AS GOOD AS IT GETS
VOTF Survivor Support working
group leader Steve Sheehan was one of 16 travelers who visited The Farm near
Louisville, KY on their way to a service mission in Managua, Nicaragua. The
group was made up of survivors and survivor supporters. What follows is Steve's
personal journal of this trip and the story of one community helping another.
It began, quite simply, when I read an email from Susan Archibald
back around June 2005. A more accurate placement of the time
is not possible as, at the time, I had no premonition of the
importance of the message.
Susan is the president of The Healing Alliance which is located
at The Farm, in the Pewee Valley outside Louisville, Kentucky.
The Healing Alliance is the new designation of an organization
formed in the early 1990s to bring together survivors of sexual
abuse by clergy under its original name, The Linkup. Its mission
is to provide a means for survivors, who generally feel very
alone when memories of abuse arise, to link up with others similarly
abused and to realize that they are not alone but have been victimized
and abandoned by members of the Church into which they were born
and which they loved and trusted until their abuse occurred.
The message, as I recall, stated that The Healing Alliance,
under the aegis of Hand-in-Hand Ministries (HHM) of Louisville,
was to participate in a mission to Managua, Nicaragua, in September
of this year. HHM supports missions in several areas where it
brings relief services to the poorest of the poor. The concept
is that survivors of sexual abuse, who have endured suffering
during their lives (and still do, at various levels, e.g., physical,
spiritual, emotional), may find that volunteering to help others
who exist in abject poverty with very limited possibilities of
bettering their lives could offer survivors a valuable therapeutic
After mulling this over and assessing my own situation, schedule
and membership in the Survivor Support Working Group of the Voice
of the Faithful, I felt that this was an opportunity to support
the survivors as well as participate in a worthwhile endeavor
myself. I could, in some small way, give back to the world (and
to God) some of what I had received in my life.
I then contacted Sue and asked if I could join the group. Fortunately
there was still space available and my application was accepted.
With the subsequent approval of my family, friends, personal
physician and the Passport Agency of the United States government,
I was about to embark on what has turned out to be, I believe,
a life-changing adventure the impact of which on my perspective
of my life I had no way of predicting.
Daily while I was in country and continuing now that I am back
home, I thank God for giving me this wonderful opportunity and
allowing me at this late stage in my life to participate in such
a spiritually and physically uplifting mission.
What I gave to this trip dwindles to utter insignificance when
compared to what I received. The friendships I made with the
other members of our group, our in-country partners and especially
the love I was able to give to and receive from the children
with whom we worked, played, and whom we served will remain with
me as long as I live and beyond.
Friday, September 9, 2005.
I board my plane at Logan Airport and, following a slight delay
in departure. (This was caused by the plane preceding us having
killed a bird while taking off and depositing its remains on
the runway necessitating a clean-up of that runway and rerouting
our craft to another.) Eventually, we were on our way!
After a change of planes in Cincinnati. I arrived in Louisville,
Kentucky, to be met by my friend Sue Archibald whom I have known
since the clergy abuse horror was uncovered by the Boston Globe
Enroute to our destination, we stopped by the headquarters of
Hand-in-Hand Ministries where I met Mary Helen Thompson who was
to be the leader of the group on this immersion trip. We picked
up several boxes of school and medical supplies to bring with
us to Managua.
On to The Farm! What a
delightful place. Having been a city boy for most of my life, I hadn’t seen so much grass in
one place, except in a cemetery, and I’d just as soon
delay seeing a cemetery again for a considerable period of
was provided a very nice room (named Calendula) in a Bed and
Breakfast operated by Foxhollow Clinic and Spa. The Healing
Alliance leases office and activity center space on this property,
old farm of some 1300 acres.
The main building of the
B&B is called Manor House and
consists of the office, a conference room, living room, five
and the dining room where I took my morning meals. My room
was in an adjunct building known as the Guest House.
Sue then took me on a guided tour of the property which included
her offices (where I could use a computer to communicate with
the outside world), her activity center, and two gardens cared
for by Jeannie Wills of Battle Creek, MI, whom I had met at the
VOTF Convocation in Indianapolis earlier this year.
