This blog post was originally written following our July 2012 Mission / Learning Trip to Nicaragua. We were hosted by the Jubilee House Community / Center For Development in Central America. This post recounts the night we spent away from the JHC in the Community of El Porvenir. Read more about the work of the JHC/CDCA here: http://jhc-cdca.org/
Night has fallen. Night has fallen. God our Maker, guard us sleeping… (evening hymn from Malawi)
Night has fallen, and after a time sitting up with some of our Nicaraguan hosts you get ready for bed. You brush your teeth with water from your water bottle. You apply bug spray. You look at the thin, bunched bit of netting that will be your bed for the evening and wonder how this will work. You look out from the porch and stare into the darkness. Somewhere out there lurks a volcano, but all you see is black. As you begin to climb into your hammock, the single light bulb that has been giving the group light turns off. You get part of you into the hammock and try to figure out where the rest of your body goes. You spread out the netting and find a place for your legs and your head. You realize that you are off-center and your legs are way above your head. You scoot, readjust, and swing as you settle down. The hammock continues to swing for a minute, and you wonder how this is going to work. You hear noises from your friends around you that suggest that they too are trying to figure out their hammock.
The group is quiet. Most of the group has settled into a comfortable spot or at least given up the struggle. Somewhere nearby a family listens to a radio. El Porvenir is “off the grid”, and any radios (or small televisions) that in the village are being run off of the family battery. Families take turns placing their battery in the tractor. The tractor goes up and down the hill. The battery is charged. The family can run a radio or use a light bulb a little. Along with the radios you hear dogs and chickens and who knows what else. You try to shift again to find a comfortable spot.
“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (Psalm 119:105)
We forget what a necessary thing light is to walk along an unknown path in the dark until we don’t have that light. When you have to get up – it is very, very dark. You stumble and catch your balance. You wonder what is hiding in the grass at your feet. So, this is what the Psalmist means. In some ways the world of El Porvenir seems closer the to Biblical world than does our home in Wilmington.
Eventually you fall asleep. After what seems like only a moment, you hear a rooster, and you turn your head looking for sleep. Another rooster responds and then another. You squirm and feel exhausted. You check your watch. It is 3:00am. You put your head back and groan a bit. The roosters keep crowing. You pray for quiet roosters. The roosters crow. One of them sounds a little older. Its crow is tired and worn out sounding. It sounds like you feel. You begin to think not nice thoughts about roosters. Then, quiet. Ahh… You roll your head to the side and look for sleep. COCK-A-DOODLE-DOO!!! You think “shoot the rooster…” or “crow at dawn… yeah right!” You roll over -or instead you squirm because you are in a hammock. You wish that you could turn off your hearing. COCK-A-DOODLE-DOO!!! You realize that every night here is like this. You check your watch looking to see progress towards morning. 3:14am. COCK-A-DOODLE-DOO!!!
As the roosters continue, the dogs begin to bark. They bark in response to each other in an unbroken chain. The sounds mix into cacophony as you wait for morning. You shift in the hammock. Then there is another sound. It is rhythmical. What could that be? It sounds like someone is slapping something. You smell a wood fire. Then you realize women in the village are up making tortillas for the day. They are beating the maize dough with their hands. It is not yet 4:00am, and the women are up preparing food for the day. You continue to lie in your hammock listening to the roosters, the dogs, and the tortilla making.
Around 4:30am some members of our group get up to walk out to the look-out where we had been the afternoon before. They see the sun rise over the plains below us.
It is morning, and we are in a world far different than our own.