Someone said, life is a series of hellos and goodbyes. On this final morning in Nicaragua, the hellos have ended and only goodbyes remain. Over the past two weeks, we have met some truly wonderful people. We have introduced ourselves in fragmented Spanish; we have overcome a language barrier with hand signs and through translators, we have spent two weeks together serving in kids programs and a building project; we have laughed together (a lot); we have broken bread together; we have worshiped together; and we have prayed together. And now we have said good-bye.

Friday evening we had a farewell service at the church in Masaya. After a wonderfully moving worship service lead by Melanie and Lilliam (the Pastor`s wife), the Masaya church served us cake and pizza (in that order) in appreciation for our efforts. There was much hugging, and crying, and laughing. The team left gifts of used clothing, shoes and boots with the workers and they were extremely appreciative for it (if you ever visit Nicaragua and you see a young man wearing a “Living RED” shirt you know that he met our team). The women left gifts of toys, school supplies and clothing for all of the kids in the kids program. The children were excited for the basic items they received.

On Saturday we relaxed on a boat cruise on Lake Nicaragua and visited the Volcano right behind our hotel ( I don`t think I would have slept as well if I had known there was a huge volcano so close). We then left Masaya and headed to our hotel at the airport. After one final evening meal together, we all walked Elsy, our translator, to her uncle`s car as she departed for her home. I am sure to the onlookers it must have appeared comical. We could have said good bye in the hotel or on the front step of the hotel. But no! These twelve people, huddled around this 24 year old woman, walked her all the way out to the main highway and stood there curb-side as she drove away. As she departed, something of us left with her. The good-byes are the hardest part of this experience.

It is true that we may soon forget about the deep impact that these people have had on our lives as we entrench ourselves into the hurried pace of the southern Ontario lifestyle. As an insightful friend said, you want to keep these kinds of experiences with you but you know they will soon drift into the background of your life. I wish I could prevent that from happening. I don’t want to forget about these people and the wonderful love we experienced from them and for them.

As I reflected in the early hours this morning I was aware of how non-relational we have become in our Canadian culture. We live from task to task and seldom connect with the people that we interact with. An experience of this type is just the opposite. The tasks we have done for this church became lesser in importance with each passing day and the relationships become the truly meaningful part of what is given and what is received. I wish I could bottle that and pour it into our Canadian culture or least the church culture. It would drastically improve our living conditions. We may feel compassion for the people of Nicaragua because they live with economic adversity. This morning I can`t help but feel sorry for us because we live with a social poverty that they know nothing about. So we have encouraged them with our financial gifts but they have enriched our lives in ways far more important than money. That is the best way I can say it but I apologize for how inadequate it is.

However, we can now say hello to our family, friends and church at home. This is welcome. We have been able to have this experience due to the graciousness and support of our wonderful families. And now we can share with them what we have experienced here. However, It is not easy to put into words what we feel so be patient with us. I hope that our families see the evidence in our lives that something profound happened and they understand they were a part of it … a really important part of it.

Of course, we could not do any of this without the generous contributions of our church family. I want you to know that the funds that you have provided have been well spent and well used. The church in Masaya has been praying for four years to expand their facility. They need to expand their facility as they are packed out. They have been praying for four years and they see that God has answered their prayers through a group of Christians in Canada taking an interest in their project and funding it. It is true that God has answered their prayers by moving you to share your resources with them. The pastor in Masaya asked me to thank Westheights church for being an answer to their prayers. Having seen the encouraging impact of your financial gifts, I heartily pass on his thanks and add my own as well. I thank you greatly for your generosity.

I hope that many others will also have the opportunity to experience the church in another part of the world. As different as the world of Nicaragua is, I never felt that our faith was different. From Kitchener to Wainfleet to Nicaragua our faith is one. It was the bond that crossed all other barriers. There would come a moment when you found yourself with a Nicaraguan and no translator was present and you had not enough Spanish to communicate. One thing always seemed appropriate. I would simply say, ‘Hermanos en Christos.’ Translated: Brothers in Christ.  Then we would lock hands … and hearts.

To my friends in Nicaragua, farewell and fare well.