Sue and Jeannie took me to dinner at a nice Irish pub in the
neighboring town of La Grange, where I was able to enjoy both
a large glass of Guinness Stout and a fine plate of Bangers and
A late evening walk around
the grounds brought me in sight of a family of deer grazing in the gloaming,
omething I haven’t
seen since I was in Germany some forty years ago.
Saturday, September 10, 2005.
Fell asleep reading last
night which resulted in awakening circa 3:30 am. This results from a habit
of only sleeping four
a half to five hours each night. Read some more and then
made some tea to get my blood circulating again. Couldn’t
find any cream or I would have made coffee.
Took an early morning walk
to meditate and talk with God about this experience. I made sure to thank
Him profusely for this
wonderful opportunity. During my walk I encountered the same
(?) deer that I saw last night. I could really get used to
this place. A far cry from Commonwealth Avenue, I’ll
Off to the breakfast buffet
at Manor House. It turned out, however, that I was the only guest that day
so the chef, Matt,
a custom breakfast for me – haven’t eaten a full
breakfast like that since the last time I was in the hospital.
Spent the morning walking around, taking pictures, talking with
Jeannie as she gardened and cleaned the Activity Center. Sue
came in and we moved donated items , which had been stored in
the center, down to the Guest House where we would pack them
There was a troop of Boy Scouts who arrived to service the walking
trails at the Spa as a means of earning merit badges. We managed
to attach ourselves to them for lunch on the patio, courtesy
Amy Peterson arrived from Milwaukee where she works for the
archdiocese as Victim Assistance Coordinator. Amy was to become
a working partner for the following week and a special friend
forever. Sue, Amy and I bicycled over to the Spa, a distance
of about a half mile over the hills and through the woods. Not
too bad going over as the general trend was downhill. Coming
back, however, took a lot of praying and a couple of hours for
my legs to recover. At the Spa we visited a corral and paddock
area housing a number of beautiful horses that are available
for the visitors to The Farm. The spa also has a large swimming
pool and massage facilities.
Our group, from the Healing
Alliance, with some family members present, gathered for a cookout on the
patio and had the opportunity
to meet each other in a social setting before leaving for
Central America. Each had the opportunity to tell, recorded by Sue
on videotape, his or her reasons for participating in this
After our stomachs were full and our thirst assuaged, we
retired to the Guest House to finish packing the donated goods and
our personal belongings and to get a good night’s sleep
preparatory to our early departure.
Sunday, September 11, 2005.
Rising early, I took a last stroll around the grounds. Through
the morning mist behind Manor House, I saw again my family of
deer who dropped by, perhaps, to wish me safe journey.
After a hearty breakfast with Sue, Jeannie, Amy and Jim McGann,
Matt Turner arrived to take us to the airport where we joined
the remaining members of the group and managed, after some confusion,
to check in for a very pleasant flight to Houston where we were
to meet Mike Coode whom I had met at Indianapolis in July. The
change in time zones must have adversely affected my brain and
I ended up waiting at the wrong gate and missed his arrival.
I finally found Mike and we all had something to eat before our
plane to Managua departed at 4:04 local time.
Arrived Managua circa 7:30 where we were met by Mark Thessing,
the coordinator for HHM for Central America. Mark lives and works
primarily in Belize city, but came to assist the new Managua
coordinator, Ed Dunsworth, who had been on the job less than
a month. Mark, I was to learn, had originally come to Central
America as a Jesuit Volunteer and later decided to return with
HHM. He has been there in that capacity for the past five years.
A bus and truck had been arranged to transport us and our luggage
to our place of residence, a small hotel named La Posada de Maria
la Gorda (the House of Fat Maria), which would be our base of
operations. I was assigned to a large room that I shared with
Jim McGann; Vince Grenough, VOTF coordinator for the Louisville
area; and Ken Kleibert.
We had a late evening orientation meeting to outline our schedule
for the next six days, facilities available, and safety precautions
both personal and work-related, to make our stay enjoyable and
satisfying. We all had the opportunity to introduce ourselves
and become better acquainted.
