January 23rd - exactly one month since I flew home from Nicaragua. All these weeks I've taken time, as I was able, to post the pics and tell some of the stories but never answered the question about what I was doing in Nicaragua. Perhaps I'm finally ready, myself, to answer that question.
Relationship. That's the answer.
Allow me to explain...
As I explained in a previous post, Missions of Grace (MOG) is a mission organization started in 1994 by my sister and her family, focused on bringing the love of Christ to the people of Nicaragua. Over the years, this has taken shape in building an orphanage, hurricane relief, medical missions and much, much more.
In October of 2011 I accepted a position on the MOG Board of Directors and felt it important to have a "boots on the ground" experience if I would be the most effective board member possible. The December medical trip with the students of Wayne State was planned so with my wife's blessing I pretty much invited myself along. My sister, Cheri, was delighted.
Cheri and her family lived in Nicaragua for about 9 years, and now she is the Director of MOG, based in San Antonio. Two of her daughters live full time in Nicaragua. Windy, the eldest, lives with her beautiful daughter Adrianna in the capitol city of Managua. Sarah, daughter number three, is married to Baldo and they live on the Pacific coast in San Juan Del Sur. A tropical paradise that is popular with the surfers.
As of this writing, daughter number two is in Nicaragua and may well be staying, based on what sounds like may be a wonderful business opportunity. Perhaps we can share more on that later. For now, I'd actually ask for your prayers as Rachel is sick in hospital.
In any case, the balance of the Mauldin kids (or Mauldin Mafia as they refer to themselves :-) reside in and around San Antonio. My mother, brother and I visited San Antonio in October and had an amazing time reconnecting and that is where this journey really started to take shape.
My "official role" was to observe and report back (to the board). Having had so many meaningful encounters through my 100 mile ultra journey in 2011, I personally felt very compelled to "look into the eyes of the Nicaraguan people" as I wrote in my journal. "To come to know the people that my sister and her family so dearly love."
Everything you'd expect, but also completely different. I experienced Nicaragua in strange "time slices" that helped my understanding evolve and mature, from the tropical green we saw while landing to the poverty of the streets in the city that gave way to finding the rhythm of the city. The one room dirt floor homes in the country that provide one impression that is shattered when you meet the warm, friendly, content, proud family that lives under that roof. No running water, and little electricity, but many of the young adults have a smart phone and Facebook.
The medical team was an absolute delight. Eleven students and two doctors. All different backgrounds, career paths, circumstances, faiths and priorities. But one cohesive team that played as hard as they worked.
Allie and Tim - old souls with a maturity and a passion for the well being of others that surpassed their years.
The Coffman's, a family that will inspire you to be all you can be (sorry for the cliche') as they relentlessly pursue their passions of holistic healing, herbology, and survival skills and are just as eager to share them.
Relationship. That is why I was there. Beyond just observing, to hear the stories, to connect the dots. To share, and learn. Everything MOG is about can be summed up, I believe in that one word. The masses are impacted, but the means is relationship. One by one. One on one. Unconditional love. Building trust. Sharing in the joys and the pains, the passions and the aspirations and the heart break.
To know of the need and "simply see" Nicaragua would leave you overwhelmed. To experience relationship you quickly learn that while you may not be able to do everything, but you can do something. And a whole bunch of somethings, well, you get the idea.
Lord, may I be used to be part of a "something".
Press on friends.