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February 28, 2012

Daily Journal: Monday, February 27, 2012

By Bonnie Black
The morning began early for many as our trip to Mombacho was set to leave at 6am. We all met for a brief gathering before their departure with Emily and Aislyn leading us in contemplative time. They read the poem “When You Believe” which was put music by Celtic Women. We then all joined in the Prayer of St. Francis before they loaded into the 2 vans for their ‘day off’ excursion.

Those who traveled to Mombacho were: Bill, Ben, Bev, Nick, Grace, Brandon, Haley, Mar Ellen, Anna K., Clare, Nancy, Vicky, Joan, Sr. Claire, Connie T., Amanda and Sandy.

Our BBB teams were made up of those going on the later trip: Tom, Andrew, Sarah R. and Megan. Kitchen of course, had already done their work with an early breakfast: Diane, Sally, Emily, Joy C. as they, too, were on the later trip.

The rest of us began the more intense Group Shutdown processes, specifically Paul W and Tom securing some of the shelving units in Home Depot before the trip to León Viejo took off…so we left around 8:15am: Sr. Cathy, Connie M., Aislyn, Paul R., Nicole, Diane, Anna D., Corinne, Paul O., Sara, Sally, Joy C., Andrew, Joy L., Henry, Brody, Paul W., Aidyanne, Sarah, Priscilla, Tom, Megan and I.

Allen and Kate were going to search for tack needed to actually connect the horse and cart he paid for at Jinotepe farm! They searched in a few places in Managua and on their way up to the farm and Jinotepe to see if it were available there, they delivered cartons to the orphanage in El Crucero as they were passing by. It wasn’t possible to find the tack Allen would like, but he picked up a bridle so it can be a bit functional. Mauricio will need to acquire the tack later this week. At the farm they also delivered healthcare packages with toiletries, some towels, shirts, pants, socks, toys and balls plus some rice & beans. They headed back home making a stop at San Luis school to deliver paint and supplies we had in storage that could be put to better use over the next few months while we’re not here. We have – they need…a simple solution! Afterwards, they went over to CPS and installed the principal’s bell and completed the remaining electrical outlet in main building.

The groups that took a trip had lunch out in different locales, but both went shopping at Roberto Huembes Mercardo. We didn’t have lots of time, but an hour is sufficient as so many vendors send identical items.

When we returned our guests for the semi-annual Pizza Party were beginning to arrive, so we moved into ‘host’ mode immediately. The locals who assist us in serving the community are invited and those who were able to come this time were: Magaly and her husband, Rose and Marta who are 2 of the 3 cooks we have feeding us in the evening (Nora couldn’t make it as Jairo, her husband, was in the hospital), the sisters from Niño Jesus de Praga including the new principal Sister Lucia, Fabricio, our drivers (Chico, Oscar and Ramon), Mauricio and Carmen.

After our guests had left, we joined together for a brief time before filling suitcases and heading in for an early bedtime. What we all wanted to know was why Sister Debbie was sitting with both knees wrapped and one leg supported on top of a plastic box. It seems that when she left the pizzeria, the same place she has gone for years, she missed the first step down and fell on to both knees. She said that each time Oscar has been with her, he has always warned/reminded her as she went to leave. James helped to break her fall, but she has notified her surgeon that they will need to meet once she gets home. “Such is life,” she remarked.

Connie Miller thanked all who helped with the gift distribution yesterday as it went quite smoothly. And, speaking of students, Kate helped Sister Debbie this afternoon with the CPS sponsored students who came for their photos.

Sister had been notified by Jackie at the San Luis school that she had a group of volunteers already painting the rooms with the supplies that had been dropped off – love that enthusiasm! Then she noted that the new principal at Niño praised all we have done for her school as she can immediately see the results.

Connie T. thanked all for helping to keep the viral illness that is going around the community from impacting us. She acknowledged that the Public Health Nurse that she is, will always put group health first. Everyone worked at maintaining the protocols put in place by our Medical Committee and we traveling home a relatively healthy group.

Sister then mentioned a fundraiser happening in mid-March co-sponsored by Sunrise Rotary, the City of Plattsburgh and the Mission: “Race the Base.” Watch for more info or check out Facebook: Race the Base, Run for Hope page!

We then listened as Sister asked us, “What have you done for the poor ones this week?” and she introduced Lori True’s song of the same name that we sang. Joy L. then asked us to close our eyes and think how we are surrounded by beautiful and loving people – “all of whom are not sitting in the circle with us. Tomorrow we will get on a plane – go back home – but when our hearts are down or souls feel weary, let us remember this mission.” She then asked us to hold hands and, one by one, turn to the person on our left and say, “May the love of my heart flow from my hand to yours.” After that centering, we sang, “You Raise Me Up” by Josh Groban….with many sniffles and tears. Afterward there were many hugs shared as we left the Pavilion heading in for final suitcase prep and weighing.

A Team then took over cleaning up the kitchen and preparing it for the mid – nighttime departure with snacks and fruit choices for all.

ADDENDUM: Tuesday – A Team shutdown:

When the large group went into the airport at 3:15am, James and Allen took one of our vans back only to find that they didn’t open until 6am…and the main group discovered that the ticket counter didn’t open until 5am. Their choice, though, was made with the objective of being the first (30+) in line.

A few members of A Team who had gotten to bed with the others before 9pm, stayed up and began to work on Kitchen shutdown…there were 3 of us who headed back to bed, though!

Once all of us were up or back from the airport, we moved into high gear to accomplish much this morning….around 6:45am. We use our checklists and watch the whiteboard for tasks that are still needed (like painting bathroom shelving, fixing rockers and plumbing, rearranging Home Depot before inventorying, stoppers for doors, completing financial records, etc).

