her 31 students more and more.

• Reggie’s conversation classes are going well and is getting to know his 15 students better, allowing to transition his class topics to deeper discussion topics.

• Reggie is set to start language learning November 18th! • The kids are finding friends and youth groups to be involved in.

• No one has gotten sick in any fashion.

Prayer Requests

• Language learning for Reggie and the kids

• Reggie as he begins digging deeper into the immigration process to receive 1-year temporary resident Visas

• Continued growth in the relationships we are forming with NOE staff and students

• Growth for our fundraising to reach 100% funded with additional funding for extended NOE ministry opportunities

• Sale of our vehicles in Texas in December as we travel to and from Texas. This will allow us to buy vehicles with Mexican plates.

• Continued development of ministry within the English and conversation classes we are already leading

Financial Update

Although statistically speaking 20% of a missionary’s budget comes from one-time, non-monthly donations, it can be difficult to depend on this income long-term. Therefore, the goal is to live exclusively off monthly donations and use non-monthly annual contributions only for ministry to bless others. To do this, we would need $1,800 per month to reach 100% funded monthly commitments for our proposed annual budget.

Will you joyfully commit to give a monthly donation? If a monthly donation is not your preferred option, will you commit to an annual end-of-the-year or beginning-of-the-year contribution?

Anything that surpasses our proposed budget will go toward a ministry fund that will help grow NOE programs and assist NOE students. Areas of needed ministry include but are not limited to: NOE student scholarships, teacher training, student retreats, relationship building discipleship events, and one-on-one mentoring. We would love for you to journey with us and directly change the lives of those we serve. God’s just getting started!

Why we are here

Said (assistant director at NOE Lomba Libre), Un Espacio Para Ti youth group (a place for you), and Karlee teaching her first English class

Why are We Here? 5 reasons for missions outside the USA – Part 1 of 5 Nov 7, 2021

On my birthday, November 2nd, annually, the Mexico festival of Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) occurs. This year, some of our family observed this tradition as we traveled to three different cities to experience the different city cultural festivities. What a great experience! We spent intentional quality time with friends, experienced the differences of three separate communities, and tried new foods and drinks from each place.

As we walked through the ornately decorated graveyards while observing families celebrating the memories of loved ones that had passed, Said (see left) explained that many indigenous people believe that their past loved one comes back for one night each year during this festival. Although they find security in this belief, there is no biblical truth within it. Guadalupe is a significant influence in Mexico (belief in an apparition of Virgin Mary that occurred 5 times in the 1500s). Within Mexican Catholicism, there is an integration of non-biblical influence. At times, prayers will be offered to Saints, such as the Virgin Guadalupe. It might be said that there is a heavy Christian influence in Mexico, however, many times, more faith is found in the church and in the Saints than in Jesus. Of course, there are some Catholic churches, maybe many, who focus on Jesus. However, that is not always true.

Through the guidance of Christian Pastors and leaders, God moves the hearts of His creation toward Him.

Acts 20:28 - Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.

Sure, the above is a very generalized statement and there are exceptions; however, God used the disciples to begin spreading His truth and today, according to estimates from the Joshua Project, 60% of the world’s population have communities of believing Christians. However, 40% of the world does not have direct Bible-believing Christian influence.

Michoacan, our state, has a population of 3,487,151. Of those people, 95.12% profess to be Catholic, 1.7% profess to be Evangelical Protestants, 1.02% non-Evangelicals, and 2.16% consider themselves Atheist, other, or unspecified. The United States, which holds approximately 2% of the world’s population, has 25% of the world’s population of Christian pastors and leaders. This speaks loudly of the Christian influence within the US. Because of this influence, the US is known as a country who gives and is the backbone of many ministries located throughout the world.

However, the world needs MORE. The world needs more: people to say yes to missions and to be willing to move into areas that do not have a Christian influence. The world needs more people to give financially and through short-term time spent for the cause of the spreading of the gospel. The world needs more ministries reaching into the over 7,000 unreached people groups (Joshua Project) within the world.

Why are we here? Because the world, Mexico, Morelia, Ejidal Ocolusen (our neighborhood), and Acamapichtli (our street) need more Bible-believing, Jesus-loving Christian leaders and teachers who are willing to say “yes” to the world’s needs outside the USA. It’s a joy to be a part of that journey. That is REASON #1 why we are here.

- Reggie

Preparing for a Lifetime of Ministry - When God Answers Prayer

In March, when I was standing in our basement, staring at our storage shelves, giving myself a pep talk about how eventually this will all be behind us so I just need to start with one box at a time, I also began praying for our next home in Morelia. A home with space for our family, room for visitors, and space for great ministry. Let´s not forget within our budget! I had been perusing the Morelian housing market since the previous November, and we had already gotten a good idea of what we were looking financially and logistically.

In April, I first found what is now officially our home. Not knowing for sure what the neighborhood or driving route to NOE Centers would be like, we made a list of possible options, keeping this one in the back or our minds. Upon arrival, this was the first house I wanted to look at, as it offers us the freedom to do ministry and host visitors. After having multiple NOE representatives (Americans, Mexicans, and a local architect) check it out and ultimately give resounding approval, we decided to put in an offer. Long story short, it was accepted, and we began the process of learning how to buy a home in Mexico.

It has not been the simplest or clearest of processes, but without a doubt, we know God will be glorified through this home. Thank you for your prayers! We confidently feel God answered this prayer that began in March!

- Karlee

Our new home in Morelia - an answer to prayer!

"How can we help?" - October 12th, 2021

As her tears flowed down her face, she asked, "How can we help?"

