There is a poor barrio in Granada that doesn’t get much press. Many of you have heard me speak of Pantanal, one the poorest in Central America. You might remember I used to live in the adjacent barrio of Adelita. You might even remember La Saboneta or Boca Negra, because of the feeding programs we have sponsored there. But one I have never mentioned is called El Escudo. The Spanish word means shield. It also could mean a “Coat of Arms.” I am not sure where the name came from at this point. Sometime, I am sure; some historian of Granada will let me in on the story.
There is a big, old building there that used to be a storage facility for LP Gas bottles. Hence, like so many places in Nicaragua, the name is simple and descriptive: “House of the Bottles” or “Casa de las botellas”.
The remnants of its old function are long gone. What have replaced the bottles are brightly painted walls, a kitchen, a library, and two large seemingly empty rooms. At first glance, one might not be able to discern its present function. But upon review, you will see the rolled up mats, metal bowling pins, and balls of all sizes lining those walls. You see, now this is a training ground for future circus performers.
Your reaction might be similar to mine. When I first heard of this place, I was incredulous. Why would anyone ever try to teach juggling or acrobatics to anyone? I wondered if Granada had some rich tradition in performing arts. I thought maybe it was like Peru, Indiana, a city I lived near for almost 20 years before I knew it was home to a clown college. But the answers to these historic questions are still unanswered.
Its present use is, however, quite evident.
This organization takes children from the barrio, and like many of the projects I worked on in the U.S., tries to divert and exploit the natural energy and curiosity of youth into something fun. Every week, volunteers, many of whom are former students, teach classes in tumbling, juggling, clowning, and even sleight of hand.
Why do I bring this up? There are two reasons. First, I could list several different organizations that are trying in their own way to help the people of Granada. Missionaries, non-government organizations, and volunteers are hard at work. I never want to give the impression that I am the only person in Granada trying to do his part to help our city.
The second reason is more personal. I visited the house and began to speak to the head teacher. I mentioned off hand that it would be a perfect place to hold English classes. Without even blinking, he looked at me and said, “OK!”
I said he didn’t blink, but his eyes did twinkle. He basically gave me one condition. That was that I would hold classes for the staff and offer them to any children of the neighborhood. I, of course, agreed.
So now, after months of uncertainty about the future of classes in the makeshift locations and school buildings we have used before, we now will have some spaces to invite new students and children to be a part of our shared ministry.
After school programs have been shown to be very effective when thoughtfully run. This is already a place where kids can come and get a break from their otherwise mundane life. Instead of heading down the wrong paths in life, they might get a sense of belonging and acceptance that they have not had before. And I will be lucky enough to do a comparatively small part in helping them achieve their goals.
No other classes or students or programs will suffer from this addition. It will just be another way that we can share love to another group of young people. I am looking forward to the opportunity.
There was a boy written about in the 1880s named Toby Tyler. In the story he ran away from home and joined the circus. It was fictional, but we have retained the idiom even today. I am not joining the circus. But I am going to help children who someday might.
Look forward to pictures and stories in the weeks ahead as we begin another adventure together.
Continue to pray for our friend Pastor G. He is still suffering from pain in his back and his wife is still recovering from her heart problems.
People are being lifted up and families are being bolstered because of our collaborative efforts. Thank you all for your continued encouragement. I couldn’t do it without you.
Dios los bendiga.