Exiting Expectations

This is it. The last time I will write to you from my bottom bunk at the team house from the Orfanato Verbo in Veracruz, Nicaragua for 2009. We are all packed and awaiting our departure for the airport. We’ve said goodbye…and now we are coming home.

Its funny how we say we have no expectations but yet, when its all said and done, we realize we did because they weren’t met. In some ways, for some of us, that may have been the case today. We all had mapped out our exit strategy, how the goodbyes would play out and what it feel like. We learned today that it doesn’t always end the way we expect it to.

We enjoyed a little sleep in this morning because Sunday school at the church we are connected to starts at 10 o’clock. The girls were so excited to get up and get dolled up for church. We were excited to see our church friends again…to sing with them and play with them and hand out backpacks and other items to them. We had an extra excitement in our step as we loaded the van for the church. But, that quickly changed. Because when we got to the church, no one was there. It was locked up. The gate was just barely open. The doors were still locked and barred. Sometimes church starts late…but so late? We were so unsure of what was going on. Disappointment spread throughout us. We had invited so many kids from the community to come to Sunday school. Did they just cancel church?

Yes, yes they did. We drove down the road to find Shirley at a Pulperia. We asked her what was going on and she made a phone call to the pastor that provided all the answers we needed. You see, when we were in church on Saturday night, there was another Caucasian couple there. They were much older and the pastor welcomed them and said they were part of a “crusade” from the other side of Nicaragua. They were missionaries. Little did we know those same missionaries were planning a “door to door visit” morning the next morning and that, because of that, church would be cancelled. We were devastated by the news. There was no way to salvage it at all. Instead of getting that one last hug with our favourite little friends or singing that one last song or taking that one last photo…we got no closure. We drove away feeling like there were kids we may never see again and we just didn’t get to say goodbye to. It was a little tough to chew on.

We headed to the work site to take a team picture and see if some of our friends from there were around so we could hand out some of the back packs that we didn’t get to the day before. We had fun snapping pictures and playing with these children which have become like our little brothers and sisters for the last time. It seemed the disappointment from church’s cancellation was wearing off.

After our last team lunch at Shirley’s we split up. The girls went back to the house we had built so we could decorate it for the evening’s celebration. The boys headed over to Hector’s house, the house we built last year, for a chance to play with Hector and his friends one last time. Us girls had fun decorating with Shirley, blowing up balloons and tying up crepe paper. Shirley was excited for the celebration later tonight to dedicate the house. The boys enjoyed playing soccer with Hector and his friends. Those boys have such a strong connection with the teams who come down with us that its hard to deny how wonderful they are.

We were fortunate to be able to spend a good amount of time with the community kids as well as at the orphanage on our last day. The kids get bussed into Managua for church and sometimes, afterwards, some of the kids go to the houses of others in the church for the evening. As we approached the orphanage in our van, there were not many kids playing outside. It seemed that some of our friends wouldn’t be there. We felt a little disappointed as we looked for some of our kids who weren’t around but then tried to spend the time we had enjoying our time with the kids who were there. The boys played outside and the girls spent time dancing in the dorm or braiding hair outside. It seems like our whole team has adopted a few little friends…ones whose faces light up when they see us or who call our names or come running just to us. It’s like they have claimed us. And we are happy to be claimed. Curtis spent time playing guitar for his little friend Panchito. Kirk hoisted little Richard up onto his shoulders and carried him around all day. Angelo showed Braden his favourite spot to go when he wanted to be alone. It was our last chance to connect with them. We were unsure if they realized that we were about to leave and be gone for the very last time…so instead of dwelling, we just played. We loved them with every last bit of energy we had. We didn’t have to say goodbye just yet…we would be able to sneak into the dorms after our celebration service tonight and say our last goodbye.

Walking back to the team house as the sun was setting on our last day was so humbling. God blessed us with smiles and memories of things that have changed us forever. As a chance to commemorate this time together, we shared our last supper together at the team house. Our tables sit underneath a roof but there are no walls around us, allowing the sounds of the jungle and the light from the sunset to soak into our scene. We cherished it as our final meal together as a family here in Nicaragua.

Once supper was done we headed off to the house for the celebration. I had the distinct pleasure of wearing a very brightly coloured Nicaraguan dress that Mama Shirley had gotten as a wedding gift for me. At first I was a little self conscious, the team bugging me that I was in a moo-moo…but when I saw the absolute joy it brought Shirley to see me in her country’s beautiful clothes…it made it all worth it. It reminded me that one thing this place teaches us to is to let go. To look out and see what we can do for others and care not about what we ourselves are fearful of. To love with no boundaries.

The house celebration was a party! There were balloons, streamers, and a yard full of little red plastic chairs. People from the community and the church filled those chairs with warm smiles and handshakes. The church had set up its sound system and keyboard and a few microphones and it was turned up so the neighbours couldn’t ignore that we were praising God there tonight. We sang and worshipped together and a brother from the church gave a message. Our team got up and sang Open the Eyes of my Heart in English and Spanish and then sang another special song that we had practiced for them that just declares how wonderful our God is. It seemed perfect to share the gift of song with them…because we know it means so much to them. And to see them respond with such love.

