After waking up at 3:30 am on Saturday, I eventually made it to Managua where my teammate Nate picked me up and we were off to La Finca (the YL camp in Matagalpa, Nicaragua). The to the camp from the airport was about 3ish hours and some good time to get to know Nate a little better. AS SOON AS we got to the camp, the kids were playing field games and somehow I was too! The camp was for Vida Joven as opposed to Young Life meaning high school kids from the Barrios (neighborhoods) and kids from the universities. I found out that kids can start at the university at age 16 so that's one reason it was so important to start Vida Joven in the universities too.
Camp was a really sweet experience to get to meet so many awesome kids from UCA (Universidad Centroamerica) and get to see the ministry in action.
The people who started the camp had also worked at Windy Gap so there was some similarities that I saw like this bodega on the pond reminded me of the Sippy. The camp was fully equipped with a gym, a snack shop, a field for games, a pond for canoes, a zip line, a low ropes course, a club room, AND A FARM.
Club was very similar to what goes on at YL camps here in the states. There were games, skits and a talk. I was very impressed with the program team and the talk was amazing. I really saw kids coming to Christ through all the work at camp and through the leaders.
Ladies and gentlemen, my team! Pratt & Ashley Butler are from NC and have been in Nicaragua for over 3 years already and are planning on staying for as long as the Lord will have them there. Nate has been in Nicaragua for about 6 years with his wife and two adorable kids! I have already learned so much from them and know it will be a complete honor to be on their team.
After camp, we made our way back to Managua where I got to stay with one of the Vida Joven directors and his family. Narcisso, Adrianna and Andrea were so sweet to open their home to me. They made a special room for me in their house with curtains and my own bed. I don't know if I really have the words to explain what that homestay meant to me. They were so eager to share their home with me, they made me dinner and breakfast and showed me all of their family photos. Narcisso and Adrianna met through Vida Joven and have an amazing story about how Christ changed their lives through it.
While I was staying with Narcisso we got to go to club in his barrio. Instead of focusing on schools, the biggest ministry happening with Vida Joven right now is work in the neighborhoods. It's a really amazing ministry because they find people who live in the neighborhoods to be the leaders so that a true community can be built. In this particular neighborhood, Narcisso is very well known because he grew up here and has a reputation. To give you an glimpse of his story, he was a part of a gang growing up but he met Christ through Vida Joven and it radically changed everything. Now he gets to be a light in the neighborhood where he can truly understand the struggles but has overcome them through Jesus.
After Pratt and Ashley picked me up from Narcisso's house I got a quick tour of the university (UCA) where the kids who went to camp go. We ran into a few of the students which was really fun to get to see them in their own environment living out what they took away from the weekend.
Our next stop was the international school where I'll be doing my the primary part of my ministry. The school is called the American Nicaraguan School because it's based off of the American curriculum and all of the classes are in English. The interesting thing about this international school is that it's mostly upper class Nicaraguans with a few internationals mixed in. Their English is very good and as an in with the school and the parents, Young Life is done in English to allow more practice. *It's called Young Life here and not Vida Joven just to make sure you catch the difference.*
Veronica is one of Ashley's main girls who was willing to take the time to tell me her story and how Young Life changed her life. She did work crew at Windy Gap this past summer and is applying to different universities in the states including Western Carolina Univ.
Monday night we got together with the Young Life committee/some volunteer leaders. It was a great Korean dinner (ya know, the usual) where I got to hear about how Young Life started about 6 years ago even though Vida Joven has been in Nicaragua for about 25 years now.
My last stop before returning home was to meet with Ana Lopez and Elsa (not pictured). These girls are a great example of the female leaders that have been raised up all over the country. For a little while, like a lot of other things in Latin America, there wasn't much of a female presence in Vida Joven but they knew there was a need for it. From what I saw at camp, the women's ministry is growing! This another part of Pratt & Ashley's ministry, leader care for those who work in the barrios. Since the main leaders come from the barrios, the best way to care for those ministries is by pouring into the leaders which they do such a great job of!
Like I said, this trip was nothing short of amazing. As you can tell, I covered a lot of ground, was able to meet a lot of key people and really get a glimpse of what ministry is like in Nicaragua. It is a lot for me to take in and reflect on but I can assure you that the Lord is using one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere to do great things and it would be an honor to be a part of it.