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Mission of Hope

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Saturday, August 1, 2009

By Bonnie Black
We began with sun this morning - so much so that it was quite glaring while I was trying to take notes at the morning meeting…but, as you well know, that is a pleasing difference from the rain!

This morning's meeting started with Our BBB crew of Rich DeGrijze, Joan Riani, Hillary Miller and Stephen Witkiewicz had to be quite focused on accomplishing their tasks as all were also assigned to other projects this morning in order to get one of their 'wishes'' granted. Kitchen Crew of Rich DeGrijze (yes, his name appears here again), Meagan Pelkey and Mary Fredette, under the direction of Bev Gogola, also needed to be just as focused, as they also were doing double duty this morning and afternoon.

Transportation was very creative for today in trying to get a variety of tasks done while also 'granting wishes' to travelers. One of those 'wishes' was two tours to La Chureca for those who had never been before. On the first drive through, Sister Debbie took Kasey Garrand, Tricia Giglio, Kelly Hale, Alex Fredette, Kayla Rabideau, Bill Murray, Tom Grue and the two Ashleys; on her second was Emily Bean, Sarah Scardillo, Heather Frenette, Jackie Bedore, Brenda Flynn, Lou Ann Nielson, Joan Riani, Liz Cofrancesco, Adrianne Longino, Darcy Rabideau, Richard DeGrijio, Hillary Miller and Meagan Pelkey.

A paint and sink installation crew went to Guadelupe Clinic this morning under the guidance of Phil Maynard: Sonesh Bochandani, Rinsha Ballani, Brad Willett, Chris Fisher and Kara Hackett. What they found was that the current sink is working quite well and does not need to be repaired not replaced. We certainly can use the sink we bought in many other places, so it won't be for naught.

Rice and beans today were led by Magaly and her brother, Norman: JoeLewis, Joan Riani, Hillary Miller, Stephen Witkiewicz and Jackie Bedore.

A team went to the baby orphanage in Managua: Anthony Garami, ConnieTyska, Angie Neyer, Peggy Giroux, Bill Calmbacher, Adrianne Longino, Lou Ann Nielson, Sarah Scardillo, Darcy Rabideau, Liz Cofrancesco, Heather Frenette, Brenda Flynn and Emily Bean.

Mid-morning, we were able to get a crew out to put up the fence at the community garden in Chiquilistagua we created a day or two ago: Kasey Garrand, Bill Murray, Kelly Hale, Ashley Thompson, Tricia Giglio, Ashley Goyette, Alex Fredette and Kayla Rabideau. It was a quick job that got them out and about the countryside.

Another mid-morning trip was to have three of our team head to Parajito Azul to do electrical work: Tom Grue, Joe Lewis and Stephen Witkiewitz. The connected - safely - some wiring that had been observed by previous mission trips. They were able to get power to their dining room so that all 4 outlets work and also in the reception area where they watch tv.

Afternoon assignments included sending a paint crew back to Our Lady of Guadelupe Clinic to get as much of the four rooms done as possible. They also had asked the morning crew to repaint their sign; the background was painted and this crew brought back some partially opened can of black paint for them to complete their sign on their own. Our painters were: Bill Calmbacher, Brenda Flynn, Tricia Gigio, Alex Fredette and Kelly Hale.

Rice & beans went out again with Magaly and Norman for a walking tour and got caught in the afternoon rains: Kayla Rabideau, Brad Willett, Darcy Rabideau, Emily Bean and Chris Fisher.

The other garden fence up in Monte Verde community garden plot was completed by Kasey Garrand, Adrianne Longino, Phil Maynard, Jackie Bedore and Ashley Goyette.

A visit to the Angels of Hope Orphanage in El Crucero this afternoon saw a vanful of travelers there: Connie Tyska, Angie Neyer, Rinsha Ballani, Heather Frenette, Ashley Thompson, Joan Riani, Kara Hackett, Anthony Garami, Lou Ann Nielson, Peggy Giroux, Sarah Scardillo, Hillary Miller and Sonesh Balchandani.

After other jobs were done, there were 'odd jobs' to do which seem to always appear whenever someone would have some 'down' time!

Tom Grue headed up to the Nino Clinic to see if he could begin the sink installation job that had to be postponed due to (1) lack of specific materials and then (2) the clinic being open the next day. Kasey Garrand joined him and they found the clinic door they didn't a key to was the one to which they needed access. Oh, well, another day! They then returned to begin an assessment of one of the women's toilets.

Bev Gogola did a mattress count to assure we have enough to cover the new bunkbeds yet leave every bunk here covered. We have three thin ones to go over, so that let's us know how many we will have to buy soon.

