In my previous post I mentioned that I had just returned from a 10-day service trip to Nicaragua with PAN. In all seriousness, I debated many months before making the commitment. For years, I had pretty much dissed short term missions as ‘not worth the investment’. Why go, I thought, when you can send the money instead and help waayyyy more people? How much further would my money go if it wasn’t purchasing a plane ticket??
So you can see my quandry when I did sense God’s nudge to join this all-women’s team to Nicaragua. Even though a few years back I had re-assessed my judgement over short term missions when I heard about how one man’s marriage was saved by his trip to Nicaragua. Well, I thought, if it took a trip to Nicaragua in service to save this man’s marriage, then it was worth it! Perhaps that slight shift in stance prepared my heart to say ‘yes’ to this opportunity.
I was moved to tears many times during my trip. We visited communities where pastors serve the poorest of the poor. It was absolutely heart breaking to see where the people live, how they live, with so little. And yet, they were so warm and welcoming to me… a stranger. They gave us tours of their homes, which seemed little more than a few pieces of corrugated tin cobbled together. A shack the size of my living room would house a family with 6 children plus parents.
I was also moved by the example of the pastors who lived among and cared for the people in these communities. I learned that they do not receive a salary for what they do. Most need a job in order to provide for their families. They were incredibly humble people who loved the Lord and believed in his calling on their life to preach the gospel, and share His love. One pastor we met moved his family into a very poor community in order to work there. It was the ‘dump barrio’ where the people scavenge for scraps and objects to use for their homes or to re-sell.
I was also inspired by the Nicaraguan people when they prayed. I saw it at the conference, and I saw it in other situations where the prayer that was offered was fervent and sincere, full of faith. They didn’t pray ‘trite’ or tidy prayers. They were impassioned, fiery and earnest prayers. (Loud too!) And they believed that God would answer.
I was moved to tears when the women at the conference were asked to pray for our team who had come from Canada. They all stood and gathered around us, lifting us up with loud and heartfelt voices. They prayed and interceded on our behalf for our families, for our homes, for our marriages. They imparted to us what they carry inside them. I felt so blessed by this experience… and so very humbled by these great women of faith.
I was amazed by seeing their incredibly passionate worship. They expressed themselves in worship with tears, with dancing, with clapping, with arms outstretched toward a good and kind heavenly Father who they praise as ‘good’ despite difficulties. They sought God during musical worship, and found Him in their praises. They implored God to come, to touch them and He did. It was such a contrast to the more subdued worship we have in our houses and churches here.
I was also moved by the stories that I heard. The stories of people who have grown up in a place where there was not enough to eat, where siblings died in childhood from easily preventable diseases, where they were sent away to live with relatives and where abuse happened. I recall one pastor sharing his story and I felt moved by just observing his eyes fill with tears as he described how important it was to have Jesus as a best friend to help you through the tough times.
One pastor shared with us of the story of his life and the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart through his words from Acts 20: “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” I felt compelled to ask if I too, felt that same conviction – that my life is really worth nothing? Do I truly testify to the gospel of God’s grace in my daily life? How am I doing that in my interactions with others? Again, I felt humbled by this gentle man’s strong life conviction to live for Christ alone, to run the race, to believe that nothing else matters as much in life as that call from our Saviour to love him and serve him with our whole hearts.
The people and the pastors that I met inspired me. I cannot remember the last time I heard someone here at home describe, with tears in their eyes, how important it was to have Jesus for a best friend. I was touched and moved by their zeal for the Lord, their earnest faith, their impassioned prayers, and their enthusiastic worship.
I learned a lot from my Nicaraguan brothers and sisters in Christ!