A Letter From Nicaragua
“At the River Coco, Turn Right”
“YOU will need a four-wheel-drive vehicle, a winch, and extra cans of fuel. Be prepared for axle-deep mud. At the river Coco, turn right.”
I must admit that these words of a fellow missionary did nothing for my self-confidence. Nonetheless, one Tuesday morning, I began my journey to attend a Christian assembly in Wamblán, a small town in northern Nicaragua.
I set off at dawn, driving my old but sturdy truck along the smooth Pan-American Highway. At Jinotega, I took the unpaved road that the local people call feo, or ugly. Before leaving the town, I noticed two stores, one named Miracle of God and the other, The Resurrection.
The road twisted and turned, rose and fell. I drove at a crawl through the gulfs and gullies. My route took me past a long lake nestled in a valley high on a cloud-covered mountain. Through the mist, I saw trees lined with orchids and draped with Spanish moss.
On a hairpin turn, I narrowly missed an oncoming bus that hogged the road. It spewed out black smoke, and its tires were flinging stones as it passed. Here in Nicaragua, you can see clearly marked on bus windshields the nickname of the aggressive driver: Conqueror, Scorpion, Python, or Hunter.
By midday I was driving across the Plain of Pantasma. There, I passed a wooden house in a yard of swept earth. The scene looked like a picture out of an old book: An elderly man sat on a bench, a dog slept beneath a tree, and two yoked oxen stood hitched to a cart with wooden wheels. In one small town, I saw a throng of children coming out of a school. In their navy-blue uniforms, they filled the main street like a wave splashing on an open beach.
The sun blazed as I approached Wiwilí and caught my first sight of the river Coco. The mighty river dominated the town as its waters pushed ever onward downstream. Recalling the instructions, I turned right and took the dreaded 23-mile [37 km] track to Wamblán.
Going over rocks, ruts, and ridges, the truck splashed through eight or nine streams. As I tried to avoid the furrows in the dried mud, I succeeded in kicking up a minor dust storm. Yes, “I ate the dust,” as the locals would say. At last, the track ended, and there in deep shadow in a wooded valley was Wamblán, my destination.
Everyone seemed to be up by 4:30 a.m. the next day. Awakened earlier by the relentless crowing of roosters, I got up and walked down the main street. The mountain air was filled with the smell of tortillas baking in stone ovens.
Colorful paradise scenes painted by a local artist were seen on walls here and there. Signs on the pulperías, or corner stores, advertised one cola or another. Posters reminded people of the promises of the last three governments. Outhouses of shiny tin sat on concrete slabs.
I spoke first, using the Nicaraguan greeting Adiós. People smiled and spoke to me warmly. We chatted above the noise of local traffic—the clip-clop of horses and mules.
By Friday evening, families arrived for the two-day assembly. They came on foot, by horse, and by truck. Some little boys and girls had walked for six hours in plastic sandals. They risked land mines at the river crossings and braved leeches in the quiet waters. Some from distant communities brought with them just a little food—rice flavored with pork fat. Why had they all come?
They had come to strengthen their hope for a better future. They had come to hear the Bible explained to them. They had come to please God.
Saturday arrived. Under a tin roof, the audience of more than 300 sat on wooden benches and plastic chairs. Mothers fed their babies. Pigs grunted and cockerels crowed at the farm next door.
The temperature soared, and soon the heat became almost unbearable. Yet, the audience listened with rapt attention to the counsel and guidance given. They followed along as the speakers read Bible texts, they sang the songs based on Bible themes, and they listened respectfully to the prayers being offered on their behalf.
After the sessions, I joined some others and played tag with the children. Then we reviewed the notes the youngsters had taken. I showed them images of stars and galaxies on my computer. The children were smiling, and their parents were happy.
All too soon the assembly ended, and everyone had to go home. I left the next morning, my mind filled with sweet memories and my heart full of love for my new friends. I am determined to imitate them and learn how to be content and how to wait on God.
[Pictures on page 17]
Families traveled many miles to attend the assembly in Wamblán