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August 2, 2011

Daily Journal: Monday, August 1, 2011

By Bonnie Black
Today was our ‘day off’ before returning to all of you. It began earlier than usual with Colleen, Darcy, Angie, Missy and Sam opening the kitchen by 4:45am, so that everyone leaving for Mombacho could have a full and hearty breakfast before boarding their van at 6am.

Four of our young men also got up that early to assist in completing the first coat on one of the Moore Suite rooms: Chris, Ross, Charles and Dan. Then Dan, who was on the second van out later, stayed in the room to put a second coat on it.

Our BBB crew was Cathy and Anna along with Dan in the morning for the Men and Ross in the evening.

So, off to Mombacho, the cloudforest volcano, were Jeanne, Chris, Stefanie, Alex, Sam, Mary, Ross, Bill C., Charles, Sarena, Stephen, Josh, Colleen, Brendee, and Alix. They enjoyed this excursion, lunch at Pollo Narcy (which is at the foot of El Coyotepe) and then on to the Roberto Huembes Market, named after a martyr of the Civil War.

Sister, Cathy, Sister Stephanie and Liz went to CARITAS today to meet with the Archbishop regarding various medical brigade issues and container shipments. They also dropped Barbara at the airport as she is the first of our group to return home. Her time spent with the orphans this week is on her personal blog: This is Barbara’s individual ‘take’ on her work with our Orphans’ Hope Project which she uses to keep the OHP sponsors and supporters informed on her activities, frustrations, progress and any miracles that occur while she is here in Nica.

Around 9, the Masaya National Park group took off: Bev, Angie, Ashley, Heather, Darcy, Missy, Judy, Connie, Dan, Lou and Joan. After their visit to the active volcano, they went on to lunch at Pollo Narcy, the Catarina Lagoon and Market, and then the Masaya Market.

Bev told us that she had recently seen a program on the Masaya volcano and the legends of the indigenous peoples as well as the story of the Spanish on the History Channel. Maybe you can catch it next time it’s on!

Bill M. went up to the Pajarito Azul farm to do the assessment required by the Dorothea Haus Ross Grant. He met with Mel Landers, the staff there and learned

Our semi-annual Pizza Party in memory of Sister Steph’s nephew, Shawn Watson (the first deceases mission traveler at the age of 35) was enjoyed by all of us and our guests: Magaly & her husband, Nora and her daughter Alyson, Rosa (our other cook) and her daughter Daniela, Marta, Mauricio, Chico and his son Harvey, Fabricio, and 3 of the 4 sisters from Niño. A good – and delicious – time was had by all!

Afterward, we had a quick meeting to go over some particulars of the group shutdown assistance for this evening and at 3am. Then, the young people gathered at the table in the breezeway to share laughs and giggles and stories from this week together in an informal manner.

On a serous note, one of the women in the barrio with whom we have had a long standing relationship is in a domestic violence situation. Steps were taken to assure her safety and that of her children, so her life may be able to begin anew soon. The connection among Mission #42 led to a donation tray in the kitchen tonight and a total of $200 is now going to assure her some financial security as she begins her life anew.

It is this type of human connection, emotional tethering to our fellow human beings, that have bonded these 34 people together this week. Each has experienced Mission #42 in his or her own way; each will have their own story; yet, each will hold a memory unique to this mission – forever.

Tomorrow, as you pick up your loved one in Plattsburgh (or Newark or San Diego), don’t be surprised if you will begin to hear it all…or nothing. Everyone emerges from their time here in a different manner. Some are chatterboxes, others quieter than normal. It’s OK. Let the processing occur. In due time, you will begin to hear their story – our story – from more than my perspective.

Thank you for letting me share our week with you. Adios from Mission #42 – hasta pronto!

August 1, 2011

Daily Journal: Sunday, July 31, 2011

By Bonnie Black
This is it – the last day of projects for Mission #42. It doesn’t seem like we have been so long. For A Team, it has been exactly 1 week ago today that we began cleaning and sweeping and scrubbing in preparation for the rest of the group.

