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Mission of Hope

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

By Bonnie Black
Another day and more rain! So what’s new? It’s not the fact we have no water nor electricity; it’s not the fact that we are without the ‘conveniences’ we are used to at home. Sister Debbie reminded us that we did not sign on to be comfortable; this is not just a ‘trip’ to Nicaragua. This is a unique mission in many positive ways even though the ‘bare necessities’ we usually have are not part of this specific sojourn together.

At this morning’s meeting we heard that we still do not have the generators as the release process changed after Mauricio got to the airport! We’re working it again today. Sister Debbie also told us that one of the sisters at San Jose Hospital succumbed to cancer this morning around 6am. We decided we will have representation at the funeral to b e held in Masaya tomorrow. We also were told that there was a 7.9 earthquake in Peru and we held them in prayer, too.

One of the goals of Mission #25 was to assure that the ECHO projects began to take place. Yesterday, as you know, the seeds planted at the Orphanage farm in Diriamba yielded 3-foot tall trees flourishing in the sun. Today, Judy and Marcel Charland trained Marilyn Knutson, Kayleigh and Kasey Garrand and Mary Frenette in the values of the Moringa tree. They went to Nora’s house and planted in a different area in hopes that it will take and by February we will see 3-foot tall trees upon our return. They also conducted an experiment by collecting water from a puddle in the street and putting it into two empty soda bottles. Into one they place a moringa seed that had been squished to expose the inner seeds. Within a few hours there was a remarkable difference already occurring. If all holds true, within 24 hours of the collection we should see clear water with the residue drawn into the seed and the seed settling at the bottom.

Homes built today were our next-to-last two for this mission: a third donated by St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Constable and one donated by Darcy Brunell in memory of her recently deceased husband and firefighter, Steve Brunell. Because Darcy Rabideau and Kayla are good friends with the Brunells, they were on this crew along with Joe Lewis and Sue Black who are members of the Constable parish.

Over at Caritas this morning we had a crew feverishly working under the direction of Diane Crosier and Oscar Flores: Bill Calmbacher, Jenn Stitzinger, Lauren Recny, Bailey Rabideau and Abe Munn. Everything was completed sorted in preparation for distribution with much returning to Nicasa for pickup by Our Lady of Guadelupe and also the Angels of Hope Orphanage, both of which came to pick up their donations this evening.

Meanwhile….the kitchen crew of Nancy Scanlan, Sara Fredette and Liz Chaskey not only fed us breakfast, but made a wonderful pasta salad including chilled bowls and the ambiance of relaxing music! Something cherished by many who came in from a morning of work for a respite.

Oh, yes, and our creative BBB crew (Dan Ladue, Roger Patnode, Jordan Donahue and Danielle Hamilton) accomplished their tasks with the limited water supply we had. Of course, collecting the water from the containers we place out in the rain allows us to have water that can have bleach added to it for flooring washing, etc. Great inventiveness!

This morning we were not able to participate in the Children Feeding Children program as it was not held due to the lack of water to prepare the children’s meals. We are being told that the water main breaks should be repaired within a day or two. So, we offered two jugs of our bottled water to the kitchen for tomorrow’s preparation so that the children do not go without for a second day. That left Jordan Donahue and Danielle Hamilton without morning assignments, so we split them between Sister Debbie and myself. Well, in the long run, although Jordan got to sit in air conditioning for 20 minutes with me at the internet, she actually drew the short straw when it came to having an experience.

Danielle told us tonight that she saw a caring and compassionate side of Sister Rosa and she spoke with Sister Debbie and Sister Miriam at Nejapa today. Sister Rosa disclosed that they could empathize as they, too, had suffered break-ins prior to installing their security system. Danielle and Sister Debbie joined Father Raul, the sisters at Nejapa and Sister Rosa as they met with the security system representatives touring the school, church and community center. It was a larger irregular perimeter than originally thought, so the system people recommended 5 sensors instead of just 3 like here at Nino. The cost came to $833, but throughout the day Sister Debbie received pledges from travelers here totaling $250, therefore making the net amount to cover with future donations at home the $583 as originally approved by our Leadership Team here on the ground. Danielle was impressed with the stark conditions of the convent where the sisters live. They told her that they will not live any better than the people they serve.