James has a meeting with ANF today with Mauricio and Allen will go back to CPS with Chico so the glass window louvers that Mauricio is out buying (no stores that give receipts are open on the weekends!) can be installed. They will also complete minor details from this past weekend’s jobs.

This afternoon, I will be taking the remaining student photos that sponsors need and sending them along to Sister Debbie.

The rest of us are ‘home’ making sure all linens are inventoried then taken to our laundress for washing, kitchen items are inventoried and final cleaning is done. IF we get everything done by 6pm, we hope to have the traditional A Team final dinner out at a restaurant….that’s because we will have given any leftover food away pending our departure at 4:30am for the airport on Wednesday.


Please realize that each of your travelers will react a bit differently as they ‘re-enter’ their life back home. Some will be ready to recount everything – almost all at once! Others may not open up for a number of days as they continue to process their time here in Nica. Diverse reactions are to be expected. Please be patient. In time, they will begin to share and one of the easiest for them will be through photos. That’s when you’ll see the glint in their eyes, the smiles – and even tears. Remember, as you missed them, they have missed you and will also miss their new ‘family’ made this week. Some will be able to return to build on those friendships while others will have their memories – and their journals of the past week.

The Mission hopes you will consider ways to allow your loved one to remain connected through service at home, too. As Sister Debbie is fond of saying, “Your true Mission begins when you return home.”

February 27, 2012

Daily Journal: Sunday, February 26, 2012

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.

February 26, 2012

Daily Journal: Saturday, February 25, 2012 (Late Edition)

By Bonnie Black
After a nice lunch together, our afternoon crews headed out and others remained here doing the staging for other work.

The afternoon home crew was Paul R., Priscilla, Joy L., Sr. Cathy, Aidyanne and Brody. The first home of this afternoon was constructed from a donation by Curtis Lumber and the Rainos. Curtis has been fantastic to the Mission donating duct tape, socket sets, screwdrivers, electrical supplies, silicone (which we have used on the Public School roof), light bulbs and more. In other words, they gave us everything we had asked for – thanks so much, Curtis!

Rice & Beans trekked afar this afternoon: Brandon, Sara, Andrew, Diane and Bill.

Carton sorting was finalized by Joy C., Nick and Clare although they are still here, they are in staging areas and labeled so that those for whom the cartons are intended will be able to access them in a simple manner.

Painting at the Public School was easier as the morning crew not only prepped, but also began painting after completing the concrete patch. Henry, Allen, Nicole, Vicky, Paul W. and Aislyn. Allen went back to complete the electric and the team returned having done 3 classrooms today, not just the 2 on the schedule! We have been blessed with donations from Sherwin-Williams for all of the painting and many supplies at this poor school. They provided some shirts for our workers to wear over their clothes, brushes, roller skins, paint gloves, sanding blocks and more. Again, another supportive business in the North Country.

Completing the preparation for Nejapa and Niño sponsor gifts set for tomorrow were Connie M. and Emily. Giving out the gifts to the sponsored students at university/vocational/public schools, after they had their photos taken, were Connie M., Corinne, Mary Ellen and Emily.

After working at the Public School, Allen along with James and Paul W. did some pipe cutting along with odds & ends around the house. Anna K., Connie T. and Kate helped me with some housekeeping items that get us nearer to shutdown.

Our last playtime with the local children was coordinated by Kate, Sandy, Corinne and Mary Ellen and there was the true joy of friendship felt all around.

At the beginning of our meeting both Haley, whose birthday is today, and I, who have one on Wednesday, were feted with a round of song as well as a cake – with candles that didn’t seem to go out! It was a surprise for both of us and….we’re bunkmates – who would have known!

Sister began the serious part of the meeting with various trivia questions that she had embedded in some of her emails before the trip: What was the first song ever played on Mission? The Prayer by Celine Dion and Andre Bocceli. Name the 3 co-founders: Sister Debbie, Yamilette Flores and Eve McGill; How many mission have there been? (duh!); Name the 4 pillars of the Mission: Healthcare, Environmental, Education and Community Sustainability. What is the newest high school to contribute a student to mission? (Medfield HS- MA). Name the current President of MOH: James Carlin…and more found on our website!

Then we began our sharing time with Sister Debbie telling us she had to deal with several families on various issues this afternoon, one of which was particularly difficult; she had called and asked Connie and Kate to join her. This 9-year-old has had 3 surgeries and most likely have a permanent colostomy. There are days she can’t go to school because they don’t always have enough bags or clean cloths for her and she has an open wound. Fabricio even expressed how difficult it can be. The girl can’t walk to the Clinic for help as she can’t make it that far and, if she did, the child wouldn’t be able to also walk back home.

The sponsor was contacted and provided enough for 2-3 weeks which will allow this child who loves school to be able to attend for a bit.

Connie T. said she thought the girl was a beautiful, little girl and after the mother received the OTC meds, their eyes welled up. She then handed some hair ties to the little girl who beamed. The little girl tapped her, took off her bracelet, and put it on Connie’s wrist. The young girl put her head on Connie’s shoulder and the mother told Sister Debbie she had felt like the weight of the cross from her back was lifted by the Mission. Connie and Kate shared this experience on their walk home from the Flores’ where Sister had met with the families.

Priscilla had her ‘mission moment’ which wasn’t as warm and fuzzy as others she had had. She felt that she was being disrespectful by not being able to speak Spanish at all with the families as they built home shelters this afternoon.

Amanda was talking with Sara earlier today about having hers. Going to the orphanage was great, but it was kind of sad that not all kids had a gift from the Orphan’s Hope Project we have there. It touched her to see the emotional impact of the visit on Anna D. It is hard for her to process it all. Then, Sister reminded everyone that one of the best ways of processing is through the journaling and also the support from each other now and when we return. “You now have an extended family that can understand what you are experiencing,” she said.

