For those who didn’t make it to our Nicaragua Missions presentation last night, here was my part. It doesn’t do a great job of telling all we did that week, but it does tell some of the lessons God had for me there. I pray it will encourage you to be obedient to the One that matters!
When I first met Gwen Emmett, she wouldn’t talk to me. I learned that it wasn’t just me, she didn’t really talk to anybody. A year later, we started working together. Our classes were scheduled to be on the playground at the same time. I set out to make her talk to me. She did. And I discovered this incredibly cool personality that most people just weren’t aware of. In the earliest weeks of our friendship, Gwen gave me a card that had a butterfly and two caterpillars on it. One caterpillar said to the other, “there’s no way you’ll catch me going up in one of those!” She laughed when she gave it to me and said that was her. From the outside, yes. But, I had seen glimmers of much more than the quiet façade she liked for people to see. So, I began praying that God would open her up and allow others to see what I was beginning to see. I’ve watched that happen over the last couple of years. And, on this trip, I truly saw her spread her wings. I saw…and others saw….and most importantly, she saw…the beautiful butterfly that had been hidden for so long. So, my story or lesson or whatever you want to call it is how God used Gwen….and a handful of helpers….to bless one of His children. And in turn, showed Gwen what an amazing woman she is and what an amazing God He is.
You see….Gwen wasn’t going on this trip. She felt like her finances wouldn’t allow it. So, the trip went on the back burner. In January, she called me into her Sunday School room and showed me a picture. “tell me what you see!” she said. Amazingly, the picture looked almost identical to the compound we stayed in last year in Somotillo. She then began telling me about all the other “little” things that had been going on. Like, Spanish music on the radio. The thoughts of “we could do that in Nic.” The picture. A crazy friend texting her the weather forecast for Nicaragua. As she was telling me, it was so clear that God was tugging her back. She only resisted a few days before she relented. Quickly, we began planning. And just as quickly, God spoke to my heart that this was Gwen’s trip….He had something very special just for her.
The trip was hard. Nothing went as planned. Buying tickets turned out to be a nightmare. The prices were outrageous. The price of our rental car went up so much, it became more economical to rent a van and driver….which made Angie happy because she loves Antonio and enjoys working with him. Our paint was confiscated in Charlotte before we ever boarded the plane. I had people….godly people….asking if I was sure we were to go. So many times I asked God the same thing. Every time, the answer was yes.
The very first day, I began seeing God at work. Antonio turned out to be a very sweet man….who speaks about as much English as I speak Spanish! Our translator Noelia was sweet, but could be firey when necessary. Our first mission was to paint a mural on the wall at one of the children’s hospitals in Managua. This was, according to some regular volunteers we met, the “forgotten” hospital. It seemed to be true. Everything was handed down from somewhere else. In fact, Gwen commented that Nicaragua seemed to be a hand-me-down country. The lady at the hospital whose job it was to find us a place to paint really wanted us to paint a specific drawing the Nicaraguan government uses for anything having to do with kids. Remarkably, it was eerily similar to what Gwen had already picked out for us to paint. We got our painting done the second day in Nic. For me, it was so sweet and touching to see how everyone responded to what we were doing. In practical terms, I guess the manpower or money could have been used in so many ways. But, we weren’t there for practicality. We were there to make them feel special. And that’s not always a practical thing. It was a sweet lesson from God.
With our painting done, the next morning, we drove the 3 hours or so to Somotillo. The first place we stayed was a very nice house…with no hot water and spiders on the bed! But, the house was pretty. We tossed our stuff in rooms and drove straight to see our friends in Ceibita. We spent the day out there, then watched a movie with them that night. When we got back to the house late that night, the outside gate was locked. We had to wake the owner up to let us in. He was furious and told Angie we’d need to find another place to stay, first thing the next morning. Fortunately, God has blessed Angie with a great number of contacts in Nicaragua and we weren’t homeless! Amazingly, the place we ended up staying was the same place we stayed last year….the place in the picture.
At the compound, we were sorting the stuff we had brought to give away in Ceibita. A lot of it had been given away, and we just needed to see what we had left. We had a Spanish Bible that Gwen had gotten from a friend last year. She brought it along this year, thinking someone may need it. As I was untangling necklaces, I noticed Antonio picking the Bible up. He held it so gently, caressed its cover, opened it reverently. He then looked at Angie and asked whose it was. When she responded that it belonged to no one in particular, he asked for it. She was shocked. Come to find out, the only Bible he had was a New Testament that Angie had given him when she first met him….about 5 years ago!
When Gwen had decided she was going to Nicaragua and had started asking for donations, she had a friend approach her and ask how much it cost to build a house. See….we got to see a family get their new house last year and it had made an indelible impression on us, so we were very vocal about it when we got back. The cost for a house in the Ceibita area is about $800. This friend sent us with the money to build a family a house. So, as we were scouting around the communities, we were looking for a family to build a house for. Little did we know, the answer was driving us around the countryside!
See….we found out a few things about Antonio that week. First of all, Angie knew that he had a wife, a son and a daughter. He had kinda forgotten to mention that they had a baby on the way….in fact, the baby was due in the next week or two. Then she found out that they were getting ready to be kicked out of their home…and had no place to go. Obviously, it was a no-brainer to us who was to get the house. We were thrilled to learn that they had a piece of land to build on. The $800 won’t be enough for a full house in town….but definitely a good start on one. We sat the family down, Gwen read the letter that her friend had written about the family she wanted chosen. It seems that God had hand-picked this family to meet the donor’s wishes. We watched their faces as they realized what was going on. Truly, God had seen this little family’s plight and had met them in a mighty way. Angie had also learned that to go to the hospital to have the baby cost $100…..which is a LOT of money. They simply didn’t have it. Without it, his wife would have to risk having the baby at home. The mortality rate in that area for babies born at home is approximately 33%. Needless to say, Angie made certain Antonio had that money in his hand before we left Nicaragua.
The thought that won’t let me go is this. What if we hadn’t been obedient? What if we had given into the pressures that threatened to keep us at home? What if Gwen hadn’t obeyed? Because she did, God was able to bless Antonio and his family with a new home, money to have the baby, a new Bible….and I’m guessing a renewed faith in God.
To watch Gwen as she realized the importance of her obedience was in itself a gift. She is only one person. But, the entire trip seemed to pivot on her obedience. Yes, Angie was absolutely important to the trip….without her, we would’ve had no place to stay, no transportation, no translator. But, Gwen brought something no one else could. Truth is….we each have that. We each, as children of God, have something no one else has. And if we don’t show up, it’s just not going to be the same.
One more thing. At the beginning of the trip, Antonio had explained to Angie that he was having to work on Sundays, so he wasn’t able to make it to church. He asked her if she thought God was mad at him. I think God spoke loud and clear on that point.
God sees. God hears. He keeps His promises. Nothing we ever go through is insignificant to Him. Everything we go through will be used for a purpose later down the road. He reminded me once again that it’s a heart condition. If our hearts are truly turned to His, He can and will use us and bless us in ways we can’t fathom!
My question for you today is this….what is God telling you to do that you haven’t? He is seeking willing, loving, obedient hearts to do His work!
Be blessed and tell someone that you love them!