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Mission of Hope

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August 14, 2008

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008

By Bonnie Black
Although most of Mission #29 were in the air today traveling back to you, the A Team of Marty Mannix, Bill Calmbacher, Beverly Gogola, Darcie Black, Kasey Garrand, Bonnie Black and Oscar Flores were still on the ground closing Nicasa and delivering many of our goods.

Most of the IV sprockets that had been stored at Carlos’ were delivered to Bertha Calderone Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Managua and the optical supplies and the rest of the sprockets and lancets were taken to MINSA’s Central Ophthlamological Center in Managua. Our Lady of Guadalupe received the balance of their donations and we returned the rented van to the airport.

By Bonnie Black
Although most of Mission #29 were in the air today traveling back to you, the A Team of Marty Mannix, Bill Calmbacher, Beverly Gogola, Darcie Black, Kasey Garrand, Bonnie Black and Oscar Flores were still on the ground closing Nicasa and delivering many of our goods.

Most of the IV sprockets that had been stored at Carlos’ were delivered to Bertha Calderone Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Managua and the optical supplies and the rest of the sprockets and lancets were taken to MINSA’s Central Ophthlamological Center in Managua. Our Lady of Guadalupe received the balance of their donations and we returned the rented van to the airport.

Sister Theresita from El Crucero Orphanage was still experiencing truck problems and was not able to pick up the large load of goods we have here at Nicasa for both the main orphanage and the baby orphanage. She hopes to make it to Caritas tomorrow as well as here in order to obtain all of the wonderful donations we have brought for the children.

A pictorial inventory was done of the supplies our group loaded into Carlos’ on Saturday: sports equipment, toys, bedding, clothing, chairs and tables for distribution in the future.

Meanwhile, during the distribution of the above, the other 5 were working through stripping Nicasa down to how we find it each time. With the efforts of the full group the day before, it made today easier – especially before the torrential afternoon rain which lasted quite a while, bringing to a close our activities in all but the kitchen area.

There is a bit more to do before the inventory is entered into the database tomorrow morning and, we hope, to be done by early afternoon, allowing for a dinner out – as we will have shut down the kitchen!

A Team will be returning quite early Thursday morning to the airport and spend close to 22 hours (if all connections go well) traveling back to Burlington. See you all soon!

Monday, August 11th, 2008

By Bonnie Black
The last day for Mission #29 began with a morning meeting for which three were absent due to their first assignment of the day: getting the chairs from the market where they were purchased and taking them to the airport for shrinkwrapping in preparation for tonight’s departure. Judy Charland opened our meeting with a reflection on the Third World which resonated with most of us. Sister said that it seems like a lifetime ago that we arrived here – as far as emotions and experiences. We thanked Heather and Sister Stephanie Frenette for the pizza party last night. Today still has a lot to unfold as it will be a full day.

By Bonnie Black
The last day for Mission #29 began with a morning meeting for which three were absent due to their first assignment of the day: getting the chairs from the market where they were purchased and taking them to the airport for shrinkwrapping in preparation for tonight’s departure. Judy Charland opened our meeting with a reflection on the Third World which resonated with most of us. Sister said that it seems like a lifetime ago that we arrived here – as far as emotions and experiences. We thanked Heather and Sister Stephanie Frenette for the pizza party last night. Today still has a lot to unfold as it will be a full day.

Our kitchen crew for today were Marty Mannix, Darcie Black, Bill Calmbacher and Kasey Garrand (2/3 of A Team) who prepared a delicious pancake breakfast – even peanut butter pancakes!

At 8am we headed to the auditorium in the primary school area for the Desperdida. With no school scheduled for today, only a small portion of the students came for this event. It began with the singing of our two national anthems followed by Magaly’s brother, Norman, singing two songs as he accompanied himself on guitar. Then Magaly entertained us with a traditional folk dance followed by the Carmelite postulate dancing another titled the “black dance.” Diana, who is sponsored by the LeFlochs who have been on February missions with us, sang us a song in English: “God of Jacob.” Then, a woman who had just received a home shelter during this mission, thanked all of us on behalf of the community for what we do: the homes, the educational sponsorship, and other aspects of bolstering the barrio.

We then had our turn on the stage where all but 9 of us sang, “Amazing Grace.” Afterward, 13 of our youngest brought a few of the younger students on stage and they all entertained everyone doing the Hokey Pokey. Sister Rosa then presented Sister Debbie with a special card for each of us on mission. Inocencio took the microphone next asking all of those in the audience to raise their hand if they have received a shelter from the Mission of Hope; many raised their hands and Inocencio noted, “Your hearts have raised us up.” He thanked God for the Carmelites and what they do and Mission for all we have done and will do expanding to the poorer people near here. He also thanked all who have come on previous missions who are not with us this time around. He proudly noted that with the equipment that the Mission has provided, there was a championship baseball tournament recently with 6 teams.

Sister, with Oscar’s assistance, thanked all for coming here on their day off from school. She also thanked Oscar and Yamilette for introducing her to this community. “We have learned many lessons from you on our trips here,” she said. “We consider you part of our Mission family and thank you for your prayers. Although most of us are leaving this evening, we will take you with us in our hearts.” The event was then closed with a recorded song, “Adios a Madre Dios” and at the end, Sister Rosa presented the CD to Sister Debbie.

Afterward, those of us who sponsor students at Nino met with them and presented gifts from their sponsors at home. Another group headed to Nejapa to do the same with those students.

Then, after a short time with the kids in the yard, our day continued. A group went to the Banana Camp for their first time and were struck by the situation these people are in. MINSA holds a clinic once every 15 days now, treating those who need it for acute situations. As before, the sickly and dying are still up in Chinendaga. As we passed a woman with an axe who was chopping an old stump, the man next to her stated that they grow strong women in the North – little does he know about our Adirondack women! This group brought a bag of rice and the second group went about an hour later with a bag of beans. Again, all first-timers to tour the area. The people loved having their pictures taken and we thrilled when we showed them what they looked like.

Meanwhile, Dan Riggins with the assistance of Bill Murray took on the suitcase project and the beginning of Nicasa shutdown. They had various helpers throughout the day as people transitioned from place to place. Our BBB crew of Andrea Maynard, Abby Fordham and Bill Calmbacher kept us clean and healthy while beginning the process of shutdown.

Beverly Gogola, Brenda Flynn and Sister Stephanie spent most of the morning at the Parajito Azul Disability Center.