Anna D. told us her second mission has been a wonderful experience, but she hadn’t hit her ‘moment’ yet. Last year, she had wanted to go to Orphanage but the schedule didn’t allow, so when she saw she was scheduled for it today, she was very happy. She then described the afternoon’s experiences which ended with distributing the sponsor gifts…but the hard part was that not all of the children received one. What went through her mind was, ‘Why don’t they live with their parents? I don’t know what I’d do without my parents.” She experienced so many emotions and she was very happy she was able to go and thanked Sara and Joy L. for having the opportunity this year. She said she is going to be talking to Barbara Dobilas about sponsorship. The program is so successful that $900 each month is provided through the sponsorships and that has raised the level of life for these children. There has been much improvement and we will continue to struggle.

Sally had the same emotions and again, she saw her own grandchildren. She had brought everything she still had left in her backpack up to the orphanage and was able to give some trinket to all the kids. Sister noted that the absence of Sr. Griselda has had an impact on communicating this mission and that much will be clarified over the next few weeks.

Tom told us the pump is finally in and working at the orphanage – two years in the making! A young girl asked him if he were lucky and he acknowledged he does feel that way. She then responded that she isn’t lucky. Tom reflected with her that she does have support from the nuns and a place to live and food to eat. He’s not sure he truly reached her, though. He thought the improvements in the facility since last year is tremendous.

Grace spoke about the playtime today and she teared up reacting to the conversation about ‘mucho grande’ she and a young girl were comparing.

Paul R. had his latest ‘mission moment’ watching the transformations in all on Mission. He had noted the emotional turmoil of Vicky on Rice & Beans this morning as an example. What he loves about Mission is that we go home a little different and go home and do something about it.

Henry agreed that the moments are the people we get to work with. He brought the thought from this morning of not just what we do, but how we do it. His team knew they were making a difference in the students’ lives by prepping the walls and painting the 3 classrooms. “Allen is an amazing man,” said Henry as he was impressed not only in the electrical work that was done at the school, but in all that has been accomplished. He said that Miranda and Jorge had come back to the school to help our team bringing a 2 litre Coke to share with them all. What a great token of appreciation for their work from teachers who don’t receive much in salary. “It is a great blessing to be with everyone on this team,” he concluded.

Vicky spoke of the morning Rice & Beans venture which was her first excursion to see where people live. What stood out to her was what we consider garbage – like a partial tire is used as a feed trough for their animals.

Joy told us about yesterday’s emotional experience where she was confused thinking there are so many who turn their backs on people who need help. Sister replied, “Not everyone turns their backs – be careful not to judge. We are here to be. There are those who turn their backs in every culture. We need to model, to witness, to live. We can’t judge others who may turn their backs – we can only change ourselves.”

Sara thanked both teams she was with who helped translate, complete the forms and get the work done. What she realized was that she has been running around trying to get things done and missing some of the little things around her. “What is more important?” she queried. What better use of her time than to be with the young Down’s Syndrome girl and spent some undivided time with her. “We have so much more to fight in this world than each other. If we were working together to improve humanity, we’d be one,” she concluded.

Sister noted the wisdom coming out of the young in this group have truly witnessed to all of us. “We invite you to continue that commitment when you return home,” she said.

Clare spoke of a simple thing this morning on the truck ride back from Home Shelter construction. The language and socioeconomic barriers are difficult, but on that ride a young man stuck his hand out when she was being bounced around and she felt that they were the same. He reached out, instinctively, to protect her. There was no difference between them.

Haley thanked everyone for an amazing day from her ‘second’ family.

Sister asked Nick to have prayer tonight and he smiled saying, “How can you do that to me?” It was a joke! In reality, prayer was given by Sister Claire. She said that we bring Hope to the people we serve. Her handout was our evening prayer which also included “St. Teresa’s Song” by J-M Talbot Troubadour for the Lord.

We had a short Leadership meeting immediately afterward and there was much socializing in the Pavilion up until lights out at 9:30pm. Our one last day of projects is tomorrow – how fast time has flown! We will soon be back home to all of you.

Daily Journal: Saturday, February 25, 2012 (Early Edition)

By Bonnie Black
This morning in the Women's Dorm we woke to cheery birthday wishes for Haley - a joyful experience!

Everyone was up bright and early raring to go, checking the Assignment Board. At this point in the Mission, the chores we need to get done take priority and don't always last a half day, so the board is visually busier than usual. Various work crews were gathering their supplies and staging things for the 8am roll out….

…and we began the morning meeting. Sister started the meeting with the song, "The Presence You Are:"

It's not what you do but how you do it. It's not what you see but how you see. It's not what you say, what you know or achieve. But it's the Presence, the Presence you are.

We sang it in a Taize-like manner with calming effect of the simple repetition of a poignant few words.

Allen let us know that he has the tack all paid for now for the horse at the Jinotepe farm - thanks to all here on the ground!

After other morning 'business,' Sister noted we are nearing the end of our Mission here as tomorrow is our last 'work' day and it is important to be attentive to what we say and do…like this morning's song.

We closed by singing "Go Light Your World" by Kathy Troccoli…let's carry our candle into today's work and light the world.

Of course, you need to know who's keeping us fed with nutritious food, right? It's Bev along with Sr. Claire, Sandy, Grace and Ben. Our illustrious BBB team is Nicole, Paul R., Mary Ellen and Brandon.

Out for the entire day at Angels of Hope Orphanage in El Crucero are Paul O., Tom, Nancy, Joan, Anna D., Haley, Amanda, Sarah R. and Sally. They are painting a couple of rooms and Tom will be fixing the pump for the cistern that Allen, Sarah R. and Corinne prepared the other day. Chico welded it last night and he arrived bright and early this morning, proudly presenting it to the group. He was their driver, so I am sure that he'll work with Tom to get it in. A safe way to access their water has been a goal since last year's mission - and it will be achieved today!

