Missing Nicaragua Already

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8 days ago I was stuffing and sitting on my suitcase to have a better chance at zipping it, praying to God that it would be under 50 pounds. Now I’m on a plane headed back into the country. Where has the time gone? It seems to really fly when you’re having a good time. I’ve just concluded my fourth mission trip. Crazy to think about, really.

I went back on a Nicaragua mission trip for a second time. Lots of things were different this time around, but two things remained: God’s presence and those sweet little faces I had met the year before. I was so excited to be seeing them again, but couldn’t help but wonder if they would remember me or not. I only spent about three days with them last year, and other mission teams hang out with them throughout the year. How could they possibly remember me? Those were some of the thoughts running through my head. I wish I could explain the relief and love that ran through me when we got there and I heard one of them shout my name. That was such a touching moment, because not only were those thoughts I was having true, but my own teachers barely remember my name and I see them more times than i’d like to. Its a hard name for most people, but this particular little one remembered it.

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It felt so good to be back. To rekindle the relationships that started a year ago. To see those precious little smiles and receive those long, tight, meaningful hugs. The experience was more than I imagined it to be. Its amazing how possible it is to genuinely love someone you’ve only met a few times. I loved witnessing how much the kids have progressed over the year. I couldn’t believe how much they’d grown, and even how much more talkative they got. Unfortunately, though not all have had a wonderful year since we’ve last seen them.

Jamie*, a young girl I met last year, was diagnosed with cancer in multiple areas just two weeks after our last visit. She had been battling tumors and having them removed prior to the news. Her family left her and moved away. Her age- 13. Can you imagine? On the mission team this year, Jamie’s* sponsor, who pays for her schooling and sends her packages/letters, was present. She had planned not to come, but jumped at the opportunity once she heard Jamie’s* condition. As soon as we got to Nicaragua, though, she was told that Jamie* had started losing hair due to chemo and refused to let people see her. Though devastated, her sponsor was preparing not to see her but praying for the opportunity to present itself because we were only going to be spending one full day in Jamie’s* community. Our mission in that community was to go door to door hand delivering book bags stuffed with school supplies to the local students. Jamie’s* sponsor didn’t even bring her package with the group because she was told Jamie* would not want visitors. So, off we went en route to the kid’s homes. It was everything we expected up until we got to this one home. Guess who was sitting in front of it. That’s right: Jamie*! And it wasn’t even her house. It was as if God had plopped her right in our path. All I could do was look at Jamie’s* sponsor and smile. She was fighting tears. It was good to see Jamie* doing okay, but really hard to see her latest condition. We prayed for her, and later on she popped up at the community’s school, where we were hanging out with all of the other kids in the community, and we just couldn’t believe it. Things seem to be really changing for her.

Marissa*, a teenaged girl I got close with last year, was said to have left the community with a new boyfriend of hers. When I got the news, I was close to tears. I was prepared not to see her again because in that village, once you leave its likely that you’re not returning. Well Marissa ended up getting pregnant and coming back home to the community. When it was time to give birth, Marissa had a lot of health complications that nearly killed both her and her baby. It got so bad that she and the baby were put into a hospital room, where they were left to either die or fight for their lives because the they help needed was beyond the hospital’s resources. By the grace of God they are both alive today. Because she is a new mom, she is no longer enrolled in school so I didn’t think I would see her since we were handing out school bags. But guess who was standing in front of one of the homes we delivered at? You guessed it: Marissa*. I was so overjoyed to see her that I nearly knocked her over when I ran to hug her. She looked good, but tired. We talked for a little and exchanged pictures from the past year, which was cool, but then she brought her baby out! Now, I was so shocked because I had just been told that in their community, babies under 3 months are not shown due to superstitions. But there she was, holding her precious two month old bundle of joy. She was absolutely beautiful. We prayed for her, and that sweet baby then went on to finish deliveries. I was so grateful.

Those are two instances of this mission trip’s highlights. Both situations reminded me that God is in control, and even when we think something will or will not happen, all that matters is what is within God’s will. Im not even off of the plane yet and already can’t wait to be back.

*These names have been changed to protect the identities of the women mentioned

When the Offender Was Your Best Friend

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When the offender was your best friend, the healing process gets confusing.

You find yourself missing that person when something you would ordinarily share with them comes up, like that much-needed talk they were pushing you to have with your parent, or that achievement you finally reached that they were motivating you about.

You find yourself going back and forth in your mind about what things would be like if you let them back into your life despite the fact that they completely disrupted it with their selfish, disgusting actions.

You get glimpses of memories that have you wishing what they did could just be erased completely so that life as you knew it with them could continue.

You find yourself wanting that best friend back because they were the only person who really understood you, who you would cry to and fully express yourself without receiving judgement. They are exactly the person you would vent to about the very thing they did to you.

When the offender was your best friend, the original trauma becomes so much more to work through. There are levels of healing unknown to many that seem almost impossible to conquer.

Beginning of a New Season

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Its funny how perspectives can change overtime. I remember the first time I asked my mom what my name meant. It was right after I had overheard some friends talking about the meanings of their names. I remember thinking about how cool it would be if my name meant something too. Turns out it did. “Kyani means the beginning of a new season,” said my mom after I went to ask her. “A new season?,” I thought as I began to imagine how beautiful the four seasons are. I was content with it.

Fast forward about twelve years, November of 2016, I was asked by a friend if my name had a meaning. “The beginning of a new season,” I said with a smile on my face that began to fade back to neutral as an intriguing thought crossed my mind. For the first time in twelve years I thought about the word season on a deeper level. Since I’d become more involved in my faith I had heard it used in a different way- mostly as a marker of time. In Christianity we tend to use the word season to describe a period of time, like a season of growth or a season of despair.

For the first time, in my 21 years of living, I thought about how fitting it is for my name to mean the beginning of a new season- the start of something new. My life has been full of change in many different aspects (especially as of late), and while normally I tend to wrestle with it, I’m trying this new thing where I just embrace the change and observe what it has to offer me. Anything new can be challenging, but I’m learning that when you tackle that newness with the right attitude you’ll be amazed at what can grow from it.

“Go and Tell Them”

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Okay- not the best piece of art, but I love this picture because of what it represents: a vision God gave me early January of 2016. He took me way above a city of some sort. It was nighttime, so the lights were extremely bright (imagine being on a plane looking down on a city) and as I sat on what seemed like a swing, He spoke to me.

“Do you see all those lights beneath you? Those lights represent all of the people who do not know of me yet. Specifically Catholics because they are missing the most important part of Christianity- a relationship with me. Go and tell them.”

This vision came to me in the middle of a night where I couldn’t fall asleep for the life of me. It was so strange because insomnia isn’t a normal occurrence for me. I found myself falling into a state where I wasn’t awake, but also not sleeping. Almost like a dream, I felt as though it was actually happening. And the vision really stuck with me because it occurred just weeks before my very first mission trip to Nicaragua, where citizens are primarily Catholic. He had my full attention after that. It was the clearest way He could possibly show me my calling to the mission field.