Today was the first full day of our Nicaragua mission trip. Yesterday was a full day of travel, 15 people, 30 + bags, a long bus ride, a long border visit and a longer bus ride to Managua. The Lord was watching over us at the border as the border guard only glanced at two of our bags, before sending us on our way, saving us a huge amount of time and hassle. Further, we had no problems getting our luggage on the bus, another common issue.
Our home base for the week is a nice bunk-house called La Quinta Shalom. They specialize in providing housing and food for missions trips, and they are great hosts. The coffee is always on and they now have WIFI! Our missions mission on this trip is to build four houses for four families in an area near the dump.
Now I use the word house very loosely, because what we are building is an 11×11 concrete pad surrounded by pieces of tin, smaller than my shed. However, they are very humbled and happy to have anything that protects them from the rain better than the current cardboard and plastic bags and other pieces of trash adorning their current abodes.
The drive out to the location is an hour-long,eye-opening trip. The roads are swamped with vehicles, 2,4, and 6 lane highways, motorcycles, buses, crazy cars, and even the occasional horse and cart tramping Down the middle of the road. In amongst the roads are patches of green, and in those patches are families with mattresses and hammocks and the fortunate ones have a black trash bag to cover their heads. And this is just on the way to the dump.
It is easy to tell when you are getting close to the dump as the roads , which are already smattered with trash, become more and more covered, until you pass fields that look like crops of colored cotton candy growing alongside the road. As you draw nearer you realize it is just fields of old plastic grocery bags. The neighborhood we were working in was a newly established area covered with minimal shelters, many us Americans would not feel good enough for our pets. Yet not only do they live in them, they are happy and feel fortunate to have them. They are pieced together with wood, tin, plastic and more trash collected from the nearby dump. Any severe wind or rain would render most of them useless.
After initial meetings and being introduced to the local pastor we broke up into two building teams and began to build. Our building plan was as follows: dig post holes, make a wood frame, slap on a tin roof, pour a concrete floor, slap on some tin walls, put in a door and give them the key. There is no key, because there is no lock because there is no door handle. It is a truly sobering and humbling experience to participate in.
At lunch time I was fortunate to enjoy the daily lunch service the local church provides to 200 hungry kids. They reported to us that for most of these kids the lunch they provide is their only meal of the day. These people are true missionaries,living amongst those kids and feeding them every single day. The meal begins with a prayer in Spanish and is followed up with multi lingual worship songs while they eat their bowl of rice and fruit. The lunch room is a covered concrete pad adorned with colorful plastic tables and chairs in an attempt to brighten the hot and dusty atmosphere. But the stars of the meals are the kids themselves, ranging from 1-10. They are full of smiles, love to have their picture taken and love to hug you, hold your hand or just touch you. They are kids and they act like kids. But I was brought to tears by these kids. I was moved by the simple pleasure of having a hot meal at an actual table. Moved by the fact that they got to wash their hands. And truly moved to tears as older brothers and sisters, 4,5 or 6 years old spent their lunch time feeding their younger siblings, neglecting themselves. In those kids you could see it in their eyes, the need, the desire to be a kid, taken care of, fed and free to grow. It was those kids for which my spirit wept. They knew, they were not oblivious to the world around them, they knew that they lived among the truly poor in the world, scraping daily for a meal, praying for a way to stop the rain from dripping on their dirt floor, and praying mostly for their family. The burden of life was already written on their tiny tanned, mud streaked face, and it was impossible to hide.
Although we finished two ” houses” today, heard testimony from both families that they prayed for this miracle, and one even saw a vision of a bunch of gringos coming to help her, despite all this the long bus ride home was a solemn quiet ride home. I couldn’t help but wonder how I could not help more, there is so much need, so much suffering and so much left to do. And as I impatiently waited for my turn in the shower to wash away the stink of the day, it struck me that most of, if not each and every person I saw today would not being taking a shower, and probably had never ever taken a shower. A simple refreshing way to wash away the worries of the day, a pleasure that most people reading this will have experienced with the last 12 hours. I think perhaps today my life was changed. I think perhaps my perspective has forever changed.
Tomorrow we will go and we will build two more houses, tomorrow we will conduct a kids Bible school and then we will come home and we will wash away the stink of the day.
Please take a minute to give thanks for all that you have and please take a minute to pray for those who have not, and pray for us that we may do more than we have set out to do, that we will make an eternal difference in not only our lives but theirs.