Monday, April 5, 2010

Nicaragua Mission 2010 (Part 2 of 3)

Our Spiritual Journey

Rich and Poor have this in common: The Lord is the Maker of them all. (Proverbs 22:2)

I call this installment “Our Spiritual Journey”, but it is really my journey. Even though many of us shared the same feelings, each member of the team had their own unique experience during our mission. Each of us had to come to terms with our purpose and our own relationship with God. In the next installment I will try to share some of the experiences and reflections of the other team members.

My journey began at Western Hills United Methodist Church when we had a short presentation one Sunday last summer. The missions committee was looking for members of the congregation to go to Matagalpa, Nicaragua in March 2010. They showed pictures from the 2009 trip and explained the mission and the tasks they worked on. At that time I thought it was interesting and that it would be a neat experience. Over the next few weeks, I discussed it occasionally with Andi, the team leader.

The more I thought about it, the more the thought that it would be “neat to experience” evolved into a feeling that I had to do it, but I wondered why. Why did I feel so strongly about it? Was I hoping to make a difference or to be a tourist? What difference was I going to make that someone else couldn’t do better? During a phone call to my sister, I mentioned that to her, and she told me that maybe it wasn’t all about that. Maybe in addition to the mission it was God’s way of helping me to find my purpose. Baby sisters can be so insightful sometimes.

So, even though I didn’t have this blinding flash of inspiration or see a vision, I do believe I was being called to make the journey. I continued to pray daily for guidance, discussed it with my wife, and finally wrote my check.

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I, send me!” (Isaiah 6:8)

As our departure date drew nearer, we were given a mission journal to help us prepare for the trip. The journal began with 7 days of spiritual preparation, ideas for meditation, prayers and scriptures to read. Each day as I read, it seemed so perfect. The scripture for day one was John 15:16:

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit- fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.

Our journal continued to guide us in meditation about blessings, prayer, humbleness, love, life and purpose. It seemed that each day of preparation and meditation made it feel more like I was working toward God’s true purpose for my life. Would I actually find God’s purpose for me on this trip? It was exciting and scary at the same time.

Our days in Nicaragua flew by and each day brought new thoughts and feelings. Our fist encounter with the locals near the airport included children begging for money. We had been instructed not to give in to their pleas, but it was so hard not to. We are, after all compassionate individuals and so we begin our journey with a little guilt for not helping these children.

In the book, “A Mile in My Shoes” by Trevor Hudson he says that every pilgrimage consists of three essential ingredients: Encounter, Reflection and Transformation. Each day of our mission we encountered a variety of people and situations. In the “busyness” of the day the thoughts and feelings that were experienced got pushed to the back of your mind. Even though Andi was really good about reminding us to remember that we were there for the mission, not the task, it was very easy to get caught up in the jobs we were doing and to place more importance on the job than the people.

Each evening after dinner and before preparations for the next day’s work, we would gather together for a time of devotion and to discuss our experiences of the day. These discussions gave us some insight into the other team member’s experiences and allowed us a time to reflect on our own experiences.

The true transformation for anyone only comes after the reflection on the experiences. We must take the time to think about what we have seen and felt. We must ask ourselves what it was that God wanted us to take away from the moment, and that can take time. The lessons may evolve as we continue to reflect, as we look back at our journals, and go over events again. Some things come to you right away, and others take a little more time.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2)

Next issue…insights and transformations.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Nicaragua Mission 2010

On Saturday, March 6th, 2010, 12 members of Western Hills United Methodist Church in El Paso rendezvoused with team members from California, Mississippi, and Big Spring, Texas for a humanitarian mission trip to Matagalpa, Nicaragua.

Our mission: to spread the word of God. Our tasks: medical care, dental care and construction of a feeding center.

We arrived in Managua, Nicaragua at about 9 pm and met up with Rafael from Puentes de Esperanza, the mission group we partnered with. We loaded all our gear on the bus and after a quick stop at the local convenience store we set out for our 2 ½ hour bus ride to Matagalpa in the Central Highlands.

Sunday morning we got up, ate breakfast and headed down the mountain to attend the Baptist Church services at a church. A previous mission team had done some work there couple years ago. Those present on this trip bypassed the front door of the church to go around back and see that their hard work had been completed. The church now had a grand two story addition in the back.

The service commenced with a flourish and with a young man translating for the American guests. He did an admirable job. After the service we had a little sightseeing in Matagalpa and then back to the team house for lunch. In the afternoon some of us went to a nearby coffee plantation for a tour and another group went to see how last years construction project turned out. That evening we all pitched in and put together the supplies for the medical and dental team and made sure all the equipment was working correctly.

