We arrived in Nicaragua on a Tuesday afternoon. As we drove from the airport to our hotel I wrote in my journal: “Yes. This is where I am supposed to be today. So warm, so fragrant. Here.” The air was hot, heavy with humidity, and thick with the smells of diesel, vegetation, and yes, maybe even garbage. (There is such a lack of waste management in Nicaragua….)
Tuesday after a delicious dinner of steak and chicken tacos, we were given the itinerary for the week. We would be teaching in two schools for the next two days. We split up into our groups and worked like mad to come up with curriculum to teach in the morning. My group of four girls would be teaching on honesty. Other values that were taught were optimism, self-control, gratitude, integrity, and respect.
Before we started, this teaching thing was difficult for me to imagine – and difficult for me to be optimistic about. 😉 I had never done anything like this in missions. I was used to going door-door with the gospel message, or doing dramas, or being of help taking blood pressure and passing out Tylenol on a medical trip… but I was having trouble seeing how God would use our teaching values to further His kingdom. Not to mention, we were not exactly teachers. Would the kids even listen to anything we had to say?
Our teams met for an hour or so so come up with plans. My team came up with a short skit demonstrating the value of honesty, and then we had a game and a couple stories to tell. It all came together pretty well actually. But not by MY strength. We put away our plans, took our cold showers and before I knew it the lights were out.
After breakfast the next morning, we drove down gnarly dirt roads, passing women doing their laundry in their outdoor tubs, chickens running around their feet. In the middle of what seemed like nowhere, we came to the first school. Off the bus and into the classrooms. We taught 4-6th graders that day.
It wasn’t hard, it wasn’t scary. It was actually kind of fun. We got to play in the school-yard of the second school for quite a while. I had a blast. The children enjoyed seeing pictures of my family and I got so many hugs! I was asked to play a game of what was described to me as being like tag, but ended up being twenty or so girls all chasing me in their puddle-filled dirt-courtyard. A blast I tell you. The teachers thanked us sincerely for teaching these values that the children desperately needed to learn.
We came back home for the night, all exhausted. Planning, teaching and reaching-out all day was more tiring than any drama ministry I had done. Mentally and physically exhausted, my mind and body felt like mush. But that night we had to meet again and come up with curriculum for the next day – new values to teach on.
On Day 2 of teaching, we went back to the same two schools and taught again with these new values. Only this day was extra special. We were told that in our last class of each school we could present the gospel. And that’s exactly what we did. We explained the basics. We explained things they may have never heard – as many of them have only vague catholic backgrounds. It was exhilarating to see children give their lives to Christ after spending a couple of days with them. During our entire trip we had over 250 recorded salvations, I believe. I pray the seeds of truth and love that we planted in all of those hearts sink deep so that those souls become unwavering disciples of Christ.
The values teachings that I fretted over so much had all been part of my Father’s plan to reach out to the young ones. Nicaragua’s median age is 16 – it is a country full of young people who lack enough mentoring. The fact that we got to share God’s story and pray with children in public schools blows my mind. What an opportunity!
To see on the children’s faces that some of them understood the seriousness of our mission was priceless. To be able tell them Jesus loved them – and see them believe it – was better than any drug. To connect with high-fives and laughter overflowed this little missionary’s heart.
Our first two days of ministry started off with a bang and the explosions were only beginning.