Going into town, Sister Debbie and Danielle were taken by Mauricio to an army surplus store where they purchased pepper spray for the nuns’ use. This spray not only will temporarily cause eye irritation, but it also leaves color on the face so the perpetrator can be identified more readily. When handing the sisters the 7 cans of spray later, Danielle said she could actually hear a sigh of relief. Perhaps they will sleep a bit better starting tonight. Tomorrow, around 9:30am, the security system will be installed, so they should truly be able to sleep starting this weekend.

This afternoon, our Nejapa classroom painting crew was Abe Munn, Shawney Bushey, Kasey Garrand, Julie Fredette, Jordan Donahue and Bailey Rabideau. We are making great headway there and hope to have it completed by Friday. Well, even if not completed, it will be our last project day there, I believe, so whatever we complete on Friday will be the last painting for this mission at that school.

Liz Chaskey and Dennis Kaufman went into the city to join Sister Debbie at the Huembes Market to pick up the chairs and take them to the airport for shrink wrapping. When all was said and done, they arrived at the airport 5 minutes after the gentleman named “Charlie” had departed for the day, so this will be added to tomorrow’s tasks again.

During the afternoon, the water containers to be distributed on Saturday to the families whose water we tested in the past were labeled by Marilyn Knutson, Kayla Rabideau and Elle Rathbun – although a few others sat down to join them. That’s just the spirit we see in this group as a whole!

The focus of many of us has been the opportunity to meet with our sponsored students and families which was held at 1pm in the school’s dining room, as usual. The rain began just prior to the beginning while everyone was enjoying the band and drill team practice in the courtyard. Then, the heavens let loose! I have a few pictures which everyone who gets the CD set of pictures will have of the rain pouring into the dining room from the roofs and the wind blowing it in further. Through it all, we met our families, exchanged letters and hugs and smiles.

Prior to this evening’s meeting, the youth (high school and college) were asked to do two things: choose a representative to go to the funeral in Masaya tomorrow with Oscar and to create a list of at least six to sojourn to the banana camp in the afternoon. They were asked to rank in priority order who should have the experience. One of the criteria was to determine who would take action back home or at school as a result. Taking action such as only buying organic bananas at the store, talking with food service at the college to have them either purchase organic or not have bananas available, etc. Social action/justice committees in high schools and colleges could be educated about this situation, too. So, the group came up with their list based on their discussion. The limitation of transportation could play into whether all could go tomorrow or a small group, so it was necessary to go through this process.

Sister Rosa provided some pillar candles and matches so that our evening meeting could have some light. She also informed Sister Debbie that the school will present the desperdida from 7:30am to 8:30am on Monday immediately prior to our main group’s departure for the airport at 9am.

Today we learned that Dr. Zamora of Caritas who has been holding a weekly clinic in the Las Guerreros and El Trapiche region will not be able to continue as they do not have medicines. After discussion, we decided that the medicines about to expire in the last quarter of the year will be routed to these locations in order to continue the medical clinic. Cathy Hill will accomplish that in a couple of hours tomorrow. We also agreed that many of the stuffed animals could also go there for the children seen in the clinics.

The sports equipment which we had on the container will be distributed to the San Jose Hospital in Diriamba for use by the youth in that region.

Sister Debbie told us of a situation that Magalya had informed her of yesterday when they were going over scholarships. A girl who had been sponsored at the school no longer attends because her mother died recently and her father is using her as a surrogate wife – in all senses. She now is at home taking care of the house and her younger brother and sister (who is still in school). Sister and Magaly both revealed that each had been thinking of a ‘safe house’ for these young victims of rape and domestic violence. When they realized that, they talked about the concept further. It seems that the Local Junta would like to have one inside Nino to assure complete safety for the young women. So, Sister asked why they haven’t told us and Magaly said they thought it would be too expensive. Well, Sister asked that the Local Junta present a proforma to us to see if this mutual dream could become a reality. It might be something which grants might cover in addition to individual donations for the construction and the ongoing operating expenses.