This afternoon, our all-female home crew headed to Monte Verde to construct a shelter for Juana Castro, the 97-year-old woman who donated the land we built the chapel on a number of years ago. She has been living on her daughter’s land across the way in a small, leaky wooden structure. She was thrilled as were all of those on the team: Laura DiGrigoli, Nancy LaTulipe, Andrea Maynard, Betsy Sullivan, Gabrielle Springer, Abby Fordham, Heather Frenette, Lynn-Marie Veverka, Meg Ryan, Liz Dukette and Ashley Goyette.

Meanwhile, Brenda Flynn and Beverly Gogola counted the vitamins we unboxed during this trip; there are over 67,000 now ‘in stock’ for our Children Feeding Children program. This will allow enough for the December/January break, too. Magaly will fill that need by creating the 600+ vials with vitamins for the students at the end of the school year.

Late this afternoon, Bill Calmbacher met with the community women trained in first aid to review their CPR skills and teach them blood pressure and glucose readings. They all enjoyed it with intense interest! They practiced on each other, being guided by Bill, Monica Smith, Gerald Marks, Judy Charland and Beverly Gogola. He left them 7 glucose monitors and distributed their personal CPR masks which have a nifty clip for your pants or belt. It was evident that they had studied as they approached the manikins appropriately and knew exactly what to do with their hands or fingers. After 2+ hours, they are now ready to teach others in the surrounding barrios and expand this first aid program to 60 more – as soon as we can provide the training manuals. The 6 point persons for Chiquilistagua will continue to triage information brought to them from the others trained personnel who are deeper into the barrio. Quite a successful program!

Our last meeting as Mission #20 began at 7:10pm after an hour of last minute organizing of suitcases. Sister asked us to express our gratitude to Mauricio when we see him tonight as he works very long days with us while continuing to coordinate our many projects. For instance, recently we received a shipment from CMMB (Catholic Medical Mission Board) here in Nicaragua that was conservatively valued at $26,800 – this did not include large equipment! Mauricio is responsible for taking all of that delivery, and others like it, and distributing it to the many partners we have in the country.

She then reviewed the departure procedures for later today and added that if the layover in Fort Lauderdale goes smoothly, there will be time for everyone there to view the raw footage of La Chureca that he shot the other day. We tried to settle on a date for a reunion in Plattsburgh, but the exact date for a potluck get-together will be communicated via email. All family members and former mission travelers are also welcomed to attend and share the reflection of Mission #29.

Anthony Garami reminded us how important the next 4 weeks of anti-malaria medication will be and asked that everyone stick to the regimen as prescribed in order to stay healthy.

Sister then reminded us that our presence in Nicaragua is more important than exactly what we do – it’s about becoming the change you want to see in the world and it truly begins when we get home.

The meeting was concluded with a reading on “Helping, Fixing or Serving” read by our A Team: Marty Mannix, Beverly Gogola, Kasey Garrand, Darcie Black, Bill Calmbacher and Bonnie Black. Afterward we all sang, “Song of Hope.”

By that time it was 7:45pm and everyone was ready for departure. Suitcases were loaded as were chairs and hammocks and the memories of Mission #29 began as the bus pulled out of the gate just after 8pm. A long night and day ahead of most of our group as A Team was left to close up Nicasa over the next two days.

When you see your loved one, remember that they have been through a lot in a very short time. Many will be quite talkative, while others will be processing so much, that they aren’t ready to talk about it yet. They will, but in their own time. Be patient and allow each to return to ‘our world’ at whatever pace is good for them. Ask if they would like to share something from their journal. Many on mission took time for self-reflection on this trip, so soon you should be hearing more about everything I have tried to communicate to you in their own words. Enjoy – for everyone on mission has been changed.

Sunday, August 10th, 2008

By Bonnie Black
Today was our day to hit the road, but first, our Kitchen Crew had our breakfast ready: Judy & Marcel Charland, Abby Fordham and David LaTulipe. Quickly getting the bathrooms ready were Aubrin Breyette, Monica Smith, Jared Stanley and Kasey Garrand.

Did you know that Nicaragua is a disaster prone country and has been the epicenter of 8 of the last 28 major disasters hitting Latin America and the Caribbean?

Furthermore, in the last 23 years, Nica has been impacted by 190 earthquakes and tremors, 153 volcanic eruptions and 174 weather related disasters, making it very difficult for the people to develop.

By Bonnie Black
Today was our day to hit the road, but first, our Kitchen Crew had our breakfast ready: Judy & Marcel Charland, Abby Fordham and David LaTulipe. Quickly getting the bathrooms ready were Aubrin Breyette, Monica Smith, Jared Stanley and Kasey Garrand.

Did you know that Nicaragua is a disaster prone country and has been the epicenter of 8 of the last 28 major disasters hitting Latin America and the Caribbean?

Furthermore, in the last 23 years, Nica has been impacted by 190 earthquakes and tremors, 153 volcanic eruptions and 174 weather related disasters, making it very difficult for the people to develop.

This does not take into account the disastrous results of the civil war of the 70’s and 80’s.

Further, POVERTY was a reality long before any recent hurricanes. More than 62% of the children in the rural areas are malnourished and 43% of the urban population and 92% of the rural population lives in severe poverty, earning less than $212 US dollars per year or $.58 per day.

Both Hurricane Felix (2007) and Hurricane Alba (2008) devastations in Nicaragua have downgraded the well being of the people in the North of Nicaragua from the most acute and extreme definition of poverty, known internationally as severe poverty…to a poverty status that is not even defined in the development reference books of our world.

But all of these factors make Nicaragua the country we have come to call our “second home.” The earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and rains have created the most beautiful topography we have seen. Today we had our ‘day off’ and experienced the diverse geography of the country. One group left at 6:45am for Mombacho Volcano which is a cloudforest.

The other group left a half hour later for Granada and its boat tour of the many islands along the shore of Lake Nicaragua. Before the boat tour, we stopped in the city square of Granada and stood in the back of the Cathedral which was conducting Mass, walked over to the Temple of Music, the various statues and even into the lobby of the Alahambra Hotel which is decorated with a Moroccan flair! There were vendors in the square where most of our group stopped and a few picked up some unique items not usually found in the market. The group then drove to the Tourist Beach and got on two boats to tour the islands. We dubbed one the ‘party boat’ as those 9 people had a driver who put on some music for their enjoyment! Both boats stopped off at El Castillo, a fort built by the Spanish in the 1700s to intercept the pirates from the Caribbean who ventured into Lake Nicaragua to plunder Granada of the riches it had.

