Nicaragua December 7, 2011. This is not the beginning of the story or the end. It is but one day, part of a story so big it has no beginning and no end. Just show up. Participate. Let God have control.
A 64 year old women stands in the street talking to a man; she is very small but there is strength in her that cannot be denied. They don’t speak the same language yet he knows what she wants from him.
She lives across the street in a house made of sticks, covered with plastic, old wood, and rusty sheet metal. There are no doors to separate the outside from the inside. The house has no windows yet the light finds its way inside to her reality; a place she shares with her family.
The smoke from the open fire on top of a pile of hand laid rocks in the back room is thick all through the house. The soot clings to the tree branches used to construct the roof like black crystalline stalactites in a cave. There is a baby’s crib in another corner crafted from small sticks. There is a bed made out of thin planks of wood with no padding in the corner of yet another room. The boards are worn, polished on top from use. There is an old wheel chair folded beside it held together with pieces of string and wire.
There are partitions made from plastic and old bags dividing the residence into separate sleeping areas for the different generations, like a micro neighborhood. The floors are hard pack dirt from decades of life within this space. There is no indoor plumbing. There are two light bulbs connected to thin wires that glow but don’t really shine when energized.
Her family consists of multiple generations ranging in age from 10 months to 28 years. Ten members of this family reside here. There is a son 16 years old with severe physical disabilities. Although he can walk he has difficulty balancing.
The wheelchair allows him to accompany his mother when she has to walk a mile or so into town. The men in this family are only home at night as they are working all day. There are chickens and parrots to amuse the little ones.
There are no toys of any kind.
The house is swept clean. The belongings are in order. Their clothes are worn but clean. They take care of what little they have.
The man in the street is moved by her story. He longs to help.
The place is outside the small town of San Ramon in the Department of Matagalpa, Nicaragua. The man in the street is a committed servant with a strong heart for service. He had answered a call up to just show up several months before this conversation in the street.
He was not alone in the call to service. Around the same time, thousands of miles away, nine students from the University of Cincinnati decided to just show up wherever they were needed. How is it possible that they could ever connect with each other?
Another man hundreds of miles away in another direction, Michael Bonderer sits in his plastic lawn chair on the front porch of his international headquarters located in San Luis Talpa, El Salvador. He wonders if he knows anyone that would or could Just Show Up?
No plan, no tools, no organization on the ground for support. He doesn’t know one complete package but he knows 2 individuals that together might make it work. Two individuals that live a thousand miles apart and are from completely different backgrounds that have never met. This can work.
The team unites in Managua, Nicaragua on December 9, 2011 and travels to San Ramon. The first day a portion of the dwelling is removed and the remaining wall is re-secured. With each day the teams learns to work together. Each individual possesses unique talents and abilities. By the end of the day on Friday December 16, 2011, a new structure is completed, with new walls, roof, and a cement floor.
This is not the end of a story but a small part of a much bigger one. Victorina Mairena Gonzalez and Eric Bean talked in the street outside San Ramone Nicaragua that day. Eleven people decided they would answer the call and “Just Show Up”. God showed up too. We didn’t build a mansion or anything close but this world is a better place today because my friend Michael has trust and faith in our God to just show up.
Thank you Benjamin, Todd, Dirk, Ashley, Kirbi, Rod, Nhung, Kasey, Andrew, Amy. My life is forever changed too.