Sorry, Ben, this puppy is long, but I had lots of time on the plane. 😉
Our final day with our Nica friends came faster than anyone expected. As each day passed, I found myself needing more and more time with the children. Somehow, it just doesn’t seem to ever be enough. Ben’s buddy, Leonel, said it best when he told Ben, “No amount of time with you is ever enough.” Ben’s quite a special young man. I don’t doubt Leonel’s feelings for a minute.
Walking through the halls of La Quinta, each person I passed was sharing stories of the kids and planning their next moments when they see them – making sure not to waste a single minute. It’s like getting every last drop of water from your bottle on a hot day. We brain-stormed with each other so not a drop was missed. Our team has been planning this day in our heads since the beginning of the week. It was sponsor day, and we got to treat our sponsor children to a very special day.
Personal note: **Sydney and I were lucky enough to sponsor Jearim, a 9 year old beautiful Nicaraguan girl, who has been claimed by a sponsor two times in the last 6 months, but neither sponsor had followed through with the paperwork. This only makes us even more committed to making this experience like nothing she has ever known or been able to dream of. Not a second would slip by without wrapping Jearim and her family in our love so that she will never know a day where she is unsponsored ever again.
The bus arrived at Rey Solomon and we filed out of the bus searching the halls for our children. Sydney looked in every classroom hoping to see Jearim until finally Juan Carlos found her and asked her to come out. The shy Jearim saw Sydney across the room and recognized her immediately from seeing her in January. Her perfectly bright white teeth were exposed as she smiled and sprinted into Sydney’s arms. She is gorgeous! She stood with her arms close to her sides clothed in a flowing hot-pink latin-style shirt, gathered at the very top of her waist, with a white laced collar and with the same lace thinly trimming her short flowing sleeves. She wore dark blue skinny jeans with leather boots. This girl was dressed to the nine’s. Her flawless skin and shiny hair just added to her beauty. I wish you could have all seen her and the happiness she tried to contain within herself.**
We all filed on the bus and headed out to a lake (a “short” bumpy, steaming hot, 90 minute ride – not that I was paying attention) where we took a boat ride and toured the outer surroundings of Monkey Island. As the name says, wild monkeys hang from the trees screaming at each other. If you get the chance and want to know exactly what they sound like, ask Jake Johnson. Beware, it might freak you out a bit- but I promise, just as the monkeys on the island, he won’t bite.
Praise God for another beautiful morning and for coming together as a group in worship with Peter leading us in song. Peter assembled 8 pages of worship songs and learned them on his guitar so that we could worship together each morning as a team. Team members walked away singing the songs and being in awe of the song, “Oceans”, as Peter just nailed it. He has been so instrumental (no pun intended) in bringing us together. Praise God for Peter! And for Jeannie for her devotion.
The day then began as we walked down the muddy streets of Managua carrying 40 large bags of food to members of Living Water Tabernacle. We were welcomed into their homes as 10 of us stood in their 1-room home and took turns presenting the family with the bag of food. We asked about the photos on the wall, their family, and prayer requests and then prayed with them Nica-style. Our first home we entered was Bernada’s who is in a wheel-chair. She had a white board on the wall where she writes her poetry. On the board was “Mi casa es su casa.” And she welcomed us through her entire home. As we were dripping with sweat, we walked across the cement floor where the room separated the bedroom from the family room and kitchen, and we peeked around the corner to see her new bathroom that Traders Point helped build. Bernada told us some of her poetry and explained how much she loved us and is praying for us. If that doesn’t humble you, nothing will. We prayed together, hugged and kissed her as we left to go to the next home. We repeated this about 8 times until David led us into a new cement home that David helped build. Just a few months ago, David had walked through their house literally made of cardboard. But as David walked in this time, his jaw dropped, and the tears flowed. He personally helped raise the $4000 to build the 2nd nicest home we had seen. Most homes like this are built for about $8000, but they were very proud that they were able to build it for ½ the normal cost with the help of David’s team.
Before we knew it we were eating lunch together at Tip-Top chicken where we finally got to eat in air conditioning – and free wi-fi. Immediately following lunch, we took our next trip to the Rey Solomon (King Solomon) school. It was here the God showed Himself in the most amazing ways.
