by Kelly Barr-RC Missionary: Atlanta
Late in the evening on Easter Sunday a group of Regnum Christi missionaries, Legionary priests, and high schoolers from around the country boarded a plane for Nicaragua to serve on the fifth annual mission in the country. This time around we began work on a chapel near the village of Limonal, a desolate and dusty grouping of corrugated steel shacks and narrow dirt roads on the outskirt of the city dump. In Limonal the skeletal cattle that usually graze in the junkyard meandered through the village alleys, and the smoke from the smoldering trash heaps polluted the air. It looked like the scene of an apocalypse. But for the people living there, the apocalypse came years before on the winds of Hurricane Mitch. Their plastic tarp, tin roof homes were torn to shreds, so they moved to Limonal between the dump and the graveyard on a government promise that the situation would be temporary, that their homes would be rebuilt. Of course rescue never came, and so nearly twenty years later the forlorn residents of Limonal remain a permanent fixture amidst the ash of the dump and the death of the graveyard. Business here consists of children collecting metal scraps and redeeming them for change at the Jefe’s house. They labor long and die early from the constant exposure to poisonous fumes and disease. On one occasion as we walked through the dump a little boy, probably under ten, materialized out of the smoke heaving over his shoulder a sack of trash big enough to drag in the dirt and still tower over his head. He turned his hunched neck to look at us, hiked the bag up on his shoulder, and vanished again into the thick, acrid smoke like a formless apparition. What could anyone do to help such a desperate situation?
I have convinced myself in the past that when I board the plane home my work is done. I’ve told myself that I’ve made my contribution. Being a missionary for a week is indeed good work, but it is not nearly enough. The real work begins when we get home to our prayer. We have to believe that our prayers are more powerful than any physical aid we can offer, because we cannot possibly offer enough. Missionaries are not the whole answer—God is. So we need to constantly renew our faith in His plan and remember that He will provide where we cannot. We can’t labor under the Nicaraguan sun forever, but we can labor in prayer for them. I think this is the only way to bring hope to a hopeless situation. Limonal is beyond our reach, and I don’t think the government will intercede any time in the near future. There will always be suffering. But let’s hope and pray that in their suffering, those people glorify God and that their sacrifice here on Earth be duly rewarded in heaven.