“Sisters!” says Sister Rebecca. “Sisters, they are using sharpshooters!”
It was the phone call we all dread, the kind of phone call the Sisters know too well. The same kind as from Brazil, as from Africa.
“All exits to our city are blocked. A riot squad has set up a few streets away, from Cuba, and the city now is filled with Army.”
The city is Matagalpa, Nicaragua’s fourth largest. The streets are those surrounding Special Families of St. Julie. Among those hunkering down, the doors bolted, the windows shuttered, are two thousand special needs families.
All known by Sister Rebecca Trujillo, SNDdeN.
Sister Rebecca came to Matagalpa 22 years ago. In the first week, lost in the neighborhoods, she was invited into a home for a cup of water. In the home lived a child with multiple disabilities. So began her ministry.
Like St. Julie, Sister Rebecca gathered around her a small band of women, all mothers of children with special needs. Often these were mothers whose husbands had left, and who were ostracized, and who day-in and day-out, in abject poverty, bore the burden of their children’s suffering.
Over the years this band of mothers grew. One small success led painstakingly to another. A learning center was created to provide special education. The mothers began microbusinesses: paper recycling, a yogurt factory, a shop making wheelchairs from bicycles. They opened a café and began selling crafts. All to feed themselves and their children, and to provide for a better day.
Now, that better day is fading, and their lives are in danger.
Over one hundred people are shot dead. Bombs are exploding. Wounded are lying in churches. The bishop is under threat.
Sister Rebecca, offered a flight out, has declined. She remains with those who have no options – the children in wheelchairs, the blind children, the ones who can’t hear.
But this is the situation. The violence is by itself a danger. But so are its consequences. The microbusinesses have so far managed to operate, but can’t much longer. Supply chains are failing, both in-coming and out-going. Yogurt is being produced, but there are no containers with which to package it. Forty thousand pounds of recycled paper are ready for shipment, but the trucks to ship it are stuck in the roadblocks.
Cash flow and the salaries that depend on it, salaries to people with disabilities, salaries that pay just enough to get by, are drying up. And beneath these salaries, there is nothing. No way to buy medicine, no way to buy food.
The Sisters of Notre Dame, locally and internationally, have forwarded funds to buy meals, to support salaries, to help with security. With this letter, I’m hoping to raise more.
In considering a contribution, put yourself in the shoes of a parent in a house that has no water, that has a roof of thrown-away tin, that may or may not have a floor – but that is nonetheless a home you have made for your child, and that perhaps is the only thing separating this child from hunger, mockery, physical abuse, and worst of all, a world without love.
Then imagine the situation today, now, as you read these words, when mobs are rampaging, when sharpshooters are firing, and when your lifeline – the lifeline so carefully woven over all these years – is in danger of falling away.
Please pray as well – “because the decisions,” says Sister Rebecca, “are getting harder and harder.”