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Mission of Hope

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

By Bonnie Black
Our morning meeting was one of the shortest on record – or so said many veterans afterward…less than a half hour! It was poignant with statements by Sister Debbie and a prayer by Rachel Daly which asked for the openness of our hearts so we can respond to everything that is impacting us.

Sister asked us to enter beyond the initial impact of what we are seeing and feeling. “If we stay on one level, we never change – nor does society. “ She asked us to search and ask the hard questions within us. ‘Why does this exist?’ ‘Why am I here – right now.’ She also asked us to interweave ourselves into the story.

The first crew out this morning was heading to La Chureca (one of the villages in the City of Managua Dump). They were Karen, Janine and Rachel Oberding doing the Women’s Health Clinic, Kathy doing the HIV screenings with assistance by Kendrick and a medical student of Dr. Gonzalez. The lead testing was done by Roger, Bill, Alysia, Nancy Brennan-Jordan with Megan and Barbara interacting with the other medical students who were a part of the screening.

Prior to the clinic, Alysia, Barbara, Megan, Kendrick, Bernie, Eliza and Michelle took a ride around ‘the rim’ with Sister Debbie. You will hear a bit later in the evening meeting portion of this note, but not a lot. I think it may take a few days for the full impact of the experience to begin to reverberate for some.

Our Home Crew went out this morning to build shelters in memory of loved ones. The team of Marty, Jayne Ryan, Paul & Sue O’Connell and Nancy Ashley built the first house for Marbelly Mairena of Cedro Galan in memory of Paul’s parents. The second was constructed in Cedro Galan for Maria Lourdes Sanchez Salazar in memory of Nancy’s husband, Doug Payne.

We made it to the Parajito Azul Disability Center for the first time this mission: Bev along with Sister Cathy and Molly McConnell went to be with the residents and bring special gifts from Sister Stephanie. And, yes, the boys and girls began to ask where she was. Bev explained and I think Sister Stephanie must have felt the warm wishes being sent from the hearts of those with whom she spends so much time when she is here.

James went there to assess projects for tomorrow – installation of a railing along with some minor electrical work. He then went to the store to procure the items before returning to pick up the team and bring them back for lunch.

Brian Mulcahy, Adam, Greg and Patrick went to Our Lady of Guadelupe to build the 4 sets of shelves for the pharmacy. They are so desperately needed – our last shipment of medicines are taken out of the boxes we delivered them in throughout the floor of the room. This will bring an organized and professional system to their small pharmacy.

Matt took a group over to our new site to begin some work on cleanup of the grounds. This has been a vacant lot for decades, so there is much natural accumulation throughout. He was joined by Rachel, Caitlin, Father Sturtz, Alex and Diane.

We did the first grade classes here at Niño with their heights and weights today under the leadership of Alexa. Amanda, Becca, Tara, Zach, Samantha and Vanessa rounded out the team.

Although Joy and Siobhan were to work on the boxing of notebooks, there were medical pickups throughout the morning including an unexpected delivery of 2 palettes from CMMB. We are so greatful for that connection as they have helped us deliver millions of dollars worth of medicines over the past few years.

The kitchen crew was Joan Riani, Bobby Ruggles, Brian LaTulipe and Nancy Cronin who prepared our breakfast and lunch quite well, given that our crews for lunch came in from ‘almost’ eleven through one or so. Once their afternoon duties were done, members of their team joined others ‘in progress.’

This afternoon Matt, Kendrick and Patrick went up to NiCarlos’ to do some work there on conduits.

Alysia was in the Niño Clinic with Dr. Lopez this afternoon while Karen, Janine, Kathy and Rachel O. went to Nejapa for a Women’s Health Clinic.

Diane, Sue and Molly worked on emptying and sorting the final suitcases so that in two days the preparations for returning suitcases can begin.

Rice and Beans took off for ‘far away’ locations with Magaly: Alexa was the leader of first timers Barbara, Vanessa, Zach, Nancy A., Caitlin and Megan. When they returned they prepared rice and beans along with toys for tomorrow’s crew.

