Tuesday, September 30, 2008

hijas del sol

It's seven months away, but the reality of leaving Nicaragua came a little bit closer today when I submitted my first grad school application. For anyone who's wondering, I'm applying to UT Austin's Latin American Studies Program, with the hope of focusing on women and development issues. I worked a fair amount this summer on what I hope is a compelling statement of purpose, which I chose to begin with a few verses of a well-known poem by Nicaraguan poet Ruben Dario called Ode to Roosevelt.
“Mas la América nuestra, que tenía poetas desde los viejos tiempos… que desde los remotos momentos de su vida vive de luz, de fuego, de perfume, de amor, la América del gran Moctezuma, del Inca, la América fragante de Cristóbal Colón, la América católica, la América española…esa América que tiembla de huracanes y que vive de Amor, hombres de ojos sajones y alma bárbara, vive. Y sueña. Y ama, y vibra; y es la hija del Sol.”
It says (more or less), "But Our America, that had poets since ancient times, that since the remotest moments of its life has lived from light, from fire, from perfume, from love, the America of the great Moctezuma, the Inca, the fragrant America of Christopher Columbus, the Catholic america, the Spanish America--this America that shakes from hurricanes and lives on love, men of saxon eyes and barbaric soul, lives. And dreams. And loves. And is vibrant. And is the daughter of the sun."

The poem celebrates the heart and soul of Latin America while warning the United States that its imperial claws will never be enough to destroy the spirit of this people. Oh, how close they have come...but no, even still, the hearts of my Nica friends still beat free...and they could not be chained any more than the sun. And neither will I.

Which is why I concluded my statement of purpose this way:
More than anything else, I think about women like Darling as I apply for this Master’s Program. Women who bear the hopes and struggles of a thousand sons and daughters like heavy buckets of water atop their heads. Women who rise at 4am to make tortillas and gallo pinto for their families, but who always are the last to eat. These women—“hijas del Sol”--are my sisters. And their future is my future.
Here's hoping for some grace to continue reaching for the sun (and an acceptance letter down the road).

Monday, September 29, 2008

on seeing

I saw something on my way to church yesterday that jarred me emotionally, and which I promptly forgot about until 24 hours later…now.

It was a young man standing alone on the road sniffing glue. Shortly after I saw him, I saw another man bent over with his head in his hands.

Both looked truly sad—and yet there was nothing I could do for them.

I’m so used to feeling powerless now, used to seeing poverty, hunger, disease, despair…so what was it about this time?

Living in those thirty seconds again right now, I find myself asking: What does it really mean to have empathy? What does it mean to live in solidarity with other people’s suffering when you know you will NEVER face anything like what the people around you face daily?

No matter how many times I’ve asked them before, these questions come storming back to me, clamoring for attention, demanding something more than a simplistic response. Especially since I spent the last week in the awkward tension of being completely self-absorbed, sick and tired in my bed, while reading about Henri Nouwen’s journey of discovery that leads him to abandon his position of prestige at Harvard in order to be part of the Daybreak Community (a group of folks with special physical and emotional needs) in Canada. Here is someone who not only figured out the secret of what he calls “downward mobility” in his spiritual search to see God more clearly, but actually did it. Actually left things, and people, and a position, and dreams…for what?

For the joy of nothing more than belonging, for experiencing his common humanity alongside people who shared none of his scholarly talents but understood better than anyone the depth of his heart's need for love. For the joy of knowing and being known—of seeing and being seen.

Perhaps that’s it…the message of those 30 seconds is a reminder to see…

To see that God is there in that person’s situation, the one which seems on its face the least like mine, the furthest out of the realm of potential futures of my existence…which maybe is taking a step toward something really simple yet profoundly important.

To see that God’s desire is to show love to them, that person that I have the hardest time accepting or believing that even needs my attention…which maybe is moving me toward understanding a mustard seed of God’s truth about our need for Him.

To see that God’s forgiveness extends to them, that person who wronged me so terribly that I say the universe itself cries out for justice on my behalf…which, maybe, just maybe, helps me to say that yes, I can truly love my fellow man.

O Señor, abre mis ojos. Veme y déjame ver.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

musical interlude

One of the small but real things that I miss from home--yes, even 2+ years later--is the morning commute--and the radio that accompanied it. I was never faithful to any one station--I was just as likely to hum along to the pop country songs as the 80s favorites that I seriously think I still know all the words to. And during basketball playoff season, well, it was a sure bet that I would tune into the Sports talk radio shows for just long enough to get my Silver and Black fix.