This morning at the Chiquilistagua Public School Henry and Nick, Megan, Brody and Corinne prepared the walls of a second classroom for painting later today. Allen began his work on the electrical which is atrocious. I am sure he pulled one of the group to assist him.

Our Home Shelter crew went out with James, Andrew, Clare, Anna K., Sara and Emily to build homes sponsored by Clare as well as Dan Ladue in memory of his parents. He has generously provided funds for a total of 3 homes, so we are doing one day…I think! After all, it's only midday so I don't know what changes may occur.

Working on final details of cartons, assuring we get everything to whomever is to have it today and tomorrow, were Diane, Mary Ellen, Brandon, Aislyn and Joy C.

Our morning Rice & Beans crew was a bit delayed getting out as our guide wasn't here at 9, so a call was made and one of the women arrived. We'll hear later where they went: Aidyanne, Priscilla, Joy L., Paul R. and Vicky. Before they left, though, a few of the group jumped in on the carton maneuvering project.

Connie M. and Nicole worked on the final gift prep as we will be giving all non-Niño and non-Nejapa students their gifts this afternoon when they arrive for their photos. The big day, though, is tomorrow when the bulk of the sponsored students and their families are here.

Although we may not want to think about it, today is the day we must also prepare to leave. Gathering the suitcases to be brought back (including nesting of smaller in larger), numbering and labeling was all handled by Connie T. and Kate with help from Sr. Cathy.

Inventorying the medical supplies was handled by Bill and Paul W. They organized the First Responder training materials along with our own supplies.

That seems to be it for this morning as everyone around NiCasa is busy getting everything ready for the final 'push out' of supplies while beginning the end process of Mission #44. Hasta luego!

February 25, 2012

Daily Journal: Thursday, February 23, 2012 (Evening Edition)

By Bonnie Black
Our afternoon, as you had a hint of, was very fluid. Those of us who have been here before know that this is not exactly unique.

We began to make a real dent on the carton sorting. You see, a few months ago we sent a shipping container full of items of which most were directly distributed through CARITAS to the needy hospitals with which we work. Everything that we disperse directly, though (like educational supplies, etc) is brought here and put into the two storage rooms at either end of the facility. Those rooms were packed tightly upon our arrival and one of our goals is to leave the rooms empty, assuring that all of the donations make it to their designated locations. Joy C. – our Carton Queen – had her crew again moving boxes into staging areas for transportation out of here tomorrow with the various work crews (we have many scheduled for Friday!). Tomorrow morning Sr. Ligia coming with a truck around 11am to pick up the supplies designated for her three facilities. That will make a big dent in one of the storage rooms.

Playtime again was filled with joyous sounds and lots of activity. Joan had different games set out for today – one of which was beadmaking so the children had new bracelets and necklaces. That seemed to be a hit. Many other children and our youth were coloring, making each other pictures and sharing the joy of just being kids. Of course, there is always a soccer ball and now a football in play!

Our evening meeting began at its scheduled time – yeah! Our daily tasks were reviewed and then Sister asked if we knew of anyone who could provide a scholarship for a 12-year-old who is unable to attend a regular school because he is deaf; he is waiting for an operation for him to be able to obtain functional hearing aids; the support would be at the same rate of $140 as other scholarships…and James immediately raised his hand.

She then noted a girl who is in secondary school studying at UCA because she is progressing fast, cannot return this year because she doesn’t have the funds. She desires to return and Sister was hoping that….and, before she was done with the request, Sandy said she knows of someone. This is just a small example of the generosity of so many to our Mission of Hope. Let me take a moment to thank all of you who are reading these journals for your support over our 13 years – the goods, the services provided as well as your donations. The Mission is all of you – we are merely the hands that allow your generosity to take tangible shape here in our adopted home.

Our time of sharing began with Sandy telling us about the afternoon Home Shelter Crew who built the home sponsored in memory of Molly Allen who was not able to have children of her own and would be pleased that the young mother and her 3 children were so thankful for their new home. The children’s names are Nathalie, Naomi and Lady. And they will benefit immensely from having their own space and place to ‘grow’ in so many ways.

Sister reminded us that it is very Important to remember why we are doing all we do and it is experiences such as these that become our “Mission Moments.”

Tom then thanked all of the people who assisted yesterday and today in completing the sidewalk. He had to stop for several minutes right before the completion as he saw his sponsored child and family in the Pavilion. Nicole (his daughter) then came back from her afternoon task and he introduced her to the family. Both are now fast friends and Nicole is hoping to sponsor one of the other siblings…if they are indeed already on the list here.

Thanks went out to Aidyanne for her translating ability along with Mary Ellen and Aislyn…round of applause for all was quite enthusiastic!

Brody went to Pajarito Azul today and said he loved the tour they got and the subsequent two hours they spent with a few of the children. Then, this afternoon he saw the young boy

Clare also went to the disability center this morning where she expected the conditions to be similar to the Children’s Hospital she say on Tuesday; she was pleasantly surprised at its good condition and how friendly all of the staff was. Sister noted that the Dorothea Haus Ross Grant and the work we have been able to do over the years is now the legacy of the Mission. Much has been accomplished because of the Mission volunteers over the years, especially the 3 who have advocated for support of the center – Bev Gogola, Brenda Flynn and Sister Stephanie. They are who have stayed with this project over time and kept it in the forefront of our projects.

Clare spoke about Roberto who was born without a brain stem. His eyes continuously dart back and forth and wondered what the reason is that God wants him to be alive. Sister noted that the number of Mission people who have been touched by him over the years may be the reason. Clare then said she heard Brody singing to Angel the “Itsy Bitsy Spider” so she sang, “You are my Sunshine” and Roberto’s face began to twist. She thought he was going to cry, but he broke into a wide smile. Definitely, her Mission moment!