Buying a home in Mexico has been an experience! It has been great! We have been able to increase our relationships with some of the locals with whom we serve alongside. We thank God frequently for Luis and Bety who told us, "You are a in our family now and we take care of our own." Luis and Bety have close ties to NOE and their son Erick is the Director of the Vida West Campus.

We have also been able to build some relationships with our internet guy, Mani, who gave recommendations for how to best put up curtains so we can keep our privacy private. Jose is the guy across the street from our house that tolerates our kiddos coming into his store multiple times a day to buy bags, cookies, or a Mexican Coca-Cola all while not speaking a bit of correct Spanish...but doing their best.

Last week, we pulled the trigger and purchased a living room set and dining room table. We had visied the store Muebles Diana a few times and Vera had taken very good care of us. Last week, I was alone. Just me, my English speaking ability, and money to pay for our purchase. Vera doesn't know English, and I am continuing to learn Spanish. She showed me some additional pieces we needed immediately and her co-worker, Eddie (who is in his mid-20s and who owns the store with his family) came by to say hello.

At my first visit to the store, by myself, the week before, Eddie, who (Praise Jesus!) knows sufficient enough English for us to have a conversation, and I talked a bit, and he asked if I had any ideas on how their store could reach out those moving to Morelia who only know English. So, today, I had a response. I shared a couple of ideas with him and he thanked me. There was no lull in the conversation and although I was in the middle of purchasing furniture, he made the statement, "I believe the Mexican people choose to live in poverty." He explained that the Mexican people have little self-worth and are afraid to advocate for themselves because they live lives as conquered people. They feel the government is corrupt and there is nothing they can do to help themselves. Eddie continued to share that he and his family deeply desire to change this acceptance by the people they love. He shared that he and his family increase wages for the staff so they can know their worth. He desires to create a family environment within the work place. The overall goal is to produce the idea within each staff person that they are important and that they are valuable.

My turn was next. I began to tell Eddie about the organization through which we are serving Jesus. I shared that what he is doing with his staff, we are doing with 1,100 children who live on the rim of Morelia. I began to tell him about the educational help we provide with additional tutoring and the vocational training that is provided.

At that point, he called across the room to his mother who joined the conversation. He filled her in on the topic and how he shared with me how they are attempting to transform Mexico through the way they treat their staff and then explained to her how NOE is doing the same. I finished my explanation of the ministry we are providing to the Mexican people by sharing how the NOE program increases graduation rate from 27% to 86% when students are involved in their program. I shared how moral fabric is woven through the teachings at NOE and how some of the former graduates are now serving within the political system in Morelia. The mom, with tears in her eyes and a hand over heart with desperation in her voice said, "How can we help?" Her heart is broken for her people.

God's heart is broken for His people. Jesus cried when a friend died. Jesus defended a woman caught in adultery (I've always thought there should have been 2 people He defended that day, the other being the male also caught in adultery). God knows our very being. He knows our motivations better then we know them ourselves. He speaks and reveals Himself to us every day, if only we have the brave heart to look for it.

Eddie, who is not a Christian, shared during our visit, "There is a saying in Mexico that if you knock on the door, it will open. But, I believe many people do not knock because they are afraid of what is on the other side." He said this within the context of us discussing God's presence in his life and how God pursues His creation, including Eddie.

We are being reminded of God's love regularly throughout our first month in Mexico. Please pray for Eddie and his family as prayerfully we are in the beginning stages of a relationship that could last a long time. 

We love you all! Thank you for believing in us!

Reggie

Revelation 3:20 - Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

The Daily Nichols - September 30th, 2021

Deuteronomy 20:4 “For the LORD your God is He who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory.”

“I am the Warrior and I am with you.”

These are the words that our friend Jesse felt impressed to pass on to us, specifically while praying for our family and our transition to Morelia and all He has planned for us. Our friend emphasized that God’s plan isn’t just in what we do, but in being. Our obedience to come to Morelia and exemplify His love will speak to others, so we don’t feel like we have to have it all together and do everything perfectly. The battle is much bigger than our tasks.

This message from our friend came shortly after a soon-to-be missionary in France, who is only 8 years old, requested we sing her favorite worship song “See a Victory” that has the following lyrics:

The weapon may be formed, but it won't prosper
When the darkness falls, it won't prevail
'Cause the God I serve knows only how to triumph
My God will never fail

I'm gonna see a victory
For the battle belongs to You, Lord

There's power in the mighty name of Jesus
Every war He wages He will win
I'm not backing down from any giant
'Cause I know how this story ends

You take what the enemy meant for evil
And You turn it for good

God is constantly reminding us that He has already won the battle and that through Jesus we can do much more than we can do without Him.

OUR ARRIVAL
When we arrived on the afternoon of September 13th, we were greeted with open arms from two of our directors at NOE to help unload our vehicles. This hospitality has not stopped, as we have been invited to spend time with individuals, families, youth groups, and churches. Selah and Levi have already gone to a birthday party for a friend of a friend, and Reggie and I will be singing in a wedding in December! We have only been here for less than two weeks, and I am reminded of why I fell in love with the Mexican culture so many years ago.

We want to extend a HUGE "THANK YOU!!" for all your support through prayers, encouragement, and finances throughout this process. To say these two weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind is quite the understatement, but we are overwhelmed with gratitude for everyone who makes missions and NOE possible. We have felt so much love from friends and donors in the States, NOE staff and students, and our new community in Morelia since our arrival.

KARLEE AT NOE
Last week I, Karlee, took a dive into the deep end! After a couple quick training meetings, I began my first online English class. I quickly realized I needed to take them up on the offer to find an assistant, which made my 2nd class much smoother! This week I will also start preparing for my three in-person classes which start Monday, October 4th. Please be praying for my prep time and that I can balance everything going on with the family and NOE.

