Monday, September 1, 2014

Adios! Off to Nicaragua

 "Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, 
a beautiful thing." ---Mother Teresa

This Saturday I will be receiving one of the greatest gifts. An opportunity to serve in Nicaragua. I am  leaving for a week long service-immersion trip through Rockhurst University to Chinandega, Nicaragua. Fifteen RU undergraduate students (selected from over 200 applicants), Ken Mellard,and I will be together on this adventure. I'm fortunate to work and serve at Rockhurst University, where there are several opportunities for service-immersion trips in domestic and international places. This is a trip I have been striving to be a part of for several years. I kept telling myself the time wasn't right, but now it has all come together. I can't stop smiling.

These week-long experiences, which include manual labor, cultural immersion activities, relationship-building, and daily prayer and reflection, move students and faculty to a deeper understanding of the Gospel’s call to solidarity and justice. Extensive trip preparation and follow-up lead students and faculty toward the life-long path of becoming women and men for and with others. 

We will be working with the organization, Amigos for Christ. Amigos for Christ is a nonprofit organization which has been serving the people of Nicaragua for 15 years. This charity hosts over 50 mission trips a year. They continue to hold a four star rating through Charity Navigator. Charity Navigator has been in existence for over 10 years and they evaluate charity organization on two broad areas: Financial Health and their Accountability and Transparency. Amigos for Christ support four different projects:  Water and Sanitation, Health Care, Education and Nutrition, and Economic Development.

A few startling facts related to these projects:

  • One half of Nicaraguan population survives on less than $2 a day.
  • 67% of children in Nicaragua will not finish 6th grade.
  • Skin disease, parasites and diarrhea are the leading causes of death in Nicaragua.
I'll be honest, I have a little bit of anxiety about the language barrier. Even though I took three years of Spanish in High School (thank you Senora Wempe!) and two years in college, I am not fluent, to say the least. But, one of my students who has gone on this mission trip prior said she felt the same way. She explained she just went for it and that made all the difference. Meaning, she just approached everyone she met with a smile and did the best she could to interact and communicate with them through playing and working. Once she started modeling actions speak louder than words, her week long journey in service was a very positive one. She said she felt alive with everyone she met. This reminded me of a quote I read on the Amigos for Christ website: 

"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive".  --Howard Thurman

I'm excited for the week ahead! I feel incredibly honored to be working alongside our RU students, the volunteers at Amigos for Christ, and most importantly, the Nicaraguan people. Please keep us in your prayers. I can't wait to share my experience with you when I return. 

True to the picture of those precious little girls from Nicaragua above, I hope to see, feel, share, and receive many smiles!

Here is a short video of some Nicaraguan children:

To learn more about Amigos for Christ and those they serve you can: 

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