My husband, Richard, and I go to rural Nicaragua as volunteers to drill water wells with an organization called Rainbow Network. Rainbow Network is a Christian ministry that provides healthcare, education, micro-business development loans, and housing for rural Nicaraguans. These people live in extreme poverty and hardship. One trip we worked building a small group of little houses, several miles from the nearest little town on a dirt road.
One day Richard and our interpreter took the truck into Managua to purchase more water pipe. During their absence, I simply joined eight Nicaraguans in hand digging foundations for the little concrete block houses that would replace their dirt-floor shacks.
I communicated mostly with smiles and gestures while trying to pick out a few familiar Spanish words. I knew these people only a little. One day I’d gone with Raquel to fix lunch for her children and her sick father over a fire of sticks.
Richard planned to return in a couple hours, about 3:00 p.m. As 4:30 approached, the unfamiliar labor took its toll, and I returned to the tool shed to wait. No one wears a watch in Nicaragua because people who don’t have enough food for their children can’t afford a watch. Besides, time is less meaningful when there are more ox carts than trucks on the washed-out dirt roads.
I knew the workers would soon quit to walk home before the 6:00 p.m. darkness. As I waited, Raquel brought her shovel and sat down on the board to talk. We’d taught each other new words all day. Knowing her family awaited their supper, and with storm clouds moving across the western sky, I tried to communicate I wasn’t afraid to wait alone. Plus, I’d asked Pedro, the sixth grader we’d hired to help with drilling, to keep me company.
I began to wonder about my husband and the interpreter at the 5:30 p.m. sunset. Other workers put their tools away and sat down to “talk”. As the sun set, we shared the pronunciation for words like “moon” and “stars” in Spanish and English.
By 7:00 p.m., I knew their families were waiting and perhaps worrying as I was. But they were relaxed and simply comfortable together in the darkness, seeming to enjoy the simple game of teaching me Spanish.
I’ve come to understand the gentle openness of rural Nicaraguan families. But I’d never seen them as warmly protective as they were while we passed the time until — shortly after 7:00 p.m. — headlights approached. Managua, a city of millions, is accessed via two-lane roads; the pipe-laden truck had been snarled in never-ending highway construction.
The extra hands quickly unloaded the pipe, and my gentle hosts quietly dispersed to start their walk home in the dark. I was in the midst of an endeavor to help them. Yet these beautiful, rural Nicaraguans had blessed me with the gifts of their time and graciousness.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The author refers you to: www.rainbownetwork.org