I sit here in my little window seat – 34,000 feet above the ground – and stare at the the clouds slowly passing in the dawn-lit sky. Just a few minutes ago, I watched as Ashburn rapidly grew smaller and smaller until it disappeared before my eyes. This is it. I’m really going. Back to Nicaragua until December. Engulfed in a mix of emotions – nerves, anxiety, excitement – I don’t really know what to feel. I don’t know where all these emotions are coming from. I’m caught in between all these sentiments and I almost just feel like crying because I don’t know how else to process everything I’m feeling. I’m leaving home. For seven months. I think it’s just now hitting me.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I hate good-byes. And I know that these past few days weren’t full of good-byes, they were just see-you-laters…but I don’t like see-you-laters either. I don’t like them when I’m leaving the US, and I don’t like them when I’m leaving Nicaragua. I don’t want to see my friends and family later, I want to see them now. I wish I could just have all of the people I love in one place all together. I guess that’s what heaven will be like some day. For now, I’ll have to get used to saying good-bye.
But amidst all the reluctant see-you-laters and travel jitters, I’ve been constantly reminded of how faithful God is. Seriously. Crazy faithful. I raised the $5,000 I needed for my trip in less than two weeks. TWO WEEKS. Makes me wonder how I can ever doubt God. But I’ll admit that I did. I’d thought the money would never come… I’d figured I would still be fundraising in Decemeber when it was almost time to go home. Oh me of little faith. When God first told me to spend the rest of the year in Nicaragua, I remember thinking “Well I’d love to, but I just don’t see how it’s possible. I don’t have any money, and there’s no way I can raise all that – that’s a huge undertaking.” But God just laughed at me and said “I own all the money in the world… Why would you even worry about that?” And a few weeks later, he proved to me that he was right (of course). $5,000 in under two weeks. Such a faithful provider is the God I serve.
On the subject of fundraising, I want to sincerely thank everyone who sponsored me in my trip. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you all responding to the Lord’s leading to give. How blessed I am to have people in my life that believe in who I am in Christ and believe in what God’s doing through me. I can’t thank you enough for your support. I feel so loved.
I continue to gaze out this window and watch the clouds pass by, one by one. The plane is quickly taking me farther and farther away from my first home – one cloud at a time – but at the same time it brings me closer to my second home. My sadness from all those good-byes will soon be replaced with the joy of hellos and I-missed-yous. I can’t wait to be back and to see all that God has in store for me. This is it now. Just a few more clouds to go.
One of my greatest joys going down to Nicaragua over the years has been to see the kids grow up and mature. One particular little girl has always had a special place in my heart, and her name is Sira. I first met Sira in 2010 when I went to Betania for the first time. She was probably only about 6 years old. Her hair was all scraggly and covering her face and she wore a ripped blue shirt and shorts; she looked more like a little boy than a little girl. I don’t know why, but I remember feeling such a sense of connection to her. Her smile was warm and joyful. Her inquisitive eyes kept looking up at me, and the fact she wouldn’t let go of my hand tugged on my heart. I didn’t speak a word of Miskito other than the three phrases I’d learned in the car ride to Betania – “Naksa,” “Nahki sma,” and “Ninam dia?” Struggling to remember which phrase meant “what’s your name?” I managed to find out from one of the other kids that her name was Sira. “Sira, Sira, Sira,” I repeated to myself. I didn’t want to forget her.
Two years later, I made it back to Betania. I recognized so many of the kids as they ran out to greet our team and I was glad to see them, but I was in search of one kid in particular. “Sira anira sa?” I asked just about every kid I saw, “Where is Sira?”. Most of them shrugged, or actually they probably answered and I just didn’t understand. She wasn’t anywhere to be found. I hung out with the other kids but I kept wondering if I’d see Sira. Then I saw one kid pulling another little girl along by the hand and they stopped in front of me. Then I realized, the little girl was Sira. Her hair had grown out and she was wearing a pretty yellow dress. She looked so grown up. “Hola! Do you remember me??” I said excitedly… but then remembered she didn’t understand me. It didn’t matter though, her smile made it clear that she knew who I was and she came and gave me a hug.
This year, during my first three months, I made a lot of trips to Betania. I asked around for Sira, but nobody would give me a direct answer where she was. It wasn’t until April, that I finally saw her again. I was hanging out with some of the Betania families, passing out pictures that I’d had printed. Kids were crowding around me, all wanting to get their hands on one of the prints – even if they weren’t in the picture, they wanted it. Then I looked up into a face that looked so familiar to me. All the faces were familiar to me by now, but this girl’s face was different – it was something about the eyes. “Yang, yang!” the girl was saying. I figured that maybe I had already given her a photo, that’s why she looked so familiar to me. “You already have one!” I said to her. But then I realized… it was Sira. It had been so long, I pulled her into a huge hug. I gave her the two photos from 2010 that I had printed and she clutched them tightly against her chest, as if otherwise they would fly away or something.
