the Nicaragua posts: Day Two

We woke up the next morning, excited and tired. The previous night, as mention in my last post, a water line burst (well, not a line, per se, but a mini-water tower type structure bolted to the top of our guest house) and put a nice amount of water on the floor of the main room. So everything was damp, but it didn’t stop us from eating breakfast and debriefing on yesterday’s events and what to expect in the next fifteen hours or so.

We piled into our van again and bumped our way through Managua, headed to House of Hope. When we arrived there, we weren’t the only ones. Headed down the poorly maintained dirt road to the home, we saw many women walking to the home from elsewhere in Managua. As we unloaded from the van, we were hugged/attacked by several of the children we had met the day before.

We were then allowed to enter a mid-sized covered area that serves as the hub of House of Hope.  Here, once a week, House of Hope holds a morning worship service of sorts. More than two hundred women attended this service while we were there, all of whom are living in prostitution or had suffered sexual abuse in their lives. Many walk as far as five miles to attend. Others are picked up in a bus that Oscar (that mountain of a man I introduced you to from Day One) drives through Managua and the outlying areas. The women come here to seek comfort, to hear motivating stories, and to seek a way out. They sing songs and pray and share their stories among one another.

The worship service was pretty amazing for me to experience. Seeing these women and knowing the hurts of their pasts, it was crazy to see them singing songs to God, lifting their hands to the sky and worshiping. The musical accompaniment consisted of a tambourine and clapping hands, but it was just as powerful (if not more) than a traditional American worship service in a church of 700 or so.

This whole event was extremely moving for me because one of my big issues with becoming a Christ follower was wrestling with the concept of “Why does God allow bad things to happen to innocent people?” It was, in fact, one of my big weapons-at-the ready to assault Christians with when I was a non-believer.

In many ways, I got my answer that day. See, the answer I have always been led to was that there is a greater and significant purpose of some sort to all pain. I saw this firsthand as I watched these women together. Many of them are in prostitution because they have no other choice; it’s the only way they can make money. Others have been sexually abused and are looking for freedom from it.  Yes, these women have all been dealt a crappy hand. But their stories serve to uplift one another and motivate them to come to House of Hope, in an attempt to change their lives.

Their pain and horrible histories are a commonality among them all. So when one woman shares how faith and the teachings/lessons of House of Hope have freed her from abuse and sexual slavery, there is hope in that. And the other women that are “on the fence” or have never experienced a feeling of self worth notice this.

Once the service was over, the home became a flurry of activity. Women sat together and talked. Kids started going wild. This, of course, was my group’s cue. We played tag, soccer, and many piggy-back rides were given. Then my group made the mistake of pulling out the bag of water toys we had packed to give to the kids.

World War III ensued.

I kid you not, a water fight of epic proportions broke out. I am not even exaggerating when I say this fight went on for about two and a half hours. Water guns evolved into water cannons. Water balls were then incorporated. After a while, someone broke out several buckets. It was the most fun I’d had in a very long time. I got beyond soaked. I also made the mistake of wearing my sneakers. They got drenched and never properly dried. They reeked when I took them out of my luggage after returning home and were promptly thrown away.

This was also the day I realized that these kids—not just the girls but some of the younger boys, too—make connections to you pretty quickly. One little boy in particular stayed by my side most of the day. When he asked to be picked up, I’d pick him up and he’d cling to me as if he was afraid I’d put him back down and run away. It was explained to me later than the majority of the boys at the home have never had any sort of father figure. So when men pay any sort of attention to them, they milk it up as much as they can. I saw this same sort of thing with the younger girls and the women in my group. It’s one of those things that is both sad and inspirational at the same time.

I also found myself spending a lot of time with the same two kids more than the others. The language barrier made it hard to really interact with them, but our translators helped. The kids asked tons of questions about where we are from and wanted to know about our families.

With the two children I had made a connection with, I kept my questions to them rather simple. I was afraid to know too much about them. I didn’t want to know the details of their histories. I didn’t want to know if they had been abused…particularly the five year old girl that latched onto my leg as we tried to leave that afternoon. (Note: If there were no laws, this little girl would have easily fit into my duffle bag and there would now be three children in the Napier Household).

The day sped by and I honestly didn’t want to leave the home. We went out as a group and had dinner, where I passed on the local delicacy of bull testicles. I replayed the day over and over in my head and I kept asking myself  why I didn’t show this much compassion and love for my own kids. That, quite honestly, is one of the hardest things I’ve had to deal with since getting back home.

When I crawled into bed that night, I was quite possibly more tired than I had ever been in my life. Just before I fell asleep, I realized it was because it was the first time in my adult life that I had been both physically and emotionally exhausted at the same time.

I fell dead asleep but woke up several times in the course of the night. In total, I got about four hours of sleep before it was time to start day three.

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