Nicaragua Mission Trip – Wrap Up

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7

It’s hard to believe we’ve already been back from Nicaragua for a week and a half. It’s hard to go back to “normal” life, and I pray that I don’t slip back into a lifestyle where I take what I have for granted. Did you know that people who make over $40,000 are richer than 99% of people across the globe? Hearing that really put things into perspective for me.

Here’s a bit about our travel day home, if you’re interested. If you have any questions about Project H.O.P.E., what we did, the people of Nicaragua, or anything else, please let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, July 25 – Some of the group had to leave for the airport around 4 a.m., and others didn’t fly out until about midnight Saturday night. We were lucky to have a mid-day flight. I woke up around 7, had a dry cinnamon roll, and packed up my stuff so the Project H.O.P.E. maids could clean out the rooms for the next group arriving that afternoon. We all hung out in the cabana and the kitchen until mid-morning. (They brought out some fruit and eggs a little later on, which I was grateful for since the cinnamon roll didn’t fill me up.) We quickly said our good-byes and hopped on the bus for the airport.

I snapped this on the way to the airport - typical Nicaragua driving
I snapped this on the way to the airport – typical Nicaraguan transportation

When we flew in to Nicaragua it was late and I was disoriented, so I didn’t really get a feel for the airport. This time I realized how small it was – just one two-story building and one runway. Check-in went smoothly, then we found out our flight to Miami was delayed a couple of hours, because the plane was coming from Miami, where storms had been passing through. I was pretty nervous that we weren’t going to make our connection. Jerod and I split a small wrap in the airport, and we had a smooth flight with one beverage and no snacks (thanks, American Airlines) and landed in Miami around 8:30 p.m. (6:30 Nicaragua time).

Nic_490 copy
Beautiful clouds over the Atlantic Ocean

Our connection to Kansas City left at 9:30, so we only had an hour to get through customs. We ran through the airport, only to have to stop and wait through a long line at the immigration kiosks. Then we had to pick up our bags…but our bags hadn’t even appeared on the conveyer belt yet. I found someone at the American Airlines information desk and notified him that there were 21 people still waiting on bags for a flight leaving in 30 minutes. He made a call and found out it was delayed 20 minutes, but he was able to delay it another 10 minutes or so. He told me to gather our group when we got our bags, and he’d make sure we made it to our flight. When I found the group, several of them had already gone ahead (every man for himself!) so that plan fell through. Once we made it through security and re-checked our bags, there were staff there letting people to Kansas City through, so I think he did pull some strings for us. He was the nicest American Airlines staff person I’ve ever dealt with. I was one of the last of our group to arrive at our gate – making it just in the nick of time. Unfortunately there was no time for dinner.

Thankfully we had a smooth flight to Kansas City. Once we arrived around midnight, everyone split off pretty quickly with a few hugs, ready to be home. My bag never arrived, so I filed a report, and Jerod’s dad took us home. When we got home I immediately went to Little Miss K’s bedroom and picked her up. She barely opened her eyes and really had no idea what was going on, so I got to hold her in my arms while she slept for about 10 minutes. The next morning she clearly had no idea I had held her, because she was thrilled to see us! I was so happy to see her, too.

IMG_8481 copy
I missed this little girl so much!

We had an incredible trip – one we’ll never forget, and one I hope to be life-changing. Again, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask. And if you are considering going on a mission trip, JUST DO IT! You may regret never going on one, but I promise you won’t regret taking that leap. Oh, and my bag arrived at our door two days later with everything intact.

Advertisements

Nicaragua Mission Trip – Day 6

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5

Thursday, July 23 – We started off the day with egg casserole, muffins, fruit, and the obligatory rice and beans, then we headed to the village for a shortened day of work. Jerod and I decided to focus on our family today rather than building homes. Building relationships with the people is just as important, and we wanted to make sure to do that. After our morning worship, we found an interpreter to talk with Gizelle and find out more about her, her family, and her walk with God. We found out that she grew up Catholic and was baptized as a baby, and her family is going to church regularly outside the village (by foot or by bike). She wasn’t ready to be baptized as an adult, as she was still studying the Bible. (We gave them a Spanish Bible a couple of days prior.) Gizelle studied journalism and wants to help people look up information(?) – she plans to find a job once the home is built. She also told us how grateful they were, because without Project H.O.P.E., it would have taken many years to save up enough money for a home. She said she couldn’t imagine leaving Sebasian like we’d left Lil’ Miss K, and that she would have been constantly worried about him. Overall we had a nice, fairly long talk.

