By Megan Marley
The Catholic Key
For Mark and Lora Ecksteine, founding A Simple House mission in Nicaragua isn’t that simple.
Unlike other outreaches that meet material needs or evangelize, A Simple House’s mission is to build “authentic friendship that benefits the poor and glorifies God” as its website states. But how would that mission look in one of the poorest countries of the Americas?
“In Nicaragua, they leave their family—it’s a hard life, they struggle to make what they own—and they put their hope in learning English, wanting to get a job at the call center. That, in Nicaragua, is where they can make the big bucks,” Lora said. “They’re not getting the jobs, and it just increases the unemployed in the cities. It just breaks down their family and traditions.”
That’s why their mission of creating authentic, lasting relationships with people will also include leading efforts to start small businesses.
“The mission of A Simple House is to live in solidarity and friendship evangelization, so we want to live as much as possible as people from the United States can in solidarity, and live a simple life,” Mark said. “We’re just tools that God is using.”
The Ecksteine family previously served with the Family Missions Company, but came to Kansas City in 2015 after their unborn son’s fatal diagnosis of Trisomy 18. There they reconnected with A Simple House’s founder, Clark Massey, and over the course of several months discussed mission ideas and researched locations.
“Family Missions is very evangelistic, and we wanted to approach missions differently, from more of an economic development way. Something that would help sustain families,” said Lora.
The family of ten recently returned to Kansas City from a couple of weeks at language school in Nicaragua. After an annual retreat with the Simple House teams in the U.S., they will return to start their mission in the cool mountainous region of San Marcos, Nicaragua. There they will be working shoulder to shoulder with Nicaraguan friends to help the community help itself.
“Right now we’re looking at starting to work with preservation. We heard lots of stories of mangos coming ripe all at the same time but there’s no market to receive them all,” Mark said.
“They don’t have the transportation,” added Lora. “The people, they have all these mangos that go on the ground and rot because they can’t bring them to town to sell.” The couple said that canning is a viable option.
There’s also potential for apiaries and tool cooperative workshop, where men can work and get training.
“A $500 miter saw here is going to be double in US dollars there, so they’re never going to be able to afford this probably. And even if they could rent it, what motivation do they have to bring it back? So we want to be a sort of cooperative with a motivation to bring things back, but also with a workshop with bigger tools to do projects,” Mark said.
Ultimately, the work projects will take a life of their own.
“We took a long time to think about what we were going to do, because we don’t want to injure or drive out other small businesses that are around,” Lora said. “The ideal is that they will be able to take it over. That’s why we want it for profit, so that they can be employed and have managers and keep it sustainable.”