The Grace Blog
On this day, Sunday, we bid farewell to new friends in a new place in the cool mountains of Nicaragua and returned to much warmer Managua in the lowlands. La Finca camp was a wonderful, quiet place to wake up in, but most of us skipped the cold shower to start the day! After a hearty breakfast of gallo pinto and eggs, we were ready for a bit of work detail.
Our physical task, along with about 10 Vida Joven leaders, was to dig out several inches of gravel adjoining the soccer field, so topsoil could be added and grass planted. In reality, a backhoe could have accomplished the task in a few minutes, but with plenty of strong volunteers, shovels and buckets available, why not utilize them instead? With about 15 persons on the job, camaraderie was high, and the task went well with everyone finding their niche with either pickaxe, shovel or bucket.
As the work wound down, we took a break and heard the life story of Narciso, Managua Area Director for Vida Joven who put together this particular retreat for his leaders. He has an amazing story, transformed from being a gang member in Managua to becoming a follower of Jesus at age 17. And it was at the very place we were, La Finca, that he heard and received the Gospel 23 years ago. And not only he, but rival gang members as well. And eventually Niarciso’s once-abusive father received salvation , too. We all agreed that his testimony was a a highiight of the weekend.
Our team also enjoyed an introduction to the coffee-raising part of La Finca from the farm manager, William. We learned that prime harvest season for the coffee beans grown here is from December through March, with each bush producing about a pound of beans. The work that goes into growing and roasting coffee was interesting, but William stressed that Vida Joven was not really in the coffee business, but in the people business, employing about 60 pickers at 125% of the going wage, and then the proceeds ultimately going to support sending Nicaraguan kids to camp, where they will be introduced to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
After lunch, we learned about the history of Young Life in Nicaragua, started only in 1988, but now has established about 100 Vida Joven Clubs in many Nicaraguan citites, and then we gathered in the coffee shop for a closing session. Several shared what the weekend had meant to them, and our team was prayed for by everyone else. Then hugs and goodbyes were shared, and it was back on the bus for the 2.5-hour trip to Managua!
In the evening, as our team processed the weekend together beside the hotel’s swimming pool, we all agreed that we felt we had received much more than we had given. Yes, we had provided the funds for the retreat to happen, but in return we received something beyond any dollar figure: the value of greater vision and caring relationships.
Monday morning it will back to Oasis de Esperanza as we assist with preparations with the school’s year end party for all of the students. Thanks for your prayers, we have really sensed them and are all doing well!
Misty early morning at La Finca.
La Finca breakfast with Jhonny, Marcia, Alvaro and his son Marcos, Caron, Nate, and Elsa.
The flowers at La Finca were spectacular.
La Finca work crew: Alvaro, Marcia and their supervisors!
Jhonny, Marcia, and Caron listen to William explain the intricacies of growing the best coffee in the world.
Marcia shared a testimony of how much her heart had been encouraged by the devoted Vida Joven leaders.
Some of us played volleyball with few rules, but lots of laughter!
Todd bids farewell to Justo.
Goodbye, La Finca, hope to see you again!
Nicaraguan mountain scenery on the way back to Managua.
Our evening was spent debriefing alongside the hotel pool, back in Managua. It really was as pleasant as it looks!
In a departure from what our team has done in past years, today we ventured into Nicaragua’s “high country” to visit Young Life’s national camp, called La Finca (The Farm). We were privileged to travel with a select group of Young Life leaders from Managua, several of which were former Oasis de Esperanza students and who still work with Young Life (Vida Joven) that meets at the school. We were also joined by three Oasis teachers, Nate, Carlos, and Alvaro, to strengthen the ties between the school and Young Life.
We all piled into the same bus and headed north past Lake Managua and into the hills to the north. The mountains here reach to 4000 to 5000 feet and grew greener and more spectacular the closer we got to La Finca. Our team and the YL leaders (about 20 in all) were in a jovial mood and much laughter prevailed on the 3-hour trip, some of which was up extremely steep hills. This is the heart of Nicaragua’s coffee region, and coffee plantations and processing facilities were present in abundance.
Departing from the bus, our group was greeted with refreshingly cool air and misty skies. The cloud forest in Nicaragua is a perpetual respite from the heat of the lowlands. Many of the Managuans were chilly, but it felt great to us from Lake City! The La Finca grounds can only be called spectacular. Everything is beautifully groomed, and of course, flowers bloom year-round. In this park-like setting are tremendous facilities for visiting campers. Included is a baseball field, soccer field, basketball court, and a lake for canoeing. Multiple buildings dot the camp, which can serve about 400 persons. A large group was there for the day when we arrived, and the numbers of people milling about made it feel very much like a college campus.
After unloading our gear in our dorm rooms, we headed to a filling lunch and then hiked as a group on one of the camp’s trails, ending at a hedge labyrinth in which we all contemplated the question of the one thing we most needed from God. It was a good exercise, and a lovely place for such contemplations.