Monday and Tuesday - The Center is operated by Fr. (Msgr) Luiz
Pena. Here he runs a pre-school as well as a food kitchen (feeding
the several hundred children who live in the garbage dump at
La Chureca) and is creating a new day-care center for local families
before the children advance to the pre-school.
Wednesday - A trip to the city of Leon, former capital of Nicaragua,
where we would visit first the oldest cathedral in Central America
and then on to Jacinta y Francisco, an orphanage that Fr Pena
helped to create some eight years ago.
Thursday and Friday - at Centro Pan y Amor (The Center for Bread
and Love) a primary and secondary school operated by Charlotte
Somarriba. This was also coordinated by Fr. Pena
Friday evening we would have dinner at a local restaurant with
our in-country partners and then on Saturday we were invited
by Charlotte and her husband (Leonardo) to visit their beach
house overlooking the Pacific ocean for a cookout and some swimming.
Finally off to bed as we would be on a rather hectic schedule
beginning the next morning as you will see.
Monday, September 12, 2005.
There’s an old song that goes, “Up in the morning’,
out on the job, work like the devil for my pay.” There
are some things wrong with this line!
I believe that I was up
and out each day long before the morning came to pay a social call. I think
that if there were work to
be done, Lucifer could get someone to do it for him, and the
last thing a volunteer wants to believe is that he’s being
paid what he’s worth!
At any rate, Sue and I (and occasionally others) were up before
the crack of dawn for a half hour fast walk around a local park
to get the day started.
at 7 o’clock followed by breakfast
and then onto the bus to get to our work site at Escuela-Comedor
John F. Cordisco, the preschool and dining room operated
by Fr. Pena and his assistant, Giocondo. Our two-day objectives
- to remove a window,
frame and install an air conditioner, reframe and cut down the window to
fit and reinstall in the office
- To assemble an outside
store room, attached to the office, from concrete slabs, mix (by hand)
and pour a concrete
floor for the room, and pour a concrete walkway to connect the preschool
with the new day-care center,
- and to replace the
existing office door with a new, larger door which required ripping out
the door jamb.
All this had to be done between 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p. m. , even
though power tools could not be used until after 1:00 p.m. This
is due to the fact that the electric company turned off the current
during that period due to a failed contract negotiation with
the city government of Managua.
Not only did we accomplish our mission, but also found time
to be with, talk to and love the children who gave us so much
love in return!
We also met and spoke with a woman who is a dentist and volunteers
one day a week (Monday) to be at the center to provide free dental
care. She has recently taken a new well-paying (by local standards)
job where she made it a requirement for her to accept the position
that she be free on Monday to fulfill her commitment to the children.
I took lots of picture of the children which I was able to share
immediately on the screen of my digital camera. They loved this
and I very quickly had many new friends. I had my picture taken
with a small boy named Jonathon who really captured my heart.
These are the things that made the whole trip worthwhile.
Mary Helen and Mark spent most of the day attempting to retrieve
medical supplies that had been confiscated at the airport upon
our arrival yesterday. They were able to recover about half what
we had brought. For some reason customs kept the rest. Life in
Central America is not always easy!
We returned to Fat Maria’s for a couple of hours rest
before supper. The temperature had exceeded 100 degrees with
high humidity during our work period and we were quite exhausted
as we weren’t used to that heat.
About 8’oclock we assembled in the parking area where
it was relatively cool for our evening wrap-up session where
we each recounted what we had accomplished and how we felt as
a result of what we did and our expectations for the remainder
of the trip. We drew names from a hat (Mark’s) to choose
our “prayer partner” for the week. This is an exercise
in which each of us has one person to pray for and observe
during the week. During our final wrap-up we would discuss
with our partners on a one-to-one basis. Several members chose
not to participate.
Only one computer available
at the hotel and we couldn’t
get it to function. Incommunicado at last!
What a wonderful day! My
heart sings, “Ubi caritas et
amor, Deus ibi est!”
Some much needed sleep.
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
Up before 5:00 a.m. Shortly after, Ricardo, the night clerk,
presented me with a cup of hot, black coffee to get the blood
Sue and I were the only fast walkers out in the park at 6:00.
Must be the military training!
