By Bonnie Black
Sunday – and it is! The wonder of being here when we come in February is that the sun shines continuously. The warm breeze through the trees actually turned into a wind today making it feel cooler than the 90+ that is was
Just before our meeting we took the official Mission #44 photo – what a field of azalea (that’s the color of this year’s t-shirt). By the time you read this, I hope to have already posted it on Facebook.
Sister told us that this morning she saw painted buntings, guadabarrancos and other colorful birds before coming to NiCasa for the meeting. The spleniforous colors of Nica!
At our morning meeting, Sister informed the group that Leadership Team members here on the ground approved a request by Sister Rosa for the donation of the ECO tools to Niño Jesus de Praga school to reinstate their community garden learning program. The teacher who had been trained is no longer there in that capacity and she wanted to reinvigorate it. Joy C. contributed some money which was matched by the Mission and an additional $25 came in so that we can purchase $125 worth of seeds to get the program up and running again.
We also heard that there were 2 donations yielding over $100 toward the colostomy bags for the young girl that will allow her to attend school for the next few weeks.
There was a good deal of laughter and giggles over the ‘Good Housekeeping Award’ which moved itself from the Women’s Dorm to the Men’s overnight in a ‘mysterious’ manner.
Some of the children who have spent the past few days at our playtime have asked to receive the books to assist them in learning English. These are infant and toddler books, most of which have been donated, so we had a consensus to give what we have away this afternoon after the children leave from meeting with their sponsors. We attended to what we could late in the afternoon after the gifts were given.
Sister suggested we think of the word “Journey” this morning in its many meanings. “Sometimes we can forget that we don’t have to complete ‘our world’ in six days; we are on a journey and need to remember that.”
Our closing prayer was shared by Sister Cathy and Paul R. which began with a song, “All Is One” by Kathy Sherman, CSJ. An interesting occurrence happened just before the song began – Microsoft decided to reboot my computer on which I take notes to prepare these thoughts for you, so I needed to sit still (yes, family, I actually sat still!). In that time, I closed my eyes and my choreographer mind began to click in. I had a wonderfully expressive liturgical dance created in my mind’s eye – and if I can get a copy of that song, someday you might actually see what I saw that resonated with joy.
Then Paul R. read from The Prophet by Kahil Gibran:
“Then said a rich man, speak to us of giving:
And he answered:
You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give…
There are those who give little of the much they have – and they give it for recognition and their hidden desire makes their gifts unwholesome.
And there are those who have little and give it all.
These are the believers in life and the bounty of life and their coffer is never empty.
There are those who give with joy, and that joy is their reward….It is well to give when asked, but it is better to give unasked, through understanding.”
The message was a poignant one, especially as we near the close of Mission #44 as everyone here has given of themselves, many in new and different ways. And, as anyone who has come on Mission can attest, the line ‘those who have little give it all’ is so true of almost every single person with whom we come into contact.
Everyone got to meet Fabricio Martinez who has been Sister Debbie’s translator this week as well as Magaly Velasquez who is the coordinator of our Niño and Nejapa school scholarships.
Lots of ‘odds and ends’ were on today’s work list as we bring Mission #44 to a close. This was our last full work day as tomorrow we get our day to be tourists!
Our next-to-last Kitchen Crew was Bev, Haley, Brody, Vicky and Nancy who got a break from normal duties when the students and their families arrived for the gift-giving session in the afternoon.
BBB was done by Nick, Henry, Clare and Joy L. throughout the day.
Our ‘early out’ team went to Casa de Vida to enclose a fenced area allowing the babies greater safety when outside preventing a potential 20-foot drop: James, Paul W., Paul O., Andrew and Ben. They returned just in time for the sponsorship event, as they had hoped.
Our morning home shelters had as our crew Nicole, Brandon and Sarah R. These were built with funds from Dan Ladue in memory of his parents and also one from Jack Siegl of Lamb of God Church in Florida.
Allen, Joy C., and Kate completed the work at the Chiquilistagua Public School which we have decided to call ‘CPS.’ A meeting this morning after Mass was held with Sister Debbie, Mauricio, Carmen (a former teacher at Niño) who will be our liaison), Joan, Henry, Sandy, Paul R. (who had his Rotary International hat on as he listened to the needs). They then proceeded over to the facility for a more intensive discussion. Allen worked with Joy C. and Kate teaching them the basic electrical work needed and they completed one of the 3 rooms by themselves. These are those tasks that teach us here on Mission and expand the gifts we have been given. The photos show their pride at the end of the job!
Cleaning up around the yard this morning were Diane and Sr. Claire who then assessed the growth of the citrus plants which were planted during Mission #43 in January by the Lamb of God team.
The grade on the walkway was completed by Tom so we should have less of a chance of major deterioration during the rainy season that begins in a few months.
