Oh, was it early! 3 hours of sleep was SO not enough. But we were going home today. Home, where I knew the language and bathrooms didn’t hate me. Home to my kids, whom I missed more than anything. I was very much looking forward to being understood again. But I didn’t count on how much I was going to miss these people, their culture, and even the language.
We were up, dressed and waiting for the airport shuttle by 4:45. Because of the conference we had attended, the shuttle was very full. I was worried we would have to wait for the next one and be late to the airport, but I forgot! This is Nicaragua! We can all fit! The driver ushered Allen and me into the front bucket seat, where, 20 years ago I could have easily fit with my husband beside me but now, not so much. Thankfully, I love my husband, we are totally into conserving space, and it was only a 5 minute ride.
At the airport I smiled, nodded, handed over my passport and pretended I was mute. Nobody bought me. I was wearing no buttons whatsoever, and no little German ladies searched me. It was going to be a good day.
Our flight was uneventful, and my adorable husband fell asleep before we even left the gate. He woke up mid-flight and wondered if we had taken off yet. And while I plagued him by taking pictures every time he fell asleep, I have to explain. Yes, every time we he sat down for even a few minutes, he fell asleep…
…but there is a good reason for this.
If you’ve known Allen for any length of time, you know he is a hard worker. It’s one of the (many) things I love about him. This trip was a whirlwind. He slept very little. He went to bed very late and got up very early. When he wasn’t in meetings, trying to #freethebuckets, driving, or preaching, he was working on the receipts and accounting books, making sure the music and teachers were ready for church back home, praying with people, praying for people, and building relationships. He missed several meals completely and ate others at odd times because he was too busy to stop. If you are a supporter of GraceWorks Global, let me assure you, this man works hard to make sure your money is used to honor Christ, and he works with his whole heart. So, when he is forced to sit, he sleeps. He wasn’t fond of these photos, but I love them because to me, they are a resounding testimony of his hard work and integrity. (Plus he’s just plain cute in them!)
Ok, so while he was sleeping, I had a lot of time to think. I mean, I couldn’t talk without getting myself in trouble, so thinking was the thing! This trip was, in every way, not what I expected. Nothing went as planned. Literally. Not. One. Thing. Not our plans at least. And even this day, the things I was looking forward to most (aside from seeing my kids again) didn’t go according to my expectations. I had spent a week being frustrated with a language barrier I could not control. I expected to be relieved and grateful when I entered the States and could once again be understood, but instead, I stood in line in Houston security, listening to everyone around me (and understanding them!) and missing the beautiful sounds of the Spanish language, wishing to hear it again.
And can I just tell you about the Nicaraguan people??? These are generous, gracious, loving people who accept even the flakiest of Americans as one of their own. The men: I couldn’t pick up a suitcase, a box of buckets, or really anything at all without a gentleman running to carry it for me. They helped me out of cars and waited patiently when I wasn’t exactly on time in the morning. Once I found one of them carrying my purse for me when I forgot it in the lobby. The women: They give without expecting anything in return. Their hospitality is unmatched. They are gentle and sweet and always thinking of how they can serve others. And across the board, they have smiles that can light up any room.
These are not people of privilege. They are people with a story, many times a diificult story of overcoming and forgiveness, hard work and determination. They are adult daughters taking in their once abusive father to nurse him back to health after major surgery. They are former gang members, running an honest business and trying hard to stay clean. They are teens caring for Grandparents; women selling fruit in the middle of a dangerous street, trying desperately to earn enough money to feed their families. They are families of 15 in a house the size of my kitchen who gladly invite you in and share what they have. They are even high government officials disregarding the mountain of work on their desks to get 10 buckets to their people because they care that even 10 families are drinking unsafe water. These are people I respect and came to love in a very short time.
But it was time to leave. So we flew home. We arrived safely. We accomplished most of what we had gone to do (and quite a few things we didn’t)!
We did, however, leave some items in Nicaragua: 10 water filtration buckets, quite a few water filtration bottles, Allen’s watch, access to amazing fruit, new friends, and… part of my heart. But the rest of my heart holds these memories and new friends dear. The people of Nicaragua are part of the fabric of my life now; threads that cannot be unraveled.
To all of you who have gone on the virtual journey with me, thank you. It is my hope that you have enjoyed your “visit”, but more importantly that you have grown to love them as I do. And it is my hope that when you turn on your faucet and safe water comes out, you might take a moment to pray for this dear country with people so sweet, not just for them to receive safe water, but most importantly that we might continue to be able to tell them of the “Living Water” – Jesus Christ, and the free gift of salvation He offers.
May the gap between our countries be small, and the love be great!