Around 2pm, Nancy Brennan-Jordan spoke with a group of the First Responders we have throughout the local barrios about diabetes. These women have been asking for ways to advise their neighbors on handling this illness which is experienced by so many.

Meanwhile, the tedious task of preparing the suitcases alphabetically with the sponsor gifts continued under the guidance of Sister Cathy. Siobhan and Tara assisted and they were able to empty most of the suitcases. Just have to go through alphabetizing the gift cards and the final list can be created for Magaly!

A trip to the Monte Verde Chapel the mission built a number of years ago was taken late in the afternoon by James, Brian M. and Paul. Their assessment was that the electric job was more than our team should handle and we will ask a local electrician who has worked for us at our site before for a pro forma before we leave.

Our Health Fair kits were prepared by Amanda, Becca, Samantha, Jayne, Adam and Rachel as well as others who jumped in from time-to-time as their tasks waned. They got to the point of running out of supplies to put into the kits, so they inventoried what they had done and we are ready to put the boxes into storage on Wednesday or Thursday.

The repair of the women’s bathroom faucet was handled this afternoon by the team of Matt, James, Kendrick and Paul. They were quite inventive in their technique and we are sad to say that it is not non-functional for a bit. They left a ‘sorry’ note on it – and we hope to have it working soon!

The afternoon home building was an interesting one, to say the least. This morning I confirmed with Inocencio that is was required a certain home be built tomorrow morning. But, that was not to be the case, we found out. But, I get ahead of myself! The first home this afternoon was built for Yader Vallecillo of Cedro Galan – a very poor family – by Our Lady of Lords Parish in Schroon Lake. Father Dick Sturtz, Bill Calmbacher and Bev Gogola were part of the team along with Bobby Ruggles for whom, we thought, the second home was to be built. In the middle of building that second home, it was discovered that it was for the family of the sponsored student of Siobhan Norton! So, Marty quickly got in touch with us here at NiCasa, sent a truck to get her and she went to the site accompanied by Sue. She was so glad that we did!

At our evening meeting, we began with a ‘wave’ – something unique….especially when hot showers aren’t always available ;-) For tomorrow night we will meet at 7pm, due to the Ash Wednesday service at 6pm in the church here at Niño.

Today was a day filled with so much, that there was a lot of sharing. Bernie went down the list of what she, Eliza and Michelle did on their ‘mystery ride’ with Sister and Yamilette today: La Chureca, the airport to meet with Delta regarding the lost luggage, CARITAS for a meeting, the fruit market, Pali – a grocery store owned by Wal*Mart, Juan Pablo II infant orphanage, buying tortillas, a box of nails for home building….and they fit in a quick lunch, too!

Sister said they had an extraordinary meeting with Harry Van Belle and the Director of CARITAS. He will be coming out here in the morning and Sister will be taking him to La Chureca and give him a better feel for our organization. We hope that his group might be able to ship a container to this country for us in the future. One of the key of the areas his organization deals in is dehydrated foods which would be a tremendous boost to our feeding programs.

At La Chureca today, she noted that Kendrick helped to support her going up and coming down a sandy incline. A young boy – who many have seen in prior presentations on the dump which Sister presents – reached out to help her, as she began to lose her balance. “I think about the numbers of people we know on a daily basis, the people who suffer and want others to do so, too. But, this boy gave what he had – something very precious – himself.

Bernie found her sponsor child at the Juan Pablo II orphanage today, named Angel. His eyes are damaged from the sunlight he was exposed to when he lived out on the streets with his mother when he was first born. He is learning to walk and talk. Bernie’s cousin is blind, so it was a poignant moment when she met him. The sisters at the orphanage told Sister Debbie that they hoped someone would come to assist and that was Bernie!

We found out that the information Mauricio gave us last week wasn’t completely accurate. There are 13 children between infancy and 5 there while those older are at El Crucero. There are 6 orphans currently living there, while the other 7 are there because their families cannot take care of them.

