We made it! The Pathmakers Nicaragua Vision Trip 2013 Team made it safely into Managua, the capital city of the Central American county of Nicaragua. In fact, the trip was largely uneventful, except for a little turbulence and a guy who tried to carry-off my carry-on luggage. He still argued with me a little even after I showed him my name on the medicine bottle that I pulled out from the bag. That was weird… I wasn’t exactly sure about the culturally appropriate way to approach the situation. Everything turned out okay.
We’ve only been in Nicaragua a few hours and I’ve already learned some important lessons.
First, I don’t like Fried Plantains and Cheese (see the picture). One of our guys had a long conversation with a Nicaraguan rancher (who has dual citizenship in the USA, a PhD in something agricultural, his own 4,000 acre cattle ranch (complete with hundreds of head of cattle) and a better command of economics and English than most Americans). This Agri-Doc encouraged us to “avoid the tap water and salad, but try the fried plantains and cheese.” I love fried cheese! But this wasn’t really my thing. Maybe I just caught a bad batch. It was missing the whole “fried mozzarella” vibe. Actually, the plantains weren’t so bad… but the cheese… it was like eating the offspring of tofu and those old pink pencil erasers. But, it was an adventure, and even botched adventures can be fun!
Second, apparently I really have to keep my hands on my bags because what happened on the flight is likely to happen again as we’re out and about. Nicaragua is the second poorest nation in Central America (Haiti is first) and some people are lucky to make about $100 a month. We haven’t had the chance to see some of the rampant poverty in the area yet, but I understand that we will, including possibly visiting a church that is either in a dump or very close to one… a dump where people live. I’m a little less shocked because I had the privilege of being the child of missionaries who worked with refugees and poor folks who lived in shanty-towns and the western European equivalent of “the projects.” But it’s been a long time since I’ve been so close to that degree of poverty. It breaks my heart, and I fully expect to have it shattered by the end of the trip. Missions to other parts of the world can do that. Might sound strange, but I highly recommend it. It tends to change your view of things back home, in a good way.
But third, and this is really cool. While we were having our plantains as a team at the restaurant nearby, an American came up and approached our table asking where we were from. We invited him to take a seat and hang out with us and learned about this amazing non-profit called Healing The Children. The guy and his wife got into it through their church. And what this organization does is simply amazing. Their two main efforts are to send medical teams to other countries to serve kids with various medical needs. But their biggest efforts go towards taking kids in other countries with serious medical conditions and bringing them back to the USA for treatment… free of charge! You can learn more at the website, but this is what struck me…
… sometimes, all we see is ourselves and our closer community and the work “we” are doing. And we can look at these massive needs and problems and feel overwhelmed and ask ourselves fatalistic rhetorical questions like “what can we REALLY accomplish…?” And we miss the fact that there are people and organizations, literally hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands…. really, millions of people and organizations all around us that are trying to do good in difficult situations. And that is SO inspiring! Here we are, representing our little church, and the relatively little impact we can make, and we meet a guy who’s part of a massive network of people doing great work for sick kids!
See? It’s a team effort! Expanding God’s Kingdom and making an impact for good all over the world is one giant team effort. And we are just one small part of that. It’s cool to think about it that way.
So, anyway, I’m off to bed in a few minutes. I’m excited to continue this adventure tomorrow. And I’m better aware of this important reality: that for all the evil being done all over the world, there are so many of us out and about trying to do good. On that note, I reflect on something Jesus said to his disciples in Mark 9:38-41 (NLT):
38 John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone using your name to cast out demons, but we told him to stop because he wasn’t in our group.”
39 “Don’t stop him!” Jesus said. “No one who performs a miracle in my name will soon be able to speak evil of me. 40 Anyone who is not against us is for us. 41 If anyone gives you even a cup of water because you belong to the Messiah, I tell you the truth, that person will surely be rewarded.
A good reflection for our trip, I think.
Anyway, if you’d like more information on who we’re supporting (Juan Carlos & Gisela Reyes) and what they’re up to, check out this link. And I’ll try to report in again tomorrow evening. I just hope it won’t include another “fried plantains and cheese” story…
Don’t forget to pray for us.
Making paths in Nicaragua,