Guest Writer Karen Riddell blogs about Friday & Saturday

At the church service commissioning us, the children’s choir sang, “Small deeds done with great conviction; each one wisely planned; touched by truth and beauty; guided by the hand of God. I may never be like Noah, and build a mighty ark, but I can light one candle to drive away the dark….I can give the gift of love to people one by one.” And that has truly been fulfilled. We have had a week of hundreds, no probably thousands of small deeds, each one done with great conviction, each one wisely planned, and each one carefully and lovingly delivered by God.

Our events Friday were events of hospitality and service. We began the day with a breakfast for the wives of local pastors and leading women in the nearby churches. We were excited to have a third opportunity for connection with the women from one of the two churches we painted. We sang together, “I Want to Follow Jesus” in English and Spanish. In our time together we blessed them and they blessed us.

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Next we welcomed the teachers from a school we visited last year for a few hours of lunch and fellowship. Along with bags filled with supplies and new uniform shirts, we pampered them with manicures and shoulder massages. The men loved playing ping-pong and pool, many for the first time.

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Before our evening event, we gathered on the shaded porch of the house where the missionary leaders live to hear more about Murray’s personal journey, which was highly inspiring. She also shared with us how the $28,400 profit from our fundraising art auction is carefully being used to significantly further the mission of Piñas de Paz.

Our final hospitality event was hosting the families of the farmers and staff that run Piñas de Paz. As Marcia described in her post, we came together through fun games, dancing and sharing a meal. The children loved the glow sticks and blinking rings!

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Saturday started early with a breakfast for local widows who arrived standing in the back of open air trucks. For those of us returning, it was our joy to reunite with some of the dear women we had become close to last year.

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Following the breakfast we headed off on the bus to Granada. We quickly toured a cigar-making shop and took a boat ride to feed the monkeys on an island. Next we headed to the art gallery to express our appreciation to the gallery owner who graciously donated the 43 pieces of art for our auction, and then proceeded to the local market where we purchased items to sell at the church gift shop (and yes, we managed to add a little extra fuel to the Nicaraguan economy during these stops!).

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On the way back to the farm, our bus encountered a truck heading in the other direction. Unfortunately it was only a one-lane road with trees and brush sloping upward on either side. Edging as far as possible to the sides, the vehicles began to climb the sloping sides and tip toward the center-and each other-until they were actually touching. We feared we were stuck, so we began leaning all our weight to the outer edges! Miraculously the two parted by inches and very slowly passed each other! Murray said in all her time in Nicaragua, she had never seen such a close call!

When we arrived back at the farm we were greeted by a fabulous dinner feast served in traditional, decorative clay pots-the equivalent of our Thanksgiving meal! And we were also treated to a special dance by our dear staff members wearing local costumes. It was the first time they had ever done this, but it was wonderful.

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Throughout the week we felt inspired to follow up on specific needs we encountered. For example as we mentioned earlier in this blog we are funding the deaf student Ellison’s transportation and tuition. We made plans to take turns reaching out to him monthly. We also decided to send additional food and supplies to the eight homes we visited. We are funding 100 chairs for the hospital. We are getting medicine and counseling for a few individuals who are sick and suffering. We are sending supplies to the “flower lady.” We are funding a vacation bible study for the wives’ ministry at one of the churches we painted. And finally, we funded a year of college fees for the daughter of a staff member. We are also going to investigate potential surgical solutions for a child we met who has a facial deformity. All of these good works were possible because of the generosity of supporters, travelers and the power of the US dollar.

As we boarded the bus for the airport in the dark, Sunday morning hours, we said our goodbyes to Piñas de Paz. We went to create connections and reflect God’s love to those we came in contact with. This objective makes our trip an unusual mission trip – less about work with our hands, more about work with our hearts. We learned that we are the only group that Piñas de Paz hosts that focuses on forging relationships in this way. The hospitality we extend to the deaf children, the teachers, the widows, the pastors wives, the hospital patients and families, lots of children, and others weaves unique threads into the overall fabric of the Piñas de Paz mission to support and contribute to their rural, impoverished community. Although we did do some impressive work with paintbrushes and rollers, our best work was done with our praying voices, our hugging arms, and our loving hearts.

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