Saturday, July 25, 2015

The work week is a wrap - Friday

The work week is done and we are waking up to the reality of packing our bags and leaving this beautiful place.  We are all leaving a part of our hearts here.

Yesterday was a long day of work, so by the time we had dinner, said our goodbyes to the girls and had a meeting, this leader was too spent to write about our day.  Whew!

We started Friday off with visiting two long-time friends of the Villa who have been battling illness and needed some cheer.  Don Salvadore is a long time friend of Wilbert and used to work at the Villa as a driver, among other things.  He has been battling what sounds like shingles in his left eye and has been in a lot of pain.  We walked to his house, sat around him and some of his old friends shared fond memories of his times at the Villa and what he means to them.  He and his wife of 39 years shared their family story and offered advice on how to have a long and happy marriage.  It was beautiful.  They were so grateful for the company of friends.

Next we stopped by Candida's home.  She also lives close by and has a long history with Wilbert... she was his Sunday school teacher!!  Her family all lives in separate houses on the same property, it's a little family compound.  Candida and her daughter make the tortillas that we eat at the villa.  Candida has diabetes and is now confined to a wheelchair.  As soon as we gathered around her in chairs she started crying because she was so happy we came to visit. She and her husband of 57 years also gave us tips for what makes a long marriage and shared their family story.  After seeing so much brokenness and fatherlessness in Nicaragua it was so wonderful to see two examples of loving, tender, committed marriages.

After a quick lunch back at the Villa we went to Teseros de Dios (Treasures of God), a holistic healing facility for handicapped children.  The staff were such incredibly humble, gracious and loving people.  Our mission for the day was to pamper not only the staff, but specifically to love on, listen to and pray for the mothers of 6 handicapped children.

When I realized our team was larger than needed for 6 women I prodded the administrator for what else we could do.  "Can we help with their children?"  She said they were downstairs having PT and we could help them with sensory therapy.  Six of us went downstairs and entered a room that will forever change me.  I had no idea "handicapped" meant children with severe Cerebral Palsy.  After we caught our breath we took our shoes off, grabbed some lotion and massaged these little curled, frail limbs for the next hour while holding back tears.  I am changed.

As if that wasn't enough to change me..... when their mothers came to take them home the love and care they showed their children was priceless.  These women have made something wonderful out of something broken.  They have created a community of mothers that pray together, study the bible together and hold each other up.  

Last night as our team gathered for our debrief we talked about the day and the week.  The re-occuring theme that keeps popping up is COMMUNITY.  We could see the difference a community made to those we served this week.  The parents at the hospital didn't have a community and didn't seem to have much hope.  The parents at Teseros de Dios had a community that brought them hope, love and joy.  It is a good lesson for all of us to not "do" life alone.  When we reach out, share our sorrow and joy with others and hold each other up, the navigation of life is so much easier and beautiful.

A quick note to those of you who have family traveling with me...... be gentle with them.  We've had a beautiful and emotional week.  Hugs are good.  Thank you for sharing your family with me!


Team picture before Siena's departure

Don Salvadore and his wife

Sharing memories with Don Salvadore

Candida and her husband

Praying for this sweet couple

This little foot.......       


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Best day yet.... Thursday

Just before we headed out today we had a soaking rain.  It always feels refreshing, until it stops and the evaporation starts.......then the humidity is on the overwhelming side.

Our time today was productive, efficent, nurturing and a blessing....... to us!
We spent the morning hours at the only radiation and chemotherapy hospital in ALL of Nicaragua.
Many people travel to get treatment here, but the space is very limited.  There are 18 beds for chemo & radiation, 3 for nuclear medicine and the rest have to find housing close by or drive a distance to get treatment.  The director showed us into the areas we could work and thanked us for bringing love and prayers to her patients.

Unlike the Children's Hospital there was hope in the air.  There were about 8 women who wore hospital gowns and smiles and embraced the attention they were getting.  One of our fluent team members came to them and said, "You are queens for the day!  Let us treat you like queens, here are your thrones" as she pointed to four manicure chairs.  They were grateful for new dresses, headbands, toiletry samples and lunch we brought.

Muriel was a teenage girl who had been there for 8 months with terminal brain cancer.
Her mother was lovely and allowed us to pray over her and give her some TLC.  The precious moment of the day was watching 2 of our teenage team members gently give her a mani & pedi bedside as she lay there.

