It’s crazy to think that around this time two years ago, I was in Nicaragua. Where has the time gone between then and now? It feels like just yesterday I was sitting in a church pew, reading the church bulletin when my eyes came across the announcement “Nicaragua Learning Tour 2016.” I remember sensing this strong tug on my spirit to look more into this learning trip, and to find out what it’s all about.
For someone like me who had only been a Christian for a year, the thoughts of going on a trip with “more experienced” Christian’s made me nervous. Would I fit in? I would ask myself. I remember having doubts about whether or not I should attend, but as the months progressed I became more aware of the fact that I needed to go on this trip.
A few weeks before I headed to Nicaragua, I was in Greece with my grandmother for six weeks. I was already getting a little homesick, so my doubts and fears about traveling to another country with a group of strangers were kind of daunting. I remember having phone-calls with my mom while in Greece, and I remember her encouraging me to go on this learning trip to Nicaragua. “You should go hunny, I’m sure you will learn so much and meet new friends.” Of course, I wanted to learn and to grow in my faith, but I was scared that I wasn’t qualified enough to take part in this great adventure. I would often think to myself, “people who grew up in the church go on mission trips with other Christians. I barely know Chrisitan songs or know how to pray in large groups. Why would God be calling me to do all of this in Nicaragua?” Although I struggled with these constant fears, my mom had asked our church congregation to pray for me as I wrestled with the thoughts of going. She also asked for any financial assistance in order for me to attend, as I certainly was not prepared to buy another plane ticket.
God really showed up in that time of uncertainty. He made it possible not only physically, but financially to go on this trip. I had a few weeks of preparation for the trip, but I still had no idea who was going or what to expect. The first time I met my traveling companions was at the airport, on the day of our departure. Our group was all females, and I remember each one being so kind and friendly as we met each other for the first time. One of our group leaders happened to be one of the girl’s mom, her name is Tonia. Throughout the entire trip, Tonia was like a mother to me and I’ll never forget the compassion she had towards me as if I were her own daughter.
Fast forward to our arrival, we spent most of our time learning about the country and having a tour guide show us around. At one point, each of us was asked to write a letter to ourselves which would eventually be sent to our home address. I remember receiving my letter a year after this trip so you can understand how special it was to read this letter.
A letter to myself…about this trip? There are tons of things I’ve learned that truly made no sense to me at the time, such as my eating issues. I was incredibly pre-occupied during this trip with the thoughts pertaining to food. I was forcefully eating way more food than I can handle, and the foods that my body didn’t agree with. I was barely exercising, which was also so uncomfortable for me. I had moments where I felt angry, upset and anxious. Moments where I just wanted to go home. But God helped me make it through each day. He sent people, like Tonia, Andrew, Charlie and a lady who asked if she could pray for me one morning at our motel. There were people whom God has sent that I truly believe I was supposed to meet. Although I feel like this has been a hard trip, I have faith that this trip is preparing me, or changing me into the girl God intends for me to be. I loved meeting everyone here in Nicaragua. They’re very welcoming and protective of their country. I learned new things about their religion, education, life struggles and circumstance they face each day. I lived their life very briefly for two weeks. It was hard. But I praise the Lord for showing me His love and to everyone else that I’ve met here.
There was a lot of poverty and disparity. I’ve seen people live and work in the hottest working conditions. Hearing people talk about how they’re husbands left them, without having money to support their children. Seeing people suffer from diseases such as HIV/Aids and willing to talk about their experience with us. Hearing how passionate people are about their beliefs. We are so blessed, t hurts me that I watch people in their struggles when they don’t have a choice to change their ways of life, whereas I do. I’ve learned that faith, is the most important thing to ever have out of all things. Possessions and status don’t mean much at all. Learning to live simply, learning to live humbly, learning to live without fear that’s what we need. We need to have faith.
So there you have it, the open letter I wrote to myself two years ago. Isn’t that insane? How God allows us to walk through some of the most uncomfortable, yet life-changing experiences to open our eyes to what is truly important. I must say, after reflecting on this letter I have a new perspective. Faith is what matters. Faith is everything.