So, as many of you know, this summer I spent the time in Nicaragua doing 5 weeks of language school and one week volunteering with a ministry for children with disabilities in Managua. And the reason for the title is because I think it may take me another 16 years to actually say I know Spanish! I learned a lot, but still feel I have a long way to go.
How to choose highlights from the last month… There are really and truly too many to count. I’ll list just a few in very short form. There are beautiful stories behind nearly every one that would make you shiver. Next time I see you, ask me!
Conversations with grannies about underpants on a breezy porch in a rocking chair with coffee and mamones (yummy seasonal Nica fruit kind of akin to cherries..?). Attending my first Nica funeral. Understanding more places and stories of the contra war. Translating the public service announcements from Spanish into charades for a sweet man who was deaf in the bus terminal. Having parakeets wake me up from my nap by playing hide and seek with me in my room. Debates in Spanish about politics and social systems. Many glorious hours reading and praying. Teaching English. Teaching teachers. Participating in amazing Nicaraguan worship and service. Making paper out of bananas and onions. Having class beside a waterfall. Preparing and serving meals at the dump. And finally, realizing I understood the message at church. What a good feeling. Then, the next day, not understanding the question at breakfast. Well, can’t win them all!
Here’s one zoomed-in experience:
One of the most powerful moments this year came when I attended a Nica street worship concert. People came from all over Nicaragua and gathered at an intersection in the city. There was a song where all the chorus said was, “Somos juntos con Christo,” which means “We are together with Christ.” The worship leader invited us to embrace those around us, so we all gave one another hugs and hellos (sounds weird to Canadians, but it’s expected to hug and kiss people when you greet them here). Then a group around us formed a circle and started dancing and singing with absolute, genuine praise (also sounds a little hokey and teen-ish, but it was sweet and joyful). Within seconds, we were pulled into the circle, and it is the first time since being in this country that I felt the same in all the right ways. It is hard to go too many places without having people stare at you, try to get more money from you for an item, or any other number of things. But this. Here, now, we were focused on unity in Christ and not economics, nor skin colour, nor education, nor language, nor household, nor experiences separated us. Nothing could come between us. We were all joyful. We were all offering praise. Jesus filled every part of us so that there was room for nothing else. Because we were only together with Christ. It was so, so good and a beautiful reflection of what I imagine heaven will be.
I wish I could share all the stories with you, but I think many of them (maybe even the one above?) are a “you’d have to be there” kind of thing. But being in this country when I am not an exhausted, hot, cranky teacher did wonders to my soul. And I thought I was only there for the Spanish!
If you are of the praying sort J and want to offer some specific prayers, the following could be considered:
Praises: new opportunities (moving to Grade 5 for this upcoming school year!), Spanish, new friendships, time to rest, positive changes in NCA like new programs for struggling students through resources and teachers, great ministries created by Nicaraguans for Nicaraguans (like the dump meals and education, and the new school), hope for the upcoming year
Requests: 2 main ones: those same new opportunities mean a lot of changes for me. Also, please pray that I could accept and show grace, above all else – for myself and for others and in all areas of my life.
Education in this country – I’ve been able to have a much better look at and understanding of education here this summer because everyone I have met (whether teacher, director, student, or university student studying to become a teacher) has been hugely impacted by the education system here. I have seen and discussed teachers’ lives and work, textbooks and other resources, professional development, government policies, and physical structures. And it’s not pretty. Many students outside of Managua (the capital) do not live with their parents because their parents have had to seek work elsewhere, student motivation is very low, teachers are unequipped in their level of training, and actual retained knowledge is limited. This summer I have seen many, many high school students who don’t know their multiplication facts, how to tell time, or how to read fluently. They attend school for about 4 hours a day. My host mom has 550 students in a week. The English teacher at the school doesn’t actually speak English. I could go on. I won’t. There are people trying to make changes in all these areas. Pray for the teachers, the government, the finances and resources, and schools like NCA who are providing quality Christian education.