The remainder of the afternoon was “chill time” for most of us, and we all enjoyed conversation or just soaking in the coolness and the greenery of the place. After dinner, we experienced a Vida Joven Club, similar in format to the Club we visited at Oasis de Esperanza the previous night. After some silly icebreaking actiivities, Todd spoke to the group of leaders, with Jhonny translating, on the importance of allowing ourselves to be loved by God instead of merely working “for” Him. Some great discussion ensued in groups of three persons, and then we retired to what we thought was the end of the day with Spanish praise songs around a bonfire.
The surprise, though, was a surprise! After the bonfire, the whole gang completely surprised Todd with a party celebrating his 30 years of service with Young Life. There was music, cake, soda, and even a pinata! It was a perfect way to close this day in fine Young Life fashion. Thanks, Todd, for all that you have done in Young Life and on this trip!
We’re spending tonight here and half a day tomorrow, when we will get back on the bus to Managua. Our trip is one-half over, but plenty of adventure is yet to come!
How many Vida Joven leaders plus our team can you put in a bus? A bunch!
The countryside turns beautiful not far out of Managua.
At about 4000 feet in elevation, La Finca camp is always cool and meticulously kept up.
On the trail at La Finca. Elsa, Marcia, and Caron.
Coffee lovers will appreciate that La Finca grows its own coffee beans! Apparently these beans are ripe.
Marcia and Lyn having a hard afternoon.
Nate and Todd spent time with the head of Vida Joven over all of Nicargua.
Nate, Luisa, and Alvaro.
Caron and Marcia enjoy the view as the sun sets.
Todd spoke and Jhonny translated at the evening meeting. Little did Todd know what would come shortly!
A bonfire and praise songs ended the day until…..
we all surprised Todd with his 30th YL anniversary party! Well done, Todd.
Whack that thing, Todd!
Wow, what a celebratory, activity-filled day this was! Our goal was to treat the hardworking staff of Oasis de Esperanza school to a refreshing “play day” to mark the end of their school year, and we believe that we succeeded! These dedicated people serve day after day among the children of some of the poorest people in the Western hemisphere, and deserve acknowledgement, care, and rest.
Our team van met up with a small “Coaster” bus that had already picked up the school staff, and we were off at about 9:00 AM. Our destination was the area of Granada, about an hour south of Managua. After many miles through the country, we turned off of the main road an began a steady climb. Before long, we were winding through the lovely mountain village of Catarina, which is famous for its flowers. And indeed, potted plant sellers lined the road for what seemed like a couple of miles! It was like driving through the world’s largest nursery, with all kinds of plants available.
But what Catarina is best known for is its dramatic view, which suddenly opens up at the far end of the town.Here, hundreds of feet below, is a large lake called the Apoyo Lagoon. If you have seen Crater Lake in Oregon, you get the idea. The Apoyo Lagoon lies in an extinct volcano crater, or caldera.Its shores are heavily forested and the view extends beyond to Lake Nicaragua, the city of Granada and Mombacho Volcano. Of course, we took plenty of photos before we moved on, but the view here could keep you captivated for hours
A few miles farther, we came to our next attraction, the Mirravallle Canopy Tour, a fancy name for a multiple-leg zipline. Not all of the staff elected to do the zipline but all or our team did. After climbing up an incredibly steep road in an army-style open-air transport and then some basic instruction, we were off! Lots of screams and laughter echoed through the forest, which may have frightened off any howler monkeys that were supposed to inhabit the area. After completing our 11 segments from tree to tree, we were more than ready for a meal, so we headed on down to the historic town of Granada.
Granada was founded in the 1500s by the Spanish and still retains a colonial feeling with blocks and blocks of colorfully-painted residences and cathedrals that are are more reminiscent of the Old World than the New. Our destination was the less-historic Kathy’s Waffle House, Wayne MaGouirk’s favorite restaurant in Nicaragua. Having received a call from us earlier, Kathy’s had a long outdoor table for 34 ready when we arrived! Before we were served, each of our team members was able to give some heartfelt encouragement to the staff for the important work that they are doing. Lyn was also able to share how much their ministry had even impacted the people of Lske City, many of whom give faithfully to the support of the Nicaraguan mission. When the food was served, everyone enjoyed a great meal and informal fellowship, language barriers notwithstanding.
We all came back to Managua at about dusk. Marcia and Caron elected to take the evening off, but Todd, Lyn and Jhonny rode our van back to Oasis de Esperanza school for the weekly meeting of Vida Joven, or Young Life. There we were warmly welcomed and had tons of fun with student-led activities and skits. At the conclusion, a great Gospel lesson was shared by yet another student. The three of us who went felt like the time was very well spent.
Was the day a success? Yes! We were privileged to play and eat and celebrate with our brothers and sisters serving at Oasis de Esperanza school. In the end, the smiles and laughter were all that we needed to know that our goal for this special day had been realized.