REGGIE’S NEW ROLE
We have been experiencing the inevitable role reversal that we have anticipated for a few months now! While I am in training, lesson prepping, and teaching, Reggie has taken over organizing our finances and new family systems, Visa applications, obtaining new cell phones and numbers, school for the kids (I’ll explain more of that in a bit), laundry, meal prep, and cleaning the house – all while spending a couple hours a day on language learning! His confidence and knowledge of Spanish improves little by little with each conversation, which his exciting to see! His list of questions also grows, but that means he is being forced to take notice of things he hasn’t had to learn in the past. We are all very excited to see where he will be in a few months! At the beginning of October, he will be helping to facilitate an English conversation class at NOE with students who are preparing to go to Portland, Oregon for the month of July 2022. Please be praying for Reggie as he finds a new balance, can improve his Spanish comprehension and speaking skills and prepares documentation for our temporary resident Visa status.

SCHOOL FOR THE KIDS
Last week brought new challenges and growing pains for our Fab Four as they got their evaluations back from their new school, Colegio Libertad, a private Christian school in Morelia. We met with the director of the school, the director for each section of the school (elementary and middle school) and met their teachers. We also got their uniforms and (most) books arranged, along with their online platform, as some of their schooling will be virtual at least through December. Wes and Harmony started virtual school classes on Friday but will start a hybrid style (one week in person, one week virtual) on October 4th. Selah and Levi began in-person classes Monday, as they were allowed to attend in-person with those who need a little extra help, meaning they don’t have to be in front of a computer while learning a new language – yay! Day #1 was tough and emotional, but after the hump of emotions passed, they have begun gathering a game plan for how to approach their homework. Colegio Libertad has an English program, which is ironic, as they will “study” English with their peers. They will at least get a little bit of a brain break! Please be praying for their language skills, that they can make good friends quickly, and that their teachers will be helpful and understanding throughout this process.  

FINANCIAL UPDATE
As of today, we are 93% supported for our January to forever long-term proposed budget! Our non-monthly donations were able to fully support our transition and the rest of 2021. We feel very confident that God will provide as we dig in deeper to His ministry here in Morelia. We are also in the process of buying a house, which has been a big learning curve, but an overall positive experience so far. We were also able to lead worship for the all-teachers/staff event to celebrate NOE’s re-opening after a year and a half of empty buildings. We will also be leading worship for the NOE Primero inauguration on October 9th, as we see all the hard work in the mass renovation of the original NOE be revealed.

Again, we have felt the love of fellow NOE real estate friends who have helped us through this process. NOE directors and friends feel very positive that this is a good neighborhood with a good community and the house is a solid investment. If all goes well, we will have a home that we can grow into as a family and do ministry in! We will keep you posted! Please be praying this process goes smoothly and that we are approved as foreigners to buy a home in Mexico.

That’s the bulk of it! In about 3-4 weeks we will have somewhat of an idea of what a "normal" may look like for us, but your prayers are coveted as we figure it all out.

See attached pictures:
- Karlee’s first day of teaching at NOE
- (2) The view from Karlee’s classroom of the city
- The kids on their first day of school at Colegio Libertad

We are home! September 13, 2021

We were able to safely arrive in Morelia around 12:30 central standard time, welcomed by two of our directors! We quickly unloaded our vehicles and a few things in our trailer before heading over to Brian, our NOE director's home where we ate American hamburgers and hotdogs with his wife and daughter. We ended the night organizing our little Air B&B and relaxing. 

What a sweet day it was to see all of our hard work land us in Morelia! Our internet is a bit spotty here right now, but we hope to remedy that soon. We will update a bit more once I do t have to send these from my phone.  We lift our hearts in praise to our Creator for being with us each step of the way. 

We love you guys! Thank you for journeying with us!

"Whoville"-like trees that were EVERYWHERE on our journey today. I've never seen anything like them before - it was like being in a Dr. Seuss book!

Morelia or Bust: Day 6 - September 12

Today we are very grateful for new friends who have loved us on this journey.  Reggie wrote yesterday about visiting our exchange student, Ana, and her family.  As we said "goodbye/see you later" to them this morning, we left knowing that they were people who would love us and help us if we ever needed them.  What a blessing to know this as we travel to new places! It was hard to part ways after such a short time together, but we are grateful for our time together and to see the woman she is becoming.  

We slowly (emphasis on slowly, as the speed limits are very low here, and we are driving at or below the speed limit to avoid any unwanted attention) made our way to San Luis Potosi, the capital city of the state with the same name, where we have a comfortable bed and gated parking lot (and fantastic food, as Reggie already mentioned!).  Tomorrow we will make our way to MORELIA! To say the very least, we are excited! 

Many have asked how we are doing with the long drive.  It's amazing how God gives you what you need.  My (Karlee) back was really hurting after our long day to Houston, but other than that, the kids have been mostly calm and agreeable with very little complaining.  They are all ready to get to Morelia and establish some things that have been in the wondering for many months.  Please continue to pray for us Tuesday as we make our final treck to the ultimate destination.  

We are also singing praises as my baby sister gave birth to a healthy baby boy, Jones Walker, at 12:02 this morning.  Although it is hard to not be there and we won't get to meet him for a while, God is so good to allow us to see and talk to them over video calls.  Happy mother's and father's day, Austin and Andy! We're super proud of you! 

Thank you all for loving us and journeying with us - we are Morelia-bound!