Both the Granada tour and the Mombacho tour had lunch at Pollo Narcy near El Coyotepe and then proceeded to the Masaya market – designed to look like an old Spanish fort in the middle of the town. Heading back home, we arrived in time for a prayer service conducted by Sister Debbie followed by our perennial pizza dinner sponsored by Whirley Industries – a little taste of home before we return to you.

Our guests for dinner tonight were the Servium Sisters who used to be at Nejapa until this past January; they are heading to Mexico, so we are (sort of) on their way. Also sharing a repast with us were the Carmelite sisters here at Nino and our 2 cooks, Rosa and Nora, along with Inocencio Velasquez and the sisters from San Jose Hospital in DIriamba. Magaly Velasquez with her husband, Hermando, and Martha Leiva who is our medical secretary in our sponsored clinics also came. It was the last time we will see Sister Ligia as she is moving on to Mexico as I noted in a previous day’s information.

It is hard to think that Mission #29 is coming to a close. We have a full day ahead of us tomorrow even though most are leaving at 8pm to catch the late plane back to Fort Lauderdale.

Saturday, August 9th, 2008

By Bonnie Black
We woke this morning to a plentiful breakfast prepared by our Kitchen crew for the day: Brenda Flynn, Beverly Gogola, Bill Calmbacher and Sister Stephanie.

As always, we had our BBB crew on duty, too: Anthony Garami, David LaTulipe, Meg Ryan and Andrea Maynard. All was complete before heading on to other tasks.

Our morning meeting began and ended with prayer: Marty Mannix initiated it while Monica Smith concluded it. This is our last group meeting until Monday morning due to our schedule for tonight and tomorrow (Sunday). It was mostly logistics about today and tomorrow in order to assure that all are "on the same page."

By Bonnie Black
We woke this morning to a plentiful breakfast prepared by our Kitchen crew for the day: Brenda Flynn, Beverly Gogola, Bill Calmbacher and Sister Stephanie.

As always, we had our BBB crew on duty, too: Anthony Garami, David LaTulipe, Meg Ryan and Andrea Maynard. All was complete before heading on to other tasks.

Our morning meeting began and ended with prayer: Marty Mannix initiated it while Monica Smith concluded it. This is our last group meeting until Monday morning due to our schedule for tonight and tomorrow (Sunday). It was mostly logistics about today and tomorrow in order to assure that all are "on the same page."

We had been asked by the owner, Hilda, of the lumber yard where we purchase our wood for home building, to assist her teaching at the Alternative English School this morning. The hands-on experience for her students was provided by Darcie Black, Abby Fordham, Betsy Sullivan and Meg Ryan who spent close to 2 hours enjoying the experience.

Our last rice & beans went out this morning led by Andrea Maynard. Her crew consisted of Lynn-Marie Veverka, Liz Dukette, Heather Frenette, Gerald Marks, Laura DiGrigoli and Catlin Furnia.

Our Home Crew was sparse: Marty Mannix and Kasey Garrand joined the locals in building 2 homes this morning. Kasey handled the task of planting a moringa at each of their homes while Marty supervised the construction.

All others were schedule to prepare the health fair and anticipated going to Mass as we will not be around in the morning for the 9am service. But, Father Jalder called to let us know that he was summoned to the Cathedral for a 10am service and would not be able to make it. So, we are hoping that we will be able to have one around 4:30 when we all return tomorrow.

So what did they all do? Most jumped right into the final move for many, many cartons from the shelter of the clinic portico over to our storage house on the Leon Road. Anthony directed where the boxes needed to be allocated while a team wrote the location on the boxes. It took two trips in the truck, but with the brigade-type line, it was all put into storage – in a logical manner – within a little more than an hour. Lugging the many boxes between the locations were Monica Smith, Laura DiGrigoli, Mary Fredette, Darcie Black, Gabrielle Springer, Dan Riggins, Andrea Maynard, David LaTulipe, Bill Calmbacher, Nancy LaTulipe and Bill Murray. We now have much in storage for distribution in February.

This afternoon we had another sparse Home Crew of Marty Mannix and Catlin Furnia while everyone else was involved in some aspect of our 2nd Annual Health Fair in Chiquilistagua. There is only one left to build on Monday – for the 95-year-old woman who donated land years ago so that the Mission could construct a chapel for the barrio of Monte Verde.

The Health Fair was scheduled from 1p-3p and had various stations people could visit: handwashing, blood pressure measurement, the cycle of water from rain to your faucet, respiratory/asthma information, breast self-exam model and information, personal health kits for adults, information on baby diaper changing in a sanitary manner, children’s health kits, toothbrushing demonstration with toothbrushes and toothpaste given away, and a double table of information and photographs on the ECO projects including the new community gardens and the moringa. Joining us at the table were Magaly and Augusto who are so proud and excited about their involvement in the future growth of their barrio. We had games for the children in the courtyard, but many visited the fair themselves and played in the basketball court outside of the auditorium in which the fair was held. People were still there after 3pm, but we had to close the fair by 3:30pm due to our schedule.

After a dinner of nachatamales – which most people truly enjoyed – we headed to the Ruben Dario Theatre for the Folklorico dance program. Although we got back home past our regular bedtime, everyone on the bus seemed very pleased that we were able to take advantage of being here during the Santo Domingo holiday – the only time this presentation occurs.

Tomorrow is our ‘day off’ and we become tourists with 13 people headed to Mombacho Volcano cloudforest and 18 to Granada and a boat ride among the offshore islands.

Friday, August 8th, 2008

By Bonnie Black
Today was our ‘hump’ day – the middle day of this trip with still so much to do and explore. It began with a prayer by Andrea Maynard which was eloquent and touching. And then our day began!

On a day-long trip to El Crucero Orphanage, San Jose Hospital in Diriamba and San Antonio Nursing Home in Masaya were: Anthony Garami, Monica Smith, Amanda Lyon, Laura DiGrigoli, Ashley Goyette, Abby Fordham, Nancy LaTulipe, Aubrin Breyette, Gerald Marks, David LaTulipe, Sister Ann, Jared Stanley, Catlin Furnia, Liz Dukette and Gabrielle Springer. Their first stop was the orphanage where they received a tour including the current renovations and building of new classrooms through a Chevron Corporation grant. They were introduced to each of the classes and presented gifts to the Kindergarten and first grade classes. Anthony then offered to attend to any emergent medical needs and he saw what we have seen before: low fevers, cough and varied symptoms of congestion/headache. Again, at this time of year, colds are the norm (like our winter season, too). It was apparent to our medical team that these children receive sporadic medical attention. Everyone received many hugs and gave away all of their stickers, bubbles and little gifts.

