Monday, December 31

Sunday, December 30

When Our Big, Lazy, Judgemental Butts Get In the Way of the Holy Spirit...

I received a wonderful, early invitation from my former roommate to go with her and another random church group from Ciudad Sandino to a local hospital for woman and children. Alysha explained we would visit different patients, talk and pray with them, and then give a small packet of needed toiletries. At first, I jumped right on her invitation. "Of course, Alysha, I would love to do that!"

When I received a reminder text message yesterday morning, I felt my stomach slightly creeping to my throat. I didn't send a reply "yes" message until later in the afternoon. As the day went on I began praying and praying for the next day. However, at the same time, I began having a million doubts... Maybe, this isn't the best idea... I don't want to impose on other people... I already feel uncomfortable... my Spanish is horrible... this is silly. The excuses grew in my brain, yet, I continued praying for strength and the great awareness of the Holy Spirit for the next day.

I "woke up" the next morning with my morning brain trying to make up lame excuses as to why I couldn't get out of bed and go help out at the hospital. Finally, I got out of bed, jumped on the bus, and met Alysha near her house. We picked up her friend Cesar along the way and we were off to the hospital...

About 8 other people from Ceasar's church also participated in this outreach event. I still had moments of doubt and judgement while we gathered in the parking lot. The group was discussing whether we had enough cameras- including a video camera, and I bit my tongue as I pictured us exploiting people we don't even know and publishing our "good deeds". Someone also explained we want to share a sermon today and not only give a gift of hygienic products. I held my breath.

We entered the first room with a nurse's lead. 8 beds/cribs lined the small room with women/moms sitting a hard chairs. One of the church member's volunteered to speak first and he addressed the entire room. I was not able to translate everything he said in my head but I did see a lot of finger pointing and heard him ask a woman if she goes to church. I immediately felt uncomfortable and questioned why I decided to come along, but luckily I was also distractedly playing with the precious little boy next to me whose wrist had the tight hospital bracelet tagged to his wrist. In my mind, I "survived" the first room. I handed out a few of the hygiene packets and I spoke with the mother and precious child right next to me and then prayed with them. Suddenly, I became overwhelmingly aware of God's presence in the room. Despite, maybe my disagreements, my discomforts, my laziness, my fear, I suddenly felt I was in the right place.

Also, a great relief came over me when another volunteer spoke in the next room and focused more on how God is with each of them and can do all things, instead of trying to condemn and convince. We all had an opportunity to pray for each patient and I began thinking less about my Spanish and instead feeling more of the Holy Spirit.

We went room to room praying, meeting, and giving to different people. Each room we entered was a difficult site to see, considering the poor, poor conditions of the hospital. I also thought about how these kids and families have nothing to do while they are here and sometimes they wait days just to see the doctor. Yet, I know God is right there with them whether they realize it or not.

Finally, one of the fellow volunteers asked if I would share a word with the next room of patients. At first I said, "No, gracias". However, as we neared the door I was reminded it's not about my ability to speak- it's all about sharing God's love with these wonderful children of God I am only able to know for a split second. To share that they are special and God is with them through each moment. I used my Intermediate level of Spanish and shared.

I share this story of my fear, judgements, doubts, laziness, uncomfortableness, because I think we have all allowed these thoughts and feelings to get in the way of living a life like Christ. I'm not sharing this visit to the hospital not to share a righteous act I accomplished, because even still parts of it I believe were not so wonderful- bringing a video camera, handing out tracks... but for us to remember those moments we didn't follow through with something on our hearts, encouraging us to do something out of our comfort zone which will glorify God and demonstrate love to others.

 I will consider dreaming and thinking of a more sustainable ministry in which a group goes each week to give fun activities or have prayer groups with the moms, etc.  Also, each of those beautiful women and children will remain in my mind and heart throughout this week.

Thanks for your continued support!
May God help move YOUR big, lazy, judgmental butt, too! :)

Friday, December 21

Quien Causa Tanta Alegria?

(Who causes so much happiness?)

(Mary's Conception!)

Alex and I stood in the long bus line wrapped around the small "UCA" bus station, at 3pm on Friday afternoon. December 7 is a day Catholics in Nicaragua celebrate La Purísima, or the celebration of the pure conception of Mary. In order to get the full experience of Purísima, a small group of my friends and myself traveled to the city of Leon, which is the city most famous for it's annual Purísima celebration. Alex and I thought we were going to have spend at least an hour waiting for a bus, due to the influx of people traveling to Leon, but suddenly a new bus arrived in a separate area and within only about 10 minutes of waiting we snugly fit in a micro bus on our way to Leon.

Once we arrived to Leon we dropped our stuff off quickly at our hostel to join the beginning firework display for the evening. We hustled over to the main cathedral just in time for the firework display. However, I quickly realized the fireworks shooting off safety in the background weren't the only fireworks. People standing somewhat near me all of a sudden began shrieking out of fear, yet laughing at the same time and running away from a firework which shot out into the crowd. In almost the same moment, I looked to see Alex running with several other young guys towards a man dancing around with a large card board box covering the top half of his body. On the sides of this box, were lit bottle rockets. The people who were brave enough to face the "bull" would try and gamble how close they could stand near the "bull" until suddenly, the fireworks would light and everyone ran in sheer fear and excitement. I will admit I was pretty shocked to witness such a way to celebrate but it was so much fun.