After breakfast we returned
to the preschool to finish the jobs we started the day before. We finished
just on time as
committed to a visit to the garbage dump at La Chureca at 3
When we were getting ready to board the bus, all the children
came to see us off and kept shouting, “Manana, manana!” Heartbrokenly
we had to tell them, “No mas manana, no more tomorrow!” They
cried and we cried. There were lots of hugs going around. How
I wish I could have stayed! There are tears in my eyes as I
type this story over two weeks since that day.
And we left the pre-school.
And so we arrived at La Chureca.
I feel as though I have truly experienced Hell on Earth! In
my wildest dreams, in my most outrageous flights of fancy, in
my most dismal imaginations, I could never have constructed the
sight that I encountered as we entered the dump on our motor
It is difficult even to write about it!
Before we left the bus, the stench was sickening. It was so
bad that several of the group remained on the bus. I knew that
I had to get off and experience this firsthand although I really
would have like to be somewhere else. I have many pictures of
La Chureca, and each one is worth more than a thousand words.
There was truck after truck dumping garbage on top of garbage.
No landfill here! There were people young and old. There were
children and toddlers, there were horses and cattle grazing,
there were dogs and donkeys. There were flocks of vultures, all
trying to wrest from each other whatever it was that they sought
to extract from the heaps of rotting refuse.
As each truck drew up to its assigned area to drop its load,
the trash pickers, animals and vultures descended on it in a
picking frenzy, all wallowing in the already picked-over garbage
that remained underfoot. The humans sort out recyclable materials
which they sell to the middlemen who live just outside the gate
and who make the most money, paying the pickers only two or three
dollars a day for their efforts.
A more appalling sight my mind cannot conceive!
We saw the homes in which the La Chureca residents live, in
tight communities within the confines of the dump itself. Sparse,
tiny hovels, with no privacy, electricity or running water or
I was told that some five years ago there were over 500 children
to be seen among the scavengers in the dump. We saw only 50 to
60 on our trip. The difference in the numbers is due mainly to
the work of Fr. Pena to get these children to his center where
they are fed at least one nutritious meal each day, to enroll
them in the schools he has established and to get them out of
Fr. Pena has also started
what he calls an “alternative
economy” for the dump residents. The children are sent
out early morning to pick up recyclable material that is put
out on days other than normal trash pick-up. They then sell
directly to the recycling company and get more income for their
In these ways, he promotes better earnings for the families,
better nutrition for the children, and an opportunity for education
at least to the secondary school level, in order to raise their
standard of living.
Here is where the love is. Here is where the caring is. Here
is where God thrives!
Back to the Fat One. After a quick shower and change of clothes
we paid a short visit to the National Museum for a cultural respite.
Our young woman guide spoke rather good English and provided
a nice tour. The museum has only been open for seven years and
recently relocated to its present site, so it remains quite sparse,
but with many interesting artifacts spanning some 10,000 years
After our communal supper,
some of the more adventurous of us wandered a few blocks from the hotel and
found a small cantina
named “Marguerita Bar.” The lights were not working
so we drank Victoria Beer, the national brand, by candlelight.
The only other occupant was an already inebriated person named
Carlos. Subsequent to making the mistake of buying Carlos a
beer, he joined our tables and on learning that I had purchased
drink announced to the group that he thought I looked like Beethoven!
My friends developed several theories to account for this announcement.
- Carlos thought that I
look like a picture he had seen of Beethoven.
- Carlos thought
that I look like Beethoven would look if he were still alive.
- Carlos thought that I look like Beethoven does now!
- Carlos was thinking of the movie!
Needless to say that for the rest of the week, the name belonged
After a few Victorias we
wended our weary way home and another good night’s sleep.
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
The weather continues to be excellent, even though the temperature
remains above 90. Prior to breakfast (and after our walk), we
spent some time making sandwiches for lunch as we were to be
on the road today and would not have meals available.
After breakfast we boarded our bus and headed north to the city
of Leon. The trip was quite enjoyable although it took well over
an hour. For the first time since we arrived, we drove through
some of the upscale section of Managua, past the government offices,
the first class hotels, shops, casinos and residences of the
Nicaraguan rich and famous. The countryside was quite beautiful
and the distant volcanoes had a charm all their own.
