I returned home Sunday from one of my favorite places in all the world. The last 4 years, I’ve had the privilege to go and serve with my church alongside the ministry of Savior’s Tear in Managua, Nicaragua, run by Amarillo missionaries Wayne and Elaine MaGouirk. They run the most beautiful school I’ve ever seen called Oasis de Esperanza in the middle of the poorest section of Managua. Read more about them at http://saviorstear.com/
It’s so fun to be able to go back each year – I feel a part of the family. The teachers have become friends. I’ve finally learned a bunch of the kids names (there are over 400 kids, so I have a long way to go). And the kids make me feel really special because they chant my name during their assemblies. It’s not because I’m awesome or special, but because I can do magic tricks. Really – learn a few tricks and you can become an instant celebrity to children. “Mago Broos” is what I’m known as in those parts. It’s fun.
I could write lots of words about what a great week we had and all that I saw God do through us and in us. But I think I’ll just keep it brief, and share two stories that impacted me.
Thursday was easily the best day I’ve ever had at Oasis de Esperanza. When we showed up that morning, we discovered that we were going to be a part of something new that the school had never done before. Throughout the school year, they had put on 2 intra-school tournaments – soccer for the boys, kickball for the girls – and today they were playing the championship matches. I couldn’t be more happy that those games were played while we were there. The students – and us – lined the dirty playing field and cheered our hearts out as the 5th grade girls took on the 6th graders. It was intense. The large mango tree in left field made things really interesting. The 6th grade girls won, we made one of those Kids Inc. parents’ cheering tunnels, and all the girls were relatively happy regardless of the result. And then came the boys game. 4th grade vs. 6th grade. I joined the 4th grade classroom on their side of the field because I like the underdog, and also my 4 years of experience taught me that 4th grader Jose Luis is pound for pound the most skilled player in the whole school.
The game was awesome. Kids had made signs in their classroom. The boys wore same-colored shirts for their uniforms. Red (or shades of red) for the older team, white for the youngers. The 4th grade goalie wore one rubber glove to help with his defense. Some boys had tennis shoes, others wore their school dress shoes. We all yelled at the top of our lungs, singing songs and chanting names. My 4th graders pulled out a victory (or rather, my boy Jose Luis dominated the 6th graders), and it was like they won the Super Bowl. Everyone rushed the field, they ran into their classrooms jumping up and down on their desks. Darwin, their teacher, who is a pretty serious older guy, even cracked a big smile and didn’t care the kids were standing on his desk. They were presented with a big trophy.
Of course, the 6th graders were devastated. After a good cry and a few pep talks, they were able to perk up and receive congratulations from everyone for a game well-played. The whole day was great because we didn’t have to be at the school that day with our own agenda – with the magic shows and bible stories and crafts and games we normally provide. We got to just be a part of the school. To sit and laugh and stand and cheer. To watch these kids simply be kids. These kids – whose daily lives are filled with hunger and violence and tragedies and fears we as Americans can’t fully comprehend – got to enjoy competition and victory and loss and joy and celebration. That’s something my own kids get to experience any given weekend when they play Kids Inc. sports. For these boys and girls, it was a first. We got to come alongside them and validate that, make them feel special and important. Because they are. And for me, it was one of my best days ever.
As fun and joy-filled as Thursday was, Wednesday afternoon was sad and difficult, but equally important. We went to the hospital and visited the children’s cancer wing. It was my second time to do this, and it will never be easy. As Wayne says, “I’d rather eat rocks than go there, but I’m always glad that I went.” We went room to room, praying for patients and especially praying for their family members. It’s hard to describe the conditions of the hospital. I’ll just say it’s 3rd world and leave it at that.
I got to go room to room and do a few little magic tricks for the kids and parents in each room. It’s hard to describe how great it is to make a kid smile, especially when that little kid has lost his hair and is hooked up to an IV bag in a really hot room shared with several others. It’s great to see weary parents laugh. It hurts to hug those parents, to let them cry on your shoulder.
In one hall, we were told we could not enter several rooms at the end. They were under quarantine. As we made our way down that hall, a mother came out, and we began to visit with her. I looked to my right and saw a little girl peeking out an open door. She had lost most of her hair. She looked to be 5 or 6. She had big brown eyes. She reminded me of my own little 6 year old, Blythe. I smiled at her. She smiled back. I showed her a spongeball and made it disappear. She giggled. We both knew we were breaking the rules, because she left the door shut as much as possible, but kept peering out. I walk toward her and grabbed a translator. We chatted for a minute. She had a name I couldn’t pronounce, let alone spell, which made her giggle. She’s 5 years old. I asked her if she knew who Jesus was, that He loved her and was with her. She nodded with a big “YES!” as if I was crazy for even asking. Of course she knew Him. I told her I was praying for her, that Jesus would heal her so she could open that door and run and play outside. She smiled. I have know idea her prognosis, if she’ll run and play outside on this earth or in a New Earth, where there is no more pain or 3rd world cancer hospitals. But I just pray she doesn’t have to be in that nasty hot room anymore with the door shut. We smiled and sad good-bye. I turned around and cried like a baby.
I’d rather eat rocks than see such a sick little girl. But I’m glad I met her. I’m glad she smiled. I’m glad she knows Jesus.
Lots more happened last week. Ask me sometime and I’ll tell you about it. A piece of my heart lives in a school in the middle of the dumpground of Managua, and I can’t wait to return next year.