Tomorrow and Sunday, we will do something we’ve never done here before: visit the national Nicaragua Young Life camp in Matagalpa, about three hours away! Stay tuned, as we are not exactly sure of internet access when we get there. At worst, this blog will pick up again on Sunday evening.
More than usual photos appear below from this fun-filled day. Enjoy and thank you so much for your continued prayers!
Managua has simply hundreds, if not thousands, of streetside shops similar to this clothing store.
We found Santa Claus patrolling the streets of Managua!
Our first stop was Catarina, city of flowers and a million dollar view! Pretty amazing poinsettias here!
Marcia, Caron, Lyn and Todd in front of the view of the crater lake, Apoyo Lagoon.
All of the Oasis de Esperanza staff at Catarina.
Heading up Mombacho Volcano for zipliing.
Johnny, Caron and Marcia ready for action!
Jedidah having a good time!
Todd on one of the eleven legs of the canopy tour.
Sadia, not in the kitchen!
Arturo on the move!
The bunch of us at the zipline.
Todd says some words before lunch at Kathy’s.
Nate, Todd, Alvaro, and Arturo just hanging out at a Granada Cathedral.
Vida Joven at Oasis de Esperanza in the evening.
Lyn found Claire Cunningham’s friend Mabel at Vida Joven that evening. Hola, Claire!
After a much-needed night’s sleep after our marathon travel day, we enjoyed breakfast at our hotel and headed to Oasis de Esperanza at about noon. The drive there reacquainted us with the amazing pulse of life in Managua, with its variety of roadside vendors, omnipresent pedestrians, and zany traffic!
Our arrival at the school led to many hugs and greetings from friends we have known for years. It was quite exciting to be back after two years’ absence. Wayne MaGouirk gave us a tour of the new counseling and computer building, the upper story of which has a view of nearby Lake Managua. Many of the staff were in the midst of decorating for that night’s annual Christmas concert, and the cafetorium soon took on a festive atmosphere. We were able to help set up several hundred chairs, that would soon be filled by people in the neighborhood.
At about four, our team dashed out for a quick dinner at Tip Top chicken, a Nicaragua fast food standard. Sometimes it seems that Nicaragua is fueled by chicken (and gallo pinto)! Then it was back just in time to find the school grounds filled with 700 to 800 people and the concert just beginning. All of the classes had part in performances, which were some combination of song and/or dance. Many of these kids have real talent and the true Christmas message came through. It was just amazing to see the support in this very poor community for their kids. There seemed to be a vibrancy present that is often lacking in much of impersonal American culture.
We enjoyed some great conversations today, including Lyn with Alvaro, Caron and Marcia with Flor, and Todd with former student David, and present student Gerald. We are looking forward to many more thanks to our excellent translator Jhonny.
Tomorrow is Staff Appreciation Day, as we head south to Granada for sightseeing, a great lunch and zip lining! Please pray that the staff will know our love for them.
We will call this our official Team Photo for Managua Mission 2019. Jhonny, Todd, Wayne, Lyn, Marcia, and Caron.
The lovely pool at our hotel. This evening we processed things together at poolside in the tropical warmth.
Preparations for the concert: teachers Diana, Flor, and Sylvia clowning around a bit.
Todd and Nate and friends.
Fatima, Sadia, Carolina and Flor just outside of the kitchen.
At Tip Top Chicken for dinner. At right is our driver, Eddie, who handles Managua traffic with ease.
The neighborhood crowd at the concert was simply amazing!
So we’re off! We left Lake City at 4:30 this morning, off on our great Managua 2019 adventure! Marcia, Caron, and Lyn picked up RC Sharma and then we met Todd Laws in Gunnison at about 5:30. With no snow on the roads and thanks to Todd’s excellent driving, we made good time to DIA and were able to send RC off to Los Angeles while we headed to Nashville via Southwest Airlines , and then to Fort Lauderdale, where we are now. Our Managua Spirit Airlines flight leaves at about midnight eastern time, and we fly for 2.5 more hours to end our very long day to Managua.
Some of you may remember that Brandon Galicia had originally planned to be a part of our team, but unfortunately he was just laid off at his job and needed to seek new employment. We will miss Brandon and his gentle spirit and good humor, but pray that he finds work for the winter in Delta or Montrose.
Our plane at DIA, ready to take us to Nashville.
Marcia and Todd relaxing during our brief layover in Nashville. Even the airport restaurants here have live country music!
Lyn and Caron ready for the last leg, awaiting the plane in Fort Lauderdale. By the way, Lyn holds the record for the most security checks on this trip, with his carry on being opened twice, once for his laptop and the other for his PayDay candy bars! But all is good.
Please continue praying for us! We feel blessed and privileged to be on this trip. Tomorrow we will not have an early start as we will be recovering from our long day. Tomorrow afternoon we plan to go to Oasis de Esperanza school and help them set up for their annual Christmas concert, which we will attend tomorrow evening.
Hasta mañana, amigos!
A team of five of us is headed back to Nicaragua November 20-27! Please pray for our trip!
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