Earlier this month, my oldest daughter Nina and I headed to Nicaragua for a week. We were part of a team working with a program called Journey With a Village, through the amazing organization of Agros. Agros helps with land acquisition and the eradication of poverty in Mexico and Central America. And our church just so happens to partner with one of the Agros villages in the Matagalpa region of Nicaragua. Ben and I have been involved with Agros in some form or another for years, and just recently we’ve begun to share our love for it with Nina. This was her second visit and, judging by her experiences so far, I’m guessing it won’t be her last!
Below is a report I wrote after our return for our congregation and team supporters. Enjoy!
Greetings, fellow Agros Partners!
I have so much I want to tell you about our time in the Agros village of Tierra Nueva, Nicaragua this month. I want to tell you all about the tight hugs from familiar friends. About the success of the new rice crops, thanks to the skill and knowledge of the delightful Neveis, the new Agronomist on staff. Or maybe about the very noticeable difference in the overall health and well-being of so many kids. “Nourished” seems to be the word that keeps coming to mind. Or perhaps you would be more interested in the addition of the preschool and high school classrooms? Or the 4 churches which have recently been built? The increase in access to electricity? The thriving expansion of the coffee production, including a new wet mill for processing? The increased training and supplies for the Brigadistas, or Health Promoters, in part from the two extremely talented and generous physicians on our team? There truly is so much progress happening in the village, it’s difficult to depict the immense impact in any sort of concise manner. It just can’t be done. Let’s get coffee if you truly want to know it all.
But for now… I’m going to share something unexpected that happened and how God has used the response of the villagers to challenge myself to examine my own heart.
The something was a tragedy invoked on one of the young families in the village. Every parent’s worst nightmare come true. These young parents were forced to say goodbye to their 14-month old baby boy far too early when he went to be with the Lord after a short battle with Leukemia. And it all happened the day before our team arrived in the village.
As a team, we were simply heartbroken. We weren’t sure what to expect or how to act. As we rumbled along the dirt road, eventually arriving at the school where we disembarked, we sensed the tone in the village to be much more somber than usual. Shortly after our initial greetings, we were informed that the family was having a wake for the sweet babe, in the church just nearby.
Now, I know, as someone married to a pastor I should know what exactly that entails, but I did not grow up even a little bit Catholic. And for those of you who are just as clueless, this is essentially the time before a funeral to view the body and pray over the deceased and the family. We happened to have 2 young and very curious girls on our team. “We want to see the dead baby!” they exclaimed. Grade-schoolers sure do have a way with words.
Thankfully, God also placed a Palliative Care physician on our team, the lovely Sue Taylor. She was instrumental in helping Diane and me walk through this new and unexpected experience with our daughters.
1. Absolutely, they should view the child if they so desire.
2. In much more eloquent terms, she essentially said, “Be quiet but be present.”
You would not believe how difficult it is to walk into an unknown situation and not try to explain it to my curious child! Like I would even be the person to do that; reference several paragraphs above on my vast experience with wakes.
As I followed Nina and the rest of our team into the simple wooden church with dirt floors, I noticed several things. First, I noticed an all-too-small casket with a baby angel inside and my heart wept for the loss. I noticed Nina and Lucia, our young girls, being extremely curious yet absolutely reverent and I was beyond grateful for Sue’s guidance. But then, I noticed People. Community. Mothers sitting in chairs, nursing babies, speaking quietly. Children roaming in and out. Men standing mostly outside, discussing business and life and future. From what I could see, they had been there for a while and there was no indication that they would be leaving anytime soon. And even though the occasion was painstaking, there was some sense of comfort as the burden was shared by many.
Be Quiet, but be Present.
We talk a lot about the Power of Presence when we talk about Agros. Specifically, we talk about showing the Power of Presence. But in this instance, I found myself very much the student. So often when we do mission trips we go out to be the hands and feet of Jesus. For most of us, myself included, this stirs up visions of “doing.” Doing work, building structures, preparing activities for kids, and the like. We make it our mission to offer ourselves by way of service. But you know what hands and feet are good for besides “doing?” Hands and feet are also good for being. In the little church during the wake that day, I saw hands holding other hands, offering comfort and healing presence. And I saw feet planted firmly on the ground, willing to stand with others in their grief. I can’t help but think that Jesus would find no greater purpose for his hands and feet than that.
I came away from that particular experience both inspired and challenged. Inspired as a witness to the Power of Presence in action within the village. Challenged to be better in my own life back here in Jackson. Especially as we enter into this season of Advent. It is so easy to pack our schedules with do, do, do. But when we do that we leave no space for the moments Jesus is calling us to be, be, be. And as I saw in Tierra Nueva, this is sometimes the most important and meaningful work we can do. May you be inspired and challenged as well to be Quiet and be Present. To make space, to notice gentle nudges from the Holy Spirit, and to choose to practice the Power of Presence with those who need it most.
With Love and Many Blessings,
Addie and Nina Pascal
If you are interested in knowing more about Agros or are perhaps looking for a way to give back this holiday season, please check out their One Seed Catalog. I can think of no better gift than walking with someone right out of poverty.