Wednesday, January 28, 2009

lo dichoso

"Dichoso soy más que el árbol
(More blessed am I than a tree)

Porque este es apenas sensitivo,
(For it's barely sensitive)

Y más que la piedra dura, por que esta ya no siente
(And more than the hard stone, for it already does not feel)

Pues lo mas grande de ser vivo
(For the greatest part of being alive),

es que el dolor, no me quita lo vivo
(is that pain does not take away my life).

Y el mayor agrado es tener una vida consiente
(and the highest pleasure is a conscience-filled life);

Ser y saber quien soy
(to be and to know who I am),

por que existo y cual es mi propósito
(why I exist and what my purpose is)

Y la satisfacción de haber sido y un futuro seguro
(and the satisfaction of having been, and a secure future)

Y el sentimiento tranquilo pese a estar mañana muerto
(and a peaceful feeling despite being dead tomorrow)

Y disfrutar la vida, y su amanecer y lo que conozco
(and to enjoy life and its waking and what I know)

Y en lo que creo
(and in what I believe)

Y la vida que ofrece sus frescos racimos
(and life which offers its fresh clusters)

Y la tumba que aguarda hasta el día que vaya a mi breve descanso
(and the grave that waits for the day that I go to my brief rest).

Y saber a donde voy, y de quien vengo.
(and to know where I am going and from whom I come)"

-Ruben Dario, Nicaragua's most famous poet

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

a bottle's tale

there once was a bottle named nalgene
who left managua one evening full and clean
on a journey across the forest green land
to serve with a small but energetic band

over bridges and rivers and many a hill
in the pitch black of night where all was so still
until finally the destination came into view
and bottle, like all, uttered a "whew!"

after a midmorning nap and a tasty lunch
it was off to paint for the motivated bunch
and the bottle changed hands many a time
growing increasing spotty with paint and grime

but this did not matter to the thirsty crowd
"where is it now," they wondered aloud
for the sun grew strong and the work more intense
conversations fell quiet and muscles grew tense

even so their spirits and joy were sustained
by daily gallo pinto and choral refrains
and the laughter and joking filled the coastal air
while with the paint they took not quite so much care

adorning their faces with shapes of all kinds
the banter was fierce and quick were their minds
and with paint covered hands they sought the bottle still
to quench their thirst and avoid falling ill

in the cool of the evening the nalgene had a wee bit of rest
for the group would sing songs and share prayer requests
by the light of their cell phones the scriptures together they read
and after a brief time of fellowship it was off to bed

by the end of the week the bottle's color had changed
from a dark musky green to spotted white and light orange
the many hands that had held it leaving evidence behind
that the days of work and play and growth were of a special kind

for the bottle held stories of sweat and smiles
of ladders climbed and traveled miles
of prayers spoken, bonds formed, and sweaters shared
of accidents, sickness, healing, and loving care

yet the nalgene's tale ends on a bittersweet note
for after a trip down the river on a motor boat
in the rush to get into town it was left all alone
"oh no, it's gone", her owner cried with a moan

but thankfully the memories live on in her photos and in her soul
back in managua, with her smile rich and her heart full

-pjn 1/27/09

Album here:

Sunday, January 18, 2009

to Kukra hill

Tonight I'm going on a journey I have never been on: a 5-6 hour bus ride across central Nicaragua to El Rama, where the highway ends. From there, I'll take a truck on roads barely passable another unknown quantity of hours to a community called Kukra Hill, just west of Bluefields (located on the Atlantic Ocean) in the RAAS (the Southern Atlantic Autonomous Region of Nicaragua).

Why? Kukra Hill is the site of a recent Baptist Church plant which I and 11 of my fellow jovenes from the First Baptist Church of Managua are going to support through painting/construction projects and outreach for the next 5 days, sharing the love of Christ in an integrated way with the people of this semi-rural community.

Unlike some areas of the Atlantic Coast where creolle English or Miskito (an indigenous language) is spoken, Spanish is the predominant language here. Most of the population is non-practicing (cultural) Catholic. Some people have animals. Most people live off the land, growing rice, beans, corn and plantains.

