Sunday, January 24, 2010

2010 trip postponed

Due to circumstances beyond our control, the 2010 trip to Nicaragua has been postponed - date to be determined.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

What to Expect on the Mission Trip to Nicaragua

Hello to everyone at Ascension and St. Agnes. I hope many of you will give prayerful consideration to going on Mission trip 2010. We will depart Washington Saturday, January 16, 2010 and return the following Saturday, January 23.

If you are thinking of going, here is what to expect.

First the people are some of the warmest people you will ever meet. Upon your arrival you will be treated as visiting royalty. As you walk down the streets most everyone will say hello. What a welcome change from Washington.

The main part of the town does have paved streets but not far off the main drag, the streets are dirt. It is after all the third world and part of the reason we are called to San Juan de Oriente.

Your host family will provide a bed for you but maybe not a pillow. You will eat breakfast and some dinners with your host family. Most people do not speak English but you will be put with someone in the group that can speak Spanish. It would not hurt to take a Spanish course before you go or get a Spanish/English dictionary. Sign language and a lot of smiling works as well.

You will have indoor plumbing but water comes sporadically, so you have to use buckets of water to flush toilets and take showers. The water for the shower may not be heated by your host family, so be prepared to pour cold water over you. No one has air conditioning but you don’t need it. There always seems to be a breeze blowing and the nights are cool.

You do not need any special vaccinations before you go. However, a visit to your doctor is recommended to get a prescription of cipro and thuroflu in case you get sick. Fortunately, in our first two years we have not had any health problems and we did not need either of these items. Your host family will provide you with bottled water to drink and brush your teeth. When you are working, you can buy bottled water in town.

You do get to interact with the people through your host family. There are daily Masses which give me a great feeling of being part of a larger Christian Community. Not exactly a high Mass at ASA but a wonderful religious experience. We also do two bible studies in the evening with the people of the Parish. If you are working with the kids on the Celebration de fei, you will have some wonderful experiences. Importantly, the food program, which the Parish supports year round, gives you a chance to meet and greet some of the cutest kids on earth. Like me, you will be surprised at how well behaved they are. You will also get to meet the people while you are doing the work project.

Finally, it is not all work; we do take some side trips to see the country. In the past we have gone to a volcanic lake, visited Granada, driven to the top of and hiked a mountain( not difficult) and seen a volcano. The town of San Juan de Oriente is well known for its pottery. It is a great chance to support the local economy by making a purchase of one or two, well o.k., many items. For me the pieces I have purchased have allowed me to share my experiences with others.

The trip is a wonderful way to get to know your fellow parishioners better and in a deeper and richer way. In the evenings, we have time to decompress and share what we saw, what we learned, and how we’ve grown in our faith.

I have been on both mission trips and plan to go on Mission 2010. I hope you will consider being part of this important parish activity. If you want more information feel free to speak to me or any of the others who have been to Nicaragua.


Monday, June 29, 2009

The Parish's missions to Nicaragua

For a week in January each of the past two years, about ten members of our parish have gone on mission to the village of San Juan de Oriente, Nicaragua, where we work in partnership with the Church of St. John the Baptist (Iglesia San Juan Bautista), the local Roman Catholic parish founded by the Spanish in the 1580s.

Measured by GDP, Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the western hemisphere (after Haiti). Its population of about 5.5 million occupies a territory the size of New York or North Carolina. Most Nicaraguans live in rural areas, villages, and small towns. Agriculture remains a mainstay of the economy, although tourism is growing in importance.

In San Juan de Oriente, population 5,000, the main industry is production of handmade clay pottery, from excavation of clay through the formation, firing, and decoration and finishing of ornamental ceramics. By Nicaraguan standards, San Juan de Oriente is reasonably prosperous. Still, many homes have dirt floors and ramshackle walls made of boards or even plastic sheeting. Almost everyone uses barrels to store water delivered via the town water system a few days a week for a few hours at a time.

The anchor of our time on mission was Mass on Sunday and each of the four succeeding workdays at Iglesia San Juan Bautista. Padre Gerardo Rodriguez, the Rector, welcomes us to join fully in worship, and our clergy and acolytes join Padre and his acolytes (some of whom are great translators) at altar. The many, many children in the congregation are extraordinarily well behaved.

