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Mission of Hope

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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

By Bonnie Black
At 6:45 a.m. this morning, it was hitting many that tomorrow at this time, most of us will be sitting in our airplane seats awaiting takeoff. That knowledge affected many throughout the day in various ways.

Sister reviewed the various closing tasks and departure responsibilities at our morning meeting. We will be saying goodbye to Heather Frenette, Rinsha Ballani and Sonesh Balchandani in Houston tomorrow as well as Phil Maynard in Newark. All will be departing at 3:30 a.m. from here and, just before that, they will line up the suitcases on the walkway along with the large chairs and hockey bags filled with hammocks. Sister will initiate a Phone Tree call when all arrive in Houston and then again in Newark as they depart giving you a sense of their arrival in Burlington.

This morning we heard that Sonesh Balchandani had great success getting everything loaded on the computers last night and they are all set to go out as soon as we put instructions about scanning and updating in Spanish!

For our closing prayer this morning, we used Joe Lewis' song which a small group performed at the Despedida beginning at 7:30am. We had a new sense of this song that Joe created as a result of this first mission two years ago. Copies of his lyrics were printed out so that we would be able to sing it together.

Sister concluded the morning meeting noting, "Each of us was given gifts and talents to share; it is out of our gratitude and hope that we WILL make a difference. Blessings on each of us today - prepare to begin our new mission at home."

The Despedida was very enjoyable - an hour of cultural dances: theirs and ours. We experienced the littlest dancers to teens who performed a number of selections using Nicaraguense music and dances as well as two selections by Michael Jackson. When our group sang Joe's song, everyone applauded loudly. More than 30 local people immediately asked Joe for his song. He will translate his lyrics into Spanish and we will get that to nuns and Mauricio and Magaly to distribute! It will soon be available on our website, too.

There was much to still be accomplished today, our last full work day. Our BBB crew was Joe Lewis, Phil Maynard, Kayla Rabideau & Mary Fredette. The Kitchen Crew was Lou Ann Nielson along with Kasey Garrand, Kelly Hayle, Ashley Thompson and Stephen Witkiewicz.

Our first group out this morning missed the festivities as they had to be at the Children's Hospital by 8am: Anthony Garami, Tricia Giglio and Angie Neyer.

Right after the Despedida, a larger group went to Parajito Azul bringing another bag of rice and also of beans: Sister Stephanie, Bev Gogola, Phil Menard, Rinsha Ballani, Adrianne Longino, Peggy Giroux.

About the same time a van took people to the Huembes Market for a few hours of shopping: Darcy Rabideau, Joe Lewis, Connie Tyska, Hillary Miller, Joan Riani, Sarah Scardillo, Heather Frenette, Kayla Rabideau, Kara Hackett, Ashley Goyette, Lou Ann Nielson.

Sonesh Balchandani kept working to assure that by this evening Magaly, Mauricio and Carlos' house were all set up and understood their computers with another prepared for delivery to Sister Ligia in Diriamba.

We finally got to do the Height & Weights in Nejapa this morning - over 100 students! Bill Calmbacher took a crew of Liz Cofrancesco, Chris Fisher, Brad Willett, Meagan Pelkey and Jackie Bedore. The data, though, is still in raw form, on paper and index cards, and are coming back to Plattsburgh for Anthony to compile for the Medical Team.

Working at preparing the First Aid supplies for next mission were Connie Tyska, Joan Riani and Heather Frenette who have everything ready for February.

Wood for bunkbeds and ECO fences were cut by a diligent crew of Kasey Garrand, Tom Grue, Darcy Rabideau and some of the Closing Process was handled by Brenda Flynn, Emily Bean, Mary Fredette and Alex Fredette.

This afternoon, the trip to the market included: Tom Grue, Meagan Pelkey, Liz Cofrancesco, Tricia Giglio, Ashley Thomson and Brad Willett.

Going over to Nejapa to present sponsor gifts with Magaly were Jackie Bedore, Bill Calmbacher, Connie Tyska, Ashley Goyette, and Alex Fredette.

The mural team did it! It is completed, thanks to: Kayla Rabideau, Rinsha Ballani, Stephen Witkiewicz, Hillary Miller, Chris Fisher and the students from Colegio.

Our last sojourn with Rice & Beans, under the guidance of Magaly, went out around 3 p.m.: Sarah Scardillo, Emily Bean, Adrianne Longino, Joe Lewis, Darcy Rabideau and Phil Maynard.

At 4:15pm, there was one of those torrential downpours - and we hadn't seen rain in three+ days! Of course, it was just after we had lined up all of the returning suitcases in the courtyard with their new labels.

Our last meeting was back in the dining room, as the rains continued throughout the early evening. We began by Emily Bean reviewing who was carrying which numbered suitcases and/or chairs. Sister told us the bus will arrive by 3 a.m. and will depart by 3:30 a.m. with everyone.

Sister has heard that some Dominican sisters are in danger in Pakistan as 7 Christians were burned in the last few days while other Christian sites have been attacked. She brought it to us as she was asked to have us all lift all people in Pakistan in prayer.

We began listening to "Where Is the Love" - the more recent hip-hop version. It spoke about much of the environmental situations, inequality and not knowing the Truth and having the ability to 'turn the other cheek' and live together in harmony.

Sharing, for the last time, began with Kara Hackett told us that saying goodbyes had been hard as she hadn't seen Freddy this evening until she felt a tug on her and she hugged him. He said to her, in English, "Don't worry - come back."

Hillary Miller just wanted to thank everyone for a great week.

Tricia Giglio said she was on emotional overload, especially after today's visit to Velez Paiz Children's Hospital where they were brought into a back room where there were about 10 very ill children including cleft palates, a baby with no skull - just an exposed area in which there was no brain. It is a preventable condition by using folic acid during pregnancy. The mother who was holding a child that knew there was no hope for her child here - there would be in Costa Rica or the States, but not here.