By Bonnie Black
Today was our ‘hump’ day – the middle day of this trip with still so much to do and explore. It began with a prayer by Andrea Maynard which was eloquent and touching. And then our day began!

On a day-long trip to El Crucero Orphanage, San Jose Hospital in Diriamba and San Antonio Nursing Home in Masaya were: Anthony Garami, Monica Smith, Amanda Lyon, Laura DiGrigoli, Ashley Goyette, Abby Fordham, Nancy LaTulipe, Aubrin Breyette, Gerald Marks, David LaTulipe, Sister Ann, Jared Stanley, Catlin Furnia, Liz Dukette and Gabrielle Springer. Their first stop was the orphanage where they received a tour including the current renovations and building of new classrooms through a Chevron Corporation grant. They were introduced to each of the classes and presented gifts to the Kindergarten and first grade classes. Anthony then offered to attend to any emergent medical needs and he saw what we have seen before: low fevers, cough and varied symptoms of congestion/headache. Again, at this time of year, colds are the norm (like our winter season, too). It was apparent to our medical team that these children receive sporadic medical attention. Everyone received many hugs and gave away all of their stickers, bubbles and little gifts.

Moving on up the road to Diriamba, they were given a full tour of San Jose Hospital by Sister Ligia. Everything was quite clean and spacious. A joy was seeing a newborn on a warmer looking very healthy. They got to see all of the medical equipment donated through our Mission and appreciate so much what the impact of the donations and the time and energy of all of the volunteers at MOHTown mean to San Jose. Sister Ligia expressed her thanks, especially for the oxygen saturation machine and the expected anesthesia machine so they can resume operations. As a measure of her gratitude, she offered everyone access to the sisters’ living quarters to each the PB & J everyone had packed for lunch. At noon, they got to visit the Diriamba church which was enjoyed by all.

Last on their list, for the afternoon, was San Jose Nursing Home in Masaya where they were welcomed by the friendly faces of the elderly outside on the porch in rocking chairs. Sister Ann was guided to the nurses’ office in order to provide foot care. She treated 3 people meticulously while Anthony saw a gentleman with an inflamed eye. Everyone received a tour of the facility and presented residents with rosaries.

Health education for the high school students the meeting was pushed forward an hour this morning; Kasey Garrand, Meg Ryan and Darcie Black presented to the 90 students with translation by Salvatore, as Oscar needed to be in the city by that time to secure paperwork for us to obtain the installation of the internet next week. They provided personal stories about communication and relationships and stressed that even though our cultures may be different, teens and young adults face the same issues and situations. They spoke of risky behaviors and choices that everyone faces. Our students then passed out a piece of paper to everyone from the 4th and 5th Secondary classes and asked them to write down any questions they would like answered. There were 56 valid questions (yes, there were a few sarcastic ones, as expected) and our young adults answered about half of them before the hour-and-a-half was done. They promised the students that they would have a table at the student health fair on Monday (replicating, for the most part, what will be done for the community tomorrow) to answer the questions from today which they didn’t have time for. This session was a request by Sister Rosa as she is concerned that some of the respect issues and risky behavior needs to be addressed and she thought that peer conversation would be best. Everyone involved was quite pleased with the event and spoke about it to many others as groups began to mingle together at lunch and later in the day. Who would have thought this conversation would ever occur – it’s fantastic!

Bed/Bath was handled by Dan Riggins, Marcel Charland, Judy Charland and Mary Fredette before they moved on to other assignments.

CFC today was outside of the kitchen, cleaning the plates and washing the glasses, plates and silverware interacting while the children. Betsy Sullivan, Bill Calmbacher and Lynn-Marie Veverka reported they enjoyed their time in the dining hall this morning.

Our Kitchen crew of Dan Riggins, Heather Frenette, Meg Ryan and Andrea Maynard truly had everything under control today…and even learned how to hard boil eggs!

Our ECO project expanded into the community today as Judy and Marcel, with Mel and Salvatore, walked to homes with Magaly and began planting the community gardens of cucumbers, tomatoes and other vegetables. This was Mel and Salvatore’s last day with us as they left to return home to their families around 3:30pm. A total of 5 families now have the beginnings of a sustainable vegetable garden. They are being asked to follow the philosophy that each one teaches two.

Home Crew was small this morning due to the day-long trip down south. Marty Mannix and Bill Murray with Mary Fredette joined the 13 Nicaraguan crew building 2 home shelters. They ran into one of the foundations not set correctly, so moved on to another on the list while guiding the owner on how to do it. He is one of the most diligent members of the crew, but he had no help to move those 85-90 pound cement blocks and did the best he could (he must weigh all of 120 pounds). Later today when Marty checked back, he had hired (we think) a couple of people to set the stones in correctly while he continued to help construct homes for others. His will be built tomorrow.

This afternoon, Rice & Beans were delivered by Brenda Flynn, Bill Murray, Mary Fredette, Betsy Sullivan, Beverly Gogola and Bill Calmbacher.

This afternoon’s Home Crew was about as sparse as this morning: Marty with Darcie Black, Kasey Garrand and Lynn-Marie Veverka.

When I got to the internet late this afternoon to sent the first three days’ worth of notes to all of you, I opened an email from former missioner, Connie Tyska. She has sent along some photos of her new grandchild which I downloaded to share with the group tonight. Our evening meeting began with a phone call to Connie while we all got to see her with Alex as we ate treats she sent funds to purchase from the bakery here at Nino. This was the second night this mission we have enjoyed her generosity.

We heard Salvatore’s message to us which he left with Sister: “Do you know how much hope it gives my people that you come and care enough to stay?” He mentioned that many groups come or send their money and leave. Our approach is much different and greatly appreciated.

Marcel then shared that Mel is very hardworking and caring; he has been in Nicaragua for about 5 years and devotes his life to working for the whole country’s sustainability and conservation. He sees this as a mission with the people of Nicaragua.

Judy added that Mel wanted to thank everyone for their hospitality. Mel told her that he was concerned about Salvatore’s shoes in the mud they walked into this afternoon as it is the only pair he has. Earlier this month, he had to sell his home phone in order to feed his family. On a happier note, she mentioned that Augusto will be joining us for the Health Fair tomorrow to explain the community garden concept. Magaly will be teaching about the moringa tree, so we already see the enthusiasm beginning to be spread among the barrio. Marty added in that when he and Jared went to interview the 95-year-old women who will be receiving a home on Monday, her daughter wanted to know if we were going to bring the moringa with us – word travels fast!