Here in Nicaragua, I don't have a radio in my house--and I don't have a car, so I am totally at the mercy of the musical selections of whatever bus my roommates and I board in the morning. If I'm lucky, there's a little bit of Toad the Wet Sprocket or Genesis or Bryan Adams (I know, I know) to ease the transition...and if I'm not so lucky, it's pure Daddy Yankee and reggaeton the whole 45 minutes.

All of this to say that not having a radio has made me much more of a itunes and youtube music listener than I ever was prior to living here. And boy have my tastes evolved. I can count on one hand the artists I still listen to from my old library (Jennifer Knapp, Jars of Clay, and Caedmon's Call). But I have discovered a wealth of beautiful new music living here--Nicaraguan artists like Duo Guardabarranco, which I have mentioned before in this space--and a ton of other folk/indie, Latin, and Spanish Christian music--that I might have never known about otherwise.

Just as a small muestra (sample), I offer my current top 10 most played songs on itunes...

1. Your Love is Strong (Jon Foreman)
2. Lovers without Love (Joshua James)
3. Mercy of the Fallen (Dar Williams)
4. Tu poeta (Alex Campos) -- seriously, I hope if I ever get married, we play this song at our wedding
5. Falling Awake (Gary Jules)
6. Levantete y Resplandece (Marcos Barrientos)
7. My Song (Brandi Carlile)
8. Mis heridas (Katia Cardenal)
9. You Never Let Go (Matt Redman)
10. God of this City (Chris Tomlin)

And as a bonus, one of my favorite songs that I've only been able to find on youtube...Axel Fernando's Amo. (Yes, it's official. I am a sucker for poetic love songs. But even if you don't speak a word of Spanish, you will love this one--the piano is just stellar.)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


In Spanish, "the flu." Apparently it's been going around for months, but it hit me like a ton o'bricks Monday morning for the first time this year, so bad that by 11am my alternating fever/chills were uncontrollable and my roommate graciously drove me home from the office.

Since then, I've done nothing much but sleep for 18 hours a day...but one positive thing about being completely bed-ridden is a chance to read books that had just been sitting neglected on the shelf--like a book I bought ages ago called Camino a Casa (The Way Home) by Henri Nouwen. It's an amazing read thus far, and I must say that reading English books translated to Spanish is a lot easier than books written in Spanish first!!

I'm starting to feel a little better, so today I ventured out to the store to buy some fruit and Gatorade--everything was going just fine until I hit the checkout line. Suddenly, as I was staring outside into the light (there's a song waiting to be written here), my vision grew blurry and I felt like I was going to throw up and pass out (in that order). I hastily grabbed onto the nearest vending machine and tried to maintain control while coughing. Thankfully, after about 2 scary minutes (which felt like 15), the sensation passed, and I was able to check out, bag my groceries, hail a cab (I wasn't taking any chances even though it's only a 10 minute walk to my house), and get home without further incident. (BTW, this is the second time this has happened to me here--the other time was in a local farmacy. So weird.)
Meanwhile, as the increased levels of rain slowly bring the temperature down to a less insane level, the political climate is heating up with the official start of the municipal election season here in Nicaragua tomorrow (election day is Nov. 5th). On Saturday our Dordt students got a first hand taste of it as they almost couldn't leave Leon for our trip to Granada because of some anti-protest protestors (it's complicated) blocking the roads in and out of the city. The situation actually got much worse before it got better, but thankfully by then the students had made it out and were safe with us until the crisis was resolved--and they got back into Leon just fine later that night.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

la mesa de gracia

Esta semana en medio de una inundación de dudas y miedos, una y otra vez una sola imagen de gracia me está llegando como fuente de consuelo y esperanza que tanto necesito en estos días.

Es la imagen de la mesa a la cual Jesús invitó sus discípulos, donde compartió el pan y la copa. Es una mesa de gracia a la que Jesús me invita también…y no porque soy digna de estar allí, sino precisamente porque no la soy. Porque no hay otro Pan Eterno sino por El, el pan vivo, la fuente de agua viva, vida eterna—que sacia, que consuela, que sana y restaura. Las palabras de Apocalipsis vuelven a mi mente—“Mira que estoy a la puerta y llamo. Si alguno oye mi voz y abre la puerta, entraré, y cenaré con él, y él conmigo.”

