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Mission of Hope

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Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

By Bonnie Black
Our first day of Mission 32 with all but one of us here (Oscar Flores will be joining us by Friday) started early for some. At 4:45 a.m. (6:45 a.m. your time), a few early birds were up – half the Kitchen Crew, which is good, but also a couple of others who are still on NY time and not Nica time. That usually changes after a day of hard work in the hot sun!

This morning, Sister Debbie filled me in on some of the wonderful things that occurred on the trip down yesterday. She noted that while on the ferry, she ran into someone who she had taught in grade school and he gave her a cash donation for all the work the Mission does. While in Newark, a complete stranger, after learning about the Mission, also gave a cash donation. She also noted that, for the first time in 32 trips, a carry-on was lost after being ‘gate checked’ with Continental in Burlington. In Newark they promised Hillary Miller that her lost carryon, which is everything of her own she had packed for this week, would show up in Houston. Needless to say, it still isn’t here, but they hope it will be on the plane landing at 8:15pm tonight.

We also learned that it was Will’s wife that broke her ankle, not Will. He was available to assist with driving the van everywhere we needed him today – thank heavens!

We officially began our day a bit later than usual with the morning meeting just before 7:30 a.m. due to the lateness of the group’s arrival last night. Usually we will begin the meeting at 7 a.m. Sister Debbie spoke of the openness everyone needs as we begin this mission in order to absorb everything and connect with everyone with whom we come into contact. She also noted the self-initiative necessary to make this mission function at its optimum – we will be carrying each other. The Mission is about relationships; the only way we can change the world is one person at a time. She asked us to make ourselves available and, through that, we will find the connection.

We learned what everything on the assignment board means and who is assigned to what tasks for the day which is split into two halves. Emily Bean and Kasey Garrand are in charge of the board each day trying to match up known skills to those needed for specific tasks and assuring that everyone rotates through all of the types of jobs available.

Everyone has a specific task or job to do everyday. Some are perceived as ‘glory’ jobs while others are focused on maintaining the health of everyone here. Two of the latter jobs are Kitchen Crew and what we call Bed, Bath & Beyond. Those are jobs that everyone will experience and they last all day. It IS possible, though, when assigned to BBB, you can also hop onto a shorter morning project as well as an afternoon assignment.

Our longer-than-normal morning meeting concluded with us listening to Joe Lewis’ original song composed as a result of his first Mission experience: Calling All of God’s Angels.

We held our group orientation right after the morning meeting by splitting into our ‘star’ groups which is the method we use whenever we have to organize all 40 people at once.

Today’s Kitchen Crew was comprised of Sister Stephanie and Bev Gogola who were the ‘leaders.’ They were assisted by veterans Emily Bean, Jackie Bedore and Ashley Goyette. BBB were Kasey Garrand, Rich DeGrijze, Heather Frenette and Elizabeth Cofrancesco.

Installing a new sink in our Clinic here at Nino Jesus de Praga were Tom Grue, Stephen Witkiewicz, Rich DeGrijze and Bill Murray. Preparing for this afternoon’s sojourn into the community to establish a raised garden in Solano were Mel Landers (our ‘professional’ partner here in Nica who is with us for two days), Kasey Garrand, Bill Murray, Hillary Miller and Chris Fisher.

Much sorting occurs our first day and doing so here at Nicasa (our home away from home) were Connie Tyska, the leader, along with Lou Ann Nielson, Peggy Giroux, Elizabeth Cofrancesco, Brenda Flynn and Kara Hackett. They were sorting all of the contents of the suitcases which were brought down last night. Over at what we now call Nicarlos (Carlos’ home) were Anthony Garami and Bill Calmbacher guiding Angie Neyer, Mary Fredette, Heather Frenette, Joan Riani, Sonesh Balchandani, Sarah Scardillo, Kelly Hayle and Ashley Thompson.

