Yesterday the team we had been anticipating the most this year went home. Our home church, Westside Faith Center, sent a team of eleven awesome people down to serve with us here. Our friends led the group (and did an incredible job), and we had relationship with all the members of the group previously. Honestly, receiving the team and hosting them here was a dream come true. For so long we have been wanting to be here in Nicaragua, and knowing that hosting teams would be a big part of it, we dreamt of the day when we would have a team full of people we know and love. That dream came true in the last two weeks, and I feel like I’m still realizing how sweet it was.
From the get go we were told that this team wanted to do one thing while they were here in Nicaragua: help. They didn’t care what it looked like, what the work was, or anything else except that they wanted to come to Nicaragua and help. Um, ok!! 🙂 We had a few random things at Ruby Ranch that sort of needed to be ‘finished up’ as the summer came to and end, so the first couple of days we were at the ranch. We varnished the new slip’n’slide railings, applied polyurethane to the structure at the top of the slide (shout out to Corbin and Matthew for sticking with it when it was not even a little bit fun), and planted trees and bougainvillea. We knew that we were also going to work at the Los Parcelas school, a little two room school that serves about 35 primary school aged kiddos. Not only was the team going to paint and sort of ‘make-over’ the classrooms, they also raised money to put in a new latrine. The old one was quite literally falling apart, with the rusting metal door resting on the ground next to it. [When we asked the teacher how the girls go to the bathroom she said, “With a friend, so that the other girl can hold something up as the door.”] So as we began painting at the school on Thursday, Henry and the guys began working on digging the six meter deep hole for the latrine. (In case you’re unfamiliar with the metric system, that is about 18 feet, that would be dug by hand.)
It was perfect timing, really. We began working at the school on Thursday afternoon because class for primary students is in session in the mornings. And as we spoke with the teacher we were told that they didn’t have any school on Friday, because it was the last Friday of the month, which is always off and essentially is used as a teacher inservice day. So instead of cramming everything into the afternoon at the school we were able to be there all day, painting, cleaning, digging, and digging some more. It was so incredible how everything worked: we had a perfect amount of people for the work involved, it was the perfect time of the month for them to be here, and we had the perfect amount of money to work with to get everything done.
We split our forces on Saturday morning, with half of us working to clean and put back together the classrooms and the other half preparing the Ranch for the fun afternoon we had planned with the kiddos. As a way to include our bigger church body in the mission here people from Westside were invited to write a short note on a label, which was then translated into Spanish, and placed inside one of the 170 Bibles the team was able to purchase. Though many people who are neighbors to Ruby Ranch would say they are Christians, and many go to church, very few have access to a Bible, let alone one of their own. So the offer of a brand new, totally yours Bible is a big deal. The team also wanted a day to share in fun with the kiddos many of them knew from last year, so on Saturday we invited the kids from the neighborhood to the Ranch for time to play, lunch and the slip’n’slide. It was such a joy to see my friends loving on and playing with the kids who have become so dear to my heart, and to be able to tell the kids that these are my friends from my home church in Oregon. I’m telling ya, I had a VERY FULL HEART the entire time they were here!
Sunday was more relaxed, with church, the market, the Masaya volcano (WITH REAL LIFE FLOWING LAVA!!!), and dinner at the Galerias food court. Though we got back late, it was a sweet time of just being together and relaxing, because on Monday we had to finish everything at the school.
We ended up getting to paint the inside of the local clinic (which is right next to the school) since we had extra paint (which was also the perfect amount), and then we put the finishing touches on the school. We decorated with fun, bright posters, Nicaraguan flags, and giant foam letters. A few of the kids from the neighborhood went home after class to change and eat, but then came back and watched everything we did to their school. They were so excited for what we were doing! The community coordinator came over, as well, and saw what we were doing. He has historically been a little dubious of our involvement in the community, and aligns with the Sandinista party, who generally do not like Americans. As I stood talking with him about what we were doing at the school his grandkids go to and daughter-in-law teaches at, I prayed that our time there would be redemptive for him in some way. That he would understand our hearts for that community, and soften towards us in the future. We were able to present the school to Mary, the teacher of the older kids, as well as her husband and other family members. She was so grateful and so excited.
We ended our time out in Los Parcelas with a trek up to Chapel Hill. It was such a peaceful time, as we arrived, realized the sun was about to set, and everyone fell silent. There weren’t many times with our team that everyone was silent, but up on that hill, with the cross in front of us and the sun setting in the distance, words felt unnecessary. Eventually Landon got up and shared about the cross, what it means and why it propels us to live the way we do, but it was a very tranquillo time. There was a gentle breeze the entire time which isn’t what we have come to expect while on Chapel Hill, but was perfect for that day. A gentle reminder of the Lord’s presence and goodness.
Tuesday was for prayer and Wednesday was for the beach and pizza, but that is a whole post in itself.