This afternoon our last home shelter was another all-women crew: Kate, Sandy, Grace, Sally, Sr. Claire and Diane. This home was constructed in honor of Sr. Debbie and Sr. Stephanie by John & Nancy Roskovich. Sr. Debbie had a few minutes to stop by and meet the older couple for whom our last shelter of Mission #44 was completed.
A quick trip back to Casa de Vida with cartons of supplies then on to Juan Pablo II Orphanage with theirs were: Paul O., James, Paul W., Anna and Amanda. They spent a bit of time with the few children that were there, but seemed to have a great time from the photos I have seen as I am downloading them! A regression by all to pre-K laughter and toys ;~)
Toy organization and inventory was handled by Nicole while her dad, Tom, straightened up Home Depot and worked on the inventory of one of the sectors.
Putting the final touches on the suitcases to go back were Connie T. and Kate – and they even were able to distribute them after tonight’s meeting so everyone could begin to pack….even if it’s dirty clothes!
Everyone else got into the prep for the distribution of gifts and spent the majority of the afternoon with the kids having a great time. Our translators, especially Aidyanne and Fabricio, were in great demand. I know that although I can stumble along and communicate the necessity of the situation, I can’t hold an in-depth conversation for too long. I was blessed to have Fabricio around when the family that my daughter and I sponsor arrived so we could learn a bit more about each other’s current family situations.
We began tonight’s meeting with Emily and Sara escorting Bill to the center of the Pavilion. Then 3 of the men approached and one knelt as if he were serving a king, presenting Bill with a covered item. When he disclosed it, the men had created the ‘Best Dorm Award!’ He then thanked all of the little people – those who were his height – for granting him this honor. There was more levity when Connie T. remarked on the ‘original’ “Good Housekeeping Award” granting Bill the honor of receiving the silver medal for cleanliness!
As our laughter and giggles subsided, Sister Debbie noted that “sadly, but true, this is our last full nightly meeting where we have the opportunity to share. She praised the group, first, for completing all of the Community Development tasks set for off-site – a true accomplishment as there were so many tasks to do. “It took a lot of work, logistics and flexibility.” Allen said that Chico deserves much credit for assuring we’d get it done.
Sister then noted how many letters and acknowledgements we have received from students – as we are supposed to. I will be bringing them back to Plattsburgh (already have 2 five-gallon bags full and working on a third!) to have them translated by two volunteers. I know that many of you are anxious to receive them, but the volume will mean a number of weeks until they are in your hands…please be patient! It is just wonderful that we have so many to head back with.
We discussed protocol for our trips tomorrow, especially in the Roberto Huembes Mercado in the afternoon.
Sister said she has seen a lot of people journaling (as I have in photos, too) and that is a good thing. Memories of this Mission #44 will forever exist as a memory-jogger not only for the traveler you have allowed to be here with us, but also for you, if you’ve been on Mission before. It is through these intense, descriptive notes that you will also be able to visualize what this experience has been like.
Because we are a lot more alert tonight than we will be at 3am on Tuesday morning, we reviewed the process for stripping the beds, leaving shoes or other clothing for the community.
Then, we began our last reflection time as Sister asked us to pull back the word for today – Journey. She asked us to look around the circle….”is there anyone you haven’t gotten to know? We arrived as individuals but will leave as a Mission family.”
Vicky said her journey this morning started at 5:15am in the kitchen and she had a really good day spending time with people she hadn’t gotten to know well…yet. What struck her was she got to see everyone at meals times – a benefit of working in the kitchen!
Bev mentioned the challenges today as they ran out of gas and then coordinated boiling water for bottles and making lunch running between our kitchen and Nora’s. We put a startup system into place to assure we don’t run out on large missions again after a few smaller ones in between. This experience allowed Bev to reflect on what is truly important. The workers had children they wanted to see at the gift-giving session today, but ‘should’ have been in the kitchen preparing our site for dinner. Some of the crew might not be back here for a while – or ever – and it may be the one shot at spending some quality time with them. And washing and cleaning should take precedence? No. So, she let her crew go attend to their new-found friends and family as that is much more important.
Brody thanked Sandy for pitching in to help them and he was thankful for the opportunity he had with his child and the mother. The dedicated time allowed him to get to know them better. He learned that the boy had been hospitalized for 3 days and it cost the family $25 which they struggled to pay…so, he made a decision to use the money he brought with him to pay their medical bill…and passed along his inexpensive watch to the boy which brought joy to them both. That’s a ‘mission moment’ for sure!
Nicole thanked Sarah and Brandon for being an awesome crew this morning on 2 home shelters. A little boy who was with the family receiving the shelter got excited and moved fast, tripping over some of the tin – the tin we know that is so dangerously sharp. He cut a gash in his leg and after communicating with our medical team, she informed the family they needed to take the boy for stitches. Not having money, Sarah had money for gas to get the family to the hospital. It was an emotional experience and Sister said the accident gave them the opportunity to reach out with greater compassion assuring them the boy will be OK. Nicole concluded, ‘The teenagers here continue to amaze me.’
