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Mission of Hope

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August 13, 2010

Mission #37: The Final Chapter

By Bonnie Black
This morning just before 3am, everyone awoke in preparation for heading to the airport leaving behind a fraction of the original A Team: Bill C., Sarah, Betsy and me.

Once everyone had their suitcases in the courtyard and Sister Debbie had arrived, there were some lat minute instructions while passports were handed to each of the travelers. Although they hadn’t gotten more than about 5 hours’ worth of sleep, there was an excitement in the air in anticipation of going home.

Everyone proceeded out to the bus and loaded their suitcases on and hugs were passed around to A Team members standing by, watching them leave. Within a few minutes, the bus was pulling out of the yard followed by Oscar’s car in which he, Sister Debbie and Sister Stephanie were. That was just around 3:30am Nica time (5:30am yours).

A Team then looked to the sky – the first clear evening sky in almost 2 weeks and enjoyed the meteor shower that was occurring. There must be some sort of symbolism in that!

Returning to our beds for an hour or so while others were checking in at the airport, we were having breakfast and getting the last containers together of items to store at our new place when they were boarding their plane – the same one we will take on Saturday morning.

We were able to have the assistance of Chico, Carlos and Rene to move one of our refrigerator’s over to the CFC area for our cooks to use replacing the one that is on its last legs. We donated much of the leftover food to CFC, also. During the day, community members came by to go through the clothing and footwear that travelers chose to donate with most of it gone within a few hours.

We also moved all but our 4 mattresses over to storage, and many more items, but we will need to spend the majority of Friday organizing it so that all can be in the storage area leaving only mattresses in the future Men’s Dorm. That will allow some of the bunkbeds to be brought over with others out in the Pavilion once Sister Liega from San Jose Hospital in Diriamba comes to pick up her items from the container shipment. We’re hoping it is early tomorrow so that we can maneuver things around to make the Pavilion area presentable when the Clinic opens on Monday.

Looking over some notes from the last 2 days, I would like to let you know that members of the Community Development Committee believe a paint sprayer and a pressure washer might be two items that could allow us to complete more projects on each large mission trip. Having borrowed a paint sprayer for this mission made us realize the benefits. As we try to attend to the needs of the local people in Nicaragua, a few of ‘our’ kind of tools can be of great efficiency – we will be able to do more for more!

We have a container set to leave Plattsburgh mid-September, so if you know someone who could donate any of the items I have mentioned over the week, please stop by on Wednesdays between 9:30am and 1pm at our facility on Sharron Avenue.

An interesting note from the boat tour yesterday was the information the tour guide gave us. As we passed by the Managua coastline beyond the port, he said that the land we saw beginning to be reclaimed will house an Olympic-sized pool and a 700 boat marina in the near future. This will extend the Puerto Salvatore Allende Park into the biggest in Central America. Personally, I was wondering who those 700 people might be to own a boat that would need to be at a marina! We proceeded further and he pointed out La Chureca where we could see many trucks bring in landfill. The freshly built extension is being paid for by Spain to house a clothing factory by 2013. Our guide, Joel Altamirano, also said that Spain will be building 258 new homes for the residents/workers there. He also talked about the reclaiming of the lake from the polluted body of water it has become. The process will take 28 years to clean Lake Managua to the point where fish taken from it would be able to be eaten. They have cod, sardines and tilapia, but no one dare eat any at this time. I asked him why there were boats out on the lake and he said they were ‘garbage tenders’ actually picking up the garbage from the surface of the lake and bringing it back for disposal.

He told us that Lake Xolotlan – its original name – is from the Aztec sun god and means “place of the rising sun.” We passed by a small island that he said was once use by Somoza during his dictatorship in the late 20th century. We could see the ‘stairway’ of the rocks that once led to his home there. Now just a tin shack is on the overgrown island. He told us a story that Somoza would entertain his ‘happy girls’ on the island regularly, but once he told his wife he was headed off to Paris for a meeting and wouldn’t be home for a while. He was only on his island and, when word got back to his wife, the home scene was NOT a good one!

As I complete this journal note, it is just after 10:30pm (Nica time) and we are now down to just a few items to go over the morning we leave here at the Nino compound. We will finish our work at the new site tomorrow and secure everything so that after dinner (we will have no stove nor food by that point) we will head back to our bunks and grab a few hours’ worth of sleep. We, too, will head into Managua Airport around 4am on Saturday and be home to our loved ones and friends late that evening/early Sunday morning.

Thanks for allowing me to share Mission #37 with all of you – photos from the last days will be posted over the weekend once I get home for we take down the internet connection in the morning…

Hasta pronto!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

By Bonnie Black
Last night just before ‘lights out’ when Victoria, our laundress, stopped by with our cleaned clothes, a few people had a conversation with her. She let us know how grateful she is that the Mission comes twice a year and uses her services because it puts food on her table for about 6 weeks. That’s hard to fathom when she only charges 5 cordobas per piece – that’s a little less than a quarter. Another story of never-ending poverty in this country.

This morning, everyone went over to our new facility to hold the last morning meeting of Mission #37 which is the first morning meeting in our new home. Yamilette Flores had arrived overnight and was able to join us for the meeting. We decided that this was momentous enough of an occasion that we took a group photo showing everyone who has been on this mission as well as most of the Flores family who gave the impetus for Mission of Hope to be created.

Dale read the parable of the Lost Sheep which stresses the value of One. He noted that we appreciated things here that we usually overlook at home. Sister asked us to take time today to appreciate the Single – the One – and asked our Creator to help us see the world through those eyes. “We will, today, be the history of the future here at this site,” she said. She noted this has been a hard working group during an intense mission schedule.

“It’s also about letting go,” she continued. “But take the time to enjoy – allow God to come into your heart enjoying the beauty, the natural and the market later today. We have very few hours left together.”

Then, she introduced her song of the morning by noting, “This is the moment, but there is always a someday.” With that, we listened to “Some Day” by Celtic Woman. The lyrics that resonated to me were: ‘Someday, life will be fairer, need will be rarer…someday soon.’

Sister then asked Oscar, Yamilette and Ilona to step forward where all could see them. Sister told us again how 23 years ago there was a family that had to flee this country – and that family prayed there would be a someday.

Yamilette then said that thousands have walked through our clinics, we have fed hundreds rice & beans, and to many, Nicaragua has become our second home. “This is the someday – the dream. We are closing one chapter and opening another. I never thought we would come this far. When I spoke with Eve McGill, I thought if 10 people joined up to come help, it might be too many. After speaking with Sister Debbie, about 80 Seton Catholic students were anxious to come here. It was such a joy,” she continued, “that so many wanted to come here. It is ours – it is yours now. You have given your time and energy – you are now Nicaraguans like we are. I can’t believe we have come this far. I thought if we got to 2 years, 2 trips, we would be successful.”

Yamilette than concluded, “Sharing the beauty of the country, sharing the beauty of the people and all Nicaragua has to offer, we are proud of being Nicaraguan and also American.”

Ilona then spoke, “Thanks to all – those who are here for the first time and those who return, especially with family. You have made this a memorable time and I have been taken aback by how much you give.”

Speaking last, Oscar said that sometimes it is hard to communicate in words due to difference in language. “The older people, and sometimes the government, don’t focus on the individual person, but Mission creates hope. One concern moving to the US [23 years ago] was leaving family here – but how lucky we are because our family is bigger. Thank you so much.”

Sister Debbie said that she believes in gestures so she asked all of us to physically touch the doors of the Clinic giving hope and respite to all who will pass through the doors beginning next Monday. Everyone did so and then took a tour of the completed clinic space. The only aspects that need completion over the next week or so are the installation of small sinks in each of the exam rooms and creating ventilation from the pharmacy space into the reception area.

At 8am, a small group left in the van for Masaya Volcano National Park which opened at 9am. The Park comprises an area of 54 km² and includes two volcanoes and five craters. They spent some time at the active volcano itself with a few venturing to the top of a walkway that ends with a large cross overlooking Managua. The volcanoes have erupted several times in history, and were feared by both the indigenous people and the Spanish conquerors. The Spanish baptized the active volcano, "La Boca del Infierno" or "The Mouth of Hell." They planted a cross, "La Cruz de Bobadilla" (named after Father Francisco Bobadilla), on the crater lip in the 16th century in order to exorcise the Devil.

The eruptions have had a dramatic impact on the surroundings. Rocks and volcanic ashes still cover the area surrounding the volcanoes. The nature is rough, yet peaceful. Different types of vegetation appeared after the eruptions. The park is also inhabited by many different kinds of animals. The park's wildlife includes coyotes, skunks, raccoons, opossums, deer, iguanas, and monkeys as well as the various insects that live above the tree line near the mouth of the volcano.

That group then lunched at El Ranchito Vieja before going to the Masaya Market.