Our view through the Sierra Madre Occidental - Northern Mexico's mountain range

Morelia or Bust: Day 5 - A day with Ana and her family - September 11, 2021

We had a special opportunity in 2017-2018 to meet a young women who spent her school year with us. She was from Mexico and was a part of the foreign exchange program. Today, we were able to spend the day with her and her family in her hometown of Monclova. The Mexican culture has many tendencies but leans toward the following... eat well and don't rush spending time together. So, today, we ate well and spent intentional time with Ana and her family. We visited a couple of the sights of Monclova and learned that it was once the capital, before the Louisiana Purchase, of what is now Texas. We had some local ice cream, ate a one of the family's favorite restaraunts, and visited another home just outside of Monclova and finished the day swimming at that home, and worshiping together until it was time to travel back for the evening.

The last 2 days has been great encouragement for us as we have begun needing to use what little Spanish we know as we attempt to communicate. Today, we were able to face to face begin a friendship that will most likely last for many years. We look forward to seeing these guys again soon. 

Prov 13:20 - Walk with the wise and become wise...

Friends - loss or sacrifice?

See post below.

Friends - loss or sacrifice

The hardest part of transition for me is the feeling of loss. During our time in Brevard, God blessed us with GREAT friends! On the first day of training at CIT, Ed, our speaker for the morning, shared the difference between "LOSS" and "SACRIFICE". Loss is something that is taken away. Sacrifice is something that is freely given away. Over the following 4 weeks of training at CIT, God moved me to reframe the view of my relationships. He moved me to reframe my view of loss into a view of sacrifice.

I have wondered throughout our process of transitioning into full-time missionary service if all of God's creation is innately burdened with the an underlying fear of how they would answer the question, "What is it I am willing to give up for God?" Abraham was challenged with potentially giving up his son. David was challenged with giving up his pride/selfishness which ultimately led to murder when confronted by Samuel. Paul gave up his place of honor. The Disciples gave up their professions. Elisha gave up his way of living and burned all the implements he used so that there was no way he could return to that old way of life. 

One thing is for certain. God continues to call. The difficulty to answer His call could deeply lie in our inability to answer the question, "Am I willing to give it all up for Him?"

Wow!! We love our friends. The sacrifice of our transition leaves our heart empty. However, it is a good feeling of emptiness because we "left it all on the playing field". We were given an opportunity to love hard and to be loved hard. We have no regrets. Although our heart is empty, at the same time, it is full because of what we were given the opportunity to experience. 

Thank you friends for loving us! We love you dearly.

Morelia or Bust: Day 4 - Crossing the Border

First and foremost, we are safe and sound in Mexico! We left out of Austin around 7am with hopes to get to the border by 11 or 11:30.  Along the way, we had a tire on the trailer blow out.  We were already in the right-hand lane, so we pulled off onto the exit that was just past where the blowout happened...and pulled into a Honda dealership! Longer story short, they were able to help us and we got an alignment on our van done. After one other delay, we finally arrived at the border around 3:30.  

We huddled up, prayed, reviewed procedure expectations, and proceeded to the border crossing.  I, Karlee, was with the girls, and Reggie and Levi were together with the trailer.  After paying $4, the girls and I drove through two very simple crossings, then found ourselves driving into Mexico without having to talk to a single person or present a single piece of documentation.  I was so shocked, I called our friends in northern Mexico to make sure I didn't miss anything!

Reggie and Levi had to enter through a different gate because of the trailer.  After a quick phone call to me to translate for a couple of the border guards, they read our letter from NOE,  inspected their vehicle and a few boxes in the trailer to make sure we weren't smuggling anything, and sent them on their way.  What an incredible blessing it was! Thank you all SO much for your prayers - they were absolutely answered!

We then had to go to one other place (a HUGE shout out to our foreign exchange student's dad who gave us all the inside information we needed to make this as easy as possible) to register our vehicles and trailer.  This part took the longest, but set us up to have no problems in the future.  It was 104 degrees with no air conditioning, so we were all pretty sweaty when we were done, but felt really good about how the day had gone.  

Finally, we made our way to our foreign exchange student's home a couple hours away where we were welcomed with many hugs, kisses, and tacos! What a fantastic way to enter into Mexico! Today was definitely full of surprises and blessings, and we are overwhelmed with God's love. 

Prayer requests:

- Safety as we travel to our next pitstop on Sunday after visiting with Ana's family on Saturday

- No sickness as we eat food in Mexico

- Continued safety for our vehicles and trailer

Blessings:

- Seeing Ana after 3 years and finally meeting her family

- Safety with the blown tire and people who helped us along the way

- Safe and boring border crossing and smooth arrival to our first pitstop in Mexico

The bridge we crossed to get to Mexico (view from Mexico looking at US)

Morelia or Bust: Day 3

2 Timothy 1:7 "For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control." 

Today was a more restful day! We were able to sleep in at our hotel, shower, and eat a good breakfast/lunch together. After getting an oil change and running a few errands, we hit the road for Austin, TX to hang out with some friends from Reggie's Vanderbilt nursing program (a HUGE shout out to Colby and Emily for helping to keep us sane throughout the program!). Despite my urging for my little sister whose name is Austin to have her baby today, alas, we will have to wait another day or two until he makes his grand appearance!

Tonight we are preparing final documentation, making extra copies of everything, organizing paperwork, and briefing the kids on what to expect. We are officially ALL excited for tomorrow to finally happen! (Another HUGE shout out to CIT for an amazing training program that helped our children reach a healthy place emotionally that prepared them for such a time as this! 

Prayer requests:

- Smooth driving to the border
- All required paperwork is in order and there are no hiccups with importing vehicles and trailer
- Positive interaction with the border guards on both sides
- No sickness during the trip nor from food once we are in Mexico
- Safe travels once we have crossed as we head towards Monclova to visit our foreign exchange student and her family!

