It’s crazy to believe it’s almost Friday already. This week has gone by super quickly. Yesterday was another great day; still being a day behind in things, I’m going to go ahead and talk about yesterday.
But first, to talk about some of the creatures that live in the mission. When we first got here, we were warned to keep our suitcases closed and off the floor due to possible mice and rats in the building. The first night here passed without an incident; we were careful and kept everything off the floor, closed, etc. Tuesday night, I was in the middle of setting my alarm for the next day when I heard a loud “squeak” from the other end of the room (at least, it seemed quite loud at the time). Well, the squeaks continued to move around the room all night, and every time I would start to fall asleep, visions of rats and mice crawling up onto the bed (crazy, right?) would wake me up again. Needless to say, I slept little that night. But in the morning, guess what we found out was making that obnoxious noise? Lizards. So, the place we live has more squeaking lizards than mice or rats, and we’ve gone to bed to their squeaks and squeals every night since.
Well, we left at 7:30 that morning to go to do construction work on a small schoolhouse in the middle of the mountains. The schoolhouse, tin and windowless, was too hot many days for the children to meet, so we were going to help put in windows and then play with the kids a bit. To get to the school, we left the paved roads almost immediately for several miles of serious off-roading on a small horse/walking trail used primarily by traders bringing firewood and other goods from the mountains into the cities. Once we couldn’t drive any further, we got out and hiked the rest of the way – about three strenuous miles of rocky, nearly-pathless jungle. It was absolutely gorgeous. At the schoolhouse, we met our translator, Oscar, and did our best to help with the construction work (it was a little slow). We helped to cut wood and tin siding, took nails out and hammered more in, and moved supplies as needed. I mainly worked with a guy named Otto, who spoke almost no English. We conversed a little in Spanish, and I basically did whatever he needed done.
We had our lunch at a little store down the road; while we were eating, kids slowly gathered at the door to just watch us. First, one or two would come in and sit down, just staring at us and smiling. By the end, there were seven or eight kids, so we decided to go play with them. We went back to the work site and started a game of baseball – Nicaraguans vs. the Gringos (they won handily) – in a little cleared-out area on the side of the mountain overlooking a breathtaking view of the range. It was a lot of fun, though we had to dodge some pretty scary thornbushes and rocks in the middle of the field and around the outside every time we chased a ball.
Once we finished, we packed up and hiked back, then rode the rest of the way to the mission in the bed of the truck. The ride back was amazing; from the bed, we could look back and see the mountains, indescribably massive and vast. We ran into quite a few traders, usually spurring on horses loaded down with firewood or bags of goods.
Once we got back to the mission, we decided to walk around the marketplace outside for a few minutes. Some of the girls bought some blankets (I was able to serve as the translator to help them bargain prices, which was a lot of fun). After heading back to the mission for dinner, we went to another missionary family’s home for dessert and to discuss the day.
Overall, one of the most impactful parts of the day happened at the work site. I am not the most wonderful carpenter, and as I was trying hard to nail tin roofing to the school fram (and failing miserably because it bounced so much every time we would hit it with the hammer), I got really frustrated and began to wonder why we were there at all. Work was slow, and at that moment we really didn’t seem to be helping much. The workers by themselves probably could have done the work for us in much less time than we were taking. However, right at that moment of greatest frustration, the lady who lived in the house behind the school appeared behind us. Older and slightly stooped, greying, and primly dressed, she called and beckoned me to her. I set down the hammer and went up to give her a hug, and the first thing she did was to show her appreciation and to thank God for the blessings of the work done with the schoolhouse. This happened at several different points during the day as women from the community would come into the schoolyard just to give hugs and say thank you.
At this point, it seemed that the purpose of the work done here was not so much the tangible quantity of what we could accomplish; the amount of blessing we give is not necessarily proportional to the number of nails you are able to hammer in or how many tin sheets you can cut, and no matter what our own efforts were, the building would be finished. One of the missionaries we visited put it best: often, we come to other countries with a sense of arrogance that we may mistake for godliness. We go into a country with the idea that we are going to change another nation, be its blessing and bring its change. However, we’re often humiliated when we find that, really, we have nothing to give. We come to conquer the world and find ourselves inadequate. Sometimes, in thinking we have something to give, it’s really God who does all the giving. As the missionary noted, that’s how “God’s economy” is different than man’s economy. We tend to think that when we give a certain amount of effort, we are proportionally able to bless the surrounding community. However, sometimes, we give the effort and accomplish little to nothing, but in the end, it is we who walk away spiritually full. Perhaps we did add something physically to bless others’ lives in a small way, but that touch changes us spiritually as well. We may walk away with something greater than we had before, something that will enable us to remember and use the experiences to continue changing communities for Christ long after the mission trip ends. It is the moments like this that allow for individuals to leave and to collectively become world-changers. Sometimes, it really is not about what you can bring, and we shouldn’t assume that it is. Sometimes, it’s about what you walk away with, and what you do with the experiences God gives you.