Let me see… where to begin?? We left Friday, June 23 and the trip down to Managua, Nicaragua was great, and the worst thing that happened was that one of our students lost his luggage (it caught up with us about halfway through the week). The girl we were working with down there (who’s from Indiana but goes down to Nicaragua pretty frequently) met us at the airport and we went to the Quinta, where we stayed. There was also a group from Indiana there at the same time as us, so it was cool to get to share stories with each other about what we were doing throughout the week.

Saturday morning we drove to this community called Los Brasilos (sp?) where we learned how to tie rebar and toured the children’s home and the village. We got to spend a lot of time getting to know the children’s home kids and also the village kids over the week, and I made friends with one little boy in particular; his name is Fernando and he was about 4 yrs old… Later that evening, we went to church in the same community, and we sang three songs in Spanish for them…. we didn’t think we did all that great on our songs, but they all loved it.

Sunday… church started at 3 (but everything runs late down there because the culture is so much slower paced than here in the U.S. and nobody is in any kind of hurry there) so in the morning we took some time to go to the market. We had a lot of experiences there with people begging, and one lady followed us all around the market asking for money for shoes for her baby, so one of our girls went and bought some shoes for her. It is so sad to see how the people are so desperate for anything they can get. When we went to church that afternoon (it was an inner city church) we got to walk through the school that they have in the church there, and meet a couple of girls about my age who are in college. The service was so unlike any church I’d ever been in… the Nicas (Nicaraguan people call themselves Nicas) pulled us all up front with them and by the end we were all up there dancing with them. It was amazing because even though we know almost no Spanish and they know almost no English, we had the opportunity to join in with them in the way they praise God, and just to know that it is the same God who created us all and who we praise here, if that makes any sense. Hopefully you can understand what I’m meaning! We sang there too, and did a drama and some of the girls did a dance. We went out for ice cream after church just to cool off a little… we were all dripping in sweat (no exaggeration) and our clothes were soaked (eeeww, gross, but oh well, it was great).

Monday was our first major workday, and we tied a ton of rebar that morning, then spent our afternoon in the children’s home getting to know the kids there. It was cool to use the little bit of Spanish we knew (a word here and there) and their occasional word of English to help us all learn more about each other and how to better communicate with them.

Tuesday was basically like Monday, except we cleaned and painted these huges beams that are used for support for the roofs there, and some of our guys mixed cement and laid some blocks for a house. We had some girls braid the little Nica girls’ hair and paint their nails, which they loved. They wanted to paint our nails then, and they all loved to get their photos taken. (and to take photos themselves!) We went to a little rural church that evening, and the people there didn’t know we were coming until just before the service. This was my favorite church that we visited… It was definitely the smallest building, but it was so packed and they were so generous and loving toward us (not that the other churches weren’t…. but that was just something that really stood out to me at this church. When we left, it was so obvious the impact it had had on us all.) These people were absolutely crammed into that little building. They were standing in the doorway and hanging in the windows. The little girls went around passing out flowers to us all and one sat on my lap as our students did a drama. (And we sang…) At the end of the service, we gave out candy and bookmarks to all the kids there, and then they all wanted us to sign the bookmarks for them.

Before the church service that evening, (or was it Monday?) we went on a “field trip”… I have to just say that it was unlike anything I had ever done before. Cecil and Sarah (the Indiana people who organized our trip for us) took us to a garbage dump outside Managua. There are over a thousand or two people living there in the dump, and it is just so unlike anything you’d normally see here. It is so sad, we saw tons of little “houses” and tons of people digging through the garbage. Isak, our bus driver, told us that they dig through it not just for food, but for glass, plastic, and anything else they think might be worth something, then put it in bags and sell it, and that is how they make money. (not much money, but still it is better than nothing I guess is how it works) Isak told us about the kids who sleep on the piles of garbage and then the trucks come to dump more and they don’t look, then just dump the garbage on top of the kids and they die like that. It is so heart-breaking and I think we all had tears in our eyes as we drove through that place.

How hard to go from that to our “play day”. Wednesday, though, was our tourist day and we started out by going to this old fort from like 1893 and got to tour it. That was cool. I love history, and it was really interesting and so beautiful. Then we went to Granada and went on a boat ride around the islands there. (A monkey jumped on one of our boats…) We ate lunch and shopped a little, then went to Catarina, where you could also do some shopping at the little vendor booths and we saw the crater lake, which is an absolutely lovely view. We went out to a Nicaraguan restaurant and the food was definitely different than we are used to here…. some was really good, but some of it I think you just have to be from there to really enjoy it.

Thursday… we spent some time with the children’s home kids and the village kids in the morning, and then after lunch we set up our carnival. We’d planned for and expected about 150-200 kids, and then something like 500 showed up. We had simple little games like the fishing pole game where you get a prize at the end of the fishing pole, the duck pond game, face painting, a bean bag toss, etc. That was the plan, anyway. The second we started handing out prizes for the games, the whole thing turned into a huge mob and it was pure chaos. We ran out of prizes and then ended the carnival with some of the children’s home girls and some of our girls performing a dance that the Nica girls had taught the others. Thursday night… um, after dinner, 3 of us girls (and also Sarah, who planned our trip) started to not really feel that great, and I ended up being pretty sick. Thankfully our other girls were feeling better enough to go along on the next day’s activities, but I ended up staying home at the Quinta from everything on Friday and spent my day laying in the hammock on the back porch listening to music some, but mostly sleeping or trying to sleep. My team, though, put on two ladies’ teas, and then went to church that evening. I don’t have much of a description on that because I was sick and not there. Saturday we flew home (thankfully feeling a little better, although still not great) and that went really well. Our plane got in at about 9pm and my dad had come back from camp to pick up my sister and me.

We spent the night at home and left at 6am Sunday for Awana camp (3 1/2 hrs away), and got there just in time for the Bible class he was scheduled to teach at 9:30. I got to meet my girls (there were 7 in my cabin) and they were so sweet. One had many special needs and was kind of in her own little world, but we worked with her and helped her learn her Bible verses throughout the week. My other girls were really good with her too, so that helped a lot. I was the Co-Captain of the Yellow team, which meant that I got messy a few times in various competitions, but hey, it was worth it. I think the best part of the week was Friday night when I had the opportunity to pray with one of my girls, Margaret, when she made the commitment to share Christ with others. That was so exciting.I got home Saturday night (July 8th) around dinner time and am so exhausted. Feeling better now, but just not back to normal yet because I’ve had no time to just rest. Thank you all SOOOO much more than I can tell you for your prayers. It means so much, and it has been incredible to watch as God worked in our hearts and through and around us in the past two weeks. One lady in Nicaragua (after our “carnival”) was in tears and she had us all hold hands (there were about 4 of us there with her) and then she prayed for us and thanked God for bringing us there and for what we were doing down there. To see and hear her and just know that we felt like we didn’t do anything and like the carnival didn’t go as we’d planned…. it went as God planned, and it moved her heart. It was incredible.

I’ve got some pictures posted here, if you are interested.

praying for you…
~ Tara
*John 3:30*