Filthy Feet

Another day has come and gone down here in Nicaragua and what a day it has been. It seems that every hour here can feel like twenty but, at the end, it all just feels like a few moments.

The team was eager and excited this morning to get into Veracruz and experience their first Nicaraguan church service. The church which Corwin is connected to in the village is a small Baptist church. The amount of attendees is ever changing so to attempt to give a description to that number would be difficult, but there are many children who come every Sunday for Sunday school.

We arrived at church in our Sunday best. We were early, so the team got a bit of time to make friends with the children attending the service. We as leaders, were so blessed to watch as the team spread themselves out, trying to communicate through Spanish, English, actions, pointing, and pretty much whatever other avenue may get their point across, and made an effort to connect with these people. We have been blown away by the team’s willingness to reach out.

Nicaraguan church services are ones that are not easily forgotten. Many people crammed in a very hot tiny church, a sound system turned up as loud as it possibly can go, and clapping…oh, there is so much clapping. Sometimes you forget that there are even words to the songs because you have to clap so much! It is loud and crazy and wonderful. And the team certainly agreed. They sat in the pews with their new found friends and danced and clapped and smiled as they soaked it all in. Halfway through the singing, the kids were dismissed for Sunday school.

The number of kids who show up for Sunday school can vary heavily from week to week. This week, we had about 40. The kids sat in their cute little plastic chairs, with our team members squished into the miniaturized chairs among them, and we sang songs as best as we could in Spanish. Then, with the help of Esteban, our translator, Jaclyn and Bobbi lead a craft. We picked a verse from Psalms (“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord”) and wrote it on the board. Then, taking some paper plates and some frijole (beans), we made tambourines for the kids to use as they sang in church. With Denver manning the one stapler we brought and kids itching to play their new instruments…lets just say the room was filled with joyful noise (and the floor with a few beans) after our craft was done. But we sure had fun.

After Sunday school the kids usually play soccer and other games in the courtyard area of the church. This was a fantastic time for our kids to continue to connect. Jaclyn took some kids into the shade to teach them a hand slapping game. Curtis and the boys rounded some boys up for soccer. Anthony had a cute little girl in a pretty white dress attached at his hip wherever he went. Cara and Erin took pictures with kids. Matt & Kirk, the tall ones, gave kids rides on their shoulders. All in all there was tons of laughter and a trust that was growing between us.

Today was our first experience with lunch at Shirley’s. Shirley, our cook and Nicaraguan Mama, and her husband Richard, who is the contractor we hire to oversee and begin our housing projects, are tremendous examples of hospitality to us. They open their home up to our teams every year and always have the “mi casa es su casa” (my house in your house) attitude. They serve us in ways that we don’t deserve. The kids enjoyed exploring Shirley’s land, playing with Juma, the monkey, and chasing her adorable 3 year old son Richie around.

After lunch we did a tour of Veracruz on foot. It was a perfect first taste of just how hot it gets in Nicaragua and just how sweaty one can get. The sun beat down on us as we wandered along the path that runs in the middle of Veracruz. We stopped at our first Pulperia, stores that are built into the side of houses, for a cold drink of coke in a glass bottle (or in a bag, for some). We then made our way to the Project Serve 2007 house, built for a family with two little girls. They quickly welcomed us and asked us to come inside and look around. They had gotten a chance to put some paint on it and some curtains. It was awesome to see the home that they had made it into. Our second stop was the Project Serve 2008 house, inhabited by a single mom, her four children, and her mother. The family was elated to see us and, as well, ushered us in. It was unbelievable to see the home that they had made it into…with beds for each kid and small decorations. The backyard was full of trees and the kids had a play area. I was overwhelmed with the realization that this was not just bricks and concrete anymore…this was a family’s home. The only one that they had ever known.

After that house we crossed town to see the 2005 Project Serve house. This house is built on a much poorer side of town. As we crossed into this section, as it always happens, small children began to emerge from every corner. Soon enough each team member had two or three kids holding onto their hands and arms as they walked. The 2005 house is build in an area which has more evident poverty. To get to it, we cross over “The Pit”, a now dried out river bed that is filled with garbage where the children of the community often play but is filled with a ranging river in the summer. We visited the home, as we were swarmed with little friends, and enjoyed meeting the family that still lives there. Our house tour ended at another Pulperia, buying cokes and fantas for our buddies.