When we arrived in Leon we were surprised to find the streets
clogged with people until we realized that this was the first
day of a two-day Independence celebration.
Our first stop was a visit to what I was told is the oldest
cathedral in Central America. On the outside, the building was
old and weather beaten, but the interior was well preserved and
quite beautiful. Many good photo-ops especially from the top
of the roof from which we could see the entire city and, in the
distance, a range of ten volcanoes, four of which are still active.
We also observed a marching band performing in the cathedral
On to Casa Jacinta y Francisco, our destination for the day.
This is a lovely, small orphanage run by the Missionary Sisters
of Mercy of Mother Theresa, under the tutelage of Fr. Pena and
supported, at least in part, by HHM. It is run by a diminutive,
almost elfin, nun, Sister Maria Christo. Her heart is at least
as big as the rest of her is tiny. Sister Christo started the
orphanage in 1997, with the help of Fr. Pena. Beginning with
ten boys, it has grown to accommodate 47 boys and seven girls.
An additional building was recently added to meet this demand.
Several classrooms, which appeared well-kept, were seen from
the outside. Unfortunately, the school portion was closed for
We distributed clothing, games, toys and medicines and then
spent the rest of the day playing and being with the children
who were all very polite and most appreciative of our visit.
I took many pictures, as usual, and showed them to the children.
We all had a great time. A small group, both boys and girls,
not interested in sports spent most of the time learning embroidery
from one of the women in our group, Shannon Age.
As the time came to leave, we hated to go and the children were
following our bus out the gate, wanting us to stay. Just as in
all the places we visited we found that our time to be with the
children was much too short. Eternity might not have been long
After supper, Sue and I,
accompanied by our guide, Larry, discovered, of all things, a liquor store,
where we were able
a very lovely bottle of Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon, which
we took back to Maria Gorda’s. Still feeling a little hungry
and in search of something to go with the wine, we inquired
about ordering a pizza and we were informed by our hosts
that we had
our choice of Dominos or Pizza Hut! We settled on the latter
and had a very enjoyable evening.
Thursday, September 15, 2005.
Off again to a new work site.
This time it was Centro
Pan y Amor (The center for Bread and Love). Our hostess was Charlotte Somarriba
who gave us a tour
of the facility and introduced us to Patricia, a medical
doctor and resident at the school. A small complex houses the primary
school, office and dining facility. Across the street is
the secondary school with a teachers’ room and two classrooms,
at present. The building adjoins an old abandoned soap factory.
Negotiations are underway to purchase the factory and enlarge
the school, adding vocational training to the curriculum
and using products and services from the vocational school to help
make the school self-sufficient.
We had three primary objectives:
- To create in one space
a computer training room with built-in desk and shelf space as well as electrical
- In the secondary school
we were to clean and paint the old concrete block walls to brighten the
area and make it
more presentable. The national colors, white and blue, had been selected.
- A few of the group
volunteered to teach English to the students to improve their conversation
I ended up on the paint detail and spent the better part of
two days climbing up and down an extension ladder with my paint
brush trying to get more paint on the walls than I did on myself.
Some success was noted, primarily by me. My paint partner was
Amy Peterson who held the ladder for me as I painted and then
I held it for her as our roles reversed. I learned just how difficult
it is to paint concrete blocks with all the nooks and crannies
It was extremely hot in the confined spaces and exhaustion was
always right around the corner. Lots of rest breaks and gallons
of bottled water kept us going.
That evening, we left for
the town of Masaya where we were to participate in some form of cultural
we got there the place we were to visit was closed. The alternative
suggested to us was to continue on to a town named Katarina,
where there was a very nice cantina overlooking a volcanic
crater lake across from the city of Granada, the third largest city
in Nicaragua. Alongside the cantina were a few shops where
we were able to purchase some souvenirs. Mariachis entertained us
at the cantina and we all had a good time. At an adjoining
table, a few locals asked us where we were from. They seemed non-plused
when I said, “Boston,” but they immediately brightened
when I mentioned the Red Sox! They turned out to be Yankee
haters, as are most good people.