Oigo este versículo en voz primera, un llamado personal del Salvador—abre la puerta de tu corazón, hija, al Amor que es más grande de tu pecado. Imagino una mesa pequeña dentro de mí, sencilla, con un plato de pan y un vaso humilde. Jesús y yo estamos sentados en el piso, y me está mirando al fondo de mis ojos, más allá de mi vergüenza. Observo en mi alrededor el espacio humilde donde estamos, en mi corazón traidor, infiel, dividido. Polvo y telaraña en todos lados, cubriendo la estantería donde las historias de Su fidelidad en mi vida están escritas. De repente estoy incomoda, consciente que El ve mucho mas allá de mis mecanismos de autoprotección.

Pero te abro la puerta, Jesús. Te invité a entrar, hacer de mi corazón Tu hogar, un rincón donde Tu Espíritu puede habitar. Te invité a entrar, no porque tengo ni la cosa más pequeña darte de comer, sino porque Te necesito desesperadamente llenar mis espacios vacios. Porque necesito desesperadamente que las imágenes de pecado y muerte que me persiguen y me condenan sean purificadas por Tu fuego santo.

Como candelas que eliminan todos los otros olores en un cuarto, que Tu Espíritu transforme mis huesos muertos en flores bellas, una ofrenda fragrante y aceptable en Tus ojos, O Señor.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

the dordt 7

They are Matt, Sarah, Leah, Ben, Melissa, Abi, and Sonya--and they have become a huge part of my life over the last several weeks. These 7 Dordt students are here in Nicaragua for the semester studying Nica history, politics, culture, development, and Spanish, among other things, through a partnership between the Nehemiah Center and Dordt. Several other Nehemiah Center staff are serving as faculty for the program, and I am involved as a teaching assistant for one class and weekly instructor for another (with the watchful oversight of my PhD holding boss!).

Every Monday these students come to Managua for 6 hours of class, and every Friday I go to Leon (where they live with host families) to meet with them to discuss such things as cultural values, poetry, music, adjusting to new customs, US-Nica relations, and much more. In between they take Spanish classes at a school in Leon and participate in service-learning activities.

They are a very adventurous and inquisitive group and I am really enjoying getting to know them and helping facilitate their learning experience here in this country I love so much!

si no fuera

Empecé a escribir en mi diario hoy como quisiera tener un corazón sin heridas, pero me di cuenta que realmente las heridas sirven por un Propósito mucho mas grande de lo que pueda imaginar—como dijo el autor Brennan Manning en una reflexión que leí en la mañana, “Dios es experto en hacer éxito del fracaso.”

Venia esta tarde, pues, la siguiente reflexión, inspirada por mi vida actual caminando con Jesús en un proceso sanador, y también por una reflexión recién hecha por Karla, alguien que ni conozco pero cuyas palabras me hablaron de manera personal.

Si no fuera por mis heridas,
no conociera el Sanador
Si no fuera por mi esclavitud,
no conociera la verdadera libertad
Si no fuera por mi soledad,
no conociera la plena comunión
Si no fuera por el silencio,
no conociera Su voz
Si no fuera por mis inquietudes,
no conociera la paz profunda
Si no fuera por mis pecados,
no apreciaría Su gracia sin límites
Si no fuera por mi fragilidad
no me pondría en Sus manos
ni dependiera de Su poder
Si no fuera por un rechazo doloroso,
no buscaría el Amor Eterno

He empezado a leer un nuevo libro, Camino a Casa (Nouwen), que me parece ser la consigna de mi vida por los meses próximos. Les dejo con una breve cita de ello que me llamó mucho la atención cuando la leía:
“¿Quiero que Jesús me vea? ¿Quiero que El me conozca? Recibiré nuevos ojos que puedan ver los misterios de la vida propia de Dios cuando yo permita que Dios me vea, aun esas partes que yo misma no quiero ver.”
Igual que Henri, oro al Señor esta noche: “O Dios, veme, y déjame ver.”

Saturday, September 20, 2008

diplomatic encounters

Last night I had the unusual opportunity to attend a townhall meeting (more like a welcome party, to be honest) at the U.S. Embassy here in Managua. The reason for the party? Well, there's a new ambassador in town named Robert Callahan, and it appears he was very interested in getting to know the ex-pat community here. So, I and 150 of my fellow citizens packed the new embassy for some short remarks by Callahan and some other embassy personnel on how we are all ambassadors, the importance of certain safety/security precautions, and to enjoy some free food and other goodies.

