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Mission of Hope

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

By Bonnie Black
Another bright, sunny day here in tropical Nicaragua! Sorry, just though you might want to know that none of us are missing a white landscape -yet!

A lot of interesting things unfolded today as we are now through our complete second day on the ground. What has set in is a wonderful tone and work ethic among everyone here and all have a sense of being here for a while already. The people of Nicaragua are so welcoming and appreciative of what we do…there is great satisfaction for each of us with a dose of humility.

A large group traveled to San Jose Hospital in Diriamba this morning and spent most of the day on a major painting project under the direction of Paul O’Connell: Barb Harris, Samantha Mulcahy, Bill Murray, Alex Munn, Alexa Cosgro, Betsy Sullivan, Andrea Maynard, Jessica Finnegan, Morgan Boatwright, Gabby Flores, Alison Gratto.

Bathroom Crew for the day was Alexa Cosgro, Braxton Richardson, James Carlin, Morgan Araldi, Meghan Ryan, and Mary Garcia.

After finishing their morning duties, Mary and Alexa headed over to the Heights & Weights process. Under the more-than-capable direction of Bill Calmbacher also were Sister Cathy, Renee Bean, and Katherine Grovine.

Early this morning heading to the Disability Center were Bev Gogola, Kristin Gagnier, Rachel Daly, and Lynn Grovine.

In the Children Feeding Children today we had Sarah Deeb and Jo Morse.

Our own Kitchen Crew was Elaine St. Denis, Kitty St. Denis, Matt Kennedy and Emily Palmer.

At Hogar Juan Pablo II were Roger Patnode, Bethany Trombley, Kendra Kline, and Eliza Zalis assessing the development of the young children and doing anemia/lead testing.

Home Crew in the morning was comprised of Oscar Flores, Joy Cayea, Alice Robinson, and Sarah Merkel building homes donated by George and Shirley Moore’s children as well as Ray Petrashune.

The Rice & Beans Crew in the afternoon were: Sarah Merkel, Alice Robinson, Eliza Zalis, Sarah Deeb, and Jo Morse.

The tedious job of Sponsor Gift sorting was ably handled by Libby Yokum who has about half a day’s work still ahead of her tomorrow. Having only partial student names/sponsor names on the envelopes and bags makes the work take a while.

The afternoon home building crew of Oscar Flores, Beth Trombley, Sr. Cathy and Rachel Daly constructed one of the homes donated by the Sunrise Rotary Club.

And, of course, for this mission there was more sorting in the yard!

Yesterday, Sister Debbie and Yamilette Flores met with the Diocesan priest, Fr. Jalder at Nejapa assessing what was needed to create a program identical to the Children Feeding Children at Nino Jesus de Praga. Today, they returned with Jimmy Dumont to see what the priest wanted. Father Jalder had prepared a complete pro forma on five projects: place to set up a reception space for the weekly clinic our doctor holds there, renovate the space for the clinic, have a space large enough for the feeding program, move the administrative offices to a corner of the school allowing more space for the feeding program and one more item. The three of us reviewed the projects and estimated costs and said that we could begin – immediately – on 4 of the 5 projects he had listed. At that point, Father Jalder told them all that this morning at the early mass he had lifted up a prayer to God asking to be guided on how he could fulfill the projects to desperately needed at the school. Being that the Mission had just committed to 4 of the 5 projects, everyone there suddenly got goose bumps, emotionally touched by the story. “He was so humble and sincere,” Sister told us at the evening meeting. “It was quite a profound ‘mission moment’ for all of us.”

Jim Dumont, Braxton Raymond, Matthew Daly and James Carlin returned to Nejapa this afternoon and began demolishing walls to allow the project flow to begin. Sister said at the meeting, “We asked you to be flexible and today was proof of that.” We heard that Braxton, while waiting with the other men on our team at Nejapa for the materials to be delivered, joined a young boy in the schoolyard who was using a balled up piece of paper for a base ball and a flat stick for his bat. The others got involved and some other boys came around and there was a pickup game of baseball….well, at least ‘we’ were pitching to each of them. After our meeting tonight, when the seminarian from Oregon who is stationed at Nejapa came stopped by after Mass, he was given some bats and balls – real ones – to take back for the youngsters at the school. Sister informed the group that less than 10% of the high school graduates in Nicaragua pass the entrance exams to proceed on to university.