Around 8:30am, the rest of our group (except for Sister Debbie, Sister Stephanie, Liz, Ali, Rinsha and Bill M.) headed to the City of Managua to learn a little history and experience a new opportunity: a 50-minute cruise on Lake Managua. We stopped at Dennis Martinez Stadium, the Museum of the Home of student martyr Julio Buitrago Urroz, the Plaza of the Revolution and the park around it, the Peace Plaza, then on to Puerto Salvatore Allende for the boat cruise.

Our group lunched at Cocina de Dona Haydee in the upstairs dining room where all could be seated at one table. Afterward, we had the chance to go to Roberto Huembes Mercado named after a martyr of the Revolution who was killed in 1977. We met up with Jonan who helps us to get to the most vendors with the best deals in the shortest period of time.

While we were all gone, Bill M. moved every computer monitor and all of the wiring shipped down on the container into NiCarlos, but the bad news is we could not find 6 of the many towers we shipped. Even with the monitoring that we have through CARITAS for our goods, it seems that not everything makes it every time.

Sister Debbie, Mauricio and Liz went to the mattress factory to look for specific sizes that Casa de Vida needs for their beds…and then found the mattresses were not wide enough even though they were the correct length. After discussion on the phone, we decided to take 13 of the foam mattresses we have at NiCasa which can be shortened and deliver them to Casa de Vida. The 13 mattresses which fit only cots that were bought at the factory are going to El Crucero for the children’s beds.

They then dropped off the medicines we had promised to Juan Pablo II afterward. When they arrived, Angel was in the front wearing Demi’s sunglasses from the other day – guess he really liked them!

I went off to return the van to the airport while everyone began to enjoy our traditional Pizza Night sponsored by Sister Stephanie’s family and Whirley Industries for whom Sister’s nephew worked. Shawn was on one of the first missions and is the only traveler who has passed away at this point in time.

At the closing meeting tonight, Liz Hill shared a story about Karen, her friend – the person she met here on her first mission when she was 12 and Liz was 14 (now they are 19 and 21, respectively). Both of them are in university and study economics, but Karen said she was her friend for life. Liz then noticed Karen’s toes poking out of the ends of sneakers because they were too small. So Liz asked her to try on her shoes that she had these shoes for 4-5 years. She plays soccer for the university she attends and doesn’t have any other shoes. So, Liz suggested that they switch shoes to see whose feet were bigger. Liz’s shoes were just about right, so Liz said she could have them. Karen insisted that she pay her back although she couldn’t right now. So, she tied a bracelet around Liz’s wrist and said, “I want this back when I pay you for the shoes.” THAT is friendship!

Ross shared that he got the sponsorship of Renya, the little girl he had hoped for, at Angels of Hope Orphanage in El Crucero! He had told many about her the day he got back from El Crucero and he knew the minute she smiled at him that he wanted to sponsor her.

Mary thanked all for making this mission so great. Chris H. said she was so pleased with how well the youth and adults blended and got along.

Mission is different from other mission groups as we have youth as young as 15 on this mission to 79 – and everyone works and everyone shares and participates.

Sister mentioned the discussion already going on among Leadership Team members regarding retaining the name ‘NiCasa’ as we transition to our new location.

Rinsha led us in the closing prayer for Mission #37 followed by ‘Closing Time’ by Green Day. She said that Sister tends to give thanks to everyone else and that we need to take time give her credit for all that she handles while we are here on Mission. We all need to keep each other in our prayers and, as Sister says, our Mission truly begins when we get home.

When the meeting was over, everyone headed in to complete their packing for their 3am wakeup call coming quickly.

August 11, 2010

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

By Bonnie Black
There was a hubbub of activity today as most of us moved into ‘shutdown’ mode. Why today? Well, Wednesday will be our ‘tourist’ day with a trip to the Masaya National Park and another on a City Tour focusing on historic sites and a new boat ride on Lake Managua – more about those tomorrow!

Of course, we had a diligent Kitchen Crew comprised of Chris G., Adrianne, Sarah and Chris H. switching with Brenda coming in this afternoon while she joined her daughter on another ‘road trip’ with Sister.

Our BBB was accomplished by Brenda, Sam, Chris G., and Dale.

At our morning meeting, Stephen showed us a variety of lined purses that Magaly has for sale. Sister reminded us that she not only is caring for her own family, but has also taken in her nephew and niece. Many of us made selections throughout the day!

Anne provided a personal reflection on perseverance and Sister asked us to listen to Laurie True’s, “What Have You Done.” She then asked us to consider if what we’ve done outweighs our shortcomings – that is what our Creator is expecting of us. “Did you make room in your heart, in your life…in the Inn?” She asked our Higher Spirit to restore and refocus us to what the Mission is all about.

Our first ‘to do’ was the distribution of Sponsor Gifts to the students from Nejapa and a half hour later, we gave out your gifts and cards to the student here at Nino. Thanks to Joan, Chris H., Bill C., and Brenda for coordinating it all this morning.

Immediately afterward, Bill M. led a painting group up to El Crucero for the day: Patty, Betsy, John, Izzy, Sam and Mary. While others were painting, Bill M. worked on getting the computer room electronics ready for the point of installation of internet service which should occur soon.

At the same time, people began moving in a variety of directions. Off to the last day at Parajito Azul were Sr. Stephanie, Ross and Kyle, bringing some donated sewing machines and other items designated for them.

Working on organizing suitcases for our return were Bill C. and Brenda who were joined by Chris H. and Joan partway through. By lunchtime, everyone returning on Thursday had their designated suitcase by the foot of their bed tagged and ready for grabbing at 3:30am on Thursday. Of course, if they make any purchases at the markets tomorrow, they will fit them inside (along with some dirty laundry, perhaps??!!).

Medical Outreach had one more short stint this morning with a 10am walk with Magaly taking Cathy, Liz and Colleen out to see infirm locals.

Everyone else was involved in transferring most of everything from here to there…being our new facility. Allen had Anne, Dale, Stephen, Megan transferring items while Dave had Demi working with him taking Home Depot apart and readying for the others to move.

This afternoon, Cathy was in our new clinic preparing it for Thursday’s patients along with Stephen and Ross while Joan and Sister and Brenda worked on sorting the food for storage or our Children Feeding Children program.

Another trip to La Chureca was made by Chris H., Colleen, Kyle, Megan and Anne.

Continuing the transfer of kitchen, bath and tool items to the new facility were Dave, Allen, Dale, Bill C., and Demi. The Kitchen Crew jumped in over here in our ‘old’ place to close down the smaller items and prepare them for transfer.

Once the La Chureca group got back (around 2:45pm) they jumped in and assisted others with all tasks needing to be done today. It will certainly help A Team on Thursday when we have to finalize the storage area in the new facility as our first task in the completion of the move and inventory everything.

We enjoyed a special dessert tonight at dinner: rum cake made by Nora, one of our local cooks. Many adults did enjoy it while a few of the younger travelers thought it might not be their favorite…more for A Team!

At our evening meeting Sister began with a review of the suitcase assignments that were made today. Then she reviewed the passport procedures for 3am Thursday morning and passing through Customs in Houston, etc.

Tomorrow the Masaya Volcano National Park will depart at 8am and the City Tour will leave at 9am. We’ll each have lunch out and go to different markets: City to Huembes Market and Masaya to Masaya Market.

Chris and Colleen purchased ‘Shrek’ Oreo’s for our meeting snack tonight – a little taste of home. Then we began our sharing time.

We began with Chris G. sharing “How Come” by Ray LaMontayne which is a song about the world in general, but Chris feels he finds correlation to here. “All I see is a child of God in misery” is one of the phrases that stood out to me with so many people visiting La Chureca this week and the poverty that most of us experienced – ‘everyone on a shoestring’ – while doing Rice & Beans and Medical Outreach.

Liz then shared her experience at ‘the rim’ today at La Chureca when she was walking with a little boy who asked her to bring him back with her once he found out that she was from the United States. She then proceeded to find a good location to take a video – off the path into a pile of garbage right into a nest of black ants! Swarming over feet, she freaked a bit, and needed to shake the ants out of her shoes as they were stinging her. After that, she noticed that the little girl who was around them was barefoot yet asked her if she were OK. The little boy stayed near her and helped Liz by slowly tying her shoes for her. What a powerful gesture. As Sister said, it reminded her of the washing of the feet by Mary.

Ross told us of the buying of gas on the way to Parajito Azul where they only got 200c. of gas after giving him 300c. Sister Stephanie went into the market and tried to explain that she needed either 100c. or more gas. He and Kyle joined her in the store and, after a half hour, Jairo was able to get more gas.

Sister Stephanie noted that Kyle and Ross had the people at Parajito Azul laughing while working on the concept of sharing and assessing dominant hands, etc.

Those who painted at El Crucero got into their music while painting! Mary said she could tell that when the facility was built, it was once a nice place to live, but now it leaks so much that water comes in and so much is rusted. She said it was obvious that the care nuns give is as if they were their own. Patty then said she saw a hairy spider and screamed – moved fast – and Bill M. came to her rescue.

