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July 30, 2011

Daily Journal: Friday, July 29, 2011

By Bonnie Black
Another healthy, bountiful breakfast was prepared by our Kitchen Crew for today: Sister Stephanie, Heather, Stefanie and Charles. Our BBB was staffed by Sarena, Jeanne, Ross & Chris.

At our morning meeting, we were happy to see the owners of Finca La Francia arrived with the coffee we ordered yesterday…and we gave them another order! This delicious organically grown coffee is a treat we can share with many of you when we return.

Sister then explained what Anna will be doing once she arrives back here in November as a CMMB volunteer for the Mission. Pre-selected by CMMB, they matched Anna with us based on our current experience with our initial CMMB volunteer, Mariel. Anna will be doing community outreach and clinic work here in Chiquilistagua. She will be living in the single room now complete (except for the painting, but that should be done by Sunday) while she is here for a year. We have guards on duty 24/7, so there is not a safety issue. Most of what she will be doing is within walking distance, so transportation will not be something we have to take into consideration. Already having spent a year outside of David, Panama, she is used to this type of living situation. “We’re still growing with this,” commented Sister. Of course, she will provide the Mission with a monthly written report as well as participate in our monthly Leadership Team meetings via Skype.

Morning prayer was led by Ashley who played the song, “Hope” by Faith Evans. It was a different style than usual (rap) but had a good message to carry with us today: “I am hopeful, yes I am hopeful for today, take this music and use it to take you away. Be hopeful and make your way – I know , it ain’t easy, but that’s OK, ‘cause I’m hopeful.”

Bill C. and Judy headed over to Niño Jesus de Praga to do Vision Screening on 8-year-olds only to find that there is no school in the Managua area today due to a Teachers’ Conference in the city! So, they had a nice talk with Sister Rosa who confirmed that Mass is at 9am on Sunday. Upon their return, they joined the painting team of Jeanne and Sarena.

Charles and Stephanie turned the soil in our former compost bin area to accept our current compost. The posts and wire will be built before we leave. What we learned was the guards had used the wood and wire to complete the perimeter fence while we were gone. So, it goes. ;~)

A painting crew headed up to Angels of Hope Orphanage in El Crucero this morning to work on the younger girls’ dorm…and play with the children. Bill M. took along Chris, Bev, Colleen, Sam, Anna, Liz, Stephen and Lou. Many have orphans they sponsor, was it was planned that they would be the crew.

Joan and Mary worked on finalizing the Sponsor gifts for Sunday. It is a hard and tedious job because the gifts that came in with incomplete student names and no designation for which school take time to research. These are the gifts that came in at the deadline and could not be processed completely by our hardworking volunteers at MOHTown. This is my personal note – not speaking for the Mission: I would hope all of us who are sponsors could be more planful getting envelopes and/or gifts to MOHTown or via mail at least 60 days prior to the scheduled trips. So, for the February trip, if they could arrive no later than mid-December it would be great. For the summer mission, everything could ideally be in Plattsburgh no later than mid-May. All of us are volunteers and it in my ideal world (I know, it doesn’t exist, but I can dream, right?) every gift and envelope would be able to be processed completely, put into suitcases in alphabetical order by complete student name and then we would have people on-the-ground would have the completed printed list to give the schools in order to get the message to the students and their families that they have something special from you. Thanks for letting me vent a bit ;~)

At 8am, Brendee and Alex got to go to Pajarito Azul for the morning bringing with them two youth Nebulizer masks that were requested of yesterday’s team. It is always so nice to be able to meet a need – guess that’s why we’re here.

Our morning Rice & Beans delivery was again paired with Medical Outreach guided by Maritsa: Ashley, Dan, Connie, Cathy, Angie and Alix. After they came back in, everyone either refilled for this afternoon’s crew and took an inventory of materials or they joined the other groups around the house.

Darcy, Ross, and Missy were on our first Home Crew that actually went out today. The first house was built from Franklin Academy funds for Pedro Argeñal and Zulma Fonseca in Cedro Galan where all three were constructed this morning. The second was built with funds from Wanda Sweeney in memory of her late husband, Ronald, for Kenner Portobanco and Marisela Laguna; the third was built with funds from former Missioner Brian Mulcahy and his wife, Linda, for Zulema Tellez.

