We landed in Nicaragua at night, in the dark, so my first impressions are comprised of smells and sounds. And the heat. We’d left Atlanta in sleet, temperatures hovering in the low 30’s; the 80-plus degrees of the Nicaraguan night were something of a shock to our winterized systems.
We emerged from the sliding doors of the airport into the Nicaraguan night, no doubt wide eyed as the full blast of the heat and the rapid fire cadence of Spanish greeted us. I’m here, I thought to myself. I’m here; far away from home and all that is familiar. In fact, that is what I remember most about the bus ride from the airport to the mission house in Masaya: the mysterious sounds and smells and the sense of the surreal.
The mission house is beautiful. There were grapefruit trees and other lush tropical plants and trees that I can’t name. We stayed one night there; the plan was to head out to Juilgapa and to the orphanage on Sunday morning and then return to Masaya on Friday before going home on Saturday.
Sitting in rocking chairs under the ceiling fans in one of the rancheros at the Masaya mission house, singing songs before we boarded the bus to Juilgapa: a great way to begin a mission trip. We knew not what awaited us but we were so excited to get there. Making introductions, getting to know one another, anticipating the week ahead; the bond that would mark our team began there, that morning as we drank coffee and sang to the Lord.
A three hour bus ride (an air conditioned van ride for the girls) brought us to Juilgapa where we were greeted like rock stars by the children in the orphanage. We had no translator with us while we were attempting those initial introductions but it didn’t seem to matter. The girls of the orphanage were especially eager to greet us with open excitement. We spent the afternoon hanging out, doling out the attention so many of them seemed to crave.
We also walked down to the construction site where some of our team would spend the week building a house for a family of four orphans. I know very little of construction and even less of site prep but even I could tell the site presented major challenges. It was nowhere near the stage of readiness the team had been told to expect. They were discouraged and were beginning to seriously doubt whether they would be able to accomplish much of anything toward getting the house built.
I also met my translator that afternoon, a nineteen year old young woman full of fiery passion for the Lord. She asked to study my notes, a request that surprised me somewhat because I have a suspicion that my notes mean very little to anyone other than myself, but I complied (of course) and she and I went over the highlights of Brokenness, Surrender and Holiness side by side at one of the tables at the orphanage mission house. I thanked her for translating for me; she thanked me for doing the work of preparation and for coming to teach. It turned out we were both newbies and incredibly nervous. She’d never translated in a teaching/lecture type presentation; I, of course, had never taught/lectured with an translator. We were to figure it out together and we were both anxious.
We went into Juilgapa that afternoon to an internet cafe. I was able to call home and talk to my husband, as much talking as I could do what with the poor connection and my own crying. It only cost me less than a dollar for the whole conversation so I wished often through the week I’d talked a little longer, crying and static or not.
Sunday evening we attended a church service just down the road from the orphanage. We clapped as praises were sung to the Lord God in gusty Spanish. One song we knew: At the Cross and I think most of us sang along, our English words blending with the Spanish to offer a fragrant sacrifice to the Lord of all tribes, tongues and nations.
One of our team members gave testimony of the Lord’s faithfulness in his life and one of our team leaders preached. I was amazed by the passionate “preaching” of the translators. I don’t know what I expected, maybe I was thinking of the dry, monotone translators you see at the U.N. or something. Not so here. A passionate plea in English was met with an equally passionate plea in Spanish. It was thrilling to watch the gospel being zealously proclaimed in both languages.
My journal notes for those first couple of days make note of the beauty of the Nicaraguan countryside, particularly the mountains in the distance beyond the orphanage. I mention the delicious fresh pineapple we ate for breakfast and the contrast between the Lexus that passed us on the highway to Juilgapa, the giant Old Navy factory, and the homes we saw that were literally built of sticks. There was garbage all along the roadside and everything seemed dry and brown. No rain since November one of the translators told us. And the heat! I’m hot and exhausted, I confessed in my journal. Less anxious now that I’m here but still overwhelmed. Praying for safe travel to Nuevo Guinea the next day and for an outpouring of the Spirit.
And, I miss my family.