Today was a beautiful day here in Nicaragua. We started our day off with a devotion lead by Mark Kowal about the fruits of the spirit. We then went on a two hour bus ride to go zip lining, which was an awesome opportunity to see God’s beautiful creation. After a couple hours of tight harnesses and howling monkeys, we headed to lunch at Papa Johns, which was delicious. We then headed to the Masaya market, where we shopped for a couple hours and saw a lot of interesting products. Then we all loaded up and headed to the top of Mount Masaya. It was awesome seeing Mount Masaya again, even though it was my fourth time visiting, it still astonishes me how beautiful God’s creation truly is. Today was a great day to rest and recuperate and I think we are all ready for the rest of the week. Thank you for all your prayers and thoughts.
When my daughter, Sydney, first came to Nicaragua, I was disappointed not to hear from her at all the entire trip. Leslie and I waited every night for a call or text and never received it. Not that we were upset, but we wanted to connect with her some way. I now realize why things are so difficult to plan. There is only 1 small crepe shop that has wi-fi and it’s a 5 minute walk, but you cannot walk alone. So planning to get wi-fi access is not always possible.
On Monday, our plans changed that morning. The original kids we planned to see did not have school. We had to find a plan b. So, we toured a nearby school where Jeannie and Cody were able to meet their sponsor child, Jonathan, as it moved them to tears.
The school is located in the worst part of town of Managua where crime, drugs and violence soars. But after the bus bounced its way through the massive pot holes, and traffic-filled streets, we pulled up to the school and walked up the metal staircase (similar to a NY fire escape) to the 2nd floor. We walked through the steam-filled hallways and saw the kids in their long blue pants and white shirts- their uniform. They tried their best to concentrate on their teacher, but we certainly distracted them as we passed the halls. Apparently they had added windows since last year, which added a decent breeze to the halls. But it was HOT, and sticky and wet! And, yet, they just smiled, waved and laughed when they saw us.
We didn’t get to spend any time with the kids, but it was nice to see a school and what it’s like for them to have class in session. Many of them posed for pictures with us in the hallways. They LOVE to take photos. But it upsets me to know how much they love to take photos, and yet they don’t get to have the actual pictures afterwards. We will have to find a way to get them developed and delivered.
We also toured a special needs center that TPCC helped build. They take care of over 100 kids in a tiny, tiny, hot office. Transparent curtains separate the rooms and plastic patio chairs line the edges. That’s where treatments take place – as well as surgeries. David was able to connect with a family that has a son that went through the same brain surgery as his son. When you connect with a child like that, it literally makes your heart ache and you crave to help them- in any way possible. How they live in these conditions, especially with the special needs, amazes me.
Wow what a day it has been. So many burns, so many tan lines and most importantly so many smiles on our faces. I really don’t know where to start it was such a great day. But I guess I will start here we headed to go get the Nicaraguans from Ciudad Sandino after breakfast and we have been going ever since. After picking them up we headed to Granada for a beach day which was an awesome experience for both the Nicaraguans and us. I think we all got to create a new relationship which was an amazing thing to observe and experience. After endless hours of Frisbee throwing and getting tackled into the water we served them all lunch and headed back into town for church at pastor Belcers church in the oriental market. The church experience was incredible we got to hear the famous Pastor Belcers which was such an amazing experience. Pastor Belcer is famous in my mind because of the impact he is have in Nicaragua, He has planted over two dozen churches in Nicaragua and I don’t think he is stopping anytime soon. He has been my spiritual super hero for some time now so hearing him preach impacted me immensely.
I think today was a one of the most impactful days of my Nicaragua experiences. The reason I say this is that from up to this point I have been relying on myself for everything but today I realized that I am not the instructor in my life I am just an instrument in His symphony. And today I personally decided to let go and let God. So that’s only day three, I am excited to see what else God has planned for the next three days in all of our lives.
