Submitted by: Julie Bentley, Freshman at Cleveland State
“Nicaragua Changes Lives Y’all, and I’m Not Just Talking About the Nicaraguans” –A.G.T.
On this trip to Nicaragua with our amazing team from the BCM, we worked in 5 main mission fields: construction, prison ministry, baseball clinic, feeding program, and of course, evangelism. I was blessed with the opportunity to do most of these things and meet the local people and hear their stories. And honestly, they blessed me more than I could ever have imagined, each with different testimonies and each day with different opportunities made for the perfect trip.
Construction was very, very hot. We worked on building a church on an island on Lake Nicaragua. The girls had to hike down a hill with a partner to the shoreline with a large stick and a bucket to fetch water. Not only was it hysterical (stepping in horse waste excluded) but we developed great teamwork skills and the workers really needed the water to pour the floor, so it all worked out. The guys shoveled, sifted, and wheel barreled loads of sand back and forth, in and out of the church the whole time. And my favorite part was at the end of the last day: the walk back to the boat, when Jared proposed to Mariah, the magical and flawless moment that everyone had been anticipating. However when the moment came around, I was so excited and anxious that I almost threw up and blew the whole thing. But it’s okay because I didn’t. Anyways, although it was hot and we were at risk of a heat stroke, it was so humbling to travel an hour down a windy, bumpy road in the back of a Land Cruiser and ride 30 minutes across a lake to help build this church.
The women’s prison ministry was by far my favorite part of the trip. One thing that’s odd about prison in Nicaragua is that the women wear what they get arrested in for however long their sentence is, unless their families bring them an extra pair. The same is true with food. It’s very heartbreaking and you’d think these women would be so mean from the treatment they get there but that wasn’t the case. The minute these women walked in, they hugged us and shook us side to side in their arms and kissed our cheeks. Why? They were so filled with the Holy Spirit that they counted everything as joy. It was such an inspiration. These women were so filled with joy in prison, while in Cleveland, free people think they’re in a type of prison because Chick-fil-a is temporarily closed. This was a lesson to all of us that joy can be dictated by more than the mere circumstances of our lives.
The feeding program was also another ministry we did. We chopped vegetables and made a delicious soup/stew over a bonfire and it was wonderful. While we were chopping vegetables, it allowed us time to connect with each other and talk about how bad or good we were at chopping carrots (I was very bad at it and couldn’t keep the knife in my hands). Although this may seem as if it were a mundane task, after all the chopping was done, we had extra time to sit around and laugh with the kids and even help some of them with some simple medical things like cuts and scrapes. It just goes to show that you don’t have to be doing a lot to be making an impact on other people’s lives.
The baseball clinic was fantastic from what I heard. Not very many of us went but our very trusty baseball gurus, Uncle Bob and Dom always went. They brought with them more than 7 huge baseball bags of cleats, pants, jerseys, bats, baseballs, helmets and gloves. Baseball is a really big deal in Nicaragua. Almost every child knows how to play, and they’re better than most people if I do say so myself. So having a designated place to play some real baseball on teams with good cleats and baseball pants and jerseys was such a huge deal to them. Bob and Dom ended up giving almost all of the baseball gear away to the kids down there. Just so they’d always strive to get better, and always remember us too.
Last, but certainly not least, evangelism. Evangelism was a whole different experience for me because we weren’t just sharing the gospel (most people we visited had already heard the gospel and accepted Christ) but sometimes we were just there to ask questions about their journey and their life. Whoa! I’m certainly not a big “question-asker” especially to people I don’t know and ESPECIALLY not to people who don’t know what I’m asking (but thank God for translators, am I right?) But evangelism allowed a lot of the people in our groups to challenge themselves and step out of their comfort zones into the unknown. There were so many of us met so many extraordinary people who shared amazing testimonies and blessings about their walk with the Lord, which was deeply moving to us. It was so amazing seeing people from a different country who spoke a different language worship the same God as you and be so on fire for him.
One family we visited had an amazing testimony. This woman shared that she could not read; therefore she could not read a Bible in order to get closer to God. However, she informed us that God speaks and appears to her through visions. She told us that just the other day, she had a vision of foreigners coming into her home and encouraging her. She was a relatively new believer as well, and she had asked God to send her a sign that he was real. And there we were in all our glory, foreigners in her home and encouraging her. The woman wept. It was extremely emotional and touching to see this woman finally understand how God is using her. That although she cannot read, God is going to use her in another way. How incredible is He.
Also, the woman in the picture above sitting in the chair is a 96 year old woman we met who lived on her own. I don’t think I have ever seen a human that old in person in my life. What an experience. She also referred to us girls as “whities.” She might’ve been old but she sure was a pistol.
Aside from all the amazing mission work we did, I also had an incredible time with our group. Meeting new people isn’t really my thing sometimes, but it made me so happy to meet new friends and see all of us bonding over gelato over a long, hard day’s work. From dancing in the car to asking how to teach American slang to our translators, every memory I hold captive and will remember forever. Sorry this got so sappy and meaningful and all that gross stuff, but with this being my first mission trip, I do tend to get a little bit emotional. Thank you Nicaragua for so many opportunities to share the word of the Lord with so many people and plant little seeds everywhere we go so that one day they will grow into something big. May we return and nourish those seeds we have planted. Until next time,