Our next stop was Orfanato Verbo, the orphanage. The team was excited and nervous as they approached the building. Many of them were now challenging preconceived ideas with first impressions. Manuel, a young boy who has been living at the orphanage for some time, greeted our van. Soon after, the kids began to emerge from their Sunday afternoon activities. The team was not hesitant to jump in and embrace every moment they had to love on these kids. The older boys went with the boys and Erin to the basketball court to play soccer while the younger girls and Matt stayed behind to play on the swing set. The orphans are beautiful kids…knowing full well we don’t speak their language and just not caring, chattering our ears away. They showed us how to through rocks at mangoes until they fall from the trees and then helped us all just bite right in. They often eat mangoes unripened here, a different experience for most of us, but the team still tried it. They kids also climbed trees to get us these tiny small green acidic fruits which they just pop in their mouths and eat. They laughed at our expressions as our faces scrunched up in reaction to their sour taste. We climbed on the jungle gym, swung on the swings, played on the slides, and tried to just keep up with their energy. It was a fantastic day to make our first connection with these kids, especially since we will be staying with them from Tuesday night on. Our team definitely left looking forward to coming back again.

We rocked our first bbq chicken at Delpha’s for supper and then headed back to church for another service. This service was geared more toward the adults and it was a great time for us to experience the worship of God in a different language, a different style, and a different culture. We sang and clapped and listened as best as we could to the foreign language. But I know that we each certainly felt just as much a part of that church as we do our churches at home. There is something about this place that creates an automatic feeling of home.

It was so fascinating to see through the lenses in which the kids perceived their experiences through today as we debriefed. Chloe was touched by a little girl in church tonight, about ten years old, who sang passionately and with her arms raised, surrendering all of her life to God through song. Curtis was moved that the little kids at the orphanage knew that we couldn’t understand them but yet chattered at us anyways, just because they wanted to be listened to. They trusted us enough to listen. Denver & Marshall, who have a unique perspective as they walk through this experience for the second time, reconnected with four little boys who they learned to love last year. They shared about how these kids are so joyful yet they live in one room homes with several other people. Corwin observed how easily it was for those families to invite us into their homes. In Canada, we prefer a call before a visit so we can plan and clean up. But these people share their homes freely, proud to share the home that their families live in with anyone who would want to enter. Kirk commented on just how open and trusting these people are and how it makes us realize how we walk around so guarded. Can you imagine if the scene had changed this afternoon and instead of a group of young adult Canadians walking through the streets of Veracruz while the Nicaraguan children ran from their houses to grab their hands, a group of Nicaraguan young adults would walk through the streets of Briarwood and all the Canadian children would run out to hold their hands? Such extremes seem almost unfathomable in our society. Jaclyn recounted her excitement as she experienced the worship of God in a different language. She didn’t know what she was singing or hearing, but yet she knew that her heart was offering the best she had to the Lord. And, suitably, as Matt prayed to close the night, he asked that we would have the strength and courage to hold nothing back and to love these kids with every breath we have to give.

After getting back to the Prov tonight, the kids finally got a chance to look down at their feet. We had walked so much all day that our feet were covered in dust and dirt…almost unrecognizable. And, where you take your flip flop off, what seems like a skin coloured flip flop remains. We laughed and snapped pictures of the remnants of our transient day. It reminded me of the verse in Isaiah 52:7 “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, "Your God reigns!". Our feet were not pretty at the end of the day…but yet we are walking where God asks us to and proclaiming through love and service all of the good news of His peace and salvation…what could be more beautiful than that?

Thank you all for sharing our day with us. Tomorrow we head of to the worksite for our first work day. We are excited to get ourselves even more dirty! Thank you all so much for your continued prayers and comments…they mean the world to us so far away. Here are some more to add to the list:
- Corwin, he is feeling much better and almost fully recovered. Pray that keeps up.
- Denver, we still haven’t gotten a hold of his contact yet. Pray that goes through.
- Safety as we work on the house
- Team unity, as we start becoming more passionate about our purpose here, we are attacked with feels of uncertainty and disunity. Pray for peace and patience.
- Belize Team, they were fortunate enough to take part in YC Belize (a huge Belizean youth conference) this weekend. Pray that they are diving in to their surroundings.

Bless you all dearly. I look forward to reporting tomorrow after our first day on the worksite.

-PS 09