This afternoon, our second Home Shelter crew was Judy, Sarena, Mary and Dan. The first house this afternoon was donated by St. John’s Parish in Morristown (NY) and St. Peter’s in Hammond (NY). This house of the afternoon was built for Ana Elisa Muñoz Hernandez in Monte Verde. The second home was donated by Jeffrey Fewlass for Walter Morales and Abigail Castro also of Monte Verde. We never got to build a third due to the torrential downpour this afternoon.

Our yardwork crew this afternoon was Alix, Ashley, Jeanne, Brendee and Angie who completed the compost bin for our property near the moringa trees.

Painting around here was Darcy, Alex, Connie and Bill C. They started the first room of the Moore Suite getting the priming done everywhere they could. We ran out of masking tape, so the small space near the ceiling will be completed then. We will begin the second room of the Suite tomorrow.

This afternoon’s Rice & Beans trekkers were to be Cathy, Ross, Joan and Missy…but, Maritsa was a ‘no show’ and we don’t know why. That’s the first time she or the other women have not come when they had agreed to. So, they found other things to do!

Barbara and Liz accompanied Sister from mid-morning through the afternoon.

At our evening meeting Sister went over the ‘basic’ info from each work area for updates. Once we were done with that information, we began the sharing portion of the meeting (we the part really look forward to).

Sister began thanking Heather and Sister Stephanie for working in the kitchen instead of transferring off the Kitchen Crew to their sponsored orphans.

Her first meeting this morning after El Crucero was at MINSA where, after presenting all of the information asked for yesterday, was told different information was needed. And, in addition, MINSA insisted that our clinic doctor couldn’t practice in this country. Interesting, because she has her degree and license from here!

The next meeting was as CARITAS where Johanna told Sister that the information about the CARITAS was incorrect from MINSA. “You are now one of our clinics and you may continue as you have been,” she told Sister. CARITAS will provide a letter for presentation to MINSA, which we will also post in the clinic. She also suggested that CMMB ship through CARITAS rather than ANF. The container is still being held and MINSA is not open on Monday, so…..

They then spoke with CARITAS about the HIV orphans, ages 18 months to 18 years. Some are true orphans, some have parent but cannot be taken care of. They were blessed with the opportunity this afternoon to meet with 8 of the orphans and was able to give the CV Quilters’ Guild the quilts she had brought with her. She had 7 quilts with her so was able to provide each, except the infant, with one a pieces. There IS a greater plan!

She said that this was her ‘mission moment’ for this trip and told them that we would be praying for them and asked that they pray for the Mission, in turn.

Liz added that the happiness abounded – it won’t be visible in the photos, as due to confidentiality (just like in the US) we cannot take their identifiable pictures. So, it is our responsibility to share the story back home. Barbara told us of an 8-year-old she tried to speak with who had very old eyes. “Anything we can do to make this portion of Orphans’ Hope Project a success, will be so important,” said Barbara. Sister said they also saw bags of rice, beans and dry milk and a small bottle of cooking oil.

They then purchased the rugs, the masking tape, the food items from the store…all in the pouring rain.

Alex and were at Parajito Azul where she spent time with Angel, a little child that Josh had worked with on the February trip.

Charles shared from yesterday that he thanks Ross for ‘saving his life’ while sorting the long, heavy wood that he picked up somewhat off the center. “I was just so perplexed on how he got into that position,” said Ross.

Charles made a medallion for Heather out of her water bottle that exploded as she dipped into the water to sterilize it.

Joan thanked Mary for her assistance with the sponsor gifts today in all the confusion that was the result of the gifts being handed to her – even as of this morning out of suitcases.

Alix commented on the Medical Outreach/Rice & Beans this morning. She had some Silly Bandz and was ‘attacked’ – but she loved it. They also taught her some Spanish today which she really appreciated.

Angie commented on my position in a wheely cart and folding chair trying to get the internet functioning…and Connie took a video – with commentary!

Connie and Angie played a (plastic) scorpion trick on Darcy…a wonderfully screaming moment!

Cathy commented on the outreach this morning, “It was delightful!” An entourage of kids followed them everywhere as there was no school today. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.

Ashley was pleased that they got to see some of the kids from Niño she got to know last time and she was so pleased with the development in their ability to speak English.

Barbara was pleased to see the progress – like a packed refrigerator – on yesterday’s visit. Madre Griselda is making a positive impact. “The children were the best part of the trip, as always,” she said. The children asked her about when the Mission was coming and they were so excited to know that we were coming up today. She will be able to bring a little note up to children tomorrow when she goes up to spend another overnight with them before leaving.

