Blogging Begins

Well, its finally time. After much anticipation and excitement, I get the honour and privilege to begin to share our amazing journey with you. My name is Chandra and I serve this team as its nurse alongside Corwin, our Director, and Kirk, my husband, another co-leader. So, without further adue…

We are here. We are fully and undeniably in Nicaragua. It seems like forever ago that we were saying goodbye to all of our friends and family at the airport in Saskatoon on Wednesday night, but in reality, it has only been 72 short hours.

Our time in transit was great. Things ran more smoothly than ever and, as travel always is, it was an excellent opportunity to allow the team time to connect, anticipate together, and bond. It was also such a privilege for our team to share Chloe, Matt & Braden’s first time in flight. We made it to Vancouver safely Wednesday night, promptly found food and soft benches to sleep on, and then were off before we knew it to Los Angeles on Thursday morning. We had a one night stop over in LA and I think it was one that was imperative for our team. It was a nice chance to digress from the busy routines we were all spewed from…that of work, school, sports teams, music teams, church, commitments…and to become unified in purpose and focus. To align ourselves with the goal of our mission. And to have fun.

Thursday was filled with adjusting to a sunny climate, laying by the pool, doing some last minute shopping, having a nap, and then spending the evening together as a team eating at Fat Burger and walking around Downtown Disney. It was fun watching the kids soak up all of the atmosphere change…some seeing their very first palm trees. Days like that are so vitals for teams to learn to work as a family…to get to work alongside each other and play alongside each other. It was just the relationship boost we needed before heading into such a cultural change of climate. Oh ya, and Johnsons…Denver got his glasses. ;)

Friday morning was an early rise as we made our way to the airports. Again, Cor, Kirk, & I can’t tell you how impressed that we are with how prepared that these kids have been. Their luggage were all weighed and underweight, their binders in their back pack with all they need to fill out every form we get, and their attention keen to ensure traveling through the airports have been smooth. It has made our traveling such a blessing. With a short flight to Houston and then a quick connection to Managua, we were almost there.

Traveling as a team has offered us a lot of opportunity to share who we are, what we are doing, and why we are choosing to do it. Countless times I would turn my head to see a team member sharing with the person next to them in their airplane seat, or in line, and the lady making their coffee for them. Our Project Serve hoodies made us stick out like a sore thumb and there isn’t anything better that we could have wanted. Some reactions were positive and some were more awkward…but all in all God was asking us to spread the work that He came to this earth to serve and we need to follow in His footsteps.

Finally, around 9 p.m. on Friday night, our two days of traveling came to an end as we landed on the run way in Managua. The kids were buzzing with excitement to step out and meet their new friends and explore their new country...a feeling that can definitely never be replicated. We were greeted by our Nicaraguan Mom from the village of Veracruz, Shirley, & her husband, Richard as well as Esteban, our translator, and, of course, Corwin’s son Wilber. It was a stirring reunion for Corwin and Will as they haven’t seen each other in three months. We loaded up our bags and headed into Managua at night.

The team was quiet as they watched through the windows. The observed every smell, every sound, every sight…some recounting the differences out loud and some just internalizing until all the observing was over. It was evident on all of their faces, though, the amount of emotion that was behind it all. You could see them processing putting a face to the names of Esteban and Will, to the walls of the Provadenic, and to the scenes all around us. We even initiated them to a first stop at a Nicaraguan gas station. After a few long days of travel the team was bushed and quite happy to fall asleep in the welcomed humidity of the night air.

The morning came earlier for some than it did for others. Shortly before 3, not long after I myself had fallen asleep, did we fun into our first medical mishap. I heard the knock at my door and groggily answered, thinking I was dreaming. I didn’t expect to see Corwin, bent over weakly in pain, on the other side. It seemed that our first few hours in Nicaragua had activated the exit strategy of something in his stomach and, with much retching and nausea, his body was determined to get rid of it. Through out the night he seemed unable to keep anything, neither water nor any sort of medication, down and had to tough it out in great discomfort and a bit of a fever. With the sun rise came the awakening of the other missions team that is sharing the Provadenic with us, a medical team from the States which is here with us every year. Doctor David, a friend we have made in the past, was happy to step in and offer some American medication that may help Corwin’s ailment. To no avail, that medication didn’t seem to happy to stay in there. So, after a sad deliberation, Corwin & I decided that he needed to stay at the Prov and rest for the day, hoping to conquer whatever bug or food poisoning he had smuggled in from the States, and send the rest of us off on our day.

When our team discovered the news, we met together on our traditional team balcony to pray. As we prayed, the team got their first glimpse of Managua in the daytime. We took moments of silence to soak it up…to see all that we could in those first moments and figure out just what that it was that we have gotten ourselves into. The kids were all excited to dive further into the culture of this country.

After our first breakfast of rice & beans & scrambled eggs (oh ya, and pre-toasted toast and mystery juice, we cannot forget those), we were on our way. A blessing we are experiencing this year is the use of a personal van. In years past we have just hired a driver to take us the places we need to go. The disadvantage to this is that we are at the mercy of that driver and their schedule. Luckily, this year, with Esteban’s return to help our team, we are able to rent a van for the whole time we are here and have him drive it. We leave when we want, return when we want, and waste no time in between.

