A trip to Tipitapa
(ONE OF A
TIPITAPA: Like Managua, its neighbor to the west, Tipitapa is a city on the southern shore of Lake Managua.
And, like Ciudad Sandino, its higher ground has been a place of refuge for countless thousands made homeless by the 1998 flooding associated with Hurricane Mitch.
Our trip to Tipitapa was brief. We must try to remember that the brutal conditions, which so impressed us during this short visit, are a constant reality for the refugees -- day and night, for a period that now can be measured in years.
Later, we will remember closing our windows as we approach, to keep out the dust, even though our bus turns into an oven.
We will remember the graveyard, with its countless small mounds.
We will recall the shelters of cardboard, sticks and black plastic sheeting.
We will remember pulling into the churchyard, how the people gathered from the four directions, how the conversations started.
The woman holding a towel to her arm:
"What happened to your arm?" we ask.
"My neighbors are throwing stones at me," she replies. "They want my house and my land."
The little girl, standing quietly to the side with her head down.
"How are you?" we ask.
As we walked the dirt streets, our guide, a religious sister from Brazil, shows us new construction, an attempt in this sad place, as in Nueva Vida, to start a new life.
"I am very sick," she says, pointing into her mouth.
She is pale and thin and appears to have abscessed gums associated with malnutrition, which is endemic among the children of this place.
Brazilian sister and new construction at Tipitapa
Tipitapa is one of the hardest places we have ever been exposed to. And yet, we were amazed at the church, filled with men, women, and children, and their participation at the Eucharist.
A deacon shares communion with the people
They sang with enthusiasm. They listened attentively as one of the Weston brothers thanked them for their witness of faith and charity. Their hospitality was genuinely sincere. Even as we left, the little girl who was so sick gave us a big smile and waved. In some mysterious way, this little church, led by lay-leaders and the Brazilian sisters, is a sign of hope for these suffering people.
A sister leads the congregation in prayer
Managua's new cathedral,
far removed from its people
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