1-20-15 | Volunteers
“Life Finds a Way.” This quip from our tour guide perfectly captures our most recent 9-day stay in Nicaragua. There is a certain species of Nicaraguan plant life that exists in a cave and thrives in complete darkness. Biologists have linked this plant to bats living in the cave. Centuries ago, bats carried and deposited seeds into the cave via their digestive system. Our tour guide explained how the plants have survived without sunlight or photosynthesis. “Somehow,” he said, “life finds a way!”
Indeed, life finds a way all the way up the mountain to the thriving little village of San José de Cusmapa. This past December marked my 10th trip to Nicaragua. I am impressed year-after-year with the progress that is made and the new life that continually emerges there.
The final stretch of road is nearly paved! Every year I tell tales of this 25 kilometer slow-going stretch of windy road that once took us over 2 hours to traverse in the back of a pickup truck! Along with the main road, there are a few more paved streets in town, and the back roads leading to the rural communities have seen marked improvement. I can only imagine the opportunities for commerce, for education, and for jobs now that people are able to travel more effectively to Cusmapa and beyond. Little by little, one brick paver at a time … Life finds a way!
Our week starts on Sunday when we celebrate Mass with the community, take a tour of Cusmapa, and hear the story of Father Fabretto. Many of the families living in Cusmapa today are the children and grandchildren of those “kids” who were raised as orphans by Father Fabretto, and our work is a continuation of the great mission he began here.
We spent the week at the Fabretto volunteer house in Cusmapa and worked on a project at the oratorio. Doña Nora graced us with her delicious cooking, while project engineers Javier and Felix kept us busy on the worksite. We paved a sidewalk, we learned about coffee production and visited the basket cooperative, we enjoyed playground games with the kids, and we made many new friends. It is evident by working side-by-side with talented people like Nora, Javier, Felix, the Fabretto staff and teachers, that despite limited resources … Life finds a way!
The highlight of the week for me was re-connecting with Cesar and Izamar – two students I met last year in the English class. We’d been keeping in touch via Facebook (yes, they actually have Facebook!), and it was a thrill to see them again in person! Cesar, Iza, and their friends from church wanted to throw a Christmas party for the kids in a neighboring village, but they needed some help. We had been exchanging messages about this for several weeks, and I was so impressed with their initiative and dedication. Perhaps what surprised me most was that this group of teenagers recognized there were kids in a village even more remote than Cusmapa who deserved to celebrate Christmas.
I think the most important work we can do is inspire and support the next generation of young leaders. So with the help of Kimberly Scott, a local Peace Corp volunteer, Cesar and Iza wrote a project plan and devised a budget. And thanks to the generosity of our donors, I had brought along some extra cash! On December 23, the group Divino Niño Jesus hosted a Christmas party for the kids in the El Rodeo community. Life finds a way!
Throughout the week, I had a chance to talk with our friends from Fabretto about the possibility of me spending an extended amount of time in Nicaragua with them – perhaps for a few weeks or a few months – in between projects here in Chicago. They had some ideas that really sparked my interest, so I’m signing up for a Spanish class in January and working through some other details. God willing… Life will find a way!
Finally, our trip ended with a free day in Granada. On our very last night in Nicaragua, we attended mass at the central Cathedral in Managua. It was the week before Christmas. The gospel reading that night told the story of the angel Gabriel who appears to Mary and announces that she will bear a son. Mary wonders, “How can this be?!” My Spanish is not great, but there was one line that resounded loud and clear, “Nada es imposible para Dios; nothing is impossible with God!” Surely, Christmas is the gospel’s way of proclaiming … Life finds a way!
I am certain that Father Fabretto believed and lived by that motto, “Nothing is impossible with God!” What began as a single home for children in the far outreaches of Nicaragua, quickly multiplied to include five centers, and today has expanded in unimaginable ways. Twenty-five years after his death, La Familia Padre Fabretto continues his legacy by providing education, nutrition, health, vocational training, support for local business cooperatives, and so much more!
The people of Nicaragua have faced many obstacles over the years including hunger, poverty, natural disaster, and civil war. Yet like tiny seeds in a cave, La Familia Padre Fabretto has survived and even thrived in the darkness … Life finds a way!
Beth Knobbe has been volunteering with Fabretto since 2003. She participates in the child sponsorship program, and she has lead mission groups to Nicaragua from the Sheil Catholic Center and Old St. Patrick’s Church. Beth is an author and ministry professional based in Chicago. You can view her photos from Nicaragua and read other reflections at www.bethknobbe.com.