Experiencing a hurricane in a third world country is eye-opening…
We heard about Hurricane Eta about 12 hours before it touched down in Nicaragua, on our Monday afternoon after lunch. We learned that it was a category 5, and it was moving slowly but we had to wait until it touched down to see how destructive it would be. We also learned that we needed to prepare our bags in case we might be evacuated from our beautiful beachside home ground in anticipation of flooding. The preoccupation was that the rivers would overflow (a common occurrence) and flood, and because the storm had not yet touched down, we weren’t sure if flooding meant ankle-high, knee-high, or roof-high. The uncertainty was great.
“Hay que confiar en Dios,” one of the tias reminded us. Trusting in the Lord is the only true security we have.
In the afternoon, one of the maintenance men collected our bags in the busito (little paddy-wagon-like bus) to drive them to the other side of the plancha… Planchas are an interesting thing…They are roads that rivers cross over. They are made from concrete, and are much steadier than bridges, as bridges here are made from unsteady materials. The river flows, crossing the plancha, and continues on it’s way. Planchas are very common, and there is no way to leave the finca or neighboring community (besides walking on the beach) without crossing a plancha. The problem with these planchas occurs when the rivers se crecen (grow) because of heavy rainfall. In this case, it’s not possible to cross them (in car, on foot, on horse) without being swept away with the river. The plan was that we would wake up around 2 AM and walk from the Finca, cross the plancha (because the water would be too high to drive through, but not too high to walk through) and the busito would be waiting for us. We would then continue on to our destination… a storm shelter of sorts.
On Mondays, the missionary community has our “community night.” We played a few rounds of charades filled with many laughs and silly-heartedness. Megan, our missionary coordinator, came with the news that we had 15 minutes to get our things and that we were being evacuated sooner than expected. We prepared the house by closing the shutters and unplugging everything (refrigerator included), and I ran to the clinic to do the same.
They picked us up around 9:30 PM and off we went. The little girls, adolescent girls, and tias (18 total) went to stay at a convent and the little boys, teenage boys, tias, and missionaries (19 total) went to stay at a house owned by the diocese. We arrived there around 10:30 or 11 PM, and there we stayed for 3 and a half days.
We shared a three-room corridor, each room with metal bunk beds and foam sleeping pads. The 3 younger boys were in one room with their Tia; the 3 older boys with their house parents in the other; and the 10 missionaries in the third room.
The winds were very strong, as to be expected with a hurricane, and the rain fell by the bucket. The water (from the spigot) quickly dissipated from a light trickle, and we went the next 3 days without water. We put a large pot outside, which quickly filled to make our portable kitchen pila. And we washed all dishes under the abundant waterfall of rainwater that fell from the grooves in the tin roof. Everything was saturated. The second night we were there, I washed my pants, tshirt, and underwear-it was already so saturated that I figured it might as well be clean too. And I hung it under the roof to try to dry. (by day 4, Thursday, it had dried) The electricity was spotty, until on the night of the election, we lost power for good. No electricity, no cell phone service, no nothin’. We were completely powerless (double-meaning)…
In all the craziness of moving from our home, trying to entertain kids, figuring out meals, and sleeping 10 missionaries to a room, I easily got caught up in my own discomfort.
On day two, during my prayer time, the Lord spoke to me in a profound way about the suffering of those in Nicragua, y de los demas en Honduras. It really brought me to my knees. As soggy and chilly as I was, there were people, MANY MANY people, people who I call by name who were truly suffering during this storm, and my raisin-toes were no match. As I watched the rain pour and saturate everything in its path, my mind was flooded. Flooded with images – the image of Dona Migdalia’s* mud and stick walls melting. The image of Belky* and her 5 kids huddled together on their damp and musty bed (the only bed in the house) trying to keep warm. The image of roofless houses because the banana leaves or manaca couldn’t withstand the wind. The image of Doris* and her poor children hungry because they couldn’t cross the plancha to buy food for 4 days. (*Names changed) My mind was littered with images, feelings, and deep pain. This is the reality that my friends live. This is the reality that I witness and cannot do much to change. This is the pain that I pray that the Lord carries when it’s too much for my friends to bear.
We, here in the Finca, live a good life. Easy, some might say…We never really have to worry if we are going to have food, or about other basic necessities. And that is thanks to the goodness and generosity that we have experienced, and the generosity that we currently experience from all of our bien-hechores. But not all in Honduras, or even in our area, live like we do. Actually, very few do. And while I can serve our neighbors in the clinic and try to be present to them during this COVID pandemic, there is nothing that I can do to change their situations.
The faith of the people I have encountered is amazingly profound. We in the states get caught up in doing all the Catholic things. Asking all of these thought-provoking questions or arguing gently about doctrine or other things. But true faith, true Faith, at least for myself, lacks so so much. True faith is TRUST. Trusting that not only the abstract plan for my life will be good, but also that although the brigade isn’t sending all the meds this year (because of COVID), we will still get the medications we need to serve our neighbors. Trust in the Lord is not only the abstract but the very VERY material tambien, y posiblemente even more-so. He is just so good, so so good to us, and we overlook it every day.
A missionary from another city in Honduras visited us (hace ya dias) and in the prayer before lunch, she said, “Lord I ask that there always be bien-hechores (good-doers) in the lives of those who most need to be served.” How beautiful is that!? God, the Holy Spirit, works through other people. He is the impetus for any and all good that we do, and it’s so easy to mistake him for the goodness of people alone.
I think of a quote from the movie, Miracle (about the 1974?? US Olympic men’s hockey team). In a classic scene, after a huge loss, Herb makes the men get back on the ice to do torturous drills, and at one point he says, “You think you can win on talent alone…Gentlemen, you don’t have enough talent to win on talent alone.”
We often times think that humans are the source of goodness, whether that goodness be money, parties, medications for the clinic, a relationship with another person. Humans don’t have enough goodness to live on our “goodness” alone. We can’t and don’t (even if we want to) EVER do it alone.
Anyway, the hurricane…I so easily get derailed…
A few things:
1. After four days of no water, hot three-stall bathrooms smell rank. So much so that self-dehydrating may seem the best option…
2. Teenage boys can turn any word, any word, into a dirty word by the way they say it. EYE ROLL
3. Honduran tias like to be I charge in the kitchen
4. Showering outside in the pila or the rain (fully clothed) is a great way to save water and time because you pretty much wash your clothes too! And it’s liberating.
We entertained the kids (or at least tried) for a few days. The Red Cross came a few times to drop off food, water, and medications to us. And by Friday afternoon we returned to the Finca well-fed, moderately-bathed, and ready to be back, only to encounter the aftermath of the storm.
There are 3 giant trees, with roots the girth of my thigh, which have been uprooted and sunken into the sandy ground. And a few more that were broken and fell. Things smelled pretty rank, but we cleaned up joyfully. All in all, everyone is happy to be back at the Finca. After almost 8 months of not leaving the Finca, it was a welcomed get-away for the kids (and missionaries). Gracias a Dios!