Each day started with breakfast at 7 and the teams out the door by 8. On Monday the medical and dental folks headed to a rehab center in the mountains and the construction team went to the small village of San Jose. The medical and dental folks went to a different location each day (including 1 day in San Jose) and in total saw 640 patients and the dental team saw 131 patients. That is a lot of people to see in 4 days. They did an amazing job and never wanted to turn any one away.

Our construction task was to begin the preparation for a feeding center -just a building with a place for kids to sit down when they eat. The government provides food for one meal a day for the children when they are in school. Sometimes, that is the only meal they get. Currently, they line up along the wall outside the building and eat standing up or sitting on the ground.

The construction crew spent the first day cutting down an old set of swing sets and digging out a large area that has to be leveled off for the feeding center. The school children and some parents helped. The kids were great and really put a lot into it. One young man attached himself to us and fast became part of our crew. His name was Elizandro, and he is the second youngest in his family, with 5 brothers and 1 sister. He worked with us all morning and then left for school at 12. A short time later he was back. We never could figure out what had happened with him and his classes.

Our second day the medical team joined us in San Jose. They set up in the classroom and the teachers moved the kids into a small shed to continue their lessons. Elizandro and all the other kids were already working on the dirt mound when we got to the site around 8:30. Picks and shovels and wheelbarrows were a blur as the kids ran back and forth moving the earth. Our construction crew then moved over and started putting together the reinforcing bars that will be used to strengthen the concrete pillars of the feeding center. We continued working on the pillars for the next three days.

As we worked near the church in San Jose we had the opportunity to speak with many young men and women, boys and girls about our church group and the work we were doing in San Jose. We also became even more attached to Elizandro and it was very difficult to say goodbye on Thursday. We all got together with him before he had to go get ready for school. We were able to give him a Spanish Children’s Bible and to tell him how much we had appreciated his help and his company.

Our week flew by and before we knew it we were back on the bus headed for Managua and home. In some ways it seemed like we didn’t do enough. That it would never be enough, but in our hearts we know that even the smallest gesture makes a difference.

For photos and more narrative visit

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Day 3

This is Elizando. He has kind of adopted me. He worked his little behind off yesterday. He said that he was supposed to go to school from 12 till 5, but at about 12:30 he showed back up and we never could get him to explain why he wasn't in class. Every time we asked he evaded the subject or ran off with the wheelbarrow.

He is 10 years ald and has 5 brothers and one sister. One brother is younger than him (8) and his sister is 23.

Today I know he went to class in the afternoon, because when we walked by getting ready to leave for the day, he was at the door to the classroom, saying "Ricardo" and waving.

Omar told me that the school only goes up to 7th grade and then the kids have to go to a different town to school. Most of them don't go.

The town this school is in is very, very poor, even by Nicaraguan standards and the homes in the area do not have electricity or running water. This house looks like a mansion compared to most of them. Some are made completely of tin and I have even seen one that was just sticks in the ground with plastic tarps around it and a tin roof.

Today we worked mostly preparing rebar for the construction of the feeding center. Tedious work that hurts your fingers and your back. I may be more tired today than after all the dirt moving yesterday. But all is good.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


This is someone's house


A coffee plant

This is the garden area at our team house

Friday, March 5, 2010

In 1 day we travel.......

Everyday people Live.

My life is in You, Lord, my strength is in You.

We leave tomorrow morning at 11 from Western Hills.

For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)

Our construction crew will be working on a feeding center. We will take apart a building, do some work for the foundation and put the original building back together so they can continue to use it until the project is completed.

Pray that our team will be filled with the spirit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control during the days of our mission trip.

Instead of trying harder to have these qualities in my life, help me to be open to having more of God in my life. God has given me a great opportunity, during the days of the mission trip, to let Him teach me, and fill me with the Holy Spirit.

I don't know if I will have time to post tomorrow before I go, but I thank everyone for their good thoughts and prayers. Bless you all.

The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever. (1John2:17)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

In two days we travel....

God's command...Love each other.

It would have been so much easier if it was "like", or "tolerate", but it was "LOVE."

The prayer in our journal today says, "As you have loved me, Lord, help me to love."

I give thanks today for all those who love me and for the prayers from our mission team prayer partners. Pray that our hearts are open and that the love we feel will be shared with those we serve.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

In 3 days we travel....

Everyday people have a purpose.

Show me your purpose, Lord, and help me to live it.

A simple prayer that I try to say everyday.

Having come to the church later in life I ask myself, and God, what my purpose is. I ask that a LOT.

Somehow I feel that this mission trip is closely tied to that. I'm not sure if it's the trip itself that is my purpose, or if the mission is supposed to lead me to that purpose somehow, but I have had that feeling since the first day I heard about the mission. It stayed in my head almost constantly until I made the committment to serve.

In his heart a man plans his course,
but the Lord determines his steps. (Proverbs 16:9)

Please continue to pray for the team. From Paul's letter to the people at Colosse...

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.
(Collosians 1:9-12)