Callahan has a long history of diplomatic service all over the world, including stints in Italy, Iraq, and Honduras. And that's where the most interesting part of the story lies. You see, Callahan was the press attache to the U.S. ambassador to Honduras at the time of the Contra war against the Sandinista government in the 1980s. And Honduras was the site where the Contra troops trained and strategized (with the implicit and explicit approval of my government).

Of course, a welcome party is no time to ask your new ambassador whether he thinks his historical baggage will play any role in his ability to make good relationships with the Nicaraguan government (currently headed by the very man the U.S. funded Contras sought to undermine). (But it's certainly something being discussed in the press and in some ex-pat circles here.) So when I shook his hand and spoke with him briefly during the reception, I just asked him how Central America now compared to what he remembered from two decades ago. He answered with the vague diplomatic air I would expect from the State department--that poverty here appears to have increased, etc, etc, but the country is beautiful, etc etc.

I also spoke briefly with his wife, who seems like a lovely woman, genuinely interested in what I was doing here in Nicaragua, with all the graces one would expect of someone who has spent their life in the public eye.

There were countless other people at this event who I had never seen before--the ex-pat community in Nicaragua is quite large, ranging from retired people to NGO workers to missionaries (there were even some conservative Mennonites present in their traditional attire--I wish they had allowed cameras in so I could have taken pictures for you, A!).

It took quite a lot of emotional energy to enter into a social situation like this, so common in the States, and so removed from my daily life here. But I was glad to have as my companion a new friend Kirstin who is a Rotary ambassador (I'm sensing a theme here) with a heart of gold...she is also connected to some of the projects we are doing in the community of El Ojoche. Kirstin is based in Leon and came back into town with me after my class with the Dordt students--and spent the night at our house afterwards. She's only got a few weeks left in the country, but I am glad our paths crossed.

In the spirit of the evening of diplomatic encounters, my prayer tonight is for peace for the millions of people in our world living in places of violence, pain, struggle, or heartache. La paz de Cristo sea con todos que la necesiten.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

a song and a prayer

Back in 2000, when I studied "abroad" in Washington DC, I listened incessantly to the music of Jennifer Knapp. In sadness, loneliness, and despair, her lyrics spoke to the condition of my soul and gave me words to pray when I had none of my own.

Listening anew to "Martyrs and Thieves" this week, I am struck by way these same lyrics describe the myriad of thoughts and emotions that I have felt lately.

There are ghosts from my past who've owned more of my soul
Than I thought I had given away
They linger in closets and under my bed
And in pictures less proudly displayed
A great fool in my life I have been
Have squandered till pallid and thin
Hung my head in shame and refused to take blame
For the darkness I know I've let win

So turn on the light and reveal all the glory
I am not afraid
To bare all my weakness knowing in meekness
I have a kingdom to gain
Where there is peace and love in the light, in the light
Oh I am not afraid
To let Your light shine bright in my life, in my life

I wrote to someone tonight, someone who knows the depth of my darkness...to tell them that in the last week I have suddenly seen the sky clearing, the delicate light of "la madrugada" entering the most desolate spaces in my heart...and I dare to believe that there may yet be a new dawn.

O Lord, let me live in the light, as You are light. May my weakness be all the more reason to rely on your grace rather than my own strength. Grant me the gift of peace in the midst of turmoil, and a sense of Your abiding love in the midst of profound solitude.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Pronounced "wehwehtay"...it's the name of the beach I and 20-something other jovenes from my church descended upon yesterday, taking advantage of the Nica tradition of celebrating holidays at the beach...(historical note: September 14th and 15th are the days Nicaragua celebrates its independence from Spain and William Walker, in reverse order)

It was good to get out of the city and spend some time talking and playing together with my new friends. The kind of mental break I've really been needing in the midst of a very personally challenging time.

Muchachos, les quiero mucho!!

More pictures from the trip at this link.

Monday, September 15, 2008

buscando sentido

En las caras de amigos
veo una felicidad
hasta hora inalcanzable para mí

la felicidad que viene con una mano
para la jornada
un alma que habla a mi alma
palabras de aliento en el espíritu
el tocar, abrazar, besar
la creación de nueva vida

O Amor Invisible,
tanto busco Tu expresión, Tu llegada
en los ojos, en la voz, en el corazón, las manos
de los seres humanos

Amor mío,
tanto espero un día verte,
ver en tus ojos que soy la que esperaba
aun con todos mis defectos

Pero en estos momentos de soledad y tristeza,
Te pregunto si ¿me estas castigando?
¿Que es lo que tengo que aprender?
¿Sera que un día me sentiré perdonada y nueva?