We also had 4 team members help clean up the yard and 3 washed windows.  We not only worked inside, but helped make a difference outside too!

After the hot, humid morning in small spaces Mama Gloria took us for a surprise treat.... Ice cream in an air conditioned Eskimo Ice Cream shop!  With the swanky decor, cool air and our ice cream treats
you couldn't even tell we weren't in the US. Opening the door to the shop to get back on the bus we were hit with a wall of humidity which reminded us we were still in Nica! Yeah!

This afternoon we spent time with the Chicas talking about what love and respect look like in relationships, and then met them again tonight to make bracelets and "just dance"!

We've just finished our evening debrief meeting and had to say goodbye to our youngest team member, Siena, who will be flying out tomorrow.  Tomorrow we go from "Sweet Sixteen" to..... hmmmmm... I guess "Fabulous Fifteen"!

Buenas noches desde Nicaragua

Nicole and Shawna picking out dresses for patients

Toria sitting with Muriel

Golda and Sienna treating Muriel like a Queen

The sweeping and raking team

Ice Cream Treats... Thanks Gloria!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Wednesday..... Culture Day

We had a culture day today!  This allows us to explore Nicaragua AND let the staff have a day off.
The day started with 7:30 small group, 8am breakfast and then both teams loaded up on a yellow school bus and went on an advenure.

We started with a quick stop at Masaya Volcano.... an active volcano.  It's spews steam, but you can still see quite a way down. (Selfie pick #1 here)

Next we went to Granada and loaded up on 3 boats that took us around the Granada Islands.  We didn't see all 365 islands, that were formed by a Volcano erruption years ago, but we did see some pretty HUGE, private houses and monkey island!

The city of Granada was our next stop.  Granada is the oldest city in Central America with beautiful old buildings in all different colors and a fabulous Yellow Cathedral in the center of town.  I don't have any pictures of the city because I was to busy looking for the Chololate Factory for a bathroom and iced coffee!  I'm sure you will see many later.

An adventure in Nicaragua is nothing without stopping by a market, so we stopped back in Masaya to shop at their local market.

Last stop..... Dinner at Cafecito Bistro.  It is the coffee shop/cafe opened up by one of the Forward Edge missionaries and a local Nicaraguan chef. We had an authentic, delicious Nicaranguan meal of Gallo Pinto, Plantaine Chips, Carna Asada, salsa & fried cheese.

It was a fabulous day, a break from the emotionial work we've been doing, and now we are refreshed and ready to get back at it tomorrow!  We will be visiting a local radiation and oncology clinic.... prayers appreciated!

BTW, thanks for sending your fantastic family memebers here to serve with me.  This is an incredible team of selfless servants!

Team Sweet Sixteen at Maysaya Volcano (plus translators!)

One of our 3 boats in Granada

Carma and Connie

Connie and I feeding monkeys!

Coffee drinks in Granada

Dinner for 33+ at Cafecito

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Tuesday was a success


Today our mission was to bring cheer and love to the parents and children of the Children's Hospital. There is housing across the street from the hospital for parents to stay who have sick children or are waiting with their children for treatment.  Many have been staying there for months, and the place is pretty dismal.  They are provided a room and one meal a day.  There are no sheets or towels, no toys, nothing to do.

We brought along our manicure supplies, facials, some toys, music and one of the girls from the Villa who is attending beauty school colored and cut hair.  Heydi also joined us again today and taught beading class.  The cooks at the Villa made a huge box of rice for lunch which we passed out with rolls and iced tea.  After lunch we passed out skirts and small toiletry bags.

I found myself thinking about when I had a sick child for years.  I can't imagine living in this atmosphere, so dismal and alone, and still having hope.  It made me think.... why me?  Why was I born into such a priviledged world where I had medical attention for my child, a support system around me, and money to pay the doctor bills.  I can't imagine not being able to get help for your sick child. Blessed to be a blessing.

We met a boy named Yader who will have a kidney transplant this coming Monday.  He has been waiting with his mother.  He has not seen his father in 5 years, but his father's kidney is a match.  We are praying his father will show up on Monday for the surgery, which is a legit concern.  As we were about to leave we learned he would not be able to have the surgery unless he came with 5 clean towels, 5 clean sets of PJ's and a few other things.  We gathered the $40 between us which should buy the supplies he needs.  Please be praying on Monday for Yader, that his dad shows up and they operation is a success.

