January 30, 2020

Building Community in Nicaragua

Blog Archives:

It’s early – 4:50 AM to be exact when Pablo Mendez (ACECEN's Executive Director) arrives to pick up Jim Deters and Elco Vandergrift (EduDeo's foreign Learning Leaders) at their hotel in down town Managua.  Pablo has been up since 3 AM getting ready to head out in his Toyota to pick up his Nicaraguan colleagues Edwardo Ramos (ACECEN's Activity Coordinator) and Nilda Navarrete (EduDeo's In-country Coordinator) – they are ready and they proceed to pick up the foreign learning leaders with the vehicle packed.  Handouts, certificates, personal overnight bags, projectors - they are prepared for four days of conferences which will loop them through their regional areas and engage over 900 leaders and teachers in their learning community.

Once all five of the amigos greet each other, some for the first time, they crowd into the vehicle, and Pablo shoves his  shifter into first gear.  Elco, in the middle back seat, opens up his computer so that both Jim and Nilda on either side can see the plan that has been prepared.  It’s hard to focus as the streets in Managua are waking up and the light sheds new images as the darkness dissipates.  The mood is one of excitement and quietness all looped into a journey that is off to good start, smiles and conversations emerging as relationships in the confined space grow.  Jim and Elco are up for the challenge, but are not completely aware of where they are going or even how long it will take. They ask, and Pablo says “6 hours!” with a mischievous glimmer in his eye. In the end, it takes 3 hours to get to the Matagalpa Region where we are eagerly greeted by those in charge. Even some students are there to greet us.

As the five amigos unpack and begin setting up, they meet both and familiar and unfamiliar people who are there to help them with the details: welcome, registration, coffee, snacks, chairs set up, presentation screen in place, sound system tested.  While this is going on, more teachers and leaders arrive and by 9 AM, nearly all the chairs are filled.

The stage is carefully decorated and the conference theme, “Living as a Community of Grace”, is boldy displayed at the back of the stage.  Again, there is both an excitement and angst as this inaugural process is about to start.  Today is the first of four sessions that will happen all over the next 4 days. 

Day one’s session begins with devotions,  Pablo’s offers words on behalf ACECEN, and Nilda summarizes EduDeo’s building projects. 

After the break, Jim and Elco introduce themselves to the participants.  Thoughts, ideas, and activities under the theme on “Leadership & Building Community in the Christian School: How do we function as a “Community of Grace?” are now under way. Participants move into the learning with anticipation and curiosity.

The day proceeds with stories, activities, lunch, challenges, encouragements, school pictures, certificate presentations, evaluations, and a closing.

By 4 PM, the five amigos are back on the road heading to their next destination.  There are conversations and reflections in English and Spanish, sometimes only in Spanish. It’s an interesting mix but essential understanding appears to be evident as plans for the evening and next day are discussed.

The day ends with a supper gathering and then an eventual place to sleep.  

Such is the basic pattern that will be followed for the next 3 days in this inaugural development  with each region/group being different and the same in many ways.  Perhaps what impresses Jim and Elco the most is that so many have come.  Educators in Nicaragua are excited about building communities of grace.  Some even leave at 3 AM just to be there.

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