We were back to Fat Maria’s
close to midnight and sleep came very quickly.
Friday, September 16, 2005.
No one up before breakfast this morning except Sue and I who
never miss our morning walk. The night before wore them out and
did them in. It was very obvious who comprised the hard core!
Back to Pan y Amor to finish what we started. Yesterday we had
painted the upper half of the walls white and today we finished
the bottom half in blue. Due to the way the concrete soaked up
the paint, the original amount provided was insufficient and
we had to purchase more. All in all we did a remarkably good
job and felt quite self-satisfied. The computer room I found
unbelievable! As soon as electricity is brought into the room
the place will be ready to go!
A great tragedy befell me that afternoon as we were leaving,
which I did not realize until the following day. I had lost from
my camera case the CompactFlash card that contained all the pictures
I had taken at The Farm and at the first work site in Managua.
I now have a call out to other members of the group to provide
me with copies of their pictures so that I may create a comprehensive
CD album of our trip to share with everyone there. A search conducted
at the secondary school has failed to locate the card.
When we left we were taken
on a drive through the “Chinese
Market” to view the homes where some of Charlotte’s
students live. It is hardly imaginable. This is an area that
was once the center of the business district of Managua. It was
completely destroyed in the earthquake of 1972 and was abandoned.
A new business center was built in another part of the city.
The abandoned area became home to many poor and homeless citizens
who exist there in the worst of conditions. I was told that,
on the average, a robbery occurs in this area every seven minutes.
We had already been advised never to come to this part of town
under any circumstances. There is apparently some historical
reason for this area to be called the “Chinese Market” but
I never understood what it was.
After I quick trip back to Maria la Gorda for a shower and change
of clothes, we were off to spend a pleasant evening of dinner,
drinks and conversation with our in-country partners, Mark, Larry,
the Dunsworths, Charlotte and her husband, Patricia, Giacondo
and, of course, Monsignor Pena. We were taken to a lovely up-scale
restaurant on the outskirts of town, El Oasis., where I had the
pleasure of sitting between Mark and my great new friend, Fr.
Pena. We were seated in a private, thatch-roofed room off the
main dining area and treated royally. Not being an adventurous
eater, especially in foreign lands, I settled for pollo asado
(broiled chicken) for my main course. Finding that it was not
possible to order single drinks of rum and coke, Mark and I were
forced (this was a real arm-twister) to purchase and share a
bottle of Flor de Cana, a very lovely 12 year old native rum.
We were to be chided by Fr. Pena for not finishing off the bottle
before we left. We were, however, able to take the remaining
liquid back to the hotel for late night post-prandials. The ubiquitous
mariachis provided superb entertainment for us throughout the
Saturday, September 17, 2005.
A brisk walk with Sue, our last in Managua.
An early start for a personal day, our mission of labor having
been completes. We began with a visit to a local coffee shop
where we were able to purchase numerous bags of Nicaraguan coffee
to bring back to the States. Following that, we were escorted
to and through a major tourist shopping area about four acres
in size. There we purchased many souvenirs and encountered many
situations that were made difficult by our lack of knowledge
of both local custom and local language. I quickly realized that
my Spanish phrase book was great for telling me what questions
to ask, but could not tell me how to interpret the answers! With
some help from Larry and Mark I managed to survive.
After a brief stop at a
large, clean convenience store (ala Cumberland Farms) where we were able
to buy some snacks and
beverages, we were off to the Costazur on the Pacific coast
for an afternoon
of cookouts, swimming, and general relaxation at the beach
house owned by our new friends, Charlotte and her husband,
This is a small but beautiful house on a fairly large bit
of land on a small cliff overlooking the ocean. There is a stairway
leading down to a large, private beach where I was able to
go diving into the magnificent surf until I realized that
was writing checks that my body couldn’t cash, and
I had to retreat quite quickly to keep from a dangerous exhaustion.
Back upstairs to the house we went, to a large swimming pool
that satisfied my continuing desire for aquatic pleasure. A hearty
meal, good conversation, lots of sunshine (and a little more
Flor de Cana) made for a most enjoyable afternoon. A truly marvelous
way to end our experience in Nicaragua.
