Monday, July 28, 2014

I'd like to introduce you to "my top four"

I've been back home for over 24 hours now, doing things Americans do without thinking twice: flushing toilet paper, taking a warm shower, have clean cold ice water, throw away excess food. Comforts I have that most of the world does not.  The people I saw, touched, and served in Nicaragua have wrecked my heart.  Wrecked my heart in a good way!

I often get "you are such a good person for going and serving others".  I can't even begin to explain how indebted I am to those I serve.  They have changed me for good.  They have set my life perspective in balance.  They have shown me what is really important.  I am humbled beyond words to be able to serve, touch, pray and just be with these precious people.

I woke up at 3:30 this morning and couldn't get four women in particular off my mind.  The good thing about that time of the morning when sleep escapes me, is that I can lay there and pray for them.  Just thinking of them is not enough.  These are the four that crowd me out of myself.

Maria.  Sweet Maria.  I started sponsoring this little girl 5 years ago when she was just 9 years old.  She lived in a dump..... literally the Managua city dump.  She was left alone a lot and was in danger of a life of prostitution and certain early motherhood.  She is now 14 and will celebrate her Quinceañera in October.  She goes to school, has a home with 26 sisters, has food and is safe.  I am so proud of her. She is the little light that finds me every time I am there.  I love her.

This is Candita.  She is 73 and has diabetes that confines her to a wheelchair.  She was so grateful to God for what she has. She has a supportive family and grandchildren who adore her.  She was thankful to have us sit with her, hear her story and pray over her.  Life in a wheelchair in her surroundings isn't easy.  She wants to walk again.

This is Jośe's grandmother. I'm sorry I didn't get her name, but I still pray for her.  She has been staying at the hospital shelter with her grandson for 2 years while they wait for a new kidney for Jośe.  He is a darling boy who played with Samantha much of the time we were there.  It's a place where we noticed there were no toys around to occupy children.  The love and sacrifice she has for Jośe is shadowed by the sadness she wears on her face.  I'm praying against the odds of him dying before a transplant takes place.

This is my new "sister" Haydee.  The night my team met her she poured out her story to us for an hour. She would cry as she spoke and our delayed response caught up as her story was translated. She has been battling cancer for 4 years and lost her leg a few weeks ago.  The physical pain she endured during the actual amputation was almost to much for us to listen to.  At the same time her gratitude for Jesus was astounding!  Two days later we went back to see her and found joy where we didn't see it earlier.  She was in the front of her house out of bed, in a wheelchair, wearing a dress we had brought her.  We brought pizza, set up chairs, a table with candles and hung handmade paper garland.  When told this is how American's celebrate someone she cried.  She told us she had been praying for God to bring her family so she wasn't so alone.... and he brought her 10 sisters.  I got to teach her to knit, which she picked up in 10 minutes!  If we wouldn't have returned to celebrate her, she would haunt me, but I am so joyful every time I think of her.

These are just MY "four".  I know that the other ladies on my team each have their "four".  And every person that travels to the Villa Esperanza with Forward Edge has their "four" too.  There is no way you can go and not be changed in some form.

In the next month I will be scheduling dates for next summer and then will be asking people to sign up in the fall.  With an early commitment you can schedule your summer around this one week AND you can start saving money or fundraising.  If you have EVER considered going, I encourage you to just jump on.  Really!  Take a step of faith and come with me.  I love to see the amazement through others eyes!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Day 6 - A day at the pool with the chicas

Today is our last full day here in Nicaragua and we spent it with the Chicas at a pool.
It was nice to have a day with them at the end of the week so we are more familiar with them than a few days ago.  They started filling the pool when we got there.... interesting they way some things are done here.  With 27 Chicas they don't all like to do the same things so we brought some games and crafts for those who didn't want to get in the pool.

 Serious UNO game here

 Rubberband bracelet making

 Selfie with the 3 facilitators + Maria and Scarlett

 Guess who isn't Nicaraguan?

 The Babes of the group, now BFF!

This week I was privileged to serve alongside 9 amazing women.  This may be the hardest work I've done in Nicaragua so far.  We didn't build anything, or repair anything, but we had to be bold in relationships.  It was necessary for each of us to step outside our comfort zones and engage with those who were in desperate need of touch and possibly a few words. Most of us don't speak much Spanish so the week became a lesson in trust, transparency and dependance on God.  We all feel honored to be His hands and feet!

We will be heading for the airport in the late morning.  Most of the bags are packed.  Our last group session is done and we will meet for devotion again in the morning.  We've all seen a lot of hurting people this week and some of us carry faces in our mind that we won't forget.  Sometimes going back home can be a hard transition, please be careful with your loved ones and extend an extra helping of grace to them in the next week.

