Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Photo Gallery with 800+ Photos Coming Soon!

In the next couple of weeks, we will be posting a gallery of over 800+ photos from every point of view of our activities, ministry, services, children's programs and time at the orphanage. Come back soon to view the visual sights and sounds of our Missions Trip to Nicaragua 2014.

Distributing Food Up a Mountainside - By Christie Hollenberg

Today we hiked up a mountain, stopping along the way at each home that we wanted to distribute food to. Each home was not what I would consider a home but more like mud and wood together to make a little hut shelter. At each home we went to, we met the families and were able to pray with them and bring them food. Although the scenery around on the mountain was beautiful, the sight of these people and the conditions that they lived in was heart breaking to say the least.

With each step up the mountain, climbing in the heat, was a reminder of the people’s hard life of daily making that journey while hungry, weak, or in bad health. A few houses we stopped at I will never forget. One, as I approached, had dirt floors, holes all through out the shelter and it looked more like a pile of burning wood than a home. It smelled of burning trash and there were starving, rib thin dogs wondering around aimlessly.

We stopped and asked what we could pray for and a small woman sat down and took off these small pieces of fabric covering her ankles. These pieces of fabric acted as bandages. Her feet were swollen and covered in ulcers. Her husband has been very sick for a long time and almost died. Such pain I saw in their eyes. As we prayed for them, tears flowed. How do they survive? How do they get water or food or get up and down the mountain? Then, as we continued up the mountain, we stopped at another shack with a similar beaten down shelter. There stood a small woman with a little boy who through her weeping, asked for us to pray for her daughter who was taken by an abusive boyfriend and is not allowed to come home. Such broken hearts stood before me. We prayed and encouraged them, letting them know that God sees their daughter and we prayed for her protection.

Another shelter we arrived at didn’t even have four walls. Part of the roof was made up of garbage bags and inside there was a few pieces of wood planks in which served as a bed for a family of three. As I looked around my heart sank. The belongings in the home could have easily been counted on one hand. They literally had nothing. I got emotional and had to walk away from the group and get myself together.

It wrecked me, I had never seen anything like that in my life. How could people live like this? How do they survive? I started thinking if bad weather came, there would be little to no real protection or shelter. I’ve never seen such poverty. My heart sank and tears flowed as I realized how blessed and lucky I am and how much I take for granted.

Another home that we stopped at that impacted me the most. It was a shelter with a small old lady and a little girl who was abandoned by her mother. The old lady was her grandmother and she took the little girl in. I got emotional as I listen to them tell us how her mother doesn’t want her or care for her and I felt that, in a sense, I could relate in feeling that way towards my own mother.

Throughout this whole day, God broke my heart for His people and taught me how to love through prayer. Getting to hear from each family and praying with them created in me a true love for the people of Nicaragua. This process taught me that no matter what the language barrier, or horrible situation,  God loves all his people and through it all, He is on the throne in every circumstance. Above all physical needs, the greatest need of all is the love of Jesus Christ.

Determination Found in a Ten-Year-Old Child - By Manijeh Amiri

It was humid and the air felt thick as I sat by the bus window, embracing the wind. Sunday morning, day 3, and it already felt like day twenty. Physically drained but spiritually enticed, I went through each scenario for that morning’s church service.

“What would God do today?” But what I saw was something I never expected to see. During the service I spotted a little girl, sitting diagonally across the room. She was caring for two, beautiful, younger girls and my eyes could not look away. Following the service was a food distribution for the children of the congregation and I slowly, but intently followed her; hoping for, but a moment of her time.

Her name was Heisel Noelia and she was a woman in a child’s body. In my best Spanish, I crouched down and asked her how old she was and she told me she was ten. She was ten but the infant on her hip and the toddler crouched to her side added ten more years.