We returned to the hotel close quite late and finished packing
for our return trip as we faced an early departure the next day.
Sunday, September 18, 2005.
An early morning (4 o’clock)
wake-up call precluded our morning walk as we had a light meal and boarded
final ride to the airport. All of our in-country partners
showed up to see us off and there were many fond, but sad, farewells
as we waited to check in for our flight. I made Monsignor
Pena promise to visit Boston, but promises, we all know, are made
to be broken, although I greatly appreciated his acceptance
and we will miss each other.
A good in-flight movie, “The Interpreter,” made
the time pass quickly and before we knew it we were landing
at Houston. It was hard to realize we were back on American soil
until I had to face the customs officials. We had a very short
layover before boarding our final flight to Louisville, just
having time for a brief lunch.
Sue had booked me into
Manor House for my final night at The Farm where I got a good night’s
sleep following an evening of pizza and conversation with Jim McGann and
Monday, September 19, 2005
Enjoyed a full, leisurely breakfast at Manor House and spent
much of the morning walking around The Farm reading, meditating,
and repacking items I had left at the activity center. When Sue
arrived, I borrowed office space and reconnected to the Internet
to see what I had missed while I was away.
Sue arranged for Paige to take me to the airport. We got an
early start and Paige took me on a lovely tour of Louisville,
visiting the up-scale part of the city as well as the downtown
area, which is in the process of revitalization. I did not get
to see much of the city on my way down, and this was my first
visit to Kentucky.
I arrived back at 1777 Commonwealth Avenue around 10:30 p.m.,
totally exhausted but thoroughly energized as incongruous as
that my sound.
This trip may well be the best thing that I have ever done in
my entire life. It has certainly provided me with a lifetime
of memories, many new friends in our immersion group and a whole
new extended family of Nicaraguan children whom I will always
love and never forget.
I have had a richly rewarding
and spiritually uplifting experience that will remain with me forever. I
only hope that
someday I might be able to repeat this journey.
This is truly as good as it gets!
Steve’s journal includes two appendices – a
layout of The Farm and some information about the Foxhollow
Spa. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to see these.
.[Note: Steve reports with immense relief that he found his missing photo
chip. We will post one or two photos on the web site and in an upcoming issue
of In the Vineyard.]
Sue Archibald, Director, The Healing Alliance
My hope in organizing this trip was for our group of clergy abuse survivors
and supporters to discover healing through helping others. Although I didn’t
know what to expect, I was hopeful that the week spent in Managua would be
life-changing for me and the other survivors who made the journey. Looking
back, I can say my life will never be the same.
While we were busy hammering, nailing, painting and digging in our volunteer
projects, we had the chance to encounter quite a few poor kids. What struck
me was that most of the kids seemed very happy--- more so than most of the
kids I meet in the US. It seemed hard to believe that those Nicaraguan children
could be smiling and laughing when they have so little and have suffered so
much. It made me think that too often we equate happiness and success with
having “things”--- cars, fancy houses, big bank accounts. Maybe
there is something more valuable?
The trip to Nicaragua really put my abuse and healing in context. As I look
to continue to repair the wounds of clergy sexual abuse, I’ll remember
that the most valuable treasures are those found in friendships, community,
and connecting and sharing with those in need.
About the Nicaragua trip: there are so many things to pick from, but I will
focus on one - the people who could be living on "easy street" like
Ed and Barbara, and Charlotte, and Mark and so many other people we met there
who have chosen to dedicate their lives to helping others who are less fortunate.
They inspire me to do more, to give more, to work more, to pray more. They
are following the example of Jesus by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked
and all the other things that make peoples' lives a little better. God bless
The simplicity of the peoples' joyful spirit": If I had to condense
my heart- felt experience of our trip to Nicaragua to one phrase, this is
what I would say. Whereever we went, whatever activity/task we participated
in, we were welcomed with open, smiling eyes. These people who have so very
little according to our standards, were so willing to allow us into their
world - we, who are so burdened with having so much. This spirit lesson will
continue to impact my daily life as I strive to embrace it's beauty.