After our conversation, I was planning on going up the mountain with another team member to get a good overall photo of the village, but the taxi, the hike, and the water tower climb ended up being no-no’s, so I worked on blocking with Gizelle for a while instead. Abby and I had previously joked that we were tough and could mix concrete by hand, so she stopped by the house and asked if I wanted to give it a shot. The guys were more than willing to give us their shovels, take a break, and use us as entertainment, so they watched us mix two batches of concrete. After about 30 minutes we were happy to hand the shovels back over. Despite what the guys said, we both thought we did pretty good – our time wasn’t that much slower than theirs!

20150723_120150 copy
Abby and I working on mixing concrete
Nic_215 copy
One row of completed homes in the village
Nic_222 copy
A little girl outside her new house
Nic_195 copy
A garden a man planted in the back yard of his new home
Nic_205 copy
A rocking chair and porch added onto one of the Project H.O.P.E. homes

We had lunch at the community center, then had a shortened women’s Bible study. At the end, each woman got to keep their notebook and they were all given aprons made by the women at Plaza Heights. I took photos of the women in their aprons – a lot of them liked looking at their picture and were very grateful for the aprons. Next was a quick, very crowded children’s Bible study, where they got to do a craft, color, and eat gummy worms. During the Bible studies, the men played the Nicas two quick games of baseball and won both games this time! Jerod grabbed a ladder for me and we climbed on top of an abandoned house near the community center, which overlooked the entire village, Lake Managua, and the volcano, so I could get my photo. Like lemmings, several people followed suite and joined us to take in the gorgeous view.

Nic_313 copy

A view of the village from above
A view of the village from above

We left the village around 2 and took two buses down to a lake for baptisms. We had two people – one Nica baptized by Jim, and Hunter from our group, who was baptized by his step-father. I don’t think they could have had a more beautiful setting for a baptism – it was pretty neat to witness.

Nic_346 copy
Baptism
Nic_338 copy
The beautiful setting of the baptisms

Back at basecamp we cleaned up and ate a delicious dinner of sea bass, veggies, and mashed potatoes. It was my favorite meal of the trip. Evening service was really emotional for myself and several others, I think. Between Holy Communion and awesome music from Nate, I just felt really close to God.

We quickly packed rice sacks full of donated clothes we’d brought for our families, which turned out to be hectic and disorganized. It was a let down going from such a touching service to a stressful process. Some of the guys did have fun putting on crazy outfits, which lightened the mood a bit. Luckily we’ve already made plans to make it go smoother next year. We stayed up until almost midnight – but we’re enjoying each other’s company more and more every night.

Nicaragua Mission Trip – Day 5

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4

Wednesday, July 22 – Today was a full workday in the village. We had our typical large breakfast, which always included eggs, salsa, rice and beans, and freshly-squeezed juice along with some kind of carb.

Nic_171 copy
Typical breakfast at basecamp – the pastry was kind of like a sopapilla!

This morning’s pow-wow in the village included dancing to the catchy song, “Chu Chu Ua.” I was selected, among quite a few others, to go up front to dance with Eduardo leading the motions. It’s kind of like a Nicaraguan version of hokey-pokey, only more entertaining! After the sermon and small group time, we got right to work. After dropping Sebastian off with a relative in the village, Gizelle worked with me today. We worked on blocking all morning on Greg’s family’s home. We’re really starting to get into a groove now, so it’s coming along pretty quickly. The kids in the family hung out with us while we worked, so it’s always fun to stop and play with them. Sometimes it hardly feels like work at all!

Nic_177 copy
One of the kiddos climbing on the blocks as we work

After lunch I walked around with Abby to take more photos of the village. A few kids tagged along with us – wanting to swing in our arms and joke around. They’re all so friendly and sweet – they really took to Abby on the first day and have been attached to her every since! After lunch, Cyndie, a translator, and I went to a little shop in town to purchase chair hammocks, which we ended up bargaining down to $15. Bible study was a success again.

Abbey with Jose, one of the boys the hung to her all week.
Abby with Jose, one of the boys the hung to her all week.
A sweet 7-month-old fell asleep on me minutes after holding her
A sweet 7-month-old fell asleep on me minutes after holding her

At the end of the children’s Bible study, Jim (one of leaders of our group) had a special treat for the kids – snow cones! We had over 200 children wait patiently in line for them. The man and woman running the business worked hard on their little portable bike snow cone contraption – the man shaved the ice by hand and the woman scooped red and yellow syrup onto each snow cone. It was a lot of fun to witness such a treat.