Bill M. shared that he has been on many missions with all of their challenges. Today, he and Chris were cutting through the chains to install a swing and 2 teenage girls were on each side of Chris telling him how ‘mucho bonita’ he is! The oldest boy is 8 right now, so…!

Barbara also told us that the older boys stay up on the farm, but recently two of the boys ran away after selling the ox and the goats from under the nuns. Desperation drives people of all ages to do desperate things.

Stephen was painting at the orphanage, too, noting the mildew on the walls and the horrid condition of the bathroom. Anna noted that Sam and Stephen cleaned the bathroom. Barbara noted that the used portions of the orphanage are very clean, but those not in use are not tended to. Sam said she knew children would be moving into the room now that it is painted, so she and Stephen knew they had to prepare it for them. “It’s not important to fill the bucket, but rather to put the drops in the bucket,” said Sister.

Jeanne thanked Sarena for her assistance in BBB today and for doing such a great job.

Stephen noted that the almost silent nun with Sister Ligia, became a little chatterbox when Sister Ligia got up to meet with Dr. Lopez and Anna.

Anna met with Dr. Lopez from the JR Foundation for about an hour after dinner. We found that his expertise is working with the abandoned elderly – so we matched him with Sister Ligia! He is now going to sponsor one of their nuns to be certified in caring for the elderly who can also be a trainer for others.

Sister then asked everyone to put a word or phrase into their journals about where each of us is in our Mission journey for this trip. We are now more than halfway through Mission #42 – which surprised a few when she mentioned it.

Full of thoughts, still so much to see, immensely blessed, starting to create a home for others, grateful all we have, more grateful, I am home, moving forward, continuing to make a difference, hopeful that things will be better, touched, not ready to go home, here & now, drained – overjoyed-full-disgusted, never happier, hopeful, part of the Hope circle, overwhelmed, exposure, maintaining perspective, fulfilled.

Closing prayer was led by Stephen, Mary and Alix tonight. Alix read us a prayer card that she carries with her, as does each of the members of her family – a blessing of St. Francis. We then listened to “Someday” by Celtic Woman. A mission favorite for some of us veterans.

Right after our meeting we had pineapple treats made by Karla, the woman sponsored by Marty Mannix (a former missioner) to go to pastry school. Then, Jeanne and Alex left for the airport as Josh, our last member, is joining us this evening. Mission #42 will be all together for a few hours this evening and tomorrow morning as Barbara will be spending all of Saturday and Sunday at Angels of Hope and then leaving early Monday morning. And so, we are winding down…

Daily Journal: Thursday, July 28, 2011

By Bonnie Black
Another beautiful sunrise as the Kitchen Crew rose to get everything ready for the Team (yes, I am also up working in the Oficina catching up on photos from yesterday!). Those who have the privilege of feeding us today are: Joan, Mary, Alexandra and Dan.

Our morning meeting was a quick one with lists, lists and more lists! We signed up for the organic coffee that is grown at the farm down the road, we signed up to see our sponsored students on Sunday, and we finalized the order for the chairs and hammocks that we began last night. The owner and his wife from Finca La Francia arrived near the end of our meeting for the coffee order.

This morning’s prayer reflection was given by Jeanne who had us think about the Good Samaritan parable. She noted that we need to be helpful as so many are in need; anything that we do this week is positive – we need to do all we can…and then, we were off to start Day #2.

BBB was handled throughout the day by Charles and Stephen in the Men’s Dorm and Colleen with Missy for the Women.

Barbara Dobilas left this morning to spend the day and evening at the Angels of Hope Orphanage in El Crucero as she manages our Orphans’ Hope Project. Others will join her tomorrow morning for most of the day.

This morning, Sister had a meeting at Colegio Niño Jesus de Praga at 7:30am with the sponsored 5th Secondary students regarding service to the Mission, community, school or church. She explained that in the US we stress service to school and community and the Mission is going to expect service such as one afternoon of volunteer work here at the Clinic when it is opened from each of them to assure that the yard area is clean, the bathrooms are for one person at a time and left clean. We recently had to replace a sink in the Men’s Room which had been pulled off of the wall, so our Leadership Team agreed that having ‘monitors’ would be a good idea. With the number of sponsored students at Niño, each should only have to volunteer one afternoon every 6 or 7 months. Service, proper conduct and good grades are what she emphasized at the meeting – it’s about bettering themselves and the community. Sister Rosa and Magaly, who were also at the meeting, will be coordinating these efforts.

