On Saturday, March 6th, 2010, 12 members of Western Hills United Methodist Church in El Paso rendezvoused with team members from California, Mississippi, and Big Spring, Texas for a humanitarian mission trip to Matagalpa, Nicaragua.
Our mission: to spread the word of God. Our tasks: medical care, dental care and construction of a feeding center.
We arrived in Managua, Nicaragua at about 9 pm and met up with Rafael from Puentes de Esperanza, the mission group we partnered with. We loaded all our gear on the bus and after a quick stop at the local convenience store we set out for our 2 ½ hour bus ride to Matagalpa in the Central Highlands.
Sunday morning we got up, ate breakfast and headed down the mountain to attend the Baptist Church services at a church. A previous mission team had done some work there couple years ago. Those present on this trip bypassed the front door of the church to go around back and see that their hard work had been completed. The church now had a grand two story addition in the back.
The service commenced with a flourish and with a young man translating for the American guests. He did an admirable job. After the service we had a little sightseeing in Matagalpa and then back to the team house for lunch. In the afternoon some of us went to a nearby coffee plantation for a tour and another group went to see how last years construction project turned out. That evening we all pitched in and put together the supplies for the medical and dental team and made sure all the equipment was working correctly.
Each day started with breakfast at 7 and the teams out the door by 8. On Monday the medical and dental folks headed to a rehab center in the mountains and the construction team went to the small village of San Jose. The medical and dental folks went to a different location each day (including 1 day in San Jose) and in total saw 640 patients and the dental team saw 131 patients. That is a lot of people to see in 4 days. They did an amazing job and never wanted to turn any one away.
Our construction task was to begin the preparation for a feeding center -just a building with a place for kids to sit down when they eat. The government provides food for one meal a day for the children when they are in school. Sometimes, that is the only meal they get. Currently, they line up along the wall outside the building and eat standing up or sitting on the ground.
The construction crew spent the first day cutting down an old set of swing sets and digging out a large area that has to be leveled off for the feeding center. The school children and some parents helped. The kids were great and really put a lot into it. One young man attached himself to us and fast became part of our crew. His name was Elizandro, and he is the second youngest in his family, with 5 brothers and 1 sister. He worked with us all morning and then left for school at 12. A short time later he was back. We never could figure out what had happened with him and his classes.
Our second day the medical team joined us in San Jose. They set up in the classroom and the teachers moved the kids into a small shed to continue their lessons. Elizandro and all the other kids were already working on the dirt mound when we got to the site around 8:30. Picks and shovels and wheelbarrows were a blur as the kids ran back and forth moving the earth. Our construction crew then moved over and started putting together the reinforcing bars that will be used to strengthen the concrete pillars of the feeding center. We continued working on the pillars for the next three days.
As we worked near the church in San Jose we had the opportunity to speak with many young men and women, boys and girls about our church group and the work we were doing in San Jose. We also became even more attached to Elizandro and it was very difficult to say goodbye on Thursday. We all got together with him before he had to go get ready for school. We were able to give him a Spanish Children’s Bible and to tell him how much we had appreciated his help and his company.
Our week flew by and before we knew it we were back on the bus headed for Managua and home. In some ways it seemed like we didn’t do enough. That it would never be enough, but in our hearts we know that even the smallest gesture makes a difference.
For photos and more narrative visit www.nicmission2010.blogspot.com