As I prepared to go to Nicaragua, my excitement and anxiety grew simultaneously. I knew without a doubt, I was in for an adventure. Most of which, would be out of my comfort zone. I have learned, however, that’s exactly where God shows up in a mighty way. Although my uncertainty was present in a big way, my confidence in God’s presence there, was bigger.
As we arrived, I immediately felt the tangible transition from comfort and familiarity…exchanging it for scarcity and the unknown. The small things we have in abundance in the U.S. are scarce or non-existent in countries like Nicaragua. I felt the immediate effects of a life of excess and the things I take for granted on a daily basis. The comparison of the two lifestyles were a stark contrast. I could feel I was in for a life-changing experience.
I have heard about missionaries, poor countries, families and children with no running water, etc. all my life. However, until I lived among them for a week, I couldn’t truly feel compassion. Our interpreter, Stephanie, was very open about her income and possessions. When I learned that she was a dentist, I asked how she could possibly afford to take a week off to work with us. I found out the $25/day we paid her was more than she made in her private dental practice. I could NOT believe the contrast it was to a dentist’s salary back home. Of course, dentistry is one of the more “successful” professions there, so that is above average. She explained that a VERY successful month for her was $1,000/month…which is almost unheard of. Instead, it was about $600/month. However, the average income for others in Jinotega, Nicaragua is about $300/month.
The daily experiences we encountered are almost impossible to articulate. All of the projects we worked on were amazing and the people delightful. But there was one day, in particular, that will forever be ingrained in my memory. It was almost more than my senses could take in. It was the day that we visited families that live at “the dump.”
I don’t mean close to the dump.
I mean in the dump. Literally.
They live off of everyone else’s garbage. Perhaps this is doable in America. Our “trash” mainly consist of things we have grown tired of. This, however, is the trash of people in a third world country. That’s a whole different level.
As I stepped off the bus, the smell took my breath and immediately made me nauseous. It took all my strength not to cover my nose. I didn’t want to be rude. Within the next few steps, we were covered in flies. Millions of flies covered the old trash on the ground, the animals that roamed around, the plastic their “homes” were made of, the people that lived there, and us. It was difficult to open our mouths to talk or sing without swallowing flies. I have never been more thankful to have on long pants and a jacket with a hood. We had taken each family a pot filled with rice and beans. There weren’t as many families as we had planned for and we didn’t see many children. I found myself hoping we would leave quickly and I later found out that Dana and I were both thinking the same thing. We were hoping that perhaps we would hand out the food and leave, instead of playing games with the kids as originally planned. About that time, Carol Ann said, “Get out the games and let’s play!” I immediately found myself praying for strength to endure these surroundings. We found a relatively flat spot, out of the trash that we had been standing on and got out the parachute, balls and bubbles. Children began to appear out of nowhere.
What we experienced next is something that brings tears to my eyes as I write this.
I will NEVER forget the way our kids interacted with the kids that called this place home.
They took them by the hand and played duck, duck, goose.
They bounced balls on the parachutes.
They threw the ball with them.
They chased each other.
Together, they laughed and played. The joy on all faces was equal and evident. Laughter is a universal language and was shared in abundance that day.
I am not the only one forever changed by these few hours. I have a feeling that Allie will carry the memory of this day with her all of her life. She bonded and fell in love with a little girl who appeared to be about 4. Her name was Mireya. She had the best smile and relished the sincere and abundant love that Allie and others showed her. By the time we left, the temperature had dropped and all we had to give her was Luke’s undershirt. Luckily, it was big enough to cover most of her arms and we tied it up in the back. She welcomed the extra layer with a smile that melted our hearts. With every fiber in our being, we wanted to bring her home with us. It broke Allie’s heart to leave her in the dump.
We went there to bless.
We left being blessed and forever changed.
We also enjoyed our days at the different schools. One of which, was a school for special needs. Again, we went to love. But instead, we were loved.
All of these things required one GIANT step out of our comfort zones. We saw first hand that when our hearts are willing, God meets us there in an unbelievably powerful way. I can’t help but think how easy it would’ve been to miss these precious opportunities if we would’ve chosen our comfort over faith.
Faith that God would meet us there.
Faith that God would bless our heart’s willingness, even when hesitancy was present.
What a beautiful reminder that He is everywhere and will exhibit His power, especially when our weakness is abundant.
No words can adequately express my gratefulness for the memories I will forever carry in my heart. The fact that my whole family got to experience this together means more to me than any earthly possession possibly could.
I am thankful.
I am blessed.
I am changed.
Thank you, Lord.