As the sunshine showed itself from the clouds today, so we were able to experience more of its heat, and sunburn, while getting to play at the beach with our Nica kids. After over an hour bus ride we pulled up to one of Nicaragua’s beaches. Definitely not to be confused with Destin beaches, but still very nice, and large. The children’s excitement was nothing short of Disney World to these children. They came sprinting to the bus…down a super steep hill. Sarah Croner immediately was worried they’d trip, but no one would. They just entered the bus with their hearts racing and with the largest smiles and hugs to greet us, their new best friends. High fives, fist bumps, and, of course, those air-constricting hugs to both the males and females of our group.
I apologize for the late arrival of our second post, we did not have the opportunity to use WiFi but better late than never so here you go…
Day two was a definite success. We started out with a delicious Nicaraguan breakfast which included some of the best fruit you’ll ever taste. We then went into a time of worship and devotion with music led by Peter Sanders and devotions led by David Cupp. We dove into Colossians talking about how we are changed in Christ and are called to a higher standard. After our time of meditation and preparation we headed to a sports complex where we got to play with kids for two hours and then got the opportunity to serve them lunch. We then got the chance to see what the kids could do by spending two more hours in a competitive atmosphere which consisted of a group of about 30 people attempting to play soccer or as we like to call it “getting embarrassed by the Nicaraguans.” Our group regretfully had to say adios because we had to head back to La Quinta for dinner and then a movie that was held at Pastor Wilbur’s church. When we got back to La Quinta for dinner we quickly realized that they were cooking our favorite meal of steak and potatoes. After eating way too much we headed to the movie night and watched Big Hero 6 which was a big hit with the crowd(special thanks to Brendon Saget for making that movie night happen). Honestly I didn’t feel that I made any new connections today but I definitely strengthened some previously formed bonds. Going into tomorrow I am going to change that. I am going to stop trying to be comfortable. It’s time to jump out of my comfortability bubble and start to boldly show Christ’s love through my actions and start to create new relationships. I am beyond excited to see what God has in store for me and the rest of the group now. It’s time for me to not but a cap on what God can do and to have the faith that through Him I can get through any situation and through Him I can form those friendships and bonds that he has called me to form.
Scrambled eggs, beans and rice, and toast kicked off our day followed by Peter’s awesome worship music, and David’s devotion on Colossians 3. He reminded us that it’s our duty to kill our old self. It’s not just a matter of ignoring and forgetting it, but absolutely destroy our old self without the Lord. How blessed I am to be a part of such a great group of people who believe in this and have never stopped being a light of Christ to this community.
Today was a long day of travel but with a great reward. We arrived in Nicaragua at 2:30 pm and have been smiling from ear to ear ever since. We started our stay here in Nicaragua with an introduction of La Quinta and explaining all the rules and suggestions of our housing. After the introduction we spent our time recuperating and getting prepared for the day to come, this consisted of sitting in rocking chairs and watching pastor Wilbur’s son Christian karate chop bubbles. Then to put a cap on our day we enjoyed the delicious food that La Quinta always has to offer. My expectations for this trip are set at a pretty high level considering that last years trip was such a success. However, I think that this trip will exceed my expectations. I believe that God has placed us all on this trip for a reason and i’m excited to see what he has planned in my life and the life’s of others because of this trip.
The excitement is brewing and people can hardly contain their happiness. We are definitely at home in Nicaragua.
The flights went great. We had plenty of time to eat, rest and rejuvenate. During the flights there were lots of laughs and smiles. There were several mission trips flying out of Miami and our young adults represented well. I was proud of them!
After we landed in Nicaragua, we went to collect our luggage. All was good until…well, let’s say Jake will be borrowing clothes for a couple days. Poor Jake. His luggage is in Columbia. (Although Brendon denies it, I think he had something to do with it. I’m kidding, of course. No I’m not.) It stinks for Jake, but everyone is pitching in to help him out and make it all manageable. It’ll be just fine. It could be here as early as tomorrow.
The bus was on time and our La Quinta family welcomed us to Managua. We drove through the streets and had a nice introduction to what we will be seeing the next week. There was never a doubt that we were not in Kansas anymore. The rain started falling fairly hard and we got to experience the high humidity with a cool rainfall. It was really quite peaceful.