Amanda noted that it is just amazing to see everyone work really hard especially the joy and excitement Henry creates among the crew that made the exterior painting happen so quickly. Henry then thanked the Rice & Beans crew that jumped right in to assist and made it go so fast. Sister then noted that if anyone could make a laborious task joyful, it is Henry!

Sister Clare told us the trip to Chinandega was beautiful and the devotion and commitment in the eyes of everyone there was inspiration. The conditions, though, were horrible. Mold all over, broken walkways, two women to a bed in labor, very busy and looking almost like a prison. An average of 15 birthdays occur in that hospital each day. She took a photo of a bed close to the wall and, although it was in terrible condition, it was clean.

Connie T. looked at it all from her nursing experiences and said it was difficult. One thing that struck the team was the entire extended families were there with the pregnant mothers waiting to give birth. These women run the gamut from regular to high risk to C-sections to 2-hour-old infants with their mothers. Having the entire family around is definitely part of the culture here. There are 240 beds and 2 doctors on staff. Five of the sisters, who are all nurses, run the hospital along with the other nurses and the doctors. Surprisingly, the infection level is low, but that is a tribute to the nuns, some of which have been there 40 years.

Our group got to see the inner workings of the hospital including much of the support facilities. The hospital also addresses developmental issues in children but the room in which the therapist works had children basically on top of each other. The Mission was asked for balls or other manipulatives for the young that we don’t have now, but perhaps some of you reading these notes might be able to acquire and get to MOHTown on a Wednesday. The salary at the hospital is $160 per month for a nursing supervisor, so you can imagine the pay scale of most of the employees.

Connie noted that Sister Ligia is a Public Health Nurse just as she is. Connie reflected on how Sr. Ligia brightens up the room whenever they see her. Just before leaving, Sister Debbie asked Ligia if she were happy. Her response was, “Of course, I am working for the poor…but it is a lot hotter here!” There is no ventilation and fans would be a relief to those serving there.

On their way back, Fabricio and Mauricio began talking about the original León – the first capital of the country from where Francesco Cordoba chose to rule. A church, a monastery, and public square have been excavated and declared by UNESCO as an official archeological ruin. All of the bodies have been reinterred in the center of the Plaza from the cathedral itself.

They also saw incredible birds as they rode right near Cerro Negro and the ‘ring of fire’ where you stand on the Old León hills and are face-to-face with the lagoon and the 15 volcanoes of that region. The women noted the contrast of the glory of creation with utter humanity struggling they had just seen. It is just an hour and 10 minutes from our site, so we may consider it for one of Monday’s choices.

Connie called today her ‘wow’ day as she kept repeating that word as she toured the hospital and then gazed on the world of nature around them.

Allen talked about the farm experience doing the Jinotepe projects – and all that was on the To Do list was accomplished! Pajarito Azul has been a part of his heart since he has come on Mission. He recently paid for the horse and cart and was pleased to learn the horses’ name, which means “Native,” and that he will soon be a ‘grandfather’ of a pony! An interesting point is that the horse and cart didn’t come with tack which is an additional $150…and obviously that is needed. There are many photos of the boots and ponchos which have been donated by individuals as well as the tools purchased by the Lamb of God Church in Florida which we will be sharing as time goes on.

Brandon spent time with one of the boys with Downs’ Syndrome at the farm who invited him to spend the night. He didn’t know how to politely decline – and that it really got to him.

The farm is in really good shape now and those of us who saw it 4 years ago on our first venture there are so pleased to know of its better condition.

Sara L. who also was on the Farm Crew told us that she was pleased to see how people here are living off of the land. This connection to the land she feels is missing back home. The simplicity is what she is impressed with – these are the most important connections in life and we do so often forget that.

Mary Ellen went on Rice & Beans this morning and couldn’t stop smiling as she saw so many as they went from house to house in Monte Verde. Then, this afternoon, before the playtime moment, there were many gathered at the gate, on the ground giggling and smiling. Although many of us can’t speak Spanish and they don’t do well in English (yet) the universality of laughter binds us all.

Sister reminded us that we will come home enriched more than we can fathom – that is the blessing of the Mission experience.

Joy C. was on a Home Building Crew today constructing a home donated by her husband, Ray who is a trapper. He takes the proceeds from the pelts and buys a home shelter each year. Today she gave the photo of Ray, sipping his coffee, to the family and then the woman of the household came back to show Joy the photos of her 3 children. Knowing how precious photos are, Joy was shocked and so appreciative when the woman told her she could keep them!

Amanda then spoke about the simplicity she has observed. Although her sister, Danielle, has been on two previous missions, Amanda couldn’t really grasp everything and found her new reality very different from what she expected. “Everyone is so proud of who they are and they want to share with us. We want, want, want one thing after another. How complex our lives are. Here it is so simple.”

Sister then reminded us that we will be out of sync with our world as we knew it, when we return next week.

Haley spoke of her Rice & Beans experience and how it hit her that she is on her Winter Break in this tropical country enjoying it to its fullest returning to our winter cold soon. Yet, the families she encountered today do not get any breaks from their daily lives to have such an experience.

Sally was at both the disability center and Rice & Beans distribution. Her experiences of the day made her truly feel like the grandmother that she is. In each of the kids she saw her own grandchildren. She also noticed the dignity and respect of the woman who guided them from home to home. She stopped at the fence line and then called out to the family. No one entered the property until the owner invited them. The honor that they show each other impressed Sally.

Nancy had our closing prayer for the evening which was the ‘Uniting of the Global Communities’ Four Hemispheres.” It was almost a litany with consciousness-raising statements of our relation to all peoples throughout the globe.