“Mission allows you to deepen your reflection on who you are called to be. And you will experience even more as we return. You may not want to turn on your cell phones right away when landing in Houston or you may find you change your pattern of using technology. All of this will be making an impact on your life.”
This afternoon at San Luis Public School the four that the enrollment is 800 in 2 useable classrooms. There are 2 other classrooms, but they are not in functional shape. They would like another building built as a kitchen. Leadership discussed this and we are extracting some of our painting supplies and paint we did not use up on this mission and providing it to them to begin the ‘freshening’ process before we return in the summer with a specific task to accomplish. There is a need for about 600 more desks (that’s right, only 1 in 4 students has one) so we will need to come up with a fundraiser to purchase them here….start thinking of some ideas!
Henry then spoke of the elderly, deaf woman walking the dirt road as they were slowly passing her. James reached out to give her some cordobas and, at the same time, not knowing what James was doing, the truck sped up and he reactively released the coins. As they watched the woman bent over and received the gift so generously given. Sister said, “Another example of how the Mission occurs on the journey.”
Emily’s moment today was a small child who ran back into church after leaving to genuflect after forgetting….then running back out.
Sister told us that she thanked Father Jalder for including her as a communion steward in the service and said that every time Mission returns, he would be honored to have her do so as it is a sign that we are part of the community.
Allen told us of Miranda, the principal at the Chiquilistagua Public School (CPS from now on!) who wanted him to make her bell functional so she can signify the time to change classes. He plugged the ends into a live outlet (everything here is ‘live’ when there is power!) and it rang – what a reaction he had from her! So, the bell is functional, it just needs to be installed correctly. He might have time to return tomorrow afternoon to do so….but we’re sure if he doesn’t have time, she’ll use it the other way!
Connie T. gave appreciation for Aidyanne’s translating talent as she got to have a deeper discussion with the young girl with medical issues when she and her mother came for gifts. When the mother was informed there was money for colostomy bags from two sources, she cried and the girl teared up. Connie was able to learn more about the specifics of the surgeries planned and when she might be able to function with less supplies.
Joy L. spoke of Mercedes, a girl she met last year and had asked if she would ever come back. She was so excited, she invited Joy to her house for a taco dinner. Joy, of course, had to decline, but told her she would always come back to her.
Amanda got to take an impromptu trip to the baby orphanage with the others who had planned to go and was impressed on how clean it was – although very crowded with cribs. All but 2 of the children were out, but that didn’t stop Paul O. and James from getting on the floor and playing with the boys. The giggles and belly laughs brought her back to when she was younger and her Dad would raise her up in the air, too. She reflected on these children not having an earthly father in their lives, but noted, “There is only one Father who will always be with us to pick us up when it’s needed.” She then followed with, “I so appreciate my parents.”
Sarah R. noted the phrase on the wall at the older children’s orphanage that applies: “My God, my only desire is love, until the final breath of my life.” She felt it is resonating within her and will stay with her as it expresses her mission this time.
Clare felt like she had been pushing herself to have a ‘mission moment’ but was finding she was extremely happy and joy-filled this week. “Every day was my new best day,” she said. But, knowing at CPS there are 60 children in a classroom and broken glass on the playground, she wondered why the young girl she hopes to sponsor wasn’t at Niño…until the child told her how happy she will be to return to her school to learn. THAT was her emotional mission moment!
Paul O. spoke about he loves to interact with the kids and now that he has a 5-month-old granddaughter, his hope is that she will come on Mission and have the teenagers with us today as the adult to whom she will look and be guided. “The future of our country and this Mission is right here.”
Ben told us about Frankie who he met last year – they’ve even exchange letters in that time. He was able to be back from tasks yesterday at playtime and spent most of it with him teaching him how to juggle. “It was the best hour of the past week.”
Sara felt that we have more to learn from the community than they do from us and gave a shout out to Bev who took over the Kitchen from Sr. Stephanie – and everyone clapped. An applause came after her second shout out to me for ‘making things happen’...and a third to Sister Debbie for modeling someone with God-given skills and talents who uses them to do for the Mission, the people back home and giving students a chance to experience Nicaragua.
Sister closed with reminding us that we have become part of the Mission legacy. The Mission is not just one person, project or trip. She also informed us that Yami and Oscar called her today and asked that their thanks be expressed to all of us for what we have done this week. They feel badly they cannot be with us due to changed work schedules this February and wanted to let us know “it means a great deal to both us as you are part of our family now.”
Amanda had our closing prayer which she sang, beautifully, a capella: “Blessings” by Laura someone. It spoke of blessing through raindrops, healing through tears, trials of this life are mercies in disguise.” A beautiful way to conclude our final sharing meeting.
The Kitchen Crew passed around pineapple pastries bought by Brenda Flynn from Karla, a local baker, who has learned her trade through vocational training paid for by Marty Mannix, a missioner who sponsors her daughter at Niño.
And so ends our working mission….on to our ‘free’ day (so to speak) tomorrow.