She then had a 9am meeting at Parajito Azul accompanied by Fabricio, Liz and Bill M. regarding the specific criteria of Dorothea Haus Ross Grant we were given for this year. The Director wasn’t in as she had a medical emergency this morning, but was returning soon – so they waited. Sister then received a call letting them know they could meet with MINSA regarding the suitcase that was taken at the airport on Tuesday night, so she left Bill M. at Pajarito with Fabricio to discuss the grant with the Director when she returned, while Sister and Liz went with Mauricio to MINSA. We were asked for a list of everyone on Mission and their occupations – it’s good we collect all that info up front as I was able to type the letter while they continued to meet. We found that now we cannot add any more donations nor personnel within 60 days of arriving in the country. It is definitely different than ever and may lead our Leadership Team to make a decision next month on a more formal alliance with CARITAS rather than the government.

This morning we had a group heading out on Rice & Beans with Maritsa along with a Medical Team doing outreach: Sarena, Stephen, Stefanie, Connie, Cathy, Judy, Angie, Lou and Anna. They visited 14 homes in the Chiquilistagua area and provided medical attention at a few.

We also had a group that went to Pajarito Azul for our second day: Sister Stephanie, Bev, Heather, Ashley, Sam and Darcy.

Bill C. was finishing up his organization of the First Responder supplies in storage this morning and caught up on some of the ‘little’ jobs he has wanted to do.

Working at sorting Home Construction supplies for the 9 shelters we will build were Ross, Jeanne and Charles, along with Alix.

Priming the external remaining walls this morning were Brendee, Colleen and Missy guided by Chris. Chris had begun the morning working with Bill on the job that I was interested in most – and you should be too! – hunting down the issues with the Internet here. Bill M. and Chris took that on even before the morning meeting but could not find the problem before their 9am assignments. Bill and I worked on it just before dinner (when I had the opportunity to be up the road and send the prior Journal) and then again after our evening meeting. Still, to no avail.

This afternoon our Rice & Beans crew was Jeanne, Charles, Brendee, Colleen, Bill C, and Bev. They headed to Monte Verde with Maritsa and saw 20 families.

Working in the Clinic doing student exams from Colegio Niño Jesus de Praga were Connie, Cathy and Anna. Judy prepared for the vision exams that will be done on 8-year-olds tomorrow over at Niño.

Our first in-the-field Home Crew was to be Darcy, Ross, Missy, Alix and Angie, but after having waited over 2 hours with the 9 family members for the crew chief who didn’t show, and the torrential rain that occurred with lightning and thunder, we called off the project for today. We found out that Oscar was working today, but he promised to be here at 8am for the whole day. So, we hope for tomorrow!

And, yes, more yardwork was done this afternoon by Stefanie, Stephen, Ashley and Bill M. Removing the big mound from the yard is taking a bit longer than planned on paper ;~)

Painting around the facility were Sam, Heather, Chris, Lou and Sarena, focusing on the lower trim in the front of the facility. They were joined later by Darcy, Missy and Angie putting primer on the cracks in the breezeway walls that had been patched after the February earthquake.

Sister, Liz and Fabricio gave Jonan the order for chairs and hammocks, then had appointments with our Nicaraguan lawyer, and then on to ANF with their Administrator. They found out that there is a new ‘top guy’ in Miami and they hope he will be able to make a positive change from the situation at hand. Right now, all of the CMMB (Catholic Medical Mission Board) donations come into Nicaragua through ANF (the American-Nicaraguan Foundation). ANF is insisting that they need to control where the donations go and not us. So, Sister will be meeting with the Director of CMMB in NYC as ANF has implied they must have control and final say. She told us later at the meeting that we will continue to control what is donated to us and not relinquish it to the government, the church nor ANF.

Sister is hoping to get the 2 missing suitcases from Continental sometime tomorrow.

Tonight Sister opened the meeting hoping that we continued to connect with the breath of life, inhaling the blessings of the day and exhaling the frustrations. She noted her sense of relief upon returning ‘home’ this evening – a sense of knowing that the day had passed and she could now feel comfortable.

She filled us in on their going from one appointment to the next and sometimes waiting and waiting! When they had returned to the lawyer’s office this afternoon to pick up the document on which he had been working in the morning, he wasn’t there. After phoning him and being told he was returning, they waited almost an hour and he didn’t return. They then went to the bank to make a deposit – it’s a process here: announce yourself at the guarded door, go wait in line and wait and wait. She asked us to reflect on the people we serve – how long they wait for the basics like food and justice.

Sam began our sharing time with a reflection on yesterday’s Rice & Beans excursion. They went to a family where she and Stephen recognized they had built a home shelter last year. They weren’t sure if the woman would remember them – and she told them she wasn’t sure they would remember her! Sister said it is just another example of the thinking the poor are invisible. This woman is so proud of her house and showed them how she had improved it: wooden walls around the tin and the sponsor’s picture still in a prominent place. A great affirmation of the pride she has gained through the provision of a home for herself and her family.

Angie and Judy, on two different outreach experiences, saw people who had white rats as pets. Neither could really ‘get it’ – the people were letting the rats run up and across their arms and shoulders. Very different!

Ross extended thanks to Alix and Jeanne and Charles for their efforts this morning on the home shelter supplies and then on the yardwork.

Judy told us that when she sees a home where they have nothing and see the passion and caring they have for us as we share the same emotions with them, it is very moving.

Alex took her first step off of the compound today accompanying Bill C. to Victoria’s to drop off some laundry. When she shook her hand, she felt the arthritis and how rough her hands were. She wondered what we could do for someone who has worked with us for so long.

Ashley found her trip to the Disability Center upsetting today as she watched the staff take care of the children. Heather, though, had an uplifting experience there as a teacher came up to her intent on meeting the person who provided the TEACCH materials to the Center a couple of years ago. She told Heather than she is bartering classes in Dance Therapy for learning the curriculum that she sees having a positive impact on the children. How heart-warming!

Charles remarked that he was impacted by the happiness of children who were so happy after receiving a single ‘Silly Bandz’ from him when he was out on Rice & Beans. Sister noted that happiness is not based on what we have, but rather on what we share.

Jeanne made an interesting observation: so many women in the third trimester that they encountered on Rice & Beans this afternoon. She said she could see they were doing the best they can with so little.

Liz provided tonight’s closing reflection which was an excerpt from Steinbeck’s, “East of Eden” about the 16 verses in the fourth chapter of Genesis. Two men reflect on the promise, the order or the choice.

Sister closed our meeting noting we have a choice – and thanked us for making the choice to come on Mission #42.

July 29, 2011

Daily Journal: Wednesday, July 27, 2011

By Bonnie Black
Although yesterday was a long day of travel for most, most everyone was in the Kitchen having breakfast by 6am. Sister had said that we would delay the morning meeting, but the excitement of being here, in this new facility, had everyone up and ready for the day.

We started our morning meeting at 7:45am, with Sister listing the appointments she had today and various tasks that had to be done. Everyone seems pleased with the facility – especially the veterans who have known other living environments. “It is now your home,” stated Sister. She also spoke about why we need to live sparsely regarding our resources: water and electricity. Marta, sister of Yami, uses less and less electricity due to the cost. Yami had recently told Sister that the rates will be going up another 45% soon. “So the poor are going to get poorer and have less access,” noted Sister.

To give an idea of the desperation, a family that has been helped for years by the Mission, currently has shoes without tops, the children have outgrown their clothes, the husband is disabled and the mother is trying hard to feed her family – they eat once every 3 days. “So that tells us how desperate even people we know are right now,” she said.

She said we need to be sensitized to wasting less and to be conscious we are all of this earth and we are one human family. “We cannot trample our family,” she noted.

We reviewed the whiteboard with the various assignments. “The board is not about our needs, it is about the needs of the Mission, so we have to be flexible,” said Sister.

Connie reviewed the safety and medical concerns that we all need to be aware of while we are here – either on or off the facility. Lou then addressed the process for accepting fruit or other food from people in the community.

Sister then read an email from Sarah Scardillo, one of our veterans: “I know that you are probably just landing in Managua and I am very jealous. Being a college student doesn’t allow me such freedoms,” she explained.

She hopes the Mission accomplishes everything it is setting out to do and more. She is praying each missioner is touched forever and asked Sister to read the lyrics of the song, “For Good” as our opening morning prayer.

She then went on to say, “Betsy and I were talking about we desperately wished we could be with you on mission…so here are a few reflections. I heard it said that people come into our lives for a reason bringing something you must learn. I know I am who I am today because I met you. So let me say, before we part, so much of me is a part of you. And now, whatever way our stories end, I know that because I knew you, I have been changed. Love and blessings –stay safe. Love, Sarah”

We were then introduced to the people who will be assisting us on the Mission #42: Mauricio Flores (our administrator in Nica), Rene and Chico (our drivers) and Fabricio (our translator). When the meeting ended, we headed to our orientation (led by the A Team) and then on to our morning assignments.