This morning’s assignment board looks a little different than others as everyone is on it multiple times. There are lots of short tasks to do in addition to our major painting jobs at the Children’s Hospital and here around the house.

Our last morning meeting (for tomorrow half of us head out very early to Mombacho) began with Sister reviewing the assignment board and the concept of Team. All of us need to be consistently asking what needs to be done – until ALL the jobs are done, none are done.

She reminded everyone that if anyone wants to be sponsored, they need to go to Magaly and then tell Sister; for a home shelter or repairs, they come to the clinic on Tuesdays and Thursdays for the application which is available and turned back into Mauricio.

There was a question about ‘the container’ which is still being held up by the government. Sister explained that it is sitting at the Customs warehouse (they saw it the other day). Once it is clearer and processed, it will be shipped to CARITAS and will begin to be unpacked. By designation, our partners will go there to pick up their goods. Anything designated for us (a small portion of the container) will be brought here and stored for distribution in February.

Liz and Sister shared various local news items on the exploitation of the poor that seem to be in conflict with the Church and Archbishop Brenes’ philosophy.

This morning may be a difficult morning for some – a Mass was said for family members who have been lost over the four moths – most of us are realizing we will be leaving part of our heart here as well as home. Some have had some difficult moments in our experiences – many not having processed what we have seen and heard. “But, we must remember that God always walks with us – in our pain and in our joy,” said Sister.

She continued, “The mission is about recognizing our blessings – not feeling guilty. It starts with us when we go home – wasting less water and electricity, being kind to our neighbor, caring for what has been provided to us.” We then listened to Lori Ture’s “What Have We Done for the Poor Ones?” It was a poignant song, emotionally bringing a few to tears. Sister closed with a prayer noting how we bring our joys and hopes as well as our failings, asking God to continuously ask us the questions of what we’ve done.

The variety of tasks today included a team out early to paint at the Fernando Velez Paiz Children’s Hospital: Bill M., Charles, Stefanie, Colleen and Brendee. Darcy and Ross joined them after Mass this morning allowing Bill M. to return here for a walkthrough of the facility with our contractor, Chico.

Off to Pajarito Azul for the last visit of this Mission were Josh, Stephen, Chris, Sam and Mary.

Everyone was working like a hive of bees today – scurrying around getting everything back in place and then inventoried.

We removed the plastic from the windows along the sides of the house we had painted; cleaned the breezeway of items to accept the 4 remaining bunkbeds we needed to move from NiCarlos. 170 health fair kits were prepared while most of us went to Mass. The Moore Suite rooms and bathrooms were painted today with just the border area in one of the rooms left to do tomorrow morning.

The remaining 2 rockers that were purchased by people on this Mission for our gathering area (a total of 4 were purchased this time) were assembled as were the beds for the Moore Suite.

We even strung the CAT cable through the walls and ceiling to prepare for the day that the internet will work…longer than a couple of hours!

Our Home Depot has a great look now with a bunkbed moved in to hold the ECO gardening equipment. Heather and Lou did the large moving then Alex, Josh and Heather did the actual inventory. Perfecto!

Connie and Bev along with Anna and Alex began working on the Shutdown Checklist; Connie and Bev coordinated the returning suitcases for Tuesday morning assure that we could nest whatever possible getting more suitcases back to Plattsburgh than we have people returning.

Today as she didn’t have meetings scheduled. So, Alix, Dan, Judy and Missy got their chance to see Managua from a different perspective than when they came in from the airport on Tuesday.

Tonight’s meeting began with a rundown of the itineraries for tomorrow which will include a morning meeting with the Archbishop, a venture to Mombacho and another to Masaya National Park.

Bev distributed the Continental tags for everyone’s suitcase and we got Goldfish or peanuts as our evening snacks.