A few people were able to shower (so to speak) before dinner and Mass that was held at 6pm. Just before it began, we lost all electricity in the area. It was interesting to see solar lights on poles, the same lights many of us use as walkway lights, as the processional lights carried by the acolytes.

Our evening meeting began right after Mass in our regular location again by flashlight beams. We covered the basics for tomorrow's 'day off' such as who the group leaders will be, etc. For the Mombacho (cloudforest) trip as well as the Granada trip the departure time is 7am - the usual time for our morning meeting, so it will be nothing different for breakfast time. Each group will be having lunch out and then on to one of the markets we usually go.

We will then host many of the locals with whom we work for our annual pizza party in memory of Shawn Watson - more on that tomorrow. We will not have Sr. Ligia and the nuns from Diriamba as they are on retreat this weekend. And Sr. Karla along with the other three sisters from Matugalpa won't be able to make, either. We will miss their presence, but will have many others with us.

Kara Hackett began our sharing time with a song that helped her process her visit to La Chureca, "In the Arms of the Angels." With vultures at your back - make up for all that you lack - glorious sadness that brings me to my knees - were all phrases that certainly brought to mind what was seen for the first time by many.

It was an emotional day with many people having their 'mission moments' today. "The reality of La Chureca, Sister Debbie said, "is that it is a dump" and even though many had seen last year's mission DVD, they were still emotionally impacted by their first-hand experience.

She then shared a thought that she and Joe Lewis had spoken about before - that someday there will be only one America, not the three that currently exist.

Another powerful moment for her was the simple gesture of the young people among us who got up and used their flashlights to light the way for the congregation to pass through the aisles during communion at Mass tonight. Sister Rosa, who we know as a woman of few words, approached Sister Debbie afterward and said, "Thank you for the light." Sister Debbie then thanked the young among us for being the light figuratively, too.

Joe Lewis told us of the experience doing electrical work at Parajito Azul. He had his 'mission moment' working with Tom Grue today who was willing to do anything to accomplish the work, even though they were working on live wires in two rooms. They then passed into another room which had a breathing machine in a tenuous outlet and, again, Tom tried. This time, though, they were not able to fix it. Although Tom got shocked many times today, he kept working knowing that he could possibly make a difference for the residents.

Brenda Flynn thanked Rinsha Ballani for getting her to eat even though she didn't feel like it after the visit to La Chureca paint and the entire afternoon paint crew at Guadelupe Clinic for the fun experience - it lifted her up.

Adrianne Longino spoke of her experience at the Juan Pablo II Orphanage where the infants and toddlers have a bottle of milk in the morning and in the evening - no fruits or vegetables and not much else to eat. It seems that food is a problem in many of the places we visit this mission to a greater degree than in the past.

Tricia GIglio had a 'clumsy' day including her best fall of the day at Our Lady of Guadelupe Clinic as she tumbled off the ladder, grabbed a curtain and had her fall broken by Alex! And, to top that, the van began rolling along the road when they were loading it because the driver had not put on the hand brake.

Connie Tyska and Bev Gogola then brought Bill Calmbacher into the center of the circle and told him that the women have been listening and, as representatives of all of the women, presented him with the "BBB Good Housekeeping Award." They said they would like to see it hung on the men's room door. He accepted it humbly on behalf 'of all mankind.'

Brad Willett gave kudos to Phil Maynard who was able to 'get it done' with an amazing approach to it all during the morning painting at Guadelupe Clinic.

Rinsha Ballani was emotional tonight in reaction to hearing of Tom's actions at Parajito Azul - "he is so amazing," she said. Her trip to the Orphanage in El Crucero today was the center of her emotions. She connected with a girl named Sara who said she was not happy there. She said she had no friends and has only one person who comes to visit her from time to time. What she understood is that the girl saw her mother die in front of her and now must live at the orphanage. The young girl is going through so much as are most of the people Rinsha has encountered here.

She also mentioned that, as most of us know, she is Hindu which is a polytheistic religion. Initially, she was nervous that she wouldn't fit in but is so pleased with the curiosity of everyone on Mission and how open everyone is to accepting her and her religion. She is used to being segregated and separated because of her religion and appreciates this experience, especially tonight to Peggy Giroux for taking her into Mass and explaining it all to her so she could learn more about Christianity.

Alex Fredette noted that we have been hearing about the hardest aspects of mission that we have to deal with, but what invigorates him - through our combined efforts - is that we have the ability to make significant changes and though it may take a long time, and maybe we may not see all of the results, as quickly as we'd like, we can make the necessary changes if we are willing to make certain sacrifices - such as getting shocked 8 times and catching a person falling off the ladder. We will be amazed at what we can accomplish, the positive changes, the hope to keep going - that's what gives him the energy in the darkest moments.