Our other mission activities include staffing (or helping staff, with great assistance from local parishioners) a vacation Bible school for pre-K through 6th grade students, all in Spanish, of course! Classes include discussion, music, and art, all focused on a Bible verse or theme, and playground activity (like "Simon Dice," or Simon Says). The missionaries help serve a nutritious lunch on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday to approximately 350 local children, many of whom would not otherwise eat a well-balanced meal. Ascension & St. Agnes helps support this feeding program throughout the year. The missionaries have had a major building project each year -- painting the parish hall in 2008, and painting the public elementary school in 2009.

A highlight each year has been bilingual evening Bible study. We read the same verse in English and Spanish and then, after a period of meditation, share what it means (in native tongue and in translation). Any thought that the parishioners of San Juan Bautista are simple village folk will be banished by hearing their interpretations of Scripture.

"Gracias à Dios" (thanks be to God) is an expression freely used by Nicaraguans, and one of the most powerful impressions made by the parishioners of Iglesia San Juan Bautista is their profound gratitude for His many gifts. Their thanks to the mission group for our days spent with them in worship and service was expressed with such conviction that most of us "frozen chosen" became emotionally overwhelmed. This missionary, at least, has learned a lot about gratitude and faith from the people of San Juan de Oriente.

In coming editions of the bulletin you will hear from many of our 2008 and 2009 missionaries what the experience meant to them. Our past missionaries met in mid-June and decided without hesitation to plan another trip in January 2010 (we're tentatively planning on January 16-23 to coincide with the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday). We hope you will consider joining the mission to Nicaragua. All have something to contribute, and all have something to learn. If you're interested in learning more, Stephanie Partridge (202-244-2749, and Bill Glew (202-441-0157, are serving as mission coordinators.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

We'll see you on Sunday!

While we're sad to be leaving San Juan de Oriente, we're looking forward to getting home and seeing everyone on Sunday. We're grateful for your prayers and support.

Friday, January 30, 2009

When can you tell you're not at home anymore...

Coming back to San Juan de Oriente felt very much like coming home. I recognized people and they recognized me, I knew what the day would feel like and I was prepared for the exhaustion, I understood that the lack of language would be humbling and frustrating... I knew that some days water would be a challenge, that sticking my toothbrush under the faucet was not a good idea, that electricity could go out... walking on dusty roads and dodging animal dung didn't feel odd, hearing the roosters had a certain charm... and then I encountered these oxen pulling this cart. They were rounding a corner. I'm so excited, a charming picture, and then much to my surprise a HERD of oxen rounded the corner and I had to hop up on the stoop in front of the building I was standing next too. And then I realized there was a guy on a motor cycle herding the oxen. He waves!! Ok, so maybe I'm not such an old hand at this after all!


The children grip my heart!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

One Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church

Tonight we had a High Mass where the Blessed Sacrament was displayed. As at all the other Masses here where I've had the privilege of serving, I experienced a very strong sense of rightness--that this is the way things ought to be, one church united in worshipping God. Of all the places I've been and things I've experienced thus far here in San Juan de Oriente, the sanctuary in that church is where I've felt the most at home.

The following prayer from the BCP is appropriate:

"O gracious Father, we humbly beseech thee for thy holy Catholic Church; that thou wouldest be pleased to fill it with all truth, in all peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in any thing it is amiss, reform it. Where it is right, establish it; where it is in want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of him who died and rose again, and ever liveth to make intercession for us, Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord. Amen."


Broken down on the road from Managua

So Monday Padre Rodriguez asked Matt to come with him to Managua where he had been called to do a funeral. I was called on to come along as a translator. We took the scenic route to the city, learning about the history of the Sandinistas and taking a look at the lake where weighed down with stones, the body of Augusto Sandino was tossed by his Somozan murderers.

The funeral Mass was simple and Padre's sermon challenging (or at least the translation I whispered in real time in Matt's ear sounded challenging.) My favorite part was when he told a story of a man who past a church every day on the way to work. He would always think, "I should go to church, but not today, I don't have time." When he died, he found himself in the presence of the Lord who said to him, "During your life, I often thought to write you in the Book of Life, but I never had the time." No sentimental fluff from Padre!

After the funeral we went to the Cathedral which was the final Catholic cathedral made in the 20th century. It's architecture is part North African and part indigenous Nicaraguan in inspiration. Padre was ordained there 9 years ago. Because of his connections we were able to get a behind the scenes tour, including going on the roof to see an altar made for Pope John Paul II to hold Mass from, before the builders remembered that he had a bad hip and couldn't walk up stairs...

