Fast forward to freshmen year of college. Early in the first semester, I felt like God was calling me to go on a mission trip. I spent hours searching the internet trying to find a way to go. I never found anything that I felt was God's trip for me. I had no idea where God was sending me, but I knew He was calling me to go. That burden stayed on my heart for a year.
In my second year at college, I began attending something called Campus Church. Campus Church would gather on Tuesday nights and would offer college students an opportunity to join together and pour their hearts out in worship to God. Towards the end of the semester, an announcement was made that a group would be traveling to Nicaragua on a mission trip.
From the very first informational meeting, I knew that was where God wanted me. We spent the next six months or so planning. We faced a lot of challenges in those months, but God had begun a good work in us and would see it to completion.
The first week of May 2009 we traveled to Nicaragua. I had no idea that one week there would forever change my life. Even now as I remember our arrival and the rest of our time there, my heart swells with love. We spent our week working in various schools conducting Bible school. I am sure the word "school" brings a certain image to mind (concrete walls, classrooms, colorful creations lining the walls, playgrounds). School in Nicaragua is very different. Instead children have class underneath a big tree in their teacher's yard, in a house smaller than my room, or in what used to be a chicken coop. We were also taken to the local landfill one day to distribute food. The people who lived in that area dig for food in the landfill. Tears streamed down my face as I saw families living in homes of cardboard and newspaper. The poverty broke my heart.
But what broke my heart even more were the people. Despite the horrible conditions in which they live, they were so full of joy. They were so welcoming of us, so thankful just for our prayers. My heart was broken for people living in the U.S. We are so ignorant. We are all so rich. Despite your salary, the car you drive, the size of your home, you are rich enough to have a computer to read this. Yet despite our abundant blessings, so many are lacking in joy. We constantly are striving for more. More money. More stuff. We need nothing more. We only need more God.
I was heart broken to leave Nicaragua. I found myself constantly longing to return when I came home. My heart had been split. Like the lyrics of the song "Albertine", I knew, "now that I have seen, I am responsible. Faith without deeds is dead. I will not let go until you are..." I had seen, and I knew I held the responsibility to act. I could not let go of those precious people.
I began to pray for God to open a door. I prayed Isaiah 6:8 over my life. "Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?' And I said, 'Here am I. Send me!'" I wanted to go, but more than that I needed to go. God had given me a sacred ambition, a holy obsession.
In July, God allowed me to begin forming a team to return. Over time that team has developed into nine members. Leading this team has been the most challenging thing God has ever called me to do, and the most rewarding. I suppose some would call me stubborn. So the fact that I know satan HATES what this team is doing, just makes me want to fight him all the more.
Since July, I have become more aware of the responsibility we have as His disciples.
- Psalm 96:3 "Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples."
- Deuteronomy 15:7 "If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother. Rather be openhanded and freely lend him whatever he needs."
- Deuteronomy 27:19 "Cursed is the man who withholds justice from the alien, the fatherless, or the widow."
- James 1:27 "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."
- Proverbs 28:27 "He who gives to the poor will lack nothing, but he who closes his eyes to them receives many curses."
- 1 Corinthians 13:3 "If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing."
We are not going to Nicaragua to convert the people to Christianity. We are going simply to love. We want to show Christ's love through our actions. Time and time again throughout God's word, He tells us to love. That we will be known by our love for one another. That we are to love our neighbor as ourself. It is not our job to save the world. Christ did that when He died on the cross for us. We are called simply to love. God will do the rest.