Thursday, August 9, 2012

Smiles From the Trash Dump

I just returned from a week in Nicaragua serving with Chosen Children Ministries. This was my second trip. One thing I've learned about trips like this is that the operative word is "flexibility." That's not a reflection of CCM ability to plan. It's just the nature of planting yourself in a foreign country with an entirely different understanding of time, objectives and deadlines. And yet, being flexible creates opportunities that you seldom expect. That's what happened to us...

We dubbed this trip the "Matthew 25 Project." When you  read Matthew 25 you get access to a private conversation between Jesus and the disciples. He's explaining that there are those who get "it" and those who don't. The ones who get "it" will be rewarded while the others will miss out.

Matthew 25: 35, 36 reveals the litmus test for those who get "it."
"'I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me.'" (MSG)
As we began to look back at our week in Nicaragua, it occurred to us that we had participated in almost all of these for the people we were able to serve in Nicaragua. I want to use these two verses as the backdrop for what we did during our trip.

"A failure to serve the least of these is a failure to serve God." 
@BrentACrowe (Tweet This) 

"I was hungry and you fed me..."

CCM has begun to notice a need for food in the barrios of Nicaragua. To address this need, they have partnered with Feed My Starving Children to provide food and care. We were able to host a "Feeding" one afternoon. While the food was being prepared, we led Bible Studies for women and children. I was taken back as the kids would utter the words, "Thank you" in English as we gave them a bowl of rice, a slice of bread and some juice.

"I was thirsty and you gave me a drink..."
Leon (pronounced "lee-own") is the oldest city in Nicaragua. The government has implemented a new initiative to revitalize the city square. This is where a lot of people had constructed shelters to serve as their homes. In order to prompt these people to move, the government offered to give them property if they would relocate. The only catch was the property is the site of the former landfill, aka the dump.

When we arrived we divided our team into groups and sent them out to invite anyone they saw to come to the church. Once at the church we realized we had two coolers of water on our van. We sent some guys to fetch the water while the others started a worship service under the brush arbor that served as the church building. Before we served water, I shared the story of Jesus referring to himself as the "Living Water." I was struck by their patience and smiles as they waited while we served everyone a cup of water. The team from CCM plans to return soon to drill a well for these people.

I was homeless and you gave me a room...
This was something we saw just about everywhere we went. The photo above is very indicative of the "homes" we saw. We spent a day and a half tearing down a structure and rebuilding it for a safer environment for children to use for their bible study meetings. We carried building supplies to several locations so that we could repair homes that were in dire need of support and covering. Construction jobs are fun as everyone has the opportunity to contribute, regardless of knowledge or ability.

I was shivering and you gave me clothes...
Our team carried clothing items and hygiene packs in our backpacks. Giving gifts allowed us to establish trust and support the role of the local churches we worked with around Nicaragua. I witnessed a blessing last year as one of our team members brought clothes that once belonged to her recently deceased father. I am reminded of something I heard John Maxwell say: "God will give TO you what he knows will flow THROUGH you."

"God will give TO you what he knows will flow THROUGH you."
- @JohnCMaxwell (Tweet This)

I was sick and you stopped to visit...
Near the end of our trip, we made a stop at a nursing home. These people were excited to see us. We took some time to walk around and visit. We took a few moments to do a simple church service and shared with them them that their lives still mattered to God. It was a great time as we had music, praise signing, testimonies and prayer. It was particularly encouraging watching one of our team members who spoke fluent Spanish just walk around and love these people who probably felt unlovable.

I was in prison and you came to me...
Regrettably this was one facet of the "Matthew 25 Project" we failed to complete. However, we discovered that CCM has a partnership with one of the prisons and makes regular stops when teams come to serve. This will be on the agenda for the next trip.

This trip definitely qualifies as a Wrecked event for me. I was reading Jeff Goins book, Wrecked during this trip. He really stresses how individuals should make commitments to a long-term experience that will keep them centered on serving others more than their annual mission trip fix. I strongly recommend that you seek out an opportunity to get "messed up" in a good way and see what God has in store.

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