I've been putting off this post for 3 months now, because it's so dear to my heart. I knew it would be
hard impossible to convey everything I experienced on our youth missions trip to Nicaragua this past July, but I feel now it's time to share these images and moments I want to keep so close. I've realized there is no way for you to feel what I felt, for you to see what I saw, but maybe you can get a glimpse of the Almighty God I serve as I share pieces of this trip.
I have been on 7 missions trips prior to Nicaragua, including places like Mexico, Germany, and Costa Rica. I thought I knew what to expect and how I would react and respond to the people and situations I saw. I didn't. I don't know why, but I came home from this trip different. I cried frequently. I am still in awe of God's extravagant love and grace in my life. I still feel like the wealthiest person in the world.
If I had to summarize my feelings after returning home, I would say I felt fragile. The dictionary defines fragile as "delicate and vulnerable." That was exactly how I felt... that I could break into tears at any moment (and I often did). My spirit was so sensitive to the things of God. My perspective shifted completely.
On the ride home from the airport, my sweet Mama (who greeted us and picked us up) told us that she went grocery shopping for us and had our house cleaned while we were away. As we drove down a beautiful clean highway hearing her words, I couldn't hold in my tears any more. I cried and cried, thanking her and the Lord for giving me so much. SO MUCH. It was overwhelming. We got home and as I stepped inside, I just kept crying. I opened my pantry and my refrigerator door to an abundance of good, healthy food. As we unpacked, I walked into my closet speechless at all the clothing that I have, all the shoes that I wear to match my many outfits. I gargled the water in my hot shower - good, clean water that I could drink. Even three months later as I type this, tears flood my eyes.
We have so, so much to be thankful for.
We did a lot of work: we repainted the exterior and interior of this church. We repainted the outside of a sponsor-based school. (For more info on sponsoring a child for an entire year for only $200 visit this site.) We did skits, we played music, we played games. We helped to feed several neighborhoods, we sorted and distributed clothing from our church, we played soccer, we handed out stickers and lollipops, we loved as best we knew how in a short week of time. We prayed for many families, we layed hands on the sick and prayed for healing, we listened to men who needed work, women whose husbands had left them. We clothed naked children. We saw miracles - one lady who had back pain before a student prayed for her said that her pain disappeared after the prayer! Some of our students got on their hands and knees in the dirt to pray over feet, knees, and other ailments. We laughed a lot, we cried a lot, and every night we fell into our beds in complete exhaustion. We had an incredible team of students and leaders. No doubt we will always be a Nicaragua family!
We experienced a vibrant and beautiful culture! Their colors are bright, their fruit delicious. The rain would come in a moment's notice and then be gone 30 minutes later. We had some fun too - we saw monkeys when we rode on a boat through Lake Nicaragua, and we went to a Volcano which was breathtaking.
We experienced church in Spanish, and it was so incredibly sweet to be united with brothers and sisters who spoke a different language!
Will did what he does best: he taught and shared an encouraging and powerful word 3 different times on the trip. Not to mention - he organized and led this entire trip. I was incredibly proud of him. It's not easy to speak with a translator in a different culture and country, but He received many "amens" and cheers - there was unity in the Spirit no matter the language. God is so much bigger than we realize in our every day lives.
I've been thinking a lot how why this trip moved me so much. I think it might be my age and station in life - that I'm married and working. I have a strong marriage and a job that I love. I have purpose. I've never been so heartbroken over people who seemed to walk aimlessly, because I don't think I understood the gravity of it when I was in high school. I didn't understand the big picture as much, and the importance of having work and purpose in life. So as I walked through these neighborhoods seeing parents and grandparents sitting around, with no transportation, no work, nothing but their house with a dirt floor and propped up tin and wood as their walls, it was very heavy. I saw their children with no shoes, little clothing, uneducated. I would think, "What do these people do every day? How would they even apply for a job, even if they wanted to? Do they realize why their Socialist government doesn't work? Do they even understand the concepts of the purpose of government? How would they get food if the feeding program didn't exist? Do they even have medicine if they get really sick?..."
My thoughts would go on an on. I want to fix it, but it's way bigger than me. And that was overwhelming. It was only a week of my life, but they are still still there, living and breathing and hoping for something. Anything.
And that is when HOPE steps in. When you share the gospel of Jesus with a people who are really hopeless, HOPE becomes tangible. There is purpose in Christ. There is freedom from sin. Jesus who was perfect came to this earth to die and pay the penalty for all our sins. We are imperfect, but by believing in Jesus - that He died for us and was risen from the grave in victory - we have HOPE in eternity! No matter how bad this life, no matter how aimless or purposeless we feel, we have purpose in Christ! When we accept Him, our purpose is to share that hope with others. No matter what country you live in or how much you have, we have purpose. To know and believe in Jesus, and to share that very real hope with others. That gift of salvation and knowing Christ is no less a gift to me because I live in America and have all that I do - it is still just as remarkable a gift.
One woman who understands her purpose in Christ is Mama Nubia - this sweet woman pictured below. She is a beautiful widow, the mother of 11 children of her own, and hundreds of others call her their "Mama." She has changed thousands of lives and hearts in Nicaragua. Our church built her this beautiful home pictured below almost 8 years ago. When we arrived to visit Mama Nubia and love on her and pray for her, no one expected to be as speechless as we were. Mama Nubia used to live in a small house with a dirt floor, with water that would leak through the ceiling when it rained, forming a small stream through her living room. Now she lives in this beautiful home, because the Lord put on our Pastor's heart to build her a home. I will be forever grateful for this woman's impact on my life.
The ministries we participated in throughout the week - the feeding programs, the clothing distribution, the school, the churches - they all existed because of the faith of Mama Nubia and hundreds of hours of prayer and hard work. As she cried in utter gratitude, thanking us for her home, we cried in utter gratitude with her - thanking God for how she changed all of our lives.
I could go on and on, but I know I have to stop somewhere. I'll leave you with my favorite image from the trip and these words: never, ever underestimate your ability to change someone's life. Mama Nubia never doubted the voice of the Lord, despite her poverty and circumstances. Obey the Lord's voice, and if you have an opportunity to go on a missions trip, GO. If you are obedient, God will provide, I promise. He will change your life and your perspective, if you let Him.
Lord, keep me fragile.