Sister thanked Joan and her team for the good distribution of gifts this morning and the prep work at MOHTown by everyone for making this work so smoothly. A special piece of the morning was finding Diana, the sister of Alba who many of us have known for years and is now in the Oriental Market. Her other sister is catatonic, father is abusive and mother is not mentally stable. Diana told Sister that she is now going to Nicaraguan Christian Academy down the road based on her scholastic testing in the English language. Her hope is to be a doctor by attending university here and then on to the US under a scholarship. THAT is a great sense of hope.

Adrianne said that she believes Bill M. is a workhorse and Sister noted that all the adult men on this mission have really been great with sensitive issues and deal with many things in appropriate ways. They have been strong models for the young men in this group.

Stephen said that Demi was THE pounding woman today as she removed shelves from Home Depot and the Kitchen Storage Closet. Everything was removed and taken apart – she was great!

Bill M. said that from a Community Development perspective this is the first mission that everything on it got done plus more! A smaller mission than usual and a great feat.

Allen told us that all the locks are in and the new facility looks great, so Sister said that this mission deserves to be the first mission group to hold a meeting and prayer on that site. We will meet at 7am there! Great closure to a great mission.

We closed with the song, “Someday” by Celtic Woman to which she suggested we put our own ‘images’ to the song as we listened. “We all are part of one world, we all share the same dream. Reach out to me and we’ll find deep down inside I’m just like you” was the essence. Opening our hearts, reaching out, we are no longer strangers to those we didn’t know a week ago. I think it isn’t lost on anyone that we lose track of ‘real world’ time when we are here; the time here in Nica is truly short, yet so much is accomplished, so many lives changed – theirs and ours – and, hopefully, all with a better perspective on the fact we truly are part of one world.

August 10, 2010

Monday, August 9, 2010

By Bonnie Black

First, I am going to apologize the all of the spouses who read yesterday’s journal and then expected a phone call. Well, as things happen here, by the time that a few of us were ready to call after the meeting, the phone we could use had left Nicasa. So, just know that we were all thinking of you even if we couldn’t speak. It will be just a few days for most of you and then you will see us, but to my husband (the others on A Team who are closing up don’t have a spouse) I must say that Sunday morning is less than a week away!

We are now at the point in Mission #37 that we are winding down our projects with today and tomorrow our last full days of work.

This morning, around 4:15am, Connie left us to return home with Oscar taking her to the airport. That reminds me that when your traveler gets back, you will find that they are either chattering away about their experiences or not saying much. Each of us processes these experiences in a different way – and it’s different every time we return home. For some, we can begin to talk about details right away and share most everything; for others, it takes time to fully absorb what our senses are bombarded with here and then sift through those emotions experience by experience. So, if your family member isn’t as forthcoming as you would like (I know from being on your end, I wanted to hear ALL about it right away!) be patient. In time, stories will be told, experiences shared, for memories have been made that may fade over years but will never be forgotten.

At this morning’s meeting Sister shared the day’s expectations and we reviewed the board. Then, she asked who had morning prayer and she was reminded that it hadn’t been assigned! So, I suggested that I read the poem created by Michele Oberding who was with us in February. It goes with the thoughts I began this journal note with, so you will get a flavor of the impact of Mission on those of us who travel here (see attachment). As Sister said, the adage that still waters can run deep is true of various people who come on mission and it is not always noticeable, at first, the depth of the impact until there is time for reflection.

OK – to the day-to-day stuff! Our Kitchen Crew was Joan, Chris H., Ali and John in the morning with a switch off (due to our scheduling boo-boo) later in the day with Brenda and Rinsha stepping for Joan and Chris H. In our scheduling late last night, we didn’t remember the change that was made earlier in the Mission!

BBB was Ross, Dave, Adrianne and Colleen. Yes, for the men there is duplication, but that’s because there are 2 people assigned each day (it really is an all day job on top of other assignments) and there aren’t enough men travelers this time to have the luxury of doing it only once.

A team headed out to Parajito Azul to put together shelving from the remnants of the wood from the bed supports made a few days ago for Casa de Vida. They had been painted by a crew a couple of days ago, so Dave and Izzy with Megan, Adrianne, Betsy, Mary and Brenda took the van there bright and early this morning to work with the residents and build the shelves in the toy room. Brenda told us later that they had been able to make wheelchairs out of regular chairs that work very well.

Allen took Kyle and Sam up to our former clinic to assure that everything was cleaned out and that we had left it pristine (I went up later to take pictures, too).

Just after 8am, Sister, Joan, Mauricio, Oscar, Carmen Leiva (who used to teach at Nino) and I went to the Chiquilistagua Public School just up the road. We met with the principals and most of the teachers learning there are 831 students (Pre-K through 5th Secondary) and 15 teachers. This is a typical Nicaraguan student:teacher ratio – so much different than ours. They have a desire for a kitchen where they could cook some food, if they had it. In the beginning of the school year (February) the government provided some rice & beans & oil, but those supplies ran out in less than 2 months. Another desire is to establish a Library for the use of their students and teachers – we had done one for Colegio Nino Jesus de Praga by Seton Catholic students, this might be an educational project a school could adopt over the next year. Their hope is to eventually have a complete set of textbooks for every grade as a full reference for all. We reinforced that our goal is to serve the poorest of the poor, so it would be necessary to stay consistent with that philosophy as we move forward. They also have a large concrete area that could be repaired and lined with backstops put in for a basketball court. So many possibilities! Our Leadership Team will be discussing how we best serve this school where many poor children attend. We might be able to do a pilot project there with one of our focused groups in mid-winter. There are also many possibilities for ECO teaching, too!

As we were walking back from the high school area, Oscar repeated that this was on Oscar’s grandfather’s former farm property which extended for a large expanse from farther up on the hill down past the main Old Leon Road. It was ironic that the lawyer who manipulated the land from his grandfather later lost it all during the Revolution to the government.

Joan then had John working on finding 13 mattresses here that we can donate to Casa de Vida that are shorter than 6 feet long. THAT was a trial and error process! They came up with 2; so we just have to purchase 11 now.

This morning it was Allen and Sam over at the new site doing some of the painting and lock boring.

Bill M. along with Ross, Chris G., Kyle and Anne began the ECO project on our new property. They said it was unbearably hot with 3 of them ‘dropping’ out after a while. They planted 3 rows of 13 moringa seeds that should be used in the future for leaf production. We are assuming they will be topped in January or February when they reach 5 to 6 feet. They also planted 2 rows of 7 moringa seeds for full height trees which will produce more moringa seeds for future projects.

Heights and Weights were taken at Nejapa School this morning by Bill C., Dale, Demi, Colleen and Liz. They discovered that the school is now on split sessions, so the students who were on the list from last time were not all part of the morning session, so they in their place they added in others.

Sister Debbie had Sister Stephanie and Patty join her at El Crucero this morning to complete the photos for the Orphans’ Hope Project and to bring some much needed vitamins for the orphans along with a donated DVD player and a CD player. The morning El Crucero trip was mainly networking with the sisters and the Orphans’ Hope Project and picture taking.

The Medical Outreach scheduled for this morning was rescheduled for this afternoon as the First Responder who was to be here at 8am didn’t show, so at 2:30pm we went with Magaly: Cathy, Liz, Patty and myself.

Going to the El Crucero “Angels of Hope” orphanage this afternoon were: Stephen, Ross, Colleen, Joan, Demi, Chris G., Chris H., and Sam. It was a play day and delivery of 3 sewing machines from donors ‘up north’ and 5 gifts sent by sponsors.

Working at the new property were Allen, Betsy, Anne, Adrianne, Kyle and Bill M. Sorting the school supplies for the Chiquilistagua Public School we visited this morning were Megan and Mary who joined Allen’s crew when they were done.

At 2pm, a truck took Bill C., Dave, Dale and Izzy out on Rice & Beans delivery. We didn’t think of it until just before they left, but I believe this is the first all-men crew that we have sent out! They even stopped at the new facility to get some toys out of storage that Dave knew were there from his sorting day yesterday.

After dinner, Joan asked Chris H., Izzy, Adrianne, Megan and Colleen to help set up the dining room for tomorrow’s gift distribution.

Adrianne and Kyle washed the floor of our old clinic after dinner, I took pictures, and we handed the keys over to the nuns here at Nino who told us to give them to Marta. This was closure to a very successful growth in providing healthcare to residents of this barrio. The initial days of hundreds of people crushing against the doors for the once-a-year doctor visit has grown into a new clinic on our own property with scheduled appointments with a Nicaraguan doctor handled by Marta, Yamilette Flores’ sister, who lives up the road. Something of which everyone who has gone on the 37 missions should be proud.

Tonight’s evening meeting treats were from the Parajito Azul Center donated by Brenda. Thanks, Brenda!

