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Mission of Hope

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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.

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