This is our hump day – three days completed and three days ahead of us after today.  A cool breeze enveloped us as we gathered supplies for our morning tasks and as our Yoga group awakened to the day.  There are resident birds – the guardabarranco – the Nicaraguan national bird, who fill our mornings with their songs.

Sister began by telling tales on Ron, Paul and Sister Stephanie!

She also noted that this is Adam’s last day with us as he must return to his job on a 1am flight back to the States.

We heard that the third option for our ‘day off’ will be the construction of a kitchen at Pamplona School and a few more smaller projects there.  It seems that 6-8 people will be giving up their day of cultural experience for a day of serving.

She thanked our Student Leaders, Mica and Megan, as well as Jacob who is being mentored by them, for their growth in leadership.  

The word for the day is esperanza – which we all know means Hope!

Our reflection time this morning was given by Chris who asked us to discover what spoke to each of us in Billy Joel’s, “James.”  Doing what others expect of you in life rather than fulfilling your own passion resonated for me in the lyrics, “Do what’s good for you or you’re not good for anybody.”  So many times, especially when younger, we are spending much of our time fulfilling others’ dreams for us rather than following our own.  Over the 29 missions I have been on, I have to say that the majority have come because of their own dreams, inquisitiveness and hopes.  There have been a very few over the years that definitely came for other purposes and we see them drift quickly away.  Those who stay connected with the Mission, with the Nicaraguan people, inquisitive if those they sponsor or have met are attaining their desires in education, vocational skills or business, continue the thread begun on their Mission – and what a wonderful fabric has been woven over 20 years!  

The other lyric which spoke to me was of friends questioning if the dreams and hopes of their youth were fulfilled: “Do you like your life?”   As Sister noted in Morning Circle yesterday, the Dominican philosophy of you are where you need to be allows us to appreciate the moment, to understand that the thread we have been handed today is part of a greater fabric being woven for each of us.  And, in that appreciation, we do like our life.

This morning, our coffee people came for our order of organic natural coffee which should be delivered tomorrow.  Thanks to some of our travelers for donating a few pounds, the golfers in our Annual McSweeney’s/Mission of Hope Golf Tournament will be sipping this blend come July!

Today’s Kitchen Crew was Sally, Ryan, Allison, Olivia, Megan.

Our BBB Team was Hope, Chris, Tom and Tanner.

Rice & Beans headed out to deliver in El Reventon and in El Tigre this morning: Paul, Sophia, Susan M., Catherine, Tanner, Anne, Kari, Stew, Susan S-R. and Rachel.

Medical Outreach this morning saw the residents of El Reventon: Jim, Mario, Stacia, Bella, Haley, Sophie and Karen.

Our first Home Shelter of today was in Filos de Cuajachillo donated by the St. James’ Youth Group in Gouveneur. On that team were James, Hope & Henry Leader, Pascale, Hans, Mica and Susan Q.  The recipients were Jairo Flores and Maria Cristina Hernandez.

The second home of the morning was over in Planetarium for Flor Dariana Cano Mejia who now have a home donated by Loretta Sharp.

We also held a vein clinic with Craig, Sharalyn, Griselle and Jacob.

We had a crew head to Manolo Morales this morning to replace 90 ceiling tiles – and can stories be told about what was found!  Having the time of their lives were: Doug, Aliceson, Tom, Chris, Ron and Andrew.

After lunch, transportation got a little sticky with 7 locations and 4 vans – but, we did it!

In the same vehicle we had our Guadelupe Clinic people (Sharalyn, Mica and Karen) along with the Pajarito Azul folks: Mario, Jim, Catherine, Stacia, Bella, Tanner and Jacob.  It worked out because we couldn’t arrive before 2 at the Center, so into Managua and out of Managua they went.

A second vein clinic was held with Craig, Griselle and Chris handling that.  The demand was greater than expected, so maybe we will do it again next Mission at our own clinic site.

The beginning of over 2 days’ worth of work at San Jose de Cañada began this afternoon with the painting of the first of 3 classrooms: Henry, Pascale, Paul, Sophie, Andrew.

Later, Doug and Ron worked on some plumbing concerns here at NiCasa.

Our HIV Party at CARITAS was this afternoon; attending were Sue M., Sophia, Sally, Adam, Suzanne, Kari, Anne, Hans, Haley and Hope.

Our two afternoon Home Shelters were in San Luis and Nejapa with our team comprised of James, Stew, Aliceson, Susan S-R., Tom and Ryan.  The first was built for Lourdes Isabel Mendoza Rivas and donated by Ridhwan School Boston Friends.  The second was built for Aracelly del Socorro Torrez Vallejos which was donated by Father Carrera.

I jumped on to the Lab-in-a-Box team of Carol, Rachel and Debbie in hopes of seeing the recent water tanks installed at 3 schools, funded by the Plattsburgh and Plattsburgh Sunrise Rotary Clubs – I did!  

We picked up the principals at a school in Managua where they go every final Friday of the month for peer information sharing.  Our five stops were at Roberto Vargas School, Carlos Fonseca School, Pablo Neruda School, San Jose de la Cañada (where we met up with our painting crew) and finally, at Hilamo Sanchez School.  This is where we were surprised to see the student body, parents and neighbors gathered to thank the Mission of Hope for all we are doing at their school.  They had their lower elementary students perform for us and we left them enjoying a piñata for the older adults.  On our way out, we delivered the cups and bowls donated by Whirley Industries which will allow each child to have their own set for lunch – and, yes, they are part of our Feeding Program.