The first item of ‘business’ we discussed was the suitcases, carryons and processes for traveling back home on Thursday and information on shopping the market on Wednesday. Lots of little details!

Sister told us that Connie called her twice today, once when she landed in Houston and another when in Newark (Note: As of this writing, she landed safely in Burlington and was on her way home with her husband – G’night. Con-con!).

Mary & Megan told us that in the sorting today for the Public School, they sorted supplies into teachers, young students and older students cartons – about 12 boxes to deliver on Wednesday morning. The schools will be quite pleased with this large donation, I am sure.

This afternoon Sister and Oscar and Mauricio spent a long time in a meeting at CARITAS. Contrary to what we had been told before, it may not be true that all shipments to CARITAS must stop by the end of the year. Sister said that is under negotiation – but in any case, our September container shipment will be fine.

Betsy shared that Helen, the embroideress at Parajito Azul, has improved immensely in her skill. She is rendering reindeer and integrated the threads so that the fur actually looks brown. Adrianne and Mary said how the small manipulatives that Sister Stephanie saves in the dining room at home were being used by the physical therapist for the residents. Sister said she admires the commitment and ingenuity of Brenda, Adrianne, and Sister Stephanie returning and finding such joy. Adrianne said that Maria is amazing in developing fantastic manipulatives out of bottle tops, toilet paper rolls, meat trays, etc.

Brenda reinforced the caring atmosphere that Sandra, the Director and Founder, has established.

Liz talked about the Medical Outreach team of the afternoon which visited a man with advanced Parkinson’s who gave her a better understanding of the disease and the sharpness of the mind of someone who might not be able to communicate readily or control his physical actions. Cathy said that he is an example of the poverty here in that they will stretch the medicines by reducing the amount per day so they don’t have to fill the prescription as much.

Adrianne had a similar thought about the Parajito Azul residents who truly understand and hear everything even though it may appear to us that they don’t. Mary then spoke about the smaller youth she interacted with and became emotional when she told us that she was the age as the young person.

This afternoon, Sam met her sponsored child at El Crucero, a 15-year-old young girl who she said was very sweet. Joan said she was shocked at the deterioration of the facility in just a year. Patty chimed in regarding her experience of almost staying for lunch there today!

Sister told us that Sister M&M told them about Kevin, a new child, who is her real nephew. Her sister abandoned him there leaving him in the care of the nuns. She then returned and, after a while, Sister M&M had to ask her to leave due to her behavior, choosing to leave her son there with her biological sister. Sister M&M is still struggling with that situation.

We closed this evening’s meeting with a selection Sarah chose because of the meaning it has for her relating to her first mission. It was the song that came on the radio the first night she was back home, returning from work which heightened her emotional memories of the previous week: “Weep Not For the Memories.” It was quite poignant for a number of us. Sister prayed that we all have sweet dreams and memories tonight as we near the end of our time here.

Nicaragua by Michele Oberding
Packs of children slam into my knees
They are as loving as lions are fierce.
Small hands slip into mine.
Their joy is contagious as they pull on my arms demanding, “Juega! Juega!”
I can’t help but smile and run around on the stone courtyard. Seven year old boys sprint faster than me.
We all fall down dying of laughter.

They run home to their parents after school. They return dragging their worn out mothers to meet me. I can see the age in their eyes. Everything they have been through. The struggles they endured to give their children a home.

Their home – a ten by ten foot place
Built out of hard wood and corrugated steel.
Children run around with the chickens and cows amidst barbed wire clotheslines But still…they have a roof over their heads.

A girl lives behind the fruit stands.
I see her standing by a stream of water on the pavement.
Water, by the smell of it, that is probably not water.
I see her drawl on her table.
Her bed.

I look into her eyes
I see them, dark and hollow like the night sky she sleeps under A blanket of sorrow that her mother’s love can’t remove as hard as she tries.
The flies of poverty remain buzzing over her life.
But like the flies over the fish her brother attempts to sell, they remain.
No matter how many times they are swatted.
But still…at least she has her table.

I enter La Chureca, translated ‘thing that is not right.’
I see mountains
Ten miles of garbage spread before me
I see the cattle,
Hear the caws of birds
Smell the pollution and burning garbage.
The smoke covers their lives.
Covers them in filth
Covers them in pain
Covers them in poverty
They can’t wash it off because the only water is the lake covered in green scum The lake has taken the lives of many children who were playing there because they can’t afford school.
The garbage is the families’ whole lives At 9am I see people, small children, walking through the garbage picking up whatever they can sell.

Beep Beep
People come running as our garbage becomes their gold.
It’s worth everything to them
Worth even their daughters whose fathers sell into prostitution in order to get first dibs at a new load of garbage.
And what is this girl left with?...nothing

But then I think back to the small hands in mine The shining, hopeful eyes.
And I think what if someone helped the little girl in the market sleeping on her table?
What if there were people who would try to stop the selling of young girls?
And lastly I think to myself, why can’t that someone be me?

August 9, 2010

Sunday, August 8, 2010

By Bonnie Black
This morning we began with a more leisurely meeting as we did not have any work crews heading out until after Mass. Sister Debbie told everyone that this will be a very unique Mission on the last couple of days as we will be moving everything over to our new site in anticipation of being able to use it for the February mission. Oscar believes we will also be able to move the bunkbeds, too!

Sister encouraged us to attend Mass, regardless of faith or belief, as it is a sign to the community of our support of their lives. She also noted that today is the Dominican Feast Day, so it is very special to her and Sister Stephanie as that is their order.

After a bit of sharing from yesterday (most was added to yesterday’s Journal before being sent this morning) she told us that Jonan connected with Sister Stephanie yesterday who also took a ‘mystery ride’ – her first in all of her missions! Jonan called the States three times while Sister Stephanie was in the hospital and the rehab section of Meadowbrook last winter to check on her health. So, they were very pleased to see other. But, what they found out was that his son, who had been seen by Connie a few days ago, spiked a fever overnight and is now in the hospital. So we will be holding Jonan’s family in prayer.

Sister also mentioned that there are two families celebrating their anniversaries within the next few days: Connie & Henry Tyska and Allen & Tracy Pellerin. In honor of those joyful occasions, of the spouses who are here (Connie and Allen) received a special dessert at dinner!

Sister then began our morning reflection time with some of the statements she had heard over the past few days: I’m not good, like everyone else here; The Mission is the best thing that has happened to me – since my birth; I never knew how spoiled I was; I lost a best friend a month ago, who was 17 years old, to brain cancer; A lifelong best friend is in her last days of life; I didn’t know my purpose for coming…until now. With those thoughts in our hearts and minds, Sister asked us to listen for reassurance, comfort, support in gratitude and hope to a musical selection by Carey Landry, “Isaiah 49 Medley – Only a Shadow.”

After some contemplation, it was announced that today is Connie’s last day with us here in Nica on Mission #37 as she must return to the States unexpectedly. We will be praying for her and her friends.

We all went to church just before 9am to attend Mass…and it was over a half hour before the priest arrived! It was hot, sticky, uncomfortable and took a lot of focus to remember why we were waiting there. When he arrived, it was not Father Jalder, but another priest whose name we did not get. In his sermon, he correlated the work that we do in the area with the Gospel reading for the day and reminded his parishioners that everyone should be focused more outwardly than selfishly. At the end of service, after it was closed, Sister Rosa made announcements about the Assumption of Mary Festival next Saturday at 5pm (we will all be gone by that point) and then personally thanked the Mission of Hope for all that we have done and do for the far-reaching community. It’s always nice to hear that!

Today’s Kitchen Crew, of course, started their day – and a bit early! Many heard noises in the kitchen before 5am. But, the ‘official’ crew began together around 5:30am: Sister Stephanie, Demi, Stephen and Anne. Our BBB team was Anne, Demi, John and Bill M.

A group headed over to Casa de Vida to finish the repairs and do a little painting today so that prpoject will be completed for this mission: Bill M., Dale, Ali, Rinsha, Brenda and Joan. They spent the entire day there so that we could do what we committed to do.

With only a few more days left in this Mission and the daunting task of readying the new facility to open as a clinic next week and leave everything ready for our February mission team, work was needed to be done on sorting the cartons from the last container shipment which, of course, had been thrown (literally) into one of the spaces. Dave along with Adrienne, Kyle, Megan, Izzy and Chris G. handled the beginning of that project this morning.

Allen had John with him and pulled a couple from Dave’s team to complete all but a small section of the new facility with a second coat.

Our medical team headed out to Juan Pablo II baby orphanage this morning to do assessments on the tykes there and were quite pleased with the situation. It was clean, organized – evidence that our Orphans’ Hope Project (which is fully sponsored there) is having a positive impact. Connie, Cathy, Bill were joined by Colleen, Patty, Demi and Liz.

Sister took a group on an educational trip to La Chureca: Sarah, Betsy, Chris H., Ross, Sam and Mary.

At lunchtime, crews changed – except for the Casa de Vida team which was out all day. In the afternoon, ahead of the rain, Connie and Cathy headed over to the new clinic to complete setting up the exam rooms and preparing them for use next week. They pulled ‘labor’ as needed from the others who were completing the painting of the facility, sorting cartons and drilling locks: Allen, Sam, Adrianne, Dave, Patty, Bill, Ross and Izzy. They also began the sorting of the larger medical equipment sent on the last container into distinct sections for easy distribution to the facilities with which we work.

This afternoon, Sister took the van so many could get a ‘mystery ride’: Colleen, Chris H., Chris G., Megan, John, Kyle, Mary, Sarah and Betsy. They got stopped by the police! Actually, this was because they took a dirt road into the rim of La Chureca and the van was filled with ‘gringos.’ They really stopped them because the police wanted to make sure that everyone in the vehicle was safe.

We began tonight’s meeting with a special way: tres leche cake and chocolate chip muffin for both Allen and Connie. “You are certainly ‘life’ for the Mission and the spouses you aren’t with on your anniversary,” said Sister. The rest of us were provided with a treat tonight by the ‘Chrises’ which was mantequillas, Nicaraguan cookies.

Stephen had a song, in Spanish, about a person on a rocketship who is about to die removes his country’s emblem from his spacesuit and writes that any one life is more important than country or labels of any kind. This was very poignant, especially for the situation that is sending Connie home tomorrow. In celebration, Sister offered her phone to allow us to call our spouses!

Sharing began with Bill M. thanking his Casa de Vida crew for all they did accomplishing what they did – we’re done for this mission!

Allen then echoed thanks for his painting crew, including Sam who while protected with plastic got the most paint he has ever seen all over her! Patty and Izzy got their paint on the building and the guard shack – at least more than Sam ;~)

At the rim, there was a conversation about the fact that some people believe that

Mary said it was difficult, but helpful to see everything for herself, putting it all in perspective. The feeling she had was an increased awareness that each little bit counts, even though there isn’t a quick, complete fix.

Ross shared that the ‘Welcome to Hell’ sign scared him in the beginning, but the assurance at the end by the sign, “God bless us all.” He felt, though, that there isn’t much hope. Sam disagreed because felt there were the happiest children she has seen so far. Big smiles, not asking for stickers or anything, all made her feel good.

Rinsha thanked us for being so accepting, on both missions, with appreciation and desire to learn about Hinduism. “They appreciate me for who I am and that’s not always the feeling I get back home,” she said.

Connie said it was really hard for her to say, ‘Goodbye’ tonight. She said she is going to miss all of us terribly. ‘I will be here every night with you and I know that you will be with me.’ She reflected that on her first mission return she told her husband, “I will never go back to that hell hole, but here I am on my 4th mission. Embrace everything you experience over the next few days. You are all part of the Nica experience as Mission #37.”

Sister acknowledged that Connie has some difficult days ahead. She shared a text from Ann Sullivan who has two daughters on this Mission letting Sister know that we are all on prayer chains in NJ, NY and FL.

Demi shared her experience at Juan Pablo II, playing and holding the babies, including Angel (who many of us know) who fell asleep on her as if she were an armchair. Sister told all of us that the new Orphans’ Hope Project, spearheaded by Mission #33 traveler Barbara Dobilas, now has all of the orphans there and at El Crucero are sponsored. It was obvious that this has already had an impact on the facility.

Sarah affirmed that the conditions, including the painted gate out front, have much improved. “I couldn’t believe the 360 degree change. It warms my heart that the situation has changed.”

Dale, who was at Casa de Vida, met a cute little girl there while he was plastering a wall that Dave and his crew put up yesterday. A young woman moved her chair so that she could watch him. Rinsha echoed the gratitude that the women expressed at the end. Ali then shared that they played with the children and the Silly Bandz on their breaks. Ali asked Rinsha to let the children know that they could take some. They were a bit hesitant at first, but got really into it, playing with the Bandz. They traded the Bandz and laughing which was a complete change from the silent observing children they had first met when they arrived.

Patty told us that she took some awesome pictures today at Juan Pablo II (and, they are!!) of Liz and for Demi. Liz shared the joy she has around babies and how much she appreciated viewing the photo. Mary said her day was totally brightened when they arrived at Juan Pablo II right after La Chureca.

Cathy said that all of those babies were all good babies who are well fed and well taken care of, even though most had respiratory issues. They had the expected psychosocial development which was great to know. Sister said they delivered fruit, milk and chicken later today and wanted to enter the back, but the Sister said that they couldn’t because they had just sprayed for cockroaches. That was good news, because it was an issue the last time they were there.

Dave hinted at the high level of interaction among the people ranging from John to Bill C. That is what is so unique about this Mission. “The wisdom rests in each one of us,” said Sister.

Sister told everyone here that Bill C. has singlehandedly established a system of First Responders in this community. “It was great insight on his part – an incredible gift he has provided to the Mission,” noted Sister. Adrianne was amazed that Bill is almost 80 years old!

Closing prayer was Carey Landry’s, “Tears of God,” which Sister uses in various presentations that she makes about the Mission. It was very a propos for the various experiences travelers have had to this point.

Some of the people here did not know the ‘real’ story of the Mission of Hope, so Sister shared that after the meeting for those interested.

August 8, 2010

Saturday, August 7, 2010

By Bonnie Black

We took our 'official' group photo this morning in front of the church here at Colegio promptly at 7am - not too sunny and the rain had stopped even though we had a torrential downpour overnight.

Allen took his painting crew for the morning right over to our new location before the meeting so they could beat the possible rain: Betsy, Dale, Chris G., Mary and Megan.

Sister told us at the morning meeting that we would not be holding one tonight as we are all scheduled to go into the city to see the annual Ballet Folkorico Nicaraguense in the Teatro Ruben Dario. She also had the Point Persons give a few reminders regarding housekeeping and hygiene issues.

Our morning prayer was a reflection on a song performed by Susan Boyle, "Who I Was Born To Be." Sister asked us to think of our growth and awareness as missioners this week as we listened to the lyrics that speak to a journey from youth to adulthood. We are coming to a realization that who we are is who we were born to be, maximizing our potentials in a myriad of ways that we had not thought of before coming here.

At the end of the meeting, we dispersed to our assignments for the morning. Our Rice & Beans trek was taken by Sarah, Rodd, Chris H., Stephen, Demi and Sam. The last 2 home shelters donated by Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Schroon Lake had the team of Brenda, Bill C., Anne, Kyle and Adrianne. The first home was built for Lusia Solis of Cedro Galan who has 3 children, so the 4 of them now have their own home. The second home shelter was for Amanda Tellez, neighbor of the first woman. Amanda and her husband have 4 children, so the 6 of them will be living in the 8 x 10 home shelter now.

Joining the bulk of travelers at the new facility were Connie and Cathy putting the final touches on the pharmacy and setting up the 2 clinic exam rooms; assisting with the wash down of the donated equipment that arrived on the last container shipment were Liz, Dave, John and, as an hiatus from painting, Mary and Meg.

Everyone who wanted to got their hands on Allen's sprayer and worked on the first coat of paint for the facility. It will need a second coat, but we will need to look at the forecast as to whether we do it tomorrow or on Monday or Tuesday.

There was a meeting at the new facility to review the balance left to do on Phase I of the project and to walk out what we hope to have as Phase II. Sister, Oscar, Bill M., Mauricio, Ilona, Allen, Chico (our general contractor) and I spent over an hour processing the plans and looking at what should occur in which order. We will have Jeremy Dumont back home adjust the printout and then, via email, provide one to Chico and also to our administrator, Mauricio, along with our New Facility Development Committee.

Bill M. then went into the city with Chico to look at the electrical issues he uncovered at Casa de Vida yesterday. After he returned at lunchtime, he realized that with the Theatre trip tonight, it would not be an efficient use of time for his afternoon assigned painting crew to go there. Instead, he had Megan, Rinsha, Dale, Brenda and Chris H., prepare the shelves we will be able to put up at Parajito Azul in their toy room. The installation will occur either Monday or Tuesday.

This morning's 'mystery ride' got off to a later than expected start for Ali and Rinsha.

And I certainly cannot forget that our Kitchen Crew for the day was Joan, Colleen, Patty and Izzy while our BBB were Ali, Rinsha, Ross and Bill C.

In the afternoon the last two homes, each donated by the Pellerin family and by the Slater family, were built by Allen, Demi, Ali and Dave, Chris G., and Liz. The first home of the afternoon was donated by the Slaters and it went to Concepcion Martinez and her young child in Monte Verde. The Pellerin home was built in memory of William and Norma Colvard, the in-laws/grandparents of those here on Mission and it went to Mayling Lacayo of Chiquilistagua and her husband along with their 6 children here in Chiquilistagua.

