Monday, June 9, 2014

Nicaragua and Me

I was in Nicaragua on a mission trip from May 27 to June 4.

It was an amazing experience.

And I'm still processing it.  It may just be a good thing that I was not able to blog the trip each day while I was there.  I could have written each day's experiences and been done.  This way, I have to think about it, reflect on it and ponder on what it means for my life and my faith.

So I'm blogging now.

This a view from the plane after we left our day-late connecting flight in Houston.  The clouds formations were amazing from the top.

This is a view of Managua from the air as we landed.

We stayed in Managua at the Iglesia Luterana Fe y Esperanza's retreat center in Cedro Galen.  Don't let 'retreat center' fool you.  This is a working farm which also is the youth camp.  Delegations from the States stay there, as well as the local pastors when they come in for training.  It's rustic - it's a camp

We traveled in the western part of the country.  I can't figure out how to mark this picture, but Managua is on the smallest of the large lakes.  We also traveled to the villages in the north, past the bumps that is a range of active volcanoes almost to where the massive mountain ranges begin.

That gets the details of what I was doing in Nicaragua out of the way.  This is a post on what I learned about me - specifically my body - on this trip.

First, Nicaragua is very hot.  It was in the mid to upper 90's during the day and the coolest it got at night was a brisk 77.  And it was humid.  Very humid.  So humid that when you dry off from the shower, you're still wet humid.  Hair doesn't dry humid (my hair was wet for about 4 days solid!).

Which means sweat - a lot!  I hate sweat.  I hate things that make me sweat.  But I loved Nicaragua.  Because it taught me something about sweat (it taught me a lot of things, but we'll get to those!):  the body needs to sweat.

After a few days I noticed that I felt good - really good.  My skin was softer.  My joints didn't ache.  I did have some problems with my bad knee on the steeper climbs, but I felt good.  Sweating out all the toxins was good for me.

And I drank a lot of water.  I drank more water in one day that I sometimes do in a week.  That's not to say I'm drinking a lot of soda or tea.  I'm just not normally thirsty.  Drinking water is good for me too.  I hadn't realized how dehydrated I normally am.  It made me feel better.

The food was plain - simple but delicious.  Every meal we had rice and beans, but those were seasoned expertly.  We had corn tortillas -handmade from just corn, nothing else.  In the villages the meat was fresh - my daughter observed that the chicken we had for dinner probably was roaming the yard that morning - and consumed in small quantities.  The eggs were fresh from under the hen.  My digestive system worked better than it has in a long time.

Lots of water, plain fresh food, exercise and sweat - there's nothing new here.  I know that these are good for me.  But it took Nicaragua for me to actually experience how good.

The Lutheran church in Nicaragua does holistic ministry - caring for body and soul, human and creation.   They take very seriously the inter-connectedness of all creation and the fact that we are embodied beings.  When we were leaving El Rodeito and our host families, I prayed that God would bless Pastors Gerzan and Emperatris and bless their ministries.  Pastor Gerzan asked me to pray for their health too - because without health, nothing goes well.

We say that too - if you don't got you heath, you don't got anything.  But how often is that only lip service.  We say we value health, and then pursue an unhealthy lifestyle.  At least I know I am guilty of this!

I realized that I need to confess my lack of care for the body God has given me.  I get too wrapped up in the mental and spiritual aspects of life, and ignore the physical.  But the physical is God's good creation, a gift to us to care for and enjoy.  This is part of the stewardship of creation which God entrusted to us humans back in the garden.  

How will this work out in the coming days and weeks?  I don't know.  It's hard to change habits, to alter your lifestyle.  This lesson from Nicaragua is one I want to hold on to - to let it seep into my being and change me.  

I really liked feeling good!

PS - my plantar fasciitis pain was completely gone while in Nicaragua.  I give part credit to my orthoheel flip flops and the Keen sandals and hiking shoes I wore on the trip.  But I also noticed that I did very little walking on concrete or asphalt or other hard surfaces.  Most of the walking I did was on hard packed earth.  Another thing to ponder.

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