Gracious Goodbyes

This is it…the last blog update from Nicaragua. Our goodbyes have been said, our bags packed, and soon we will depart on the journey that will bring us home. It will be a long 48 hours.

It is hard to describe the feelings that any one of us had today. There is no real way of summarizing the thoughts and emotions that ran through our hearts and minds. Some were feeling torn between dreading the goodbyes to be said and anticipating the hellos to be had. Some have completely fallen in love with this country and its lifestyle and can’t imagine going back to anything different. Some are excited to be home and to share this experience with so many people there. Some feel guilty for missing the comforts of home…a cup of Starbucks coffee, hot showers, lettuce (maybe the last one is just me)…especially when the people we have spent the last week with have never known such things. And some are still processing that we are even here, that this dream is being lived out, and that it’s about to end. It has been a long, hard week and every single member of our team, including Corwin and me, would have admitted to our exhaustion this morning.

Every morning we have met at 7:00 a.m. on the outer balcony of the Provadenic and read a portion of James together. Its beautiful there in the morning, the sun emerging and the street below growing busy. We took a moment to pause this morning as it was our last time to take in all the sites and sounds that have greeted us at the beginning of each day. It was our last time at the Provadenic in the sunlight.

We started our day in Veracruz off at the church. We had invited a lot of the community kids from the work site to come to Sunday School and when we arrived we were overflowed with hugs and kisses. We enjoyed our time singing and dancing with them. It was neat to see so many of our special friends who are usually dirty from playing in the Nicaraguan dirt all cleaned up and looking cute for this special occasion. The youth group at the church put on a drama for us…our team’s friend, Mundo, played one of the main roles and we smiled a lot to see him so animated. Even though we have spent such a little bit of time at this church, it feels like home.

After our last lunch at Mama Shirley’s we got all the back packs full of donations to hand out to the kids in the community. We took them to the worksite and got to give them all to our little friends. It was fun to watch them unpack them and get so excited about the things they were finding. Taylor unpacked her gift for a little boy named Solomon and he was delighted at every new discovery. I captured a cute moment when he opened up his colouring book upside and started to colour with a big smile on his face. Nathan gave a back pack to the little boy who hurt his foot (Bravio) and his older sister to share. There was a small pair of shoes in the bag. I was so grateful to see him put on the shoes so that he didn’t have to go barefoot and he could protect his wound from infection. They were bright pink, but he didn’t seem to mind. Handing out these back packs seemed like such a little thing…but it brought the kids so much joy.

We headed to the orphanage to play with the kids one last time and say our goodbyes. So many of the kids were already wearing their new shirts and shorts and were excited about all the gifts they had gotten yesterday. It was a hot day out today and our team was so exhausted, but I have never seen such energy poured into children for the two hours that we were there. There was much running and chasing and laughing and soccer. And our team, though exhausted, gave all that they could. I was proud of them for being so selfless. We said goodbye to the orphans and walked out as the sun went down. As we walked out Corwin whispered a gentle “goodbye orphans” under his breath and Jenna replied “that’s gross. Leaving them there, saying goodbye…that’s just gross to me”. It has hit her that so much of the love in their life just comes and goes and that is all that they have ever known. She later told me that she has found a new gratitude towards the loving families we have and the way they are always there for us.

We enjoyed our last supper together as a team. We ate our last pollo fritas from Delpha, crunched our last plantana fritas, and sipped our last gasseosas from the pulperia across the street. We were savouring every last minute of Veracruz.

Then it came time for the house dedication. We walked up to the work site and it had been transformed into a church service. There were streamers and balloons on the outside of the bright blue house and many plastic chairs set up in front of it. The church brought their keyboard and microphones and set them up and we were ready for a fiesta. Many people from our church came to the service as well as all of the kids who have been our friends all week. The service was one of celebration and, in Nicaragua, celebration means a lot of music and A LOT of dancing! I have never seen a group so tired dance so hard. At one point I turned around and saw Daniel clapping and dancing away. We sang to Spanish words we couldn’t understand and danced till the sweat beaded off our brows. And we loved it.