Bill Calmbacher shared a gift he received from his sponsored family: a large picture of himself back in February of 2005 which had been enlarged and mounted on a wooden board and shellacked. It will hold a special place in his home as well as his heart!

Diane Crosier mentioned that the pools which will be used for the ECHO planting tomorrow have truly been a blessing while we have been without water….but, the Nejapa paint crew said it was the torrential downpour as they were returning this afternoon which provided them with their shower. Dennis Kaufman added that he was amazed at the gushing of the water, almost instantaneously, in the culverts along the roads in Managua and coming home on the Old Leon Road. The overflow caused debris to be pushed onto the main roads and, when the rain let up, the garbage and hazards were strewn across the roadways.

Cathy Hill shared her impressions of La Chureca yesterday which she expressed as surreal. She felt it was a hellacious place – almost as if it were a movie set which could be exited back into the ‘real’ world. Yet, this IS the real world for the thousands who dwell and work there. Sister Debbie then asked, “If the Lord hears the cry of the poor, will we?” She noted that she and Mauricio observed a woman dressed in black picking through the trash next to buzzards which were sitting next to a cow that was foraging through the garbage. Mauricio said, “Here in the dump, they are all friends.”

Brenda Flynn was appreciative of the great week they have had at Parajito Azul. Today they saw 30 lines of freshly laundered sheets and clothing – totally spotless. Something that she will keep in mind the next time she or anyone else complains about the laundry to do for the 12 residents they care for at work! Beverly Gogola noted that Christina Gehrig spent time yesterday working with the handyman at the Center as the instructions for setting up one of the pieces of equipment were only in English! She even guided him as to what tools to use; Beverly said that she felt very proud of Christina’s efforts.

Marty Mannix praised the group for their resourcefulness and their resiliency which have been amazing for these conditions which are more than Spartan. Then Sister Debbie told us that is looks as if the weekend will have all electrical restrictions lifted – but I will believe that when I see it! But, based on that information, we will invite the sisters here and the sisters at Nejapa to join us for pizza on Sunday evening when we return from our last excursion of this mission. Thanks to Whirley Industries, for whom Shawn Watson worked before his unexpected death this past March, we will be able to continue with the “last night supper” as we did in the past when Shawn personally covered the expense.

Marty noted that he had the honor late this afternoon of bringing three crates of stained glass windows to the sister in Nejapa. Carol & Jim Dumont, who had been here in February, provided these from a church in the Malone area. Marty noted that Jim had packed them with great love and care, sparing no expense. To see it really there, take the cover off, and raise it up to show the sisters was an emotional experience for him. Sister Miriam asked who the windows were for and Marty told her what came to mind at that moment: the windows are for the sisters, trusting and knowing they will find the perfect home for them.

Sister Debbie then noted that she found out today that all will be leaving in January, so our pizza dinner on Sunday will be the last time we will be with these sisters here. “If it is God’s will, we will be working with them again,” she said.

Judy Charland told us that she spoke with Jeff of the Manna Project about the moringa potential to help the people in this region. It is quite possible as Manna is the intermediary between the people and MINSA. Jeff had never heard of the moringa concept and he took information to study. Manna’s focus is education, so Judy is hoping that Manna might be able to be a moringa seed powder distribution center in the future. She is excited about all of the possibilities she has seen unfolding over the last few days and hopes this will filter up to ‘higher levels’ within the country.

There will not be a meeting tomorrow night, as 10 are attending the Managua Rotary Club’s fundraiser for a local orphanage at the Holiday Inn, but tonight we closed saying the “Serenity Prayer” in unison.

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