O Dios Tu conoces mi corazón, mi fragilidad
Líbreme de mi pecado y mi maldad
Ayúdeme a reconocer Tu gracia
aun en medio de esta valle de huesos tan llena de muerte
Que vuelva conocerte
Que mis palabras y mis hechos vuelvan a ser agradables ante ti, Jesús.
Que la vida vuelva a tener sentido…

Saturday, September 13, 2008

noble sosten

One of the most beautiful songs I sang in Mexico at the conference I attended back in July was this one--Noble Sosten. It's all about how God is the one who maintains our hope, who sustains us in the struggle, who gives us peace. How when we are weak, He is there to hold us up, that we might not lose heart, that we might not fear death.

Every time I sing it, it brings tears to my eyes. How I need You in these hours, Lord. You seem far away, but You are still my only hope.

Noble sosten de la esperanza mia
Fuerte bendita de vida eterna
Tan solo el alma, que en Tus fuerzas fia
//Tiene paz//

//Mi sosten es Jesus
Nunca en la lucha desmayar podre//

Dura es la lucha, dificil la tarea
Mas Tu me dotas, de Tu gran poder
Mi espiritu renuevas, con la idea nueva
//De vencer//

Yo soy muy debil, pero en Ti soy fuerte
Nunca en las luchas desmayar podre
Si Tu estas conmigo ni a la misma muerte

Thursday, September 11, 2008

the other september 11th

First let me say I join all my fellow citizens in mourning the losses caused by the attacks on my country seven years ago today--and all the losses that have occurred since too.

Living in Latin America, however, I have learned that this date has a whole other significance which I was completely ignorant of until a few months ago. Remembering that "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere", I would like to share with you a little about the other September 11th, one that is remember far to the south and all over Latin America. And remembered quite differently than perhaps US history teaches us.

It was 1973. A failed coup had already been attempted once on the President of Chile at that time, Salvador Allende. Soon afterward the national assembly condemned President Allende's alleged unconstitutional activity. Allende was a socialist and suspected communist sympathizer. With an eye on potential Russian interference in the hemisphere, the US backed the opposition to Allende's unity government, and on September 11th, he was removed by military coup, setting up Augusto Pinochet's reign of terror. Pinochet set up a military dictatorship that would last until 1990.

Chili's story is similar to Nicaragua's. Both bear the scars of US interventions that led to violent dictatorships lasting multiple decades. Dictatorships that killed off their opposition, destroyed national resources, stole from the people, and even imprisoned artists. One Chilean artist killed in the aftermath of Pinochet's takeover was Victor Jara, a beloved writer and poet who had been active in Allende's campaign. Jara was murdered 5 days after the coup. He was just 38.

Perhaps it is irreverent and even un-patriotic to point out the failures of US foreign policy on so solemn an occasion as today. However, I have always believed that love for one's country should not make one blind to its faults. I believe my country can be much better than it has been in its relationship not only with Latin America, but with the entire world--and it is out of a great love and hope for the United States' capacity to rise from the ashes (as it did in the weeks following 9/11) and make good on its promise that I share this story from the heart of Central America tonight.


Monday, September 08, 2008

my crazy friend miguel, and other weekend tales

Miguel is one of the fun new friends I have made at my new church. The group of jovenes (youth) ranges from 20ish to 30ish, so it makes for quite the bunch. Students, working professionals, and everything in between. Musicians, environmental activists, NGO program coordinators, accountants, architects...well, you get the idea. Last night was the weekly Sunday gathering, and Miguel was in a "I wanna look like a gangsta funk", thus the look.

This is one of the busiest weekends I have had lately--I saw two movies (21 and Elizabeth), went to my new Saturday morning Latin dance class (2 hours of hard core salsa, samba, merengue, bachata, cha-cha, and reggaeton--and no partner needed--and lots of different skill levels--definitely my kind of place), cooked a spaghetti dinner with some other North American friends (and one European!), traveled to Leon to document a youth leadership training, met a blood transfusion expert on the way home who made me jealous with all her tales of life in Europe where she had studied, read up on folk religion for the Dordt class this morning, and went to church. [Insert deep breath here.]

