Well, here I sit at home with the flu and a walking cast on my foot. I can't say that it is exactly what I would prefer to be doing, but I am and that means I have time to post about our trip to Nicaragua!!!
First of all, what a trip. There wasn't one part of it that didn't challenge Alfred and I to be relying on the Lord...which is where He wants us to be. As we embarked we didn't know much about our accommodations or the itinerary, but every day was full of God's provisioning and we gained a perspective that has certainly changed us.
The flight down was great as we met our group along the way. In the end there were 14 of us...leaders from 2 churches/church groups, several people already involved in WO (World Orphans) and a guy from Virginia Beach directly connected with the indigenous church...he was our chofer (in spanish)/chauffeur, not our translator (that's funny if you were on the trip with us), and a source of comic relief the entire week.
Anyway, the church in Nicaragua is called Verbo...there are actually 14 churches under the same name around Nicaragua and more around Central America. We stayed at an orphanage run by Verbo which had recently built a complex meant to house groups like ours. The complex also had a boys' orphan house and a girls' orphan house as well as a school and a massive green house. I will tell you more about the orphanages in a minute. We were fed extremely well every morning and night by women who lived and worked at the orphanage. I guess this is an appropriate time for a disclaimer...when most people think of missions trips building houses or manual labor of some sort and time with children comes to mind...we did exert some energy and played with a lot of kids, but our main goal was to get a vision of what God may have us involved in in the future. I say that because we weren't challenged by staying in tents and eating cold oatmeal for breakfast. It was a comfortable trip in terms of accommodations, but certainly not comfortable for the heart as we saw all of the unmet needs in Nicaragua.
The first day we took a trip to the city dump called La Chureca. It is basically the worst of the worst in a third world country...in some ways. Let me explain. Families have found their livelihood in the trash piles...building their homes out of the rubble and finding food and clothes from the same. While thousands live in the dump thousands more come to work in it every day, loading up recyclables to sell to other countries because Nicaragua does not recycle. I was very much anticipating this trip because I had been well aware of what is going on in La Chureca through an acquaintance/friend who has planted himself in the midst of these people doing God's work to show them the love of the Father (lovelightandmelody.com). I knew it wouldn't be easy to see the hardship and difficulty there, but I know God is already doing much work in the hearts of those people through His willing servants.
After getting lost on our way there we finally entered the gates of the dump. There were burning piles of trash, cows used as squatters by someone who claims...against the governments word...that this is his property, and workers sifting through the piles. Mounds of trash rose up in the distance. We quickly turned onto a little road that led us to a school where a feeding program was being held. We learned through an American missionary (who had lived in Central America her whole life) about the program and its efforts to feed the children most likely the only meal they received each day. We played with the kids and took a walk through the dump to get more of a perspective of what this life is really like for these people. Little kids ran by, many without shoes and pants. Stray dogs and chickens roamed around. At the top of the hill we had climbed was a view of the reality of this place. A mini lake full of trash and the craziest green colored water you have ever seen was below us and just after that the mounds of trash rose. I looked across and could hardly make out through the smoke two men in a make-shift wagon pulled by an emaciated horse probably working to find something of worth in the trash. It was hard for me to process what I saw. I didn't get to stop and ponder the way my heart wanted to because I was trying to capture it all on camera. I didn't want to be the American who came in, took some pictures, felt bad for these people and left. I wanted to talk with God about what His purpose is for this kind of situation. I wanted to be changed, but I realized that I didn't have to limit the opportunity for change in my heart to just the time spent standing on a mountain of trash. I think He enable me to do that throughout the week and as I look back on pictures I can spend time reflecting on God's heart. Needless to say He has given me a perspective and a desire that I have never had before.
Dozens of pictures later we left La Chureca and headed to the Verbo church where we met Bob, an American who has been there for 30 years and raised his family in Nicaragua through all the civial unrest, the revolution, and multiple natural disasters. We were able to talk with him and learn of some of the ways we could serve the Nicaraguan people. He and his wife are incredible and we spent more time with him on a trip we took at the end of the week.
For time sake I will combine the events of the next few days...We spent time at Nueva Vida (new life), a refugee camp for people displaced by the volcano, Mambichu, when it erupted and destroyed thousands of homes. The camp went from plastic and cardboard houses to cinder block and cement homes and now has several schools and feeding programs for the children. We met and played with a bunch of kids here and tried to express God's love to them despite our language barrier. Aside from ministering to these children a large part of our trip to Nueva Vida was to learn about one man's vision to create a micro-business that would support him and his family and would be an example to those in Nueva Vida. He knew he could teach them that if they asserted themselves they could make a living too. His business? A bakery. This man has set up a bakery in an open-air warehouse type building making bread, sweet bread, and donuts that he or his apprentice takes into Managua (about 40 miles one way) every day by bike or motorcylce. He chose to make his bakery out in Nueva Vida because he knew the Lord wanted him to be an example for the people of that village. The Verbo and World Orphans guys wanted us to see this bakery to give us an idea of how we could help families and orphanages implement this micro-business to make a way to get out of poverty. We will hopefully be able to use this in an orphanage that is going to be set up in Nueva Guinea (more about that to come). Next we spent time at a farm in the mountains where we saw how a self sustaining farm works and how it could either be a micro-business or simply meet the needs of a single family. There is so much to tell about this farm, but the basic idea is that every element of the farm enables another part of the farm to run. The main part of the sustainability aspect is to put everything God has on the earth to use. Use the trees for protection, food for the animals, firewood, etc. They set up their gardens in old tires propped up above the ground so the rain won't wash them away. They use the animals and their byproducts for everything they have to offer. The animals can be used for food (eggs, milk, meat) and their waste for fertilizer and even methane gas to run household appliances. It was such a beautiful picture of what God intended for the earth and how we should use it. Nothing went to waste and everything was seen as God's gift to be used for our benefit. We are hoping to implement this at the new orphanage and be able to teach families how to live off the land they have.
Well, this is super long so I think I am going to have to post again to finish up the rest of stories of the trip. Thanks for reading through it all. I haven't even posted about what God has taught me about Himself and His people, but I'll get to that...it's the most important part of serving Him!
But of course, I have to post pictures to keep you interested :)