Hello friends! We are so glad you are here! Welcome to our little world of reminiscing, sharing, learning and laughing. We have been so excited to share about our trip to Nicaragua and we are getting ready to start our journey all over again. I do not want to think of this post as a year late, but rather a reflection of what happened a year ago. As we have had a year to let the changes that were made within ourselves, on this trip, sink in and permeate our lives. So much happened in such a short week that it took us months to process. Now we are beginning to prepare a new group of people to embark on this trip and thought it was the perfect time to revisit our 2012 trip to look forward to 2013.
Nicaragua is such a beautiful country but has such vast contrast in its scenery. The difference between the rich and the poor, the clean and the dirty, the old and the young is so startling. You can walk down a road that upon first look is beautiful. The homes are painted in bright colors, there are palm trees, a beautiful view of the volcano and perfect blue sky, but you look down and there is trash all along the unpaved roads and inside the houses are bare and the children barefoot.
But the beautiful thing about these streets is that there is always life, constant and abundant. There is always a soccer game blocking the whole road or kids racing on their bikes or this sweet little face watching the action.
When you travel to foreign, 3rd world countries, we are always struck by the poverty and the heart-break and your own feelings of complete and utter helplessness. At the end of these moments we end up being the receivers. We receive life change, we receive a new meaning for thankfulness, we learn what is real joy and not circumstantial satisfaction. We receive. No matter how good our intentions are going on these trips. We receive. Whether we build a house, share Jesus, feed 5000, give first aid. We receive.
There is an episode of Friends (yes I am using Friends as an illustration because 1. It’s the best show ever and 2. I lack words to describe what they illustrate so well. Bear with me. ) So, Phoebe has just had her brothers babies (hehe) and she wants them to grow up in a world where good deeds are not selfish. But Joey explains that all good deeds are selfish because no matter what you do for someone, no matter how self-sacrificial it is, afterwards you feel all good inside and maybe they shower you with gratitude or someone honors you, etc, etc and therefore you have now received something far greater in return!
Therefore Phoebe and Joey have helped prove my point. When we give, we receive. And there is nothing wrong with this! It is the beautiful thing about giving that makes us want to give more! No one said giving was easy, it is hard. Incredibly hard at times, but the outcome is so worth it in the end and sometimes the receiving part comes much, much later. Jesus had this conversation with Peter, when Peter wanted to remind him of how much he had given to follow Jesus in Mark 10: 28-31:
28 Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!” 29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
So, in this post I will try to give a you a picture of what we gave, what we received and what we look forward to coming up in March.
Our week consisted of many different activities like Vacation Bible School, working in nursing homes, helping girls in the orphanage with their homework (which mainly ended up being a serious discussion and impromptu concert of Justin Beiber. Beiber fever Nicaragua style), we helped with feeding programs, church services, we knocked on doors inviting people to join us, prayed for the sick, held babies, jumped a lot of rope, played soccer, told jokes, tried new foods, learned to Salsa and laughed.
David and Goliath, in case you weren’t sure
God tends to use you in ways you were never expecting. We were going door to door inviting families to come to lunch at a local church than ran a weekly feeding program and did a church service afterwards. We got to this multi-generational home, which is common, and met this beautiful family of women. As we were talking, I noticed a sewing machine in the corner, I asked who sewed? This young mother told us she worked as a semestress at a local factory, but because she had had her baby 5 days ago, she was not able to work.
As the Lord’s timing is, our translator had the perfect solution! He had designed a Bible Cover that he wanted to have made so they could sell them to benefit the church and he needed a seamstress! Plans were made immediately and the next day she began making the covers.
As a Social worker you can imagine the pitter patter of my heart as we were not only able to connect her with a local church but help her find work to enable her to care for her young family. What we gave: an invitation to lunch and church, an invitation to work. What we received: joy. The common feeling of working hard to support your family. But most of all I received a life lesson in time and the importance of others. This family was clearly busy when I knocked on their door, but the stopped and greeted me, a stranger, with their undivided attention. How often do I do that to others? I’m too embarrassed to answer.
