all in the family

Whether in the States or south of the border, December brings invitations of all kinds. Over the past week, Manna PDs have been invited to numerous end-of-the-year festivities taking place in the community, from parties to school ceremonies to hilarious singing holidays! Participation in these events usually means a) we are the only gringos and b) we have no idea what we are getting ourselves into…

First was Enrique’s promoción ceremony from sixth grade to primero año at Niño Jesús de Praga, the local Catholic school. Next was Norma and Lester’s First Communion on Sunday morning. In both occasions we sat in our seats amongst a sea of Nicaraguans, a very close knit community that welcomes us warmly but stares with such curiosity, thinking, “Who the heck are these gringos and why are they here?”Yet among the stares and long ceremonies and “gringa, gringa!” yells, we find it such a privilege to be invited to these events. In rural Nicaragua, they are the milestones of life that mark a sweet coming of age and will be remembered with a special fondness. Graduations, communions, holidays- these are events to be celebrated with family, and although we’ve been in Managua for only five months, I have grown to love these people as just that. Yesterday as we thanked Yamileth, the joyful mother of Enrique, Norma, and Lester, for inviting us to participate so richly in her family’s life, she simply said, “You all are also my family.”

As relationships here strengthen and we are invited more and more to be part of significant life moments, differences that once seemed so evident fade. Meandering through the Catholic church with a Nica child holding each hand, I forget that I am very tall, very blue-eyed, and very much not hispanic. Situations that once seemed awkward or foreign are now just life. We’ve been embraced by a community here in deep friendship, and I am so often caught off guard by how natural it is to call these people family. Before heading home next Tuesday, there remain a Purisima celebration, a birthday party, and a graduation to attend… What a blessing that in leaving one family behind in the States, we find another in Nicaragua!