It is always captivating to look back at a period of time from 35,000ft, it gives a different perspective. I gaze down at clouds that look like Nancy’s cinnamon buns that we have every Thanksgiving and Christmas, comfort food for all of us, especially the four daughters, our family tradition that connects us to the past, to us. That’s what I saw in Nicaragua, where family and tradition and culture come together and form a connection that lasts, not just years or decades, but timeless, like it has always been that way. How else could you not just survive harsh conditions, but thrive. We saw people who seemed connected in such subtle ways, often seeing no obvious signs of greeting or communication between them, but with an understanding that didn’t need words, because it was just the stuff of life, no language needed. Kind of like when your wife knows stuff she shouldn’t know because she has that mother radar thing going, and she just knows things, like she’s got eyes in the back of her head, and she’s focused on you loco gringo. It’s funny what you notice when your guiding a student thru a surgery, confident they will suture appositionly with the proper tissue layers closed because you’ve been stressing it all week, and you have the time to look around and watch, hearing words you don’t understand and seeing things you haven’t seen before, like dogs walking under your surgery table, or kids doing arts and crafts in your recovery ward, or women in a bible study right next to you as you cut and sew the spay; as I said before, things that don’t go together but fit perfectly here. Like warm, soft cinnamon buns out your window over Central America.
Our last day of service was at Oscar and Tamy’s house in Catarina where we were staying. Eating breakfast we looked out the window, the people already lining up, horses, dogs, rabbits, patiently waiting without complaining, without electronic devices, without anxiety and hurry. They are never in a hurry here. The Canadian author Ann Voscamp said “hurry is the sure sign of the amateur”; I guess I have been an amateur most of my life. But here, even in the busy and chaos of the Vet work, it is different, it’s not something you are even conscious of, the stress and tension and hurry, they don’t belong here. We all felt it, it came out repeatedly in our devotions and quiet time; we miss home and loved ones (and pets), but we wanted that different thing, the other perspective that you only get when you shed the things that block and blind, to last a while, not just vanish the minute we step off the plane and resume our normal. We don’t want to go rushing back, in a hurry, like an amateur. So we talked about it, prayed about it, to be a little different when we get back, even when everything else stays the same. If we don’t bring back something different, something new, something better, then all we have done is had a good mission trip, a fun time, a learning experience, but it’s still all about us, and that’s not what makes success. Or significance. To be significant, to make a difference, that’s a universal desire of all people. Hopefully, we won’t have success sickness when we get back; getting what we want, and not being happy when we get it. If we slow down and share and help other people see things differently then, we have that elusive prize, something that matters, something that can make a difference and change a heart. And it turns out it’s not about us at all. It’s about other people. And it’s about God. Even though we’re in an animal career, it’s still about people. I hope I don’t forget that back home when I’m in a hurry.
So we finish our vet work, take an inventory of supplies, organize the storage trunks so the next group can start off well, and clean up. It turns out we treated 640 animals on the trip, and many people from the villages told Oscar and Tamy that they might start coming to their church now. That’s the significant part. We are there to help them reach out to people, show them there are people that care, that want to help without the cost and give something from the blessings that have been given to us. That’s how God works. He gave us everything, free of charge, full of all the good, forever! So we teach, and we are taught, help, and we are helped, care for others, and voila, we are cared for. The upside down economy of God, too good to be true, but not too good to be God.
So what was the best part for me you ask? There are always lots of memories you take away, but it might be this one that stands out the most. On our first night in the countryside, after we had a very good group devotion and Oscar shared his testimony, about how he was saved, and all the ways God had spared him during the Sandinista revolution, and we all prayed together, then time for bed, but we didn’t feel tired that night. So with the girls sleeping inside, and the guys sleeping outside, we put our cots in the corner of the weedy but flat baseball field just in front of the church. And we laid down, and gazed up….and saw the most star-studded sky I have ever seen! The stars were brighter and more stunning than I have known. And I was pondering why…I included that little tidbit because my southern friends have all sorts of expressions about tads and whittles and saying that we don’t hear up in New England and I want to make them feel included too…I think we have too much light pollution in our lives. The physical light from our technologically advanced society that keeps things at full speed 24/7, day and night, doesn’t matter, much haste required. But I think there is also a dimming of the other lights, the ones that come from inside us, as we become so focused on the “getting” that we forget about the “being.” We live in a busy world, and that isn’t a bad thing, but we get covered in layers of things that can keep us from being real, and it keeps our eyes focused inward, and we forget to look outward. So on this night, there was nothing else to do but look up, and nothing else to be but His. The heavens declared His Glory, and it was wonderful to see and be part of. We were blessed that night. We always are. We just forget to look up.
So I wait, sitting in gate E10 in Houston, watching the departure board because Boston is getting up to a foot of snow today, and finish typing, which takes me a little longer than most people, but I am in no rush. I have all the time in the world, and if it’s delayed and I’m still here this evening, I won’t forget what to do: just look up!
Until next year, Many Blessings