I am writing while on a long overdue, much needed sabbatical. By the time you finish reading this story, you will definitely understand why the time out is necessary.
Last month, Wilber, our director of the Casa Restauración, called to ask me if I would come by the Casa to just spend time with the guys. 'They need a Mama', he said. I wear a lot of different hats depending on the duty that is required of me at any given time. However, Wilber insists that my greatest asset to the overall ministry and especially to the Casa is my roll as Mama.
I was a little surprised by his call for me to be a mama and not a teacher on that particular day. All of the current residents in the Casa were older, ranging in age from 29 to 52 years old. So, I wasn't sure why they needed a mama.
Wilber's call came just prior to me sitting down to watch one of my favorite programs - 60 minutes! This episode consisted of 3 stories and 2 of them had a common theme: men rising up from impossible circumstances to being able to fulfill dreams in their adult lives. It was after watching the program that I felt God was telling me that He wanted me to talk with the guys tomorrow about this same topic. Nothing is impossible!
I arrived at the Casa just as some of the guys were finishing their breakfast. One thing you can always count on in Nicaragua is that no one adheres to a schedule. By my watch and the posted schedule, breakfast should have been over an hour ago. The other thing you can count on is that it is mandatory that you greet each person in the room Nicaragua style. This means all had to stop what they were doing, rise from their seats and either extend their hand and/or their cheek for a kiss. Well, I'm not much of a handshaker, so with me it's a robust hug and maybe a kiss depending on how familiar I am with the person.
All this to say, my official time with them did not begin for another 45 minutes. Ugh...…. I am not a Monday person, and yet I got my self up at my usual time but I actually dressed for the day a lot earlier than normal and then I HAD TO LEAVE my house. Another Ugh...….. So, I sucked it up and sat "patiently" waiting for everyone to finish eating. This can take awhile because another custom in Nicaragua is that there is no conversation during the first few bites or first 5 minutes while eating. As the stomach starts to feeling satisfied, the conversations begin and they can go on and on and on talking while they finish their meals. Another thing about Nicaraguans, they can make anything funny; there is always a lot of laughter during their conversations which encourages more conversation and more laughter. Remember when I said they were finishing up eating? What should have been another 5 minutes turned into 30 extra minutes to complete the last few bites.
My stories from the previous episode were received well. One was about a young orphan, in and out of foster care, ending up in prison. Prison actually saved the young man's life and turned him on to his unbeknownst passion - Opera. This young man became a professional, BLACK opera singer when he was released from prison. The second story was about a white man who had a horrendous, abusive childhood but managed to become a billionaire by designing and building the Tesla automobile. Two entirely different men with less than perfect childhoods were able to rise above their circumstances and have a fulfilling life.
Afterwards, there was a lot of discussion about the possibilities ahead for them. We talked about other things as well, everyday things that were important on their hearts. What I noticed however, was one person, the oldest man was very quiet and withdrawn. Another person asked questions with an edge to his voice and a combative attitude. Another person was visibly angry. As hard as I tried to draw them out, nothing worked. There was some elephant in the room and I was sure that everyone knew what it was except me.
After 2 hours, it was time to wrap up our time together. The guys did very well to sit in one place for that length of time, but the attention span does begin to wane. The entire time I was with the guys, Preston was meeting with Wilber talking about matters of the Casa and the ministry.
During our drive home, PT (Preston) asked me how the meeting went. I told him 'really well considering that some of the guys seemed to be having an off day'. He proceeded to tell me that so and so, who was the oldest of the guys in the Casa, was drinking while on an errand away from the house. WHAT? This man whom we came to trust, who excelled in leadership, who had been given responsibilities because of his excellence to detail, this man who had been very quiet and withdrawn had betrayed the program, betrayed me...……… At that point it wasn't anger that came out, it was borderline rage.
I managed to draw on the behavior of an adult and wait the respectful amount of time for the Casa to complete their lunch. But no way was I going to allow them to take their naps. No way!
When I arrived back at the Casa a couple hours later, those that were still up could tell by the look on my face that something was seriously amiss. I told them to get the others out of bed, I had something that I needed to say. Another thing about Nicaraguans, they may be seething inside, but they are respectful on the outside - the guys complied with my request without questions.
We have always had a rule amongst our boys and we passed it on to the Casa that there is no tattling, but if we ask point out or ask if anyone wants to talk about something, we expect people to come clean. How dare they sit with me for 2 hours talking about opportunities, about overcoming circumstances and obstacles, about pressing in and not giving up, etc, etc, etc., when all the while they were holding back on important details of another person's character or lack of. I spoke to the guys about honesty and trust.
When I asked so and so as to why he didn't tell me, he replied that he was going to. 'Well, you had a great opportunity to do so when we were all together earlier'. At that point, my calm but firm demeanor crumbled and I LOST IT. I dumped all my frustrations and resentments that had been building up and I specifically targeted so and so because he has lived in the States.
I proceeded to say that since he had lived in the States he would have more of an understanding than the others of what I have had to give up and the sacrifices that I make everyday while living in Nicaragua. 'I left my home, we'd been 7 years without a car sometimes walking in oppressive heat and pouring rain, we've been robbed too many times to now count and sometimes robbed by those we have loved and tried to help, I deal with the filth everyday in and outside my house, we've gone without food, we can't sleep because of the excessive heat, we haven't seen our family in 4 years, there are great grandchildren I've never met, we endure the rudeness of the people' and I went on and on. 'You ask us for much and all we ask in return is progress in your ability to change and honesty. Without honesty and trust in one another, there is no relationship. Don't tell me how difficult your life is, I'm 72 years old and I'm living difficulty every day. I won't always be here to hold your hand so you need to quit feeling sorry for yourself and grow up'. I'd blown it! My attempt to be a mama that was understanding and loving had been derailed.
On Christmas Eve during our outreach to the people in the streets, Johny was the driver of our triciclo. We've known him for a couple of years and he is a repeater in the Casa. We love him dearly and have a close relationship with him, although during that "talk", I knew there were things he wanted to say but was holding back. Anyway, he asked me during the ride if I was angry with so and so. I told him that I'm not angry, just very disappointed. Johny said that so and so thinks that I am angry, will I speak to him.
After my display of unadult-like behavior, PT and I realized that it was time for a break. We were both running on fumes and our attitudes lately had been anything but loving and Christ-like. What kind of a witness were we to be to everyone around us if we could not deal with them in patience, kindness and love? So, we decided that we would take 2 months or more, however long it would take for us to restore ourselves, away from our everyday duties. No schedules to keep, everything that was usual for us was coming to a halt. If we wanted to spend the entire day in our pj's watching movies or reading a good book, that is what we would do. We needed to find our sanity, we needed to reconnect with each other, we needed relief from the constant challenges and pressure of dealing with a third world culture, the lack of peace because of the civil unrest in the nation was also a contributing factor to our stress levels.
For me, the month of January is always a busy month because of the year end work that needs to be done to the accounting system and the reports that need to be filed. So my real sabbatical has not really started. I've managed to slow down some, but I am really looking forward to the next month or so when I can do what I want, when I want or just not do ANYTHING. My one desire, goal, resolution, whatever I call it, is to never allow myself to get to the point of total exhaustion again.