Recently, St. Luke UMC sent a team of seven to Nicaragua on a mission trip. Below, team member, Trish Henson, shares her story.
Rivers and Roads in Nicaragua
I’d never been out of the country, let alone even considered a mission trip to venture “out there”. When the call to join a mission trip went out during church in December, the Spirit moved me in a very definite way. I turned to Gordon, my husband, and said “I’m going…”
The team came together and we began to prepare. We had meetings. We had fund raisers. We planned for children’s ministry in three different locations. We gathered pens, pencils, markers, and other school supplies. We took soccer balls and jump ropes. Plans were made for a teacher training. We practiced our Spanish. Todd Conner brought camera equipment so we could take family photos in the communities. There was even a plan made for a way to print those photos and leave them there – even in a place largely without power. We were as ready as we could be and even the packing party went well! The rest was in God’s hands.
We gathered at the airport to travel and we prayed. We were all pretty excited and a tad nervous – I was not the only first timer. The travel to Managua was seamless and relatively pleasant. We landed in Managua, gathered our luggage, and then it happened. The unthinkable… my “big bag” had been left in Atlanta with no way for it to reach us in time to join the trip. It held, along with my carefully planned personal provisions, teacher devotionals and most importantly, one of the main children’s crafts. OH MAN! Did I mention that this was all in God’s hands? While it would have been nice to have those things, God knew we didn’t need that “stuff”. All we needed was our team with Jesus Christ as our team leader. Each evening’s devotionals kept our focus on Him and what He wanted us to do.
The “Lexington Seven” joined Ronnie Hopkins, a full time missionary who makes his home in Managua. He has a lot of experience with mission teams coming to serve and an ongoing relationship with the local communities. He had already made plans for our meals, made provisions for filtered water and handled each night’s accommodations . Ronnie brought two marvelously fun, excellent interpreters, Yesman and Harry. They were so great and quickly became our friends. Ronnie also made sure we had experienced drivers, Rich and Israel, who navigated safely – albeit a little rapidly at times – over the less than adequate “roads”. They also had a good sense of fun, shared knowledge about the area, and became our friends. Using the local boat drivers, our water transportation was safe and easy for us – though the low water made the boats drag bottom at times which made it hard work for them.
In Kayaskita, Pastor Reid taught about healthy families while Todd Connor made family portraits. Todd was patient and persistent as he worked to get each family well positioned. This was a new experience!
These families have never had any way to visually record family history. The other team members did children’s ministry. Yesman assisted with the children’s ministry each time. He has developed a puppet program so the St. Luke puppets we brought with us were spot on.
The following day, Reid taught about discipleship while the rest of the group went to the community of Sala de Dios and did a children’s program. Todd did more family portraits, hustling back to print them and return so that they were ready to present when the children’s program was finished. That afternoon, and part of the next day, we worked construction on the clinic and made the house being built there ready for concrete. Craig Potts also worked at the clinic to set up some computers that had been donated to be used. That afternoon we went by boat to Tunawalan where we used the trucks to return to Ayapal. The next day we traveled by truck to Yakalguas (pronounced Yakahwas), the community St. Luke is partnering with, to build a school. We were excited to see the progress on the school. Reid again taught on healthy families, Todd did family photos, and the team did many activities with the children. We had a meeting with the school board and discussed completion of the school in Yakalguas. We also met with the teachers. The community seemed excited to have us visit them. There were many spontaneous hugs and “thank you’s” as we left that day. The last day of ministry, Karen Girard and Jill Robertson, with Yesman’s help, lead a well received teacher training in Ayapal. They were terrific and there were again many hugs and “thank you’s” that day.
Through the travel to and from the country, the questionable roads, the river travel in dug out boats, the heat, the humidity, and less than modern accommodations much of the time we remained a pretty well adjusted, finely functioning team. The best thing? Our focus on Jesus Christ and His message of love made language, which could have been a barrier at times, of little consequence. We went, we worked, we loved in Jesus’ name.