I’m excited to write this fourth and final post about our November trip to Nicaragua. I’ve had people ask me, “Why Nicaragua? Why now?” These questions can best be answered by my previous posts, but here’s the short answer: In November 2015, we agreed to sponsor a child through a partnership between our church and Compassion International, and this trip offered us an opportunity to meet her. At this point, I’m going to assume you are somewhat familiar with the backstory. I will skip ahead and share the details surrounding this special day.
Compassion partners with churches around the globe, establishing child development centers to serve families in the poorest areas. Currently, 43,500 children participate in more than 150 centers in Nicaragua. Staff members from this organization joined us one evening at Amigos for Christ and outlined realistic expectations for the visit. Our sponsor children would travel to a central Compassion location to meet us, and they would be accompanied by a family member and/or a representative from his or her local center. For some children, this may be the first time they leave their small communities. Often, the trip could take hours due to poor roads and slow-moving traffic stuck behind construction crews, bikes, or herds of cows on their way to another field. All factors considered, the travel alone could be overwhelming. While we may have envisioned the excitement of Christmas morning upon introduction to our sponsor child, the child may be reserved and frightened. Conversation might be awkward. They assured us each child would have a translator who is trained to guide the interaction in a positive direction. In addition, Compassion staff members continued to provide information and answer questions during our bus ride to the luncheon. We were more than adequately prepared for the visit.
When we arrived at the Compassion center, children danced for us. The second musical number relayed a powerful message: No more war, drugs, violence, dying, hunger, or sickness. We need more love. The performance ended, and we divided into groups for a tour of the center. We learned how Compassion centers impact a child’s physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, economical, and social development. The location we toured recently initiated a Child Survival Program (CSP), which provides education and support to mothers, “promoting effective child development to ensure that children survive the early years when they are most vulnerable to disease and malnutrition.” The picture below (left) is the CSP room, and the other (right) is in the kitchen where children learn to bake and decorate cakes. Our daughters are standing with the pastor of the church (left) and the teacher of this class (right).
After the tour, we met our interpreter, and she introduced us to B, our sponsor child. Not only was B‘s mother able to get a day off work to join us, she also managed to bring J, our sponsor child’s older sister. A representative from their Compassion center accompanied them. We were relieved to learn their commute to the center only took 30 minutes by bus and cab. From the letters we’ve received from B, we know she likes puppies. We broke the ice with a puppy coloring book and crayons, and the younger girls were entertained until lunch was served. Once we had finished eating, our daughters pulled a jump rope from our bag. The four girls played “train” with the jump rope, weaving through the tables for quite some time. Someone captured the fun with a Polaroid and gave the picture of the four girls (at the beginning of this post) to the family to take home. Other sponsors blew bubbles or played with a ball, and these items seemed to help them engage with their children.
As our girls entertained each other, Travis and I spoke with B‘s mother and learned more about their family. She told of their blessings as well as their hardships. Because our family has struggled through our share of tough times, we were able to build into this mother and encourage her based on our experiences. This strengthened our connection. As I watched these four girls interact, I couldn’t believe how similar they are. Both sets of sisters are less than 18 months apart. Their names start with the same letters. Brooke and J have fair skin, blonde hair, and light eyes. Jillian and B have brown hair and hazel eyes. Later in the day, a couple of our teammates told us their sponsor families thought Travis and I had four daughters. They wondered where our sponsor child was. The events of this day remind me of The Author of the Story, one of the daily themes during the trip. God is the author of this story. He has intertwined our families, and it’s so cool to look back and see how His hands were at work.
Before we parted ways, we gave B a bright pink cinch sacked packed with a toothbrush, toothpaste, stickers, and our daughters’ favorite children’s Bible (in Spanish). The four girls read Noah’s Ark together. In the picture below, Karla, our interpreter, is pointing to our family picture as B tells her our names.
This trip and the chance to meet our sponsor child and her family is part of the story God has written for us. A mission trip at home or abroad may not be part of your story, but there are so many ways to make a difference in the lives of others in your community and around the world. Not all of them require travel or financial commitments. In this post, I mentioned several components of Compassion that are funded by monetary donations. Want to provide Bibles for the classrooms? Interested in funding sports camps and baking classes for a child? There are a variety of options at every price point. Visit the Compassion website for more information. Merry Christmas! May God bless you in the New Year.