“Pan-y-agua,” he said, slowly enunciating each syllable. “Me llamo es Panyagua (my name is Panyagua),” he repeated, tapping his chest with the handle of his paint brush.

Painter by trade and father of one of the students at the school, he took it upon himself to repair the school’s roof. Each day, all day, he was on the roof. If he wasn’t scraping or painting or pulling nails, he was supervising the work of the other parents. It was a hot and potentially dangerous job. One man cut a deep gash in his foot requiring eighteen stitches. A momentary rest up against the sun-heated metal would blister the skin. We were thankful the villagers were doing the roof and for Panyagua, who was making sure the work was done correctly.

Panyagua. What’s in a name? Translated into English, pan y agua is “bread and water.” I’d often think of that when I watched him work. Bread and water. The bare necessities of life and how the Nicaraguan people were thankful just to get them.

In the United States where luxuries are often mistaken for necessities and where things can get so complicated for many of us, Nicaragua is a place and time that brings us back to an appreciation of the bare necessities of life. We have found there a people who have so little yet share so much. Lives which are so poor in earthly possessions but rich in family, hard work, and laughter. In our attempts to give them bread and water for their bodies, they have given us bread and water for our souls.

CONSIDER, there is nothing romantic about poverty with its bloated stomachs and diarrhea-caused deaths, but it is in such a place one makes a quick assessment of what’s important and what isn’t. It brings perspective to life in a hurry. It is among the least of these that we have found the things which matter most.

Rev. Wendell Mettey
Revised 5/29/2014

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