Afterward, Bev said that she knows that Sister Steph was smiling as the napkins that were being passed out were cut in half…a prudent move that Sister had encouraged the Kitchen Crew to do each mission. One of our co-travelers donated tonight’s treats from Pajarito Azul’s bakery. So, Sister Debbie took out her phone and dialed home, getting Sr. Steph on the phone – a group “hi” was shouted and we could hear her laughter. She’s missed, but in our hearts.

February 24, 2012

Daily Journal: Thursday, February 23, 2012 (Early Edition)

By Bonnie Black
You have found that many stories whirl around in my head that I think I have told you, but I did not! Such was the story last night about the young boy who picked up a discard juice box at Niño. Want to know the rest?

Megan observed him then pick up the crushed box and dirt-caked straw and sip from it. It was her first experience seeing a hungry child try to get something to drink. Because we can only afford Pre-K through Grade 2 in our “Children Feeding Children” program (enrollments have grown substantially in the school over the past few years) here was a young boy who was not being guaranteed one nutritious meal a day. We certainly appreciate each and every one of you who contribute to this Mission program and pray that one day we can resume providing food to all elementary students in the school we serve.

At this morning’s meeting we learned a new word, a medical term, and your traveler will tell you about it….many of us were in stitches as we shared its use this morning. Anyhow, more seriously, we talked about the cyclical effect of being good stewards of our environment regarding use of resources both here in Nica as well as at home. Many people will be out and about today so were reminded about sunscreen application and hydration.

Kate spoke to all about the data collection sheets that need to be done by each outbound team. She is responsible to assure that each group that has been off-site brings back completed forms that will allow our Grant Seeking Committee to have the data potential funders look at when considering our applications. As a matter of fact, if you think you would like to be involved in the Grant Seeking Committee or any of our committees, please visit our website to get a better idea of our 4 Pillars of Service and contact anyone on our Leadership Team to find out more….we always need help back home to allow us to do what we do for the poor down here.

“Where one is, we all are,” said Sister Debbie who told us that is the Dominican Sister philosophy, too. It is necessary that we represent all of you in our daily tasks and thoughts here in Nicaragua. She also reminded everyone to share their photos at the end of the day and stories in the evening meeting so all may have every experience as well.

Sandy had our closing prayer for this morning’s meeting and chose to share a ‘CPR Prayer’ asking us to contemplate it as we listened. She told us that when she was younger, her priest had asked her to pray for 30 days without ceasing; she then reflected on why she should stop after 30 days and the priest told her that’s the point-the realization after 30 days it becomes part of our lives.

Her prayer this morning asked God to allow us to be available to be used and guided in what we say and do. “To the one who is lonely, be a friend; for those with heavy burdens, help us to meet their needs. Lord, we do not want fame or fortunate…guide us to be what You want us to be.” We then concluded with the Lord’s Prayer.

On to our second full day! Things began pretty much on time and crews began to move out: off to Chinandega were Sister Debbie, Sister Clare, Connie T. This is the newest location where Sister Ligia is now serving – in addition to Diriamba and Masaya. Her focus here is a mother/child hospital and we had many infant items and supplies to bring. This is an all-day assignment, so they won’t be doing much else….two hours in each direction!

A group headed out to the Pajarito Azul Farm in Jinotepe (about an hour away) to put up gutters and do other work under the grant we have: Allen, James, Diane, Paul R., Connie M., Nick, Brandon and Sara. They will also be building a 50-foot section of a block wall, so I hope they’ve eaten their Wheaties for lunch!

The Rice & Beans leader from Monte Verde this morning arrived about 15 early and as soon as Oscar got back with the van from taking the Pajarito Azul crew (Brody, Priscilla, Clare, Joy L., Sr. Cathy and Sally) he brought everyone out: Anna K., Mary Ellen, Haley, Paul W. and Kate).

Another all-day crew is our Kitchen Crew: Bev, Joan, Andrew, Corinne and Megan. Our BBB team is Paul O., Paul W., Aislyn and Victoria.

The big hold-up, though, was the Home Shelter Crew which was to have been led by Inocencio. After a phone call, he told us he had to work at Niño, so wouldn’t be here. Making a long story short, Paul O. jumped in as the Chief and the large group of workers (17) and our crew (6) headed out to a closeby home site. Returning from lunch, they noted only 1 of the 2 homes were built and we needed to tweak the system for the afternoon. Mauricio contacted Manuel who works on our rocket stove project and he was available for the afternoon crew…but that didn’t occur until almost 2pm. So, as they say, best laid plans! Rather than our intended 5 shelters today, we will most likely only have 2-3 done…stay tuned for more info in the Evening Edition.

Henry, our inimitable paint crew leader, had an ever-changing crew painting the borders around the interior breezeway and along the one side of the house that wasn’t done on the last large mission. His assigned crew was Amanda, Emily and Nicole, but Bev let some of the Kitchen Crew get a paintbrush in their hands when there was ‘down time’ this morning. The exterior painting was completed this morning – what a crew! But, that didn’t let the assigned crew for this afternoon off of the hook….they enriched the Carton Sorting crew and others ;~)

Sandy and Sarah jumped into preparing the gifts in numeric order for our Sunday afternoon with our sponsored children. They accomplished everything this morning and left all in good order – to be reviewed by Connie once she returns from the farm.

We had a team sorting the new notebooks and sharpening the 2 new pencils for each of our sponsored students – just about 550 sets. The toughest part is the pencil sharpening as we burned up the little battery-operated sharpener and returned to the manual sharpeners we used to use in times gone by. We’ll think of something a bit better – maybe bring down some of the sharpeners we could attach to the wall in Home Depot so that it could go faster and not need batteries! The only thing our afternoon team needed to do was prepare 100 pencils and that project was completed.