We then went to the old town square which was mostly destroyed by the '72 earthquake but now has the congress, presidential house, and an old restored church.

Then the fun began.

On the way back I was feeling pretty tired from talking four times more than I normally do. Not only did I have to translate everything I said, but everything Matt and Padre said. (A lot of fun to translate, but brain frying.) Suddenly Padre pulled over and said the battery was dead. After 20 minutes of banging away under the hood we gave up and called Bill to come get us. Luckily I had bought some rum and some coke on the way out for the evening. After mixing a communal drink in Matt's empty Coke bottle we decided to do evening prayer. So with a bottle of rum and coke between my legs, I did my best to lead EP in two languages at the same time.

The next hour saw Matt and I lying in the back of the pickup, sipping our drink, looking at the stars somewhere on the side of the road in Nicaragua and talking vocational discernment. Another two hours, and a 10:30pm stop at McDonald's later, we got back to San Juan de Oriente just after midnight. It was an excellent day.

Robert, Meaghan and Michael meet an old lady

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Laying the groundwork

This post was conceived first thing Sunday but I haven't had a chance to enter it, which is telling . . .

For me it's really hard to disconnect from the vibe of the world. My nature is to want to know what's going on, who's where, what's happening, what's new. Thus I was struck to find last Wednesday, three days before our departure for our mission to Nicaragua, that the appointed daily office Gospel reading for the day was one that burned itself into my consciousness a few years ago, part of Jesus' explanation of the parable of the sower as recounted in Mark: "And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word, and the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful."

These words echo the theme for the first day of the children's Bible study lessons from last year's mission trip: "escuchamos," or "we listen" [for God's call]. I woke up Sunday morning thinking about these twin messages, and about my tendency to get caught up in the press of duty, keeping "au courant," keeping myself satisfied in the material world. How does one listen for God's call, how does one engaged in the world not let that call be obscured like stars viewed from the glow of city lights? I committed to myself to abstain from reading the daily papers and my favorite blogs online. While this may not sound like much, it eliminates a major source of distraction from what is in front of me. So far I've kept this commitment (it's Tuesday night).

I also read the daily office Gospel selection for the day. It was the story of the crippled man by the healing pool at Bethesda, to whom Jesus posed the following question: "Wilt thou be made whole?" It struck me for the first time that this question puts the onus on the crippled man, and by extension, us. Do I really want to be made whole? Am I willing to let God into my life? Can I give up, as a favorite hymn says, "all the vain things that charm me most?" The answer at this point surely is "only in part" but I hope to make some progress this week.


Sunday, January 25, 2009

Getting some sun

Dear Friends,

It has been a wonderful but long day. I awoke refreshed having finally slept through the disco tec music and then the roosters announcing the hourly chimes from 4AM on. Breakfast was great as is our host family, Juan Carlos and his wife Blanca who works as a Spanish teacher for the Peace Corps volunteers.

There was a bit of a rush for the food, but all in all it was a great experience.

Today with the classes started everything is going well. Off to painting in the afternoon.


Helping with lunch for the children

music at mass

Procession at mass this a.m.

Susan doesn't always take the pictures!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Some new friends!

The Short and Simple Annals of the Poor

Abraham Lincoln once described his early life as nothing more than "the short and simple annals of the poor." That comment struck me today as we drove by scenes of squalor rarely glimpsed in the United States--the lean-tos near the airport, the tin-roofed shacks, and the cracked cisterns many people rely upon for water.

Yet I was equally struck by the cheerfulness the people displayed in the warm welcome we received, their determined faith despite their trying circumstances, and the happiness they show that is equally rarely glimpsed.

Truly, the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount ring forth: "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."


Get well John!!!

Unfortunately John woke up with a fever and the stomach flu this morning therefore he remained at home. We miss you John and hope that you are better soon!

Our morning started early. We met at the airport around 5 for our 6 a.m. flight to Houston connecting on to Managua. We arrived around 12:30 p.m. their time (1 hr off from DC), went through customs and then set off to San Juan de Oriente. We were warmly greeted by approximately 200 parishioners -- mostly children. After welcoming remarks, music and a blessing we met our host families. Soon we'll be getting together for dinner with our host families and the Church Council at John and Bill's house.

We'll post more later but I wanted to let everyone know we arrived safe and sound.