Back at the new clinic were Betsy, Sarah, John, Bill C., Mary, Kyle, Adrianne, Anne and Stephen who completed a second coat of paint on all but 2 rear walls of the clinic and got the sealant on most of the guard shelter. We are quite optimistic that if the weather is in our favor, the exterior of the buildings will be completed tomorrow while also adding deadbolt locks to the facility and painting the trim and the doors.

This afternoon's 'mystery ride' with Sister was taken by Ross and Sam. But, what stuck in Ross' mind was something that happened to him on Rice & Beans earlier in the day. He saw a young boy sitting off to the side by himself when they were at one family's home and Ross approached him. The boy had received something small as a token, but when Ross took the hat off of his head and offered it to the boy, his face lit up! Ross told us that was his 'mission moment' and told us he realized, "What's little to us is so much to them."

Allen followed that with noting that we learn here the true difference between 'wants' and 'needs.'

Sister Stephanie said that each Mission group, throughout its week, learns that people have hidden gifts and talents unknown to others before working so closely together. Izzy, who was on Kitchen Crew, saw the broken wooden chair in the kitchen and took it upon himself to get out the appropriate tools and repair it. Thanks, for sharing that talent!

Bill M. told us that when he was speaking with one of the parents at our Second Meeting she said that she thought her son would come back a changed person and not the naïve child he would leave as. Bill confirmed that changes do occur as after his first Mission he began to realize that when others state, "I have to have…" it makes him reflect on Nicaragua. At other times, when people say, "I could never do that" or "You really pay to go there and do that?" he realizes that those who choose to come on Mission, especially more than once, are a special people blessed with the commitment of sharing and serving others.

While others were off doing their tasks, Karla stopped by to bring a sample of her ham and pineapple topped pizza. She is sponsored to take culinary classes in Managua by Marty Mannix and she brought to us two slices of the best pizza a few of us have tasted in a while. The crust was a bit sweet, but went very well with the selected toppings. She is definitely getting the most of her education!

Tonight we all went to see the Ballet Folklorico Nicaraguense at the Teatro Ruben Dario in Managua. This troupe performs just one day a year: the Saturday or Sunday during Santo Domingo Festival (August first through the 10th). For those of us who have seen this before, I have to say that the choreography was enhanced and the costumes were vibrant and new. Although this has been quite enjoyable in the past, it looked fresh and new! We invited a few of our friends to join us, too: Alvaro & Carmen Lieva, Rene Silva and his wife (it was Rene's birthday), Gabriella Flores, and Jeremy & Indira Eppler. A good time was had by all!

We returned to Nicasa just before 10am and lights went out quite quickly - must be all of this fresh air and heat ;~)

August 7, 2010

Friday, August 06, 2010

By Bonnie Black

This morning we had the pleasure of meeting the husband and wife who own the coffee plantation from which we are purchasing our coffee. They took our order and we will be receiving it on Monday – in time to pack it away safely for our return trip! Ilona Flores translated for us, letting us know that the coffee from this couple is of the highest quality done to their perfection. They are looking for a new patent from the Department of Economics to sell their coffee which is 100% pure organic under the label, “Café Criolio.”

They also went to find bags that will sustain the pressures of air travel and brought a sample just before lunch for us to see. It is thicker and seamless, so we shouldn’t have the problem – which I did as the first person returning in February – of coffee all over the interior of the suitcase…and its contents. I still have coffee grinds in some of the seams of plastic bags I used to bring my personal items in this time!

Our morning meeting was the shortest on record, I think…only 30 minutes, including prayer. Before offering a reflection to close our meeting, Jesse Crosier passed around a homeopathic remedy for sinus conditions that a local woman made for her. It is a special type of local grass that is soaked in rubbing alcohol which doesn’t smell great, but does clear the congestion (we all had a whiff).

Today we combined the Kitchen Crew and the BBB Crew into one: Joan Riani, Kyle Binion, Megan Richards, Mary Sullivan…plus Chris G. as we needed another guy!

This morning’s home shelters were built by the locals along with Dale, Anne, John and Izzy Selkirk and Rinsha Ballani with Ilona Flores. The first home shelter was donated by the Selkirks and was built for the family of Harvin Velasquez in Chiquilistagua. There are 2 children living with Harvin and his wife in this new shelter. The second home was donated by Kathy Dame for Oscar Ubeda of Chiquilistagua who also will live in it with his wife and 2 children.

The ‘mystery ride’ was taken by Connie, Patty and Liz with Sister Debbie and Mauricio….and they shared much at the evening meeting (see below).

Our first trip to Parajito Azul for this mission was made this morning by Sister Stephanie, Brenda and Stephen. They brought many supplies that the center had requested on our last visit in February.

The new shelving for our pharmacy arrived mid-morning and Cathy with Ali began setting it up. It looks glorious! They returned again this afternoon to complete it.

Chris G., Adianne and Colleen helped the Clinic Setup Crew with the move of the final file cabinets and small items from the Nino Clinic space to the new clinic. Setting up the clinic space – or at least helping to move the meds from one room to which they had been moved yesterday into the Pharmacy that now has shelves were Bill C., Ross, and Demi.

The painting crew at MiesCasa was comprised of Allen, Sarah, Betsy, Chris H. and Sam this morning; in the afternoon it was Allen, Anne, Dale, Betsy and Demi.

Spending the entire day at Casa de Vida were Bill M., Adrianne, Dave, Chris G., Colleen and Jesse. They were installing fans, shelving, repairing beds and bringing over 13 mattresses we had donated to the Mission for the beds there which were in disrepair.

With rumbles of thunder, the afternoon home shelter crew headed out to build 2 of the 4 homes donated by Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Schroon Lake. Along with the locals were parish members Bill C. and Brenda. Sam and Stephen rounded out our side of the crew. The first home built was for Saul Espinoza of Chiquilistagua and the second was for Genaro Silva of Monte Verde.

The Rice & Beans crew was to be Izzy, John, Ross, Sarah, Chris H. and Rinsha along with Ilona. But, with the lightning and thunder being so close by, they first did a few other small assignments hoping the weather would pass…but, it didn’t! As a matter of fact, it allowed people who had not taken a shower yet to fit one in for the day (yes, we had water!). They will be the morning R&B Crew for tomorrow so they don’t ‘lose their chance’ due to the weather.

The rain held up our regular dinner time as it was pouring, so we didn’t go over to the dining hall until close to five.

What we discovered today is that there is a need for 3-4 ‘like new’ or new refrigerators (household size) for the various places we serve. Some are missing gaskets which cannot be replaced for under $150, the temperature gauges are non-functional not allowing the cooling of the unit to appropriate levels for healthy maintenance of food, etc. We should be having a container leaving in September which might be able to take a couple, if we were blessed enough to have some donated as camps close and people may move south for the winter. At Casa de Vida, they also need a new full-sized sofa to replace the battered, old small one at the center. When Sister priced it today, it was hundreds of dollars for one that is no bigger than an overstuffed chair. Again, any ‘like new’ sofa would be gratefully appreciated by the women’s shelter.

We decided that, due to the weather, we will be meeting in the kitchen area each evening; if it isn’t raining, the winds are whipping through forcing us inside anyhow.

Sister began by noting that every mission takes on its own story and the people of the mission have their own stories that they bring with them and that evolve as we grow together. For some of us who have done many missions, we understand that bonding. Sister shared the perspective that we are now a family and she had permission to share some news.

Just after dinner, a phone call was received regarding a traveler’s best friend’s health situation that is declining rapidly. She noted that this is an incredible burden to bear but also one that we all need to bear – that’s what family is all about. “Prayers will be said by those of us here in Nica,” she said and continued that God is asking this mission to be healers, to be bearers of a journey together.

She invited each of us to see how we are being called to be healers, not just servers as we are in the community here. The reality is that when life and death confront us, everything else falls into disarray.

Part of who we are called to be is to be more in tune, to listen to the inner wisdom.

We then spent the entire meeting sharing our experiences of the day.

Sister began with a story about the negotiations for chairs to be delivered to Casa de Vida which became her ‘mission moment.’ When the three rocking chairs were placed into the room at the facility, the Director, Veronica, came in and said, “Mission of Hope does not forget us - you keep coming back.”

Patty, who had gone on the mystery ride, then told us that they had a lot of good times in the car including teaching Mauricio ‘OMG’ and ‘TMI.’ Sister tried to explain ‘oatmeal’ as the type of bread that they needed to buy and he misunderstood it to mean something like ‘Cuban’ or ‘Havana’ bread.

Patty then told us about the young child she interacted with at La Chureca, taking photos and giving out ‘Silly Bandz.’ He was so excited to see the bands in the shapes of dogs. For her it was a special moment, yet difficult.