This will be my first time east of Matagalpa--and my first time to participate in a bi-cultural "mission trip" where Nicaraguans go to serve their fellow Nicaraguans. It will no doubt be an amazing learning experience, and I promise to share my stories and photos from the trip in this space when I return this coming Saturday.

Finally, since I will be away from internet in the meantime, I offer you this quote from a poem I recently read that fits with the events in my country this week, as well the one I currently call home.

"in the face of the intolerable
this is the time to insist
the time to become whole
and give back what you’ve learned in wholeness
eyelid of light
a disciplined gift of pure grace
for anyone who can breathe and for those
whose breath was stolen or just left them" -Kathy Engel, "Inaugural"


Thursday, January 15, 2009

recent days in photos

Tuesday I was in Chinandega visiting a new community and gathering information for a report. Hopefully we will be starting a new Child Development Program there this spring. These are some the kids who followed me around as I accompanied the FH team who was also in the area doing home visits. They won my heart with their smiles and carefree love...

Over the weekend I attended the annual leadership formation "campamento" of CECNIC, the Nicaraguan version of IVCF. Above is the familia Mendoza (from L to R: Carlos, Julio, Josue, Aura, Yaoska--all brothers and sisters), special friends of mine from church who also have a history of involvement with the Christian college student movement here. They delighted their fellow students and recent graduates with rendition of popular protest music from Violeta Parra (Chile) during la noche cultural Saturday.

Me and Denisse, one of the students at the campamento who I also went to Mexico with this past July for a regional conference.

The campamento was held on the southern outskirts of Managua at a place called Villa Esperanza, which is actually a home for girls who are trying to make a better life for themselves than what's possible in La Chureca (the Managua dump). This is the view from the hill on the property. In the background is the "Loma de Nejapa", which I see every day on my way to and from the office.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

the return of the butterflies

In His time and in His love
even the deepest wound finds
a balm that soothes
even the darkest cave finds
a flame that illuminates
even the coldest night finds
a hearth that warms
even the most parched throat finds
a fountain of living water…
and even the loneliest soul
finds a kindred spirit who loves without condition.-pjn

In 2008, I was that woman who had been deeply wounded, who lived in dark caves, who despaired in cold nights of the soul, who longed for water in a dry and weary land. Who waited for love.

Looking back, I can clearly divide this past year into two parts—before and after my trip to Mexico in July. The first 6 months of 2008 were probably the hardest of my entire life….for various reasons that included a relationship-gone-bad, extreme homesickness, and the sensation of great distance from the Lord. During that time, I truly despaired of ever coming out of my emotional and spiritual valley.

But God is good and He knows what we need before we even know how to ask for it. When I went to Mexico with the Nica college students from CECNIC for a leadership formation conference, I wasn’t expecting a miracle—I was just hoping for a little encouragement. But what I got was so much more. While I was there, God broke through the layers of the dark cocoon where I had been hiding in my pain, and the seed of a friendship was planted that would help me decisively turn a corner in September and October in my relationship with Christ.

At the same time, I began to attend a new church where I made some new friends, a few of whom have become extremely close to me over the last 3 months. Healing has come in the form of relational vulnerability, the renewed sensation of belonging, and some tender brotherly love. My roomie told me last week that she could see that my joy has returned, and indeed it has. The process is not over yet, I know, but as 2009 begins, I feel the veracity of Paul’s words in my soul: “the old is gone, the new has come.”

Aleluia, the cocoon is gone, and the time of butterflies has come.

Happy New Year!

Friday, January 02, 2009

adventures with meara

This past week while both my roommates were back in North America, I had the amazing blessing of a visit from my dear friend Meara from Dec. 26th til Jan 1st. We had many fun adventures, including a trip to two different volcanoes (Mombacho and Masaya), a visit to a community where FH works and to the house of a Nehemiah Center co-worker and family, a trek to the beach, a close call with some street fireworks, nd much, much more. A few photos are below; check out the full album here.