Heisel was frail and lengthy for her age. She wore a tight ponytail beneath her ash colored fisherman, hat and her clothes were shrill and torn. Her features were dark and her arms were bare and scarred under the beaming heat of the sun. But beneath her scars and burdens, Heisel shined so beautifully to me. She was beautiful. Her sisters were around the age of four and six months old. They were both so full of life and it was easy to recognize that Heisel made sure their joy came first.

I stood before them unsure of what to do, so I decided to play them music. Heisel held my phone and shyly asked, “How Much?” Shame consumed me and I brokenly told her I didn’t know. I asked her to dance, knowing she would refuse; her maturity reigned. I took her joyous, lively sister and spun her around my finger, knowing that Heisel’s greatest joy was found in her sisters’ happiness. So I danced and danced, smiling the whole way through, seeing her youth yearn to escape, but never seeping past the miles of barriers carefully built by the brokenness of her environment.

At her age, I was eating ice cream, playing manhunt and climbing trees; never once having to worry about whether or not I would eat that night. There in her eyes, I saw strength. I saw desperation. I saw perseverance. I saw a life stolen from her; a life that consisted of carelessness and immaturity. Swirling in between the beauty of her eyes was a warm color of chocolate brown and a small but hidden form of theft. She had no option; she was never to have a childhood. Helplessness burdened me. God tore me off my comfortable, self-centered, throne and forced me to see.

I don’t want to forget Heisel. I eagerly desire for her to be a part of me. That every class I attend at Valley Forge Christian College and every test I take may be in dedication to the perseverance I saw in her beautiful, twenty year old eyes. That the theft I saw might spark a fight in me to make a difference. I will fight for my education, and for the love of knowledge so that one day I can give back what the world has taken away. I want to make a difference and I want to do it for Heisel.

Elderly Feeding - By Aubrie McQuown

Today we went to feed the elderly in a remote village. The first thing that impacted me was the generous hugs and warm welcome that they gave us as soon as we arrived. Even though we couldn't communicate, they didn't care. The love they showed made me feel like they were my own grandparents.

Steve Thurston spoke about how through trials, we need to see God upstream as He doesn't work on our timetable. His message was very inspiring and allowed the elderly to visualize that God can't work in a situation until we get out of the way. You could see the genuine look in their eyes as Steve spoke; like their day would be better because we were there.

It sounds selfish, but it made me feel important that I could make such an impact in someone's life within a matter of an hour's time. After the message, we got the opportunity to feed the elderly. The look on their faces as I served them food was priceless. My heart was broken for them. These people had nothing, yet they were so excited to be with us for their lunch. They had walked so far, just to be in our company.

One of the old ladies impacted me the most. She came up to me after everything was over and said, "Dios the bendiga," which means, "God bless you." As soon as she said this, I asked our translator what it meant. When he told me what it meant, I instantly had tears in my eyes. This lady's comment truly opened my eyes. She didn't know me, but was so blessed to have me there with her. As I thought about this, it made me think about what I was really doing in Nicaragua. I was there not for myself, but to be the hands and feet of God. Without this opportunity to serve in Nicaragua, I would have never had this chance to meet this beautiful woman.

I hope this lady was as blessed to meet me as I was to meet her. Dios the bendiga.

Serving in a Small Church - By Courtney Lidke

Today was a long day full of activities. By the early afternoon, everyone seemed to be tired and a bit out of focus. Our second service of the day took place at the church our translator (Abdias) pastors at. The church itself was small, but the people were welcoming and felt like home.

About 90% of those in attendance were kids. While they waited for the service to start, they were climbing trees and running around with no worries in life. Our team was split into two groups. One of them stayed outside the church building to run the children's program and the other group staying inside to run the adult service.

It was funny seeing the kids reaction to our story of David and Goliath. We sang songs, did puppetry and a bible verse. At the end, we all went into the main service and did our cardboard testimonies. Each team member had a cardboard with something they were written on the front. The back had what God had done in their lives. This had a very big impact on those watching.

At the alter call, lots of people came up for prayer. This was my favorite part of the night because it was the first time I felt comfortable praying in the Spirit with the people. After praying for a young lady, she brought over her husband for prayer which made my heart happy.