Our painting detail sojourned to the Mother of the Divine Son School in Nejapa to do the roof under the supervision of Darcy Rabideau, Joe Lewis and Kayla Rabideau. Their team was comprised of Phil Maynard, Rinsha Ballani, Tricia Giglio, Adrianne Longino, Alex Fredette, Meagan Pelkey and Bradly Willett. BUT…there was a glitch (so, what’s new?). It seems the type of paint we are using includes the anticorrosive so it isn’t a 2-step process for us. Chico and his assistant were on the roof yesterday and today using sandpaper to remove the rust, but we had to wait a bit, so decided to move toward putting in the 300 new glass louvers in the various classroom windows – to only find that each one has to cut down to size! So, the group had to wait until Mauricio could purchase glass cutters and return to Nejapa before doing that job. Once they were on the roof, they rotated through the task for a couple of hours – we even ran lunch out to them as they had gotten a late start.

This afternoon, our first home shelter was built in memory of a friend of Adrianne Longino. She was on the crew along with Bill Calmbacher (our shelter leader for today), Ashley Thompson and Angie Neyer. We are sometimes referring to these as ‘casitas’ rather than ‘homes’ as they are smaller than most of our garages. Today’s casita was built for Maria Luisa Sevilla Rosales in Chiquilistagua who is a mother of 12 adult children all living at home with her and their children. The shelter they currently have leaks so this will provide them a dry place to sleep. So, about 20 people will now have a dry home – about 12’ x 12’ in size.

The painting at Nicarlos’ began this afternoon under the supervision of Kayla Rabideau: Brenda Flynn, Tricia Giglio, Bradly Willett, Joan Riani, Phil Maynard, Meagan Pelkey and Lou Ann Nielson all wielded a wild paint brush!

Continuing at the Nejapa school this afternoon were Darcy Rabideau and Joe Lewis who had a new crew for the afternoon: Tom Grue, Stephen Witkiewicz, Sonesh Balchandani, Sarah Scardillo, Elizabeth Cofrancesco, Rich DeGrijze, Peggy Giroux, and Kelly Hayle. BUT (here we go again!)… the pouring rain made it impossible to continue with this job, so they returned to campus early. This allowed most to take off on one of Sister Debbie’s ‘mystery tours.’ It is a mystery to others although she and Mauricio know where they are going. This tour for 9 travelers included a tour around the neighborhood to see Nino Jesus de Praga in relation to its surrounding roads, the exchange of money, PriceSmart (like our Sam’s Club or Costco), Pali (like the IGA stores), and the fruit market where they also saw the live iguanas that people buy for meat as well as the fish sitting in buckets that the locals eat. They bought mangos and pineapple for our own consumption tomorrow! They also saw an oxen cart filled with beans being brought to their home to lay out to dry.

Will sorting never end?! Oh, yes, but we had a crew finishing that at Nicasa under the direction of Connie Tyska and Anthony Garami: Alex Fredette, Rinsha Balani and Mary Fredette. They took the sorted meds from this morning and transported what was designated for our two clinics up to our pharmacy.

After a meeting with Sister Debbie, Mauricio, Magaly and Professor Augusto about our ECO grants and projects, out and about in the community creating the first raised community garden bed in another zone of Chiquilistagua called Castillo/Vivas, were Mel Landers, Kasey Garrand, Bill Murray, Chris Fisher and Hillary Miller. There were about 15 women involved from the community which made everyone so happy! Our first community garden was set up last February in the Espinoza zone of Chiquilistagua and has been quite productive. Tomorrow we will proceed to another zone with more learning.

Our first evening meal was held in the dining room where our ‘Children Feeding Children’ program occurs during the school day feeding Pre-K through Grade 2 students. Local cooks, under the direction of Nora, made (my favorite) Valencia Rice – a type of Spanish rice with local flavor. Everyone seemed to enjoy it with not much left over for lunch tomorrow!

Before dinner, we have the opportunity to play with the local children in the yard but found that the children were not allowed back in when we were done with dinner around 5:15 p.m. Very different, so Sister Debbie spoke with Sister Cecilia tonight. Sister Rosa will be returning tomorrow, but Sister Cecilia agreed that children will be let back in the yard after our dinner up until our 6:30pm meeting.

We had much sharing from the day’s experiences, but not until we had a mass changing of seats so we could sit next to people we had just met on Mission – in the airport, here in Nica, whatever! We were certainly NOT the quiet group we were about 48 hours ago!

Tonight we agreed to have our subsequent evening meetings at 6:30pm in order to give us more time together in the evening. Joining us this evening was Jeremy Eppler, a former MOH traveler who joins us every time he can. He noted that he has a wonderful experience each time with the various teams which come during this sharing time.

