I've been thinking about Nicaragua and the week-plus-one-day I spent there. It's funny how memories and recollections cross your mind unbidden. As I write this, I am wearing a wooden bangle I bought at the market on what we thought would be our last day, nearly two years ago now. Perhaps it was me getting dressed and choosing the bracelet that prompts my remembering, though I must admit my choice was induced more by what matched my outfit than so much a token of remembrance.
I was at the pregnancy center and funnily enough Nicaragua popped up in conversation. Not my conversation but a conversation I overheard in which my friend was telling another friend about an acquaintance wanting to plant a church there, in Nicaragua. Turns out that friend, the one she was talking to, had served in Nicaragua as a missionary for several years. "I've been there," I interjected. "Which part?" she asked, the woman who had been a missionary. As I stumbled over the names of the towns we visited, I remembered. The heat, so oppressive to us who had left bitterly cold temps and snow and ice in Atlanta. The chatter of Spanish. The crowded classroom. The sweat rolling down my back. The passion of my translator. The cool relief of a bottled Coca-Cola.
There is a team on the ground there in Nicaragua even as I type. I was asked to join them, to teach a much-needed women's conference. After consulting our calendar and discussing with my husband, I declined, though somewhat reluctantly. I know my first and primary responsibility is here, at home, with my children, but still, sometimes I am torn. When our plane finally left Managua two years ago I wasn't sure I'd ever want to return but sometimes, some time, some day, I do.
I think of the women I met, of their eager hospitality, of their hunger to know the Lord, of their desire for Bible study despite the standing room only, shoulder to shoulder crowd spilling over out the door. I think of my friend, herself a pastor's wife, speaking to the group of pastors' wives with such sincerity and passion and I also see the two of us searching out the best spot for even the faintest wi fi signal so we could get some contact, any contact, of home and our loved ones there. Yes, it was only a week and yes, we were homesick, desperately so. Or at least I know I was!
I imagine our brief stay in Nicaragua has been forgotten by those we were privileged to serve. No doubt other teams have come and gone, also teaching and praying and sharing and evangelizing and serving and working and, also, finally, leaving. I know because I see pictures on Facebook and I realize our trip wasn't quite so unique as I'd thought. In fact, I just clicked on a shot of the ladies attending the conference I might have taught and my heart may have winced just a little.
Well, so perhaps our trip wasn't so unique, at least not so much to the Nicaraguan nationals, but it was certainly unique to me, it being my first (and so far only) international mission trip. Being there, in another country, another culture, in an environment different from my own, it changed me and now two years' out I still see its effects reverberating in my heart and mind. What privilege was mine, to glimpse the Lord's heart for the nations among the people of Nicaragua!
Though our trip may indeed be similar to many others, I do know our work was not, is not, in vain. The gospel was proclaimed and the Lord has promised His Word is effective to accomplish His purposes, glory to His name! How I pray, as I pray for the team there now, that seeds of eternity are sown, then, now, and that the Lord will reap a great harvest for His kingdom and for His glory. We do not serve to be remembered for ourselves. Rather, whatever good we may do, whatever of worth we accomplish, it is all the Lord's doing and we serve there, and here, for His name's renown and not our own.
Author's note: I wrote this post over multiple days a week or so ago yet never fully completed editing until today (And, yet, is the editing process every really over? Who can know?). Just so you know, I left in the references to "today" even though the "today" mentioned in the post isn't really today. In other words, I'm not currently wearing a bangle bracelet and the mission team is now home. Is that confusing?