I am so glad to be back!! It's like coming home...


God's Will Not Mine Be Done

I woke up this morining with a fever of 101. I had to make the decision not to go on the mission trip. Fear, anxiety, and a sense of helplessness ran through my mind. What would the group do without me - how would the program work, how would everyone know how to communicate. This is a lesson in humility for me - THIS TRIP IS NOT ABOUT ME - not about what I can do and how improtant I am in the process but it is about doing God's work, helping others and building a stronger community within ASA, San Juan de Oriente and the world. When I received a call this afternoon that everyone had arrived safely and that the welcome ceremony was amazing - I was told over 200 people were in the church the mayor was there as well as a representative of President Ortega - I knew this was someting larger than me. What a great reminder of how everyone can pull together to do great works and see how God is present in all our lives. My prayers are with everyone on the trip, and I hope that we can all see how God is ever present regardless of our differences.

Monday, December 29, 2008

2009 Mission Trip is being planned

Our mission trip to San Juan de Oriente will take place January 24 - 31. Stay tuned.

After first getting interested in international development through a semester abroad in Bolivia, I am excited to return to Latin America for my first mission trip. I am hoping to be able to use my Spanish to help do translation, and to learn about some of the challenges facing San Juan de Oriente. Perhaps most of all, I am looking forward to sharing what God has been doing in the lives of both the ASA and San Juan de Oriente communities. Daniel

I carry this community in my heart. I'm looking forward to being with the children again and worshipping with this community. I also look forward to what I'll "see" and "experience" this time ... the 2nd visit when everything isn't so new. Susan

Monday, February 11, 2008

Host Families

Susan has asked me to write about staying with a local family on the mission trip. My contribution won't be as funny as Chuck's, but I will try to make it informative and realistic.
When I first decided to go on the trip, Chuck was not going with me. He decided at the very last moment to go and boy am I glad he did. You see I know no Spanish. I don't know what I was thinking. I was going to stay with a family that spoke no English and I spoke no Spanish but John had said no problem, because an English speaker lived across the street. At least that is what I heard. I guess I thought every time I wanted to say something, I was going to run to them and have them translate. That would have been cute in the morning in my p.j's asking for help with the most basic of requests. Plus there was no English speaker across the street. The closest were John and Bill, three houses away. Anyway, Chuck decided to come and he had two years of high school Spanish and 1 week of listening to tapes at home just before we left.

Chuck and I were assigned to stay with Lucy. She is a parishioner at the church in San Juan DE Oriente. She has 4 sons. Ernesto is still living at home and is studying to be a potter. While we were there he also passed his driving test to drive a taxi. Now taxis are not the same there as here. In San Juan they are basically a scooter, with a back bench and a roof over it.
Lucy's house was quite middle class by Nicaraguan standards. She had concrete floors, a gas stove and refrigerator and stucco walls. She washed her dishes outside in a sink that did not have running water to it. You see in Nicaragua, water does not consistently come to the houses. You never know when you are going to get it. It could come in the middle of the night. So she had barrels of water stored behind her house. She used this to wash dishes, wash clothes ( no automatic washer and dryer here) and to flush the toilet.

Electricity is not regular either but while we were there it was always available. However, John and Bill told us it was very expensive. Lucy was very nice to leave the lights on for us at night when we came back from John and Bill's but we felt guilty. However, I am proud to say that Lucy did use compact flourescent lightbulbs. It made my green self feel glad.

We were to eat breakfast and most dinners with our host family. The first couple of mornings she made us huge breakfasts of eggs, rolls, meat and coffee. I did not want to seem ungrateful, so I stuffed myself trying to finish. About half way through the week, she realized she may be over cooking and started serving us family style, allowing us to take what we wanted.

To take a shower she had to heat the water for us, put that into big pails and put them inside the shower stall. The bathroom was a separate building about two feet from the house. It had a regular shower stall, all tiled, with a shower head and shower curtain. Just on most days nothing came out of the shower head. So we took a bowl and poured it over our heads to take the shower. It really made me appreciate how precious our natural resources are. I used the water sparingly. To brush my teeth, I would take tooth brush and toothpaste as well as bottled water into the bathroom and pour a bit on my toothpaste. None of this letting the water run continuously while brushing.

Our conversations were very interesting. Ernesto was trying to learn English and I relied on Chuck to tell them in Spanish what I wanted to say. You could say it was one of the few times I have ever been speechless. Fortunately, they had two big Spanish English dictionaries in the house. We made good use of them. Ernesto could read English better than he could speak, so many times we wrote things down. It took about twenty minutes to say the most basic of sentences but we all managed.

Inside the house was not a lot of furniture. The living room consisted of four rocking chairs, a coffee table, a long mirror and a bookshelf. They did have a CD player and a TV in another room. One night we came back to the house to find about 20 people in the living room for a bible study class. We always say our place is not big enough to entertain. It could be because of all the stuff we have in it, like a sofa, two chairs and a huge coffee table. Seeing how Lucy lived made me realize I don't really need all my stuff to have a good life.

Chuck and I were very glad we got to stay with a local family. It gave us a good sense of how they lived. They were very generous and friendly people. At the end they gave me a beautiful wooden necklace, bracelet and earrings. We also got a locally made wall hanging of a little house.
I hope we do this trip again next year and that by then I will be able to speak for myself in Spanish.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Painting Community Building

While in San Juan de Oriente we helped to clean and paint their community building. Imagine heat and oil based paint and I bet you can smell the experience. Chuck, Father D, Stephanie and Tim spent their days on this project with help from others in the town. After the painting was completed, we hung white boards and set up new tables and chairs that we had purchased.
I asked Chuck to contribute to our blog. He viewed my request with a jaundiced eye... for some reason ever since I asked him to take over the Treasurer duties from me ("it only requires two hours per week") he is not very trusting of my requests. I did receive a call of frustration tonight when he couldn't figure out how to sign on. I offered to submit it for him if he'd email his entry. I therefore happily submit the following from Chuck.


I have been asked to blog about my painting experience in Nicaragua. I know nothing about blogs, but I do know something about painting. I know it is probably the only real manual labor I could actually do and not cause harm to myself or others. As I approached the job at hand I reminded myself of the Hippocratic Oath, which is first due no harm…

I don’t think I did any REAL harm… okay, okay, I did paint the front posts the wrong color and I did break that one paint brush after a couple of strokes, and well alright I was responsible for the black paint that was spilled on the beautiful tile sidewalk and the side of the building…and yes, there was that one chair I stepped on and broke…I don’t think that Nicaragua has broken off diplomatic relations with the United States…yet.

Oh, yes painting…after all those things, above, I brushed myself off and continued to paint. I must admit that bristled lack of respect that I got but with my meager abilities what was I expecting.

Nonetheless, I was in Nicaragua to change the world one gallon of paint at a time. My contribution was pint sized compared to others who rolled along easily at the task at hand. Some parts of the painting job were up high but I will return to that some time ladder. In the first day we had the first coat on the entire building and in Nicaragua I couldn’t imagine needing a second coat. It was a bright sunny color that we painted the building with contrasting dark trim. The job was the mirror opposite of the church across the park.

Everyone pitched in on the tasks at hand grand or not so grand. I excelled at admiring what others had accomplished and was envious that I didn’t get the chance to paint the back of the door in the room with no light a dark brown. My mistakes would have hardly been noticed. I did paint the trim in this room and next year when you join us for the second mission trip, check out my work -- it is AWESOME. If you don’t go, you won’t know if I am… In case, you can write a much better blog than this…next year.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

In the Nicaraguan News

There was a story about our mission trip in one of the two national newspapers el Nuevo Diario today. Here is the link and the English translation with a few liberties taken by me is below.


San Juan de Oriente ya tiene iglesia anglicana
Noel Gallegos / (Colaboración)
END - 18:36 - 28/01/2008

A success. That is how a recent Christian encounter that occurred between the Episcopal Church and the Roman Catholic community of San Juan de Oriente was characterized.The visitors, coming from the United States, specifically from Washington D.C., arrived at this community with the goal of sharing spiritual experiences and to collaborate for the creation of a children’s dining room. “Nicaragua is a country full of many qualities, for us to be here has been a very beautiful experience. It is great having this culture exchange”, exclaimed the Anglican priest, Fr. Lane Davenport.“I believe that we have accomplished our goals, and the reason for the success of this encounter has been because the community of San Juan de Oriente turned out in great numbers to work with us. We have planted seeds together with the community, and we hope that they grow and they multiply.” emphasized the priest.

They restore the Parish Hall

During this time, the North American delegation dedicated itself to restoring the parish hall. They painted and fixed up the building as a home for the Children’s dining room.For the parish priest of San Juan Bautista, Gerald Rodriguez Perez, the project called “Celebrating the Faith”, as conceived by both communities, was of great benefit. “This process has helped the formation of children and adults, since we made a type of general catechesis”, said the parish priest.“I am grateful that El Nuevo Diario is reporting on this event. Also I take advantage of this opportunity to express my affection for the brothers who have come from afar to support our Nicaraguan brothers, and hope that we learn to live and to share from our realities of poverty,” explained Rodriguez Perez. It is possible that this is the first time that there has been a joint encounter between an Anglican Catholic parish of the Episcopal Church and her Roman Catholic counterpart here in Nicaragua.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Teaching the "Celebrating the Faith" Curriculum

Surprise, surprise - words about teaching and curriculum from me! I had the pleasure of working with students in first and second grade during their vacation bible school classes. My knowledge of teaching, curriculum, lesson design and the development of children were fairly useless as I faced a class of about 75 eager Nicaraguan faces. I was humbled by the positive temperament, joyful attitudes and self-discipline of all the children. Luckily, there were six adult representatives from the community with me, one of whom possessed a clear connection to the kids. I learned that she worked in the library, and had been providing educational experiences to the kids for the past five years. She became the primary teacher.

The lessons were all connected somehow to the "Celebration of the Faith." On day one, we talked about the fact that God calls us. On day two, we discussed being good listeners and good friends. On the third day, we talked about God changing us. The readings and activities reflected these concepts. The students - who are committted to Father Rodriguez - were responsive and engaged in each of the lessons. He set the tone for work each day by announcing the theme along with his expectations for the children. We all sang together then went to our respective rooms for the lessons and crafts.

I was overwhelmed by the way the children responded to me - clearly aware that my Spanish is poor at best, yet patiently responding to clapping games and "Simon Says" as opening activities. I was quite pleased to earn the title "Profe" (short for profesora - or teacher) after just the first day. I was also very encourgaed by the fact that children chose to read to me while I sat next to them - demonstrating thier skills.

On the first day, I tried to maintain some semblance of decorum - keeping quietly to the side after my opening clapping game, but by day two, I was on the floor in the glue, sticking buttons on the faces of the elephants we made. (The point of our elephant activity was to have a depiction of the fact that we don't need ears as big as an elephant to hear when God calls us!)

By day three, I was covered in glue and yarn and ribbon, and extremely proud of the masks that the students made to show that our faces can change and we can always be good Christians.

Following lunch, we culminated our VBS activities with a fiesta. A clown, music, dancing, musical chairs and relay races were enjoyed by all. The highlight for many of the children was watching several of the adults attempt to break the pinatas! And everyone recieved a cup full of sweets to take home.

It is important to mention that throughout the entire party, children brought a wide range of gifts to all of us. They were so thoughtful and generous in their need to thank us for our small contribution to their summer. While I could not immediately see the results as those who did the hard labor of cleaning and painting could, I was deeply encouraged that friendships were forged, relationships built and good lessons learned by all who participated in the VBS in San Juan de Oriente.

Looking forward to sharing more in person,


Food for the Children

Currently the church provides two hot meals on the weekend to ensure that the children receive at least one meal a day. During the weekdays several of the schools provide a meal to the children. This meal could be the only meal they receive that day.

Part of our service was to provide two additional meals. School is currently out so they are not receiving the lunches provided by the school. We provided the food, prepared by the parish, and served by us. Each meal consisted of meat, rice, fruit and fruit juice. Normally meat is not served.

On Tuesday and Thursday, over 200 children received a hot lunch. The way the program works is each child arrives with their own plate, cup and silverwear. They file by one by one. It's very moving to see older children (we mean 8 yr olds) helping their younger siblings (4 yr olds). Words can not explain how gratifying it is to see the smile on their face and to hear a gracis!

Thoughts late Thursday evening

We've had a exhilarating week. The highlight today was watching a blind-folded John swing wildly with a be-ribboned baton at a pinata as a couple hundred children cheered and taunted him. Every day has had scores of such memorable tableaus.

Today I spoke to a reporter from El Neuvo Diaro (one of two national papers) about our mission. He participated in one of our Bible studies and wanted to do a story about the mission. We chatted about how the mission has been a tremendous success because of the incredible support and enthusiasm of the San Juan parish community. They have supported every aspect of the mission and have been there in large numbers.