Sister asked us to center ourselves. We are all at a different moment in our experiences and life, so there are many different emotions

You are it – you will always be it.”\We all have one goal in mind – to serve the lives of the poor. So, as we begin this evening - A Team stood and received thanks for all….then the 3 point persons for the kitchen - Bev, Steph and Joan – received their applause. Members of the Leadership Team stood and Sister explained what LT is and how we each have the heart of the Mission year ‘round to keep it all going. LT members here this time were Bill M., Joan, Sister Steph, Sister Debbie and myself.

Sister then commented that the dream that began with Yamilette Flores, Eve McGill and herself never could have conceived of a Mission #42. Sister said, “The mission is better because of each of you – it is whole because of each of you.” She spoke with Oscar and Yami today via phone and they wanted to express their thanks for all that each of us has done for their people.

Sister asked us to take our balloons and reflect on where we were, what we were doing and thinking a week ago. Two days later, we blew up these balloons – symbolic of our breath, our one life. She spoke of how we are one human family and then asked us to open the balloons and slowly let the air in our balloons out. As we released the air from our balloons, we held the empty one in our hands. We are now comingled with the people of Nicaragua – our breath, our rhua, our spirit is connected to all of the people you served this week. And each breath will return to each in time.

Some serious thoughts were shared and Sister asked us each to turn to the person on our left and mention something about that person that they learned about that person. Sustained commitment to being true to self and the disabled, caring for babies at the orphanage, dedication to the Mission – the grunt work, an amazing person who has become a friend who is reliable, a glow and smile beaming brightening each day, inspired by the goal and visions, patience and going with the flow, having the well-being of the people here prominent in her mind, learned how to be patient and have stamina while inspiring others, expertise is remarkable bring a myriad of talents to the Mission, humility in expertise and follow-through, the quiet worker who only has to be told once and goes on with a smile, lightens the mood and made the Mission fun, steps up to the plate and is upbeat, a smile that glows in its genuine way taking on whatever was assigned, serene through it all-even at the beginning of the turmoil at the airport, the funniest person who can make any situation a joy, caring for the kids and getting children to smile, lightening up any situation and good listeners, amazing with the kids and able to handle whatever is thrown at her, animated and playful, extremely dedicated and willing to work through any situation, a wonderful helper willing to do whatever was asked, foresight and maturity, compassionate and creative about us and everyone we encountered, hands that ease suffering, a great laugh and sense of humor who works as just hard, foresight and relaxed through difficult situations, energetic and outgoing, sweet and kind and down-to-earth, dedication with a sense of humor, genuinely optimistic with sincerity, a happy person who is enjoyable to be around, a dynamic force who is straightforward getting things done in an exacting manner, a hard worker who never stops even when physically challenged, an integral part of the mission making children smile and motivating to others, a role model who is task oriented yet lightens the mood, complementary to others, tenacious – and resourceful with water bottles, dedicated to serving the poor.

Sister acknowledged we are like a mosaic – unique to ourselves yet making a wonderful picture…of Mission #42. We then moved into our closing prayer which was Celtic Woman’s song, “One World.” The chorus singing: We’re all a part of one world, We all can share the same dream…And if you just reach out to me, Then you will find deep down inside – I’m just like you.”

Many memories of this past week sped through our minds as we sang the words as visions of situations we encountered were captured so well in song. With that we ended our last evening meeting together looking forward to our day tomorrow.

Daily Journal: Saturday, July 30, 2011

By Bonnie Black
Oh, well, it was nice while we had it. The internet worked well late last night and I was able to update all of you with the Daily Journals and post photos of this mission on Facebook and send others to the Press Republican. But…when I booted up the computer this morning, it seems that we lost the connection beyond this facility. Bill M. got my computer (which is hardwired to the router) to recognize it, but could not get the connection back up the road to function. I hope by the time I want to send this tonight, I can do so.

This morning, we welcomed Josh to our circle and Mission #42! He also brought with him the 2 missing suitcases from Continental, so there is only one suitcase not here – the one confiscated by MINSA. Sister then mentioned that we will have many guests Monday night for our ‘thank you/goodbye’ with our partners, so tomorrow night is our true last night of sharing and prayer together.