Judy told us that Augusto feels he is now the most successful he has ever been in teaching biology here at school now that he is using the gardens as part of his curriculum. The students are enthusiastic and go home to inform their families.

Darcie Black mentioned that she has a heightened awareness to vegetable gardens on this sixth trip as she hasn’t been here in four years. She has noted that on the trek she and Marty took to the prospective home owners’ properties last Sunday and what she has seen on rice and beans so far, there are more families with beans and other vegetables growing on the property.

She, Meg and Kasey then spoke of Salvatore in their preparatory meeting this morning for the health education meeting. Meg said that they learned much from him and he from them as he has two daughters their age.

Mary Fredette spoke of her experience on this morning’s home crew as she was the designated ECO person offering to plant two seedlings at the homes. One of the homes really illustrated how pleased the community is with this concept as the homeowner retrieved a tire off of his property to protect one of the seedlings from the dogs he has and prepared another section with rocks in a circle for the same effect.

Others spoke of their experience ‘on the road’ including Liz Dukette who felt her heart broken when they left the orphanage not knowing if she would ever come back again. The experience at the nursing home showed them that it is harder to communicate with the elderly than with young children. She felt today was a long day, but a good day. Gerald Marks said that just showing up and seeing the kids at the orphanage changed everything after the long, dreary, tiring ride to El Crucero into an hour of joy.

Jared Stanley shared that yesterday and today struck him that in the 5-6 years he has been videotaping stories for television, he had never had the experience of not feeling comfortable in shooting a person in their life’s situation. Monica Smith reassured him that what he is doing is promoting hope – it is genuine compassion and connection with others, not exploitation.

Darcie then told a confirming story of her experience the other day with little Freddy’s mother who came up to her and told her that they have the pictures that Darcie brought back and then eventually sent back of the times they were together. She said it’s OK to take the picture as it is a treasure to our friends here and it is not exploitation – it is connection.

Kasey Garrand told us of how he and his sister, Kayleigh, have left a Red Sox hat here with a young children the last three trips. He was so happy to see the young girl his sister had sponsored, before she left the school, wearing the hat today. A young boy who had received one last trip ran home to get his and was sporting it in the yard later.

The last person to share tonight was Andrea Maynard whose literary skills are fine tuned. She read from her journal and Sister reinforced that we can have a dream, but if we don’t share it with someone, it can’t become a reality. The Mission of Hope could have been one trip with 70 people sleeping on air mattresses and in sleeping bags, but it has become over 900 people on 29 missions keeping the dream alive. Before closing with Lori True’s, “What Have We Done for the Poor Ones?” she mentioned that fatigue is setting in, there is less time left on the ground than has passed and we are going to be challenged to keep our circle whole. Many sniffles were heard among us as the evening came to a close.

August 9, 2008

Thursday, August 7, 2008

By Bonnie Black
At this morning’s meeting, information was shared regarding the cost of the new US Embassy which most of us have passed a number of times as we drive into Managua. Mel Landers informed us that it is one of only two seismically stable buildings in Central America; the other is the US Embassy in Mexico City. We then began our day being sent off with a closing prayer read by Dan Riggins which asked us to reflect on where we might see God’s face today.

At this morning’s meeting, information was shared regarding the cost of the new US Embassy which most of us have passed a number of times as we drive into Managua. Mel Landers informed us that it is one of only two seismically stable buildings in Central America; the other is the US Embassy in Mexico City. We then began our day being sent off with a closing prayer read by Dan Riggins which asked us to reflect on where we might see God’s face today.

Our Kitchen staff today was Laura DiGriglio, Aubrin Breyette, Gerald Marks and Lynn-Marie Veverka.

Bed/Bath was completed by Gerald Marks, Bill Murray, Betsy Sullivan and Ashley Goyette before they did other tasks.

Rice & Beans had a team trek through the local barrio this morning: David LaTulipe, Nancy LaTulipe, Kasey Garrand, Darcie Black, Mary Fredette.

Judy & Marcel spent their entire day with Mel Landers and Salvatore who stayed the night. Their meeting this morning prepared them for their meeting this afternoon with the direction being community gardens.

This morning a group went over to the school in Nejapa to get a baseline reading on the Heights & Weights of their Pre-K through Grade 2 students including hemoglobin levels and administering anti-parasitic meds. Creating the stations and interacting with the students were Anthony Garami, Bill Calmbacher, Monica Smith, Jared Stanley, Sister Ann, Liz Dukette, and Betsy Sullivan.

Home Crew this morning was led by Marty Mannix with Dan Riggins, Ashley Goyette, Catlin Frenia and Abby Fordham filling out the group. They tackled two homes before lunch with 13 locals on the crew.

The Parajito Azul Disability Center benefited from the talents and caring of Sister Stephanie, Heather Frenette, Beverly Gogola, Amanda Lyons, Brenda Flynn, and Andrea Maynard.

Finalizing our tech needs in Managua today were Bill Murray along with Oscar and Mauricio Flores.

This afternoon, a large group went to Juan Pablo II Orphanage in downtown Managua: Anthony Garami, Jared Stanley, Heather Frenette, Beverly Gogola, Monica Smith, Darcie Black, Mary Fredette and Bonnie Black. Clothing, toys, shoes, vitamins and basic medical supplies were brought along as well as two beautiful quilts recently donated to us. About 5 or 6 of the children were assessed as was a mother who had facial palsy. Interestingly, there were two mothers living there with their infants in addition to the two nuns and the other 12 children.

Rice and Beans for this afternoon were delivered by Dan Riggins, Catlin Furnia, Abby Fordham, Gabrielle Springer, Andrea Maynard, Sister Ann, Betsy Sullivan and Amanda Lyons.

The home crew wielding their hammers this afternoon were Marty Mannix, David LaTulipe, Liz Dukette, Aubrin Breyette, Bill Calmbacher and Meg Ryan.

Preparing materials and health kits for the Health Fair scheduled for Saturday were Brenda Flynn, Kasey Garrand and Ashley Goyette.

At this evening’s meeting, Sister Debbie explained that in addition to the educational sponsorships here at Nino and over at Nejapa, we are expanding to offer sponsorships at El Crucero Orphanage at $150 per year which includes their clothing, medical exam, medications (as needed), shoes and vitamins. And we found out that we can sponsor more young people at the Parajito Azul Disability Center, as we do Hector. The price on that isn’t totally clear yet, though.