Our BBB Crew for today was Bill C. with Daniel for the Men and Connie with Alix for the Women. Lest you think this is a ‘light duty’, they are constantly monitoring the facilities to assure that we stay safe and healthy!

Our Kitchen Crew was Bev, Sr. Stephanie, Chris and Lou. They had some of A Team help with the breakfast (Bev, Lou, Angie, Bill C and Chris) and then they moved into preparing a delicious lunch for us. Of course, with the rest of the team coming here around 1:30, their ‘lunch hour’ needed to be extremely flexible.

Cleaning the yard and removing a large mound of dirty to be fill for the ramp out back were Brendee, Chris (yes, his Kitchen Crew chief allowed him to work in the backyard) and Darcy. They shoveled and wielded wheelbarrows for a good portion of the morning. Daniel joined them after he did his BBB obligation.

A group went to Pajarito Azul (the Disability Center) to spend time with the residents and staff: Heather, Jeanne, Judy, Connie, Angie, Joan and Mary.

Bill C. spent some time organizing supplies for our First Responders. For those of you who don’t know, Bill single-handedly had the dream and implemented it with now over 30 First Responders in the area. He will also be coordinating Red Cross certification on this trip for those who are interested. Such a wonderfully empowering project!

Missy, Alexa and Barbara prepared almost all of the rice and beans from the 50 pound and 100 pound bags for our ventures out into the community which began this afternoon.

Around 11, I headed to the airport to meet Sister as the rest of the group (minus one to come on Friday)…and the luggage.

We were successful in getting everyone here who was scheduled to be here as of today and all but 3 suitcases – 2 of those 3 are being held by MINSA (the Ministry of Health) awaiting some specific paperwork. So, in all, only 1 is really missing. Pretty good for the extremely rough start.

Our first Rice & Beans went out with Maritsa, our guide, this afternoon: Barbara, Samantha, Darcy, Daniel, Alix, Judy, Stephen and Anna. Beginning the site prep for painting later this week was Heather, Jeanne, Mary, Alexa, Brendee, Missy and Ashley. They were organized!

(Finally) beginning the sorting of suitcases we brought down and got here around 1pm were Joan, Connie and Cathy.

Working in our yard were Colleen, Stefanie, Charles, Serena and Ross continuing the progress on what the morning group had begun. They stopped at 3pm as there were many children ready to come in and play! Everyone left the yard a bit early due to the torrential rains that were just beginning around 3:45…but, a great time was had by all who were involved.

When we gathered for our evening meeting, Sister noted meeting changes that occurred during her day with Mauricio that will be affecting the pre-scheduled plan…as we all know who have been here ;~)

We began this evening’s meeting with the story of how we all got to be here, all together…except the one person who has been scheduled to join us on Friday evening. Sister said she was very grateful to Ground Force 1 for the flexibility and accommodations on Tuesday morning – they are the only reason that this Mission is more than 10 people strong!

Chris explained the index card ‘wish list’ so all will get at least one of their hopes and Sister told everyone about the various options. Then Sister reminded us all about the Mission dress code and guidelines for leaving the facility whether to work or to go to the corner for an ice cream.

There are 3 families to thank for our treats at the evening meeting this week: the Sullivans, the Hammonds and Brenda Flynn – a fellow veteran traveler.

Sister told us that Sister Karla as well as Sister Ligia will be here within the next day or so. They are such a blessing to interact with and we all enjoy their presence. And if Sister Karla brings her guitar – oh, what melodious music.

We passed around the stars and the list to assure everyone has their current color on their badge and heard where our designated meeting places are to be…’just in case.’ Then the various Point Persons gave a few heads-up notes for the coming day’s events.

One of the things that Sister did today was price various sizes of hammocks and rockers and we had a signup sheet to make our choices for what we will want to bring home next week.

As the week goes on, more and more people will have things to share of their day’s experiences – joyful or tearful. It is the sharing that bonds the team on a variety of levels.

Tonight Sister began with a prayer, reminding us that we are all in a different place on our spiritual journey. Part of our task as human beings is to take the journey – whichever road we choose.

“Some of us cannot name our Guide, others can. When we come to this circle, we are respectful of al” she said.