Nic_240 copy
Snow cone pros
Waiting in line for snow cones
Waiting in line for snow cones
A true beauty
A true beauty
Snow cone pros
An afternoon of fun with snow cones and ring-around-the-rosie

I went back to work blocking in the afternoon, and I got back to the community center right as we were leaving, so I was disappointed there wasn’t much time to talk with our family. We did get a few big hugs and lots of good-bye waves.

Nic_252 copy
A view of the volcano at the village entrance

Back at basecamp I cleaned up and Skyped with my parents since Lil’ Miss K was exchanged with Jerod’s parents that afternoon. They said she’d be having a great time, and I got a chance to tell them a little about our trip. For dinner we had chicken fajitas with homemade corn tortillas and a delicious watermelon juice. I helped wash dishes (we all have kitchen cleanup duty one night), then during the evening service we got into small groups and talked about our Nica families and how to reach out to them. After lunch prep, Cyndie, Abby, and I had fun trying out our hammocks while the guys held them up for us! Even though it was probably the most tiring day, we stayed up talking pretty late – I figured it was fellowship time we’ll never get back.

Nicaragua Mission Trip – Day 3

Day 1
Day 2

Monday, July 20 – After another big breakfast, we left for the village at 8 a.m. We had a morning service, small group time, and  the opportunity to give our families Bibles. We finally got to work around 9:30.

This little girl turned out to be terrified of me and my camera
This little girl turned out to be terrified of me and my camera
Even the toddlers enjoyed the Bibles
Even the toddlers enjoyed the Bibles
Big helpers
Big helpers

Jerod worked on roofs again (with Jorge – he was off work since it was a national holiday) and I helped finish blocking at the same house I worked on yesterday. I mostly filled the cinder blocks with dirt and cement and moved the cinder blocks to the interior of the house so they were easier to access. Throughout the day I alternated between working, taking photos, and helping with the women’s and children’s Bible studies.

One of the sweetest little girls - Angie - loved posing for me
One of the sweetest little girls – Angie – loved posing for me
Hauling the tin roofs to the houses
Hauling tin roofs to the houses
Nic_058 copy
Jerod and other guys working on roofs
This is a typical construction site in the village - babies/kids involved, women dressed up, and quite crowded
This is a typical construction site in the village – babies/kids in the middle, women dressed up and working, and overall quite crowded
This is how they get their water
This is how they get their water

Before the women’s Bible study began, me, Abby, and Evelyn (one of the interpreters) walked around the village peeking into homes and letting women know that Bible study was going to start at 1 p.m. When we got back to the community center at 1, there were less than 10 women there. By about 1:20, there were closer to 40 women there. They definitely live on “Nica time”! Rachel did a good job leading the Bible study, even though at times it was loud and hard to hear. The women were given note cards and colored pencils and really enjoyed sketching and coloring during the study. The children’s Bible study was filled with kids, and Becky did a great job with them, even though it was even more difficult to hear.

Nic_073 copy
The first day of children’s Bible study

At the end of the day we met up with our Nica family in the community center and took a few photos. I played clapping games with Estephanie, and Jerod got Sebatian to giggling by playing with his sunglasses, which is apparently a universal game. Lil’ Miss K loves it too.

Estephanie and me
Estephanie and me
Sebasian and Jerod
Sebastian and Jerod

We left the village a little after 4, cleaned up, and had chicken with a yummy creamy jalapeno sauce for dinner. We had our evening church service, which included a few stories and prayer requests. I helped with lunch prep, and we stayed up just a bit later than the previous night. Getting used to this new schedule, I slept even better than the night before.

Nicaragua Mission Trip – Day 2

Day 1

Sunday, July 19 – I don’t think any of us slept too well the first night. We had a big breakfast at 8, then we headed to a morning church service for missionaries in an open-air gym. It was an interesting sermon about longevity in mission work by a New Zealand preacher who had been a missionary for 17 years. He talked about how hard it is to be a long-term missionary and what is needed to succeed. I was kind of surprised to see so much diversity and so many Caucasian families – I really admire people who can dedicate their lives to mission work.