Love you guys - Thank you so much for journeying with us!

Let's do this!

Morelia or Bust: Day 2 recap

Yesterday was our longest travel day we will have in our journey to Morelia, and we are ALL glad it is behind us! We started out in rush hour Birmingham traffic, but eventually hit the open road with Houston as our destination.  Before leaving Alabama, Reggie was able to reminisce one last time at his old exit 97 off the interstate that once led to home (See pictures).  Reggie and Levi have been enjoying some more man time together, while the girls and I have been savoring our girl time, singing girly songs at the top of our lungs and discussing hopes and dreams for our future.  

With a quick lunch at Chick-Fil-A (a last-time restaurant visit in the USA request by Selah) in Meridian, Mississippi, we were off toward Shreveport, LA, avoiding the flooding in New Orleans.  Finally, we made our way into Texas, where we were welcomed by many cattle and the famous Cowboy churches.  The statement, "Everything's big in Texas" is evident, as seeemingly everything is labeled "big _____".  Finally, around 9pm central time, we arrived at our destination with our friend Jordan waiting for us.  What a great ending to a long day! Once again, God has been faithful, as we have had no vehicle or trailer issues all day and have had time with friends we haven't seen in a very long time.  

I've learned that all three of my girls get very loud and silly when they are extremely tired.  When I thought they'd get calm and go to sleep, they were giggling and cracking jokes that made no sense for the last couple hours of our journey.  Times when I would normally turn off the music and have them settle down became times I joined in and embraced this crazy journey together.  

Today (Thursday) we will have a short skip over to Austin to see and stay with some more friends we haven't seen in many years and relax a bit before heading to the border tomorrow morning.  

Prayer Requests:
- No vehicle or trailer problems
- No issues with final paperwork and filing our vehicles to cross the border
- Good attitudes for everyone
- A good night's sleep tonight before crossing the border tomorrow

Long-distance traveling tip #2: If one has to go to the bathroom, EVERYONE tries to go to the bathroom.  Always.  

Love you guys! Thanks for journeying with us!

Remembering Exit 97 to Woodstock, AL

Morelia or bust: Day 1

Day 1 started as a tough day filled with tears and goodbyes to friends (who feel like family) and our town we've made home for the last seven years.  Mourning this loss/sacrifice will be something we process for a very long time.  We are filled with gratitude for how God provides friends for a season, but know that so many will overflow into many seasons yet to come!

Once we left Brevard, we began our journey to pitstop #1 in south Birmingham, AL.  We had a few concerns about a wheel on the trailer, but it panned out OK when we had it checked out along the way.  Please continue to pray we have no issues with the trailer and everyone continues to have a positive attitude.  

Long-distance travel training: No "Captain Obvious" comments are allowed.  Example: "It's hot." "It's a long trip."  These statements are NOT allowed! You will promptly hear, "Thank you, Captain Obvious!" and will be ignored.  :-) 

Ready to hit the road! Morelia or bust!

The Daily Nichols - September 2, 2021: 3…2…1…Launch!

On April 7th, we were accepted as independent missionaries through our sending agency, ACCI, to work full-time with NOE International in Morelia, Michoacan, Mexico. Exactly 21 weeks later (147 days), we were given the green light from ACCI and NOE International to make preparations for our launch!

In about a week (exact dates still TBD), we will be hitting the road with our trusty trailer and vehicle to journey from Western North Carolina to SW Mexico. Although details are still in the works, we are confident that God will continue to provide as He already has throughout this journey. 1,922 miles is the only thing between us and the goal we have been working toward for much longer than 147 days.

While there, we plan to take some time to get acclimated to the culture. The kids will be attending Colegio Libertad, a private Christian school. Reggie will begin language study and Karlee will begin working on long-term housing options. We will all be learning more about the Morelian culture and immerse ourselves with a new normal.

Although things in Mexico are still ever-changing due to the pandemic, we serve a never-changing God that has big plans for the families at NOE and couldn’t be more excited about working with a staff that longs to see Jesus reflected in their vision for life change in the hearts in Morelia.

After we arrive, we will be getting new phone numbers, but will make sure to let you all know how you can contact us. We will be using the platform WhatsApp for our calling, texting, and video call communication. We will also continue to send out monthly newsletters via email and will post them on our website.

We want to say a huge “Thank you!” to all of you who have made this possible in 147 days: prayer support, financial support, advisory teams, friends and family with emotional support, logistical support, and of course, ACCI and the NOE board and Morelia teams who have all journeyed with us to make this calling a reality.

 

Funding Update:

In only 147 short days, God answered our prayers in ways many thought impossible. With the new school year quickly approaching, we prayed to reach our goal of 90% of our “get-on-the-field budget” by the time we finished our training at CIT (Center for Intercultural Training) on September 3rd. As of Thursday, September 2nd, we are excited to announce that we have reached 90% of our monthly commitments for our long-term budget and consider ourselves at 134% of our get-on-the-field budget with consideration of non-monthly support!

We couldn’t be any more grateful and humbled to feel the support of our friends, family, and community members. With financial support in place, all we have been learning in our cross-cultural training at CIT, and the backing of NOE and ACCI, we feel prepared dive in and begin our baby steps toward longevity.

We are still not where we need to be for long-term support, however - but we're SO close!. We are still seeking monthly commitments to help us reach our long-term ministry budget that will allow us to stay on the field for many years to come. Please visit our family website to learn more about how you can join our team by supporting us with a monthly or single donation.

Enjoy the Journey. Embrace the Detours.

