Nicaragua Feb 2012, Day 6 – Our Joy is in the Lord (and His people)!!

What a full and blessed day!!  Today, Thursday, February 23, our work day began at the Rey Salomon Christian School with some doing therapy, some collecting child sponsorship information and delivering gifts from our own TPCC child sponsors, some classroom observation happening and three of us meeting with our Agape director, vocational teacher and school psychologist, there in Managua, about their vocational program.

Our team....small but busy with His work.

The meeting began with apologies for the vocational/life skills part of the Agape program not being further along than it is; however, these apologies were quickly turned into awe and encouragement when we asked them if they knew of any other program of this type for special needs students in the Managua area.  They, of course, said no.  Then we pointed out that they are pioneers in this area of the inclusion of God’s children into the community and workplace and that this process is not easy or quick.  It’s taken many years of development in our country and we want to help them along in the process by providing whatever info we can to help them develop their vocational/life skills program.  They immediately felt better…..encouraged and motivated by the task before them…..especially because they know they’re not alone.  After sharing some “big-picture” info about life skills/vocational programming (with many “ah-ha!” looks in their faces) and promising more assistance in June with the details, we ended our meeting with great hope for all concerned.  God is so very good!!

Agape Vocational student in action.

We then joined the rest of the team downstairs in the preparations for the teachers’ luncheon for ~ 16 of the teachers and support staff for the Agape program at the Rey Salomon School.  It was a simple affair of carry-in chicken dinners but we’ve found through the years that these luncheons provide more than just food, they’re a great way to encourage these hard working teachers, school psychologist, doctors, school director and other support staff who are sadly underpaid and overworked.  Thankfully, their dedication to their students, their feeling of “calling” to their position, and our encouragement every six months, help them keep doing the great job they’re doing.

So with lunch consumed, the fun really began with each attendee being presented with a beautiful Vera Bradley bag (generously donated by one team member’s employer) which had to be “modeled” upon receipt.  What fun they had with this!

Then, with 3 Ken dolls decked out in pink and black suits and carrying miniature boxes of candy and tiny bouquets of roses (donated by Mickey….a 14 year old with Downs from our November Special Needs Mission Team); 3 rolls of toilet paper (scrounged from team members), and a big bunch of plastic flowers, the real silliness began.  In getting to know the teachers through the years, we’ve inquired about their families, what they do in their free time, and about the young singles’ novios (boyfriends). As they’ve gotten to know and joke around more with us, they recently requested that we bring them boyfriends and/or husbands from the states.  Well, that’s just what we did…..but they didn’t get exactly what they asked for.

Here comes the bride (x 3)!

With our remaining 20 minutes of time, we held a “wedding” for three “couples” with very little direction from us and much imagination and fun supplied by the Agape staff themselves.  They were so creative, making a big black trash bag into a “suit” for the “pastor”; expertly adorning each of the 3 brides with beautifully designed toilet paper wedding gowns; aligning their simple plastic chairs into rows of “pews” in their “church”; humming the bridal song as each bride met her “groom” (each groom revealed by their “best man” and introduced with long, elaborate, humorous Latino names…..) then the quick ceremony (including “vows” and dramatic “kisses”—one with a “dip” and another with a “knee pop”) concluded with the 3 brides tossing their flowers into the waiting arms of many on-looking teachers!  What fun!  What creativity!  What a wonderful confirmation of our close relationship and the ever-increasing love between Nicaraguan and North American friends.

With laughter ringing in the air and smiles on our faces, we quickly headed out for our next event of the day…..the greatly anticipated gathering of all parents of children in the Agape Special Needs Program.  This event was planned to offer encouragement to the parents and to help them get to know each other so they could pray for one another and know that they’re not alone in the difficult task of raising a child with special needs in a third world country.

Parents of the Agape Special Needs students gather for fun and encouragement.

We also wanted them to relax and have some fun (rare treats for these parents) so we started out with a slide show of their great kids through the years, and followed up with some crazy games.  They had so much fun!  Then the talented doctor’s assistant, Patricia, brought glory to the Lord by performing liturgical dance numbers….very moving!  After this, a dear friend, Wilbert Cruz, who has helped us out many times in spreading the message of acceptance and love the Lord wants for these wonderful children with Special Needs, (and who himself is considered “disabled”, walking with arm-crutches following a bout of childhood polio) spoke the Lord’s words of truth and there was barely a dry-eye in the place.  He encouraged us to speak words of hope and love to our special needs children (and not shame or disappointment) and he guided us through praying for one another and about how we can have forgiveness and complete acceptance ourselves in the Lord Jesus Christ.

God spoke through his servant, Wilbert, and touched the hearts of many parents.

After these encouraging words and moving message, we broke into small groups, played one more fun game then settled down with 5 discussion questions.  Oh how we wished we spoke Spanish as we noted the great discussions in which the various groups were engaged as they enjoyed one last treat….delicious desserts lovingly served by our team.

What a full…..really full day!  And it wasn’t over yet.  After a quick dinner at our guest home, we headed to Cuidad Sandino to worship with TPCC’s church plant there.  We clapped hands to their lively hymns, introduced ourselves in front of the congregation, and brought words of greeting from you all to them.  After church, Pastor Wilbur made of point of thanking us for the school supplies we had given him in June and August (cast-off, used school supplies collected at a local elementary in Zionsville as the school year ended in May of last year).  He assured us that they were making very good use of the items in Sunday school and as outreach to the neighborhood.   His sincere words brought encouragement to us that the Lord can use anything (and anybody) for His purpose and for His glory.

Christie and Jennie having fun with the kids from TPCC's sister church in Cuidad Sandino.

This long, glorious day ended at our guest home with preparations for our last day of “work” (how can this be called work when it is so much fun!!!!) at the schools on Friday.  We’re sure God will bring more blessing tomorrow but can’t imagine how they could possibly outshine the incredible joy we feel after this long, exhausting yet delight-filled day!!

Sorry for the extra-long post….I just couldn’t leave out one moment of joy from this glorious day!

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