In order to clarify the hiccups we ran into the last couple of days on Rice & Beans delivery, Sister discussed the policy which is one bag of each for every 4 people in a family. She and I then had a meeting with Magaly and Mauricio (plus Fabricio and Liz to translate) a bit later and personnel has now been changed as of today.

We reviewed the potential trips for Monday and a sign-up sheet is going to be passed around at tonight’s meeting. Bill M. will not be joining us as he needs to visit the Pajarito Azul farm for the Dorothea Haus Ross Grant. We also heard the ‘tips’ about shopping the various markets and the variety of choices.

Morning prayer was guided by Sam who chose to share “One Day”. She has found it to be a centering song for herself when stressed at school or life gets too tense. She and her friend, Caitlin Houle (a mission veteran), have shared this together. “It’s not about win or lose – you can lose your way – but, don’t let it get you down. Sometimes in my tears I drown, but I never let it get me down. One Day there will be no more wars, no more fighting, people will be free and sing a song of freedom. All my life I have been praying for, waiting for the people to say…one day.” Those aren’t the exact words, but you get the idea. A wonderful way to begin the day with clarity of purpose.

Sister closed asking that we focus our prayers on Alyson who will be moving, permanently, from Juan Pablo II to the Angels of Hope Orphanage in El Crucero this afternoon. Barbara will be accompanying her to the older children’s orphanage where she has brought her on excursions before. We will pray for her to find permanent love with the nuns there which her mother does not seem to be able to share with her although she brings her toddler there daily and brings him back home, while leaving her there. Abandoned, orphaned, continuous loss – all emotional trauma. Colleen did a fundraiser at her parish that provided over $100 to Juan Pablo II which was already delivered to keep the children who actually live there well cared for.

Students whom we sponsor at various vocational, technical and academic schools arrived this morning for their annual photos with Sister. She held a meeting regarding our expectations of service, like we asked of the secondary students the other day. Immediately afterward, Dayana came up to Sister and, in her impeccable North-American dialect, she volunteered to translate for us today and tomorrow when families will be coming for their sponsor gifts. THAT’s what we’re talking about! She noted that the students this morning told her they were studying engineering, accounting, graphic design. She recalled that most spoke English and they acknowledged they need the fluency in order to obtain longevity in their desired vocation.

Then, she had a long and tearful meeting with a woman many of us know in the community who has been severely abused. The violence against women in this country rose 40% in the past year with no options available. Recently, though, there was a group of women who tried to get harsher laws against intimate partner violence, but it never got out of committee to the National Assembly for discussion.

So, here was today’s TO DO list:

Kitchen was Bev, Ross, Alix and Brendee; BBB was Bill C, Charles, Darcy and Judy. At Pajarito Azul were Josh, Cathy, Joan and Alex.

Home shelters in the morning were Colleen, Heather, Lou, Jeanne and Barbara. The first house was built for Xiomara Medrano in Barrio Solano with a donation from Colleen. The second in Barrio Solano was constructed for Carlos Rocha/Tatiana Solis with a donation from Heather.

Tackling the primer in the second Moore Suite room this morning were Ashley, Judy and Bill C.

At the Dermatological Center all day were Stephen, Sam, Sarena, Mary, Charles, Dan, Chris and Bill M. painting a couple of rooms and the long hallway. Morning Rice & Beans were distributed by Stefanie, Darcy, Angie and Missy in Monte Verde. Out with Sister Debbie this morning were Liz and Anna. They bought the beds and nightstands for the Moore Suite now ready to be placed in the sick bay area as soon as the painting is completed tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Liz was conniving and used the plastic scorpion tucked under the folders on the dashboard to create a ‘scene’ in the truck. That story got us all laughing at tonight’s meeting.

A short trip to Juan Pablo II was made by Alex, Stefanie, Missy, Colleen, Cathy, Heather and Barbara.