At this evening’s meeting, Ali Gratto thanked Meg Ryan for her talents as a translator at San Jose Hospital today. They concurred that it was definitely interesting albeit confusing at first. Betsy Sullivan told us the walls were cracked, the paint chipped, but “just a coat of paint made such a difference.”

Meg said she spoke to a few women in the yard late this afternoon who asked about the differences between the states and Nica. Meg showed them a photo of her family that she keeps in her journal and together they enjoyed laughing and talking for quite a while. Sister reminded her, and us at the same time, “Don’t take this experience lightly. Remember, your mission begins when you return home.”

Mary Garcia and Alexa Cosgro wanted to tell us about their experience at the Heights & Weights station after they finished their morning tasks. Mary helped with administering the parasite meds and, according to Renee Bean who was assigned to the area, the kids in one of the classrooms started throwing paper airplanes to them with notes lie, “She’s ugly,” “You’re beautiful,” “What’s your name?” Bill Calmbacher chimed in, “We drove the teacher crazy!” Alexa then told us that one of the notes had a sole word on in: “sad” and she gave us her interpretation.

Libby offered her thoughts tonight on what an inspiration it has been to be a part of this group. The teens she knows who have come on mission as their type of adolescent rebellion have been so changed by the experience. She told us of her rice & beans experience today and ended with, “I love that kind of rebellion.”

Andrea Maynard expressed the anxieties of her parents she spoke with prior to coming. “Nowhere in the US can you experience this – it’s really emotional. The worry of getting a bug bite is pointless – there are so many more important things.”

Sister responded, “I think it helps us all to reprioritize. It is always such a blessing to me to see the multi-age, multi-denomination rich experience to be able to see the caliber of relationship develop.”

Kendra Kline shared that one of the last thoughts she had on Monday was, “I’m going back to my second home. I’m so excited to return. Nica is a special place for me – the place I love the most!”

Andrea then chimed in saying, “It’s only been 3 days, but I already feel like I’m a part of something here.”

“It doesn’t matter what school you’re from,” said Meg Ryan, “or where you’re from.” She then thanked Alexa for switching assignments with her in the morning.

Richard Garzarelli said, “I’ve been to a lot of different places and summer camp. Thanks to all for making this so much fun.”

Sam Morse noted, “In one or two days here we know each other; we have gotten to know each other so much better than all of the meetings and times we spent together prior to coming.”

Sister responded, “Stripping you of all the extra ‘stuff’ allows you to see and experience the beauty at the core of each of you.”

Kendra Kline thanked Roger Patnode who she felt was amazing with the little kids at the baby orphanage this morning. He took time to explain to her what he was doing and why. With her desire to go into medicine, it made the experience even more memorable.

Then Roger added a little humor followed by a revealing statement. He noted that one of the things to remember when doing a clinic is to pick the youngest children’s fingers first as they don’t cry as loudly! On a more serious note, he said, “We walk into different social environments and we carry subconscious thoughts with us.” In the office back home, he leaves toddlers on their mothers’ laps in order to comfort the child as he pricks the finger. Walking into the orphanage, the assumption is that these children don’t have mothers. So, he and those with him sat them up on a cleared table. Quickly, he moved the children so that they were sitting on the nun’s laps – for they are their mothers. “They are loving toward these children. What we need to remember is we are serving people in the same ways.” He then thanked Bethany Trombley, Eliza Zalis and Kendra Kline for fantastic ‘crowd control’ as well as assessing the development in the children.

Sister reminded us of the saying, “I am where I am supposed to be, when I am there.” She noted that sharing is about living the experience through others as we all can’t be everywhere all of the time while we are here. “Remember, you are not alone on this mission,” she said.

Yami said, “When Eve McGill and I came in December of 1998, she said we should start something. I said, ‘I don’t think we’ll find 10 people to go through this.’ Now we’re going to have 10 years this coming December. We all care in one way or another – coming here, packing, donating. All of the people who are involved and connected to the Mission make me so proud. By destiny, we became Americans. Everything happens for a reason. We are proud of our culture – it is so great to share this with you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

We concluded our sharing time listening to Celtic Woman’s version of “Someday” and us singing “Nicaragua, Nicaraguita” followed by tarts made in the bakery at Parajito Azul as our treat for the day.

Tomorrow has much in front of us before we head into a weekend…an exciting time with our ‘day off’ included!

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