Today started with the water filtration team accompanying Dr. Medina and our medical personnel on a house call – or perhaps a “community call” would be a better description. We ventured out to an area quite farther away where health problems are of great concern. Using a simple table as the intake, triage, and examining area, the medical team spent a few hours seeing, diagnosing, and treating ailments as they were able.
The water filtration team did not know until yesterday that we would be accompanying them, and that Doctor Medina had an added activity for us. You see, Dr. Medina knew that, as an ice-breaker activity this week at the clinic we had taught local women how to turn a t-shirt into a tote bag, and he thought it would be a wonderful idea for us to do the same with the 10 people in this community to whom we would be delivering the filters. While we were happy to oblige, we had not planned on this and did not quite have enough shirts. But that was no problem! So now there are some tote bags in this community that, yesterday, were missionary’s t-shirts! Oh, and we were pleasantly surprised to see that one of the families was represented by the father, not the mother as was the usual, but he eagerly joined in – and so did Omar, our bus driver, Oliver, our translator, and, not to be outdone, Dr. Medina himself!
We had two teams educating this week. One worked with the kids at the HCN, and the other, affectionately known as “Team Preggo”, taught pregnancy classes to expectant mothers in the nearby barrios. A highly abbreviated course in “What to Expect When Expecting”, we covered such things as body changes during pregnancy, how to care for oneself when pregnant, labor and delivery, and newborn care and breast feeding. Many of these women were not on their first pregnancy, yet they all seemed to appreciate the education that they had not been afforded prior to the birth of their other children.
In two days of classes we taught almost 30 women, many of whom brought their small children with them. At one point as Lissa taught some breathing exercises, one little girl stood behind her mother and imitated everything Lissa did. The conditions weren’t ideal. We taught the classes on an outdoor porch and at one point the rain was pounding so hard it made it hard to talk and almost impossible to hear. But whether it was the noise of the pounding rain, the blaring of speakers from trucks selling their wares, or the lilting of the children’s voices as the sang together while they colored, we raised our voices or took a short break and carried on.
Like young pregnant women at home, they were attentive and interested, oohed and ahead at the pictures of babies at each stage of pregnancy, and at times blushed and giggled when discussing uncomfortable topics. But we know we made a difference. At one point Lissa consulted the doctor – who had requested this program – and asked if there was anything we should change. He adamantly said no and thanked us for what we were doing. And this was especially brought home by our translator – Yordanka. She has been our translator for 3 years, so she has heard the lessons. What she did not know when she was with us last year is that she, herself, was pregnant. Now the mom of a beautiful baby boy, Odsyll, she told us how much she appreciated what we had taught her. She assured us, “You gave — so much!”
This year at El Ayudante they have a different theme each month for the children of the HCN. This month it was compassion, so that was the theme of our education piece. All the activities tied together to culminate in a visit to a local nursing home. The meaning of compassion was reinforced in ways such as making a “hand of compassion” – an outline of a hand on a wooden stick on which they wrote one word representing compassion on each finger. The children were highly entertained when the adults did a hilarious re-enactment of The Good Samaritan. In an attempt to bring home the idea of just how important compassionate people are, the Good Samaritan was labeled a super hero and thanks to one of our faithful supporters back home, Vicki Castells, and her creative sewing talents, each child was given a cape of their own to decorate with words and picture illustrating the theme.
The culmination of the week was a visit to the local nursing home where the children could put their understanding of compassion into play. They had prepared gift bags for each of the residents and learned two songs with which to entertain them. These gift bags consisted of such things as cookies which the children had baked earlier in the week, a coloring book, beaded crosses that the children had strung and a laminated copy of the Lord’s prayer in Spanish.
As we walked in to the inner courtyard you could see some of the children were uncomfortable. Many residents, most in wheelchairs, were already seated around the perimeter of the area. The children stayed close together and then gathered on a raised area to sing. While they were happy to sing, they were apprehensive when told they would go in small groups, along with an adult, and speak to the residents. One young girl was close to tears and did not want to participate. She told me that she was scared, and I assured her that sometimes adults are, too. So she wrapped her arms tightly around my waist and we walked to a nearby resident. I told her to just say hello, tell him she had a gift for him, and that God loves him. She needed a little prompting, and she hid slightly behind me when he reached out with his deformed hand, but I grasped his hand and spoke a few words and we moved on. I suggested we walk to the back of the courtyard to one man who was sitting alone, and she was not happy when someone beat us to him. After that she grabbed my hand and aggressively looked for someone else to whom she could share a few words – and her words were few – and this small gift. We had been told to stay in the courtyard area, but she saw a gentleman in the distance with his walker. When I told her that we were to remain here, she stood still and held her ground until her reached us. Nobody was going to beat her to it this time! His smile was radiant and he grabbed me for a hug. When I told him that the gift was from the children, he smiled at her – and she beamed right back!
As we arrived back at El Ayudante we thought it would be a good idea to debrief with the children and get their reaction to their visit. With shouts of “sharing”, “compassion”, and “giving”, they talked about the infirmities of some of the residents and the long discussion some of the boys had had with a man who explained that he could only see shadows. But I think one little girl summed it up best when she told us that one of the residents had said to her group, “You children are angels sent from God”.
As anticipated, the house was completed today. It went right down to the wire as the doors were delivered, on a horse drawn cart, at the last minute. Estebana beamed as she accepted ownership of her brightly colored house and much of the community joined us, as we once again stood together with our family from Marañonal and dedicated her new home.
We expected last night’s attendance at The Civil Conversations Project to be one of our smaller meetings due to the July 4th holiday.
It was one of our largest groups of attendees to date.
We expected to be able to hear the pre-selected “On Being” podcast segments meant to guide our discussion.
Multiple technological issues resulted in our instead building our discussion far more around each attendee’s philosophies and experiences.
We expected that, following The Portico Café’s 7 p.m. closing time, our discussion would take place in an environment of peace and quiet.
A fierce thunderstorm and The Portico’s (10-minute false) fire alarm meant altering our expectations yet again.
We persevered. Quiet was restored. The conversation carried on. And the voices of both new and regular attendees were heard.
While we all agreed on a major overarching point or two regarding “The Evolution of the Science – Religion Debate,” we each had different perspectives and experiences to offer with regard to our individual beliefs. This included sharing on and noting the impact each of our own upbringings, work, and life experiences has had on how we think today.
We listened to, heard, and learned from each other with dignity, grace, and mutual respect.
It was a wholly imperfect, yet perfectly made, evening.
The Civil Conversations Project continues 6:30 – 8 p.m Wednesday, Aug. 2. in The Portico Cafe meeting room. The podcast we will be discussing can be accessed here. All are welcome to join us with or without listening in advance.
For more information, please contact Michelle Schumacher (813.363.3970).
Saturday Feb. 25, more than 30 people ran, walked and cheered wearing Hyde Park T-shirts at the Gasparilla Distance Classic. We are thankful they participated and spread the word about our church!
View photos from the race below: