You know how one of the first things most people do when they consider traveling internationally is to check their passport? Well, apparently, I'm not most people…lil ol' me somehow overlooked the fact that my stamp of approval for leaving the country had expired two years earlier… until it hit me at 2 am two days before my flight…oops. Well, thankfully I have a really big, awesome God who likes to help me out when I overlook the obvious, and in the matter of 24 hours, I had myself a brand new, shiny passport (after spending a few extra hundred dollars and dragging my very splendid, accommodating parents to Philly at 5 am – thanks Mom and Dad!). So with all that trouble to get there, there must be something good in store for this trip, right? Why yes, yes there was.
But when I squeezed into the back seat of a pickup truck to drive about an hour to the town of Dario, after I landed in Nicaragua, my first thought was “what in the world am I doing here? I don't even know Spanish.” By all outward appearances, it was not the best timing for me to leave the country. I had just taken time off work for the Holidays, had other scheduling conflicts, and I had been trying to teach myself Spanish, but was still a very, very long way off —this is a good place to say a very special thank you to my amazing interpreters!! Especially Alisha (even interpreting while not feeling 100%!), Ita, and Joe — But rewind to a few months earlier; I was thinking about missions and had asked God to have someone ask me specifically to go on their trip if He wanted me to go on one. So, what do you know, within a week or two, Scott McClelland did just that… I couldn't very well say no now, could I? So here I found myself in this truck at 10:30 at night in a good 60 degree warmer weather then when I had left that morning (can't really complain about that…7 degrees Fahrenheit was a tad chilly), feeling unqualified and a little apprehensive. Wondering, “Who am I and what could I possibly have to offer?” But as I talked with two men who spent their lives pouring out love and wisdom to those around them; Jairo and Jim, and I remembered that God had gotten me there; I felt a stirring and excitement for something greater then myself to come out of me and the people I encountered to be encouraged and touched by love (aka God). I didn't really have many expectations, but found myself stepping out to a place of expectancy and trust in His love for me and those around me.
So first God decided to minister to me (we love because He first loved us, right?) and a really bad cough that I hadn't been able to shake for months disappeared- ON THE PLANE. Says the girl to whom bad things seem to get worse when she flies. If you do not believe me, talk to my sisters. I once couldn't hear out of my left ear for a week and a half when my minor head cold decided to camp out there just to make me miserable after a flight to Germany. But then, throughout this trip, many little things kept pointing to how God was in love with me and others.
Next, I had the wonderful pleasure of meeting some of the most fun, endearing people whom I got to minister alongside of. The initial apprehension continued to fade away. Throughout the next 7 days, I witnessed love in action. I got to minister alongside a ministry that washes the feet of little kids and sends them off with clean, new shoes; after calling them by name and blessing them. And another ministry that bought a “Pooh Bear” Pinata and invited all the kids of the community to come join us for fun games and valuable messages. Our team also met with a ministry school founded by an impressive Swedish woman, and got to speak and pray for different congregations of local churches. It was so refreshing and inspiring to see so many believers from many countries and cultures worshiping the same God and pouring out their hearts and lives for others. To have the opportunity to join with them in bringing praise to God and love to their community was something I will treasure. It fired up something inside me. It made me feel alive and in love – In love with God and His beautiful people. I felt so encouraged as I saw God's goodness and faithfulness. It is obviously hard to describe all that occurred on this trip, so here are some of my favorite highlights…Deep conversations with new friends; taking long walks along the streets of the cities we visited; the excitement I felt as the electricity went out in the city of Matagulpa while on a walk after dark… just after I had gotten to see the town park all lite up with Christmas-type lights. With the electricity out in the whole city, the stars seemed to be both reaching down to us while going on forever (its worth mentioning that I had told God earlier that day that I'd like a chance to see both of those things; the city lit up and the stars at night). And who can beat zip-lining over the trees on the hills of Nicaragua? I now also know that my sweet and adorable Mexican friends; Ruth and Cecy, can host quite an impressive fiesta (whew, those Mexicans like their spice). And I don't think I will ever forget the party atmosphere; with new friends from all over the world, turning into praise echoing off the concrete walls.
The sweetest memories come with the precious, entreating faces of little ones… those asking; for the 20th time, if they could get another piggy-back ride or play tag one more time before they got a free meal from selfless, hard-working lovers of Jesus. And the little girls; on different occasions, grabbing my hands and leading me through the streets of Dario, having whole conversations through smiles, even though we could verbally communicate very little with the language barrier. And the hugs of my “little buddy,” as I like to think of him; the tiny boy who wouldn't let me put him down for too long while we visited the poor community he lived in.
One of my favorite things about my trip to Nicaragua was seeing God's faithfulness when I surrendered myself and sought His strength…seeing him use me and my awesome team-mates as we ministered to the beautiful Nicaraguan people. There were times in the trip that I still felt nervous, unprepared, or unqualified, but I would remember that God was the one who had told me to go. I thought He must want to communicate His love and infuse encouragement into others and He must want to use me to do it, so I need only to ask Him and then do what He says. John 14:26 “But the helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things…” John 16:13 “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-11 says “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” …so I would ask God what He wanted to do, and what I should do to join Him. It was exciting what came out of me when I did that. I felt such love from and for the people we got to meet.
So what did God have in store for me with this 2015 trip to Nicaragua? All I know for sure is that my heart became so encouraged to love with more reckless abandon- this love that can't get enough of me, or the people around me. The ending of our trip culminated in me literally picking up my legs with my hands and setting them one foot in front of the other, up the side of a mountain. As I reached a cross at the peak; 900-ish steps from where I began, I couldn't help but think this experience matched the state of my spirit…once a little apprehensive; feeling unqualified and unprepared, but then invigorated and alive when I realized what I was close to.
So the next time you feel unqualified, or unprepared for something; remember, as I will try to do, that God said He already has good works prepared for us to do (Ephesians 2:10), so we can believe in His love and faithfulness for us. Why would He withhold good from us? He is a good God and father who loves to give good gifts to us. Luke 11:13 “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” He loves to use us to touch others…and nothing we can do or have done can disqualify us or separate us from His love (Romans 8:31-39).
I would like to say thank you to all those I met in the lovely country of Nicaragua (It was such a pleasure!), and to those who sent love and prayers our way! You helped make the experience a refreshing and inspiring adventure.
Love and blessings, Danielle
Oh, and in case you are wondering, my least favorite memory from the trip…. I did not particularly enjoy the few stomach issues that arose from the delicious cheese; that mind you, was so hard to resist.