On Mission in Nicaragua: Nuevo Guinea

I wish I were skilled in the art of writing descriptively. I sometimes make the attempt, relying heavily on thesaurus.com and thereby implementing verbiage like gorgeous and magnificient in lieu of beautiful and pretty. See what I mean? It all seems forced and for good reason. Descriptive writing does not come easily even when I try so very hard to make it so, as will be painfully evident by this post…

We left the orphanage in Juilgapa early that Monday morning in anticipation of a three to four hour van ride to Nuevo Guinea. There were five of us on the mission team going, three women and two men, plus three translators. The rest of team was to work there in Juilagapa, some building a house, some doing back yard Bible clubs and street evangelism. As I tiptoed past the bunk of our friend who was remaining at Juilgapa I whispered, “Please pray.” I was nervous and anxious and eager and all at the same time. I was also enduring a persistent headache, one that would not finally relent until late Tuesday.

Our trip from Juilgapa to Nuevo Guinea took us through some beautiful scenery and amazing mountain views. Nicaragua is a beautiful country. Not very descriptive (warned you) but true. We passed through a few villages and communities but mostly it was the gorgeous rolling countryside. Sometimes I felt like I was caught in a scene from Lonesome Dove as the landscape seemed to become more and more rural the longer we rode–we saw horse drawn carts, hogs in front yards of homes, pack mules carrying a load of firewood, even a cattle drive right there on the highway. Except unlike Lonesome Dove, most of the “cowboys” I saw on horseback were wearing soccer jerseys.

Horses were just as common, if not more so, than any gas powered transportation. Women were cooking outside on open fires, frying, grilling or stirring a large vat of who-knows-what. It was all strange and interesting and beautiful.

We had no idea what to expect upon our arrival in Nuevo Guinea. Looking back on it, I can’t believe I wasn’t more uneasy given the fact that we didn’t really know what our accommodations would be like nor even if we would be able to find a place to eat that wouldn’t, well, wreck havoc on our American sensibilities. In fact, we were advised to pack “substantial snacks” in case we couldn’t. Armed with granola bars, trail mix and a couple of cans of tuna, we joked some about fasting for the Lord but at least we knew we wouldn’t starve.

The hotel really wasn’t too bad, though a couple of members of our team may beg to differ. We had two double beds in our room, my friend Amy and I, as well as air conditioning and a TV (though all the channels were in Spanish and understandably so!). No hot water but I don’t think there’s hot showers to be found anywhere in Nicaragua. A cold shower is cold, no two ways about it, but let me tell you, that water in Nuevo Guinea was some kind of cold, maybe due to the altitude? It was cooler in Nuevo Guinea than Juilagapa, upper 80’s instead of the 95+ degree heat at the orphanage.

I have a snapshot of the sheets on Amy’s bed: tractors on one pillowcase, NFL teams on the other and fish on the fitted sheet. Our bathroom had no door, just a shower curtain. In other words, the Hilton, this was not.

Our room was on the second floor; the downstairs lobby was open air. There was no front door, just an open breezeway out to the street and open corridors to the parking lot on the side. The hotel offered free wifi there in the lobby, when you could get it and maintain it. I’d brought my husband’s iTouch so we were able to send and receive email. We were so grateful for that contact with home, however intermittent and inconsistent.

We didn’t drink the water in Nicaragua, not even to brush our teeth. The mission houses in Masaya and Juilagapa had coolers of purified water for the mission teams to fill their water bottles. Here in Nuevo Guinea, we bought our waters there at the hotel, two 20 oz bottles for one American dollar. The dollar was welcome everywhere though your change would be in cordobas at a 20 to 1 cordoba/dollar exchange rate.

Our first morning in the hotel I ordered a cup of coffee. Nicaraguan coffee that looked to be brewed dark and strong, just the way I like it: I was so excited! I had deliberately limited my caffeine and coffee intake the week prior to leaving home just in case I was unable to indulge. I was assured the coffee was safe since the water had been boiled in order to make the coffee. Safe, yes. Also instant. I was so disappointed. Not so disappointed, mind you, that I didn’t order another cup the next morning but disappointed nonetheless. Powder in the bottom of your cup–not so appetizing.

Once we checked in on Monday our translators searched the highways and byways of Nuevo Guinea and returned with the good news: they’d found a restaurant that catered, or at least was tolerable, to gringos like ourselves. Lunch! At a restaurant! With the help of our translators (and, really, it was pretty humbling how dependent we were on them), I ordered some grilled beef, I think maybe it was a flank steak, french fries and rice and beans. And a Coke. We ate lunch there everyday during our stint in Nuevo Guinea, our one meal of the day. For breakfast and supper (if I ate supper), we ate what “substantial” snacks we’d brought. In one of my emails home that first day I told my husband: Lunch was good. So far not sick 🙂 took jose’s advice and got beef no salad

We drank lots of Cokes while we were there. Glass bottles, the larger size, served with a paper napkin deftly wrapped around the top, and a straw. In fact, among my many memories of our time in Nuevo Guinea, I will also think of us, Amy and I, sitting in the lobby about dusk, waiting for the van to take us to the church for the conference and taking turns checking email on the iTouch. A gentle breeze wafting in, us sipping our cokes, the condensation dripping down the side of the bottle, my stomach churning as it always does just prior to teaching, me silently praying for the Spirit’s power and for words…


Author: Lisa Spence

Wife, mother, Bible teacher, bibliophile, occasional blogger

13 thoughts on “On Mission in Nicaragua: Nuevo Guinea”

  1. It really is amazing that we have so many creature comforts. Hot water is way at the top of my list of things I'm thankful for. I can relate to and understand that stomach churning deal…

  2. Your post seems very descriptive to me. I can imagine those "Lonesome Dove" scenes quite easily as well as your quirky hotel, even before I scrolled down to the pictures. As far as your one meal a day at the restaurant and the lack of hot showers…we Americans are really so very spoiled, aren't we?

  3. I certainly beg to differ that you aren't "skilled in the art of writing descriptively." Your writing, your explanations of what you saw and experienced, are beautiful – very easy to imagine being alongside you….And praise the Lord for bottled coke and water! Waiting for more….

  4. Love catching up with you tonight… I wish I could have been there to hear you share your heart. I know that God was with you, strengthening you for every leg of your journey. I can't imagine having to put such an experience into words; I don't imagine there are enough of them to adequately capture the work that God is doing in your heart because of your time there.It's something you will hold forever as your personal treasure. The rest of us can only "see" so far into that…What a gift to be given this opportunity of sacred intersection between your heart, God's heart, and the hearts of those you encountered while in Nicaragua. Heaven writes a full history of it all, and I imagine includes all the wonderful, descriptive language we'd like to include but are limited to do so on this side of eternity.Blessings and peace to you as you reflect and remember and cherish…~elaine

  5. Love the sheets set! :v) It just goes to show how we are spoiled here doesn't it? And my heart went out to you when I read your very well described cup of "coffee".

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