Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sunday in Nicaragua

Excerpts from my journal:

We arrived in Managua last evening at 9 p.m.  The ride from Managua to Diriamba took over an hour through crazy traffic and running red lights.  We were told it was "better not to look."  Our driver took us at top speed up winding roads into the mountains with the Pacific Ocean to our right and Lake Nicaragua to our left.  Not that we could see anything.  It was pitch black.  I could only compare the drive to the old Disney attraction, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride!

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Everyone was asleep when we arrived at the mission house, so I used my flashlight to go into the bathroom and change, then get myself up to a top bunk, as all the lower ones were taken.  Between fear of falling off, fear of SNORING and waking someone up, and FREEZING (it was hot when we arrived - I only took a sheet as my covers for that night, then the wind started to blow - hard), I didn't get much sleep.

Our morning started before 5:30 with showers, then breakfast.  Today's task was to sort toys, clothing, and personal hygiene items for the children.

There was a LOT of stuff!  Many suitcases filled with items.  (BTW, we left the States with two suitcases of deflated soccer balls - 50 in one, 25 in another.  When we pumped them up, we had 150.  I like God's math!)

We started making gift bags to be given away during the week.  The team who had arrived on Friday had already bagged up thousands of pounds of beans and rice.  (Final tally:  10,300 pounds of rice and beans.)

We were also invited to participate in a graduation ceremony at the school Nicaraguan Christian Outreach helped build.  The ceremony was very sweet and included children graduating from both primary and secondary classes.  The buildings themselves would be considered extremely primitive by American standards, but the children and teachers were very proud of their facility.

After going back to the house to work for a few more hours, we went walking down the road quite a way, then off onto dirt paths.

The cinder block houses were quite small, one of the larger ones was perhaps the size of our school room in our house, and the translator told us there were 9 people living there.

The kitchen was a little lean-to attached to one side.  Outdoor toilet.  No water or plumbing in the house, but there was a refrigerator, one bare light bulb, and a tiny TV!

The children are so beautiful and are grateful for whatever we had - balls, candy, Mardi Gras beads (those were popular with the women of all ages!) and the adults were so thankful for the large bags of beans and rice.  They were so gracious and invited us into their homes.

I was so touched by what I saw, but so frustrated by my lack of ability to communicate.  Oh, to tell them how Christ loves them and that they are not forgotten by their Father in Heaven.  I will learn Spanish before I return.  That will be my #1 goal for 2010.

Friday, December 4, 2009

He Gives Us Our Heart's Desire

This past summer, our church's women's ministry had a summer Bible study that also included our junior high and high school girls.  It was fun to participate in a Bible study with my girls.  This was unlike any Bible study I had ever done before where you read a passage and expound on the meaning.  This one was personal.  What is God saying to YOU?  What dreams and desires has God placed in YOU?  Things like that.  AND it included scrapbooking!  You know I loved that part!  

The first lesson was on dreams - the dreams God has placed on your heart.  Few people outside my family knew that one of the dreams nearest to my heart was missions.  Scrapbooking that page was EASY.

I even wrote a little letter to include in my page - it was a letter to God.  A prayer, really.  And I, again, reminded God of this dream, one I feel He placed in my heart more than a dozen years ago.

That was back in the summer.  Fast forward to November 22nd.  Our church was having a newcomer's dinner.  I had no reason to be there.  I'm not a newcomer.  I'm not a pastor or ministry leader.  I'm not a member of the cooking team.  But for some reason, that morning I offered my assistance for that night.  I arrived at 3 p.m. since Brooke had to be there for the youth worship band practice.  The other volunteers and I set up the tables pretty quickly, then we stood around talking, waiting for closer to the time of the dinner to bring in the food.  Out of the blue, I told my pastor, in the middle of a bunch of people, "Pastor Jay, do you know what I want to do more than anything?  I want to go on a missions trip..."  A lady whom I had never met quietly says, "I'm going to Nicaragua in three weeks and there are two more spots for ladies.  Come with me!"  I started crying, as did most of the people around me.  So many reasons why I couldn't go - I had just gone on vacation to Washington, DC and surely couldn't get more time off work - I didn't have a passport - and, most importantly, I didn't have the money.  But the people around me assured me this was God - and that He would open all the doors.

The next day, my boss approved the time off, saying, "How can you miss this opportunity?"  Two days later, we booked plane tickets, still not sure where the money would come from.  The next day, all the money was there, a gift from my Heavenly Father, wrapped with a bow!  Then the following week, my mother-in-law, my girls, and I drove to New Orleans and got my expedited passport.  I was on my way to Nicaragua!

Our church had been collecting pajamas for needy children in our community, but they decided to send the first 100 pair (or as many as they had collected so far) to Nicaragua with me.  Arriving one day before me were 107 pair of PJs, courtesy of Journey Church.

It took me about four hours to roll 90 pair of PJs and stuff them into one suitcase.  The remaining 17 were in Judy's, Carl's, and my suitcases.

This dream I had dreamed for so long was becoming a reality.  I knew when God placed this dream in my heart that my mission field for that time was in my home, raising my children, who were little at the time.  But this dream, this desire had never waned over the years.  Rather, with the help of Sonlight Curriculum, it probably strengthened.  My girls and I would read about different countries and their needs, especially for the Gospel.  We would pray for different people groups and cities and countries around the globe.  I had gone in my prayers.  I had gone in my heart.  Now my feet and hands were going to go.  God is so good.