Over the few weeks that followed, I saw a lot of Sira. Without fail, every time we were out working on the farm, she was there at the fence watching us with her big inquisitive eyes and smiling. Sometimes, she’d even climb through the barbed wire and help out. I’d give her little tasks and she’d always complete them quickly, her beaming smile never leaving her face.
A few days before I left, I had to say goodbye to her. She was out at the well with her little brothers helping them bathe. She was soaking wet from head to toe, but when she saw me coming she dropped her bucket of water and ran to give me a huge hug. I didn’t even mind that I immediately became soaking wet as well. I gave her a string bracelet that I’d made for her and she looked with at it with wide eyes like it was made of diamonds or something. I told her that I had to say good-bye because I was going back home for a while. “Why?” she asked as her smile instantly faded. “I have things to do back in my community (“my community” – the kids think of the US as just another village but much farther away), but I’ll be back! I’ll miss you.” She gave me another hug and I reluctantly left her to get back in the car. I rolled down the window to wave goodbye. Her smile had returned and she waved back and she and her brothers ran alongside the car as we drove away. “Aisabei!” they called. Sad to leave but happy at the prospect of returning, I watched in the rearview mirror until I could no longer see them.
Even though I knew I’ll be back there really soon, it was hard to say goodbye. Goodbyes are never easy, but they’re part of life. They always will be, and I don’t think they will ever get any easier. But whenever I’m missing Nicaragua, I’ll think of Sira’s beautiful smile and her contagious joy. What a priviledge it has been to see her grow up over the years, and I know God will bless her as she continues to become the young woman he wants her to be.
So I’ve now been back home for two full days, and as I look around myself I suddenly feel like I don’t belong here. In this place that I spent all 20 years of my life – this place that was part of what grew and shaped me – I suddenly feel like an outcast. It’s surreal. But as I look around, I start to realize that’s how I’m supposed to feel; when Jesus talked about being “in this world but not of it,” I think this is what he meant.
Recently I started reading this book called The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne, and already after the first chapter it has rocked me. It reaffirms everything I’ve been learning and realizing recently. That I’m to live a radical life with the sole purpose of glorifying God by loving his people unconditionally, and by doing so, point them to this truth: that they have a Father in heaven who loves them and wants nothing more than for them to turn to him and dwell in that abundant love. That’s it. That’s my ultimate purpose. It’s the purpose of every Christ-follower, and then within that we each have specific callings that align with the gifts and passions that we’ve been equipped with. And one thing I’ve gotten to see since I’ve been home is that I’ve been blessed with incredible friends and family who realize this and are carrying it out each where they’ve been placed, whether that’s at college, home, or somewhere else. I knew that I was friends with some amazing people, but it was a good reminder. I’m so grateful for these people; I’m truly blessed to know them and to hear how God’s been working in their lives. And it was nice to have them celebrate with me as I shared the news I’m about to share here: I’m going back to Nicaragua! Not to visit, not to stay another three months, no… I’m going back in a few weeks to finish out their school year through December (the one I started in February when I got there).
Early on in my stay, I had been asked to commit to the whole year, but I had been selfishly holding on to things back home and didn’t even really consider it. But then one night – two weeks ago – God shook me and said to me “Stop being selfish. I want you here serving. I want you to learn Miskito inside out. I want you to learn teaching inside out. I want you to learn these people inside out. And in the process, I want you to allow me to change you inside-out.” I was like “Whoa. I don’t know if I can learn any of those things ‘inside-out.’ That sounds big. But okay God, I trust you and I’m willing to try. I’ll finish out this year.” And that’s been the plan ever since, and I’ve been humbled to see how God has begun to orchestrate everything to fall into place.
I’m getting increasingly excited to see what’s next. I’m ready for God to bring me to a place where all I have is Him and where I realize that’s all I need. I believe that in my head but I want to know it in my heart. I want to be in a place where every day is a miracle because I have nothing but God. We’ve almost eliminated the need for miracles because we can take everything upon ourselves – if we’re sick we can buy medicine, if we’re hungry we can buy food, etc. I don’t want that option. I want to witness the lame walk, the blind see, and the deaf hear. The Spirit of God in action. I want to see his glory. Show me your glory, God. Show me your glory.