This evening’s Circle began with Sister asking for volunteers for our 20th Anniversary weekend: our official Open House at MOHTown, Towne Meeting Concert for our ECO Projects, and the Inaugural Rulf’s Orchard/Mission of Hope Color Run/Walk.  We’re looking for sponsors of the 6 color stations ($100 each) and the third sponsor for the Eagle Country announcement station.  We will be raffling a new kayak with chances available at $5 each and special t-shirts for sale.  The Run/Walk is a fundraiser for our Medical Projects.  This all begins as soon as we get back!

James spoke of our upcoming Golf Tournament on August 11th – last year’s net was close to $10,000 and our goal is to beat that.  We’re also looking for sponsors as well as ‘theme’ baskets to go to the winners.  This is a fundraiser for the Feeding Program.  Sister thanked all who tonight bought a Fabretto item for the Tournament.

Sharalyn told us about efficient Karen and Mica were who helped her at Guadelupe Clinic processing over 20 patients this afternoon for their Pap exam.

She also thanked all who have helped inventorying the boxes from the last container that were left in the breezeway and everything is now ready for her to enter into the computer and prepare donation letters.

Sister told us about the visit to the Masaya Nursing Home today where she learned that colostomy supplies are desperately needed.  She said she was overwhelmed and called Sharalyn who told her we did have them in the breezeway.  So that was a blessing!

Then, she spoke of Adam, this afternoon at the HIV Party, lifting up a young boy who couldn’t walk and participate in the outside activities so that he could.  There’s a photo that was taken which captures the joy on both of their faces.  Sue M. told us the father waited to thank them for allowing his boy to participate in the piñata part like other children.

Haley did Medical Outreach for the first time today.  She found it a challenge, yet a great experience. She said they stopped into a home where the family uses the sugar cane on their property to make candy!  

“It was challenging as the people have curable medical issues,” she said, “which back home would be accomplished right away.”  They saw an elderly woman who lives in a hut – so dramatically different than the living accommodations at home, especially in our nursing homes, she remarked.  She also experienced a situation where a parent knew the young man, about 27, is close to death, but she has decided not to tell him.  That led to a discussion in the van regarding what we’d do in her place as well as what each would want if in his place.

Doug spoke of his perspective on life and what he’s learned: we are giving, caring people hanging out with each other who normally would not be together at home.  “We miss out on so much in life,” he said.  “Our society trains us to be suspect of others, and that’s a sad thing.  Spend 5 minutes with someone and you’ve made a new friend.”

“Open you mind – don’t condemn before investigation,” he continued.  “Don’t wait for the right time – it takes a long time.  If you want to do something – do it!”

Carol told everyone about the 5 Lab-in-the-Box distributions we made this afternoon.  “They are all grateful people,” she said.  One of her favorite principals was the last school we visited where the entire school and their neighborhood had come out, decorated the school and presented folklorico dances for us and gave us red Fanta and rice pudding.

Rachel was moved emotionally as she spoke of her conversations with the principal in the van and how filled her heart was with joy in those talks.

Debbie added that ‘there is a roller coaster ride’ of everything.  “This was by far,” she said, “an amazing experience.  It was the first time I felt how grateful the people were to be helped by us.  Ever since my first mission I have wondered if it matters.”  She was moved when the principal pointed out his house, so proud of it, yet it looks just like those we deliver rice and beans to.

It was obvious how the students and the parents love him throughout the program.

Jacob realized today when he went to Pajarito Azul and a young woman grabbed his arm asking him to take her to the sea and kept repeated her desire.  Later when he told her he had to get on the van and leave, she became insistent and he emotionally let us know his heart was broken.

Sister told us of the history of how Sandra established the center and why. “There’s a lot of pain there, there’s a lot of hope there.  They are safe and that is Hope.”

“You can see how the staff there love the children,” remarked Sue M.

Aliceson told us how ‘you’re where you need to be’ was lived out for her today.  She looked at the board, thinking she was going to paint and found out she would spend her morning at Manolo Morales Hospital replacing ceiling tiles.  “There were milk jugs used as urinals for the patients,” she said.  It wasn’t sitting well.  She then told us of Ron’s experiences with the tiles and she remarked to him she was surprised that he didn’t complain.  He told her there is no reason to complain, as what good can it do.  “I hope to have many more experiences like this with many more of you,” she said.

Our closing reflection tonight was offered up by Sophia who told us this is her third mission and for each she has determined a theme.  Love was her first mission theme.  You are Where You’re Meant to Be was her second.  This one is Connection.  “There are many injustices, abuse, poverty, racism, mistreatment – all stopping us from connecting,” she said.  She selected “Why Can’t We Be Friends,” by War which had us all doing the wave – both seated and standing.  A wonderful way to end the evening together with joy, smiles and laughter.

And to add to it all, tonight’s snack was provided by Craig: Karla’s pineapple pastries (OK, veterans, it’s time to close your eyes and taste your favorite treat!).

Adam must leave us tonight, so after seeing us turn out the lights, he departed.  And, Mission #71 begins to wane…