After the craziness with the fireworks, we began walking around the city to view the different purisima displays. Many people had elaborate window displays of Maria, candles, flowers, fancy cloths, etc. A tradition we did not take part in is people invite friends/family over to the purisima and spend time together in prayer and simply celebrating the holiday. Around the main part of town, there was a long line of people standing with empty bags. The waited in line to view a long row of different Mary's on display and at the same time collected free food; everything from rice to candies.

Later in the evening, we participated in Griteria. Griteria is very similar to Halloween minus the scary stuff and minus the costumes. However, you walk to different houses and you can yell out "Quien causa tanta alegria?" and the people at the house should answer "La concepcion de Maria". Then, they hand you some sort of goodie. At one house I received a box of matches and another some hair ties. There are also certain songs you can sing as you greet each house, but no one in my group knew the correct songs.

I'm glad I experienced such a unique celebration. Many Nicaraguans who are not Catholic often struggle with accepting and trying to understand Purisima, calling it a pagan celebration and refusing to acknowledge or support it. When Evangelical Nicaraguans ask me about my time in Leon for purisima, I simply explain my desire to always learn more about different traditions and culture.

Tuesday, December 4

May God Bless You with Discomfort

While having my quiet time with the Big G and J.C. this evening, a paper from my first worship during missionary training feel out of my book. I am blessed to have re-discovered this beautiful prayer....

May God bless you with discomfort
At easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships ,
So that you will live deep in your heart.
May God bless you with anger at injustice, and 
Exploitation of people and the earth
So that you will work for justice,
Equity, and peace.
May God bless you with tears to 
Shed for those who suffer so you will
Reach out your hand to comfort them
And change their pain into joy.
And may God bless you with the foolishness to think that you
Can make a difference in the world,
So you will do the things which others say cannot be done.
 -Interfaith Coundil for Peace and Justice, Ann Arboor, MI

Sunday, December 2

Hello amigos!

I apologize for taking so long to update my blog. I've been pretty busy, as you know, adjusting to city life once again. Quite a lot has happened in the last 15 days, so I will try to summarize my latest adventures.

1. AMC offered a day outside of the office. About 30 people from our office ventured to the city of Masaya to go on a short hike for the day. We saw monkeys, a jungle of green plants, enjoyed each others company and got to spend the day in beauty of God's creation.

My first time to see real-live monkeys outside of a cage. :)

Moises #1

Moises #2

The ladies stretching it out after our walk.
2. Last week was Prayer Week in the AMC office. Scriptures written posterboards lined the different walkways throughout the office; a large banner entitled "Semana Oracion" or "Prayer Week" greeted each person as they rounded the corner from the front office; and the auditorium, filled with new picture displays, flowers, large praying hands, was set up with a "stage" including cameras for video streaming. Each day from 1pm till about 3pm, everyone gathered in the auditorium to partake in a prayer service. Throughout the week we focused on gratitude, unity, compassion, love and each day focused on certain Central American countries. We spent time singing songs of praise and participated in different forms of prayer, as the other AMC offices throughout the country joined us through the inter-web. It was powerful week. A week we were able to take time to be with one another in prayer, when many times we are busy working & working. AMC does have a weekly devotion on Monday mornings, but it was extra meaningful to more intentionally join in as a community in prayer.

3. For Thanksgiving, a few friends with whom I attend Spanish school decided to host and share a Thanksgiving lunch with the teachers and students at our school. I helped Michelle peel potatoes in the morning, which is one of my normal Thanksgiving duties and Sarah thought it would be a good idea to put me in charge of carving the turkey she so graciously cooked for us. -->
A few other people also brought food. We gathered at Viva Spanish School around 12 and we covered several tables with all kinds of food. Not only had our Spanish teachers never tried certain Thanksgiving foods, but we also had Canadians, an Egyptian, and someone from London join the festivities. At one point, a few us even threw a football (norte americana) around in the street. I was impressed when my Nicaraguan friends Jossimar and Marlon threw the football really well after just learning how to correctly throw a football. It truly was a day of Thanksgiving and I felt very blessed to have been surrounded by such a wonderful community.

4. I've also been busy in the office as I begin to prepare for the different Medical International Teams who will partner with AMC in the year. It's a good reminder as to how important the behind the scenes work is for a ministry. Perhaps I can somehow discover the spirituality of... creating budgets.

5. Currently my life in Nicaragua involves simple, common moments. From partaking in beautiful conversation with coworkers during our lunch break

to my Spanish teacher Majorie still teaching me one last thing as I was  walking out the door,

to laughing with friends until it hurts,

to the Christmas lights that decorate the city of Managua,

to receiving a phone call from my hermanito,

to trying to balance clothespins on our noses with my roommate,

to the patience of a vendor when I could not make a decision on what to buy, 

to getting chills listening to a friend describe the lyrics of a Nicaraguan song,

to watching Dona Rosa dance to the rap music blaring out of a car window,

to people "getting mad" and looking out for me for not asking for help when I don't understand a certain thing Spanish,

to a random parrot joining my household, 

to my parents eagerly willing to help me gather any needed resources for my English classes, 

and to so many little things that discreetly reveal the Holy Spirit here in Nicaragua.