Daryl and Becky’s Nicaragua Mission trip, Part 2: Clothing Distribution
[This article, submitted by Becky Warner, describes a mission trip she took with her husband Daryl in January, 2016. This article is part 2. Read Part 1 here (Bible Donation). Read Part 3 here (Care and Training for Children). Read Part 4 here (Conclusion).]
East Church was very generous to us as we planned our trip to Nicaragua. Donations of gently used clothing were handed to us each Sunday until we had a lovely array of items to share with … we didn’t know who. First consideration was to get the items to Nicaragua. Daryl went to the Army Navy Surplus store for inexpensive canvas totes that looked like giant hot dogs when packed. We affectionately called them the “wieners.” We were concerned about handling the wieners throughout the trip, but after talking to Edith, we felt assured that we could get them to the nuns so they could sort and distribute them. OK, nothing to worry about.
Picture Daryl with two 50 by 30 inch unwieldy wieners plus his own stuff. But that’s what those airport carts are for. In Matagalpa, we arrived close to midnight in a mayhem of people we couldn’t understand moving through a series of lines with all those bags in an indoor/outdoor airport. It was unnerving, but outside the corrals we could see a mob hovering and in the midst like an angel all in white and with a glowing, smiling face waving at us was Edith. We could do it! We could get the wieners plus our other 8 pieces to her, we were sure. In the warm refreshing city night, we embraced Edith then she hurried us to a waiting van. We loaded all the pieces and drove out turning left immediately, then turning left immediately again. The van stopped. We had arrived. The hotel was directly across a very busy city street from the airport, but the wieners needed a van to get there.
Next morning in another van, not only our ten pieces, but the luggage of our traveling companions, Lisa and her two daughters, Hannah and Sidney and Edith, had to fit in. Craig had arrived earlier and was already with Juan, Edith’s father. Daryl is an expert packer and had it all taken care until Edith told him that our entry into the van was through the back. Daryl hadn’t noticed that it only had a driver’s door and one passenger’s door. OK, we’ll redo this a bit. The luggage finally fit, but we all had to crawl over a few pieces to get to the tiny spaces remaining for humans. It was a merry ride to the pastoral retreat center where we were staying for 4 nights.
At the retreat center we had a huge space with 5 bedrooms, 4 baths and a living room. We turned one bedroom into a distribution center. It seemed that instead of giving all the clothes to the nuns, we would be distributing them ourselves to several locations, only the first of many times things turned out differently than we expected. For the entire trip, we were on Nicaragua time, easygoing, relaxed and flexible, and experienced a change of plans often. We covered the bed in that spare bedroom with clothing in piles by age and size, then systematically packed and labeled each bag, doing some bonding as we did the work. We were ready for our first distribution.
It came the next day, Sunday, after attending church. The youth group of the church had planned a party for the children in El Ocote, a community outside town with very few comforts and little access to help and support. The youth wanted to bring some joy to the children there. The priest of the parish, Father Ulysses, thought distributing clothing would be very appropriate at the end of the party. With the van loaded, we headed to El Ocote. After picking up Father Ulysses and a long ride out of town, we drove up a windy, ruddy dirt road occasionally passing wood and mud houses with corrugated metal roofs. Finally, we stopped at a school building only to learn that it had been locked up for vacation. It was what we would think of as “summer” vacation. In Nicaragua the long school vacation is during coffee season, December through February, since all hands are needed. The youth would have to find another spot for the party.
We all marched through the “playground” that amounted to a huge rusty swing frame with “swings” made from ropes that the kids could swing from like Tarzan. We noted the opportunity for us to help with this playground. It became the first on what turned out to be a long list of things we could do for the people we met. Then we single file squeezed through a small break in a barbed wire fence, up a dirt path through trees and shrubs to a clearing next to a house where the youth had gotten permission to hold the party.
Some children and adults were already there watching our preparations. These indigenous children were beautiful copper skinned children with big eyes and sober faces. They all stood still and quiet by the adults who did the same. We formally met the youth and in a circle we prayed before organizing the event. Some of the youth filled the 6 piñatas they had brought with candy while others climbed trees to hang the ropes necessary for them. We all found places on the ground to store the food, toys, and our clothing until the distribution started.
One young man started the boom box with lively music to get the event started. I tried to get some of the children to dance with me, but they all were painfully shy and hid by the adults. A young woman from the youth group then announced over her microphone that they would be playing games and having the piñatas. She hoped they would all have fun. After much cajoling, a few children started to take part, taking turns swinging at the piñatas and playing the games. When the candy dropped, many more children got involved happily grabbing candy from the ground. Finally, there were many smiles and chatter. I watched one little boy in particular who had been hiding beside an adult finally grab candy that landed close to him and very meticulously hide it in every pocket and even down his pants so he could get it home. He had a big smile.
After the children each got a baked potato and toys, the distribution of clothing started. The children lined up by height in a boys line and a girls line. We handed items to Edith and she carefully sized each one to each child by holding them up to the child. She chattered to them the whole time about how nice this piece would look on them or how well it matched what they had on. Every child waited patiently in that line and graciously accepted whatever she gave them. There was was not one exception. It was an amazing experience. I handed out items to some of the women while Daryl helped pass out some toys.
We piled back in the van. On the way back down the road, Father Ulysses wanted to stop at the homes along the way to give out the remaining items to the folks sitting on their stoops. After two stops, folks appeared seemingly out of nowhere to see what was going on. Father Ulysses was like Santa Claus as he passed out the toys and clothing. Daryl and I still had a hat donated by Joe Sloane that the priest gave to a smiling man who didn’t hesitate to put it on and pose for a picture. We rode back to the center in silence, hot, tired and full of the joy of the experience.[photo 6]