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We splintered in many directions today, construction, medical, water filtration, kids’ education and pregnancy education and each has a story to tell.  It would be impossible to share in words everything one experiences while serving here.  To do so would take far too many words, and, as colorful a description as I may give it, reading this account cannot possibly embody the entire experience – as that involves all of your senses.  Here every sense is alive and touched and assaulted from all directions.  With our group serving in so many ways, and clearly unable to experience each firsthand, I do my best to do justice to the stories others share with me.  For today, my heart has been moved by so many things that it is hard to know where to begin.

Unsafe drinking water is a grave problem here, causing serious kidney problems in both young and old.  Although many homes do have water in them, it is only good for washing and not safe for drinking.  At the request of Doctor Medina, the doctor in the local clinic who is primarily responsible for the care of the people in three barrios that border El Ayudante, we have included in our mission for the past few years the opportunity to distribute water filtration kits.  The simple kits are comprised of a ceramic pot placed within a plastic bucket with a lid.  Water is poured into the ceramic pot in the evening, slowly seeping through into the plastic bucket and by the morning clean water can be poured out through a spigot. After breakfast this morning a number of us set out on the first of four forays we will make into the barrios to share this gift with families in need.

Our first stop was at Dr. Medina’s clinic where we met 5 of the women who would receive the filters.  After demonstrating how to use them, we loaded these women into our truck to drive them, and their new filters home.  As we prepared to leave, the daughter of one of the recipients, a mentally challenged young woman of 24 who had the mind and exuberant enthusiasm of a child, grabbed Vicki and pulled her to the truck.  It was clear that she was overjoyed at the opportunity to ride along….overjoyed and perhaps a bit scared as one would be when waiting on line for the first time for the world’s fastest roller coaster.  Unable to speak in a way that any of us could understand, she made herself clear – she was going to hold on and enjoy the ride … and that she did!  With squeals and utterances of joy, she giggled and glowed and held on – to the supports and to us – as we bumped along the rutted road.

Once we arrived at the home she shared with her mother, she couldn’t get off quickly enough.  I then wondered if her excitement was the ride, or the fact that we were coming to her house.  A small concrete structure that serves as the home she shares with her mother and a small store that struggles to support the two of them, two dogs and a cat, she excitedly welcomed each of us with a bear hug and then ran inside to grab chairs for us to sit.  Her mother shared with us her joy that we had come to her home and given them such a gift, explaining that things are difficult for them as she is the only one who can communicate with her daughter so she cannot leave the house to earn any money.  Her meager store is all they have, and yet she expressed gratitude to God for all of her blessings.

Hers was just the first of many houses we visited.  They ranged in size from a small gathering of homes in which four generations of one family of 30 people live, to one that was two small rooms in which the ten of us were barely able to stand toe-to-toe in a tight circle to say a prayer.  But they shared a commonality in that they needed the life-giving water this would enable them to have, they blessed us for having brought it to them, and they understood and acknowledged that we were but the vessels that delivered it – the source of this gift was the God who led us here.

Since those who will not be working with our education team may not have the opportunity to see where the on-site work of El Ayudante is done, this evening we were treated to a tour of the HCN (Hogar Nicaraguense Nicaragua – The Nicaragua Children’s Home) here on the property.  This mission house was originally started as a home for children who were taken out of their homes because their family either could not or did not provide a healthy environment in which for them to live.  A number of years ago, the government began a program called “Project Love”, which required that, if there was a family member available, the child must return to them, regardless of what the home situation was.  This caused El Ayudante, which had not only grown to love these children, but cared for their welfare as well as their futures, to rethink how they were structured.  This is how it came to be as it is today, a place where these children get two meals and a snack, transportation to school, and the medical and emotional support that they need during the day while returning to their families in the evening.  In addition there is a library, a computer room, and a sewing room. Ainsley, the team liaison, shared with us all about each of the children who currently benefit from the services here as well as the 6 new children they pray they will successfully to raise the funds to add to the program in January.  This home, and all of the programs in it, are funded solely by the sponsorship program in which a number of us participate.  And each of us who are sponsors will tell you that we have received so much more than we gave – in love, in hugs, in smiles, and in knowing that this kind of investment was what God was calling us to do.