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Mission of Hope

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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.

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