March 27, 2016

The Dry Season

Gateway 2016 School2School HANDS Team:

Every night the group spends some dedicated time doing devotions. This could include listening to a song together, watching a video clip, reading the Bible, journaling, discussing the day - talking and thinking about how God is at work here in and around us. Last night we discussed our witness, and how important that was to each other in the group and the people we were meeting on this trip. Today, the students put all of those words into practice as they stepped out in boldness, met the students at Bautista Libertad for the first time.


The heat once again was nearly overwhelming. We travel with a large McDonald's water cooler which we full with ice and purified water in the morning. How wonderful fresh, clean, cold water is!

We woke up fairly early in the morning, had a breakfast of eggs and toast, and packed up our bags. They would be picked up later in the day and taken to our accommodations for the remainder of the trip - The Nehemiah Center. The Nehemiah Center is much larger, with more spacious grounds, more usable outdoor space, less warm water and much less air conditioning. The trade-off is worth it!

We bused to the school for our first encounter with the students. The HANDS team was excited, and the bus trip was nervous anticipation, wondering what the day would hold. Would students respond? Would we be willing to step out of our comfort zones? Those questions were answered as soon we stepped through the heavy metal gates. (Everything is gated, windows are covered in bars, security guards aplenty in Nicaragua. Theft is a real problem, and the deterrent seems to help) Students approached us, and the team, suddenly minor celebrities, behaved admirably: Showing pictures, playing games, smiling, practicing broken Spanish questions, enjoying our new friends.

Bautista's principal Hilda opened the official welcome by sharing some scripture, praying, telling us about their school and having all of Bautista's grade 11 students introduce themselves in English. Justin Maki returned the favour by sharing some basic details about Gateway, and the Gateway team introduced themselves in English. We played some 'get-to-know-you' games and visited. What a great time!

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The students love to perform for each other, and us! We were welcomed beautifully by three wonderful young ladies who played on their violins. A group of grade 10 students performed a skit for us, reminding us of the busyness of life, and the error of living it without Jesus as a focus.

Ice breaker games planned by both Gateway and Bautista teachers helped students to mingle, talk and learn some names. Bautista students have also begun to take on the role of creating photo books to share their stories with our students, so we had an opportunity of learning from each other as we looked at pictures and heard one another's stories.

Lunch was enjoyed in the church that the school is attached to. We ate with our hosts. We need to mention at this time the amazing facilitators that make this trip possible. Nilda and Lesther are our fantastic translators extraordinaire! They are incredible - at getting to know the students, having fun, facilitating conversation and teaching us about our new favourite country. Peter and Trudy Kuipers, a Lacombe couple, have been working with EduDeo for 6 years in Nicaragua. They help organize teams that come to work on building sites and in schools. They also help translate, and are amazing!

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After lunch, we loaded up onto Mauricio's bus - a quick note about our driver. This guy is one incredible man. He has in some way become one with his bus - as he can direct it down bike lane sized gravel roads, turn on a dime, and back up into tight, dark alleyways. He has had three random breakouts of applause for his driving skills - so far!

Mauricio took us to Jose Luis Alfonso Velasquez park in downtown Managua. This is a public park made up of beautiful outdoor soccer pitches, baseball diamonds, basketball and volleyball courts, playgrounds and walking trails. It is well maintained and fun! Even though the heat was oppressive, students sweat through shirts, and drank a LOT of water while enjoying sports and games with the BL students. The park includes the Roberto Clemente baseball diamond. Clemente played for the Pirates in the Major leagues of baseball. When the earthquake struck in 1972, he immediately returned to Nicaragua to help out, and tragically died when his plane crashed on his return. He had been in Managua three weeks before, and often did charity work in Central America. The park itself is named for Jose Luis, whose sad story can be read here. (I used Google translate to read the page, and it's a bit difficult to make some parts out, but the general story is there). Amidst these sad stories is a park where families can enjoy healthy activities outside.

All around the downtown area, there are statues, symbols, murals, public works, and other examples of historical events (many tragic) that have shaped Nicaragua over the last century. Political instability, corrupt leaders, freedom fighters, national emergencies and tragedies, have all taken their toll on the landscape and people here and have contributed to the national consciousness. Close to the shores Lake Nicaragua was the most vibrant city center in Central America in the early 1970's. After the powerful earthquake struck, not just buildings were destroyed - an erosion in the economic stability of Nicaragua also occurred and the prosperity spread to the surrounding Central American countries. Rubble is still (finally?) being cleared along the lakeshore, and newer developments are bring tourists and business back.

Our next stop was to walk along the lake shore and enjoy Puerto Salvador, an newly developed section of shops and restaurants. The wind was whipping off the water, so it was cooler here, which was welcome! Students enjoyed each other's company and an ice cream!

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We got our first taste of real traffic jams, as we boarded our bus a bit later than intended, and headed back to Bautista to drop our new friends off. Thankfully they had a lot to talk about, because we weren't going very far.

A quick goodbye and then to the Nehemiah Center. Students were instantly impressed by the spaciousness of the new digs, and they've still only seen it in the dark! Tonight we had a powerful time of sharing during devotions. Our readings were focused on the theme of water. A necessity we have taken for granted at home, the temperature, easy access, and cleanliness back in Red Deer. Here, every bottle is measured, the ice is purchased, only drinking from a purified source keeps us healthy. Cleaning is difficult, and showers are cold. We read different Bible verses that reminded us of God's living water, His desire for us to drink from his source and not our own cisterns, the streams that make glad the city of God.

We ended once again with mail:

“Like cold water to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country.”

Proverbs 25:25

Thank you for the notes and letters you have written to encourage the HANDS team. You don't know how impactful this time is for our group. Students love to hear from home, be encouraged, be reminded, be connected. They tell each other who wrote to them, what was said, and are amazed at how things in the letters is directly connected to what we've done that day. So, thanks for taking time to do that, it has impacted us greatly!

If you're praying for the group, please consider our health (getting enough sleep, eating and drinking properly), our relationship with the students we are visiting, and of course safety as we travel around. Good night!


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