On our schedule for today was an outside evangelism/kids' service in the community. We continued practicing our African dance and Spanish kids' praise songs under the pavilion. As we practiced, it began to sprinkle. And then pour. We practiced until the sound of the rain driving onto the tin roofs drowned out our music. Because it was raining so hard, no one would have come to the evangelism service, so we changed our plan for the afternoon.
The Christian school on the YWAM Nicaragua campus was holding a special service for Father's Day. They are one of the only schools to recognize the holiday and honor the dads. (People make a big deal for Mother's Day, but since so many children don't even know their fathers, it is hard to find a way to celebrate them.) The school wanted to change that and to help fathers realize their significance in the lives of their children. We helped blow up balloons to decorate the dining hall where the party would take place. Afterward, one of the teachers shared some stories about the families who live in the barrio just beyond the gates of the YWAM campus.
She shared stories that broke our hearts: about a single woman who moved to the area with three children. She met another man and had another child — but he became abusive and left. He returned a few more times, each time abusing her and the children. And each time she had another child with him. They lived in a small “shack” with only plastic for walls and a roof. The children were sick. The staff here helped her to take legal action against her husband for the abuse, and now he is in jail. This story is typical of many families in the area.
After we heard these stories, our hearts were so full of compassion for the families in the barrio. But we still weren't really prepared for everything we saw when we walked and prayed through the barrio. Beyond the gate around the YWAM campus is an open field where kids play soccer and a horse grazes each day. The road has just been paved in the last couple of years — or else we would have been slipping through dark mud as we made our way down the little hill. A tropical storm poured rain on us, as it had since we arrived. We stopped at the muddied entrance to one of the little sections of the barrio. It wasn't paved like the main roads and rain water pooled in pot holes. Empty plastic bottles and bags floated in the puddles. Next to the muddy path grew tropical flowers and plants of all kinds. They formed a kind of hedge or gate in front of each home. Some of the homes were built right up to the little road, raised a foot or two. Some homes were built with corrugated metal or thick plastic. Others, cement blocks. Some had doors and sturdy gates, others gates made of old wood.
While we walked through the barrio, we prayed for the people who lived there. Some of the kids recognized us from yesterday's children's ministry and they shouted hello. We sang some worship songs and splashed in the puddles when it had stopped raining. Just outside our gate, some kids were playing soccer in the field. Paul and a couple of the girls joined them (Esther and Valerie). If the amount of mud on them when they returned is any indication of the amount of fun they had, then they definitely had the time of their lives!
Later that evening when we talked about the day, everyone shared similar things — they realized how much they had to be thankful for, they had no idea people lived in these kinds of conditions. A word that keeps coming up is “surreal.”