Monday, April 28, 2008

monday mentions

* This past weekend I fled the suffocating heat of Managua for the gorgeous and cool mountains (long sleeves! yes!) of Esteli, where I spent time with a group of fun and thoughtful fellow ex-pats who were a source of great encouragement and inspiration during the weekend.

* Last night I watched a documentary on the young American engineer and clown Benjamin Linder, which aired on local TV--today is the 21st anniversary of his murder at the hands of the Contra forces in Nicaragua. Benjamin Linder, Presente!

* Rewinding just a bit further, Thursday night I celebrated Earth day (albeit slightly late) at a musical earth festival at a local joint called Ruta Maya (thinking of you, Paul!) with my roommates and some other friends. Performing that night were none other than my favorite Nica musicians, Katia and Salvador Cardenel, the duo whose music I quote often in this space, together with Moises Gadea (Katia's husband), an up and coming artist with a poetic soul and nimble fingers on the guitar strings, and Philip Montalban representing the Caribbean music of this country. They each played a range of beautiful songs dedicated to the beautiful planet we all inhabit, one of which (Dias de Amar, by Guardabarranco) says, "

Vienen ya dias de amar la casa que habitas, Dias de amar la tierra vegetal, flor y animal; Vienen ya rios con aguas sin envenenar Agua que beben los que tienen sed igual que usted. Vienen ya bosques pulmones de la gran ciudad, Selvas que aroman en la oscuridad, noches de paz. "

Days to love the house you inhabit are here; days to love the earth, vegetable, flower, and animal; Rivers with waters that do not poison are coming. Waters drunk by those who have thirst just like you. Forests, lungs of the big city, are coming; trees that give fragrance in the darkness, nights of peace."

Best of all, in the middle of the concert, after hearing on the songs sung by the talented joven Moises, I felt inspired enough to overcome my shyness and introduce myself to him and explain one of the video projects being done by our semester program students--and to ask if he might be willing for his music to be part of this video. It turns out Moises has a special heart for children and youth at risk (much of his music has a very social justice oriented tone), the topic of the documentary Daniel (the student) is working on, and he was more than willing to meet with us (today, in fact!) to discuss the possibilities. We had a great meeting today and I am really excited about the contribution he will make to this project. Not to mention that he is just an all around good guy that I am happy to now know personally.

* If you're not careful, the music of Rodrigo and Gabriela can really make you dizzy.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

their faces call me to love

I spent a day up in Chinandega this week with a team that was working in El Limonal, a community I have written about before on this blog, and here. The team was there to build a concrete floor for the local "cafeteria" (the place the kids eat lunch when it's available), and a storage area. I was there to take pictures, visit with folks, and relate with the team. Of course what normally happens in these situations is that the kids invariably are drawn to the gringa with the camera, and this time was no exception. I think I took photos of every single child who came to the work site last Wednesday. Many of them jumped right in, mixing and shoveling cement with tools built for people twice their size. Other just stared at us and waited for the lollipops (that's another topic for another post). And a few sat with me and sang popular praise songs in Spanish and talked to me about Jesus.

One of them was an 11 year old named Ana Maria (pictured with me above), who sat next to me again at the evangelistic outreach that night, learned how to take photos using my camera, and wrote me a note calling me her "mejor amiga". Such tender expressions from a beautiful girl with an innocent smile and an open heart, who lives in the midst of what many might call despair and misery. Ana and others still live with their eyes wide open to the possibilities of life, willing to laugh, to play, to be children in spite of the daily struggles they face. Their faces call me to love, to cry, to pray, to struggle, to seek justice for these, the least of these, the forgotten on the margins of everything.

May they be forgotten no more.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

the fruit of silence

"The fruit of silence is prayer
the fruit of prayer is faith
the fruit of faith is love
the fruit of love is service
the fruit of service is peace
-Mother Teresa

Silence is hard to come by here. Or perhaps I should say that it is hard to choose silence. So many are the distractions...and the coping mechanisms that fill many moments of my day that could be better used in silent reflection.

But the fruit of silence is indeed something good and beautiful and true. Silence opens my heart to the Spirit of the Living God who lives within me, though its voice often goes unheard for my own willful deafness.

I am reflecting on this because this past Friday I was given the unique gift of 2 hours of almost uninterrupted silence for prayer as part of a staff spiritual retreat. Away from a desk, away from a computer, my cell phone turned off, leaning against a tree in south Managua, (mostly) removed from the noise of the city, I finally found a sacred space. A space where the words of Scripture penetrated once again. A space where talking to God seemed natural again. (I know it sounds weird to say that, but if you only knew how far I have felt from God in the last 4+ months...)

A space where my heart put new words and a new melody to an old song. Suddenly, an old spring was tapped, and in a quiet voice under a Managua palm tree, I sang to Jesus.

Break me, remake me
Make me more like you
I want to be a new creature
I want to be like you

Cleanse me, forgive me
Make me more like you
Free me, transform me
I want to be like you

I know I've wandered far
I know I've squandered much
But you know it's over now
And I'm running back to you

Break down all the walls
I've built between me and you
Break down all the barriers
that've kept me from you

For you are everything
everything I need
Yes, you are everything
everything to me.


I still have a long way to go. But at last I feel like the journey is possible. Peace.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

por un mundo justo

Not too long ago I was at a Duo Guardabarranco concert in the Teatro Nacional with one of the semester program students Emily and "Prof. Jeff"--and afterwards we wandered up the boulevard (I've always thought boulevard is a cool word, don't you?) to the corner store--a place called the On the Run, but is actually more like On the Crawl--where we saw none other than Salvador Cardenal (left), the brother within the famous duo, whose fame began during the cultural revolution that occurred here in Nicaragua as a result of the Sandinista Revolution in the 1980s.

Anyway, one of their songs that I really like is called "Por Un Mundo Justo" , translated below.

No me digas que [Don't tell me]
esto a vos no te importa Porque fuiste niño [that this doesn't matter]
un día y ya se te olvidó [b/c you were a child and you've forgotten]

Cuando ves un niño ves un espejo [When you look at a child, you see a mirror]
De toda la raza humana... ves el porvenir [of the human race]

Cuando ya este mundo no sea nuestro Será [When this world is no longer ours]
de los niños que nos ven vivir Será [of the children that see us it will be]
de los hijos que vienen de ti [of the children that come from you]

Por un mundo justo para los niños [for a just world for the children]
Amasaremos pan de tierra y flores compartido
[We will make mud pancakes & shared flowers]
Por un mundo alegre para los niños [for a joyful world for the children]
Convertiremos armas en cuadernos y acuarelas
[we will trade weapons for notebooks and watercolors]
Por un mundo libre para las niñas [for a free world for the girls]
Trabajaremos con un solo corazón unido [We will work with one heart]

Por un mundo digno para los niños [for a world worthy of the children]

Cuando un pajarito cae del nido [when a bird falls from the nest]
Y no sabe aun volar...niño sin hogar [and doesn't know how to fly, homeless]

Cara sucia, pícara, risa limpia [dirty face, clean smile]
Descalcita y sin comer... ¿quien te va a querer?
[barefoot and hungry, who will want you?]

Ay! que suerte el que te halle en su camino
[Oh, what luck he who finds you in his path]
Puede darte amor y abrir su corazón
[he can give you love and open your heart]

Every time I listen to this song, I think about the world we are leaving to the children and wish that we really would trade our weapons for watercolors.