By Bonnie Black
Everyone is here! Last night, around 9pm, the rest of Mission #41 arrived from Florida and from Houston. Green shirts everywhere – which made it ideal for Roger Patnode and myself to identify the group as it approached the baggage claim area. All but 4 boarded a big, yellow school bus with their suitcases for the 45 minute trip to NiCasa – our home here in Chiquilistagua, Nicaragua. And ‘our home’ it is!
Most of A Team arrived on Tuesday completing the 10 who were tasked with opening this space for the first time…ever! We approached tasks with a ‘let’s try this’ attitude which, for the most part, worked out well. Small things, like the configuration of the kitchen/dining area, took a couple of attempts to get it ‘right’…at least for this mission.
A Team welcomed everyone to breakfast which begins at 5:45am each day lasting until 6:45am. It wasn’t hard for most to get up as their body clocks had been set awry with the traveling beginning at 1am yesterday and ending at almost midnight when the talking had stopped after lights out. From now on, that nervous energy will have dissipated and they will WANT to be in bed at curfew: 9:30pm.
Sister had delayed the morning meeting until 7:30am thinking people might want to sleep in, but that wasn’t the case. There was an impromptu chore of putting up a wind barrier for Nora and the other cooks as they began cooking dinner for us today. Another group, also headed by James Carlin, cut the line for the rope slings that were distributed to the families receiving their filters in the afternoon. Others journaled at the tables outside of the kitchen area in the breezeway. It is quite enjoyable in the mornings, as there is shade cast by the eastern building making it comfortable.
We began the first full mission’s morning meeting together at 7:30am with Sister welcoming all and introducing Chico who has been the crew chief on the construction project since its beginning. She also reminded us that the entire property and facility was paid for by specific designated donations including $115,000 from a private foundation and $45,000 from volunteers/mission travelers.
She then introduced Rene who will be another driver in addition to Chico this week who is also one of our night guards at our facility. That was followed by Ilona Flores and her fiancé, Justin, being introduced to the group; both are making themselves available as translators for the week.
Because this was the first time that all but one person on this mission were together, Barbara Dobilas is up at El Crucero for a couple of days, we introduced ourselves to each other and mentioning what mission this is: first, 20th, etc. She then directed thanks to all of us on A Team for getting the space livable and to our Leadership Team for having the vision.
We reviewed the Board Assignments which notes where everyone should be in the morning as well as the afternoon plus indicates which vehicle is being used, who is the leader, the photographer and translator. After that we explained the index cards, money envelopes and the process of cameras at night.
Roger Patnode then reviewed our ‘WISH’ list to keep us all healthy: water, insect repellant, sunscreen, hand sanitizer.
We completed our first meeting with Kevin Farrington (who brought his guitar) leading us in “Sanctuary” – a great way to start Mission #41.
Everyone headed to the orientation led by A Team of the various rooms at our facility so that when they had an assignment (ie- Rice & Beans prep) they would know which room they would need to be in.
This morning, after the A Team completed breakfast, the Kitchen Crew for the day was Sister Stephanie, Zach St. Louis, Joy Leader, Lauren Wurthman. They prepared a delicious lunch of fruit and chicken salad for us and kept everything running smoothly in the kitchen through dinner cleanup. They did cook dinner, though, as we use 3 local women: Nora, Rosa and Marta. We have set them up in the incomplete sick bay for this Mission in order to get them out of the wind. By next Mission, when the facility is complete, they will be cooking just on the other side of the kitchen. Tonight’s meal was Valencia Rice…a favorite of mine which I look forward to for the first dinner on every mission.
Our BBB crew was Hillary Miller, Megan Hall, Tom LaBombard and Paul Santoro – and that’s a job that lasts all day – off and on. Cleanliness in the bedrooms and bathrooms contribute to our good health. Each of them also jumped in on other tasks during both the morning and the afternoon.
Sister went over to Colegio Nino Jesus de Praga to take a good number of photos for sponsors back home (and that’s all over the world, by the way!). Eva Zalis went with her to assist.
