Thursday, December 27, 2012

Only the Beginning

As I mentioned in a previous post, I'm going to use my journal to write this post and most likely the others to follow. I'll do my best to italicize excerpts from my journal entries and keep my thoughts to regular font to minimize confusion.

Unlike many of my other posts, I'm just going to write. This post is empty, and I'm simply going to let my thoughts flow. In no way will I be able to convey my emotion or passion, but what I will be able to do is allow you an insight to the many ways God worked during this trip.

So for starters I'll begin with the first full day of the trip and move on from here chronologically. In order to understand the magnitude of the impact the trip had on my heart, I believe you'll have to bear with me as I "watch myself grow."

December 15, 2012

Security is intense. I mean the measures it takes to get on a plane is just quite ridiculous, but at the same time I am thankful that security is as it is, because it ensures our safety. After navigating our way through check-in and security, in which I would like to mention I wan't searched for once!, we just had to sit and wait for our boarding call. Suddenly the fire alarm went off, making a loud commotion and sending flashy lights all over the airport. Thankfully there was no fire, because that could have sure put a damper on our trip! 

Shortly after making our way on the plane...

I would like to revoke my previous statement about not being searched... I was pulled aside with several of my team members to be searched with the dog. I'm pretty sure I scream 'NATIONAL THREAT' when traveling.

To think that these were the first entries about my trip simply humors me now. It was so "me" to be caught up about security and what not. Already I can tell I've grown, because my flight home was so different, but that will come later. So the story continues.

Ok. Already I'm in love with this country! It's beautiful! At the airport, Chris, Walter, and several of the kids picked us up. What a great sight it was to see children who were so excited about our arrival! We loaded our luggage and filed into a 16-passenger van and began traveling through the country. For lunch we stopped at a mall, and were given the option to eat whatever was in the food court. 

I saw McDonalds and Subway, but unlike my usual self, I decided to try my first Nicaraguan dish! Boy was it delicious! 

We loaded up once again and are now on the road to Jinotepe. The scenery is breathtaking. There are volcanoes, I mean ACTIVE volcanoes, and other beautiful landmarks. The poverty here is evident as well. Chris told us how half of the population lives in Managua, the capital, and that startled me! That is just a WHOLE lot of people for one town! 

As we keep driving down the bumpy, dirty roads, I feel like I'm already losing myself in this country. I'm in a new country, a country where I do not speak the language, but I feel at peace. I feel content. My heart is not overwhelmed, but is over run with joy at the days to come.

This was probably one of my very first, and most in depth entries. I laugh now at how quickly I felt comfortable in a foreign country, because truth be told that feeling never left me. RETURNING back to the US felt more like a foreign country. For the rest of the day I was on a high from energy and excitement.

I was in awe. The compound were we stayed was called "Children of the King." To be honest, I whole-heartedly expected to stay somewhere a lot worse than we did! The compound was beyond nice! I felt so rich staying in such a nice place while all around I was surrounded and reminded of the poverty around me.

When I went to take a shower on the first night, I was startled by the freezing water and did my best to shower as quickly as possible. While this might seem like a complaint, to me it was a blessing. In the States I could shower for 10 minutes easy, but by taking a 3 minute shower, I had much more time to devote to the kids, and to my devotions. I miss those cold showers, and I would give anything to be back.

A lot happened the first day, and I journaled EVERYTHING. As the days progressed, I put the journal aside so that memories would embed on my heart, and not on paper. For now I hope this just gives a mere insight to what my first day was like. I look forward to sharing the rest of the trip soon!

Monday, December 24, 2012

God of Healing

"If an opportunity arises, take it. It if has the capability to change your life, let it." 

For the following couple of posts, I am going to do my best to write of my experiences in Nicaragua. I took a journal while I was there, and wrote down almost everything I saw, heard, and felt.

Yet, as I look at it tonight, words simply cannot explain the significance that this trip has already had in my life. Its impact was much more than I thought it would be going in, but thankfully due to God's grace my trip healed me in ways that I didn't even realize I was broken. 

So in order to begin describing my trip, I must begin with a prayer I began praying this summer. That prayer was a difficult one, but I knew that in order to grow in my faith I had to be pushed. I had to be tested.

So I asked for just that. At some point this summer as I worked at Camp Deer Run, I began praying that God would break my heart. I prayed that God would break my heart so that HE could put it back together in a way that would not only make me a stronger Christian, but a stronger person. In such a way, that my new heart he put together would pulse life for Him, and him alone. 

Prayer is a frustrating thing. Just as I thought God wasn't going to meet this request, he threw me for a loop. So much so, that I didn't even realize that he was working or that he was answering my prayer exactly as I had asked for it.

Only now, looking back, do I realize that God indeed answered my prayer; only now does it make sense to me and that all the pieces fall into place. The series of events since this summer were not "simple tests" of faith, but were in fact God's way of breaking my heart.

I had a great first semester. I truly did. A lot of college freshmen can't say that, but I can. I had a healthy balance of school, fun, and church events. Everything seemed to be going my way, but something didn't feel right. By "something didn't feel right" I mean that I always had an uneasy feeling that I wasn't acting like myself. At one point I talked to a close friend about this, and she helped me voice through my concerns. 

For as long as I can remember, my joy, my happiness defined me; as my smile physically defined my face. But this semester, I found that I wasn't always smiling. Not that not smiling is a bad thing, but for me, smiling is what defines my character. It's how I meet, greet, and say goodbye. It is what makes me, me.

While it might not seem like much, to me it was an inner turmoil. It also led me to believe that maybe college was changing me in ways that I wasn't prepared to handle, because if I couldn't smile all the time, who was I? 

In a previous blog, I talked about my hardships this semester. I truly believe now that God was using those hardships to break my heart, along with this unsettled feeling I had.

Anyway, with that background now, I can begin to tell you the healing I felt, I experienced on this trip.

God used this mission trip to put me, put my heart back together. Like I said, I didn't know it until now, but now everything seems to make perfect sense. All this is because our God is a good God, a faithful God who answers prayers. A God whose plans are so much greater than our own, a God who was capable of challenging me, breaking me, so that on THIS trip he could fix me.

For most people, leaving a mission trip, leaving those kids would break their heart. But God used this trip to heal mine. He used the love, the people, and his evident power to heal my heart and to make me stronger. Leaving was beyond difficult, but as will come in some later posts, I know it is only a temporary goodbye.

I will try my best to post as quickly as possible, to collect my thoughts and notes and share them. Still I would love to talk about my trip! It was revolutionary, and truly an opportunity that fixed my life. I look forward to sharing everything, including videos and photos. But for now I just ask that you will pray for my babies, my kids that I left over there in Nicaragua. Pray for their comfort and protection, but most importantly just pray that God will bless them and make his love so SO evident to them.