An account of the real people, places, and events that took place after two Category-5 hurricanes hit the east coast of Nicaragua in November 2020. Some of the individual names have been changed, but God’s truth & light continue to shine in the darkness as a collaboration of the following:
Iglesia El Amor de Dios
One Body Global Ministries, Inc.
Maderas Artisans Mission Collective
Island Breeze Ministries
Baptist Medical Dental Mission International
“The lights are back on, Josefina!” The children tell me the news as they dance along the dirt road in our village of Boom Sirpi, Nicaragua. I don’t know why this matters so much. We don’t have a lightbulb in our home. The only one broke during the first hurricane and then the power went out for three long months. The darkness just means that people feel invisible, invisible enough to steal the little that their neighbors have in the pitch blackness. No one wants to steal anything I have left anyway. All I have are hungry little mouths to feed, like Baby Jimena howling at my feet again.
Those two black rolling beasts blew in from the sea one right after the other in November. I’ve never seen anything like it. Abuelita Melva told me stories of storms like them, but I always thought those stories much exaggerated. It was beyond terrifying the way the sky changed colors and swirled in on itself. We all stumbled into the church, dragging our little ones and grabbing what we could on the way. Then we waited, huddled on the floor for hours and hours, listening to the wind howl and wondering if we would survive. It was unimaginable when we had to repeat the whole thing again two weeks later.
The winds peeled back more than half of the roofs and carried them off to who knows where. The winds even blew away the poor chickens as they flapped and squawked their protests. And now there are no eggs, which were the one thing we used to always count on. But it’s not like there is anything to feed a chicken anyway. The cows and pigs that remained after the storms were eaten quickly before they starved as well.
The hurricane-force winds blew away the entire harvest. If only we had known and had brought it all in a few weeks earlier-that crop of plantains, rice, and yucca. Now we have nothing to eat. The farmers walked 2 hours to get to their fields during the planting season and stayed for days at a time. The men would take turns tending the crops until harvest. Now all of that hard work was in vain. There weren’t even any seeds saved to replant for the next year. How will we ever survive?
A few trucks pulled in the week after the storm. They came with emergency supplies to mend the injured. They gave a small piece of metal roofing to each house so there could be a sheltered corner to hide from the rain. They gave a small food bag to each family to help sustain them for a few weeks. But that was 3 months ago when the hurricanes were big news. No one remembers us now.
Abuelita Melva says that we should all be thankful to God. God sent the missionaries from Pennsylvania to build the big church and some stone houses more than 5 years ago. If it weren’t for them, the people would have had nowhere to take shelter during the hurricanes. They all would have been blown away. Yet it’s hard to feel thankful when everyone is so miserable. The missionaries built things and then left. Now it feels as though God left too.
t’s been 3 long months and everyone is sick because the flooding contaminated the wells. We must boil the water if we don’t want to become more sick from parasites. But boiling the water means that we have to collect wood to make a fire, which means we need to walk several kilometers and then carry the wood home. That is hard to do when we haven’t eaten and feel weak from sickness. It’s easier to just lay in a hammock and give up.
Pastor Diego and Esperanza live in the village with us even though they don’t have to stay. They could leave and go back to their home near the city where there is power, clean water, and food. They tell us that God loves us and to trust in him. My children go to their house to beg for a little rice each day and they give them a small handful. I know they don’t have much to eat themselves and still they share. I know there are dozens of children begging at their door. Maybe there is some truth to what they teach about God loving others. This is the name of their church after all “El Amor de Dios”. I boil a pot of grass for my babies so they won’t bother the pastor and his wife anymore today.
Then there is a bit of hope. There is news of another group of visitors coming. They say they are friends of the pastor and his wife. They are working on a plan to help Boom Sirpi, but I am trying not to expect too much. Then a truck arrives with over 2 tons of food in the middle of the night. I have never seen so much food in my life! It also has medication that my babies desperately need for their hurting stomachs. There is even clothing, shoes, and blankets on this truck. All of ours is mildewed and stinking.
I accept my food bag when my name is called and try to maintain my look of irritation. A small smile sneaks out anyway when I’m surprised by its weight. That’s a lot of grain! In fact, I can hardly carry it back to my home. I have to balance it on my head or it will slip out of my arms. The little ones will be so happy tonight. Baby Jimena will sleep well with a full stomach. Abuelita Melva was right, God hasn’t forgotten us. Maybe there is hope coming.
In the coming weeks, there is news of more yet to come. A foundation from the city is donating water filters to each family in the village and the first shipment has already arrived. An agriculture and farming specialist is coming later this year to teach us how to grow better grain and raise healthier cattle. The planting season begins in May when the rains return. Of course, we have no seed, but our visitors said they will try to send us some. I think I believe them. They talked about sending us chickens too, but that’s a lot to hope for.
And then there is the best news of all. Compassion International is coming to the Miskito Coast next year. They want to speak with Pastor Diego and Esperanza about opening a project in Boom Sirpi. My babies may actually get an education one day and a chance to see a real doctor! There is a light in this darkness after all.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:5
Next Steps: Community Self-Sufficiency
We would like to bring back the chicken population of Boom Sirpi, Nicaragua after they tragically blew away during the last storm. This focused, community-centric plan, includes a centralized hen house next to the village church. Our hope is that one day soon, the children could come to the church to eat eggs daily. In the developing world, eggs are the most efficient method to consistently deliver animal protein, which is so important to developing brains. Maderas Artisans Mission Collective will commit to purchasing the chicken feed for the current year until future community harvests can replenish their own supply.