Sheree tries to be polite…
It was the final day of our government meetings and the fullest schedule we’d had yet. I had been in Nicaragua almost a week, had been hearing Spanish non-stop, was tired of just smiling and nodding, and was ready to try my best to fit into the beautiful culture.
We were once again up with the sun and picking up the mayor at 6:15 am, followed by the now familiar drive back to Managua in the crazy traffic.
The topics of the day at the conference were a little more applicable to us. They talked about the state of families and the help they need as well as disaster and crisis management, both of which interested us. We were also able to sit at break with a man from Rochester, NY, who is the government representative who has been working with Nicaragua for 37 years. He asked us what we do, and after a brief explanation of our ministry, he said, “So, have you ever had any trouble with the Customs Office here?” I probably shouldn’t have, but I laughed right out loud! We told him the story of our 2 days trying to #freethebuckets and how the mayor couldn’t even get them without a fight. He informed us he was giving the final speech of the day and he would be bringing this problem up!
The day was going well. I had ditched my “torture shoes” for my trusty flip-flops. My hair wasn’t too big – yet. I had no problems in the bathroom this day. It was like a miracle! It gave me confidence and hope – maybe too much so. I decided to try out my Spanish that afternoon. No more sitting in the back row panicking over words and missing good stuff! I used every word I knew. I could do this.
Our second break was spent at a table with three women who turned out to be the Mayors of neighboring communities. Their areas are plagued with not only bacteria in their water, but arsenic as well. It is slowly poisoning their people! We had 3 (filtered) water bottles on hand and we were able to arrange to get them 3 buckets. They even invited us to come to their communities in the future, where we will be able to speak to many of their people! It’s almost like God kept us from giving out all the buckets earlier in the week (like we had planned) in order that we might have these to give… :.) God is so awesome. I love it when we can see His hand in this way.
Late in the afternoon, the Rochester representative gave his speech. There was a general murmur of consent and frustration as he described the time kids had held a bake sale, raised money, and sent a box of medications – only for those medications to sit in the Customs office for 6 months and go bad. The people agreed. The government heard. We were glad. I don’t know if or when changes will be made, but this was the first step!
The meetings ended with a special awards ceremony. We had not come for an award, nor were we expecting one, but these sweet people gave us one anyway. Mayor Fernando awarded us a beautiful plaque, certificate, and a doll that represents the history of the Nicaraguan people. We were told this doll is the highest honor one can receive. We were humbled. These lovely people are so grateful and we have really done so little. We are just the messengers. It is truly the supporters of GraceWorks Global who should be receiving these awards!
Allen had been invited to preach in a new church this night, in Diriamba, and the awards ceremony was longer than we anticipated. We rushed out and started back down that well worn road. I was worried we would be late. (No one else was. They are all accustomed to “Nica Time”.) We had no time to stop for dinner. I had the schedule in my head – Leave Managua at 5. Be in Diriamba a little before 7. Music for 15 minutes. Allen preaches for 45. Done by 8. Grab some food. Get our luggage. Drive back to Managua. Hotel by the airport by 10:30. So doable! So American! Except that’s not how it went.
We did skip dinner and arrived at the church just a few minutes late. We were still “on schedule” in my mind. There was hardly anybody there, but it was a new church so I didn’t know how many would attend.
The church is meeting in a mechanic shop. Their stage is an elevated concrete bay for working on cars and it is a long and narrow area. I was seated in the very front row, directly in front of the large, loud, speakers. Their praise team was still warming up. Then they stopped. Just as I was wondering if that had been the actual music and Allen was supposed to be doing something, they started again. But, just another practice. More stopping. More practicing. Close to 8 pm, the music started for real, and I have to say – they like their music loud! The band was very good and the vocalists very talented. The sound system was maxed out so the entire neighborhood could hear! This is a good evangelism plan for everyone except the person right in front of the speakers. They sang for a long time. The few songs I knew, I sang in English. I think I sang, anyway. My mouth was moving and I felt like I was making words, but I couldn’t hear whether any sound was actually being uttered. I looked at Allen. He appeared to be singing too, but who knows? There was an absolutely adorable girl “helping” by playing the tambourine though!
Allen finally started preaching about 8:45. He did an amazing job, as he always does. Michael was a great translator and the people responded well. They heard that Jesus loves them and paid for their sin as well as receiving an encouragement to be thankful in all things.
When Allen wrapped up and I turned around, I was stunned at the amount of people. Apparently people had been trickling in during that first hour because the place was packed with maybe 100-150 people. The chairs were full, people were standing in the back – there were even some outside on the street! I was suddenly thankful for those loud speakers. That’s a good evangelism tool – even for the one sitting right in front of them!
We were exhausted and famished, but encouraged. My schedule was off by several hours now, but God’s was right on time. Unfortunately, local restaurants don’t work on God’s time and they had all closed. We would have to wait to get back to Managua before we could get some food.
We went back to our hotel and grabbed our luggage. Mario picked up his family and we all headed back to Managua one last time. Michael and Miriam were no longer with us, so it was back to trying to communicate with just Allen’s Spanish. But, like I said, I had been trying out my Spanish the whole day! I was ready to join in the conversation whenever I could. Miriam had taught me (or tried anyway) several new words. I had wanted to know how to say “I’m Sorry” and “Excuse Me” because I seemed to need to use those phrases a lot. “I’m Sorry” I got down just fine. But “Excuse me”, for the life of me, I just couldn’t remember correctly. I think Miriam told me that one a dozen times! But this particular night, I was sure I had finally gotten it. After all, I had used many of my words that day at the government meeting! So as we made that final trek back to Managua, I did a little bragging!
“I finally remembered how to say ‘Excuse me!'” I told Allen. Then I said it. He broke into immediate, hysterical laughter, followed quickly by a look of absolute horror as he said, “You didn’t actually SAY that to anyone, did you????”
I stared at him, wide-eyed, panic slowly setting in. At that moment, I couldn’t remember if I had or not.
“Why??? Was it wrong?”
As he struggled to stop laughing long enough to talk, he said to me, “Honey – you just asked me to buy you.”
As it turns out, I really need to see things written out before I try to say them. I totally misunderstood the way Miriam had pronounced “Con permisso” (which makes perfect sense now that I see it – “with permission”. Duh!). But when you think she is saying “Compra Meeso” and your blonde brain just forgets about the “so” on the end, it turns out “Compra Me”. Buy me. Can I just never speak again please?
Allen, Mario, Mario’s sweet wife and his fun kids – they all had what was probably the best laugh they’ve had in a long time. I just sat there contemplating dying my hair red and changing my name to Lucy.
They were still laughing at me when we made it to Managua and stopped at a gas station for some crackers and chips to eat. I entered the store, but spoke only English and did not use the restroom.
We finally settled into our hotel room about 1 am. We had to be at the airport by 5, so it was to be another short night. In the Bible, we read of the time God shut the mouths of the lions when Daniel was thrown in their den. As I thought of the consequences of asking an airport official to buy me, I went to sleep hopeful that God could work the same miracle on me the next day.