Before heading on our team day in Nicaragua, we wanted to head to Veracruz quickly to see the progression on the house and to drop off some bags of donations at Shirley’s home. Now in the last few weeks prior to our trip we had some major changes in our project. Initially, we were meant to build a house for a family we met last year. Unfortunately, very recently, we found out that the man we had made the arrangements with actually did not own the land and the owner her rented it from would not allow us to build. We were devastated with the news, but knew that God foresees things we don’t. Immediately, Shirley & Richard made us aware of another need that was imminent. Last year we visited a home of a woman who had several cripple children as well as a few young ones. She was living in a house with three other family that had rooms that were raised and lowered, always having to lift her children in and out of their chairs. In the past year, the Lord called home two of her crippled children and now she is left with one, who is the eldest, and four young ones. Shirley & Richard said that it would be a great blessing to build this house for this woman. So, as it does in Nicaragua, plans change.

So this morning we saw our NEW project, a house build on ground level with rooms for this woman and her children and her son in a wheelchair. The house was well underway, the construction workers welcoming us as we came to take a look at what we would be helping them with. They showed us where we would be digging another 10 metre hole for an outhouse. The eagerness of the team emerged as we walked around the site. We’re ready.

It was really humbly to meet the family. They were very shy, but had gratitude in their eyes. The two youngest girls, Betti & Cindy, held our hands as we walked around. And the son, in his wheelchair, sat in the space his room would be and watched the worker’s do their work. What a gift to be a part of.

After our short visit to Verecruz, we set off for our team day. Today was our culture day. Our day to see what it means to live in Nicaragua. To experience part of the country, to see God’s beauty in it, and to fall in love with its idiosyncrasies which make it the country it is. We decided to take the team to a city called Granada, a colonial city with much history. We first walked around, checking out the architecture and the historical buzz of the place. We walked through the markets, explored an old church, and the kids had their first interactions with Nicaraguan peddlers, trying to do business. This team is definitely not hesitant to use the Spanish they have learned, which is awesome. They try and don’t always succeed, but are learning very rapidly.

After we had lunch at a Thai food restaurant in the city (I know, Thai food, in Nicaragua? But it was a fun restaurant and so yummy!), we were picked up by our guides for our canopy tour. What is that, you ask? It is a zip-line tour of part of the jungle canopy that covers the mountains nearby Managua. There were two ladders, 14 platforms, a suspension bridge, and a 59 foot belayed free fall at the end. AWESOME. But to get there, we had to do a bit of bolder climbing.

We divided into two jeeps as we took the 45 minute climb up the mountain. And climb we did. We drove over every rock and boulder imaginable, bumping along in the back and holding onto whatever and whoever we could. We finally reached the top, harnassed up, and away we went. And it was AMAZING. We zipped and climbed through the canopy of the jungle. We whizzed over the jungle floor, over coffee trees and thick foliage. We shared tree trunks with huge ants with bright gold bottoms. We even swung ourselves into trees that we were sharing with a family of howler monkeys, just playing on the branches next to us. For some of this, it was all done effortlessly, but for others, like Kirk, Cara, Erin, & Chloe, these were great achievements. As a team we enjoyed the beautiful creation God blessed Nicaragua with.

After our zip line adventure (please do check out our pictures, they are great!), we trekked down the mountainside again until we reached our van. We welcomed smooth pavement as we drove back to Managua as the sunset. We arrived back at the Provadenic in time to have a special birthday supper for Wilber, who turned 15 on the 9th, and to get settled, showered, debriefed, and rested. We were happy to see Corwin up and alive, as well, and feeling better. The thing that was in him was now out and he was holding down fluids and feeling more energy after a long day of revitalizing sleep. Praise God!

It was fantastic to hear the thoughts of the team as they sorted through their first day. Already they are asking themselves the hard question. Bobbi shared that she was surfacing those questions…why does God allow such different circumstances in our lives? How different would we be if we would have been born here? How can people with so little be content and people with so much be so uncontent? Cara was facing similar questions…realizing that sometimes, in North America, poverty like this isn’t a reality, its just like a tv commercial that is brought to our attention for a moment and then shifts out of sight and out of mind. I think the whole team is indulging in the reality of this place and is acknowledging that when they leave, it just keeps on going, the way it always has. And, I believe, that realization is driving them to be FULLY HERE. We’re not in a zoo to watch and leave like we’ve never encountered it…but to live alongside them and love, til it hurts, because that’s what God asks us to do.

The insight of this team is sharp. Their passions maturely warn on their shoulders. I see God in their questions, in their searching, and in their desire to reach out and change their world. And all three of us leaders are excited to walk along with them as they make a dent in that journey.

So there you are…caught up. You can expect, God willing, an update every night, or as close to that as we can get. It is, again, a privilege to get to share this for you. For me, its like an ability to give you guys a window into a place which I wish everyone could see with their own eyes. Thank you for reading…for letting us share.

As I close tonight, I would ask for a few prayer requests:
-for Corwin, that his health would be restored and that he would feel 100% as soon as possible
-for tomorrow (Sunday) morning as we go to church for the first time…that our hearts would not be guarded as we meet and fall for these people
-for Denver, who is arranging a meeting with the sponsor child he supports but has been unable to get ahold of the contact. Please pray that he can contact her on Monday, as the meeting is arranged for Wednesday.

We love you dearly. Know you are thought of often, especially as we celebrate Valentine’s Day…

Day 1, Peace out,
Chan, Cor, Kirk & The Kids

P.S. Braden, Anthony, Denver, & Bobbi say a special ‘hello’ and a Happy Valentine’s Day to…well, you know who you are.
Corwin Thiessen9 Comments