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

“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.

Mission Trip Count Down: 57 Days

2017 Nicaragua Mission Trip Countdown: 57 Days

If there’s anyone I can’t wait to be with again its my little Adelita. When my team first arrived in Nicaragua, we were warned that there may be one or two kids that would cling to our sides, and we would become that special person to them. No later than the second day I started to notice a small shadow right near me every time I looked down. It was Adelita. She is so dear to me. There’s something about her that is just so peaceful and admirable. She knew that there wasn’t much we could say to one another that we would be able to understand, so she would just sit there next to me while she hummed songs to herself. Her presence alone was always enough.

 

 

Godships

16 staff members. 23 students. 6 students per hotel room.

Those are the attendance facts we were given before arriving. I didn’t know one single person that I was going to be spending the next ten days with, and I definitely didn’t know who I would be rooming with. It turns out that out of the 22 other students on the trip, three of them arrived to the San Diego Airport at around the same time I did, which meant that we would be riding to the hotel together. Those three students I met upon arrival turned out to be 3/5  of my roommates!  I should’ve known, back then, that we were placed together for a reason. We we’re inseparable from the start.

Now, I don’t know if it was the fact that we shared our testimonies with one another on the first day or the fact that the six of us squeezed into a small hotel room and made it work, but somehow it felt like we’d known each other for a life time by day two. Six girls, all very different, but similar at the same time. We each brought a multitude of experiences with us that helped us relate to one another.

Friendship handcrafted by God = Godship

The thing that is so special about these Godships is that He carefully planned and crafted our relationships before we even knew each other. Probably before we even applied for the mission trip. God is at the core of our relationships, which means that we pray for one another, encourage and support each other, and hold accountability. Over the past ten days we took time to listen to the struggles and victories shared by each person, which gave us some insight on where we could uplift one another.

Not only have these five girls been amazing roommates, they have been my worship and prayer partners, my bible study buddies. Its such a good feeling to know that the ten days we spent together were only the beginning of a long-lasting journey. Im excited to see what God has in store for us in the future!

Webster Springs Mission Trip: God Moments

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Okay i’ll admit it.. This trip turned out to be SO much better than I originally thought it would be. I am not at all a country kind of girl. I love the city, where there are less bugs and things like cell phone reception. Despite the setting, this mission trip has been filled with so many great moments. Here are some of them:

 

Bonding with my United Campus Ministry group

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This mission trip has given each one of us an opportunity to get to know one another on a more personal level. We were able to help and encourage each other during our hike and our mission work. We got a chance to be vulnerable and share during our daily devotions and we were brought closer than ever before. And can I just tell you guys how funny these four are? They had me laughing so hard that my stomach was hurting!

Soaking up the beautiful nature created by God

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Sitting by the water, for me, almost always results in deep thought. It was really relaxing to be able to hang out and take in the beauty that was all around us in Webster Springs. Those leaves in the background? He knows every single characteristic of each one.. How amazing is that?

Bible Study at a local church

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Before the bible study even started, the pastor’s wife welcomed and prayed for us in front everyone. While she prayed, her voice cracked and tears began to flow as she thanked God for our presence. She and other members of the congregation took turns telling us how grateful they were to have us come into the community to help out. They repeatedly told us that we were the generation of change and good works. They talked about the way media only covers negative incidents and ignores things related to what we were doing in their community. It was so moving.

Meeting my beautiful little sister in Christ

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Okay I think pretty much everyone knows how much I love kids. On this mission trip, there were hardly any kids to hang out with because they were all in school during our work days. In the middle of the week, one of the families from the community came to eat dinner with all of us. I was drawn to one of their kids in particular. In a very sassy voice, she let us know that her name was “Sara WITHOUT THE H.” She was a cute little 11 year old girl that talked a lot about her love for soccer. She reminded me of my little sister Kamara. Anyway, every time I looked to my side, Sara was right next to me. She did not leave my side until her mom told her it was time to go. During our time together she kept telling me how much she wished she could be my sister. It was so sweet. I wish I would’ve thought to explain that we already are sisters in Christ and that’s as good as it can get.