We then each received two items: a balloon and a string along with a prayer sheet which included a photo of 2 children who live in La Chureca. First we took our balloons and stretched them. She had us think how we need to stretch to be filled, like the balloon. This will be each of us, as we grow during our Mission experience. We then inhaled and exhaled a few times, finally taking a moment to breathe in the air of Nicaragua which is representative of those whom we serve – those who suffer, who love and laugh, our orphan children, our sponsored students, the home shelters we will build. We breathed in a piece of their reality. Then we took the balloon and filled it with our own breath. A piece of each of us is in the balloon – our soul, our spirit. In fact, in both Hebrew and Christian scriptures, ruah, means breath/life/spirit.

We then looked at the balloon and we thought about what and who we pray for this coming week and what gifts we each brought to this Mission, in particular. As the week goes on, we may find our balloons deflating. That is symbolic, as our breath is being released from the balloon it becomes joined with the breath of the people of Nicaragua. Sister then instructed us to tie them to our beds – for future use in a meeting.

“Think about your balloon, your mystery of life, your breath,” she said. We then listened and sang along with a song by Jan Novotka, “Breath of the One Life.” Most retained the sheet and it is now sitting their personal journals.

“You’ve all been given breath to share this week,” and we reflected on the family members who are no longer with us – their spirits are within us and around our circle. We thought of those who have recently passed, since we have come together to become Mission #42.

We then reflected on the faces of the 2 girls. “Their breath, their hope an all of the people of Nicaragua rests with each of us. Our breath, our hope also rests with them. Breathe deeply of the Mission of Hope this week. Take time to be still – be aware of the great source of life, because you WILL be changed, mingling your breath, your life, your spirit with those who need you.”

And, with that, we ended our first full day of Mission #42.

Daily Journal: Tuesday, July 26, 2011

By Bonnie Black
Well, you all knew before we did that the Main group did not set off as planned! We spoke on the phone with Bill Murray around 9:30am discovering that he and 10 others were not going to make it to Nicaragua today. They are staying overnight in Houston and will be in tomorrow night – very well rested!! Of the 11, all but 3 are veterans: Bill Murray, Cathy and Liz Hill, Ashley Goyette, Samantha Banker, Colleen Hammond, Stefanie Russell, Charles Simpson, Stephen Witkewicz, Serena Foster.

So, what have we been doing? Most of the families who were at yesterday’s meeting came for their foundation supplies: horse/cart, oxen/cart and trucks. It’s always so interesting to observe that variety of transportation methods. The other three people who missed yesterday’s meeting came and were instructed the same as the group yesterday was; one person missed the meeting because her year-old child was in the hospital. Chris assured that each family took the necessary supplies and the diagram for the foundation.

Angie and Lou worked on the sign for out front on our gate inviting the local children in tomorrow through Sunday to play in the afternoon – looks inviting with all of the cartoon-like characters!

Everyone worked hard on making sure the bathrooms and bedrooms were ‘just so’ for our arrivals beginning at Noon today while Chris worked on the assignment board. Of course, once we heard of the cancelled flights, it looked like Swiss cheese! So, adjustments were made and the board looks good – for the situation we’re in. Losing the first day will only set a couple of the projects back along with 3 of Sister’s planned appointments.

Bev and Bill C., along with Connie, went shopping this morning with Mauricio for our cleaning supplies as well as bulk food purchases. When they returned, Bev and Bill were dropped off at La Union supermarket while Mauricio took Chico and I to the airport to rent our first van and pick up Barbara and Anna who came in just after Noon. Chico, Barbara, Anna and I then went to buy the painting supplies for the next few days’ work. It took us four stores (all over town) to find something similar to the color we have. We had no idea that the store we had purchased the original paint at had recently closed.

The A Team ‘plus 2’ along with Mauricio, Chico and Rene (our other driver) along with Mariel (our CMMB volunteer) and Helena (her friend/translator) went to La Finca (a homestyle grill) for dinner before half of the Main group arrived. Half of our group were facing the direction where a lot of heat lightening was showing Nature’s variety of visuals. The restaurant is located at Rotondo del Periodista which is now painted in lively Central American colors. In the center of the rotary is a sculpture depicting Augusto Sandino on horseback getting a pamphlet off of a printing press from a worker.

Rene and I rented our second van while the group traveling in tonight arrived on Continental…minus their suitcases! Seems like the luggage didn’t make it to Houston in order to get on the plane to Managua. So…..Sister will have to return to the airport tomorrow to claim all 9of the missing suitcases. Seems like every obstacle was thrown in front of this group! It will ne at the same time that the remaining 11 will be coming in and, hopefully, all 20 will be here by early afternoon.