Tonight’s treat of Linden tarts were baked at the Disability Center as a gift from former missioner, Connie Tyska who is home this August celebrating the arrival of a new grandchild.

There was a round of applause offered for our highly competent assignment board team of Darcie Black and Kasey Garrand who even brought out all of tomorrow’s assignments to our meeting for review by all!!

Sister Debbie began the sharing time reflecting on her experience at Our Lady of Guadelupe Clinic where they delivered a dozen folding chairs because their waiting benches were stolen recently. Bill Murray offered his impressions of how this clinic tries to help people in a dark, dreary space that is too small and unsanitary. They need so many medical supplies and a larger space to do their work. Even the small table which will be delivered tomorrow, is going to ease the process of intake. Sister noted that the physical space is paradoxically opposite of hope.

Sister mentioned that today was a bittersweet meeting with Sister Ligia from Diriamba. She is being transferred this month to Mexico as the leader for her congregation of 669 which serves Central America and the southwest of the US. This great honor for her is great sadness for us. Her replacement should be arriving soon and at that time, she will depart for Mexico. We will be able to say our ‘goodbyes’ on Sunday night as she will be joining us, along with the other 4 nuns who will also be going to Mexico with her.

We were asked to hold Aubrin and her family in prayer as tomorrow is the anniversary of her father’s death.

Today was Andrea Maynard’s first visit to Parajito Azul Disability Center and she was overwhelmed with the hugs and smiles. The new dorms house two to a room with cubbies and a locked closet for each resident. She was proudly shown the locked closet by one person who keeps ‘treasures’ in it. Heather Frenette spoke to the autism psychologist today and, as a special education teacher, found it remarkable how she uses tactile items for fine motor coordination from everyday found items – none of the newest gadgets that Heather finds in the catalogues at home. She noted that it isn’t having the newest and ‘best’ items for the children, but rather what is done on a one-to-one basis that makes the difference. She then reflected that she has become desensitized due to her world travels and personal losses, so she was surprised to be so moved at the baby orphanage this afternoon – she came quite close to being sensitized again.

Betsy Sullivan thanked all who participated in the Heights an Weights at Nejapa this morning – even through the loss of electricity, the measuring, the hemoglobin checks and the administering of the antiparasitic meds went very smoothly.

Kasey Garrand told a story about a young man he met while doing Rice & Beans this morning. He was cooking on a stove outside and when the group approached to give him some rice and beans, he hugged them and held hands in great appreciation. After the group proceeded on, Kasey returned and gave the man his watch which was received with immense gratitude.

Sister Ann noted that contact is so important, but we don’t make it – truly – until we look the other person in the eyes…and that is what Kasey did today.

Bill Murray reflected on the prayer this morning and he felt that today, he saw God’s face in so many of the people he encountered in Managua as well as in the faces of the rest of us on mission.

Sister Debbie then mentioned that when we have a mission focus, we become inclusive. It has always been a dream of hers that this mission is a microcosm of what the world can be.

Liz Dukette expanded on what was said and ended by saying that she would gladly go through it all again to be here, right now.

Marty Mannix added that mission is not a religious experience but rather clearly a spiritual one. You find yourself in a certain place at a certain time. When you hear the ‘quiet voice’ you need to respond taking you to where you need to be. He noted that the bookmark he received from last night’s meeting quoted, “You are in the world to change this world.” He noted that some of the students and young adults may find it hard to return here, but each can still better the world wherever travels may take you in your life.

Mel told us that he once wrote a paper on, “Why Nicaragua?” He said that most people in the world don’t even know where Nica is. The youth of this country are its future and they can make a real difference. He has met with many undisciplined short-term mission groups who come here, but he knows that God has sent the right people to be here with these children at this time.

Monica Smith then shared that this morning at Nejapa she saw so many children filled with hope – the hope that education can provide for their future. Then, this afternoon, at Juan Pablo II Orphanage, she had very mixed feelings. Some children were developmentally delayed and most do not have enough human contact even though it was obvious that the two nuns love the children very much. There isn’t enough room and not much other social contact. She noted how all of their faces lit up when we arrived and then how they lined up at the metal fencing to say, “Adios” when we left which was heart-moving.

Sister told us that by coming here, we are the ones being ministered to. In many ways, we are the impoverished returning home with a realization of how incredibly blessed we are.

Heather then shared that we really don’t need all of the up-to-date items that we are bombarded with at home. Using our imaginations is the greatest gift, so we should all think twice when purchasing a birthday or holiday gift: is this truly challenging and developing a fellow human being’s imagination.

Mel reflected that it’s all about relationships – even as short a time that we each spent with a person today.

Judy Charland shared the meeting with Augusto ended with great hope even though they were first told that the gardens which had looked so lush in February were almost devastated by the leaf cutter ants – the ones many of us see walking by every day in their line to their ant hole near our walkway. Yet, even with this experience, Judy sensed he was hopeful. He has become a model of other school which have come to visit to observe his gardens. She then thanked Mel and Salvatore for coming up with a natural solution to eradicating the ants in the garden area: a tree that grows right here on the property. This afternoon, they met with three of the five families which will have gardens planted tomorrow. She noted that Magaly has grabbed on to this project that begins tomorrow and see the future of providing food security to these families.

Sister then thanked Mel and Salvatore for leaving their families to be with us for three days; a special care package will be given to them tomorrow afternoon when they leave as a symbol of our thanks for modeling sustainability in this country.

Meg told us that she has been impressed by the level of English competency she has heard in the students on this trip. Sister agreed and told of her experience this morning walking across the courtyard who said to her, “I learn English so I can thank you.”

And with that, we closed tonight’s meeting listening to Celtic Woman’s rendition of “One World”:
We’re all a part of one world, We all can share the same dream,
And if you just reach out to me, Then you will find, deep down inside,
I’m just like you.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

By Bonnie Black
In our early morning conversations with Sister Rosa at Nino Jesus de Praga, we learned that the enrollment has dropped to around 1,000 students since February as many people are moving out of the area trying to find jobs in Costa Rica and Honduras. On a brighter note, the Cordoba is stronger than it was in recent months – the first time that the rate has decreased; it is now 19.35c for a US dollar.

In our early morning conversations with Sister Rosa at Nino Jesus de Praga, we learned that the enrollment has dropped to around 1,000 students since February as many people are moving out of the area trying to find jobs in Costa Rica and Honduras. On a brighter note, the Cordoba is stronger than it was in recent months – the first time that the rate has decreased; it is now 19.35c for a US dollar.

