Luke 11:28 He replied, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it." ESV
About 3 years ago, I was photographing a friend’s grandson. I remember talking as I was working, telling my friend just how burned out I was. I was tired of traveling, tired of people, tired of trying to make ends meet….just tired. Negative and nasty. That was me. I remember my friend looking at me and saying, “You need to go on a mission trip.” I thought to myself, there is no way I’m going out of the country.
Three weeks later I was on a plane to Nicaragua. I’m telling you, when God wants you to do something, everything will just fall into place. The church paid for my trip so I could document their work. My passport came back in less than 10 days. My friend loaned me extra gear to take. Everything just worked. There were about 20 people total from different areas who were to meet to work for a week. Dude! I was going to document a third world country. I actually was excited to see the work I could do. I wanted to “tell a story in images”.
We landed in Leon at around 2 in the morning. I thought I had landed in hell. It was so hot that sweat just poured off of me as soon as I stepped out of the airport. Oh..the airport was this little block building with maybe 4 plane ports. Men in uniforms with automatic weapons were everywhere. I wasn’t in Kansas anymore, Toto.
Fast forward to arriving at the house where we would be staying. Bunk beds, no hot water, and sometimes we had air...sometimes we didn’t, and we were told “don’t even brush your teeth with the water, much less drink it” . We fell into bed, hot and sweaty, only to be awakened in about 3 hours to “get on the bus”. That bus….it sort of had air conditioning, but not always. I fixed my hair and put on a little makeup, grabbed my gear, and was ready. But, I was pumped! I was a journalist!
After a great breakfast, we were off. I must say that the ladies at the compound fed us wonderful food all week. We drove for about 2 hours and arrived at a little village somewhere. I remember just being overwhelmed at the number of little children in the village. They were so clean and dressed up to see us. They were so excited to have someone to play with. We had a Bible story, then played games with them. The cook team prepared a meal on the side. I was shooting away, trying to get everything I could documented. Oh, my gosh. Nicaragua is ….hot and dirty. I had dirt everywhere. This day, I learned that they had nothing. They were thankful. They were happy anyway.
Back on the bus at lunch, we headed to another village. This continued for 3 days. It was work. I was hot and I was dirty. I couldn’t get past my thoughts that, man, this preacher guy has it made. He has people working for him, churches paying his way, all his needs met. Let me stop right here and tell you this. If I were a character from Biblical times, I’d be Thomas. I doubt everything. You have to show me before I believe anything. I couldn’t understand why you would keep feeding these people, so they’d be healthy to have more children that they couldn’t feed, and so on. Shouldn’t they be trying to break the cycle and educate them instead? Negative and nasty. I still didn’t get it.
On the fourth day, we went to the beach, which was unbelievably beautiful. We got back on the bus. I looked at the minister and still had my reservations about his motives. So far, I still thought he had it made.
After lunch, we went into the city. We went to the hospital. Their hospital had very few windows and we were told not to touch the walls or handrails because we have no immunities to the diseases here. We went to the maternity ward. I remember seeing a child who had falling into a fire. She was sitting in a pink plastic pan of water, softly crying, “me duele” (it hurts me). Her mom was so broken. We went on to the newborn room. There was a tiny baby there with a full cleft palate laying alone in a crib. The nurse told us she would die, but she would be loved until she did. I began to break. It wasn’t about me anymore.
As we got back on the bus, I looked over to the minister. He was looking at a nasty, drunk man staggering down the street. The minister began to weep. Just great sobs rose from him and tears fell. In Spanish, he said, “He is so lost. I have tried and I cannot reach him.” I broke a little more.
The last day, we were taken to “The Dump”. This is a landfill at the bottom of a volcano. It is acres and acres of trash. There is a little village of people who live here. They forage the trash to find metal to sell in order to buy their food. Again, little clean children met the bus with joy on their faces. They were so happy. I was off in one corner working away, when the mission team brought out bags of clothing for the families. I have never seen such joy over hand-me-downs. These little people took one item, thanked us, and ran to their mama to show them with joy in their faces. I broke a little more. We have everything.
When we got back to the compound, we cleaned up and packed. We were flying out at about 3 in the morning. I had made so many friends that I would probably never see again, but I God put them in my life for a week for a reason. More importantly, I was leaving with a grateful heart. We have so much.
Dear God, thank You for reminding me of this time in my life. I’ve been ungrateful lately. I forget so often that it is totally not about me. My family has everything we need and then some. On that trip, You used my camera to break my heart. Like an onion, You peeled away layer after layer until you got to the good part that You could use. I need to shed some layers again, God. I can’t very well represent You by being negative and nasty. Got it.