Sister Debbie reminded us of the line, "Be the change you want to see in the world." The Mission has failed if we go home and nothing is different. She said she really believes that the Mission only truly begins when we leave.

Liz Cofrancesco told of her 'mission moment' at the Juan Pablo baby orphanage. She has never been in a situation where she felt so hopeless. She said it was like a picture from National Geographic when she walked in. When holding a baby in her arms, it broke her heart that this child would grow to 5 and then go to older kid orphanage and then probably end on the street. For the first time in her life, she couldn't see the brightness.

Sister agreed the odor was obvious when walking in this time, the ceiling was moldy, the fan half off - much worse shape than we've seen before. But, she said each person has the power to make a difference - a hope that most of us carry.

Anthony Garami said that Juan Pablo II is overwhelming for him, too, personally feeling inadequate at moment like the hemoglobinometer not functioning today. But, what pulls him through is thinking, "What would Jesus do?" He expressed his belief that Gof has a plan and is leading him (and us) in a specific path. He spoke of an incredible power of the Lord's direction comes upon him at times such as when we were without vitamins to bring and, after a call, the Keeseville Pharmacy came through with the 100,000 vitamins we needed - all donated. And then when a grant we have had a shortfall a month or so ago, Maggy's Pharmcay came through with $5,000 worth of medicine to restock our pharmacy here as well as the Guadelupe and San Jose pharmacies. It is remembering that it is not by our own power these things are accomplished.

Sister told us about the significant donations from CVPH staff members which allowed this mission to bring down so many pharmaceuticals and of the continuous support from Condo's Pharmacy through the 10 years which has made so much happen in our clinic. We also must remember the blessings of having a strong connection with CMMB which has donated over $40million in pharmaceuticals over the years. It is all working together to keep the Mission going.

Hillary Miller also had her 'mission moment' today. She only had a few moments to stop at the baby orphanage on the way to the dump as we needed to coordinate a supply transfer with one of our other vehicles. A girl asked her to pick her up and even though she was there only 5-10 minutes, she made a big impression. When Hillary went to leave, the girl kept clinging to her. She was very upset she had to leave ,yet happy the girl enjoyed her company for a short time.

Kara Hackett watched an experience at the orphanage in El Crucero: a young girl really took to Sonesh Balchandani, chasing him around with a puppet and having so much fun. She turned to him after a while and called him, 'padre.' It brightened her afternoon after a not-so-good morning to see their interaction.

Sister closed our time together tonight by noting that this is the most incredible group of sharing individuals compared to many others. The mission is what you make it - you can have a dream, but if others do not help the dream come true, it stays only a dream.

Peggy Giroux closed the meeting with acknowledging that today is a special day for our Sisters (the Feast of St. Domenic) and even though we have nothing tangible to give like we would at home, but we can share what those in Nicaragua have - the power of sharing words. We heard terms like passion, caring, tolerance, leadership and personal guidance, inspiration, selflessness, opportunity for young people to find who they are, caring, friendship, a sister in social justice, personal caring, hugs, inspiration, strength, right up there with our own parents, giving, devoted, teaching, wisdom, energetic, acceptance, support, awesome, life-changing, people respond to you, strength for self and others, insightful, dedication, hard working, confidante, dedicated. Oscar then closed by saying that the people who are not present here tonight - those whom the Mission has educated - the friendship that the Sisters have shown his family since moving to New York, the gratitude to all who have come from around the world to serve on Mission. Every member of his family is so grateful for the connections made through the Sisters.

Peggy then played a closing song by Josh Grobin, "You Raise Me Up" focusing on how those we have been serving are raising us up. Phrases that stood out to me tonight, even though I have heard this song many times, were "Come and sit a while with me" and the refrain of "Raise me up to more than I can be." Exactly what the Mission is to those of us here in Mission #32.

Just before we all stood to end our evening, Kara Hackett said she had to tell us about her 'Lou moment' at the orphanage this afternoon. The had been interacting with a little girl who wanted to show them where she slept. When they were in the room, there was a noise that came from under the bed. The little girl went over and when Kara asked her what it was, she said it was a "nina." She said 'it' was under the bed and started shaking the bed. When Lou saw this she said, "No hurto" which made everyone in the room stop what they were doing and turn to look. Lou had been told that you can just add an 'o' to the end of words and you could make yourself understood. Well, in this case, it wasn't understood, but had the same effect: the girl stopped shaking the bed and the little one wasn't hurt!

That story made us all laugh as we put away our chairs and headed inside. The electricity never came back on by 10pm, when it was the extended 'lights out' curfew for the night. Things quieted down quite quickly and everyone got their rest for tomorrow - our 'day off' - as we cannot sleep in with the buses leaving at 7am.

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