Anthony Garami noted it was a tough visit - very cramped conditions like we had over a hundred years ago in the States before better understanding of hygiene and sanitation. The most difficult part was at the end inside the neonatal unit. The conditions they saw are exceedingly rare: heart surgery to correct the walls of his heart, and the child with no brain. He reinforced that our ECO project working to increase the healthy vegetables in the diet can work to increase the folic acid in the local people to prevent situations like this. He also thanked all for the help and support throughout the week. He has his faith in the human spirit increase and will move him to come back again.

Sister Debbie shared what happened while she and 2 others were waiting for the rest of the group. She had 2 drinks in her hand, one of hers and one for another person. She accidentally dropped one and immediately the people ran the can under the market water. Sister decided to give the drink to the little girl who had been following her around the market - which made her elated. As a market child, she isn't in school, and was back again this afternoon when she went. When one of our group dropped a cordoba, the 2 boys who were following the little girl and our group ran over, picked it up and gave it back to Liz. Sister said it is always good for us to keep our minds and hearts open.

Some have come up to Sister and mentioned that they don't want to 'reconnect' when they return, but they will have to. She said it is the same with this experience, some will go home forever bonded and others who will go back unchanged. We cannot control anyone else - just our own emotions and experiences. She referred to a Scripture message in Micah: "Act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with God."

Joe Lewis said that we must remember that there always is hope. Almost everyone on mission had quite a bit of energy sucked out of them. He thinks it was summed up by Sister Rosa today and what started as a seed, with a few, right here, the Mission has grown and expanded. The Mission is growing and it is obvious in the interactions with the children in the courtyard and at the shelters we build. There is hope - go home knowing it.

Connie Tyska said that her first trip four years she began not sure of what her role would be. She came to understand a major part of our role is to help all stay healthy, to watch over you; on her second trip she understood it better. She is proud of this mission and all who listened because all are healthy tonight and going home healthy - the promise made to the families back home at the first meeting.

Rinsha Ballani spoke with someone about her experiences at home with being Hindu and her expectations of being with a 'Christian' mission - she was nervous. After a few days here, she found acceptance that she hadn't truly experienced before. Everyone on mission has impacted her in many positive ways.

Kayla Rabideau thanked Rinsha for being patient with so many who wanted to learn about her faith.

Peggy Giroux went to Parajito Azul this morning and found that Joe's song really began to sink to her. When she entered the area with the youngest children, the music was playing and the children were dancing and playing with balloons. She thought to herself, "These are God's Angels." She found joy and love there - it was an incredible experience.

Lou Ann Nielson said that Kitchen Duty was really nice, has now experienced a bucket shower, pouring water in the toilet to flush it, rice & beans nightly was new, living in a bunkhouse was quite different. She came here not a hugger, and will return to the 'Burgh not a hugger, but will continue to hug through Houston! Everyone is hard working with big hearts - she thanked all as her life is better…and she is going to brush up on her Spanish!

Alex Fredette shared his expectations - which were few - but he found it was easier to live in these conditions than expected. He realized just how happy it is here in Nica - he wasn't expecting that. Especially out on Rice & Beans he found many happy people and he knows he is leaving with a more positive attitude, even after visiting La Chureca.

Sister said a sweet moment occurred in the market this afternoon when all of a sudden a mariachi band came around the corner and people came with a cake and sang, "Happy Birthday." She had been negotiating a price with us and it was wonderful to see all the adjacent vendors enjoying the celebration - there are some great pictures I am told (haven't had time to review them, yet, as I write this).

Oscar Flores, on behalf of the people here in Chiquilistagua, he thanked us for all that has been done, especially the 'human touch' we bring when we come. Having people from a different country who want to come is special - the people here will always remember us as we are: friendly, open-hearted.

Sister noted while they were in the city, Oscar and Mauricio had to go to the phone company where she viewed a channel from the US which showed a video of people who have a need to be distasteful, break material things, with disregard for themselves and others in their actions and words. But what made her feel better is knowing what we were all doing back here. But, it reminded her that we must be about tolerance, lack of waste and being respectful for each other.

Stephen Witkiewicz thanked the Kitchen Crew for allowing him to finish his experience with the children tonight.

Sister Steph noted the Kitchen Crew was very fortunate to only have a few hours without electricity and keeping healthy. She encouraged everyone to get a full night's sleep and remember a plastic bag to have, if needed.

Liz Cofrancesco thanked all as she has decided to go into medicine after spending this week on Mission.

Sister thanked Mauricio Flores for being an incredible person with a great sense of humor who is THE man on the ground 365 days a year from early morning to late evening. Sister said, "We can't do this Mission without you - thank you from all of our hearts." A round of applause was given to him!

Rinsha Ballani closed us reflecting on her "Lead America" Conference experience where she heard that her generation is very important to the fate of the earth. She played a song that reflected this Mission, "The Time of Your Life." Certain words meant something to many tonight: "It's something unpredictable, I hope you had the time of your life."

Rinsha then explained that today is an Indian festival where a sister, or female relative, is to honor a brother, or male relative. She had brought with her a special bracelet from home and gave it to her Uncle Sonesh. We appreciated being a part of this ritual.

After our last meeting, the guys put all of the rocking chairs on the 3 beds in the center against the back wall as the final step in today's closing process.

Magaly had wanted to be with us, but sent her best and her thanks as she went home before the rain got very heavy.

The rest spent their last night here packing the suitcases they were assigned or sharing with another person who is carrying a suitcase rather than a chair. Lights were out at the regular 9:30 p.m., but there was about a half hour of talking and sharing still going on - then all was quiet for the few hours of sleep they would be getting.

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