“My mind lets go a thousand things, like dates of wars and deaths of kings,
and yet recalls the very hour- t’was noon by yonder village tower,
And on the last blue moon in May- the wind came briskly up this way,
crisping the brook beside the road; then pausing there, set down its load
of pine scent, and shook listlessly two petals from that wild rose tree.”
(from the poem, Memory, by Thomas Bailey Aldrich)
Thanks to the careful attention and project planning of our group leaders Jeri and Rick Kemmer, my mind was able to let go worrying about the details of our trip in Nicaragua and travel intuitively through the landscape. I don’t remember the founding dates of towns or names of cathedrals, nor mileposts or landmarks, yet I recall and treasure singular moments.
. . . a deep orange sunset at dusk casting its glow along a narrow street of brightly colored buildings, with the clear timbre of a bell ringing, as a Catholic procession makes its way down the cathedral steps, a figure of Jesus held aloft on a litter rimmed with flowers, accompanied by a small ragtag cacophony of trumpets and drums playing slowly, mournfully as they wind out of sight.
. . . What must be hundreds of birds whistling, cooing and jabbering in the moist, early morning air, dogs barking, roosters boasting, street vendors rhythmically calling out their wares of bread or milk, the streets alive with people and community.
. . . Passing Mt. Momotombo lazily erupting in the distance, tired and rummy from long hours of travelling, we laugh at Jeri’s volcano eruption joke till tears come to our eyes.
. . . The tropical wind blowing through the shutters in the evening as my new friend Jennie and I rest and tell each other about our lives.
Beneath the cloak of dailyness I am looking for something . . . the Spirit of God, is He living and active here in this land, with its history of brutal dictatorship, earthquakes and war and hurricanes and crushing poverty? I think I see Him at work one day, His unmistakable grace beaming in the deep-set eyes of a woman named Miriam. “There are many stories here,” she says. The workers all greet her as they wearily pass on their way home to their corrugated steel shacks, from the dump recycling plant. One ruffian on a motorcycle jumps off to give her smiles and a hug and she says he’d lived with her when he was growing up. Two brothers, in their teens amble around her. Since their father and mother died of AIDS they have been living with Miriam and Ramon. Many children have been under her wings. Their church, El Faro, The Lighthouse, is overflowing on Sundays in the small concrete block building.
In Jinotepe, we meet Pastor Guillermo and Lesly his son, who acts beautifully as our interpreter, along with a group of mostly college students and friends. They listen intently to the teaching about moringa. They pick up on the passion in Jeri and Rick for ‘The Miracle Tree’. They ask if they can practice teaching too. They tease each other and cheer and dance with youthful vigor. Katya, a bright young woman who is an artist and student at the university, brings me a small wooden box with a metal top, engraved with my name and ‘Strong Harvest’ in the soft aluminum. Her act of kindness makes me feel that God sees and is affirming my small part in this work.
In Tipitapa, Jeri and Rick give a moringa training to a group of mostly women. A slip of a girl with dark hair pulled back, who looks to be about 8 years old, tells me her name is Betty. She is 13, short and slight for her age. She is looking after some little ones. She helps distribute bowls of rice and beans to the large gathering of scruffy kids who are anxious for lunch. She indicates I should start with the first table on the right when I mistakenly start serving in the middle and she keeps busy helping with the juice and food. I think of her and the danger of growing up here as she matures. How will she learn, what about her young spirit? I don’t want to leave her here. An earnest, neatly dressed young man named Gamaliel is the pastor. Perhaps he will watch out for Betty. God you are using people who know something of suffering themselves to help make all things new, even in seemingly desperate places. We see moringa trees growing all over the dump, full of green leaves. I will send Betty a letter and tell her to remember to eat those leaves every day so she can be strong and grow. She needs to grow.
I sit and watch some of the girls at Villa Esperanza who have been rescued from living in the dump, playing soccer in the dusty field. I want to connect with one of the young girls I have made friends with. I ask if I can paint her nails for her. She is too embarrassed. She says she will paint my toes instead. Ok, that’s good. She is sweet, but a little sad. She is carrying burdens beyond her years. But she is here in this village of hope and You are making her new also. I ask her when it is that she can hear God the best and she says it is when she is out walking. Help her to keep listening for You. You’re here, and that is very good.
by Sue Ellen Dolan, Strong Harvest Board Member