Wednesday, February 22, 2012

El Viaje

I'm not even sure where to begin!  This weekend was a whirlwind of a trip and nothing short of amazing.

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. 

 The farm (what the camp is named after La Finca) is absolutely beautiful.  One of the ways they raise money for kids to go to camp and keep costs down is by selling the coffee grown on the farm.  I'm not sure what other crops they grow.  Don't worry, I bought 3 bags...ya know the support the camp of course!

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.
 These are the girls I got to spend the weekend with.  They are amazing girls who already taught me so much and made me realize the Lord may not be using me to reach Nicaragua as much as He's using Nicaragua to reach me. I really think I'll be able to blend in well in Nica, what do you think?

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. 

 I got to meet more directors from around Nicaragua as well as the regional director (the man over all of Central America Kevin), a couple who work in the DR right now and could possibly move to Nica, and two other American couples who have been living in Nicaragua working with the ministry in some way for a few years now, at breakfast on Tuesday.  When I mentioned that I fell in love with Nicaragua at the Costa Rica/Nicaraguan border they all started laughing at me and said that kind of love can only come from the Lord. :) I couldn't agree more!  The beautiful chaos that is Nicaragua won my heart long ago for reasons I may never be able to explain.

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. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Vale la pena

I am worried I wont have the words to truly express what is happening in my heart right now but just know that the Lord is moving and I am humbled by this country, Nicaragua. Part of the reason I dont have the words is because I am nothing short of exhausted.  Its not the exhausted I have been feeling with too much work but the kind of exhausted that is good for the soul.  The kind of exhausted that brings great rest.  The kind of exhausted that vale la pena (is worth it).

I have A LOT to learn but again, vale la pena.

More details to come, promise, but now, SLEEP.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

How I got here...

I feel like I have always had a love for Latin America but I know that it really started in high school.  My Spanish II teacher was awesome and made learning whatever he was teaching interesting enough that everyone wanted to learn it (or at least I did...).  I liked his class so much so that I took him for Spanish IV and AP.  During my senior year we took a trip to Costa Rica and the minute I set foot on land, I was hooked.  I fell in love with the people, the culture and the language instantly.  From that point on, I knew Spanish would always have to be a part of my life.  

At the same time, I started going to Young Life.  Young Life is a nondenominational Christian organization reaching out to high school and middle school kids all around the world and it reached me in Asheville, NC.  (Check out more about Young Life here: )  I would have claimed Christ as my Savior before going to summer camp with YL but no one had ever put it in a way that He wanted to have a relationship with me and He wasn't all about morals or rules.  What high school girl isn't looking for a relationship and when you find out the Lord of lords and King of kings is the one pursuing you the hardest every day of your life it changes everything.  

Throughout high school, both seeds began to grow into what I thought were two different passions but after starting this process, I know they have always been growing as one.  

Once I got to college I thought I knew exactly what I wanted to do: be a Young Life leader AND study abroad.  Unfortunately, that wasn't the plan at all.  I had to choose.  I chose to study abroad to explore more of Latin America and see what the Lord was doing in that part of my life while learning and growing more in my relationship with Christ.  I really believe the Lord was giving me a break from leading only to prepare me for bigger and better things!  

After graduation, I had no idea what I was going to do but I had a trip through Central America planned with a friend from study abroad.  As soon as we got to the Costa Rica/Nicaragua border, I was, once again, hooked.  The chaos seemed somewhat refreshing to me after traveling through Panama and Costa Rica.  Don't get me wrong, I loved both countries but there was something different about Nicaragua.  The whole week we spent there, I never wanted to be anywhere else.  There was something calling me back to Nicaragua after we left but I just didn't know what it was then. 

When I got back to the states I started looking into possible ways to travel again.  I thought about teaching English as a foreign language but ruled that out after some thought.  I had ruled out Young Life because I didn't want to fundraise so I was googling "Christian organizations abroad". . . eventually the Lord led me back to Young Life, at least to just check it out.  I was led back to the YL website on March 9, 2011 and there was an information weekend on March 11-13 in Atlanta, GA.  I bought a plane ticket that afternoon.  

Since March I have been praying constantly about where the Lord would take me and that He would give me boldness to follow Him.  I was given four Spanish speaking countries to choose from but as soon as Nicaragua was mentioned I didn't need any others.  I knew that very instant why the Lord had opened my eyes and heart to the beautiful, chaos that is Nicaragua.  

This blog is dedicated to the process of getting to Nicaragua through fundraising and then also the adventures the Lord takes me on once I move in.  I will be working with a great team of 3 Americans who make up a small portion of the 40 staff members in Nicaragua (the rest are locals!).  I ask that you pray for me through this refining process; I ask that you consider being a part of my support team in whatever means possible (prayer, financially or both); and I ask you to be a part of this adventure with me!