June 15, 2013
Queridos Family and Friends,
We are not even 15,000 feet in the air and only 15 minutes from our take-off from Managua, and we are writing for your prayers. Our nearly two-year service commitment in Nicaragua has come to an end, and we are headed back to the States today. As I look out across the plains and volcanoes of this unforgettable country emotions continue to stir in my heart. The landscape that was just brown and dry a few weeks ago, has turned into a luscious green once again with the recent rains. New life abounds, though we depart. We will be arriving in the States with more than we left with, both with the wisdom that was bestowed upon us by friends and strangers, but also with the new life that is forming in Kristin. As we leave Nicaragua, the place we have called home the past two years, we recognize that we leave a piece of our soul in this land and hopefully in the people.
While I do not have a perfect command of the Spanish language, it is equally impossible in English to convey the immense gratitude and indebtedness we have for our community. The last 10 days have been filled with moments of despedida and moments of solitude reflecting on our time here. We have had many conversations with dear friends, expressing in the best way we could, our thanks and love for them. From the special program that was prepared for us by the students at our school on our last day of classes to the surprise baby shower that was thrown for Kristin by a family in San Nicolás. We have cried more tears than there have been rain drops in the last few weeks. Which I must say is unfair for Kristin being six months pregnant as she was already emotional. I blame my tears and emotions on the pregnancy too!
There are a few special goodbyes that I would like to share with you that give a sense of the difficulty we have had in leaving. The first was on the day we left San Nicolás and the truck had arrived to pick us up. Our neighbor Henry, who has become a good friend, was outside and helped load our luggage on the truck. He was silent and solemn. When our final box was loaded, and the inevitable goodbye was upon us, we hugged. Henry began to cry. In the machismo culture it is rare to see a man cry, and Henry was crying so hard he went into his house to gain his composure. We had already said goodbye a few times, but this last one where there was no return in sight, was the real goodbye. His mom, Dina, followed with her tears and slight hug. I boarded the truck, tearful and waving to those in the narrow street waving back at me.
We drove up to school, our last chance to say goodbye to Idalia, the Director, but so much more to us: a mother, a friend, a compañera. The night before, when we had visited her home one last time, she had told us that she did not like “goodbyes” and in fact could not cry. She explained that during the war, she watched her dad get in the back of a pick-up truck, she said goodbye to him, and never saw him again. He was killed along with his three brothers by Contra militia. From that day, she said that she does not say “goodbye”. As we hugged one last time in front of the school, with the gray skies overhead drizzling a light rain upon us, she did not say goodbye, only “we will see you soon.” I entered the back of the pick-up truck, unaware of the irony as she walked out to the street to watch us drive away. Before we crested the hill, I waved my arm so she knew I still saw her, and she waved back, our last sight in San Nicolás.
After spending a few final days in Managua, we arrived at the airport this morning with Chepe, our Central American Coordinator with VMM. When we walked through the glass doors, two volunteer friends, Ana and Sister Kari, were waiting there for us with a banner that read “We will miss you! Come back soon and bring your baby.” We were so touched by their presence and final expression of solidarity. We all hung out in the airport until it was time to make our way through security. I had been saying the past few weeks, in leading up to today, that I just don’t feel ready to leave. Despite the challenges of these past two years, despite the sweat and dirt, despite the cultural differences, I am not ready to be back in the States. So much of me wants to stay here. But, there we were hugging our friends, not wanting to let go because that meant going through the glass doors where I could not pass again. My final tears came, my feet were heavy not wanting to step toward the gate. Nonetheless, we handed over our passports; a certain finality in this process of leaving. As my passport was being slid through the machine on the computer, a 6.6 earthquake struck; classic Nicaragua! We hastily exited the airport with hundreds of others including our friends; a bit frightened, especially after seeing the terror on people’s faces as they ran for the exit. As we waited outside unsure of what was next, I joked that I knew God didn’t want me to leave so soon! Now, less than two hours later we are in the sky headed for Houston.
If you followed our blog you know the people of Waslala taught us to be committed to justice and doing what is right, when they struggled and marched to keep their school open. You may remember that Esperanza taught us what her name means in English, which was to hope beyond hoping. If you followed our blog, you know that Henry taught me what a good neighbor is supposed to be like sharing food across the fence and inviting me to play baseball with him. You may recall that Idalia taught us hospitality by opening her home up to us on numerous occasions including when our family visited. If you followed our blog, you know that Elbin taught us how to share your gifts and talents each time he played his guitar and serenaded us at a dinner party. Doña Inez and Juana taught us to pray deeply and often. Countless others who I wish I could name here taught us more about life, love, friendship, and solidarity than I ever knew.
We are grateful for the experience, grateful for our new friends, and grateful to you for your support and prayers. We ask that you continue to pray for us as we transition back to life in the United States and wrestle with our desire to be with the people of Nicaragua. We thank Volunteer Missionary Movement for giving us this opportunity and for their unending support of us. I would ask once again and probably for the last time to consider making a financial donation to VMM in our name. This would be especially helpful for us since our flight home was so expensive (despite being only one way) and also to help offset the cost of the re-orientation transition retreat that we will be attending this July in Chicago. Plus, your donation will be helping future volunteers like Kristin and I to serve the humble people of Central America.
By now our plane is close to leaving Nicaraguan airspace. I can still see the gorgeous country that was so hard to leave. Departing this bruised land and its scarred people, who manage to find a way to march on, the lyrics from Nicaragua, Nicaragüita by Carlos Mejia Godoy resonate in my tearful heart. In the final line, he sings: “Now that you are free my little Nicaragua, I love you so much more.”
Con Paz y Amor,
Billy y Kristin
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