North Country Mission of Hope

Hi Sisters and Associates,

I want to extend a deep and heartfelt thank you to all who continue to support the Mission of Hope on so many levels – prayer, sponsorships, funds to feed children, etc.  All is most appreciated.

I’d like to share the following story and ask for your prayers:

Carla at the orphanage

This story, once again, helps us all focus as to why there is a “Mission of Hope”.  I am referring to a little 8 year old girl named Carla. She was called Carlita by the nuns who cared for her.  She was 8 years old when we first met her in June of 2012.  We were at one of our orphanages and we were told that she was just brought to the orphanage by her mother who abandoned her there.

Well, one of our key donors was also with me at that time and wanted to pick up sponsorship of her, which he did.  Counseling (since it was obvious according to the sisters that she’d been traumatized and probably abused as well), medical care and education was provided for this beautiful child.  It was very hard to get her to smile but Tanner (young man who was with me) was able to do that with a bottle of blue nail polish. Long after the bottle of blue nail polish was empty, the Sisters told me she carried the bottle around with her.  (Blue was her favorite color).Shortly after we returned to the U. S. in June, she was transferred up to one of our orphanages in the North.  Here is where the story gets to be truly heartbreaking.  A couple of weeks ago, when in Nicaragua, we were tasked with follow up on Carla.  In the initial follow up, we were told that in the fall, the grandmother of this child, learned that she was at the orphanage and came to claim her.  When we heard this news, we felt hopeful.  Then, Carla’s world and a bit of mine as well, fell apart.

This past week, I learned that Carla is gone.  Seems her mother apparently called the grandmother from Costa Rica and told her “she – the mother”, was dying and wanted Carla sent to her.  Now, here is where the news gets increasingly disturbing and sketchy.  Since the grandmother had no way of getting her to Costa Rica, the grandmother apparently “gave her to a man” to take with him.  No name… did not know the man… simply handed off the little girl to a stranger.  If you think this is a bit disturbing, another question I have, is “why in God’s name would you send a child who has already been significantly traumatized”, to another country with a strange man to a mother who was dying?  Needless to say, those of us who met Carla, held her, loved her and cared for her – both the Sisters at the orphanage as well as the sponsor and we within the Mission, know all too well, that the reality is that we probably will never see Carla again and worse yet, wonder what other horrors this young girl is dealing with.

Yes, we can only HOPE that Carla is safe, sound and well cared for, but this is highly doubtful given the human vultures of our world.

So, if you ever wonder why or how the Mission got started, here’s a glimpse… and her story is multiplied a hundred times over and over and over again – all around the world.

And yet, we find great joy, great HOPE and great perseverance among the children, the Sisters who love and care for them and among the many different facilities we assist within the Mission.  I do want you to know it has taken me a week to be able to speak about little Carla without crying.  I picture her dark eyes, her fragile hugs, her hesitant smile and while I am saddened and angry, I must continue to HOPE and to care for the thousands more who are impacted daily within the Mission – via our healthcare, education, community development and ecological sustainability.

We have reported the situation to authorities but reality is that nothing will be done.

So, as we prepare to embark on our 49th Mission of Hope (and by the way, we are celebrating our 15th year of the Mission during 2013), I ask for your continued prayerful support.

As I think about Carla’s tragic life, I can only pray that the man who took her, had good intentions, (while the facts are overwhelmingly against that possibility).  So many times folks say:  “Sister, I could never do what you and your volunteers do, I could never go on Mission, I’d cry all the time or I’d be overwhelmed with sadness and I’d want to bring all those kids home”.  Well, that is what many of us feel oftentimes.

But, we also know and believe that if we don’t bring HOPE to those most in need, who will?  And frankly, while we do many good and loving actions while on Mission, we all come home with hearts full of love… a renewed understanding of what it means to receive far more than we give, to be loved unconditionally, to deepen our awareness of gratitude for all we have, to make decisions to pay it forward or become more involved on a regular basis as a donor or a traveler… it is all about recognizing that the “Spirit of God is upon each and every one of us” and that we are all called to bring Glad tidings – HOPE – to those in need.  I’d be remiss if I did not mention how incredible the caregivers are who reach out to these young children.  I pray daily that I can grow to be as selfless as they are, as loving and as giving.

Eyes of God, Face of Hope

Sometimes our churches forget to emphasize the second piece of Jesus’ message, namely, that if we don’t continue the ministry and mission of Jesus, what’s the sense of reading and/or praying the Scriptures?  We are all called to be the hands, heart, feet of Jesus TODAY – each day – wherever we find ourselves and in whatever way we can.

Yes, some can donate funds, some can donate time, some can donate items, some can go on Mission, but we can ALL do something….not only far away but locally as well.

So, how does this help the “Carlas” of our world?  I don’t even pretend to have all the answers but I do know that we brought and shared love with her – however briefly.  We let her know she was beautiful, and helped her to have HOPE.  So, while my heart breaks for her and so many more children like Carla, I can either throw up my hands and give up… or I can be “the drop in the bucket”..I can be the one who reaches out to her in the moment in which I find myself.

I choose to be the drop in the bucket!

Live and share HOPE this week!

Sr. Debbie Blow, OP

Dear Sisters and Associates,

As some of you know, I am presently on sabbatical; and one of the  things I included in my budget was to accompany Debbie on the Mission of Hope to Nicaragua, which I did in January. To say that it was an amazing and deeply  moving experience is an understatement. The poverty and need among those whom  the Mission serves is beyond anything I’ve ever seen, or could have imagined!  Yet they are by and large a happy, peaceful people who are so very grateful for  every little thing you do for them.

The outreach of the Mission extends far beyond the  town of Chiquilistagua, the home base of the Mission. From the Mission web site  and the beautiful brochure Debbie puts out each year, I was familiar with the  incredible numbers of projects the Mission has initiated and supports in the  areas of health care, nutrition, education, empowerment of women, ecological and community development, as well as orphanages and projects serving mentally and physically challenged children and teens.

SIster Mary with a sponsored child named Sophie

Yet, seeing pictures and reading couldn’t touch the  reality of actually meeting and spending time with the people themselves. I was  so deeply touched by a little 12 year old girl, Reina, with pneumonia in the  children’s hospital, whose parents dropped her off and simply disappeared. She  had not yet been told she had been abandoned – but at least the parents had left  her where they knew the sisters would take care of her. I was so humbled and  inspired by what the sisters were able to do with so little, as well as by all  that the Mission has done over the years in terms of equipment and medication  they have provided. And this experience was multiplied over and over during the  week as I visited other sites, including the farm where mentally and physically challenged young men are taught how to work the land and raise crops for  personal use and profit; a children’s orphanage, and delivering huge bags of  rice and beans to a family of 18 living in a shelter barely large enough for 3  or 4 people.

When we reflect on the legacy of hope that we, as Dominicans of Hope, are  leaving, I can assure you that that legacy is already well – established among  God’s beloved poor in Nicaragua. And although I don’t want to embarrass Debbie,  I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the absolutely incredible things she  has accomplished through her founding and charismatic leadership of the Mission of Hope. I feel so blessed and privileged to have been even a tiny part of this  ministry, and so profoundly grateful for all that I have (and take so much for  granted). I am looking forward to returning to Nicaragua in a few weeks  and being involved in other areas of ministry which I didn’t have time to visit during my January trip. May you all have a blessed Lent and a joyous spring and Easter!

In loving hope, Mary

Mary  Schneiders, OP

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