This afternoon’s Home Shelter Crew was Ashley, Joan, Connie and Angie. The first home was built for Jessica Rivas Osorio and Romano Urbina here in Chiquilistagua with funds from the Peru Knights of Columbus. The second home was also here – right around the corner – for Xiomara Castillo/Jose Alberto Maltez with a donation from John & Shannon Alexandrou. Rain certainly affected Home Crew today although the first group was on their way back from lunch when it poured, the afternoon group actually didn’t make it back – and neither did the truck which was stuck in the mud from the sudden, torrential rain, while there was also lightening and thunder. The last house was left incomplete by the crew of locals who also sought shelter fast. The flash flooding caused Angie, Ashley, Connie and Joan to have to make their way through ‘the bush’ rather than the instantly flooded road. They went through barbed wire and got to a muddy hill where they joined hands, then made a human chain, due to how slippery and steep it was. As they were partially down, a huge crack of lightening occurred and Connie pulled Angie and Ashley while Joan was pulled the other way distracted by the flowers! Seriously, the reality was safety had to be first, not completion of the job. Angie said that she has observed that the teams scheduled this Mission have had a balance of safety-minded people on them. The locals will finish the house tomorrow, if it ever lets up with the rain. Hopefully, we can get some photos for the donors before we leave in the middle of Tuesday morning.

Bill C. went to the Red Cross for a meeting; Jeanne was on suitcase prep while Judy, Darcy and Lou worked on cleaning up the yard.

Our evening meeting was held inside of the kitchen due to the dark clouds still above – we didn’t want to risk being under a metal roof with open sides if a similar weather pattern occurred. While we were meeting, and for the rest of the night, the heavy rains continued past bedtime.

Sister reviewed some details and Sister Stephanie thanked Bev for counting out the M&Ms which were donated by one of the parents so that everyone had a personal pack of treats.

Our trips on Monday were decided to be Mombacho and Masaya National Park. It came out almost evenly split, so that will work well with our van capacity.

Before sharing, Sister asked if anyone had missed their cell phone this week. There wasn’t one who felt they had.

Mary noted she saw two of the kids in the family that her family sponsors and she enjoyed having that opportunity.

Charles told us that ‘it’ was Dan’s fault: he encouraged some of the small children to take his hat leading to a chase. It was an interesting time in the rain. Ross said that this has been the best time with the kids – everyone was playing together not segregated into various parts of the courtyard the way it used to be over at Niño. I thought it was interesting how the boys expressed so much joy in the experiences they have had in our yard during this mission.

A comment was made about how the Dermatological Center (as well as other hospitals) use plastic chairs with bicycle wheels to make functional wheelchairs. Although it is sparse, it is very clean.

The group that went to Juan Pablo II noticed the improvement in the conditions there. Heather noted the broken toys were gone, the mold is no longer visible and it appears in better condition. The sisters are looking for a piece of land that could be in a better part of town.

The question came up about sponsoring students and Sister gave us information on how to do it.

On a lighter note, Jeanne saved Darcy from another spider today by removing it from a suitcase they were about to prepare for return travel before Darcy could see it.

Cathy told us she got to go to Pajarito Azul for her first time in her many missions and fully enjoyed it…then, this afternoon, she got to hold a 40-day-old in her arms at the baby orphanage which felt so good. Joan thanked Josh for showing her how to give the children at Pajarito Azul a therapeutic massage to release their tensed muscles.

Darcy and Connie chose for tonight’s closing prayer a song written for the Mission by veteran Joe Lewis in 2009. It is simply called, “Joe’s Song,” but it carries the emotions of all of us for now we are all Mission veterans able to reflect on the lyrics and have the same sentiments well up in us, including the desire to return.

After listening to the song, Sister dialed Joe and he answered the phone immediately! She told him that he was with us in spirit. Connie and Sister Steph affirmed that the phone call you get when you want to be here, but can’t, is such a strong, emotional experience. Both have had that experience over the past 2 years.

Time spent later tonight included small groups talking and laughing – fully engaged and enjoying each other’s company. Mission #42 has totally become a unique and memorable family.