The woman and her family that we gave the house to were so elated. Orlando, her son in the wheel chair, sat at the side with a smile on his face, excited to make his new home. Sbietta, her daughter, wore a plastic crown…smiling all night long. I don’t think she would have needed that crown for us to treat us like the princess she is. She danced with us and smiled with us and held Jaclyn’s hand all night long. At the end of the service, their family wanted to give us all presents to show their gratitude. We all got a little wooden box, a keychain, and a glass bottle of coke, as a memento of our time there. Such tiny gifts, but what they meant to us was larger than even we could know.

In what seemed like a moment proclaiming the sovereignty and goodness of God, we cut the ribbon to the house and opened the door with the key. This was it…the house was theirs. Everyone rushed inside and danced and took photos and sang along with the loud worship music in the background. It was such a time of celebration…what a great house party! It was the perfect way to end our time there.

It seemed to soon when Corwin said we had to say goodbye. It was hard to hold the tears back when we were looking into the faces of those little ones, who had become our family, and say goodbye, knowing full well we may never see them again. We had shared so much with them. They are forever imprinted on our hearts and we will surely never forget them. We so said goodbye, we held them and told them we loved them, and then we got in the van and drove away. On our way home we dropped Juan off at his house, presenting him with payment for his work and a love offering the kids had gotten together of all their extra cordobas, to give him a little more help. We parted ways and headed back to the orphanage.

As we drove up, an unsettling feeling entered some of our stomachs as we saw that the lights were dark and there were no kids outside. It was only 15 minutes earlier than we usually stayed there…but it seemed that that may have been enough for them to hussle off to bed. Corwin popped his head into the boy’s dorm and saw they were still awake. With hope, us girls ran to the girls dorm…hoping for the same outcome. But, to our disappointment, no such luck. We knocked on the door til some one awoke to unlock it. We stumbled in the dark, trying to find the beds of the girls we loved so much. We found two, and only one successfully woke up. We tried to tell her we were leaving…but she didn’t understand and just said goodbye and told us to have a good sleep. The girls left the dorm feeling sad. I went back to Soche’s bed and woke her again. She told me good night, again, and I looked at her and, in my very broken Spanish. Told her we are going back to Canada and the team wouldn’t be back. Her eyes shifted. She got it. She sat up in her bed and blinked at me. She suddenly threw her arms around my neck and told me she’d love me forever. I returned the love, held her and kissed her cheek, and tucked her back into bed.

And that was that. Goodbye, for the most part, was said. Not in the ways we would have liked…but it couldn’t be corrected now. It was what it was.

Our team meeting tonight was quiet and somber. We shared our thoughts from the day…speaking with emotion and sadness and a sense of awareness of our departure. Some shared of their frustrations from the day’s events…the people we didn’t get to see or share one last moment with. Some of us just spoke of frustration with hope…and not knowing how to believe that these kids can actually have it. Some tried to rap their minds around the possibility of never seeing some of these people again. Some just spoke of our fond memories, the time we had here, how we and only we have shared it together, and how on earth we are gonna come home and help you see all that God has done. One last time we prayed together, huddled up, and gave God the glory for all He has done.

It is thrilling to see the way God unites those who love Him. It’s inspiring to know that we can be filled with love even when our own ability to love fails. We have been exposed to living a God-infused life and I don’t think we’ll ever be able to forget that. We have learned to love people we have just met and can hardly communicate with. And we have grown to love and sacrifice for one another. We have become a family, with each other and the people in this community, and nothing here on earth will ever separate that.

We have spent the last few hours extending our last bit of Nicaragua. Sleep has escaped us and a carafe of hot coffee has been our companion. We have sat in our rocking chairs and laughed together. We sorted through our thoroughly messy rooms to find our things, potentially marked with perma-dirt, and pack them into our bags. We’ve thrown crickets at Cloe till she almost pees her pants and we’ve run off into the jungle with our new machetes and chopped branches and mangoes (with Kirk at the helm, of course). We’ve played UNO with Wilber and stretched out in our hammock. We’ve taken one last cold shower. We’ve done as much as we can to be a part of this place to the last very moment. Its all we can do to make it last a little bit longer.

And now here we are, about to leave for the airport, and transport into what, right now, seems like another dimension. For some our transition will be easy and simple, for others…another culture shock waiting to happen. Whatever it holds for us, we’re in it together, and that’s all we need to know right now.

Thank you for walking with us. Your comments on the blog have been ones of inspiration and strength and encouragement. It is amazing to know you are following with us and trying to make sense of this journey we’re on. Its comforting to know that many of you will know the names of the faces that are ever imprinted on our hearts and that when we speak them, you will understand.

Please join with us in prayer as we make our way home. Pray for health and rest and safety. Pray for Corwin, as he leaves his son, and pray that God keeps fresh in our hearts the lessons we’ve learned here.

We’ll write again from LA…24 hrs from home.

The Team
Corwin ThiessenComment