The hospitality, generosity, and graciousness of the people of San Juan de Oriente has been beyond measure. Our time here has been a hugely challenging experience, which has caused significant discomfort to the way we live, the way we worship, the way we work, the way we relate to one another, the way we try to be good guests. I've found our mission group's evening discussions of the daily (some times hourly!) challenges helpful in appreciating the work of the Spirit in our lives here.

One of the points I made to the reporter was my hope that we are able to communicate adequately what we've experienced, learned, and felt. Right now, it's all too fresh to articulate, but it has been an extraordinarily gratifying, humbling, moving, demanding week. It's not been at all easy, but I've been enriched by it.

I am excited to see everyone on Sunday. I've missed being there with you. Please keep us in your prayers as we travel home.


Wednesday, January 23, 2008


We thought we'd share with you what our schedule looks like for Monday - Wednesday.

6 a.m. -- rise and shine and showers, if available
7 a.m. -- mass at the church
8 a.m. -- back to our respective houses for breakfast
9 a.m. -- off to our respective jobs (Vacation Bible School or painting of Community Center)
11 a.m. -- Lunch Food Program for the children (Tuesday)
12 p.m. -- lunch at Bill's and John's
1:00 p.m. -- continuation of work on the Community Center
6:00 p.m. -- dinner with our respective host families
7:00 p.m. -- Adult Bible Study lead by Fr. Lane with the community
8:00 p.m. -- Daily Review with our group

So this is what was planned -- reality of getting this group to move anywhere on time makes the starting times a little flexible.

We were all very nervous about what Monday was going to be. How many children would show up? Would we be able to communicate with them? Would they like the material? Would it make any sense to them? What would the community leaders be like? Would we be able to work with them? Could we finish the painting project at the community center?

We are all used to our own routines and having some level of control and knowing where to turn when we need to correct something. We are out of our element here. This is where we have to have faith -- we are after all celebrating the faith.

The children gathered in what they call the auditorium -- a covered open air concrete area. Father Rodriguez got the children whipped up and making some noise. The children were all lined up by age group -- a line of girls and a line of boys in each group. 240 children roaring is quite a sound. At this time we were introduced to the children, we sang songs and tried to bond with them and make them feel comfortable.

Our day with them includes stories/teaching time, games, crafts, and music. The three hours went by quickly. We all breathed a sigh of relief.

While some of us were working with the children, others were starting the painting of the community center. We were surprised at how much help we had from the community -- around 15 men came. Today we got one coat of paint on the outside and inside of the building. Fumes from oil based paint in warm weather makes an interesting work environment.

Adult Bible Study took place in the church with about 100 from the church community attending. Father Lane conducted the study on the story of Gideon. He explained what the structure of the evening was going to be -- he'd read the passage in English, then it would be read in Spanish and then we'd reflect and pray on it. He did that cycle again with the same verses with different people reading the passages. He then asked questions and asked for peoples responses. Our group spoke up first. Although unspoken we all wanted to put this community at ease and give them some idea of what we were used to doing. They responded. The evening ended with singing and prayer. A huge success!

We've had to learn to work outside of our comfort level/zone. We've had to learn to measure success in different ways. We've had to learn to communicate with others when we didn't know the words. We've certainly learned the power of a smile!

At the end of the day, we spend some time reflecting on the day using these five questions:

  • What was your strongest unpleasant experience today?

  • What was your strongest pleasant experience today?

  • What did you find confusing today?

  • What new awareness did you have that you didn't have before today?

  • What did I learn today?

More about this later...

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


What a day and what a way to Celebrate the Faith. The theme of our program is "Celebra le Fe" which means Celebrate the Faith. We were up early and off to mass - which started at 8:20. The church was standing room only with people standing outside the doors and into the street. We were seated in the two front rows. The procession started form the rear with Fathers Rodriguez and Lane entering in a cloud of incense. As they entered they were both greated by the people in the pews - they were truly among the people. Father Lane assisted with Father Rodriguez - to very uplifting music. Fr. Rodgiuez gave a sermon on Christian Unity - which included themes of patience and humility. He stated that it was a great sign that the members of ASA were here during the week that the Pope is celebrating Christian Unity. After mass the people of Church made a line and they greated us one by one with hugs - well wishes for a great mission trip. The welcoming lasted about 30 mins and at the end we were all overwhelmed with emotion.

