Well, the trip is quickly approaching the official end. I’ve been back in the U.S. for the past couple of days spending time with my teammates as we remember all that God has shown and taught us this summer. We had the most surreal surprise the night we got here…Curt came back!!! We all had hoped this would happen but were convinced that it wasn’t going to. But as we ate our welcome home chikfila, Curt walked through the door with a big grin on his face, and we all hyperventilated. It was such a great surprise, and we are beyond blessed to have our team together to remember and reflect together. (If only Paul could still be with us too!) I am having the best time with my teammates right now. They have become my family this summer…God has made this happen in a way that I didn’t know was possible. I didn’t know I had the capability of loving people this much in such a short period of time. Each one of them is so precious and dear to me…I am honestly heartbroken that I am about to part ways with them after tomorrow. I have been so incredibly blessed by their love and encouragement this summer, and can’t quite imagine life without them right now. This will be one thing that I will be in constant prayer about, just trusting that the Lord will give me peace in the midst of missing my new family so much. I love each of them as much as I can, and just can’t get over how blessed I am to have spent this incredible summer learning from them and growing with them. Praise God for such precious gifts to my life!
Last week’s stop in Nicaragua was such a perfect end to our journey. We were joined by five new members, making us a big ole team of 12! I’ll be honest, at the beginning of my time in Nicaragua; I was beginning to become weary. We were all tired physically, and I started feeling a twinge of homesickness that I hadn’t felt yet all summer. But when all of the new members joined us, the Lord used them as an energy surge to pump me up for the rest of the week. It’s incredible how He always provides what we need in all sorts of ways. I received letters from my family by way of Sarah which said specific things that I so needed to hear (especially from you Daddy-thank you!).
The first thing you need to understand about Nicaragua is that there is never really a set schedule. We laughed all week because we will plan to do one thing, but we were never surprised a bit if we ended up doing something totally different. Life is so spontaneous there, and full of opportunities! I loved not having a schedule (which is not surprising, I know haha). We stayed at Brazos Abertios church, which means “open arms”. Pastor Malone and his family have a house on the same property as the church and graciously opened it to us for the week. We did several things throughout the week- we went to houses of members of the church who were sick and prayed for them. We went to see a school for disabled children, which was a very cool experience. We went to a village a couple of days to play with kids and invite them to church. One day we played soccer, which was so much fun! Then the other day we did games and a skit, and I was able to share the gospel with the kids. That was such a huge honor! We were also able to participate in several of the church’s weekly services (yeah, they have church multiple times a week-so eager to worship and fellowship!) Each member of the team shared our testimonies, and two of the guy leaders shared a longer message on two nights. Their church services were so awesome! I’ve never experienced celebration of Jesus quite like that before…they had people leading worship, dancers, a horn, and flags! We all jumped right in with the dancing and a few people helped lead worship. We felt like we were so part of the church the first night we were there. That’s how church should be- a celebration of Jesus with our brothers and sisters in Christ…simple. The Lord showed me what true fellowship and servant hood looks like through the people of that church.
We were also able to experience baptisms in a river while in Nicaragua. Our leader, Paul, baptized two young adults from the church, and Victoria! We drove out (all in the back of a pickup truck) to a river that we got to by crossing a very shaky suspension bridge. It was so beautiful, and such a unique time. Then the last day of our ministry in Nicaragua, we went to a town close to Somoto to visit members from a fellow church who had experienced hard times. We each shared words of encouragement and prayer at each house, and we knew by the end of the day that God had appointed us for every house we went to. It was so humbling to see how thankful those people were to have us in their homes, and to hear them say that they woke up early that morning waiting for us to come. That is what life is about—fellowshipping and sharing encouragement with our brothers and sisters! There is nothing more fulfilling to me than that.
The Lord continued working in my heart about obedience in Nicaragua. He began preparing me for returning to the states in giving me practical ways to exercise my trust in Him. He gave me several opportunities to publicly share my testimony, the gospel, and specific scripture with people, all of which are pretty out of my normal comfort zone. I experienced so much fulfillment and joy from taking those opportunities, though, that I am pumped about continuing to share with others how great God is. He has taught me to not fear, for what can anything on this earth do to mee? I am His, forever, and He knows what is best for me and for others. There is no room for my stubbornness in His plan for me, so I’ve just decided to give it up. I just want to be at peace with God all the time, following Him when He calls, seeing people be blessed by Him, fellowshipping with other who know Him, and falling more in love with Him in every moment.
Knowing God is such a treasure. Not knowing about God, not even just believing Jesus is real, or that He died on the cross…those are great things, but knowledge of Jesus alone will not fulfill you. And just knowing what you should do, how you should act will not make you right. The key to having joy and peace in the Lord comes from accepting Jesus as the ONLY Way to God, and to forgiveness. He died with your sin to give you and me the opportunity to be forgiven and to have a relationship with Him. The only role we play in knowing God is accepting Him…accepting His truth. Accept that we are so unworthy of His forgiveness, but because He offers a relationship with Him as a free gift, we are able to accept it. God wants you; He loves you! I beg you, if you don’t have a relationship with God, make that right! (Like right now) If you need to talk about it, call me. I can’t think of anything more tragic than the idea of someone not knowing the love of my Savior. I am so in love with the Lord, and continue to be radically changed by Him. He gives me a love for life and for people that I never possessed on my own. No part of what I have learned on this trip has come from my own knowledge; it has come from the God’s Spirit in me, shaping my heart, and showing me life and people through His eyes of compassionate love. To God be all of the glory! He redeemed my soul and has set me free to worship Him and share Him with others as long as I live. What an honor and joy! I pray for you as you read this, that if this does not describe the condition of your heart right now, that you get things right with the Lord. He wants this for everyone. He is waiting for you, please turn to Him!
I thank you again for all of your ways of support. I’m sure there will be more to come, through more blogs and personal talks about how God has worked. He has shown me incredible things and taught me lessons that have changed my life. Thank you for making this experience possible for me. I pray that I am not the only one blessed by your contribution, but that you are blessed, and that so many others will see God because of my experiences this summer. However big or small you feel like you contributes, please know that God used every bit of it to change me forever. I am in love with the Lord, and with the life that He has given me. I am so excited to continue sharing the memories and lessons of this trip as long as I live. Thank you so, so much!
I have to go spend more time with my team now. I love them so much and miss them already and I’ve only been away a little while. Please pray for all of us as we part ways. We are already starting to screech our heels because the time is going so fast and we honestly don’t know how to say goodbye to each other. I know God will continue taking care of all of us, but I’ll just miss them. Okay, they’re out here playing my ukulele to me so I have to go. See y’all very soon!