Being pushed out of my comfort zone!

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As I said in the beginning.. Country activities, like hiking and things involving the woods? Kyani doesn’t partake in that kind of stuff. They had me hiking up this huge, steep mountain and I thought I was going to die. I didn’t start off being so willing either. I had a dramatic moment when I refused to go any further and wanted to wait at the bottom while everyone else continued. But I knew I needed to get over it because another huge part of being a missionary is compromise and doing things others enjoy or suggest because it is just as important as the things I like to do.

(Notice, I’m ahead of everyone else with my “get me out of here” face on)

Webster Springs Mission Trip 2016

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When I think about the way we were led to this particular mission trip, I have to laugh to myself. MONTHS ago we had already planned to spend our Spring Break doing repair work on a mission trip to South Carolina. There was some kind of miscommunication that meant we would no longer be able to do work with that particular mission group. We then moved on to a different mission group that would have us working in Washington D.C. Well, needless to say, that ended up not working out either (at the very last minute). We were directed to a mission trip in West Springs, West Virginia- an area that was in dire need of helping hands and hearts.

We were pretty disappointed about the change of locations, but after some reflecting, it was obvious that we were needed in Webster Springs. So, off we went! At this point, we were learning one of the most important lessons of missionary life: Be flexible and just roll with the changes!

After seven hours of traveling we arrived to the small town of Webster Springs to start our week of service. We stayed at a local church, along with 46 others, where we had delicious home-cooked breakfast and dinner each day. Our team of 6 was assigned to an old elementary school that was forced to shut down due to extremely low attendance. The people of the community decided to turn the building into a community center, but first it would need ALOT of repairs. That’s where we came in.

We were assigned to a bathroom in the building that needed the previously painted floors to be chipped off and repainted. With only a handful of tools and no specific instruction we attempted to start our work at the new community center. It took a full day for us to get into the groove of things, and once we did we were more confident in the work we were doing. It felt great to be doing God’s work and being His hands and feet in the community.

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Towards the end of the trip, we were exhausted. Our pace had slowed significantly, our arms and legs were sore from using the same muscles repetitively each day and we were just overall running low on energy. I remember wanting to stop and complain at one point, but was reminded that I was not doing the work for myself and though we were working on the community’s new center, it was all for God’s glory. I prayed for the strength to finish out the work we started and got myself refocused.

Colossians 3:23 (NLT)

23 Work willingly at whatever you do as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.

All in all we had a wonderful time on this trip. In my next blog I’m going to talk about the God moments of the trip, the highlights of being in Webster Springs this week.

 

 

No “what-if”s allowed

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I wish it was easy for me to express what has been going on in my heart lately. I haven’t been able to get missionary thoughts out of my mind, and lately I’ve been seeing direction from God about it. I’m becoming more and more sure that missions are going to become a huge part of who I am. A few days ago, I got a new Instagram follower named Kelsie. I had no idea who she was but when I clicked on her page, I noticed something cool about the pictures she had. They were all taken in different countries, loving on and working with people from various places. She looked like she was having the time of her life! I saw that each one of her pictures had a hashtag that said #theworldrace… So I looked it up.

I don’t think I’ve ever been so overwhelmed with positive emotions all at once the same way I was while I browsed through this page. There was this ringing feeling in my heart that made me feel like it was going to explode with happiness. Sounds weird, I know, but this is the best way I can describe it. The world race is a Christian mission trip that takes a small group of believers to 11 countries in 11 months. Each month the group spends quality time in ministry with the people they meet the designated area. They do everything from planting churches, spending time with the little ones, meeting and praying with families and sharing personal testimonies. Its my dream in one trip.

I keep wrestling with what I perceive to be reality, and the “what-if”s.While I have absolutely no answers for them, or how things will work out, I’m going to put into practice what I know to be true: I don’t have to do any worrying because if God wants me to be somewhere, He will get me there. He will guide every footstep, and remove every boundary. “What-if”s are extremely irrelevant to Him. My worries will always be unnecessary when they are related to His plans for me.

Proverbs 3:5 (ESV)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.