Everyone was quite happy to enter NiCasa at around 9:40pm (11:40pm your time). A quick orientation to the bathroom processes and lights went out quickly.

Of course, there were a few more changes to tomorrow Assignment Board as appointments were changed late in the evening and, without the suitcases nor the container delivery from CARITAS yet we have none of the sorting that we had planned for the first day (a tariff issue between the government and CARITAS is holding it up). I am sure we will get to it all, just on Nica time, not ours ;~)

A-Team Gets Ready: Monday, July 25, 2011

By Bonnie Black
Eight of us left Plattsburgh just after 12pm on Saturday headed to Fort Lauderdale – our first stop on the way down. Those of us who comprise this group are: Bill Calmbacher, Angie Neyer, Lou Ann Nielson, Bev Gogola, Joan Riani, Chris Veverka, Connie Tyska and me.

Luckily, when we got to Ft. Lauderdale, SPIRIT allowed us to check our bags early, so we were ‘free’ to walk over to Terminal 3 where there is a Chili’s Restaurant. We each looked at the menu and made our decisions based on what we will be ‘missing’ while in Nica – come were hamburgers, others salads with fruit and vegetables that don’t grow in abundance in our region.

Time passed much faster with this hour plus respite so that waiting for our almost-midnight flight didn’t feel as long.

We arrived in Managua at 1am – 3am your time. When we got to NiCasa (our home here in Nica), we found that the bed linens were not on site, so we became creative using our towels, other clothing or just sleeping in the sale clothes in which we had traveled. We now have a set of linens ready for February’s A Team although we now know we are in need of about 15 more sets of linens to assure a suitcase prepared for the incoming A Team as well as one small focused mission which travels in January. So, here we start with our first ‘Wish List’ request…thanks!

Awakening early on Sunday (the sun rises ‘early’ for us North Americans) we got into the A Team mode and accomplished much on our first day here. The Kitchen is almost complete, the bedrooms are done (we walked to Victoria’s to get the linens in the afternoon, stopping for an ice cream treat on the way back!).

On Monday, we completed the bathrooms and met with some of the families receiving casitas (home shelters). They will be coming over the next 2 days for their foundation materials in preparation for our construction teams Thursday afternoon and all day Friday. We will be building 9 shelters on this trip thanks to the generous donation of our supporters.

Bev and Joan have worked diligently in the Kitchen not only setting up, but also assuring that all of A Team gets their 3 meals a day…so important as we acclimate to this environment. Yes, we have had a short stint of 90+ days up north, but it is draining when it is consistently 95-100 PLUS almost 100% humidity (that’s the difference between the Feb and the Aug missions). We have ceiling fans inside the facility, but when we are in small rooms moving cartons to accept the delivery of our container items, for instance, it can get sweltering and draining.

Lou, Connie, Angie, Bill and Chris got the bedrooms in fantastic shape and now have all of the labels on the beds for the rest of Mission 42 when they arrive. They also prepared the index cards (for the ‘wish list’ of preferred activities) as well as the envelopes for the currency exchange.

General setup around the facility is coming along nicely and we will be ready to accept the first arrival on Tuesday afternoon before the main group in the evening.

We discovered that the compost bin that we built in February is now non-existent, so that will have to be added to our ‘To Do’ list for this trip. We will speak with the guards, first, to see if there were a good reason to take it down (animals, etc).

We actually ran out of water mid-morning and contemplated collecting rainwater in order to shower and boil. About 2:30pm, the skies broke with torrential rains. We had set one of our blue bathroom barrels under the spout from the roof gutters and found any possible container that could hold water. THEN, Rene (today’s guard) came over and showed us there was municipal water coming out of the garden spigot. Well, that meant that we had used the stored water and nothing had bee replenishing it. After a few people tried opening the one spigot we saw and no water was going into the large water tank, he showed us another one in the ground. But, he and we did not know if it were already open or not. THEN…he showed us a third ground spigot. Now we were totally confused as we played with various combinations of ‘open’ and ‘closed’ and weren’t getting anywhere. SO…we called Chico on the phone. Chico has been doing almost all of the construction here, so he came over, showed us which spigot position was opened – we marked 2 of the three (the last had a beetle family living in it and I wasn’t going into it to clear the dirt to mark it). So, now we know, it is marked and we have it on our ‘To Do’ list for Opening NiCasa as well as closing. Something new learned every day here!

We are ready for everyone now. Just the food shopping in the morning and a short trip to pick up a few missing items and we will be ready to welcome our first companion just after Noon. Mission #42 is about to begin…