Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Seven weeks ago today...

I was above the clouds.

Actually I was above those clouds seven weeks and three days ago. Arriving in Managua for the trip of a lifetime. And not a day goes by, that I don't think about the week we spent there. On average there are two or three times each day when I think, "Seven weeks ago right now, I was eating breakfast... holding Sheila in my arms... talking to Charlie... riding on the bus to our next destination..." or whatever I think I was doing at that time on that day of the week.

The bottom of that banner says: Managua welcomes you.

It certainly did. So did every beautiful boy and girl, man, woman, grandmother, and teacher I met. Tears were shed and then wiped away. Hugs and meals were shared. Hands and hearts held. Faces admired and caressed. Prayers were offered and answered.

Welcome, welcome, welcome.

Following Kristiana's star - can you see the little yellow star she is carrying?

It wasn't an easy expedition for my tender-hearted daughter.
She cried before we left, and she cried while we were there.
She wondered what her purpose was in going and
whether or not it had been worth the time and money
for her to take the trip.

But then, seven weeks ago today,
she led a tiny band of wide-eyed, love-starved children
in several rounds of "Follow the star."
They marched and ran and jumped and hopped.
They laughed and took turns - and for a few moments,
she forgot her fear and they forgot their hunger.

It was an contemporary and unexpected reenactment of one of my favorite Bible passages: "When they saw the star, they rejoiced with great joy." Between many rolls of belly laughter and my own round of tears, I took this photo.

Can you spot the salamander thing that lived on the walls above our beds?

Anybody who has read this blog with any regularity knows that I am not one of those calm, animal lovers who can peacefully share my living space with critters that have more than four legs. So when we discovered, not one, but two little salamander thingies living in our room, I was not a very happy camper. In fact, I fumed internally that I had not signed up to go to camp and therefore did not deserve to have to live with campy critters. And where was the lizard spray when you need it?

The bravest girl in our group - so brave that she gouged the eyeball out of a deep fried whole fish and ate it - tried to catch both of them. To no avail. So I let it go. Fearlessly and miraculously I fell asleep each night with absolutely no concern about waking up with either of them burrowing in my hair. And every morning there they were, hovering high above us, graciously and patiently waiting for us to check out of their Lizard Motel.

Did I mention in an earlier post that on our first morning there, I opened a drawer that was inches from my head only to discover a swarming nest of huge ants and their gel-encased larvae? I screamed and slammed the drawer shut as quickly as I could. Unwilling to face that teeming mass again, I immediately came to the conclusion that I was more willing to spend the rest of the week with that nest near my head than have to deal with getting rid of it.

Fortunately the bravest woman I have ever known was my roommate. (There were quite a few brave souls on the trip. I suppose that to some degree we were all brave simply for having undertaken the adventure.) She put her hands into a plastic bag, and using it as a glove, she pulled the drawer out and ran outside with it, tossing the ants and their unborn children into the nearby grass. Unwilling to leave any ant unevicted, she checked the drawer across the room and discovered a smaller, though equally active ant nest over there.

I guess the time has come for me to accept that little critters live in every house, dorm, cottage, and hovel all the world around. Some crawl across kitchen counters. Some remain behind closed walls. Some live on the walls above bunk beds in Nicaraguan mission houses. Until I am able to accept the fact that we, the humans, are in the minority on the planet, I will continue to have fearful encounters with them. Slowly, very slowly, I am making peace with being in the minority yet again. I thank those two Masaya salamanders for being my teachers.

Packing the crates and suitcases for future groups and activities.

One of the goals of our trip to Nicaragua was to provide Chosen Children's Ministries with clothing, toys, candy (why do we feel the need to rot the teeth of the people we say we want to serve?), cosmetic supplies, school supplies, and whatever else we could carry in our suitcases - all of which would be used in towns and villages like Xiloa and Paradise.

Fortunately and unfortunately, what most groups do is leave their stuff in piles in the dining room - seen in this picture - or in the storage shed behind the dorm buildings. Either way, the few CCM workers frequently find themselves facing piles of unorganized stuff that they must to sort through and categorize.

During our week there, our group organized the shed and all of its contents. I was on the dining room organization team. Suitcases, crates, boxes, and other bags were emptied, sorted through, repacked, labeled, and placed in designated spots in the shed. Guillermo, the CCM director there in Nicaragua, told us that we had in effect saved them six months of incremental work.

Who says American teenagers are disorganized, self-centered, and superficial consumers? I do; but for a week, twenty-one teens from Charlotte, North Carolina, laid all that aside and served people in need of our help.

Seven weeks ago tonight, we were sitting together for our evening team meeting.
After spending the day in Xiloa.
Holding babies.
Feeding children.
Distributing cosmetic packs and toys.
Following the star.
Sorting through clothes and school supplies.
Watching salamanders scamper up, down, and all around our room.
After having our hearts emptied, sorted through, repacked, labeled,
and left in Nicaragua for future use.

Seven weeks ago my body was there.
Tonight my soul still is.


Kristiana said...

Oh Mama....
That post DEFINITELY brought me back to Nicaragua. I was talking to Chelsea Hathaway, a fellow teenager who went on the trip with us, and she too misses NIcaragua and wants to return next year.
Viva Nica!!!!

Ella said...

I think our our soul, like love does get left in the places we really love or people we invest that part of our hearts with.

A little like a rain drop. It may be one drop at a time that fills up the bucket, but over time it fills up, runs over and who knows where all that water run to... like kindness and love it spills forth going who knows where.

It does make a postive impact in this dark life even if only for a time. I wish I knew, but unless you try or take a chance nothing happens. Still we may never know who's life is changed by it. We do it anyway.

jmgb said...

amazing that seven weeks have passed...amazing how we are part of time and outside of time. i think that when we know the spirit of god, we come into knowing 'the knowing' and are outside of time and space in a way that only God can take us.
don't forget gail, don't you forget the chubby babies and scrawny arms and hungry hearts and grateful smiles that simultaneously awaited your arrival and sent you on your return home.
honor them by remembering, praying, writing, and tithing. permit your experience to cry out in your voice before both God and man, that you may never be the same, that those you came into contact would experience life change and hope of such a significant nature that the only exchange that would compare would be your reuniting in heaven.
honor them.
live and love as though it is all that matters.
and do it over, and over again. with your girl...