Although Mel Landers was only to be with us for today and tomorrow, he volunteered to return on Friday after the Health Fair to have a meeting with Professor Augusto and assist at the Health Fair, as needed with Augusto and Magaly.

Sister Debbie reviewed tomorrow’s schedule and we noted some schedule changes which include a medical outreach opportunity in the morning which we haven’t had a chance to do in a few missions.

We assessed food of the day, dietary requests for tomorrow, personal hygiene reminders and other items which make our lives smoother.

Kudos went out to those who jumped in on seed packaging when they saw the need and the others who grabbed a brush and applied termite repellant to the lumber we will be using to build bunkbeds later in the week.

An explanation of who Juan and Chico are – the guards we pay to protect Mission materials in storage at Carlos’ house – and who Carlos was (Yamilette and Marta’s brother) helped the first-timers know the people they interfaced with or heard about today.

Darcy Rabideau began our ‘sharing’ time by giving kudos to the two crews she had at Nejapa who rolled with the punches.

Peggy Giroux commented on the exchange of money on the street which they experienced today. So many people do it because the banks only let in one person at a time and this is much quicker. They learned that the money exchangers earn about $100/month which is a decent salary down here, but it is a very dangerous profession as robbers can follow them home which happened to a few of them near the end of last year.

Liz Cofrancesco told about a woman who came near the gate today and told about the root canal she had here last week. People queued up all day, with numbers, and she was one of the last people to receive care – a root canal. Sister then explained how our clinics, on the first few missions, also went through the same experiences before we had regular clinic hours with a doctor like we have nowadays.

Hillary Miller thanked people for letting her borrow clothes today as it was her carry-on that did not make it all the way to Managua last night. We are still hopeful it will be found by Continental.

Sonesh Balandani was part of the ‘mystery tour’ which drive by what is to be the new site for the Mission around the corner. He noted that it will be so wonderful for all to see and allow the Mission to continue to grow in the community it serves where he has seen so much accomplished – even on the first day.

Kasey Garrand had his first experience with a machete today in the preparation for the raised bed ECO project and told us he has great respect for the men who use it making it look so simple and easy.

Kara Hackett enjoyed the time she spent with the little children who were at the raised bed community garden site. She had a young boy who is turning 13 tomorrow who enjoyed the hockey card she gave him and helped her to understand the other young ones around. It also helped to keep the adults focused on learning about the garden while building a unique experience for her on this trip. Sister noted that it is an experience like this that allows a true transformation and commitment to service well beyond what a ‘quick’ monetary fix could ever do.

As we continued sharing, we learned that Brenda Flynn and Connie Tyska have donated funds to make our evening ‘treats’ possible. Tonight, it was pineapple tarts from Karla who sells her wares across from the gates of the school each weekday.

Rinsha Ballani worked sorting meds in our clinic and was so impressed by a young girl who just came up to her as she walked out late today and gave her a hug. When Rinsha gave out markers to the children around, the young girl asked her if she had a journal and when Rinsha acknowledged she did, she asked if she could write in it, she let her. Inside, the girl wrote that she wanted to be sisters with Rinsha and, even though she knows she will have to leave, she wants to be her lifelong friend. Another great memory to reflect on in the future when she reviews her journal and thinks of this mission experience.

Ashley Thompson shared her experience when returning from home shelters with a gentleman named Roman who tried using his English and Kara Hackett told of her experience with a young child who was so proud to be able to count to 20 (with 47 added in there!) and then did some word quizzes, finally giving Kara her bracelet – what a treasure!

Darcy Rabideau led us in closing prayer tonight based on a song from the Broadway show, “Wicked”: For Good. She noted that while what we are doing is a change for good, as a person, here on mission, we are changed for good. We reflected on the various verses which include: “ I know I am who I am today, because I knew you,” “Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better, I do believe I have been changed for the better, because I knew you, I have been changed for good.” Great double meanings in those words.

Sister Debbie closed with the thought, “More important than anything you do, it is who you are becoming that is important.”


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Great job Senora Bonita. I feel like I am there with all of you.
God bless.

I have been praying for you. Hugs to my friend, Peggy, and God bless each of you.


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