We found that the Archbishop is in Ecuador, so we will not be meeting with him on this trip and Sister Ligia from San Jose Hospital in Diriamba, is on retreat; not sure if we will get to see her. So, as we have come to expect here, our ‘tentative’ schedule began to reflex to the reality of the day.

Sister Debbie covered many of the basic informational items at our first morning meeting which was closed in prayer by Judy Charland. We then hustled into the courtyard for our official Mission #29 photo.

Our Kitchen Crew for today got us started right and kept us fed all day long: Sister Stephanie, Nancy LaTulipe, Betsy Sullivan, Liz Dukette and Mary Fredette.

The Bed/Bath Crew of Gabrielle Springer, Kasey Garrand, David LaTulipe and Lynn-Marie Veverka started off early this morning and then quickly rotated into sorting home building materials.

A team led by Beverly Gogola went to Parajito Azul Disability Center this morning: Darcie Black, Brenda Flynn and Sister Ann. They discovered that the Center is marketing its bakery as a catering service throughout the community - what a delightful step forward.

Preparing rice and beans for the deliveries this afternoon and tomorrow morning were the capable team of Meg Ryan, Ashley Goyette and Amanda Lyon. They were then joined by Gabrielle Springer, Aubrin Breyette, Dan Riggins, Abby Fordham and Catlin Furnia around 1:30pm, jumping on a truck and traveling the roads of the barrio to distribute the food and toys.

Bill Murray headed up the suitcase sorting team this morning….which means that the 48 suitcases which came on the plane with the Plattsburgh group needed to be divided into destination locations around the inner courtyard for future distribution during this mission. Then, in the afternoon, he was accompanied by a translator, Maddie, from the Manna Project down the road as he investigated possibilities for an internet connection at our location. It is a serious communication issue now that everyone has gotten used to (almost) daily emails like this one throughout our missions. Without an internet café anywhere nearby, it is quite hard this mission to keep you up-to-date with the goings on, in a timely manner.

Bill Calmbacher was the leader of the carton sorting crew of Gerry Marks, Andrea Maynard and Meg Ryan. Later in the day, he was joined by Monica Smith, Beverly Gogola, Brenda Flynn, and Sister Ann Berberich. We had a crew sorting the boxes from the container at Caritas again this afternoon: Sister Debbie, Oscar Flores, Anthony Garami, Andrea Maynard, Kasey Garrand and Gerry Marks.

Anthony Garami led his crew in sorting medical supplies with the suitcase sorting team: Heather Frenette, Laura DiGrigoli, Abby Fordham and Monica Smith.

Our ECO project began this morning with Judy & Marcel Charland educating Caitlin Furnia and Aubrin Breyette on the moringa and other aspects of our project. Later in the afternoon, the Charlands met with Mel Landers and Salvatore to discuss the future throughout the barrio with this project.

This morning we found Magaly Velasquez in a classroom teaching sewing to high schoolers. They were measuring each other in preparation for making the patterns for their school uniforms. It is such a pleasure to see everything come full circle! A few years ago, the Mission provided a sewing machine to Magaly while she was studying for her high school equivalency. She and two other women (who were later provided machines by us) have been making most of the school uniforms since that time. Now, Magaly (who was valedictorian of her class and now attends university at nights and on Sundays) is an instructor at Nino Jesus de Praga and passing her knowledge of sewing on to a new generation which will have these skills to take into their own vocational future in a few years.

Of course, what would a mission by without home building? Today we planned to only sort materials and that was a good idea, as the final wood delivery did not come at 3pm yesterday or this morning. Only a partial delivery came in the morning and it wasn’t until after 2:30pm that we finally received the last wood. This morning’s group sorted the tin which had been delivered yesterday along with the wood that came at 10am: Kasey Garrand, David Riggins, Marty Mannix, Gabriella Springer, Lynn-Marie Veverka and David LaTulipe. Without the delivery of wood until late, the afternoon team was kept on hold for a good portion (although it was a good time to write in journals or catch a siesta!): Darcie Black, Marty Mannix, Heather Frenette, Lynn-Marie Veverka and David LaTulipe. Once the rice & beans crew returned, Dan Riggins pitched in.

Just before the dinner hour, we loaded a truck with supplies from the container for Parajito Azul Disability Center which brought it all there, leaving room in the vehicle tomorrow morning for more people to go. Interestingly, many people have selected that as their first choice in projects/.places to go!

Tonight at our meeting, Sister Debbie told us that she has acquired the tickets for the theatre on Saturday evening, so that is something we are all looking forward to as most have not had that experience. She also let us know that the Sisters of Servium will be able to make it here on Sunday and will bring their guitar!

Point persons for various aspects of Mission #29 then let us know what is planned for our second full day here – there is much on the schedule. Sister assured everyone that if they were not ‘off site’ today and not scheduled for off site tomorrow, they are guaranteed to be out and about on Friday. There was so much sorting to do today, that a great many did not have an ‘experience’ yet. She also mentioned that it is the first time that all of the sorting has been done. Well, about as ‘done’ as can be at this point. Boxes still need to be relabeled for their final destination which are sitting in front of the clinic and many are set for pickup or delivery over the next 2 days. There were also only 48 suitcases (not 80-100 cartons as we have on February trips) and a limited amount were brought over from Caritas this time. We are asking our major donations locations (San Jose Hospital, Caritas, El Crucero orphanage) to pick up their designated cartons right at Caritas rather than having everything moved here and then distributed. Sisters Ligia and Teresita will need to stop by here for a small amount of donations which were brought over from Caritas storage and down here in our suitcases. Much smoother this way and why we got through the bulk of the sorting today.

The stories that were shared tonight included on from Andrea about the doctor at Caritas who removes tattoos from men who, when young, aligned themselves with gangs (thus the tattoo) and now want to be free of that life. Gerald shared his impressions of how money gets exchanged on the street here and how dangerous it is getting as economic strife worsens in Managua. Our final story was one by Ashley about a family they encountered in their rice and beans delivery this afternoon.

Much is still to unfold, but all went to bed by curfew (some even earlier) and snores were abundant long before 10pm.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

By Bonnie Black
Mission #29 has begun! Actually, the advance team (A Team) has been on the ground since late Saturday evening when their plane arrived over an hour later than scheduled - turbulence after departing late due to a passenger’s passport issues!