Hopefully I won't crash on Wednesday.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

"if I could just get to the States"

I can't tell you how many times I have heard that phrase or some version of it from taxi drivers and other random people I have met around Nicaragua. There is a widespread sense that life is never going to be any better here, that economic opportunity is completely out of reach for the majority of the population, and that the only real hope lies in securing a visa or other means of leaving the country.

Every morning on my bus ride to work I pass the U.S. Embassy, where already at 7:30am there is a line of people waiting to be seen, hoping to be granted a chance at the "American dream". Then there are the thousands of others who chose the southern route, taking seasonal or domestic work in Costa Rica. The CR visa is a little easier to come by, but Nicas are scarcely welcome--relegated to the most undesirable jobs and paid pitiful wages while living in conditions that are sometimes worse than where they lived here.

I'm thinking about all of this today, because a new survey just came out in the press today that says that 70% of the population wants to leave the country!! 70%!!!! Think about that--can you even imagine if 70% of the USA's citizens were that unhappy that they wanted to leave their country? (Just last May the percentage of Nicas who wanted to leave was 45%). The majority of people surveyed said they wanted to leave to find a job or to improve their economic situation.

What that tells you is that the economy here is truly getting worse--work is harder to come by than ever, and prices show no signs of falling--and people are feeling increasingly helpless. (It would be a lot worse too if it weren't for the average annual remittances of USD$1000 to 1/5 of the families here.)

I feel helpless too--but of course for different reasons--being here all of this time and seeing so many things not only not change but actually get worse--it's beyond depressing. It's heartbreaking. The macro level changes needed for this country's socio-economic conditions to improve are so immense and complicated I can't even begin to imagine.

I think that's why somewhere along the way I decided that whatever career I chose, I would have to work at the local level--otherwise I would be completely overwhelmed all the time.

Today is a day where I feel overwhelmed.

Monday, September 01, 2008

an old, new foto

From this past February when I was translating for the St. Raphael's team. We just got a disk of photos from one of the team members. Isn't this woman adorable????!!!!

in need of a shepherd

Recently I discovered that a Guatamalan friend, a Salvadorian friend. and I have something in common—something besides all being women. We are all having a really difficult time fitting in within our respective church homes here in Nicaragua.

All this time I thought it was just my problem—but I think it’s one of the barely mentioned secrets of missionary life that being seen as just another member of the host culture church you plant yourself in is a serious uphill battle.

For my first two years, I attended a large evangelical church here in Managua, a church where the worship and preaching are very dynamic. Yet week after week, I was greeted by strangers who did not even ask me my name, never mind invite me into any other aspect of the life of the church. Repeated efforts to join small groups or get connected in some way yielded little response. I don’t know how the other missionaries attending this church felt, but I began to feel completely isolated and alone.

Having come from a church in San Antonio where I knew all the other young adults by name, regularly had deep conversations with various generations within the congregation, and considered my pastor my friend, this was really hard on my spirit. I confess, for a while I stopped going to church altogether. I was completely disillusioned.

Finally, several months ago, I started going to another church, a more traditional denomination with wood benches in place of folding chairs, a printed order of worship, and piano/choir led singing instead of a band. The choir’s voices are beautiful and help me meet with God in a different way than the exuberance of my former church. The pastor (who I’ve actually talked to and remembers who I am) is thoughtful in his preaching, but not emotional. And that’s more than okay. This church has something else, too. A group of jovenes (youth) in their 20s that meets every Sunday night, where I’ve started to make some new friends. Instead of “hermana”, there I am Pamela. And that’s a great feeling.

Still, it’s hard to overcome the constant sense of being an outsider. I’d been in the same church back home so long (8 years—yikes) that I think I’ve completely forgotten what it’s like to be new and have to start over. Everyone else has a history, a web of relationships and inside jokes, and family connections that tie them together. I am the new girl. And while I am interesting because I am a gringa, I’m not in anyone’s confianza (trust circle) yet. While I am accepted and greeted with hugs and smiles, I don’t yet have the confidence to share my deepest hurts and needs with even the closest of these new friends.

Even more than a circle of friends, I think what I miss the most is having a pastor. Perhaps, as my Guatamalan friend remarked to me, it’s because the Nicas don’t think a missionary needs a pastor. That others are far more needy than someone like me. But the truth is that lately I feel a lot like a lost sheep. And I’ve rarely needed a pastoral conversation , a trustworthy soul, more than right now.

And the nearest one is thousands of miles away.