(Reggie)

Since 1973, I have been an Alabama football fan, well, all but for a period of about 3 days when my Uncle Jimmy took me to an Auburn football game at the age of 6 and I watched the Auburn Eagle circle the stadium at the beginning of the game and got to experience the stadium wave for the first time. Alabama won 3 national championships in the 1970s. However, during my childhood years, the 1980s, it seemed they couldn’t win a game. I remember lying in our living room on my favorite pillow watching, time after time, Alabama’s lead wither away until their ultimate demise. My heart would sink. I would tell myself that I hated football. I would spend the rest of the day outside doing something active to try to get rid of the gut wrenching feeling of defeat from the pit of my stomach. However, by the time Sunday rolled around, I began to reconsider. By Monday, I couldn’t wait for the next scheduled game to be played.

I stayed with them through the years. I ushered games at both Legend Field and Bryant Denny Stadium (thanks Joseph). I visited Neyland Stadium in Tennessee and the Plains of Auburn in hopes of finding a cheap ticket to experience the game. I have been faithful to my Crimson Tide. They once stunk but I hung in there.

Throughout our process of transitioning to full-time missionaries, God has been faithful. He has not only hung in there but during our most desperate moments and times of decisions, He has come through as if He were planning on providing anyway…. because that was His intent all along. Things like selling our home with one phone call, financial support appearing at the time it was needed, people approaching us from out of nowhere because they felt the Holy Spirit leading them to share encouragement, finding a vehicle to haul our trailer at the exact time we needed it for the exact price, and finding a trailer we needed at the exact time we needed it for the exact price all point to a God that is faithful. He knows our needs. He knows our hearts. There is nothing too intimate about us that He doesn’t know…still, He is faithful.

God has shown His faithfulness through my journey with Karlee from us meeting while in short-term missions in Matamoros, Mexico to establishing a relationship beginning in Chicago, Illinois, leading to our marriage in Iowa then moving to Alabama, then to Minnesota, then to Tennessee, then to Iowa, then to North Carolina, and now back to Mexico. He is faithful. He created faithful. He will provide. He will sustain.

Hebrews 10:23 - Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful

Union Mills, NC - August 8th - September 3rd

Why Missions?

We are overwhelmed by the love and support we have received from friends, family, and churches who believe in us. The average American Christian gives only 1 penny a day to global missions (Yohannan, 2009, Revolution in World Missions, 142); however, we have experienced the opposite. Seeing so many people sacrifice along this journey to see the love of God shared has moved us. On one occasion, a family, through tear-filled eyes, made the statement, “We can’t travel outside the country (due to illness), so we want you to go for us.” This family didn’t have a regular income due to illness and life’s circumstances. As we prayed together, I thought to myself, “This is the widow’s mite!” To have the responsibility to carry the gospel to others who can’t carry it themselves is humbling.

We have been called to disciple and educate the students and families in Morelia, Mexico. Many of those living in Morelia live on less than Mexico’s minimum wage of only $7.08 per day. The graduation rate of the state where Morelia is located is 27%. Through the work of NOE, graduation rate increases to 86% for those within their program (1100 children at the time of this article). This is accomplished through a process of discipleship where those involved see the love of Christ throughout it all.

Globally, with only limited education, specifically less thandoesn’t graduate high school. We know that money is not the answer. However, each student who graduates has a greater ability to avoid poverty and to rescue his/ family from generationally not being able to eat. This ability, when given through the process of discipleship that deeply shows and shares the love of Christ, helps reinforce that God provides and God rescues.

Thank you for investing in us as we help transform the area in which we are called. As you have given and continue to give, know you are generationally transforming families in a way where they no longer must survive on $7.08 per day. a High School Diploma, a person has limited ability to earn income above minimum wage. According to www.payrollmexico.com, those who have degrees and attain positions in sales, IT, management, technician, customer service, or administrative positions earn about three times minimum wage. The median income for those with a post-secondary education is approximately 20x greater than someone who doesn’t graduate high school.

We know that money is not the answer. However, each student who graduates has a greater ability to avoid poverty and to rescue his/ family from generationally not being able to eat. This ability, when given through the process of discipleship that deeply shows and shares the love of Christ, helps reinforce that God provides and God rescues.

Thank you for investing in us as we help transform the area in which we are called. As you have given and continue to give, know you are generationally transforming families in a way where they no longer must survive on $7.08 per day.

Reggie 8/16/21 - Huh? Water cooler talk, what is that?

July 13th I said goodbye to something very simply that my world taught me is true... a good man has a steady job to take care of his family. Problem...what if God calls me to do something else other than the norm? How did Peter and John care for their families when Jesus called them to travel with Him? Am I reckless?

Over the last month, God has rocked my world! After spending 3 weeks of intentional time with family, I was able to settle back into reality and thought the question I would ask myself would be, "What have I done?" However, that's not what I asked myself. Instead, my question was, "What awesome adventure lies awaiting for me over the horizon?" 

We have spent the last 7 days at The Center for Intercultural Training and what I have learned is the difference between the Western perspective (my perspective) and pretty much most of the rest of the world. Most of the world, specifically where God has called me to serve, does not think like me. I am "time" focused, the area where we are called to serve is "event" focused. I care that an event starts on time. The culture in which I will serve cares more about building relationships along the way to that event which may cause the event to begin an hour late. In my previous professional roles, I saved time through efficiency and staying focused on the task. The culture in which I will serve considers relationships and conversation to be a part of the process. Water cooler talk is built into the plan because relationships are important.

Our family read through Ephesians this weekend and I was reminded that God has created us to live in harmony with one another. He has created us to be SOOO in love with Him because what He has done and who He is that our cups (that are full of the realization of love from God) naturally overflows into the lives of those around us. God's plan is for me to live life with others, through which He is to be glorified. Why? Because our battle is against the spiritual world and we can't do it alone. 