Returning to Nicasa from the airport, we learned that the market which had the devastating fire was not the one we regularly visit; it was the Mercado Oriental – much larger than Mercado Huembes (it is the largest in Central America). There were approximately 1500 business consumed and it is thought to have been electrical in nature. We were told by a local that the wiring throughout the market was haphazard and that the taxis in the narrow streets blocked access to the market in the congested area barring the fire department from getting in to fight the fire in a timely manner. The other problem was with the fire hydrants as the fire department couldn’t easily find functioning units as people have stolen the various parts to sell as scrap metal. All of these elements combined allowing the fire to take hold. There are many in the city of Managua who no longer have a means to provide for their families now.

Mission #29 has begun! Actually, the advance team (A Team) has been on the ground since late Saturday evening when their plane arrived over an hour later than scheduled - turbulence after departing late due to a passenger’s passport issues!

Returning to Nicasa from the airport, we learned that the market which had the devastating fire was not the one we regularly visit; it was the Mercado Oriental – much larger than Mercado Huembes (it is the largest in Central America). There were approximately 1500 business consumed and it is thought to have been electrical in nature. We were told by a local that the wiring throughout the market was haphazard and that the taxis in the narrow streets blocked access to the market in the congested area barring the fire department from getting in to fight the fire in a timely manner. The other problem was with the fire hydrants as the fire department couldn’t easily find functioning units as people have stolen the various parts to sell as scrap metal. All of these elements combined allowing the fire to take hold. There are many in the city of Managua who no longer have a means to provide for their families now.

On a brighter note, much has been accomplished by the A Team: Sunday we spent the entire day getting supplies out of storage and preparing Nicasa (our home-away-from-home) for the arrival of the other 29. On Monday, team members shopped for home building materials (Marty Mannix) and food (Bill Calmbacher and Beverly Gogola) while the other 3 remained ‘home’ finishing the setup tasks and sorting linens and heavy blankets as donations for the orphanage in El Crucero. Although there are a few nights that might get cool enough for more than just a sheet at our location, thinking of the children at the higher altitudes who truly experience wind and cold night temperatures, we wanted to assure them of the warmth that most of us are used to in our homes. We can sleep for the few nights we are here with only a sheet, for the most part. On the rare occasions where more is needed, the thinner blankets suffice.

Monday afternoon Marty Mannix and Darcie Black accompanied Magaly Velasquez (the President of the Local Council) on visits to 7 of the potential sites. They then met with a few of those families later in the afternoon to give them instructions on laying the foundation blocks and site preparation. Monday evening Darcie and Bonnie accompanied Mauricio to the airport to welcome our Colorado team members: Sister Ann Berberich, Monica Smith and Gabrielle Springer.

Supplies began arriving Tuesday morning (tin for the shelters) while Darcie and Kasey Garrand assessed the needs for Wednesday’s projects and outlined who might do which task. They will be doing the assignments for the entire team throughout the week ahead. Bonnie and Marty went into Caritas with Mauricio Flores and Bill Calmbacher to load 178 boxes from the container into a large truck for delivery to Nicasa. Mauricio and Bonnie left for the airport to rent the 15-passenger van for the group’s use during the week. BUT…all did not go smoothly when the door to the storage building closed locking everyone there out. So, they proceeded back to Nicasa with the filled truck (with about 50 boxes and items still in storage). Offloading all of the boxes back at Nicasa were Gabrielle Springer, Monica Smith, Sr. Ann Berberich, and Kasey Garrand.

Darcie and Marty then headed out to the other 5 potential home sites and held a meeting with those families at 4pm, as they did with the others the previous day. The wood did not arrive as scheduled for the home shelters, so we are expecting that around 8am tomorrow morning.

Meanwhile, Mauricio, Kasey and Bonnie headed back to Caritas and waited an hour-and-a-half for the person with the key to return. Kasey stayed with the truck driver to load as much as they could into the smaller truck and headed back to Nicasa to offload it all. There are still about 30 items left to get tomorrow morning when a crew returns to sort what is left (hundreds of boxes and large items) by destination.

Mauricio and Bonnie were at the airport when the plane touched down on time at 3pm. Everyone except Sister Debbie, Sister Stephanie and Oscar, arrived at Nicasa by 4:50pm, freshened up and headed over to the dining hall for our first dinner together. The others remained at the airport to greet our last arriving team member, Heather Frenette (Sister Stephanie’s niece).

Part of the orientation for the large group was conducted in the Dining Hall (explaining our CFC) and in Nicasa (explaining the kitchen and bed/bath details). We then were called to our first Mission #29 team by Sister Debbie at 7pm.

Sister remarked that when she and Betsy Sullivan were lugging their suitcases off of the carousel, Betsy told her that she was so excited to be back in Nicaragua. That level of energy and drive is wonderful!

Judy Charland had given up her first class seat on the plane earlier in the day to Sister Debbie who wound up sitting next to a fellow who trains Secret Service and military guards in various parts of the world (Congo, Afghanistan, etc). He asked many questions and noted, “To see the orange shirts coming on to the plane was heart-warming compared to my daily experiences where life is risked to do our job.” He continued, “I live a life that doesn’t allow me to do this kind of thing – I can’t do it right now, but tell all of them ‘thank you’ for what they are doing.”

Then, while waiting for Heather to arrive, a man came up to the 4 of them and gave up his food voucher so that Sister and Mauricio could grab something to eat…she noted, just another reason to wear your Mission shirt!

On a sadder note, we heard that our friend and long-time missioner, Joy Cayea, lost her father on Saturday at Noon and today was his funeral. Joy sent her wishes for the group to be safe and noted all were going to be thinking of us while we are down here. WE were the ones thinking about Joy and her family’s loss tonight.

Meg Ryan noted that when she got out of the airport and traveled through the city, “there was this comforting small – and now I feel more complete.” For those who have been on mission, the Nica smell has been strong again this time, most likely as a result of the recent fire downtown.

Bev Gogola described the two oxen carts that arrived this morning to pick up the foundation blocks and the sand and cement for new homes. Because we had to stay out of the range of the oxen’s rear legs, those of us who were outside of the gate when they backed in to get the blocks had to remain outside. Children began pulling at Bev’s sleeve and as she turned around, it was her sponsored child! She was so happy to see Bev – her face was beaming!

Sister Stephanie shared that it has been 8 years since she has seen Heather and then Sister Debbie shared that the emotions which were evident on their faces at first meeting were all that were needed – not words.

Well, we close our first day here in Nica with most of us thinking about all of you back home – especially those we haven’t spent much time with this summer, but knowing that we will have many more moments and experiences to share with you when we return.