Journey To Nicragua
From February 15-23 our family participated in the Genesee Valley District trip to Project chacocente, Masaya, Nicaragua. Led by our district superintendent, Rev. Ted Anderson and his wife, Project chacocente Board President Mary Anderson, we traveled with our dear friends and asbury First members Bruce, Cheryl and Brennon Thomp son, and 14 others from the Genesee Valley District. Established in 2003 with eight families, chacocente is a community where families who had lived on the Managua city dump can work to build new homes, acquire education for themselves and their children and learn skills that would translate in to jobs.
Micah 6: 6-8: “What does the Lord require of you? To seek justice, and love kindness, and walk humbly with our God.”
Each morning and evening as we gathered with our delegation, we challenged ourselves with that and other questions. What are we called to do? Why did we come here? How can we impact the lives of families and children so far from our own homes? How do they impact our lives?
I’ve always loved to travel. traveling for mis- sion work, however, is not your typical family jaunt. There are inconveniences: remember- ing not to drink the local water or rinse your toothbrush in it, the heat and humidity (at times), unfamiliar foods and language, insects you can’t recognize, getting shots, taking the right medicines, and spraying your clothes for mosquitoes.
Mission work is about the job, certainly. in Project chacocente we moved 40 tons of concrete in one week as we laid a concrete slab that is to be the school’s athletic field. Work- ing alongside nicaraguan families and following the lead of our foreman, juan carlos, we learned how much gravel, sand, concrete mix and water go in to each batch. Barely break- ing a sweat, (while we kept peeling off layers) 64-year-old Pedro showed us how to combine the dry mixture then add water without it all running off. Basilia in her flip flops and skirt and yazmina in her hooded sweatshirt worked steadily in the hot sun, mixing, stirring andpouring,whileatthe“bighouse”Manuala worked over a wood fire, preparing lunches for us plus the project families working that day. a yummy assortment of gallo pinto (beans and rice), vegetables, plantains chips or tostones (flattened and fried), chicken, all prepared over a hot fire, was our usual fare.
Yes, we accomplished a lot. Working side by side with these children of god opened the relationships to another level. For those who speak Spanish, even minimally, personalities emerge, inside jokes develop. even without a common language, gestures, help with translation and expressions convey so much.
Another exciting project was Mary’s girl Scout gold award project that culminated at chacocente after months of preparation. With help from the nicaraguans, Mary pro- vided three mornings of inspirational talks by young women. Teenage pregnancy and high school drop outs continue to be a barrier to achievement among young women of Nicaragua.
Through song, the spoken word, Scripture and reflection, the older girls of the school were encouraged to envision their own futures. At the end of a week, leaving was hard.tearsflowed,aswedon’tknow when we’ll see our friends again. So much can change – jobs found and lost, babies born, graduations and moves to new schools – and wonder when we’ll meet again. I can’t help but wonder who was changed, who received the benefit? re-integration into north american life is hard. not just adjusting to the cold, snow, cloudy gloom of rochester, but the ache of missing our friends. We miss the daily hugs, laughter, and kidding of friends comfortable in each other’s presence.
Donations received from our asbury First community prior to the trip were overwhelming! We had13 extra suitcases of school supplies, personal hygiene items, clothing and office needs. Others on the team brought donations as well, providing enough pencils and other basics for over a year! edward, a Dining center client came to the donation table one Sunday, asking questions about chacocente and who these families were. after telling him about the community, it was clear he wanted to do something. rum- maging through his oversized coat, he fished out a harmonica. Did the school take musical instruments? could the harmonica be used? yes, i replied, the school does have a music program (unlike most public schools in Nicaragua). With a smile that enveloped his face, I took a picture of him and the harmonica! Rummaging further, Edward pulled out a pair of sunglasses, hoping that they could be used as well. I worried about him giving away these clearly precious items. But he insisted, saying the glasses would be helpful to someone who lives in such a sunny, hot place. one Sunday we received a neatly packed and organized shoe box full of school items: pencils, crayons, erasers and other goodies, loving selected by one of our middle school youth. The following week he returned with another box as beauti- fully organized as the first. He had so much fun and joy in creating the first offering that he wanted to make another! one donation literally took my breath away. i received an e- mail from a member asking if we could use an old suitcase. Her husband had recently passed and she was cleaning out some of his belong- ings. The suitcase arrived one Sunday morn- ing at our donation table, but i didn’t open it until returning home that day. When i did, i found a neatly folded and packed bag of men’s clothing, a few toiletries and other carefully selected items. i could feel the presence of the past traveler and the ones who would have “new” clothing to replace the tattered, worn clothes they are currently wearing. and one of our members who had traveled with us last year to chacocente challenged our kids Mary and johnny with a monetary gift. They were to purchase some of the crafts that the women make and sell at the site and re-sell them here to raise money for the project. They did, and bracelets will be on sale with our “chocolate for chacocente” table on Palm Sunday, March 24.
We wish we could travel more frequently to visit our friends. But there are things we can do to continue to support these families and children. Prayers for their safety, health and continued schooling are ongoing and always welcome. as other delegations visit, we again can make donations to take along. The big- gest thrust for Project chacocente now is the christian School that provides free education to not only the children of the Project, but neighbor kids as well. With standards well above those offered by the public schools, a full day curriculum versus a half day, a nourishing lunch that may be some children’s only meal and consistent english language education, these children have a promising chance to change their futures. a $30 a month pledge will pay for one child’s school- ing. another option is to give to support a teacher, or make a general donation that can be applied wherever there is need. to see pictures of the Project, learn more about the school and to make a donation, go to www. outofthedump.org.
We are forever changed by the friendships we have gained. We are heartened and inspired by lives transforming. We con- tinue to ask ”What does the Lord require of us?” eight days of mission work is only the beginning. We must continue to ask ourselves what it is we are called to do. Who did the mission trip benefit? By forcing us to “stretch” outside our comfort zones, we come back with new insights to christ’s challenge to love our neighbors.