Yader is just ONE story of many, many we heard today.  It's heartbreaking, but we were able to listen, pray, love and give hope.

Deep breath.....

Tonight we took dinner to Heydi's house where a few of us first met her a year ago this week.
The transformation in only a year is a testamony of God's amazing power!

Til tomorrow..... adios.

Toiletry gift bags

beading class

dishing up lunch

Yader, his mom and Lisa

Pearla coloring hair

Dinner at Heydi's home

Selfie of the day!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Monday has come and we are about "gone"!

Hola, familia y amigos

We are just finishing up our work for today, it has been a very long day, but so rewarding!

First thing this morning after breakfast we met with Papa Wilbert who welcomed us to the Villa.  This is a man who is always so motivational and encourages us in our work with his huge smile!

Soon after we met with the chicas and talked to them about what love, dating and healthy relationships look like.  There was a lot of squirming, but we know they were listening.  Several of our team shared their stories to give the girls real life examples of what works and what does not.  The common thread among all the stories is to have a relationship based on God, love, respect, patience and kindness.  We hope to be able to continue these conversations in the next couple days.

After lunch a very special friend that Judy and I met last year came to visit and work with us.
Last year we met Heydi, a woman who had just had her leg amputated due to cancer and living under extreme circumstances.  Since last year she has learned to walk with a temporary prosthetic leg and hopes one day to be able to have her own permanent prosthesis that is made specifically for her.  She is an expert at making jewelry and trinkets out of beads.  With Heydi's help we were able to provide the mothers and family with an assortment of services.  Of course, manis & pedis, facials and lessons in bracelet making. 

At the end of the mothers' visit their daughters joined us for an afternoon snack and sweet goodbyes.

We had a short break before dinner, followed by a de-briefing, planning of tomorrows work, prayer, packing supplies and now we are headed off to bed.  Even though we are not doing physical work in the direct sunlight our work is draining.  Between the heat, humidity and the emotional work of hearing their stories, praying for them and trying to translate at the same time.... we definitely could use some prayer for stamina!  We LOVE our work, feel honored to be doing it, and are tired AND joyful!

Tomorrow will be another very long day starting at 7am and ending after 9pm!
Thanks for your support and prayers!
Papa Wilbert, Team Sweet Sixteen and our translators

Pedicures with the Chicas

Manis with Connie

Manis with Julie

Heydi teaching beading class.

What's a day without a selfie?  

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Sunday IS funday

Greetings from The Sweet Sixteen!

As you may have heard, we all made it here safe and are inside the walls of a Nicaraguan Oasis,
the Villa Esperanza!

Hours after we arrived we experienced the biggest thunder and lightening storm most of us have ever seen.  It was CRAZY and shut down much of the wifi.  I know there were family memebers waiting to hear from their loved ones, and for that I am sorry, not a lot we could do about that.

Today was hot, humid and beautiful.  We started out our day at church, which is a small cement building the size of a school classroom, with with only bars for doors and windowns.  No microphone, no band, no instruments, but the joy in their singing is big and LOUD.  It's a sound that makes you smile, clap and want to dance!

Our team lead a song and Cara shared a message, then it was down to work.  We gave manicures, facials and pedicures for 3 hours!  Each woman was loved, touched, prayed for and made to feel special.  They were also allowed to pick out a pair of shoes or a dress that we brought, along with a bag of sample toiletries.  Connie also shared her testamony in the afternoon and did a beautiful job tying in her life experience with hardships they may have gone through also. Awesome!

The highlight of the day for me and many of us was when we were all done serving them and ready to leave they asked us to circle up and wanted to pray for us.  With hands on us one woman started praying, then another, then continued until they all joined in and the sound was that of a pack of swarming bees!  It was beautiful and  incredibly touching.

We are back at the Villa tonight watching CARS II with the girls.  When we met earlier to talk about the day and what we took away from it,  it was Joy.  Women that seem to have so little have so much joy and are so thankful to Jesus!  We can learn a lot from them!

Until tomorrow, and if the wifi continues to work!


Biggest rainstorm ever!

Sharing a song

Toria and Shawna entertaining the kids

Our debrief time on the porch.... sometimes I just can't help myself!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

I'm coming home

Nine days and I'll be back with my Nicaragua family! Watch for new posts!