Meanwhile, I brought Aislyn, Nicole and Vicky with me as we walked the dirty laundry and cleaning supplies over to Victoria’s home…only to find that we were short the detergent! So, that necessitated a quick drive to the store with Bev where she and I also picked up the fruit and wheat bread we are using well. When we returned from the store, Victoria walked back to Victoria’s with Priscilla and Anna K.

I will be following up with details on this afternoon later tonight, until then, hasta pronto!

February 23, 2012

Daily Journal: Wednesday, February 22, 2012 (Evening Edition)

By Bonnie Black,
And on we went after lunch…

Paul R. and Tom removed the rest of the Somoza stones after lunch, Allen worked on more plumbing issues, painting of the balance of the rear porch continued with a few from this morning who had the drive to complete the task!

Moving from suitcase sorting to carton sorting – a harder and more arduous task…even dirtier – were Connie M., Diane and Joy C. They had help from the Rice & Beans crew of Amanda, Anna D., Aidyanne, Henry, Connie T. and Grace while they waited for their guide.

Nicole, Mary Ellen, Aislyn, Tom and James really got into placing Somoza stones in a place that will assist in a safer and easier bypass at the breezeway entrance.

Paul O. took a crew out to prep the walls at Velez Paiz Children’s Hospital where we will be painting later this week: Nick, Anna K., Kate, Brody, Clare and Sr. Cathy.

Clinic inventory continued with Sally and Priscilla taking on the tedious, but needed, job of our annual assessment of the medicines dispensed by our clinic doctor, Dr. Yamileth Zamorra. This will allow our medical team along with our administrator, Mauricio Flores, to determine what meds are needed and in what quantity to answer the needs here.

A big hit was the reading glasses screenings. Bill C., along with Victoria, Nancy, Andrew, Brandon, Emily and Haley were giving service with a smile to those coming to our Clinic. Using one of the mirrors from the Women’s Room, our neighbors were pleased with the results of how they look as well as how they saw.

Allen manufactured a steel plate for the water cistern up at Angels of Hope Orphanage at El Crucero along with the assistance of Corinne and Sarah R.

Toy sorting was handled with many smiles by Sr. Clare, Sandy, Diane and Joan…they even tried out some of the activity CDs in the Pavilion area after they were done! Anna D., while waiting to go on Rice & Beans, made a large sign with the playground rules that our Leadership Team approved recently…safety as well as fun are what it’s all about! Then Sr. Clare and Sandy put together bags of M&Ms to have for children this afternoon during playtime.

At 2:30pm, the children came into our front yard. The joy from the shouts of glee were perceptible from all around. Our Playground Point Persons (Diane, Joan, Sandy, Ben and Andrew) organized the kids and our members into many small circles as well as soccer – of course! But, with all of the home supplies taking up the side yard and our vans, there wasn’t much room for that except in a one-on-one basis. We took information on the children who came getting to know them a bit better. This new system should continue to work well.

Our evening meeting was delayed for 2+ hours tonight as almost 30 attended the l-o-n-g service at the Niño Jesus de Praga church pushing their dinner to almost 7:15 (it was a 5pm service).

Tonight at our evening meeting we began with some ‘housekeeping’ items: index cards, organic coffee orders, timing for tomorrow, money exchange envelopes, laundry process, and ashes for all from this morning’s service. That was all about our ‘doing’ Mission. Then we moved into our sharing time of ‘being’ Mission.

Megan and Paul shared their experience with Sister on a ‘mystery ride.’ She mentioned her experience at Nejapa when she went to assist with photos was impressive as she watched the Pre-K through Grade 2 students eat their daily meal at our Children Feeding Children program. Then, when she went over to Niño for photos, she saw a 3rd or 4th grader who, during recess, went over to a corner of the yard and picked up a discarded

Paul stated he thought that they got to see all of Managua! First they stopped at CARITAS and made a delivery of a Filtron filter and discussed the HIV orphans. A breakthrough today is that we found out that we can sponsor individual orphans, receive a profile photo and their name, to be kept in confidence. We are also allowed to buy water filters for their families.

Then they went on to Jinotepe and spent time in a hardware store with Mauricio buying the supplies for tomorrow’s work team. Megan then picked up noting they saw a one-piece wooden shovel available for sale in the store. Paul said he found the volcanoes interesting as they came down through San Marcos seeing Masaya Volcano from the ‘back’ passing many pineapple plantations along the way.

Paul R. noted how great his team was this morning and how helpful everyone was – even a couple of others joined in on the project of sorting the tin and wood for the home shelters.

Henry was so pleased that he got to go out on Rice & Beans today noticing the compassion and excitement in his fellow missioners. He said they brightened up all of those with whom they met. The only thing that caught him off guard was seeing a 2-year with only one shoe. Anna D. told us about a small old woman in a home who told them she was 101 years old…and they saw her ID that she wanted to verify her age. She asked for a stuffed animal and Amanda gave her a monkey which brought a wide smile to her face. Of course, veterans will recognize that she is the woman who donated the land in Monte Verde for the chapel Mission built over a decade ago. Amanda appreciated everyone who was on the team, especially Aidyanne who could really talk with them! Her day was made by the smiles she received from the kids to whom she gave a sticker. The last house they visited, as they left, the boy said, in English, “God bless you.” That resonated with all on the team. Sister noted that this was a great example of connecting with the hope-filled, joy-filled people here.

Tom spoke about the sidewalk which is in process and the help they received throughout the afternoon from various people who completed their own assignments…and they will continue tomorrow.

Sandy proudly noted that she got to go to Pajarito Azul this morning and appreciated the tour seeing all of it. She got to hold one of the little boys and that was a joy. She also learned that the 27-year-old girl who received a wheelchair from Molly Allen who came on Mission over a decade ago recently passed away. This is a connection as Molly also passed away about a year ago.

Joy C. thanked Kate, Paul and Henry for jumping in on the carton sorting near the end of the day. There will be more opportunity for others tomorrow!