After the service was over, our translator's daughter came up to me and gave me a long hug. As it got dark outside, we played a little bit more with the kids until it was time to go.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Working Side-By-Side With a Medical Team - By Emilee Slingerland

Today was really awesome! Last year it was hard moving from place to place so quickly because it was hard to just sit and talk with the Nicaraguan people. This year, our schedule has been a lot more relaxed and today was a perfect example.

We traveled to a school where a medical team from Hosana was holding their clinic. It was a nice open space there were kids sitting and waiting to be cared for, waiting for their parents, or were sons and daughters of the clinic volunteers. We prayed with the kids, painted their faces and made balloon animals with them. My favorite part was when we had time to talk with them, play tag and eat lunch with them.

I met some new friends: Said, Caitalyn, Simon, Asach y April. They ate with me and we had conversations as best as we could, despite our language differences. They taught me some Spanish words to help me understand. We also presented the David and Goliath children's program that we had prepared. We also played the "cookie face" game, sang songs and danced.

After lunch we had new kids come in for medical attention, so we did our second program…Jonah. We played games and sang songs. Rebekah and I presented and had the kids act out the Jonah story. We prayed with them and then played games with them.

One thing that really stuck out was some of the hugs we received during one our songs. The song invites to hug those around you, and we got some lovable hugs. During the program, Loren brought out a hilarious character, Karate Girl, to help with the verse we were teaching the children. The kids loved Karate Girl and laughed as they repeated the Bible verse.

After spending the morning and early afternoon working with the medical team, we had some free time to spend at a beautiful lake lookout at Lake Managua. We also got to go to a street shop for ice cream.

Our last event of the day was returning to Hosana Masaya church for a youth service. We had a great time singing and worshiping with them. Liz performed an incredible karate dance interpretation and then shared her testimony about her strength in Christ. Our team also did a human video about the love of Christ and then Christie shared a message about our identity in Christ and how to see ourselves and others through God's eyes. We did cardboard testimonies that were our own personal testimonies of how God has changed our lives.

We finalized the evening with an alter call where youth that had connected with our testimonies came up for prayer. As we were leaving, we connected with some students who remembered us from last year's trip to their church.

It was a great day full of fun and ministry!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Reaching a Remote Church - By Macy Poore

It was our first day and we were pumped! We were ready to do what we came to Nicaragua to do. We worked hard for about a month, preparing children's programs and services and discussing the culture. Now it was time to put it into practice.

We were up and ready at 7 am for breakfast and devotions. And guess what our breakfast was? Rice and beans (called gallo pinto) and pancakes. Ha ha! After a delicious meal from the orphanage, we loaded up on the bus. We arrived at a remote mountain that we have never been before. It was a hot day. We walked for about 15 minutes in the blazing sun. The sun was beating on our skin and several of us got sun burns. It was such a shock for our bodies. But it was all worth it.

I wish you could have seen the view. These people live out in the middle of no where in this mountain with a few animals and a few belongings. Their houses looked like a shack and it broke my heart.

We did our children's program about Jonah which went great and had a blast with the children playing with the parachutes, giving them face paint and animal balloons. Candy was a big hit too. The people there were very welcoming and receiving.

The other thing we did on the first day was a church service in the evening with Pastor Omar.  We did the same program that we did earlier in the day but in a more formal setting. Instead of being at someone's house, we were under a pavilion in the countryside.

The extra time we had we spent it with the children in the orphanage. It was great to reconnect with them and just to hang out with them there. They just wanted our attention and we gave it to them. They love it! They laughed, and smiled, and talked to us in Spanish, and stuck to your sides everywhere we went. They were precious. I never want to leave them!

We Have Arrived in Nicaragua

We have finally arrived in Nicaragua! What a blessing it is to be back here once again and be a blessing to this country. Our internet is very sporadic so we have not been able to post anything yet, but we will have access tonight so we will post more photos and other information this evening.