Bev noted that at her visit to Parajito Azu she met new Jesuit missionary and asked her about Hector. Those of you who have friends and relatives who have traveled with the Mission know of him. He is the teenager who has osteogenesis imperfecta. Bev knew that Hector was losing his sponsorship but was surprised to hear he no longer has a need for the sponsorship nor the medicine. He left in January and this week will be flying to his new family in the US…good news!

Brian Mulcahy thanked the team that went to Guadelupe this morning and spent the day there: Greg, Adam and Patrick really stepped up. They had a tough day, worked hard and got all of the shelves completed; they just need to replace the door to the pharmacy and put in a deadbolt lock and they’ll be done…it should happen by Friday.

Siohban said today’s mission reminded her why she is here. She thanked Joy for all of the answers she provided to all of her questions while they worked together. Then, this afternoon, she was called out to the home site to see her sponsored child’s new shelter. She found the girl’s smile priceless when she saw Siohban arrive. A shy little girl of last year was all grins and hugs today.

Paul noted that they have had an emotional roller coaster ride with their dog of 15 years dying just before they left. Today they built a house in memory of his father and found it was emotional. He was a bit bummed this afternoon with the memories of the passing of his loved ones. Then, just before supper, a girl that Lindsey has been sponsoring for 9 years appeared at the gate. She had been hospitalized with anemia and they never thought they’d see her again. This afternoon, he saw Dania and felt elated –especially because it is Sue’s first mission and she got to meet her. She is 20 now, and has spent 7 months in the hospital not allowing her to complete school.

“I have never felt elation in my life like I did a couple of hours ago,” he said tearfully. He told her that they will do anything to get her back into school next year (medically, she is to remain out this year in order to recover).

Eliza then piped in stating she really enjoyed her day-long trip with Sister. She appreciates the amount of work Sister does to put everything together for the Mission and the various viewpoints of how the Mission started: Sister’s story and Yamilette’s.

Karen noted a remarkable day at La Chureca in the 3 clinics they held. There was amazing help from Dr. Gonzalez and her medical students who were phenomenal. “Not knowing what we were going to find, “ she noted there were 26 tested for HIV and 3 were positive. It was reassuring to know that those 3 will be taken to the next level of care by the medical students at the university with whom they worked today. And it is a bonus that the mentoring physician is an infectious disease doctor. Karen is pleased that the Mission has started something that will continue – and the clinic was as effective as we would have in the US.

Kathy noted the caliber of the students when describing an 18-year-old in medical school who is fantastically bright and motivated with whom they worked today. She found out there is a requirement of a year of community outreach for medical students before they can graduate – and this requirement may be ideal for our future collaboration - a wonderful resource to tap into.

Sister said that Harry was very impressed with the empowerment piece of our Mission –he noted we are different from other missions in that way. There are those who want to come down and make themselves feel better by doing all of the work themselves – and then leave. It was at that point, Sister said, that Johana (of CARITAS) turned to Harry and said, “THAT is what the Mission of Hope is known for here.”

Sister said there have been over a thousand people who have traveled with this mission. But, without a doubt, without Roger Patnode we would not be at the level we are in delivering quality medical care and a positive future perspective focusing on empowerment…and there was a spontaneous round of applause!

Barbara said that she had something to share again tonight. She has found most everything interesting and cool, but she got to put her Christmas present into use. Her daughter gave the Mission 200 pounds of rice and beans and that’s what they got to deliver this afternoon. She saw a pig that she never thought could grow so big! She then described the fantastic smile of an older woman that was so excited that she gave Barbara a big hug and kiss as they left. Barbara handed her a lollipop – and this woman thought it was the coolest thing in the world. It’s really a roller coaster,” she said, “and it’s only been 2 days.

Bobby then told us about his home shelter building experience today. He saw the skinniest pig that he thought was a dog, because it was so thin. He said that it shows that not only the families are suffering.

Nancy Ashley, a veterinarian, was also on the Rice & Beans. She saw a heart-breakingly thin dog who was trying to interact, but it was hard – very difficult.