Sister said that she believes in the trips to the rim as a way to educate people to the reality of the difficulty in people’s lives. She always sees a butterfly in juxtaposition to the garbage each time she goes. Patty then noted she found a single, light purple morning glory that was in among all the stink and garbage - a perfect flower which led her to believe in the awareness of life amidst despair.

The real reason they went to La Chureca was to deliver the February HIV testing results. The doctor’s first request was for more testing kits because they have seen 24 cases in recent months which is more than the 17 we knew of in February. It is increasing at an alarming rate. Sarah had brought, as a last minute coordination by Dr. Roger Patnode, a box of 100 test kits which will be delivered sometime tomorrow to the clinic.

Patty then explained that her sister died in a violent domestic violence case and she felt that was ironic she was being placed in a situation with victims of similar circumstances. When her sister, Rose, was killed, Patti’s faith become shaken. Today, Patty spoke with a woman who had been raped by 4 men, brought to Casa de Vida and decided to have her baby. She is now is back working, loving her baby and feels her life has meaning. Patty said, “If she were able to find faith in God, I can find it after my sister’s death.”

Samantha and Stephen saw a feather on the pathway down to the house, which reminded them about this morning’s reflective prayer. They then told us how the tears of joy were flowing from the young woman’s eyes when the crew began putting together her home shelter. She told them that she believed that it was her faith that paid off. She said that she had prayed to God every night and finally got her wish. This warmed Bill C.’s heart as this was the house built in honor of him through funds donated by Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Schroon Lake.

The mood was ruined, said Sam and Stephen, for as they approached the second site, they were yelled at by a lady who kept pointing and telling Stephen that the house had to be ‘over there’ and not where they were building it. Rinsha and I recognized the photo as the woman who had come to our gates this morning asking for a home shelter. I believe she is someone with whom we have interacted on many missions. We had explained the process was to file a written application with the local junta and be patient as many who were receiving shelters this time around had been on the list for a couple of years.

This second home in the afternoon was built in honor of Father Sturtz, the priest at Our Lady of Lourdes parish.

Bill M. then told us that today was the most intense day of jobs and wielding tools that he has ever seen since he has been on Mission over these past few years. A lot got done today at Casa de Vida by the five of them! The Director was awe-struck that Sister Debbie can speak in a church or to a group and receive donations to aid them in their dire situation. We learned that they are living, literally, hand to mouth, though with hardly any funds to make it through the week for food for the 6 mothers and 6 infants and toddlers there. Those who were on site reached in their pockets and came up with a meager amount of funds, but were able to present the small sum to the Director so food could be purchased for the next few days.

Ross said that the best feeling tonight was going out into the yard after dinner and having a container of stickers to give out to the kids who were extremely excited. Others chimed in with anecdotes of the children’s behaviors around the stickers and the Silly Bandz. Sarah remarked that Lester is now speaking English well enough to answer, when asked, “It’s fine!” Adrianne brought back photos with her of some of the children she took 10 years ago – this thrilled the children in the yard as they recognized themselves and siblings and friends as young children.

In the scholarship meeting with Magaly and Mauricio this afternoon, Sister reported that at the end of the school year in December, each sponsor should be able to receive a copy of their child’s report card (in reality, it may not be until the February mission).

Sister noted that for a long period of time we have been trying to get the Director of La Chureca Clinic and the Director of Manna together to talk about serving the residents and today, while Sister was there speaking to the Clinic Director, the Manna Director arrived in the room. What a chance meeting!

Many of us who have been on Mission and shopped in Roberto Huembes Mercado know Jonan who we have trusted for a number of years to guide us to the best purchases and truly protect us in many ways. Today, he met with Sister and her mystery ride companions in the market as they were pricing hammocks and baby chairs and introduced them to his young son, now 5. Connie realized the child has impetigo so she shared what he needed to do for his son – an interesting evidence of our networking after 11 years in this country.

Demi y said the assignment painting the exterior of our new clinic was extremely fun and the best job all week – of course, it was only her second job! Even those assigned to the Clinic setup joined in and Bill C. had to insist they come back for lunch. Cathy said that she and Ali pushed pills on to shelves and Ali said she now knows what all the medicines are for learning a lot from Cathy all day. It was a tedious yet such important job and whatever needs to be done to get the clinic functioning by next week is getting done. It’s the behind-the-scenes stuff, whether it be at MOHTown or here, that makes the Mission special. As Oscar Romero said, it is what being prophets of the future is all about.

Anne sat with the mother at second home shelter this morning and, with a little coaxing, the young boy there began to warm up. She said spending that time with the recipient of the shelter was a reminder there is much need in this country.

Demi and Allen were speaking with their sponsor child who was adamant that they visit their home – and they found out today that Mission build a home shelter in February for them. The mother said they had a celebration to God for having this new home.

Liz said that going around with Sister Debbie, for the first time ever on Mission, she saw new things and when they headed home she felt it was a great learning experience – amazing – sitting the back of the truck viewing all of the sites of the city. Mauricio said that she was guarding the groceries like Cat Woman; her mood went straight back up after seeing some of the things of the day and she felt like a 5-year-old in the truck!

It was a roller coaster of emotions for those on that adventure. Sister noted that Mauricio, who is our administrator here in Nicaragua, has the heart of the Mission in him and works very hard for us while we are here and especially when we aren’t.

Betsy said this is her 4th Mission, but she felt she did the coolest thing today: got to introduce her sister, Mary, to the children she sponsors along with their mother as well as introducing Mary to the child she has sponsored for a number of years.

Going to Parajito Azul this morning, Brenda said they saw the tiny, old lady in the middle of traffic that they always see which disheartened her, but when they got there the kids were doing fantastic and that made the whole morning. But, three hours later, the woman was still there in the middle of the street. Sister said that there is an estimate of 80, 000 children and adults that literally walk the streets daily selling items or themselves along the main roads out of the population of 1.3 million people in the City of Managua. Stephen said they saw a room full of therapeutic toys that get wet when it rains as they are all piled on the floor. THAT may be a project we can fit in next week with the ‘left over’ supplies from other projects.

Closing prayer tonight was a poem read by Patty that she read at her sister’s funeral: The Dash. She preceded the reading talking about her experience at ‘the rim’ listening to Sister’s story about the time she slipped and was assisted by a young boy; she tried to give him some money to feed his family, but he closed her hand and pushed it toward her heart and shook his head. That was the moment she learned that compassion is nothing you can buy or sell. And that is all part of the ‘dash’ in life’s experiences.

August 6, 2010

Thursday, August 5, 2010

By Bonnie Black

A bright and sunny morning greeted all of us who are now together as Mission #37. Of course, the rooter next door thought that 1:30am was sunrise, but most of us were tired enough that we slept until the ‘real’ dawn or afterward.

We began with a later breakfast so that those who arrived late last night could catch a few more winks, but all were up and about by 6am eating their first Nicasa breakfast. The Kitchen Crew for today was Sister Stephanie, Brenda Flynn, Sarah Scardillo and Betsy Sullivan. They provided not only a nutritious breakfast (Bill Calmbacher and Joan Riani has actually gotten it all started) but also a great lunch for all of us. There was no one truly ‘off site’ this morning as we were concentrating on moving pharmaceutical supplies and medical equipment from our current clinic space at Nino Jesus de Praga over to our new facility around the corner. Working on the Pharmacy all day long were Connie Tyska and Cathy Hill with Ali Pellerin helping in the morning and Liz Hill in the afternoon.

Moving the supplies for the clinic exam rooms and reception area were Bill Calmbacher, Kyle Binion, Samantha Banker, Ali Pellerin, John Selkirk.

An often unnoticed daily task is what we call, “BBB” for the bathrooms, bedrooms and whatever else beyond that needs doing to keep us clean and hygienic! Today’s team was Joan Riani, Liz Hill, Izzy Selkirk and Stephen Witkiewicz.

Adrianne Longino had the pleasure of meeting of the family representatives who will be recipients of the home shelters donated by many of our Mission supporters back home. We will be constructing 8 over the next 2 days and all showed up today with trucks and oxen carts to get all of their supplies which Adrianne dutifully recorded. The foundations will be put in today so that they are in place before the community/Mission team arrives tomorrow and Saturday.

Bill Murray and Dave Slater worked a bit this morning getting the internet up here so that I will be able to send the daily ‘news’ and photos. Thanks, guys!

With only 21 suitcases brought in last night, the sorting this morning went very quickly. It was the tedious process of the sponsor gifts that took all day – and there weren’t even that many! I guess what would work a bit better in the future (and you’d think we would have this down after 11 years!) is for everyone to follow a complete format: Sponsor Name, Child’s Name, School Name. That would allow the recording and tracking of the information in both New York and in Nicaragua to flow smoothly. This morning, Rinsha Ballani, Chris Hammond and Izzy Selkirk began with the suitcases then went over to our new facility where some from the last container shipment were stored and brought those boxes back here. Then, Joan Riani and Chris Hammond worked the rest of the day merging information on envelopes and packages to the known student list at each school in order to produce a list for Magaly Velasquez who will contact the families about the day/time and the fact they have something here from one of you!