It is beautiful to see how free the Nicaraguans are in expressing their faith, their honour in God, and their passion for Him. Many different people got up to lead us in a song of worship. These people are necessarily musically talented…but yet something about the heart in which they sing from is extraordinary. They love for God is so abundant and evident.

The service ended with the cutting of the “ribbon” to signify the handing over of this house to Hector and his family. It was a moment our team will not soon forget. We all huddled in the house, remembering all the hard work and humility it took to build it. We prayed over it with gratitude for the lessons we learned in it and the life that will be lived to the full in it. And, with all of us reaching for the scissors together, we cut the ribbon and gave the house to Hector and his family.

From then on it was time for goodbyes. As I stood back and watched I got to encounter our team at their most intimate and vulnerable of moments. I watched Sarah as she cradled two little girls, Ashley and Kimberley, as they wept into her chest. I watched Jenna as she played with the hair of her two little friends and told them that she loved them. I watched Regan keep his arm around a sobbing Fernando, who is now Hector’s next door neighbour, and comfort him. I watched Denver as he danced and clapped with all his strength, which is still not very much, and hug his friends time and time again. I watched as Mitch 1 (Dunn) had a conversation with a teenage next door neighbour who said that watching our team work together and love the children changed his whole life. Mitch was blown away as this boy told him that he is changed forever and that he will never forget the impact we made on him. I watched Daniel as he searched for another kid to hug, making sure every last ounce of love he had was given. I watched Mitch 2 (Epp) as he sat in his red plastic chair holding a girl named Erlinda as she cried. I watched as April hugged her friend from church and cried along with her. I watched Taylor as she held little Solomon and wouldn’t let go…his face quiet and sad. I watched Nathan as he cried for the two little girls who had attached themselves to him all week. Something came alive in him when he was with them. I watched Colton fight back the tears as he said goodbye to the neighbourhood boys who are Hector’s friends…boys who have no fathers and love to have us around. I watched Marshall as he high fived the boys and told them that he loved them…and hugged them with all his might. It was amazing to look upon the connections that we have made with this community in one short week and to watch the love just pour from each other.

And then, of course, it was that time. The time where we all have to load in the van and be on our way. Many of the children sat on the sidewalk crying and it was terrible to rip ourselves away from them and drive away. Veracruz has left an imprint on our hearts that no other place could leave and we are so grateful for the way it has changed us. We can only hope that our presence there has done the same.

The team had a great time of sharing once we got back to the Provadenic. We talked about the things we want to change when we get home and how we will carry this experience with us for the rest of our lives. We are the only people to share this experience with one another and we want to cherish that forever.

Our plane leaves in 3 hours. We are both excited, sad, and ready to be on our way home. We cannot thank you enough for coming with us on this trip, for reading our updates and praying and supporting us. We honestly took you here with us and feel like you have been here every step of the way. BLESS YOU for that…we are ever so grateful.

Please pray for these final things as we depart:
-for health and safety as we travel; planes are crappy places to get sick. Pray we get home to you well!
-for our debriefing; that we would begin to unpack this experience and know how to communicate to all who weren’t here
-for saying goodbye once again; at the airport we will say goodbye to Shirley, Wilber, and Esteban…all of whom have become our family over the last week. Pray we love them to the tips of our fingers.
-for Corwin; he has to say goodbye to Will. Enough said.

We love you all and are counting down the hours until we see you again. We don’t know if we will be able to post in LA so the next time we talk may be face to face. 48 hours!

All our love and prayers…
The PS08 Nicaragua Team

P.S. We arrive on Tuesday night at midnight on a Westjest flight from Calgary. If you are up for it, please feel free to come on out to the airport and welcome us home! We can't wait to see you.
Corwin Thiessen2 Comments