Sister Cathy began our prayer for the evening reflecting on how we are called to sacrifice our time and talents to make the world a more compassionate place - a world with less suffering. We then concluded by listening to “Now Is The Moment – Now Is the Time.”

We will begin with an early meeting tomorrow – around 6:30am – so that Sister Debbie and her crew can head up to Chinandega which is near the Honduran border, about 2 hours away. The Kitchen Crew for tomorrow then met with Bev to get organized for the early breakfast tomorrow and get their instructions for the day. Others wrote in their journals and many chose tonight as shower time. Sara L. and Joy L. joined me in the Office to prepare the Assignment Board for tomorrow – read all about it in the Thursday Early Edition!

February 22, 2012

Daily Journal: Wednesday, February 22, 2012 (Early Edition)

By Bonnie Black
Everyone is here and Mission #44 is underway! We aren’t going too far afield today as we have many on-site as well as close-by projects for everyone. Yesterday, the process of checking in at the Burlington airport was the smoothest ever and in Houston, the Mission was priority boarded – even before those who have specific rewards! But I can’t forget how last night ended…

Unlike the two A Team arrivals the prior days, the Main Group was on time. I watched how everyone gathered around the baggage carousel and assisted each other retrieving the 34 suitcases (12 had already arrived with A Team). As an azalea-colored mass, they exited to the final Customs checkpoint…and then the delay began. Meanwhile, because the parking lot at the airport closes about 9:30pm, there was no way for Mauricio in his truck, me in the rental van and the bus driver with the large school bus to do anything but circle.

The group began to filter out and they began their own holding pattern in the concourse. It seems that there was a discussion of the reading glasses we brought down that were so generously donated for those who have problems with their sight. Although we did not consider them medical equipment/supplies, the agent felt all 4 suitcases of glasses were. That led to most of the suitcases making it through but one being held back. Sister asked for it to be sealed as the agent was securing it; when she returns today, if the seal is broken, we will know that all of the glasses in that one suitcase may not be there. In a poor economy, the second poorest in this hemisphere, the black market runs rampant.

So, that was last night…now on to this morning. Bev, Joan, Joy and Bill (part of A Team) had breakfast ready for the early risers who were still on Plattsburgh time…although there weren’t that many! Today’s assigned Kitchen Crew of Sara LoTemplio, Joy Leader and Nick Brady joined Bev and Joan after breakfast.

We began with our initial Morning Meeting introducing ourselves to each other as this was the first time everyone on this Mission has been in the same place! We have 11 different high schools represented on this trip and a myriad of vocations. A few reminders from Medical and A Team were also noted as well as an announcement that church service tonight at Niño is at 5pm…before our nightly meeting at 6pm. Sister thanked many specific people for the cohesion of the Team as they traveled together.

Recognizing that today, in the Christian world, is Ash Wednesday, we acknowledged those we hold in prayer: Rosa and Betsy passed away while the Team was in transit yesterday, as well as those who are ill back home, and the new borns joining this earthly life in many of our lives. Sister played Monica Brown’s “Comfort My People” as we began our reflection with many joining in on the refrain. Our prayer service was very symbolic as ashes were brought into the center from the four corners of the Pavilion where we meet twice a day: ashes from the North – the churches in the North Country, ashes from New England-the East, ashes from Nicaragua (La Chureca, San Rafael, Diriamba, Masaya and Chiquilistagua)- the South. The ashes were blended together, inviting us to understand more deeply and live in community with others we are asked to serve – a reminder that we cannot ignore those in need, wherever that need is. We were united with all of humanity in this global community as we signed the person on our left in a manner desired by their faith tradition. Sister also reflected that these ashes invite us to seek and to find all we are called to be and do here this week. We were asked if we are willing to share compassion with all whom we will meet, to break oppression in all of its chains. She then thanked Andrew for being the bearer of Hope around our circle. We closed while listening to “Come and Follow Me” reflecting on the light we have been asked to carry, the Hope we are about to share.

After the meeting, we began our Orientation by A Team while Sister headed out to take the remaining student photos at the local schools with Megan. Then Paul R, Tom, Ben, Aislyn and Victoria met with the remaining families as they picked up their foundation supplies after which they spent the morning sorting the supplies for the 14 home shelters we’ll be constructing over the next 3 days.

Meanwhile, a van was off to the Pajarito Azul Center with Bev, Nancy, Nicole, Sandy, Corinne and Mary Ellen.

Bill C. and Paul W. worked on one of our storage room doors which was having a deadbolt problem…works well now. Joy and Bill C. worked on some plumbing in the Women’s showers, then Bill began the sorting of eyeglasses for this afternoon with the assistance of Haley.

Our Rice & Beans prep team was Anna D, Amanda and Sr. Cathy getting it all ready for this afternoon’s trek. Amanda spelled Aislyn on the home supply sorting crew as they swapped out positions.

Heading out to buy the needed supplies for our Public School and Children’s Hospital painting projects were Allen and Aidyanne with Chico, our local contractor. A bit later, Henry went out with Chico to pick up more supplies in a local hardware store.

Sorting the suitcases was Connie M., Diane, Priscilla, Sally and Connie. They put a big dent into that project before lunchtime!

Everyone one else was broken into various work teams around NiCasa. Paul O. guided a painting crew finishing the brick red color of the back porch area by the Moore Suite: Brandon, Grace, Anna K, Brody and Claire. Preparing Nora’s kitchen room were James, Henry, Haley, Andrew and Sarah R. A bit later, as more jobs were completed, James removed some of the Somosa stones from an area in order for us to use them in one where they are needed.

Leaving just before lunch with Sister Debbie for a ‘Mystery Ride’ were Megan and Paul W….more on that later. I will send an evening update either late tonight or early tomorrow morning-hasta luego!