Before going out on Home Shelters, James Carlin grabbed Henry Leader, Adam Oropallo and Joy Leader to make the 38 rope slings for the FIltron filter disbursement later this afternoon.
James was the leader on both the morning and afternoon home shelter crews. This morning his team was comprised of Adam Oropallo, Liam Harrison, Sara LoTemplio and Marlee Bickford-Bushey which built a home donated by Franklin Academy in Malone where Adam goes to school. The home was built for Henry Ney and Eveling Arita in Cedro Galán.
Much joy was reported at lunchtime from the group that went over to Nino to do the Heights & Weights on the Pre-K through 6th graders. There will be about 600 in total over 2 says, so leader Bill Calmbacher went there with Sister Claire (who was on Mission #2), Chris Veverka, Kevin Farrington, Bev VanDenburgh, Nancy Cronin and Sister Kathy.
Our first trip to the Parajito Azul Center was under the guidance of Bev Gogola with Josh Jabaut (who is an Occupational Therapist), Anna Daly, Caitlin Houle, Alie Delventhal, Ben Cyphers and Marcus Pagan.
Working on our Clinic Pharmacy this morning was Joy Cayea and Roger Patnode (who announced that it was his daughter, Kate’s birthday today-we celebrated when she was on Mission a couple of years ago).
Preparing a notebook with 2 sharpened pencils for sponsored children were MaryKate Manhard, Alysia Privat, Amanda Garami, Aislyn DiRisio. They made it through most of the supply in the morning, but in the afternoon, the crew of Caitlin Houle, Nancy Cronin, Chris Veverka, Josh Jabaut took all of the stock in the spare room and moved it outside to sort into ‘like’ contents: index cards, pencils, colored pencils, notebooks, etc. This will expedite the distribution of these school supplies over the next day or two.
Working on our grounds this morning, removing construction debris, were Megan Harris, Norm Baker, Paul Santoro, Tom LaBombard and Sarah Rowan. After they were done, the guys jumped on to the creation of the garden gate – ropes integrated to provide a barrier to our Moringa garden and farther back on the property.
Preparing the Rice & Beans and toys this morning, for afternoon delivery, were: Ann Veverka and Megan Hall, Maggie Cummins and Hillary Miller.
One of the most important jobs for this Mission was the sorting of the suitcases brought by the travelers from up north. Gwen Cote, Paul Raino and Henry Leader did most of it with help from others who pitched in after their assignments were completed.
Our first medical outreach was this afternoon at Our Lady of Guadeloupe Clinic in Managua where they did Women’s Health and HIV screenings. The team was Alie Delventhal, Bev VanDerbugh, Alysia Privat.
Gathering the 41,400 vitamins for the children to have between now and next mission were Adam and Eva, Marlee and Josh. They finished so quickly preparing these to go over to Magaly on Monday morning with the Heights & Weight crew, they then dispersed to other ‘group’ tasks. Some went to the Education supply sorting group with Nancy Cronin, Caitlin and Chris V. Others joined the Health Fair kit group of Hillary, Paul Santoro, Marcus, Marlee and Eva.
Sister Claire, along with Gwen Cote, took a ‘mystery ride’ with Sister and Roger Patnode this afternoon checking out prices of rockers and hammocks for our own facility as well as going to a scheduled meeting Sister had.
Our afternoon Home Shelter crew built three homes! James again led the group of Sister Cathy, Emily Mack, Sarah Rowan and Paul Raino creating a new home for Ronald Leiva and Ninfa Espinoza in Chiquilistagua donated by Joseph Rusin, then one for Eyner Rodríguez in Chiquilistagua donated by Kiwanis and then, the third home in the afternoon, was built for Noé Elías Velásquez of Chiquilistagua donated by Albany Academy of Holy Names.
Preparing the walls of the rooms at the Fernando Velez Paiz Children’s Hospital were Liam, Henry, Bill Calmbacher and Maggie. This is where Liam will be for the next couple of days with various crews working toward his Eagle Scout badge.