I love that people are either kid-people or old folk-people and rarely are they both. One of the biggest challenges our students faced was fear of the nursing home. This was such a growing experience for many of our students and it was amazing to watch. Those most fearful at the beginning, ended with BFF’s.
What we gave: Bubbles, time, an ear to listen. What we received: an unforgettable lesson in the need to cherish those we miss, those we don’t see often, those who could leave us soon and the power of a listening ear. We did not speak the language of this woman, our translators were busy, but she talked and we listened. The little we understood was about her loneliness as her family was far away and didn’t visit, of her childhood and of her love for beautiful jewelry. The listening, that all she wanted. Why don’t we listen more?
This trip was amazing and beautiful and fun. Then came the day that will crush you. Wreck your world. Turn it upside down. Never to be righted again. For we are crushed, but not destroyed.
1 Corinthians 4:10-17
10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. 11 To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, 12 and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; 13 when slandered, we entreat.We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world,the refuse of all things. 14 I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. 15 For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. 16 I urge you, then, be imitators of me. 17 That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ,as I teach them everywhere in every church.
The smell is the first thing that hit us. Death. An entire country’s worth of trash burning. The smell is overwhelming. It clings to everything. Ashamed, I covered my mouth and nose. We arrived at the dump. Literally the dump. Our first sights were shocking. Children. children who should be at school. Cows. Grandparents. Vultures. Families. Dogs. People like me. Sorting trash. No protective gear. No mask to protect their lungs.
This is their life. Everyday. They sort the trash. They get paid per recyclable item they find. They ‘thrift’ the reusable items they find at market. This is how they make their living. Some of them live right at the edge so they can walk to work. That smell a part of their life. The sorted trash is burned. The dump has literally created a man-made mountain there is so much of it. And it is running into their main water stream. Poisoning the people.
El Puente runs a feeding ministry here, so the people wont eat food they scavenge for. Their goal is to show these people their worth. That they have value. In our eyes and in the Kings. They are working to break the generational cycle of scavenging for a living. They are working to help these people find sustainable jobs, where they health is not in jeopardy. Where they can be proud of their work and not live outside of their city, but be a part of it.
What I saw through the smoky haze: joy. These faces are joyful. They don’t know any other life and they are happy. These children are finding the beauty in their circumstances. Why I am so quick to see the darkness? Why am I above others? Why is this not my life? Why was I blessed? Why am I blessed and yet I can’t find the joy?
We gave food, prayers and words of encouragement. I gave nothing. I was frozen. Frozen in terror. Terror at my own heart’s darkness. I received a lesson that can not be put adequately into words.
To say that this trip changed us would be an understatement. We have been on many trips like this in the past and will continue to go in the future. We plan to spend our entire life doing missions, where ever we may be. These trips alter us internally and externally. We give more and consume less. We are thankful for what we have. We find joy in the darkness of life. We laugh more. But one of the best things that came out of this trip were the relationships we formed. We have the privilege of leading college small groups through Athens Church. Many of the students in our groups came from this trip. We have been able to walk with them and see the permant, lasting, deep changes that were made, not only in our lives, but theirs also.
We are preparing 17 new college students to embark on this trip March 9-15, 2013. There is no mental, emotional or spiritual preparation that we can give for the experiences that will happen that week. We can only pray that our hearts will be open and maluable. That we would have boldness to share our life with strangers. That we would be Fearless. Selfless. Flexible. Willing. Servants. Leaders. Followers. I cannot wait to share with you what the Lord does on this trip, in the time leading up to and following it. This trip is not about a week’s worth of events, but a lifetime of relationships, an eternity of life, growing one step closer to Christ and an altered perspective on this world.
Please Pray for Nica 2013.