“And He said to them, “Go into the world and preach the gospel to every creature….” Mark 16:15
I don’t know where to begin in capturing the entire experience of our trip to Nicaragua. Fourteen of us from Island Christian Church boarded a plane for three very different missions to the same destination. One mission was to introduce the Daughters of Zion (DOZ) ministry to young girls in a local church and at the Villa Esperanza. The second mission group was Pastor Paul’s construction crew. The third mission was to introduce the Nicaraguan women to the skill of baking.
There were two location opportunities presented to us to teach DOZ. Our mornings at a community church and the afternoon at the Villa Esperanza. At 7am our team boarded a bus from the Villa to a local church named the “Bethel Church.” Surrounding this church was a Christian School run by their principal Maria Elena. This school was in desperate need of a new roof, thus setting the stage for Pastor Paul’s construction crew. The young girls in the community arrived at the church at 9:00 am. After only one morning session they went home excited and put the word out to their friends and family that they were learning tambourine dancing. More and more new faces entered the church each day. We played games, sang songs, danced and presented God’s word every day. They were hungry to learn and eager to dance. In one weeks time, 3 hours a day the girls were able to learn two songs.
One little girl named Sandra lived with her grandmother because her mom had left her and her father had abused her. She had expressed to her teacher that her dream was to someday dance in the church on Sunday. Our team did not know this…but our God did.
Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4
On the Sunday following our sessions, Sandra was one of the 17 girls who danced with the DOZ girls at the church service. She smiled the whole time. The church families were very grateful to see their children worshiping with us. The warmth and love in that church was overwhelming. Each girl wore their best clothing to dance for our King. This congregation of modest low income took up a collection and were able to present each of us on the team with a gift. This congregation was so generous with the little they had. It deeply moved me. To be the recipient of all they had poured onto us humbled me. It was hard to leave the Bethel church that day.
Our second teaching opportunity came in the afternoons where we introduced tambourine and streamer worship to the girls at the Villa Esperanza. They are the girls rescued from the dump at LaChureca and are a bit more rough around the edges. The more we spent time with them, the more respect we earned from them and visa versa. We visited them every night to further nurture our relationships. We played games, ran around the playground, shot basketballs, learned hand clapping rhythms, learned their dance styles, and just talked. Whatever it took to get to know them we did no matter how tired we were and regardless of the fact that we didn’t speak Spanish! The universal language of love was communicated loud and clear. It was the relationships we were building that made our presentations of Gods Word that much more palatable during our Bible sessions. As the week went on, barriers came down and trust and sharing increased. Intimate details of their lives were spoken. Testimonies were shared. These girls were broken vessels in the process of healing. They’ve been exposed to way too much before their time. They are skilled at getting food and necessities at the expense of their innocence. They are survivors learning to trust in a powerful God of promise to break them out of this cycle of poverty.
So our mornings were spent with the community girls at the church and the afternoons with the girls at the Villa. At night we had debriefing meetings with Pastor Paul and every night he would ask this simple question…”Where did God show up today?”
Oh, how it all came together for me and I was able to answer that question on Friday night at the Villa! Our last day for our team to share dinner with the visiting missionaries, the staff, and the young girls at the Villa. Just before this big night Pastor Paul sent us on a trip to visit LaChureca…..the dump where it all started for these girls.
On that trip to the dump, we witnessed the makeshift homes that these girls came from. They are held together by pool liners, rusted sheets of metal, plastic and cardboard. We saw the poverty, the dirty sewer water ditches, the filth the children lived in. We felt the dry dust that kicked up from the dirt paths filling our nostrils as we walked through the streets. The path was littered with lifeless dogs that didn’t have energy to bark. Young men and women were seen sifting through the piles of garbage in search of recyclable items to be salvaged. Makeshift electrical wiring hung low across the paths. Children with light colored hair indicative of malnourishment were too frequently seen. These are the sights that lined our walk. The bus ride back to the Villa was unusually quiet that day.
As we met with the girls for our final dance session just one hour after our visit to the dump, I could not help but look at each girl a little differently that day. We gave the girls time to get ready for our big evening of worship. We gave them each a hair bow with purple ribbons on them. I thought perhaps they might think they were a bit childish, but we wanted them to have them just the same.
They returned that evening all dressed up. They wore their best, they combed their hair, tastefully wore eye make-up and lipstick and to my delight every one of them wore the hair bow. After we shared dinner, the girls danced the two songs we taught them in front of all the missionary teams and the staff. As they danced to the song “There are no orphans of God,” I SAW GOD SHOW UP! I saw His outstretched arm reaching down and pulling every one of those girls from the dump and placing them in the shelter of His arms.
Only our mighty God can take a broken vessel and restore it to beauty and change mourning into dancing. These girls at the Villa Esperanza who once lived at the dump were now worshiping in dance to the Lord! GOD SHOWED UP BIG TIME!!!
You can not go to the Villa Esperanza without seeing God and feeling His love. You leave there loving all the missionaries who want to serve sacrificially for our God. You see God in the kitchen staff as they joyfully serve each meal. You see God in the House moms who live 24/7 with these girls. You see God in Gloria and Wilbert as they continue to persue the vision for the Villa to break the cycle of poverty for their people. You see “Amor de Dios in the girls.
As we boarded the bus to head back to the airport, the girls stopped doing their chores to come and say good-bye. I wondered if we left an impression on their hearts as they did ours. I wondered if they wanted to remember us the way we wanted to always remember them. I knew the Lord gave me that answer as the girls waved their final goodbyes and each girl present still wore the purple ribbon bows we gave them three days ago.