For some college students, spring break means seven days of sun-tanned, alcohol-sodden fun. But for those who make the trek down to Managua, the week is far from parties and carefree lounging (although we throw a bit of that in too!) The arrival of Vanderbilt last weekend marked the beginning of Manna’s spring break season. Each week of March welcomes one or two groups of university students who live and serve alongside PDs in order to connect passionate young people in the States to the faces and hearts of the developing world.
Vandy’s group arrived eclectic and enthusiastic, excited to jump into life here. The week began with an overnight trip to Laguna de Apoyo and led into busy days shadowing literacy and math classes, helping in English groups, and co-teaching women’s exercise. The group witnessed La Chureca, planned a community-wide field day, and ate with a Nicaraguan family. And amidst, or perhaps despite, such a packed schedule, these students really loved on the Nica kids as if they’d be present here beyond a simple seven days. With stickers and candy and hugs and games, gringo and Nica came together over goofy photo shoots and four square competitions and semi-crazy (totally chaotic!) water balloon tosses. Yet with the culmination of the trip around a campfire Friday night on the beach, I realized how their reflection could so spur my own.
As the leaders of this Vandy group, Kyle and I walked away from the week with a new delight and fervor for life here. It is both gut-wrenching and incredibly precious to accompany someone as they witness a place as real and as injust as La Chureca. Leading these wide-eyed students through the mounds of trash, through the smoke and vultures, past the dirty children with their light hair and distended bellies, I was compelled to behold it all anew. And to see it with fresh eyes was to see it with a vulnerable heart, with a renewed sensitivity to the fact that life in this place is neither good nor right. Over the past seven months here, of entering this “neighborhood” within a dump twice a week, my emotions have become impervious, somehow indifferent to the poverty of this place. I used to cry; now it seems normal. And in this way I see the entries of these spring break groups as an immense gift – they keep us zealous and passionate, each time offering us new eyes through which to see the world we serve.
Thank you thank you, Vandy.