Christian missionary church in Nicaragua
Christian missionary church in Nicaragua

We went back to base camp for tuna/pb&j sandwiches, then we finally got to go to the village in Mateare to meet the Nicas and the families we were assigned to. We had a pow-wow in the open-air community center – and Eduardo, an energetic, Godly Nica who ran the show for the week, made it fun and lively with a couple of icebreakers. First-time “Gringos,” a.k.a. the Americans, got to go up front and since a song, then we were each introduced to our families. Jerod and I met our family – Jorge (24), Gizelle (22), Estephanie (9), and Sebastian (16 months). It really felt like we had a connection with them since their toddler was almost the same age as Lil’ Miss K. He was similar in so many ways.

Nic_014 copy
16-month-old Sebastian

Unfortunately I seemed to be allergic to something in Nicaragua, and my eyes were watering and itching like crazy by this point. They got progressively better throughout the week but didn’t stop watering entirely until Thursday afternoon. We walked to our family’s home and tried (and felt like we failed miserably) to communicate with them. We figured out ages and birthdays, and they showed us their photo album with wedding and baby photos. We had an interpreter for a few minutes (there were 6 or 7 that worked with us all week), so we were able to learn each others occupations (Jorge is an oil truck driver) and a bit more – like the fact that Jorge’s uncle works in Washington D.C. and speaks 4 languages. Later in the week we found out that Estphanie was Gizelle’s nice, and that her mother is working in Peru and sending back money for her medical bills, because she has some issues with her spine (scoliosis?). We took a few photos with each other, then we went to work.

Nic_015 copy

Since we were first-timers, we didn’t really know what was going on and things were pretty hectic. Jerod was volunteered to work on the roofs, and I worked on blocking (doing the cinder blocks on the bottom half of the homes). The Nicas work alongside us as the homes are built, and it felt like they knew much more about it that we did and that we were just in the way. Later in the week we got into a groove and things went much more smoothly. The homes are probably 16×20(?) with cinder blocks on the bottom, wood panels on the top, tin roofs, a cement floor, and doors in the front and back. The Nicas must pay for the land, but the home is given to them provided someone from their family helps with the building process. We work on several homes at once, so we don’t necessarily work on our family’s home.

Nic_017 copy
Temporary homes in the village that people built until their new Project H.O.P.E. homes are complete

Throughout the week, in addition to building homes and relationships, we also talked with them about God and Christ. One of the awesome parts about it was that a lot of them were already Christians! After a couple of hours, we said good-bye to our family and went back to the base camp to clean up. I was covered in dirt from head-to-toe.

20150722_170024 copy
I had a very obvious dirt line by the end of the day

We had a tasty spaghetti dinner (provided by Nica’s employed by Project H.O.P.E.). Nate, the youth pastor at Plaza Heights, provided music each evening, while Pastor Larry had really engaging services all week. We stayed up getting to know our new friends until about 10:30. I was really tired and slept better than the first night.

Photo of the Day: Haitian Tree

It’s been just over four months since I returned from a mission trip to Haiti. It’s hard to believe how quickly time flies and how much I miss it. I just finished my photo book from the trip, so the experience has been on my mind a lot lately. You can learn more about the trip here. I hadn’t posted this photo yet so I thought I’d share it with you today.

A very tall, lush tree near the Methodist church in Arcahaie, Haiti

A Final Look At Haiti

A recap of my mission trip to Haiti can be found below.

Day 1     Day 2     Day 3     Day 4  

Day 5     Day 6     Day 7     Day 8

Ten firsts for me on this trip

10. Visiting a 3rd world country
9. Speaking Creole (even if it was just a few words)
8. Taking a bucket shower
7. Sleeping under a mosquito net
6. Enjoying an entire beer from start to finish
5. Spending a week without seeing or talking to my husband
4. Being the “minority” (and not minding)
3. Praying out loud in front of others
2. Holding an orphan
1. Eating spam!

Ten best moments of the trip

10. Drinking hand-squeezed passion fruit juice
9. Listening to Hank’s emotional prayers
8. Doing my nails with a sweet Haitian girl
7. Going through an entire Haitian-Creole – English picture dictionary with a boy named John
6. Three-year-old Fresmica voluntarily sitting on my lap during church service
5. Receiving hugs, words of appreciation, and the gift of a papaya from the families we installed water filters for
4. Praying with and for the families we installed water filters for
3. Seeing 6-year-old Obison’s huge smile every day
2. Holding an orphan
1. Realizing (with Curtis’s help) that we were the answer to someone’s prayers

The people of Haiti will always be in my heart.