July 17, 2012

Worlds Apart . . . (part tres)

The education system in Nicaragua is not ideal . . . the kids only go for half a day, and a good percentage do not complete their primary schooling due to circumstances such as needing to help their parents work.

Part of the reason why One By One goes into the neighborhoods on Fridays to invite the kids to Saturday services is that it's common for them not to know what day it is . . . hence the need for constant reminders. But it also allows them to build relationships in these neighborhoods.

Saturday was pure chaos, as I like to call it :) We rode in buses to pick up the kids, which was an adventure in and of itself . . . all of those kids crammed with us on small buses - and you know how much energy they have! There was a lot of, "no comprende, no habla espanol, no se" and then a lot of smiling, nodding, and attempted hand gestures and attempted spanglish from me . . . my communication skills end after "como esta? me llamo Sarah, como se llama? cuantos anos tienes?" . . . and then I got nothin' but blank stares for you after that :)

Now, one thing I love is structure. And organization. Hah! Put me in a room full of kids and I am lost . . . so a majority of the day felt suuuuuper awkward partly because I just don't know what to do with kids. Give me a game, give me structure, or even the ability to communicate - something to work with here! But nope - these kids were absolutely thrilled to run around a big room with no toys, no games, no technology, no TV,  just each other and our team. Before I knew it, I had little ones jumping on my back, asking to be picked up, running and screaming . . . what else are you gonna do? Just roll with it!

The children's service felt like any American kids church service . . . except I had no idea what they were saying. Wait! I understood the words ninos and ninas. boom.

Then it was more bus rides after the service . . . and back to the church. One of the women on the team had put together a spa day for the volunteers at the church, which was such a wonderful idea. Amidst facials, pedicures and hand massages was a beautiful presentation of the Gospel and God's love for these women. It was an honor to serve them this way. Later in the afternoon was the youth service, and some of us babysat the younger kids during this time - which again put me out of my comfort zone - but somehow it all worked out.
 Conversing with other team members on the front steps of the church, I started to see something . . .  In this culture, poverty is not only prevalent, but it's a cycle. These kids are born into poverty, a large percentage do not complete schooling, they drop out to work with their parents . . . then they start to have their own kids, and the pattern continues. There is no hope or desire to change because there are no other options. But this is all they know - and they are content.

That baffled me, and again I found my brain unable to absorb information. America is the land of opportunity . . . how many stories have we seen of people from poverty and humble roots becoming successful? There are endless opportunities to get an education, further your education, and endless work fields. We teach our children to reach for the stars and that they can do anything they put their mind to or can dream up. Obnoxious white girls become chart-topping pop stars (or at least gain some fame on youtube). You can be famous just for being famous. You can enroll yourself in clinical trials for extra cash.

In that moment, I found myself thinking. . . I could not be happy without an education or a job where I felt I was using my skills and abilities. Or could I? What if I grew up in this culture and this was all I knew too? What if I didn't know any different? What if all I knew was Nicaragua?

Well, shoot - that changes things a bit. My perspective was changing . . . and I was starting to see more and more how God is all we truly need for joy. I could start to see that while I deeply believe that I could not be happy without an education, that's a flawed belief.

These kids . . . they have nothing, but they are happier than the kids in America who are so entitled, materialistic and self-centered. That afternoon I started to look around at the people at the neighborhood park. This park, compared to the parks in America, was very run down. Grafitti and litter was everywhere. But do you know what we saw? Kids and teenagers playing basketball, street soccer, going down slides piled on top of each other . . . and they were laughing and smiling just like kids that you would see in your neighborhood. No one looked sad or upset at the state of the street, park, buildings or circumstances surrounding us. This is their life. And it's what they know.

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