Thank you for allowing me to serve with this amazing women!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Day 5 - Be still my heart

Today was another one of those days that make you grateful for every single thing in your life.  A day that rips your heart out and you try to hold it together until you get in the bus to return to the Villa.  A day that you won't forget for a long long time.

We spent the morning hours up until after lunch at the children's hospital in Managua.  I need to rephrase that, we spent that time in the hospital housing across from the main hospital building where family members stay and wait for the two 2-hour visiting times that can see their sick and dying children.  It's also a place where some sick kids stay until they get the treatment they need or die waiting.  It was absolutely heart wrenching to fall in love with some of these parents and children and then know what they have to face.  

We had mani/pedi stations set up, bracelet making and a few toys for us to play with the children.  We also were able to pass out some clothes and small toiletry gift bags to everyone.  Through translators we were able to listen to their stories, their hurts, their desires and pray for them accordingly.  It was such an incredible honor & so humbling to be entrusted with this responsibility!

One of our team members shared her personal story about her 5 year old son who almost died in the first year of his life and still lives with the same condition.  She was able to talk about how she survived those months and where she got her strength.  I haven't seen a group yet this week that was so attentive and hung on every single word. She was able to bring hope to them.

When we were done with our time there one of the mothers spoke up and said thank you for listening to us.  Thank you for playing games and dancing with us. Thank you for bringing us joy today.  God Bless You.  

It was so incredibly humbling.

 Gloria, Terry and Maria spent much time with this woman today.  She was unable to be with her child in her hospital room as she lay dying.  She was waiting for the phone call.  She had no family with her.

 This little girl has a bone disease that is causing her bones to deteriorate.  It was fun watching her play and smile all day.  Her father has been told there is nothing more the doctors can do for her, they need to go to another country for medical help.

 Joan is sitting with two men during Samantha's sharing time who both had 
young children under one year old in the hospital in serious condition.

 Samantha fell in love with two boys today, Jose (Left) and Clarence (right).
Jose's grandmother (center) and he have been at the hospital two years.  His kidneys are very tiny and not working very well.  He is waiting for a transplant or he will die.  

These are only a few stories of the many we heard today.  It was a tough day, but I was so proud of my team who never stopped serving and loving these people.  It was hot and very humid, the conditions weren't great, there were so many people that needed attention. I have a team of superstars and they exceeded every expectation today...... again!  So proud of this team! 

After such a heart wrenching morning we were able to have an evening filled with joy and hope.  We returned to Haydee home. (I previously called her Haley.... lost in translation)  When we left her on Monday night we were so broken for her.  On Monday she was in bed in her dark bedroom.  Tonight she was in her wheelchair in the front of the house, wearing a dress we brought her and the cross necklace I gave her.  We came with candles, paper garland and Pizza, her favorite!  She was so happy to see us again and said we are the family she has been praying for.  We are her sisters now!  She had spent the day making each one of us a beaded keychain!

We had dinner and then I was privileged to add her to my list of people I've taught to knit!
This is one bright and talented woman.  She picked up knitting in about 10 minutes!  I'll have to send more yarn with my son Alex's team in a week, because I know she will have used up everything we left her!

 After dinner as most of us sat knitting and talking, Erica played outside with her two children (on the ends) and her two nieces.  Thanks Erica!

This is a different face than we saw on Monday night.  There is joy now!

Tomorrow is our last full day here.  Each day as been long, but the week has flown by.
Both teams will be spending the day with the Villa girls.
More tomorrow..... Goodnight for now!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Day four - Cultural Day

Day four is in the books and our time here is slipping away!  This time of the trip is always hard because the days are numbered and it's so hard to think of leaving this place where I feel so alive!

I thought I'd show everyone what we get to see every morning when we wake up.  This is the spot where I sit with my coffee, my journal and my reading and start the day by shutting my eyes and listening and seeing how many different bird sounds I can count.  I've counted as many as 10!
It's like a bird symphony!

Today was the staff day off so we get to go and experience the culture of Nicaragua!  
We started with a boat ride through the Islands of Granada.  There are 365 islands where the houses range from little shacks to huge vacation homes.  It's really pretty and usually very serene, however today was windy so it was a bit choppy.  Beautiful none the less!

After the boat ride we stopped by a park and ate a sack lunch.  Here's the babes of our group thoroughly enjoying each other.  

After our lunch we stopped in the town center of Granada, the oldest Central American City.
The first stop (and only stop) for a few of us was a coffee shop. These are your fearless facilitators and translator of this weeks teams, Terry, Kay, Tracy and Judith.