Sister Cathy told us that she had felt broken-hearted yesterday when she thought that we wouldn’t have the kids in the courtyard in the late afternoon. So, when tonight she saw everyone allowed in, it thrilled her – including the giant slingshot game that Roger brought with him. “It made me felt great the we are able to continue,” she said.

Continued support of the community is continuous interaction with the community.

Marty then jumped in to build on a couple of things that were mentioned. He noted the work of the Local Junta. We have now built over 600 homes in this area of Nicaragua and he told us the Archbishop told him a while ago that we are the only people coming into Nicaragua who are building homes for the poor. Today, he saw that evident in Siobhan’s family which is one of the poorest families he has ever built for. Looking into their dwelling – where 5 children and 7 adults live – was beyond his comprehension. What struck him was the palpable love of the family members. It was a healthy place, emotionally; a devastating place, financially. “To be able to provide them with a new house was the most significant homebuilding project I have been involved with,” said Marty.

Sister told us that Siobhan gave up applying to last summer’s mission in order to work all summer to save the money to provide this shelter for her sponsored family. She was able to save the money and when she was told that she was accepted to the mission, she knew that there was a reason why.

Alexa had her ‘Mission Moment’ today out on Rice & Beans. As she looked back at one of the homes they had provided food to, she noted the mother reaching out and giving the volunteers a sign of the Cross. “They have so much faith that – I don’t know how to put it,” she said. “It is just incredible. It is something I look up to about them. They have so little, but they have great faith in God, that He will take care of them.”

Roger had to say that today was an incredible day. The people that came together in the Women’s Health Clinics are fantastically talented, very warm, very dedicated. “It was just phenomenal to watch,” he said. “The exciting thing is just how talent comes to us.” He noted that early on he knew we needed to do women’s health as part of the Mission. He wasn’t sure how it would be done, but he knew God would provide. “He has provided us with very talented people. They have great ideas of how we can expand this even further – like the HIV testing.” He had been told in the past by the La Chureca Clinic that they wanted HIV testing and this time we were able to do so.

Bill’s First Responders have said over and over that they need to understand more about diabetes. “And, so,” Roger said, “God provided us a very talented person in Nancy Brennan-Jordan, for the diabetes education . He concluded, “It is the prayers of all of us and our continued faith that will allow us to grow and provide. We are just conduits for God’s grace to the people of this community.”

Beyond words, he was thankful to the medical team for the job they are doing and all of the people who are supporting the medical team in getting their job done, including Joy and Diane who have been involved in medical shipments for their immediate reflexing to the delivery of 2 pallets of medicines today from CMMB.

In 2008, CMMB helped us with $15 million worth of medicines, and it was at $10 million in 2009. And that doesn’t count the shipments from MOHTown or anything else we bring here – that’s the value of the direct shipments. So many at home point donations our way – it is amazing…and we are very thankful.

Many missions ago, said Sister, a sophomore in high school came waiting to have her ‘Mission Moment.’ ‘She was beginning to wonder her purpose here, that sense of – isn’t there something better? At that time we were using thin plastic bags bought locally to carry the rice and beans. So, they were out delivering when they dropped a bag of rice. A woman rushed out of her home to pick up the grains of rice off of the ground because they were so precious – their treasure in the field.

It was in that moment, she understood how important it was for her to be here. It’s like the giant cogs in the wheel. We all have a unique role to play in this mission - together.

Marty closed us in prayer – before we had treats bought by Joy from the Niño bakery.

“The handwriting on the wall might be a forgery. Too often we interpret signs in negative and hostile ways…but life isn’t for or against us. If we are attentive, we will see many signs of promise in each day… when we are ready, we will know how to respond and know what to do. In this world of signs we are not alone…the world is good and I am finding my way in it by being patient and learning to read the signs.”

Please be patient with the lack of internet service – you will receive these notes probably 2 days together after this as I have a filled final day here on Thursday. Thanks for your understanding.


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