At this evening’s meeting we began with a reminder that everyone should be journaling for personal reasons however, if someone wants to share a reading from their journal, they can. Roger also gave us medical reminders of no sunbathing in this 12 degrees North latitude and the need to put on sunscreen multiple times a day. Being that most of us live in a much higher latitude, we are NOT used to this.
There was applause for the Kitchen Crew and Sister Stephanie threw out a challenge for the rest of the days to be as good as they were.
Joy and Adam reported that Frank Shuriga had to do the water filter demonstration three times, but we gave out 35 FIltron water filter systems. The filters are a continued donation from the Lamb of God Church in Florida as their congregation’s Alternative Christmas gifts thanks to Judy and Marcel Charland.
A few people made notes of missing items from the suitcases and asked us to keep our eyes open for the next few days.
Sister thanked Eva for assisting her with the sponsor photos today and then we circulated a signup sheet for the gift-giving on Tuesday at 2pm.
We will have a group photo tomorrow night at 6pm when Barbara will be back with us…for a day.
We will have both the Nejapa and Nino official ‘goodbyes’ on Tuesday at 3pm just after the sponsorship gifts at 2pm.
Megan and Zach then reviewed the tasks for tomorrow.
Brother Paul and Gwen started our sharing time with a general check-in for each: invigorating, oppressive, enlightening, humbling, delightful, overwhelming, beautiful children, incredible, fabulous, dichotomous, fulfilling, new beginnings, good, overload, thankful, meaningful, enthusiastic, satisfying, interesting, humbling, heartwarming, moving, exciting, appreciative, bathrooms, unbelievable, centering, just great!
Gwen then read from Matthew the passage when the disciples asked when they had done something for the Lord and he responded that it is when we do it for the least, we do it for Him.
Sister began with the hope-filled signs she saw at La Chureca where some of the worst of the home shelters have been razed by Spain to make way for better housing. She and Roger visited the ‘other’ clinic that MINSA wants us to serve this time. She said the joy and beauty of the children was in stark contrast to the devastation and destruction.
Gwen stated she felt oppressed as everywhere she looked she saw a wall, a gate, barbed wire. Not having that experience in her ‘real’ life, it was a day of fences and wall – just astounded by the oppressive feeling she had.
Josh mentioned his trip to the Parajito Azul Center this morning centered him – on contrast to the variety of pulls he feels in his life. For the first time in years, he felt like he was in the right place at the right time with nowhere else to go – ready to serve.
Paul R.’s experience was one of happiness – seeing the joy in something simple that we do shows up on others’ faces. He felt that language was not a barrier; people were very grateful for what the Mission does.
Sister chimed in again noting her heart was warmed this morning by the singing prayer Kevin and many of our teens shared at our meeting. It was a blessing as we don’t always have someone who has the talent that they’re willing to share.
Kevin noted going on Rice & Beans was an experience that was enhanced by Justin as our translator. His sense of humor while interacting with them was impressive – as were all with whom he worked today. “We only gave them a bag of rice and a bag of beans,” he said, “but, as Sister said before, we let them know somebody cares.”
Justin responded that he is in a vacationing kind of mode and he noted that it is our hearts and spirits that he is translating.
Nancy noted her afternoon experience of being in the room jammed-backed with boxes, she was very impressed by the young people with whom she worked in just 4 hours.
Paul S. spent most of the day cleaning, building a fence and packing healthcare kits but the walk to the store, then talking and laughing at the store plus the horns honking as they went by gave him a warm experience.
Tom LaBombard noted that interacting with everyone today here at the compound was one of connection. “I found I really have a lot in common with all of you,” he said.
Sara L. was surprised how much Spanish she could pick up in about 40 minutes playing with the kids this afternoon a game, “Pato – Pato – Gonzo” which we know as “Duck, Duck, Goose.”
Paul S then asked us to focus within ourselves and connect with our God afterward saying the Lord’s Prayer.
After our meeting, many spent time with each other relaxing while others prepared for tomorrow’s tasks and Megan along with Zach joined me in the office to create the assignment board for tomorrow while I processed photos.
Day 1 of Mission #41 is history…and on to tomorrow!