The time for our departure from the beautiful country of Nicaragua and all of our friends there had arrived, but not before one more significant celebration. This was Christmas Party day at Oasis de Esperanza school, and the last big event of the school year before graduation, takes place this coming weekend. All of the kids return to school on this day for a specially-prepared meal and receiving of gifts!

When our van arrived, the elementary kids were just beginning to gather for a major assembly in the cafetorium, many of them decked out in red elves’ hats. Their excitement was palpable as they knew what was coming! After some brief opening remarks by Alvaro, several of the classes sang Christmas songs, and some of the students recited Bible verses. A silly race was played, and then the kids were dismissed to their classrooms.

Once back in their classrooms and with their teachers in attendance, it was time for our team to spring into action with helping to distribute gifts, candy, and meals! Marcia and Caron helped hand out the excellent chicken meal prepared by the kitchen staff, and Todd and Lyn got to play Santa and Santa’s helper.This was especially appropriate for Todd, sporting a new white beard. The kids were great, and many expressed thanks and gave hugs for what they received. In the sweltering 90 degree heat it may not have felt like Christmas, but the Christmas spirit was certainly there.

When the elementary kids were dismissed, we had a brief break in which we and the staff were able to sit down and eat, and then shortly after the upper grades appeared. This group was smaller than the 250 elementary aged kids, perhaps numbering about 150. They, too, had a few musical numbers and then the school’s Vida Joven leaders gave an effective pitch for Young Life., The surprise of this assembly, however, was the presentation of a special gift to Wayne and Elaine. A large wrapped cylinder was brought in and placed at their feet, which was revealed to be a red carpet, and was unrolled before them. Other than the obvious honor to them (especially significant on this their 37th wedding anniversary), the carpet will be used in the future for other school functions, such as graduations. Wayne and Elaine were both obviously touched, and Wayne expressed a few words of heartfelt thanks and a sharing of the Gospel.

When the older kids were dismissed to their classes, they, too, were served the meal and age-appropriate gifts such as watches and diaries were handed out. The party broke up at about 3:00, and the kids filtered out the gate, leaving mostly the staff and our team alone in what now felt like a very empty space. What life-changing events had occurred over many years within the walls of Oasis de Esperanza! Kids have received love and nurture here, been fed nutritious meals, have experienced the fulfillment of performing to their family and community, have graduated with a solid Christian education, and have come to faith in Jesus.

As we bid “hasta proxima año” (until next year) to our friends, none of us could doubt that the impact of the school extended beyond the students, and into the lives of those who, like ourselves, visited even for a short while. Dios te bendiga, Oasis de Esperanza!

Our flight for Florida leaves at 2:30 AM, in about four hours. We are scheduled to arrive in snowy Denver at 12:45 tomorrow afternoon and then drive back to Lake City. Prayers appreciated! It has been an encouraging trip, both for us and for our friends here. Thanks for participating with us.

 Making a living in Managua.

 Legendary traffic on the way to the school.

 Our lifeline in Acahualinca Barrio for water, Gatorade, and all sorts of exotic snacks!

 The kids gather for the Christmas assembly.

 Brian and friend.

 Wayne and Elaine get the red carpet treatment.

 Caron helped serve meals in the classrooms.

 Todd, aka Santa Claus.

 The smile says it all.

 Wayne handling a full tray of meals.

 Gerald and friends.

 Sarah, Jedidah’s daughter, who graduated a couple of years ago.

 Juan Carlos, 10th-grader friend of Karen and Hailey, and Lyn.

 We could not have done any of this without our translator Jhonny Flores. Thanks, Jhonny, for all of your hard work!

 The team receives a farewell prayer from Alvaro.