It is severely stressful to live here right now. Today I said “goodbye” to a dear friend and one of my most valued ministry partners. We had a great conversation which all returned to “But who knows what will happen next?” “But who knows how things will be then?” “But we’ll have to see what’s happening by that time.”
Today, meaning 6PM Wednesday through 6PM Thursday, is officially my strangest day of being a missionary. It’s all been strange, if I’m honest; I write my blog, in part, to convey how differently life runs here than in the U.S., at least than the U.S. of my experience.
But today, we have a paro nacional, a nationwide strike. Have you ever experienced that? I’m gonna say if you live in the US, you haven’t. Nicaraguans may have. I have not. What will happen? Maybe nothing, more literally nothing than most other days, if all businesses stay closed, as they might. Will the outbreaks of violence increase? Who knows? Will it help? We’ll have to see.
Our school went to online classes a month before we finished our semester, but Nicaraguan public schools, which have a school year that runs from february through November, still have kids going to class (I’m not sure about tomorrow; universities will close). Seeing them appear in droves on their way home looks shockingly normal.
My Nicaraguan friends I saw today continued to be kind and generous and helpful. Also, someone snuck into our house and stole Kim’s computer. We don’t know how. I tend to remember on some level that a spiritual battle constantly rages out of sight of most of us. Good or bad, I don’t focus on it as much as some do. Today, though, in the midst of all this chaos and violence and uncertainty, when I came home and Kim told me someone had stolen it, that felt like an attack from Satan. And, of course, someone doing a bad thing to us. She’s very sad and discouraged. We walked around the house for a while looking for it because it didn’t seem possible. But it’s gone. It would take a miracle for it to come back, so I’d ask you to pray for one.
In perspective, of course, people are suffering much worse here. It feels like a spiritual attack because it comes at such a vulnerable, difficult moment. That’s my experience of the enemy, to kick you in the gut or the teeth when you’re down.
When I say “strangest day,” I mean being face-to-face with a national crisis like this. Living in the midst of it, where life feels both normal and really freaking strange. I mean try to imagine a US national strike in which all businesses close. Right. So do we hide inside tomorrow? The Nicaraguans with whom I play ultimate invited me to their spontaneous practice tomorrow–they’re playing because hey! it’s a day off. Will I play? We’ll have to see.
I played with them today, which is their regular day to practice. I can’t put into words how good it felt to run and vent off the accumulated stress. I’d noticed my nerves were frayed and I had to control myself not to yell at my kids for things that normally wouldn’t even catch my attention–and at which I should not be yelling. I even told my son today that a few times when I had to stop and recenter and calm myself, those were not his fault in the least, but simply an affect of the tension we’re all living under now. Ultimate players, we played threes. Non-ultimate players, three on three means a lot of running–I mean a ridiculous amount of running. I loved it. I needed it.
I don’t know how our Nicaraguan friends are coping with the stress. I think, as my friend Eric pointed out, US folks believe we have a right to choices, to control, to getting to decide how things go for us. I believe many Nicaraguans, especially those who live in poverty, have fewer expectations (or illusions) to be in control of every situation, or to have the power over their circumstances to choose as they please. I mean, like we do.
But I can say, not as a generalization or stereotype but thinking of each person with whom I’ve spoken today, that my Nicaraguan friends remain positive and hopeful. When I ask, “Are things calm in your neighborhood” and the answer is, “Yes, they’re fine, just one truck drove by with seven guys with their faces covered shooting guns, but just that one time and otherwise it’s calm, everything else is good, gracias a Dios,” I’m pretty sure that would sound different being described by gringo friends. Or me.
So we keep counting down days, we keep breathing in stress, we keep trying to love the people well while we’re still here. Tonight our friend Aaron bought pizza for everyone (thanks, Aaron!) and we had two Nicaraguan families and a temporary bachelor over for dinner. We had a blast. We laughed. Of course we talked about the situation here, and about our stolen computer. Not everything was light-hearted. But we celebrated being together while we still are and we enjoyed our friendships even though tomorrow is completely uncertain.