We got home with 45 minutes to spare before we went out for an authentic Nicaraguan dinner at 
"El Cafecito"the restaurant that opened 3 months ago and is owned and managed by one of our missionaries here in Managua.

Debriefing is complete, bags are packed and ready for tomorrow's work in the field.
Buenas Noches!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Day Three..... and heading into four.

Before I start I have to tell you my camera was set on a funky filter and I didn't get a lot of 
good photos today.  Nonetheless, it was a full day!

We started the morning with the weekly staff/chicas/teams devotion with a word spoken
by the other team's pastor.  It was fun to sit with all the people ofVilla Esperanza 
knowing that even though we speak two different languages we are of one faith 
and worship the same God!

Our third and final day of spa treatment for women was special.  We were serving
the mothers and aunts of the chicas that live at the Villa!  They were picked up at
their homes and brought to us.  We made chocolate chip cookies, bracelets and came along
side the chicas to teach them how to serve their moms and aunts by giving them mani/pedis.
This all sounds like fun and games, but the purpose is actually to build trust to be better
able to communicate with them.  It's hard when we just get a few hours, but we are able
to tell that the chicas are beginning to bond with us.

After a long day of two shifts, 15 in the morning and about 35 after lunch of chicas and
their mothers and aunts we were ready for dinner and more time with the chicas after.

Tonight we decided to try something new...... a fashion show.  The girls were split up in
5 teams and were asked to "make up" 5 of our team members.  We told them the crazier, the better.
We didn't realize how crazy they would go, but here are the results:






Models and make up artists

Tomorrow is our cultural day and day off for the staff.  We will be visiting the Granada Islands, the town of Granada (the oldest city in South America) and going to a market.  Adios!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Day Two - Most awesome day ever!

Today exceeded every expectation I could possibly dare to imagine!  On a missions trip, it is the kind of day you think might materialize around........ Thursday.  Today is Monday.  I am blown away!
Don't ever think, "I am just a woman, what can I accomplish?"  My team is 10 women.... 10 women strong!  No we are not building or repairing anything, but we get the privilege to serve by loving and pampering women and we are getting pretty darn good at it!  

We started our day off by serving 10 woman that are related in some capacity to the Villa.
Terry's mom, Vergene brought her legendary chocolate chip cookies and taught the ladies how to make them, and then of course how to eat them!
Then we did what we are getting really good at, Mani's and Pedi's! 

We though that was it for the day, but as Maria said, Jesus multiplied for us.  One of the local ladies went home, told her neighbors and brought back 13 others after lunch!  These women were in awe and we were in awe that they would come and let us serve them!

After the 2nd round of ladies left we were asked to visit a couple "shut ins", take them a large bag of food and pray for them.  Sounds simple, but in hearing their stories we ALWAYS learn more and get way more from them than we give.  The first lady was 73, in a wheelchair with diabetes.  She was surrounded by a supportive family, but she was in pain and would like to walk again.  We were honored to gather around her a pray. 

The next lady is someone we will NEVER forget.  We don't have many pics because it was such an intimate time that it didn't feel right taking pictures, but I want to tell you about her so you can pray for her.  Her husband has been employed by the Villa for only 2 months.  She has been battling cancer for a few years and just 2 weeks ago had her left leg amputated above her knee.  Just getting to that point has been a HUGE struggle for her, but now she has the struggle of figuring out her new life in less than mediocre conditions and very little money to pay for medical visits and care.  Please be praying for Haley's recovery and that her, her husband and two children would be covered financially.
After an hour of hearing her story we were able to gather around her and some of us hopped up on her bed with her and prayed with her.  She is now part of our ladies team and we love her already. Today we went from a team of 10 to 11!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Day one..... done!

Buenas noches amigos!

Gotta make this snappy because everyone went to bed and it's still so muggy I need to jump back in the shower!

Today we went to Iglesia Roca Eterna, a small church in a little community about 10 minutes from the Villa. Their worship is all clapping, no music and so joyful and enthusiastic it's contagious! After the sermon the children sang for us:

After the service was over the 2nd team took the children to see a movie and our team was able to stay and pamper the women with a mani/pedi day! 

We hung out with the ladies for a few hours, cleaning, massaging and painting their fingers and toes!  We also brought along dresses and shoes which they were thrilled to look though and pick one out for themselves. So fun to watch!

Tonight the Chicas at the Villa returned after spending the weekend back home with their families. For many of the teams it was try first time meeting all the girls and we each got to introduce ourselves.... Us in Spanish, they in English. 

We had dinner together and dancing!

Bedtime calls!

Thanks for your prayers and support!