After the mass the childern arrived to receive their lunch. About 250 kids filled the pews - each with their own plate, cup and silverware. The members of the church had prepared the food which arrived in the largest pans we had ever seen - the meal consisted of pasta w/ chicken, rice and orange juice - very heavy on the carbs! Each member of ASA took turns serving the children - they made a line in the church and filed by one by one with plate and cup in hand. The smiles on their faces as we gave them their food was priceless. We were moved by how the older children helped their siblings or other younger children. As the line grew and more and more children arrived - we were worried we would not have enough - but we were quickly reminded of the theme of our program Celebra la Fe - and put our trust in God and had faith that it would all work out - after all were feed w/ had just enough food - w/ none to spare - the children were very grateful and each child made of point of saying thank you.

After feeding the children it was off to Narome a volcanic crator lake - we piled into the microbus - our team with Fr. Rodriguez and Jairo - after about an 1 hour we finally arrived at the lake. We went swimming in the volcanic lake - had a great lunch and a chance to unwind. After lunch is was straight back to the church to register the children for the program. We arrived at the church at 4:00 p.m. to find 200 children waiting for us so they could sign up. A count was taken by age and each child was assigned to a group. We have four groups to work with all the children. It is amazing how many adults from the Parish volunteered to help us. Each team consists of two members of ASA and four member from San Juan. Back at Bill and John's we worked on putting the materials together, buttons for each child that says Celebre le Fe, education materials for each age group as well as art projects. We had a quick dinner and then back to the church to explain the program to the parish. The program is a three day program w/ each day having a different theme around how we Celebrate the Faith - the first day is how we are called to Faith, day two - is how we listen to God's call, and the final day is how faith changes us. Each day will consist of lessons, games, music and crafts. - In additon we have a group who will paint and refurbish their Parish building that serves as the education center - we have our work cut out for us - Off to debrief about the day - and to bed - at 11:00 - early day tomorrow - we start the day with mass at 7:00 w/ Fr. Lane celebrataing! Off to bed............

Monday, January 21, 2008

Welcome pictures

Bells ring out in welcome!
Choir singing
John talks about our mission, the dedication of it to Jim's memory and thanks everyone for their warm welcome with Fathers Rodriguez and Lane looking on.

Sunday, January 20, 2008


We arrived at Regan National Airport before 5 a.m. on Saturday for our 6 a.m. flight. We were very sad to find out Heather would be unable to join us on our journey. A work crisis has her flying off to Khazakstan this Thursday. We were very touched by her bon vonyage. Heather we miss you!! Safe travels!

Sign-in at the airport took a bit longer than expected and take off a bit late but other than that our flights were on time, our connection in Atlanta made easily and touch the down in Managua smooth.

Our group is composed Ascension & St. Agnes members Father Lane, Amy, Tyler, Chuck, Stephanie, Jennifer, Susan and our hosts Bill and John. We are joined by Tim, Elyse and Alexandra from Charlotte, NC and Aura from Raleigh, N.C. Tim is the son of Jim Barnett. Jim and Camille were supposed to join us on our trip but on a very sad note, Jim died in an auto accident last week. Tim, Elyse, and Alexandra decided to keep to their plans to come in honor of Jim who so wanted to join us.

We were warmly greeted by Father Rodriguez, Jairo, and lay leaders from the church. There were a total of eight people in our welcoming party from San Juan! After filling a pick-up truck to capacity with our luggage, we boarded a microbus and drove in a three vehicle procession (pickup with our luggage in front, microbus in the middle and Fr. Rodriguez's truck bringing up the rear). The trip took about 1 1/2 hrs to our destination.

We will never forget our welcoming reception at the church! Church members were lined up the steps to shake our hands and the church bells were ringing as we entered. Upon entering the church a choir began to sing "Working for the Father - Working for the Faith". They were accompanied by congo drums, electric guitar, electric piano, drums, tambourines etc. As we walked down the isle the entire congretation began to applaud.

Father Rodriguez introduced us to his congregation and introduced the families we would be staying with. Additional musical tributes were provided and the entire process took about 1 1/2 hrs. John introduced each member of our team - and gave a brief tribute to Jim Barnett.

Afterwards there was a welcoming dinner at John's and Bill's home for our team and the members of the church council. We dined on a traditional Nicaraguan meal of Nacatamal.

Exhausted we all drift off to sleep to the sound of roosters, dogs barking, and fire crackers.