by Trish Krider
The final touches were put on the house today. At the end of the day we usually all gather to dedicate the home, pray for the family, and present them with a Bible. But the schedule this year meant that many of us would not be able to attend the dedication, so we stopped by this morning as we dropped the construction team off to work. This gave us all a chance to see the house with four sturdy walls and a strong roof awaiting a coat of paint inside and out. We met the owner of the house who is deaf and mute, but she needed no interpreter as she expressed her gratitude to God for this gift of a home. The children were already gathering, some to help, some to play and all anxious to receive a bit more candy (much of which was left over from what our sweet friend Avy had gifted us with as she came to see us off last Saturday morning!). And as we prepared to leave I hugged the community leader, Gregoria, and told her “Hasta proximo año!” (Until next year!) to which she replied, “Espero que si!” (I hope so!)
Some of us spent this last day distributing the final ten water filters to grateful families. Stopping at the usual place to pick up the community leader, we were treated to some home-made treats – specially prepared for us. These delicious fried balls of dough covered in honey, called “buñulos”, are a specialty in this area – and they were delicious! And we were all so touched that these people who have so little would be moved to express their thanks by preparing this treat for us.
The education team concentrated their efforts this week with the children here at El Ayudante – and the theme for the week was prayer. The lessons were varied using conversation, singing, coloring books, a scavenger hunt and recitation, all interspersed with fun activities. As fate would have it, the two leaders of the education component are both named Debbie which was used artfully to play out a skit about “Good Debbi and Bad Debbie”. Through this the children learned the difference between “wants” and “needs”. When asked to draw a picture of each and place them on the appropriate poster, it was poignant to see their illustrations. While many of the “wants” were things you would typically expect – a puppy, a skateboard, a pretty dress – others were more indicative of their daily reality. How many of our children would place a leg of chicken or a pair of glasses on their “wants” list? The list of needs was even more compelling. There were typical answers such as “friends” and “family” and “a house” – and many used a big red heart to indicate “love”. But knowing the lives and backgrounds of these children one couldn’t help wondering if they all actually had these needs in their life – at least outside the walls of El Ayudante. And the one that touched us all the most was the little girl who drew a picture of a house and a big red heart and wrote next to it, “I want one person to love me”. Our prayer for this child is that she knows that through El Ayudante and the missioners who choose to support her, she will come to believe in her heart that she does, indeed, have that.
The culmination of the week with the children had them decorating pillow cases. These had been sewn and embroidered by Vicki Castells and her daughter, Jill, to fit pillows that were purchased here. In Spanish, one side of the pillow said, “Guard me while I sleep” while the other said, “Rise and shine and give God the glory!” Each child decorated it with bright colors to make it uniquely theirs – just as they are each a unique child of God – and proudly carried them home.
We have bonded together as a group this week and shared so much – prayers, spiritual thoughts, conversations, family concerns, and lots of laughter. And now our week here is winding down as we will head to Managua in the morning to start our long journey home. Our final day at El Ayudante is always one filled with both joy and sadness. We can look back on a week of productive work, meeting people and impacting their lives. And, of course we are all looking forward to getting home to see our families. But we are part of the El Ayudante family as well. We have all bonded with the staff we have met, the translators who have assisted and worked alongside of us, and the beautiful children who spend their days here, and it is hard to say good-bye.
I am sure that there is not one among us who leaves here unchanged in some way. As I read a devotional this week it spoke of “the Valley of Tears” and was followed by this – “There is a good chance you will experience that kind of place today.” My reaction at first was, “Or course we will!” But having seen and interacted with the people this week, and experienced their joy – especially the depth of passion they express in their gratitude to God for all He has provided – I wonder just who is in greater need. Who is really walking in a “Valley of Tears”? Is it the people here who are living in plastic homes with the barest necessities to get by? Or is it we, who live in lovely homes filled with far more things that just what we need? Is it the woman who scrubs her clothes daily in a concrete sink, hauling water by the bucketful from a community well? Or is it we, who push a button and have it done with no thought to wasting God’s resources? Is it the woman who asks for change of a larger bill from the offering plate because she cannot part with the whole amount? Or is it I, who carves an offering amount from my budget after other wants have been fulfilled? Is it the woman who praises God for all the blessings she has and weeps for joy with her love of God? Or is it i, who check the appropriate boxes in life of attending service, reading the word, serving the Nicaraguan people and yet do not feel His presence to the depths of my soul.
I came here expecting to see need, and poverty, and wanting. Rather I have learned new meanings for those words. “Need” and “poverty” and “wanting” are so much more than lack of things. The Nicaraguan people have shown me that not having does not mean not happy. And I thank them for sharing that lesson with me.
My favorite moment of the week came as we said goodbye to Alonsa, who had led us from house to house all week to deliver the filters. He looked at us and said “Gracias por tu amor!” (Thank you for your love.) And isn’t that just why we all came – to Make God’s Love Real.