So, as I travel to another country, I am entering a culture where relationships are important. The culture emphasizes it. The events emphasize it. I recognize the blessings I have received over the last 7 years of living in Brevard. I have tremendous, God-fearing, Jesus-loving, family-centered friends that I know love me. In my 20's I had (and still believe I have from Alabama) a group of friends who would drop anything at any time if I had a need. They would driving 1000 miles to help me fix a flat if I asked them because I was broken down on the side of the road. I continue to have friends now who would do that same thing. Matthew, Matt, Shea...and a heap of others have been there to encourage me, counsel me, pray with me, and get beaten at Rook and Settlers. Wow, I love those guys. I thank God for those relationships.

Looking forward, I am thankful that God has called me to a culture of relationships! I both thank God for the ones I have and also for the ones I will have. I can't wait for the water cooler talk, but this time, in Spanish...

Thank you all for loving us and believing in us.

Reggie

John 15:13

The Daily Nichols Thursday, July 29th, 2021 Issue #3

If you want to travel fast, go alone. If you want to travel far, go together. - African Proverb

In only ten short days, on August 8th, our family leaves for training through CIT (Center for Intercultural Training) in Union Mills, North Carolina. To say the very least, I (Karlee) am excited. In all my cultural nerdiness, I am neck-deep in cross-cultural reading and discussions, and now I get to do this with other people who are venturing from and to all parts of this beautiful world God created. I’m beaming as I slide my glasses up by the center brim! I know that we will all be stretched to think beyond our Western way of thinking and consider mindsets from all over the globe. Our children will finally be surrounded by other children whose parents have also been called into something new, different, exciting, and intimidating (and for some, scary). We haven’t even arrived, and I am already encouraged at what God has planned for us during these 27 days.

As I continue through the book of Acts in preparation for a new journey in spreading the gospel and growing the global church, I see clearly how Jesus taught his followers to interact intentionally with those from other cultures.

In 36 days, our training will be complete, which means we are already making decisions about post-training options. We fully believe that God will provide a way for us to transition in September. Just as the proverb above states, “If you want to go far, go together”. Although you are all not physically going with us to Morelia, we are humbled that so many of you have chosen to travel with us through your prayers and financial support.

As of today, we are fully funded for our actual move and through the end of the year! Praise the Lord! We are at 39% of our proposed budget for January and beyond (a 29% increase from last month!).

We want to extend an enormous “THANK YOU!” to those of you who have helped us reach this point. We are so encouraged by all your prayers, words of encouragement, time spent in your homes and on Zoom calls, hugs, and financial support. We know that we are not in this alone and God has given us a wonderful group of people to help us transition and begin ministry in Morelia.

We would love for others to join us in our journey and reach 100% funding over the next 36 days! For those who have contemplated joining us, please consider (pray and discuss), commit, and communicate your support so we can begin solidifying the logistics to getting to Morelia once training is complete on September 3rd. Please share our information and website with others who may want to join our team, too!https://www.adventive.ca/all-project-list/reggie-karlee-nichols/

As we finish up many of our “lasts” in Brevard and the States, here are some praises and prayer requests we would like to share with you. Please continue reaching out to us personally, whether in person, Facebook, text, or email. We have absolutely loved reconnecting with people during this time and want to maintain these precious relationships God has blessed us with over so many seasons of life!

Praises

- Reaching 100% funding for our initial launch and 2021 months
- Everyone has stayed healthy over these summer months
- Reggie and Levi traveled to Belize in July for a special coming-of-age father/son trip. They had no issues with travel or health and had a great experience!
- Selah and Weslee were almost unable to go to camp due to COVID reports at their camp. They were able to be rescheduled for the following week and are having a blast!

Prayer Requests
- We all pass our mandatory COVID tests we will be taking this week in order to proceed to CIT training
- We reach 100% funding by September 3rd
- Clarity as we make decisions moving forward for the kids’ schooling
- Emotional growth and understanding for our Reggie and me and our children during training
- Working out the logistics for our physical move to Morelia
- Clear and healthy communication between Reggie and me as we prepare for our transition and help our children through emotional struggles

Finally, if you would like to Zoom call during training, that is 100% still an option, as we anticipate having evening and weekend hours free.

Our address will be 6494 Hudlow Rd., Union Mills, NC 28167.

Letters, cards, care packages, and chocolates are welcome. 😊 We love you guys and can’t wait to share more about how God is moving through our family in the next few weeks.

Blessings, Reggie and Karlee Nichols

Reggie: (828) 556-9134 nichols.reggie@gmail.com
Karlee: (828) 556-9132 karleednichols@gmail.com

"We put our "yes" on the table. God put it on the map!" Pusimos nuestro "si" en la mesa. Dios lo puso en el mapa!

The Daily Nichols - The Countdown is ON! - June 27, 2021

Victor Hugo, famous French activist and author of Les Miserables, wrote, “The future has many names: The Lazy call it: The Impossible. The fearful refer to it as: The Unknown. But the Courageous embrace it by saying: ‘This is my Challenge.’” - The God Ask by Steve Shadrach

The Countdown
Days of work Reggie has left: 11
Days left in Brevard, NC: 47
Days until we leave for training: 47
Days until pre-field training is complete: 74
Total funding raised for moving expenses and first year still needed: 58%
Total funding for on-going monthly support still needed for year 2 and beyond: 90% of total budget

God has blessed us so much throughout this journey so far, and we know that He will continue to do so as we move forward with our calling to Morelia/NOE International and the Challenge to raise 100% of our support in only 5 ½ months.

The Timeline
*Official NOE Meeting to discuss working with them full-time: January 14, 2021

*Karlee starts sorting/organizing/purging/donating sections of our home: early March 2021

*Receive acceptance from ACCI, our sending agency: April 7, 2021 Send out first mailing announcing our calling to full-time missions: April 14, 2021

*Sell our home: June 2, 2021

*Reggie’s final day of work: July 13, 2021 Leave for training: August 7, 2021

*End training: September 3, 2021

*Hopeful day to leave for Morelia: September 6/7, 2021

*NOE starts new Fall semester: September 20, 2021

We have had a lot of people ask us about our timeline, then respond with shock that we plan to leave so soon. Since beginning this process, we have learned that the majority of missionaries spend 18-24 months raising support. As we pray about our calling to work with NOE International, we see the need to arrive sooner than later. Coming off the tail-end of a world-wide pandemic that left many nations devastated, NOE is prepping to re-open their doors for the first time since March/April 2020. Only 40% of their students had access to computers, meaning there are many families (both those who were able to continue virtually and those who were not) who are anxiously awaiting their opportunity to get back to normal, back to a life with community and the programs that NOE offers, back to a family who gives them hope in Jesus and sought to love them throughout these tough times.

Each Fall, NOE’s semester begins the Monday after Mexico’s Independence Day on September 16th. Our goal is to have arrived and be in a home (even if it is temporary until we can purchase a home) in time to allow us to be involved at the beginning of their new Fall semester, celebrating with the NOE staff as they open their doors once again to reinitiate their ministries that speak life into the communities they serve.

In order to “launch”, we need to be funded 90% with pledged on-going monthly commitments that will support us for years to come. We know it is a big “God Ask”, but we truly believe that God fully funds those He calls with the help of the global church.

We are so grateful for those who have committed to come alongside us in this journey! We could not do this without you! We ask you to actively journey with us and help us reach our goal of arriving in Morelia in September, please click on this link: https://www.adventive.ca/all-project-list/reggie-karlee-nichols/

We would love to schedule a Zoom meeting or in-person time to discuss our future and how you can be involved! Please call or email us to get it on the calendar – we’d love to share more and catch up with you!

Family Website: nicholsmorelia.com

Reggie: nichols.reggie@gmail.com - (828) 556-9134
Karlee: karleednichols@gmail.com - (828) 556-9132

The Daily Nichols - Sunday, May 30, 2021

Welcome to the first edition of "The Daily Nichols", an update from the Nichols family about our journey to the mission field!

The spiritual, emotional, and financial support we have received so far has been an incredible experience for us.  We want to give a huge "Thank You!" to all of you for prayers, words of encouragement, questions about how to help us, love you've poured out on our children, and financial donations that are helping make this journey a reality. 

To say the very least, it has been an eventful month! We would like to keep you updated with the events of this past month and give you a timeline for our summer. 

Many of you received our first newsletter we sent out toward the end of April (see attached).  Since then, we have received and accepted an offer on our home, which was an enormous answer to prayer, as we didn't even have to put it on the market! We will close on our house on June 4th. 

After a 12-day journey to Minnesota and Iowa to visit family and friends and share at my hometown church/VBS, we will be back in the Brevard, NC area living in a section of our church building until we head out to our month-long field training in Union Hill, NC (https://cit-online.org/) on August 7th.

The kids finished their potentially final day of American school on May 27th, which came with mixed emotions for everyone.  Selah, Weslee, and Harmony will be on a swim team all summer, and Levi looks forward to working out and "bulking up" during the girls' swim practices.  I (Karlee) look forward to a few weeks of simple living as we visit friends and family and enjoy our time in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Reggie's final day of work is July 13th, and he also looks forward to some special time with Levi and some family men's trips with both the Nichols and Schulz men in July and August.  

Many people have been asking how we have been and how they can help.  

- Logistically, we are moving forward and making progress.  We will be loading up a 6'x12' trailer with selected items from our home that Reggie and I will drive down to Mexico with our van.  It has been a learning experience to purge at this level! We are very grateful to have made it to this point and are SO thankful for friends who have helped with organizing and yard sales along the way! 

- Please continue to pray for each of us emotionally as we will have many "lasts" in the next few weeks.  Each child is processing the change in their own way; some days are easier than others when it comes to saying "goodbye" to the life they have loved here in Brevard. 

- Please also pray for language learning (and motivation for some!) as we approach the reality of the daily need for Spanish skills! 

Our greatest need currently is financial support.  We have currently raised 27% of our first year's budget, but are at less than 1% of our on-going monthly financial commitments.  With both of us seeking to work with NOE International 100%, donor support both in one-time donations and monthly support will be a determining factor for our launch date (shooting for September upon completing our training on September 3rd if we are 90% funded) and our ability to give of our time to ministry once we are there.  If you haven't already, please partner with us! Even $5-10 a month is enough to make a huge long term impact in our lives and those we serve. We'd love for you to partner with us and be a part of what God is doing in Morelia! 

https://www.adventive.ca/all-project-list/reggie-karlee-nichols/

Throughout this process we have been learning the true meaning of Philippians 4:6 that says, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." Selling our possessions and home, starting our fundraising process, leaving a business and professional steady job, and helping our children through a major transition with a lot of unknowns has caused us to constantly keep ourselves and each other in check about trusting that God has control of this process and that He will be glorified through it all! 

We would love to share more with you about our transition, NOE International, and how you can support us.  Please don't hesitate to reach out to us via email, text, or our website.  Thank you again, and we look forward to sending you another update soon!

Karlee (and Reggie)