Bridging that divide has been one of the goals of the First Church. For two years now, they have organized youth group trips to plant trees at a farm beyond Waslala owned by the church, and to visit the rural churches in the northern region. This past October, Magyolene and I got to tag along on the trip. There were 11 of us in total: Pastor Enrique, Sonia, Johanna, Mayito, me along with the jovenes (youngsters) Joelia, Melissa, Cinthya, Darichela, Karina and Carlos.
|Cinthya and Mayito on the bus.|
The farm is known as Las Jaguas. For several years now, la Misión has been working to create a viable dairy operation on the property. With the help of Disciples church from Idaho they have build milking structures, planted fodder and build fence posts. This coming year they plan to purchase their first heads of cattle. The farm itself is fairly large and is quite hilly, with sections cleared for pasture and crops, but big swathes left wild. The paths to the upper fields head straight up the side of the hill, which Juan, the local caretaker, and his family seem to run up without any visible effort. But for the rest of us city slickers, getting to the top without slipping and falling in the mud was an accomplishment to be proud of.
|Carlos and Joelia, resting for a moment in the shade.|
|Cinthya, Karina and Melissa.|
|Hydration is important.|
Our goal was to build "living fences" that lined the edges of the fields that were planted with corn. The trees planted by the group last year had survived and were already a decent size. All of us worked pretty hard. We think we planted more than 300 trees during two days, and each night we slept hard in our hammocks.
|The group, hiking to visit the ojo de agua.|
After lunch on the second day we decided to hike to the ojo de agua (fresh water spring, literally, the "eye of water") that gives potable drinking water for the farm, and the cattle. A few years ago the church paid to run a PVC pipe from the spring down to the farm house, a distance of nearly 2 kilometers. It was a beautiful walk, running through the forest and along the stream bed, following the white thread of pipe through the greenery. We visited the part of the farm where they had planted cacao trees that would soon be giving their first harvest. Of course, halfway to our goal, the daily afternoon downpour caught us, soaking us completely to the bone.
|Kenia and Mayra, showing us a cacao tree.|
|Sonia, seconds before getting drenched by the rain.|
|Hiking to Las Nubes.|
On Sunday, our plan was to visit a local church named Las Nubes (The Clouds). This involved catching another before-dawn bus to nearby Puerto Viejo where we set out on foot (and horse) away from the road and headed up, up, up, up, up into the hills. It turns out that the name is literal; the church is perched almost at the top of a mountain, about a 4 hour hike from the road. Since it was the rainy season, the path was completely choked with mud. And unlike hiking trails in the U.S., Nicaraguan trails are mostly free of switchbacks. We just charged straight uphill and kept going until we got to the top.
|Joelia and Cinthya, and horses.|
|Melissa, on the upward climb.|
|We got so high up we were looking down on tiny villages.|
|The gorgeous sanctuary at Las Nubes|
|Karina, Carlos and Darichela teach songs to the kiddies.|
|Joelia and Mayito lead Sunday School for the young adults.|
|The trumpet player was AMAZING.|
We returned to the road by another route, and naturally, we were caught again in a torrential downpour just while we were picking our way down a steep path. As the rains came we heard the roar of a troupe of howler monkeys (although we didn't see them). We were all exhausted and muddy when we reached the road. Thankfully the bus came and took us back to our hammocks. The next morning we caught the first of our three buses that would take us back home to Managua.