On the sorting crew this morning were Demi Pellerin, Patty Gouldin, Megan Richards, Anne Selkirk and Mary Sullivan. Stephen Witkiewicz who was supposed to be on the sorting crew, got to take a ‘mystery ride’ with Sister Debbie, Mauricio Flores and Jesse Crosier who is down here for an extended summer of anthropological research for college and joined us today. They priced items for the various places we serve along which took them to the Oriental Market where you can buy most everything for anything.

An extremely exciting job that began this morning was applying the sealant to the new facility exterior preparing it for its initial paint coat tomorrow. The rain held off until late afternoon which allowed Allen Pellerin and his crew of Chris Gebhardt, Ross Barber, Colleen Hammond and (in the afternoon) Dale Selkirk to get most of it done.

Setting up the new clinic exam rooms this afternoon were Bill Calmbacher, Rinsha Ballani, Adrianne Longino and John Selkirk. Working at leveling the land next to the new facility in preparation for planting later this week were Bill Murray, Liz Hill, Ali Pellerin, Izzy Selkirk and Dave Slater.

Patty Gouldin began the database of the various medicines in the current pharmacy and began merging it with the medicines we brought with us. This was tedious but VERY important job as we move to the new facility and hire a new doctor beginning next week.

Our first truly off-site experience was Rice & Beans this afternoon with Magaly Velasquez taking Demi Pellerin, Stephen Witkiewicz, Kyle Binion, Megan Richards, Sam Banker, Mary Sullivan and Anne Selkirk walking around the immediate area here in Chiquilistagua. The next few days should be out farther when we have access to a truck.

This afternoon, the ‘level crew’ went through the grassland in back of our new facility to assure there isn’t anything left that could damage the lawnmower – and then they joined the sealant crew.

So, that’s most of today’s assignments, but after dinner and limited play time with the local children, we had our first evening meeting where we shared our first day’s experiences.

It was beginning to rain, so we moved our group into the Kitchen/Dining Room – it was great because there certainly weren’t any bugs!

Sister began by telling us about the local coffee plantation here in Chiquilistagua which is again offering us the opportunity to get organic, naturally grown coffee to bring home with us next week. He has a wonderful family-owned facility that has been in his family for generations which houses his employees in a just manner – even gives them Sunday off!

A few kudos went around regarding some of the great team efforts in all aspects of our first day’s jobs. Allen mentioned that more got done than originally planned – which is great because a tropical depression is moving in over the weekend. Our original plans are already adjusting even further due to some information we learned at El Crucero this afternoon. Tomorrow will be Casa de Vida instead!

We covered more ‘business’ including the ‘Good Housekeeping Award’ for the BBB tasks which will be given out periodically by an A Team member throughout the week!

“This Mission is quite unique,” shared Sister Debbie, “for you are preparing the future of our Mission.” She spoke about how we may think that moving medical equipment and medicines from our current facility to our new one, perhaps someone may think, “Is this why I came?” She reminded us that the week will unfold and the beauty of

Stephen told us of his first visit on the ‘mystery tour’ to the Oriental Market which is the largest open air market in Central and South America. This is the market that burned to the ground – half of it – just a couple of years ago. “It was like driving through a sea of people,” said Sister. Then they went to CARITAS to assure that everything except for a few small items for San Jose Hospital to pick up tomorrow.

This afternoon Bill Murray went on a trip to El Crucero with Sister to review what the situation is this week regarding the construction issues. Sister mentioned that the situation of where the nuns are living is heart-wrenching. A section of the roof is lying on the ground exposing the asbestos in the laundry area. There are still 3 ill sisters and many sick young children at this moment in time. The nuns are absolutely committed to the orphans and are in an emotional situation having their founder/Mother Superior die this year. They are going through a Chapter by the end of the year which will render a decision regarding the permanent situation there. They have known nothing else except of where they are and this is all being called into question. One desperate thing that the girls need are lockers or something into which they can put their few belongings and clothes. If there are any closing schools or facilities that will not be using their current lockers in the next few months – or if some are being replaced – the Mission would be grateful to receive them at our storage facility so we could ship it on a container in late September. Sister told us that it was the only moment of her day at which she was fighting back the tears – feeling so overwhelmed…and she knew she could leave in a few hours.

Patti shared that her sister died tragically a few months ago and that is the reason she is here. Although she never left this spot today, at one point in the afternoon Rinsha had invited Patti out front and spoke to the one girl in the courtyard – and her name was Rosemary. What a sign that her sister is here with her!

Dave found out that the student he sponsors has a sibling that is sponsored by Rinsha – so he has a built in translator when they get together next week to present gifts. Dave told us that last Mission there were some former students of his wife’s who asked her what she wanted; she replied with the usual list of school supplies. They asked her to think about what she WANTED; she teared up and said she wanted a ball. So, he has brought along a ball for her and will be able to give the second to Rinsha for ‘her’ Linda, the sister of his little person. As a matter of fact, Rinsha and he feel like they will be a ‘whole family’ when they present the balls to ‘their’ children.

From those who went out on Rice & Beans, Mary told us it was interesting and quite meaningful. She saw such clean, pristine students this morning, but got to see their home environments this afternoon. Anne said that she learned that when you are walking, you shouldn’t take too many bags – thanks to her fellow missioners who lightened her load. Megan enjoyed the smiles on the children’s faces to whom they gave the little toys.

Allen reported that this morning when he was doing the Orientation, he spotted his sponsored student – with her two missing front teeth! She gave him a big smile and he enjoyed the instant ‘connection’ to her…something he will cherish.

Also during Orientation, Adrianne recognized a student she saw last year (sponsored by the Dumonts) whose little brother she sponsors. That was today’s moment for her. She had a lot of time this morning watching the oxen as owners loaded the carts with the piedras and noted how they weren’t truly pets or animals, but transportation for their families.

We closed our first meeting with Demi and Ali presenting everyone with a reflection key chain and a card which had a quote, “Get acquainted with what you know and what you can do.” Ali noted that if we each take a time out of our day to reflect on that, it will be a powerful thing. They chose the 9 words which represent the correlated colored beads on the key chain: Hope, Safe Travels, Family, Friendship, Teamwork, Action, Gratefulness, Prayer and Sacrifice. A wonderful thoughtful gesture for each of us to reflect on not only during this week, but when we return home.

Most spent the rest of the evening in a few groups of newly-found friends really getting to know each other better while Sarah and Betsy created the assignments for tomorrow: Day 2 of Mission #37.

August 5, 2010

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

By Bonnie Black

Mission 37 has begun!

This morning 26 volunteers headed out of Burlington and will arrive in Managua just around 8pm this evening Nica time (10pm your time). Six others have been on the ground in Chiquilistagua, Nicaragua, since Sunday evening preparing everything for the main group’s arrival tonight. The A team (advance team) is made up of Bonnie Black, Bill Calmbacher, Allen Pellerin, Connie Tyska, Betsy Sullivan and Sarah Scardillo.

Those arriving in Nicaragua tonight are: Brenda Flynn, Christopher Gephardt, Patricia Goulden, Christine Hammond, Adrianne Longino, Joan Riani, Dale Selkirk, Anne Selkirk, Dave Slater, Cathy Hill, Bill Murray, Liz Hill, Ali Pellerin, Demi Pellerin, Rinsha Ballani, Samantha Banker, Kyle Binion, Ross Barber, Colleen Hammond, Megan Richards, Israel Selkirk, John Selkirk, Mary Sullivan, Stephen Witkiewicz, Sr. Stephanie and Sister Debbie.

Beginning tomorrow morning, all 32 members will be working diligently on specific preparations of our new clinic site, transitioning from the current clinic and pharmacy at Nino Jesus de Praga, assisting a few facilities in repairs and construction so they may serve many of the poor, and building 8 home shelters, spending a half day on medical outreach for those who cannot physically make it to our clinic, tracking heights and weights on students at a school in Nejapa, and exploring new ways to serve the poor on coming trips. The large group will be leaving on the 12th with A team returning August 14th.

We have many states represented this time: New York; Washington, DC; New Jersey; and Massachusetts.
We have a few new high schools being represented including: Chateaugay Central, Lisbon Central and Mount St. Mary's (NJ). Other high schools with returning students include NAC, NCCS, Peru, Franklin Academy, and Ward Melville-all in New York.

College students participating in Mission 37 represent: Bentley, Clinton Community, Roger Williams, Plattsburgh State, Northeastern and Wheelock.

This past Friday, there was a wonderful article in the Press Republican about our Orphans’ Hope Project. Here is the link, in case you have not read it:

New Mission of Hope program helps orphans

It gives you a good sense of what is unfolding in El Crucero not only during this week, but for the future.
More tomorrow – hasta pronto!